Several years ago after escaping high school, my friend Jim asked me if I wanted to move to Florida with him. We had known each other since 6th or 7th grade, and had hung out ever since. Every Saturday we would either be sitting in front of my stereo or his, listening to the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, two iconic musical groups from the 60s. This story is about our big move to the sunshine state of Florida.
Jim was going to be attending Manatee Junior College. I, on the other hand, had no idea what I was going to be doing. We were both 18 and thought we had the world by the tail, like most kids our age in the 70s. Neither one of us seemed to fit into the culture of most people our age. While many were swimming downstream, I think we were both struggling to head in the opposite direction.
When July 1975 arrived, we were up around four in the morning packing the remaining items to move to his parents recently-purchased home in Bradenton, Fla. Really, the only things that we took were a stereo, records, 8-tracks, clothes, personal items, and the will to survive on our own for the first time in the adult world.
When five a.m. arrived, we were heading south in his parents’ extra car with the tape player blaring Beach Boys surfing songs. Surfing music was getting us primed for becoming beach bums on the sandy beaches of tropical Florida.
We had it all planned out, when neither one of us was working or attending college, our days and nights would be spent on a surfboard riding the wild waves. Little did we realize that the only time one could surf any waves of large size was during a hurricane or tropical storm. The Gulf of Mexico, we soon would discover was rather placid except during stormy weather. Well, if we couldn’t make a splash at surfing, maybe we would have better luck with the beach bunnies who inhabited the warm sandy beaches along Longboat Key and Anna Maria islands.
We found ourselves staying in a motel somewhere in central Georgia, near a small town that neither one of us had ever heard of. With a good night’s sleep behind us, we hit the eating establishment that was owned by the same foreign family that operated the motel. We should have known that this was not going to be a five-star dining experience when we saw a cat sitting on the counter next to the cash register. The food was much worse than the atmosphere. The only thing about it that I can recall is the hash browns resembled shredded metal more than potatoes.
Our second day on the road found us very near our final destination. Jim wanted to stop at one of his relatives’ in St. Petersburg to spend the night before heading to Bradenton. Unfortunately, we arrived past their supper time. I would soon find out that supper was usually consumed in the late afternoon, sometime prior to five in the evening. Well, we jumped back into our car, which was beginning to harbor an unpleasant stench.
Driving past many fast food joints, we finally decided on McDonald’s. I had never been to Florida, and the atmosphere was intoxicating. I talked Jim into eating on the patio; he agreed grudgingly. I believe he knew what was in store for us since he had been coming to Florida every year for vacation. As we carried our trays of Big Macs, French fries and sodas toward our selected table, we suddenly heard a screeching that sounded like the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds.” It was a swarm of seagulls circling overhead waiting for an opportunity to attack our meal. It wasn’t long before they swooped down toward our table, scooping up anything that smelled of grease. One ingenious bird grabbed my entire tray of fries, leaving nothing more than a bewildered look on my face. I then knew why Jim didn’t really want to dine outside.
The next day would be a much brighter day, but it too, had its own unique happenings to amaze, shock and bewilder two innocent teenage boys from small town U.S.A.
To be continued...
Contact Raymond Snoke at firstname.lastname@example.org.