One evening I was dreaming about Mitch and I at the age of 19 in Daytona Beach, a trip that we took to reset our minds before the stress of months of college classes. If my brain could type, I’d have three-hundred pages already.
So here’s the abbreviated “First 24 Hours’ story of the two idiot teenagers from Woodstock, Virginia on their big adventure to Daytona Beach, Florida.
I had worked two jobs all summer, saving money for the costs of college student living.
Beer and condoms.
We caught the Amtrack in Richmond after having stayed at Mitch’s aunt’s house for the evening. It was an overnight ride to Florida. I only remember this because as soon as we had settled into our seats, we did what any normal college student would have done.
“Excuse me porter, what time does the bar car open?”
After a good three hours sleep on a belly full of beer and no food, the train came to our stop.
We got off.
The train pulled away.
And there we stood.
Two teens from Woodstock, each with a suitcase in our hand. We were in Deland, Florida and the road sign we were staring at read Daytona-26 miles. Now this was 1979. We didn’t have internet, cell phones, credit cards or a reservation.
And, apparently we didn’t have a clue.
But, because good things happen to the ones that take irresponsible chances (I made that one up obviously:), we noticed the well-worn station wagon sitting on the other side of the road.
Joe’s Taxi .
We got in.
Guess who was driving?
A grungy looking fellow, a Vietnam veteran, whose name just happened to be Joe. He had connections at the SunRise Motel, right on the beach in Daytona. He drove us there, introduced us to the managers and left us his business card.
“Just call when you’re ready to head back home”.
The first twenty-four hours went well.
Having heard radio reports of shark attacks from the previous day, we felt pretty good about ourselves after surviving through our 3AM Atlantic Ocean body surfing ordeal.
“Especially near the docks”, they warned on the radio.
So it’s 3 AM, we’re swimming near the big dock, there are shark attack reports, and I swim like a rock. I’m taking this one as a win.
The second evening, we did what all teenage boys do when they go to Florida without supervision. We looked in the phone book, found a taxi cab number and the address of the Shingle Shack. The Shingle Shack was nothing like the gentlemen’s clubs that we had back in Woodstock. Well, that would primarily be because we didn’t have such things at home.
“Now let me get this straight. Alcoholic beverages, loud rock music and completely naked women dancing on a stage. I’m in.”
I’m sure that during that evening, we broke every single strip club etiquette that had ever been written. But, apparently we weren’t too bad because they let us in again the following evening.
Yea, we had to go back a second time to ensure that we had gotten it right the first time. We must have made quite the impression during our first visit, because after arriving through the doors on the second night, the DJ hollered over the PA system “Hey, it’s my boys from Virginia!”. Golden Ray (not her given name, I don’t believe) gave us a friendly hello.
After a few hours, it was time again for Crystal to make her way back onto the stage. Mitch had earlier purchased a Shingle shack t-shirt and had Crystal grace the shirt with her autograph. Crystal was the epitome of everything that I was looking for in a woman at that point of my life.
A beautiful, long-legged blonde, with a friendly smile, didn’t talk too much and she was naked.
Today, a handshake from a female Wal-Mart greeter would be the highlight of my social calendar.
Back in the day, Mitch and I were Mick and Keith (Jagger and Richards). He was the flamboyant, electric one, the voice of the party, while I was the quiet sedated one in the corner. The Glimmer Twins, I was his KEEF and he was my Mick.
Hunter Thompson and Raul Duke.
Yin and yang.
If you had ever spent any time with Mitch, you would know that he liked to talk. Our Yin and Yang. He’d ramble on and on, I’d listen and nod.
So, Crystal’s five minutes into her time on stage. We’re sitting at stage side, me mesmerized by Crystal, Mitch turned facing me. If I remember correctly, he was repeating the same thing…”blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”. I just nodded my head.
Well at that moment, something happened that was so memorable that I will never forget it. Crystal is dancing facing away from us, her hands holding onto her ankles just above the four-inch clear plastic heels. She’s positioned right in front of Mitch, yet he is oblivious. I’m nonchalantly smacking his thigh and he keeps saying “blah, blah, something, blah, blah”.
Finally, he swings his head around and comes face to face? with Crystal’s tanned, taunt rear end.
And then he stopped talking, the mouth gaped open, a look of confusion on his face.
We were only nineteen.
Just a few years ago, we were sitting around telling glory day stories from the past. Mitch confessed to me that at that moment with Crystal, he peed his pants a little bit.
If you’ve ever been an Olympic Games qualifying 5000 meter runner, you are, without a doubt, well versed in the different strategies taken by runners during the course of a race. Some trail the pack at the beginning of the event, using an explosive kick at the end to achieve victory. Others battle at the front, maintaining a strong position while keeping in touch with the competition until the end of the race. And oftentimes one runner, referred to as the ‘rabbit’, out sprints the other runners right from the start, in an attempt to tire out his team’s competitors and/or set a torrid pace for a fellow teammate, assisting him in setting a new world record.
Somehow, the last one describes our strategy for our vacation.
We had begun our week’s adventure like a couple of ‘rabbits’. Out of our motel room with-in minutes of having checked in with the front desk, we had cocktails by noon, achieved a bright red ‘base tan’ by the late afternoon and became friends (just friends:) with Krystal and Golden Ray, supporting them in their current careers, one dollar at a time.
That was pretty much it, in the category of “Your first forty-eight hours in Daytona Beach”. We had arrived on a Monday and suddenly it was Wednesday.
Wednesday had begun like any typical day.
Picture if you will, Rob and Laura Petrie, lying in separate beds, chit chatting about their plans for the day and how cute that Richie was.
Ours was just like that, except that we were lying in our underwear, on top of the bedspreads, drinking scotch on the rocks, and watching the ‘Roadrunner’ on the television.
“How can you drink scotch in the morning?”, you may be thinking to yourself.
It was because we had read in a Playboy magazine that sophisticated men drink scotch, a taste that’s acquired over many years. We only had a few hours before an appointment with a nearby beach, so we had to hurry straight to sophistication. I did learn that a quality scotch pairs well with cheese, fruits and pork, or in our case, cartoons.
It was all quite similar to the Rob and Laura scenario, except for the fact that the Petries lived in New Rochelle during their five seasons whereas Mitch and Robin visited Daytona Beach for just seven days, trying to squeeze our sitcom into just one week.
A long, long week.
Mitch’s Grandma Rodgers and Eddy lived on the gulf side of Florida and made the trip over to visit us for a day. It was sort of like a temporary intervention by elderly angels except that we spent our time together cruising in their Cadillac, right on the beach, happy hour in their hotel room and then a well-needed dinner at an all-you-can-eat restaurant buffet.
In all the excitement during our first forty-eight hours, we had forgotten one little thing.
Dinner was as to be expected. It was early in the evening. We were taking full advantage of the ‘early bird’ discount, which had started at four-thirty. The restaurant had a bustling atmosphere, standing room only, hordes of ladies with blue hair, gentlemen with grey or none at all.
During my fourth plate from the buffet, an electric, excited feeling arose from the far side of the dining room.
In came EMT’s with a stretcher, navigating through the waves of diners near the buffet. After vitals were checked, an elderly lady was lifted onto the stretcher, an oxygen mask placed over her nose and mouth.
A moment in your life where you realize that it’s not all about strippers, loud music and breakfast scotch. That moment of reflection in which you think of your loved ones back home, the regret of not helping that homeless man during your last trip to D.C., and a renewed commitment to achieve your goal of earning a college degree, that will eventually lead to a successful career, with benefits including a wife, 2.5 children and a boatload of money.
I thought of these things as we stared in silence at this dire situation.
But then my bulging bubble of re-commitment was burst when I noticed that the husband of the dying woman was doing a very good imitation of a human squirrel, his cheeks bloated with food after hurriedly shoveling fork after fork of deep-fried goodies into his mouth, each morsel slathered in tartar sauce or ketchup.
It was a simple time versus cost ratio.
The squad would be leaving in no time at all. The buffet cost $3.95.
The next day, refueled by the fried cod fillets, cheesy macaroni and bowls of banana pudding, we hiked our way down the main thoroughfare of town. Two young men in search of their destiny.
Or a tattoo.
Or just a liquor store.
It’s not important because destiny found us. Pimp walking down the sidewalk, we neared a young fellow. He was probably in his early twenties. Short in stature, he was comfortably dressed for the warm summer day. No shirt, cut-off blue jean shorts, flip-flops, a dark tan, and shoulder-length oily brown hair. With a shady, quiet voice, he asked if we needed ‘anything for the head’ or maybe a black beauty to keep the party going. Black Beauty? I’m thinking Jane Kennedy from CBS sports, but he was referring to a popular stimulant pill that was readily available, illegally, back in the day.
Mitch then did what he did so well.
A friendly, humor-filled interrogation broke out, and little did our new friend know it, but he was the temporary prisoner. Mitch seemed to get great pleasure from, and was a master at, getting total strangers to confess things to him that they might only inebriatedly tell their best of friends. And it turns out that describing this young lad as a temporary prisoner came to light as a pretty close description.
This fellow, with whom we just happened to run into, once rented a room above the Walton and Smoot Drug Store, main street in our hometown. He had to break his lease after he was arrested for trying to break down through his room’s floor in order to rob the pharmacy below of any resellable prescription drugs. “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, a young Tony Montana walks into mine…”
Mitch and I visited the world-famous Daytona Beach Speedway, home of the Daytona 500. Thousands of fans screaming for their favorite drivers as they piloted race cars that could reach a speed of well over 200 MPH.
A little hiccup in our plans.
There was no race that day and the public wasn’t allowed inside the massive structure.
But there was a dog track next door!
We grabbed a program and strutted, elbows and knees flaring excitedly, down to the track’s railing. With absolutely no knowledge in the ways of the gambling world, we stared at the program for help.
And there it was.
Our omen to the riches that were soon to be bestowed upon us.
First race, lane five, dog numbered seven…”Terrible Ted”. Ted Nugent!! “Dude… dude… dude, let’s place our bet!”
So five dollars were placed on Terrible Ted to win. The greyhounds are trained, after the stall doors open, to chase after a mechanical rabbit that travels on the rail around the interior of the track. With Ted and his rivals waiting anxiously in the stalls, the rabbit took lap after lap of warm up trips around the dirt oval. And then the big moment came.
“Here-comes-Lucky!” screamed the PA announcer.
The gates opened and the dogs took off after that metal rabbit. Rounding into the first turn, a few of the dogs became entangled. Legs and tails went tumbling towards the outside rail. All involved regained their senses and hobbled off after the pack leaders. One of those wreck victims was, you guessed it, Terrible Ted.
Ted could play a screaming guitar riff, but he wasn’t much of racer.
Friday began like any other day. Being marine creatures of habit, the day’s activities began with breakfast beers and cartoons.
Secondly, we woke up.
Years later, a morning with Mitch and Robin evolved into something much more adult-like than those embarrassing mornings at the SunRise Motel. It became an inter-reflective time spent watching political shows and reading the Washington Post. Nay, that was just Mitch. I was busy getting us another breakfast beer and flipping on some “Exile on Main Street”.
We went through definitive growth periods during our blossoming period entering into manhood. Growth periods similar to those found in the life span of a giant Sequoia. The inner rings of the mighty tree can be evaluated by any half-assed dendrologist, providing those interested with some very informative insight. The width of a band and the distance separating the bands help scientists in theorizing as to the approximate age of a particular tree, weather conditions during its lifetime and even the effects of a forest-wide plague.
Well, Mitch and I didn’t have any rings to be analyzed in order to determine a rough estimate of our ages. There were years of toilet rings, but that doesn’t provide too much Solid information. I once had a constant ring of ‘Encore!’ in my ears after an evening at an AC/DC-KISS concert. AC/DC was the warm-up act for KISS and at that time being led by legendary frontman Bon Scott, which could be a clue in narrowing down my estimated year of birth.
But the real tell-tale sign in our case would be broken blood vessels in the eyes. Or in layman’s terms; a subconjunctival hemorrhage. There is (or at least there should be) a direct correlation between the number of broken blood vessels in the eyes and the number of days that a person has stayed awake in the name of happiness, fun, and debauchery. They could call it ‘Keith Richards Bioarcheology’.
Where were we?
That was quite a tangent.
Sort of like the stage-right that Mitch and I took from the beach that Friday afternoon, as we headed back to our motel room after a full day in the surf.
Just as we were leaving the sand and began climbing the stairs leading to the parking lot, Mitch started back-fist punching me flush on my birthmark, located between my left bicep and triceps.
And it hurt.
Now it’s not that my stout, teenaged humerus bone wasn’t protected from injury by mounds of rippling muscle, but I was sunburnt, dammit.
And he was also trying to say something. That secretive technique where you whisper loudly through your fully clenched teeth, lips slightly parted, the speaker getting increasingly aggravated because you can’t understand a word that they are saying, yet anyone watching knows that you’re definitely talking about someone else.
Finally, when Mitch reached a normal conversation level, I realized what he had been slowly repeating.
Thirty-feet away, standing under the outdoor beach shower, rinsing away the day’s last remnants of sand, was our newest BFF, Golden Ray, the star performer from Monday and Tuesday night’s visits to the Shingle Shack.
Now, I take extreme pride in my uncanny abilities of observation and logical deduction. I’ve studied with the best of them. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Clouseau, Adrian Monk and, maybe most impressive, Shawn Spencer. Somewhere in the basement, I have my cherished, mahogany-framed diploma, proudly proclaiming my achievement of having obtained an Associate’s Degree of Criminology, from the Cinematography School of Really Good Detectives.
It’s down there, I’m going to hang it up one day, I just can’t find it.
I did, however, find myself staring at Golden Ray. Not the water beads forming on her young, bronzed skin. Not at the lack of material used in creating her bikini. There was something different about her and I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Though I wanted to, I really did.
My extraordinary skills of observation had seemed to have failed me for the first time in my young life. In my mind, I began to struggle with the reality that I may just be an average person. But then it finally clicked.
The difference was suddenly obvious.
She had a head.
I hadn’t noticed that bodily feature during our ‘together time’ at the Shingle Shack. It was a nice head. With hair and everything. Two eyes, two ears, and two lips. How did I miss that? Well, even Frank Columbo admitted to an occasional slip-up.
After we giggled our way back to our room, we began plotting the evening’s activities. Big Daddy’s nightclub was right up the beach, within puking distance of our motel room’s door. It was close enough that we would just walk there right on the beach. Alright, so we had a plan.
Dag-on-it, we kept forgetting about food. I can’t lie and say exactly what we had for dinner that evening because, quite frankly, other than the all-you-can-eat buffet night, I have no memories of food consumption during our adventure whatsoever.
So we showered and dressed for our big night out on the town. We had heard good things about Big Daddy’s, so we wanted to look our best.
Maybe love would be in the air.
Or lust, whichever we encountered first.
Now, ‘dressing up’, in our young minds, required three key fashion accessories. A silky, polyester shirt, slacks, and platform shoes. Two inch heels max, nothing too gaudy. Perfect hair (Mitch had ample hair at this point) and a nauseating spray of Polo cologne. And off we go!
Caught up in all the excitement of the evening, we couldn’t help but stop at a little dive bar located halfway up the beach. Just a short pit stop to calm our anxieties before the main event.
You know that feeling that you get when something just doesn’t seem right. We hadn’t been in a lot of different bars yet in our lives, so we had zero knowledge of the different categories of alcohol serving establishments.
In fact, we hadn’t been in any bar.
But we attempted to look cool, calm and collected. Heck, we even smelled good. So we plopped ourselves down in a stool and ordered a beer.
Uncomfortable at first, I started to relax and gazed about, soaking in the atmosphere of this fine establishment. Then we simultaneously noticed the three large men sitting to our left. Wife beater t-shirts, tattooed arms, and auras of angriness.
Next, we noticed something unique about the overly ample young woman dancing on the stage in front of us. The lights, synchronized with the beat of the music, gave us a real clear view of her unkempt underarm hair.
Young John Travolta and his Bee Gee sidekick then performed one of their only intelligent moves of the evening. Two words.
So, we scurried past all the motorcycles parked outside of the bar and continued on our holy quest to Big Daddy’s.
Depending on your age, you may remember the magazine advertisements for Massengill douche.
There was one with the picture of a beautiful, young maiden bathing naked under the warm wetness of a gently flowing waterfall, another of a wholesome, flower-child looking young woman wearing a simple yellow sundress, smiling as she gazed over a field of wildflowers, or lastly, the unforgettable television commercial with the normal, all-American looking daughter discussing her douche concerns with her mother, a possible June Cleaver body double.
What a great advertising campaign. A simple water and vinegar solution flushed into the Garden of Eden of a woman’s body for medical or hygienic purposes, leaving her with a lily of the valley aroma.
And the average purchaser was not that beauty under the waterfall, but the large girl in front of you at the local IGA, a scorpion tattoo on the back of her broad neck. And yet, those images bring thoughts of butterflies and flowers. That’s really good advertising. Maybe I simply have some serious issues buried deep inside my subconscious, but I remember these images with great fondness, images worthy of a wet dream, and the mere mention of the word Massengill evokes a refreshed feeling of self-confidence in myself.
Nay, that’s what she said.
So, we’re strolling up the beach towards Big Daddy’s when I’m suddenly stopped in my tracks. I felt like I had walked into a full-color advertisement found in the rear section of a 1979 Women’s Journal magazine.
A picture in time never to be forgotten.
The sun was setting in Daytona Beach. The stars were beginning to emerge from the developing darkness. A warm, gentle breeze followed the waves of low tide to the end of their long journey.
And there she was.
Wearing a long, white eyelet skirt with a spaghetti string crop top, her tanned bare feet kicked up occasional splashes, further entertaining her Labrador puppy as he dodged the foam at the tail end of harmless waves.
I believe that her name was Massie.
Having consumed my dose of self-confidence earlier in the evening, I politely excused myself from Mitch’s company and moseyed on over to Massie.
After a short session of small talk, standing face to face in the warm, calming surf, I sensed that perhaps I had a chance for something more with this cute, little sea-nymph.
Maybe she found my charm irresistible.
She was probably impressed by the wet surface traction provided by my platform shoes and the wrinkle-free quality of my polyester pants when soaked up to the knees.
Then she broke my heart forever.
From lips as soft as rose petals came an obvious lame excuse.
“Leave me alone, you sick fucking bastard!”
Or something like that.
She must have had a boyfriend back home.
From dry land, Mitch hollered at me “Hey, I don’t think that she’s interested. Let’s go, you idiot.”
So we continued to Big Daddy’s. A fun evening was enjoyed by the both of us. I don’t know if it was the salt water and soaking up too much sun or just simple fatigue, but I have no real memories of the last forty-eight hours of our vacation or the trip home to reality.
Yet to this day, I still have wonderful memories of Mitch and I’s week in Daytona Beach.
On a side note, my fond feelings for Massie faded the day that the soles of my $11.00 platform shoes from Wilkens Shoe Center in Winchester, Virginia succumb to the corrosive effects of the Atlantic Ocean, and fell apart on their way to the garbage can.
Some people might say that revealing such horrid details of our past might inspire Mitch to occasionally haunt me in the true ghost form.
Memories are all fine and dandy.
Something to cherished.
A haunting from time to time would be welcomed by me. It would be much better than not having him here at all.
Miss you, Bro!