I will warn you, this is LONG. It is almost 8000 words long, which means many of you will not have the patience for it. But you should. It is unbelievably funny as fuck, would I let you down? This is by far, one of the most amazing stories in my repertoire. I assure you, it is 100% true, you may not believe that when reading it, but I swear on my kids this shit is for real. Now grab a coffee, settle in, and have a big fucking laugh on me. You’re welcome.
The Florida Debacle
It was 1990 and I had just returned home to Maryland after a year of pretending it was the 1960’s. After my high school graduation, 2 friends and I decided to spend the year trudging around the United States braless in Birkenstocks. We attended Rainbow Gatherings and followed the Grateful Dead back and forth across the country six times. I believed in long armpit hair, patchouli, LSD…and miracles.
I was 19 years old and had been accepted to The Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota Florida. No, it was not a fucking clown school and I have never heard that one before. If I had ever excelled at anything, it was art, and after a year of living in a VW bus, bathing in rivers with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap, and eating out of dumpsters, it was fair to say that I was pretty stoked about college.
My hometown boyfriend Paul and I had been dating since my senior year of high school; he was 6 years older than I and did not have a job or house that tied him to Maryland. That is unless you consider wearing a shirt with an embroidered logo that reads “Cover The Earth!” stacking pallets of paint in the Sherwin Williams warehouse a career. And that is unless you consider a home to be living in a 2 bedroom apartment with a male roommate and his cat “Spooky,” and Spooky’s litter of kittens, and a large electrical spool for a coffee table and a 6 foot wide banner across the wall that read “Taste A Pasta Masterpiece” as a decorative touch. So after careful examination of our current circumstances, we decided to move down to Florida together. He would find a job while I went to school.
Our plan was in place, we had a house rented and waiting for us, and it was time for the move. My father owned a refrigerated trucking business, so he had given us a truck to use. The plan was, pack the truck, and Paul and I would drive down in my VW GTI while his stepfather, also named Paul, followed us in the truck. Once we arrived in Florida and settled in, Paul The Stepfather would drive the truck back home to Maryland. Solid plan, right?
And so we begin…
We had our refrigerated truck jam-packed with all of our belongings. What a hodge-podge of shit that was. Any furniture that we actually owned was made of either wicker or PVC pipe. It was essentially a flea market on wheels. We all hit the road at 4am, Paul and I in the car, and Paul The Stepfather in the truck.
It is imperative to keep in mind that this was before the luxury of cell phones and navigation systems and GPS. It is also imperative to keep in mind that I was a total stoner. It is also imperative to keep in mind that Paul cannot make a decision without a solid 20 minutes of agonizing self-doubt.
We all set out southbound on I-95 into the bizarre and deserted darkness somewhere between night and morning where you feel like you are an actual character in “The Stand.” It was about 430 miles to South of the Border, so we figured 8 hours would give us plenty of time to meet there for lunch.
The last 100 miles of our drive to South of the Border were spent in juvenile hysterics over all of the “Pedro Says” signs that are strategically placed every 5 miles. Each new ridiculous sign led to another 5 minutes and 5 miles of I-can’t-catch-my-breath-because-that-is-so-fucking-funny-laughter. We made up our own sign names, such as, “Pedro says Go Fuck Yourself!” or “Pedro Says Our Marketing Sucks!” Did I forget to mention that we were stoned?
We had lost sight of Paul The Stepfather in the truck way back, so we figured he would be another hour or so because we didn’t know which was slower, the truck or Paul The Stepfather. We filled up with gas and followed Pedro’s signs to an incredibly cheesy restaurant. Laughing loudly, eating free bottomless tortilla chips, drinking margaritas and annoying the shit out of our waitress. She was probably all like, “86 those douche bag campers at table 12.”
It had now been 8 1/2 hours and no sign of Paul The Stepfather. Jesus, what the fuck was taking him so long? We gave him another 1/2 hour then decided to call Paul’s Mom to see if she had heard from him. As luck would have it, she had! The truck had broken down in Dunn NC, approximately 80 miles back. Hooray!
We climbed back into the car and backtracked an hour or so to Dunn. We met with Paul The Stepfather at the local shit hole truck stop/motel where he had managed to make it before the truck had basically decided to explode. What a fucking nightmare. We found a local repair place that worked on that kind of truck, and after inspection and a few phone calls, it was determined that it would be at least 3 days before they could get the part needed to fix it. Awesome.
We all tried to settle the stress level by having a few beers and dinner at said motel truck stop shit hole restaurant while we decided upon a new course of action. After a good game of back and forth, finally, we had it all worked out. We would all feel much better after a good nights sleep, at motel shit hole.
The next morning we awoke and went to meet Paul The Stepfather in the adjoining extra brown restaurant for some extra brown breakfast. Paul The Stepfather stood about 5’8. He was roughly 300 pounds and looked like his normal unhappy self. He wore a yellowed button down shirt, brown polyester pants, and had very nicely combed his 3 strands of hair over to the side. We slid into the brown vinyl booth and the brown polyester uniformed waitress took our orders as she poured dirty looking brown water into our transparent brown bumpy plastic cups. Ahhh, with a big stretch I gazed past the brown wood paneling through the window that was framed by thick brown curtains. Thank god I had taken a few hits from my brown bowl of my brown weed.
We finished our breakfast, paid the check, and gave Paul The Stepfather a big hug, thanked him and said we would talk to him in a few days once the truck was fixed. We apologized for the huge inconvenience and told him to have a safe trip back.
He looked at us like we had just escaped from the local sanitarium.
“What the hell are you talking about?” He said.
Paul and I looked at each other in utter and complete confusion.
“We are all riding back to Maryland in the car!” Paul The Stepfather barked.
Holy shit, what the fuck was happening here? It was if Paul The Stepfather was abducted last night and a strange clone with a different agenda had appeared.
“What? No, Tracy and I are going to fill the car with the necessities and drive down to Florida because she has registration that she can’t miss, and you were going to take a bus back.” Paul said.
But Paul The Stepfather had heard something entirely different apparently. And Paul The Stepfather was pissed. I opted out of this debate and began filling my little GTI with “the necessities.” Necessities, loosely translated meant completely random shit. There were a few boxes of plates or something, a suitcase or two, a cooler and two ridiculously ugly pale blue lamps protruding out of the sunroof.
I never spoke to Paul The Stepfather again, but I did watch him storm off. It was a dreary afternoon in Dunn North Carolina, and I sat looking back out of my rear view mirror as Paul walked back towards me. He was looking down, shaking his head, as if trying to make 2+2 equal 5, over and over and over.
Well that ended well, I thought to myself. I was so Dunn with this.
So with Dunn at least temporarily behind us, Paul and I once again continued our pursuit of the Sunshine State.
It was now Thursday. Our plan now was to get to Sarasota, unpack the car, and get me registered for classes on Friday. We would then turn right back around Saturday morning and drive back up to Dunn, sleep there for the night, and then drive it back down on Sunday. We would then have a week before classes started, to look for jobs and find a reliable pot dealer.
We briefly considered asking Paul The Stepfather to hop on a Greyhound to Dunn and joyfully revisit the original plan of driving it down to us. Besides the fact that he was delusional and unhappy, he probably had much more important things to do, like making armpit stains in his shirt or grunting. Nothing like an extra 2000 miles that we didn’t have time for and couldn’t afford.
With a little attitude adjustment and a few hits off of a bowl, we were able to put it behind us. We began to focus on brighter days ahead.
We blazed the trail down through North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia…and then, finally, there it was. “Welcome To Florida, The Sunshine State!”
If you have ever driven to Florida, you are fully aware how exciting it is when you get there, like “Wow! We finally made it! We’re here!” But then you realize that you are a ra-tard, because Florida is longer and more painfully agonizing than watching a State of the Union address that has just interrupted the Real Housewives Finale.
Another slight wrinkle in our plan was emerging. This particular wrinkle happened to be named money. One unplanned night in a motel and 2 extra meals had really set us back. I don’t know what the fuck we were thinking, but we were like MC Hammer broke. I was going to receive a monthly stipend from my Father once I actually started school, but in the meantime we thought that thirty-seven dollars should be sufficient.
And that is when I had Brilliant Idea #1…The Shell Gas Card. My Dad had given me the Gas Card to use for school. Obviously this implied that it was to be used for gas, but this was never actually verbalized, and as I like to say, it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.
This was also way before the movie “Reality Bites” came out, so we must have been the Urban Legend upon which they based their story idea.
Finding a Shell station proved to be a challenge. After combing through a phone book, we were able to locate one in the middle of bumfuck Ocala Florida. Brilliant Idea #1 entailed attempting to buy someone’s gas on the card in exchange for his or her cash. We would simply play the sympathy card, explain our broken down truck situation and how we were struggling to make it down to Sarasota and hadn’t eaten in days, etc.
With our plan in place, we sat there, baking in the sun for 2 hours and not a car came by. Not a single solitary one. Another example of our stellar planning was that I had smoked all of my weed.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, a rusted out Camaro with a dog in the back pulled up. Out walked a long-haired shirtless man with skin that boasted a lifetime of sun and most likely hard labor. We were on this guy like the gays on Prop 8.
We gave him the whole song and dance, and asked if after he filled up his tank if we could pay for the gas on my card and if he would be kind enough to do us a solid and give us the cash. He looked apprehensive and we assured him this was not a scam, we would pay for the gas first! He could trust us!
He agreed and we fell over ourselves thanking him again and again. He proceeded to fill his tank to the brim, and Paul and I went in to pay for his gas.
After we paid for the gas, we walked back outside to collect the cash from Chief Long Hair Brown Chest, when we noticed his very large German Shepherd sitting in the front seat of our car.
“OK, we’re all set, it was $25 even. Dude, why’s your dog in our car?”
He started chuckling like a serial killer.
I walked over to my car and the dog barred his teeth and snarled a deep and terrifying growl at me.
“Dude, we had a deal, where’s our money?”
He got in his car and started the engine, still mocking us with his psychotic chuckle. With a loud whistle, his dog jumped through the drivers’ window of my car and ran over and jumped into his backseat. He never spoke an actual word, and just like that, they were gone.
I took a seat on the curb, head in my hands with a terrible stress headache, rocking back and forth bordering on a nervous breakdown. “Paullie, I just can’t take it anymore, I’m gonna fucking snap…” rocking, fetal ball, rocking, fetal ball, rocking.
Paul was providing the same emotional support as if I was in labor and we were waiting for the ambulance to show up.
We had no other option but to wait and try it again. And wait we did. I was a real joy to be around.
Eventually a cop pulled in. We didn’t even care, we asked to buy his gas and told him the whole story. After looking at the stressed out lunatic in front of him, he must have taken pity on Paul and gave us $10. We thanked him a million times and wrote down his address on a piece of paper and swore we would pay him back once we got settled and had some money. But of course we never did. Losers.
We made the last leg of our trip miraculously unscathed, and around 10pm we pulled under the car port of our little ridiculously pink house and began unloading our flea market.
The world looked a little better in the morning with fresh eyes. The cop had done a piecemeal job at restoring our damaged faith in humanity. I called my Dad and told him that we had finally made it, but that we had used up all of our money in the debacle. He wired me $100 to last until my first official school stipend started in a week. We were rich!
Life was good; we sat back in the AC and had a good laugh over it all, happy to finally be here. We decided to head out to the grocery store and spend some of what little money we had on food for the week.
I remember what a beautiful day was, blue skies, palm trees and warm sunshine on our skin. The worst was behind us, bad things happened in three’s. The broken truck, the delusional Stepfather, and the rabid dog. We knew we would look back at this and laugh!
We pulled my little GTI into the Albertsons Grocery store parking lot. What a nice grocery store! It was huge and carried absolutely everything. We were over the moon that you could buy beer in the actual grocery store, what a bonus!
We took our time perusing, buying ingredients to make tuna casserole and other non-imaginative dishes that would make plenty of leftovers for the week. This was very responsible of us; it ensured that we would have enough money for other essentials, such as my pot dealer and cigarettes. We patted ourselves on the backs and headed up towards the checkout.
I was placing my items on the conveyor, and Paul had headed up to the service desk at the front of the store about 30 feet in front of me. He needed stamps to put on all of the “Greetings from Florida” postcards he had bought. This was an obvious attempt to make the guys back home jealous of his new life in the bikini clad state he had been calling home for twenty-seven seconds.
As I unloaded my groceries from my cart, I realized that I was relaxed for the first time in days.
Just then, two heavily armed, shirtless men in Guatemalan pants and ski masks came exploding through the main entrance of the store. With their machine guns pointed angrily upwards, they demanded very loudly, “EVERYBODY GET THE FUCK ON THE FLOOR!”
Suddenly I felt as if I was under water and everything was moving very slowly. I watched as patrons and cashiers alike tossed their purses and belongings aside and fell flat to the floor. The fear in the air was palpable. It was eerily silent.
I was startled out of my dreamlike state by the alarmingly loud sound of someone yelling the following:
“TRAAACCCYYYYY! GET DOWWWWNNNN!”
I realized I was the only person in the entire store still standing, besides the gunmen, of course. I saw Paul crouched with his hands above his head at the service desk, frantically motioning me to get down. Hey, thanks for the shout-out Paul! Now the gunmen noticed too, but I literally could not move, my brain refused to process what was happening.
I just stood motionless and watched as they finished up emptying all of the 20 lanes of cash drawers into their bags/pillowcases.
As they walked backwards towards the doors to make their getaway, they decided to make one final announcement to everyone in the store before they ran out, which I thought was very considerate.
“Sorry everybody, but life’s a bitch!” And with that they turned and ran out of the store.
I was disturbingly calm and I have no idea why I was so unfazed by the incident. Paul was terribly shaken and came running over to me, and we had one of those creepy unsure nervous laughs when you don’t know what else to do in the situation.
I just wanted to get the fuck out of there; seriously, my groceries that I couldn’t afford were melting. The very young and obviously under-qualified manager was in a fucking frenzy. I guess he must have had a troop leader meeting or something more pressing on the day Albertson’s held their: “What To Do In A Robbery” seminar. He was trying his best to get everyone settled down, and get money back in the cashiers’ drawers so that they could get everyone calmed down and on their way.
I had bagged all of my groceries and gotten them in the cart when the frazzled checker asked me, “God, I’m so sorry about all of that, what do I owe you?” That’s OK, I told her, “sixty dollars.”
As we pushed our cart out through the parking lot, I stopped to wave to my two new armed robber friends sitting in the back of the police cruiser. Paul asked if I had that “creepy satisfied smile” on my face because they had caught the guys? I told him not at all, I could care less. I was smiling because not only did we just get free groceries, but also we made sixty dollars.
It was Friday, so I now had to go to the campus and register for my classes, which was thankfully uneventful. Afterwards I returned home and we spent the rest of the weekend unpacking, going to the beach, and securing a new pot dealer.
First thing Monday morning, I called the repair shop in Dunn to check on the status of the truck. “Yep, she’s all ready.” I was told. We had to mentally gear back up to get back in the car and drive 11 hours back up to Dunn, get the truck, and drive 11 hours back. I would have rather had someone shove a dirty stick in my rectum while simultaneously watching Willard Scott present his Smuckers Jam segment on a loop. I did not however, have that option.
At least we had actual money this time! We had only spent $40 on a quarter ounce, and another $20 on beer, so we still had the $100 we had started out with. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
And again, we’re off. We left around 5am, we were going to drive straight through, and barring any more mishaps, we would make it to Dunn by 4:00pm. We would then get the truck, spend the night, and drive straight back the next day, putting us back at home safely by Tuesday night.
We weren’t on the highway 20 minutes when it began to rain, so I reached up to roll the sunroof shut. Instead, the handle to the roller came right off in my hand, and no matter how hard we tried, we could not rig the thing to close.
We were soaking wet by the time we got off of the highway and pulled into a convenience store. We purchased heavy-duty trash bags and duct tape, and proceeded to MacGyver ourselves a sunroof. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t raining in the car either, and it only cost us about $12. Ha-Ha world, take that!
Back on the highway, the only downfall to our makeshift sunroof was that about every 38 seconds it started to sag threateningly and you had to push up on it to pop the water out. And it leaked around the edges a little. Besides that it was great.
Then it started really coming down, the ominous black sky opened up and it just kept pouring harder and harder, so we were up to a roof-pop every 6 seconds. Just then, my drivers’ side windshield wiper decided to take a hard left, right off the side of the windshield, and proceeded to uselessly flip up and down between 9 and 12 o’clock.
I could not see a fucking thing, it was leaking on my head, and Paul just sat there popping away at the sunroof bag, waiting for the real storm to hit, the blonde one in the seat beside him.
He would hold the wheel and I would reach out of my window and manually redirect the wiper onto my windshield. It would cooperate for about 2 minutes each time, then again reject its duties and start fucking around on the left again, like a retarded child waving out the window.
We tried to pull over a couple of times and fix it, but we were no more certified windshield wiper repair mechanics than we were sunroof repair qualified. We likened our situation to a person with Tourette’s. You just have to put up with all the little ticks and keep on keeping on.
As we popped and flipped our way up the highway, the clouds eventually gave way to glorious blue skies and beautiful sunshine. You would have thought we just brought the Titanic in safely the way we were celebrating. We were yahooing and high-fiving and we ripped off the trash bag and let the cool breezes blow. Ha-Ha windshield wiper, we won!
The really hilarious part is that throughout these 3 hours of flipping and popping, we had only traveled about 60 miles, and we were just passing through Tampa. We had some serious mileage to make up, and without incident we made it to Dunn. We pulled up to the repair shop at 7:00, and it was closed.
We tried calling but just got the machine. No big deal, we would just get our room and get the truck in the morning when they opened at 8am. Who cares, we were just happy to be out of the fucking car. We checked into the good old motel shit hole, and once again, enjoyed the fine brown cuisine.
We awoke, grabbed a quick shower and drove back over to the mechanic shop. We walked into the grimy and dismal place of business, where we were not greeted by a young greasy gentleman sitting with his back to us, hunched over with his face about 3 inches away from a tiny TV. He didn’t appear all too happy that we interrupted his Sesame Street hour.
We told him who we were and that my Father had called in a credit card to pay for the repairs. He pretended that he could read some paperwork, had a nice deep poke around the inside of his nose, and handed us our keys. He motioned us out the door and pointed his booger finger toward our truck sitting over in the lot.
We walked across the dusty dirt lot and Paul climbed up into the truck and put the key in the ignition.
He tried again.
You have got to be fucking kidding me.
We stormed back into the shop and asked Sesame Street Booger Finger why the fuck our truck wouldn’t start. He looked at us like we were the stupidest people on the planet and said, “ugh, gimme the keys.” We followed this utterly annoyed creature back out to the truck, he climbed in, turned the key,
Click click click click click.
“Well I’ll be damned,” he said. “Lemme get my old man outta the back and see if he knows somethin’ I aint.”
I could certainly think of a few things you aint, I thought to myself.
We went back into the shop, and out walked this imbeciles Father. He must be so proud. He scratched his head and I watched the snowfall onto the orange linoleum counter. He then proceeded to explain the following to us:
That he had tried to call us Monday morning when they opened to inform us that the part they got in turned out to be the wrong part, but no one answered.
Well why did he tell us when we called on Friday that the truck would be ready Monday?
Because they had the part, but were busy and going to put it in Monday morning.
Paul was watching this play out with the same trepidation one watches the final 10 second countdown of a bomb about to go off. He was fully braced for Hiroshima, right here in Dunn.
If you haven’t already gathered, I don’t handle stress very well, and I become somewhat of a loose cannon when things don’t go according to plan. Thank God for Paul, because he possessed the uncanny ability to make me laugh, with just a look, when I was on the verge of shattering into a million pieces.
He was my magician of laughter. And he undoubtedly saved me from jail on this one.
So, what do we do now, I asked?
Well Ma’am, the good news is I went ahead and ordered the right part yesterday morning, so it should be here by tomorrow mornin’ and we’ll get ‘er fixed for ya right away.
What could we do? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. Great, this was going to cost us another night in the motel, and more food, and there goes all of our money. Let me tell you, there is nothing to do in Dunn, and I mean nothing. We wound up just sitting in the motel room smoking weed because we could no longer afford the luxury of café brown.
Fast forward to 8am, now Wednesday morning. I called the shop to ask if the part was in. It wasn’t. I gave them our number at the motel and asked them to please call us when it came in.
So now its 9:00, 10:00, 2:00…and my blood is literally boiling. I stalker call there again and they tell me that their last delivery is at 3:00 so they’ll call me once it comes in. It is now 3:30 and I have not gotten a call. So I call there again, and I was told the following:
Ma’am, I’m real sorry but the part didn’t come in. I’ve been on the phone with the distributor and they assured me it will be here first thing tomorrow morning.
I didn’t know which to be more surprised over, the fact that the part didn’t come in or the fact that he was able to use the word “assured” in a sentence.
This was just getting more unbelievable by the minute. Again, we paid for another night and smoked up in the motel room. We were starving so we scraped the last of our money to get something brown to eat. This was just fabulous; all that we had was $20 and The Shell card to make it home on after this. That was it. Hooray for life’s struggles! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Now it’s Thursday morning and this whole scenario feels like the movie Groundhog Day. But unbelievably, this time when I call the shop they inform me that they actually have the part and that they are going to put it in just as soon as they can. But I didn’t trust that last part, not one bit.
I had enough of this small town dicking around, so in hopes of lighting a fire under their asses, we decided to go to the shop and sit in the dingy ass waiting room and stare them down.
After 3 hours of staring at Sesame Street’s back, Father Sesame Street came in and told us that she was all fixed and ready to go. I’ll believe it when I see it. We skeptically, yet hopefully walked over to the truck.
Paul gave me the kind of desperate and unsure look you’d give someone when you don’t know whether to put the red wire to the red wire, or the red wire to the blue wire, and one of those decisions ends in you exploding. He took a here goes nothin’ breath, put the key in the ignition, and low and behold the fucking thing actually started!
In fear of ever turning it off again, I ran and got into my car, and we got out of there faster than vomit from a post-binge bulimic. Hopefully this time we were really Dunn.
It was somewhere in the neighborhood of noon, and I was following Paul’s lead in the painfully lethargic truck. We did not want to run the risk of being separated again, you know, with the truck being such an incredibly reliable source of transportation and all. Thanks Dad for the oldest truck on your lot!
We trickled our way back down through North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, and as we neared the Florida State line, I was overcome with a deep sense of accomplishment and perseverance. Even with the knowledge that there was still an incredibly long way to go once you actually arrived in Florida, we both started waving out the windows to each other in relief and excitement when we saw that beautiful sign with the oranges on it:
“Welcome to Florida, The Sunshine State.”
I was still following Paul in the truck, and as we joyously drove across the state line, honking and waving like idiots, I saw the red and blue lights closing in behind me.
In a moment of paranoia and clarity that only a stoner can understand, I started trying to inconspicuously hide all of my pot and paraphernalia. But the sirens whizzed directly past me, along side Paul in the truck and started demanding him off of the highway.
What the fuck? He certainly wasn’t speeding, that was mechanically impossible in that big boxy refrigerated piece of shit.
I proceeded to pull over behind Paul and the cops. In order to do this, I had to battle every single cell in my pot smoking anti establishment head that told me to flee.
They told Paul to step out of the truck, license and registration, the whole 9. He asked why he was being pulled over?
The cop told him he was being pulled over because not only did he drive a commercial vehicle past the required weigh station, but he also then proceeded to drive his refrigerated truck right past the mandatory Agricultural Inspection Station.
He asked Paul where he came from and what he was hauling. Paul being Paul tried to be a comedian, making light of the situation and sharing some key points of our adventure. The cop was not very receptive to Paul’s stories, and asked him, why if it was a moving truck, did it have a refrigeration system?
He then asked Paul to open the truck for inspection.
We all walked around to the back of the truck, unlocked the doors and swung them wide open. We had nothing to hide!
But surprise! The very first thing that the cop saw, sitting right there, was our bong. A nice big 21” TM. I nearly shit my pants and I threw up a little in my mouth.
I had forgotten that when we had originally left the truck and say goodbye to Paul The Stepfather, that I had crawled in and unpacked the bong (necessity) and planned on bringing it in the car. Paul told me that was a stupid idea and to put it back in the truck. I had set it right there, easily accessible, because I had every intention of going back and getting it anyway when he wasn’t looking. But I was too stoned and forgot.
Well look where my smarts got me now. Paul and I just looked at each other, stunned. The cop continued to peer deeper into the truck with his flashlight. When he was finished his inspection, he just looked at the bong, looked at us, shut the doors, shook his head and told us that we were free to go.
Fortunately we weren’t worth the hassle. My best guess was that upon weighing his options, two broke hippies and a bong didn’t trump the possibility of missing a bust on a real live citrus plant smuggler. Thank God, that was the only bit of good luck we’ve had on this trip, besides the $60 I made at Albertsons. What a buzz kill.
Now we had another fish to fry, which was to find a Shell Station because we were dangerously low on gas. We made it to the only one we knew of, back in good old Ocala. I filled up my car, but much to our dismay they did not sell the diesel fuel that the demanding piece of shit truck required, and there was not another Shell for about 100 miles.
This was a major fucking problem. We asked where we could find any gas station that sold diesel, and he directed us to a large truck stop that was fortunately only 5 miles away. We seriously coasted in there on fumes.
It was about 9pm, and we had a single twenty-dollar bill to our names. With any luck that would be enough fuel to get us the rest of the way home. Paul was to pump exactly $20 into the truck and we would be on our way and could still make it in tonight.
I got a key from the attendant behind the glass and went to use the bathroom. The key had half of a broomstick attached to it, in case I had the mind to steal it.
I splashed some water on my face, returned the broomstick, and headed back to the truck. As soon as I saw Paul, even from a distance, I knew something had gone horribly wrong.
I saw him move in and out from under the beam of flickering fluorescent light, as if he were an actor on stage. Pacing back and forth like a wild animal, he would pause occasionally to squat, grab at his hair and curse loudly, then return to pacing, then repeat.
I apprehensively approached him, as not to provoke this already agitated creature. I looked around trying to determine the source of his current angst. And I found it.
“Are you fucking KIDDING ME??!!!” What the FUCK PAUL!!!
Whilst I was in the bathroom, Einstein decided he would run inside real quick to ask how much farther is was to Sarasota. Then, like a child who gets easily distracted when he sees something shiny, he spaced the fact altogether that he was responsible for pumping the gas, along with the fact that we only had $20 to our names.
By the time he remembered and raced back to the pump, the damage had been done. I was staring at the big glowing digitized orange numbers that read “$68.00”
It was nervous breakdown city and I was the Mayor. Paul was now the honorary Commissioner. This was a fucking nightmare.
I’m screaming at him, he’s screaming at me, and we are cursing like truck drivers (which is ironically appropriate) and people are starting to gather and stare. It’s quite the little show we’re putting on.
In a rage of profanity, I stormed off to smoke a cigarette and try to figure out what the fuck we were going to do. Paul went inside and was trying to negotiate god-knows-what with the attendant. To no avail, his bottom line was this; The truck doesn’t leave the lot until he gets paid, otherwise he calls the cops.
I scrounged a few quarters from under the seat of my car and desperately tried to call my Father. It was 10pm on a Thursday night, there was no answer and I used all of my change leaving desperate messages and leaving the phone number of the pay phone.
I sat in my fury, which was punctuated by the fact that I was now out of cigarettes, and waited.
About an hour and a half later, it rang.
I blurted out the whole entire story and swore this was not a ploy to get pot money. He took pity on me, perhaps because the truck he’d given us was such a fucking nightmare to begin with, and called the attendant and paid for our gas on his credit card.
So now it’s midnight, we are pissed off at each other and exhausted, and we still have close to 3 hours of driving left. Did I mention that I was having a nervous breakdown? I took our $20 and bought a pack of smokes, we got into our respective vehicles and got back on the highway.
After an hour on the road I simply could not drive anymore, my eyes were playing tricks on me and I was dangerously sleepy. I drove up alongside the truck and yelled to Paul to pull over.
I told him we had to stop, there was no way I could drive anymore.
He told me we only had about an hour and a half left to go.
I told him I didn’t care if we had 10 minutes to go, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
He told me we could sleep in the truck or the car.
I told him he could sleep in the truck or the car but that I was finding a motel.
He reminded me that we didn’t have any money.
I reminded him that we had $17.
With that we drove a few miles and located a super creepy cheap motel. It cost $30 a night. We had no money, but fortunately I still had my checkbook.
I wrote a check for the room, and as I drifted off to sleep, I wondered if the fact that I had closed out that bank account really mattered.
We got back on the road around 8 am, and low and behold, we arrived safely at out little pink house in Florida at 10:30am, Friday morning, flat broke and ravenously hungry.
Thank God we had gone grocery shopping and had food to make!
But no, that would be too easy. As luck would have it, the power must have gone out, and anything in the fridge or freezer was furry. I just cried and walked back out to the truck.
We began the arduous task of unpacking all of our valuable pvc and wicker furniture and other miscellaneous crap in attempts to find stuff to actually cook with.
The house we rented was mostly furnished, albeit “Florida Style.”
The look was completed by a King Size water-bed in the master bedroom. We rolled around on it and laughed, then got seasick and nauseous and quickly realized that we would choke on our own vomit in our sleep if we did not put more water in it in hopes of rectifying the sensation of being lost at sea. Paul ran the garden hose inside and attached it to the bed, turned it on, and began to let it fill.
Meanwhile, we started unpacking boxes and finding homes for everything. We had a little bit of shake left so we decided to indulge. We turned up the music and got to work.
I was happily putting all of my art books on shelves and setting up my studio. It was an awesome little room with sliding glass doors and nice natural light with built-in bookcases and enough space to fit my drawing table and easel.
Paul was busy unpacking his immense music collection and stacking stereo equipment in the living room. He pulled out his guitar and began making up songs about our trip. We were cracking up; it was ridiculous, both taking turns chiming in with another verse, tears of laughter rolling from our eyes.
When we quieted down for a minute, we heard a strange sound coming from the bedroom. Hmmm, that was weird, it sounded like a tub overflowing or something?
We looked at each other and scratched our idiotic heads. Then, in a moment of clarity, we both shot up and ran towards the bedroom. Our feet squished in the carpet on the way, and when we turned into the bedroom, all we saw was water shooting from the water-bed like Old Faithful.
Whoopsies. Buzz kill number 87.
We get the hose turned off and capped off the water-bed. We stood in the middle of the room on the saturated carpet, dumbstruck. This was bad.
With no other option, we found our boxes of towels and sheets and basically anything that would absorb water and started sucking it up, and then ringing it out the front door. We did this for hours. We would throw stuff in the dryer and just kept a moving rotation until we had soaked up the majority of the water.
Normal people with actual money probably would’ve rented a wet-vac.
Well, no worries of getting sea-sick on that bed anymore. If one person were to lay down, and the other got on, the person laying down was catapulted off the bed across the room, like one of the obstacles on Wipeout.
We still hadn’t eaten, and again, we were majorly stressed out.
Paul scavenged through our kitchen to find something to make for us. Fortunately we had a big bag of egg noodles, plenty of tuna fish, and cream of mushroom soup. That was about all we had, and again, we were flat broke.
Paul decided that he would make a gigantic tuna casserole and we would just eat that around the clock until I got my monthly stipend in a few days. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do.
Paul went to work on the dinner/lunch/breakfast tuna casserole and I continued to unpack. I just about had my little studio all put together, my sanctuary.
I finished up 400 loads of wet water-bed laundry and got the trampoline made.
I was starving and just wanted this day to be over. This whole fiasco had taken its toll and our nerves were shot. Fortunately we had a big bottle of Sutter Home White Zinfandel, so we partook in a few glasses of that classyness and enjoyed a tiny bit of shake. It was critical to ration this, because it would be days until I could afford more. Tracy without herb was a big no-no.
The tuna casserole came out of the oven; I was so hungry at this point I would have eaten marginally furry food from the fridge. We cut the casserole into squares so we knew how much we could eat in order to make it last 3 days. We scooped our rations into bowls, sat down and dug in.
My mouth vengefully rejected the first bite moments after it went in. Paul’s did the same.
“WHAT THE FUCK PAUL???!!!!”
Paul had decided that he needed to grease and flour the pan first, but instead of using flour, he had used powdered sugar. It was the most obtrusive and disgusting combination of flavors I have ever tasted. Tuna, and powdered sugar, and cream of mushroom soup.
Did I mention that we were broke for another 3 days? Did I mention that I had already had about 6 nervous breakdowns over the past week? Did I mention that we were at our breaking points?
All hell broke loose. We now had to either starve or eat sweet tuna for 3 days and I was pissed. The accusations started flying, this was a full-fledged back and forth battle to the death right here, and the shit was about to hit the fan.
I can do a lot of damage with my mouth, and apparently I did, because Paul grabbed a bottle of ketchup from the fridge and threw it at me full force. I ducked, and the bottle hit the wall, exploded, and it looked like Charles Manson had a play date in the breakfast nook.
With that, I stormed off into my studio and grabbed an exacto knife. I picked up his guitar and said, “oh yeah?” and proceeded to slice through all of the strings.
This went over beautifully.
He then took the exacto from me, went into my studio, and started slashing through my art books.
Hooray! What a great time we were having!
These were my schoolbooks that I had recently purchased; some of them close to $200 a pop. I went back into the living room and began throwing all of his shit around.
Then the really bad thing happened.
As if in slow motion, Paul picked up the dish that contained the remainder of my shake. He held it to his mouth, took a big breath, and with the force that would be required to blow out candles on his 80th birthday cake, blew my shake off the dish, and into the carpet.
In our anger and sheer exhaustion, we looked around. There were sliced art book pages all over the still soggy ground. His guitar strings dangled uselessly from the tuners. The breakfast nook, curtains, windows and all were covered in homicidal ketchup.
As we looked around, we wondered if all of this was an omen. Were we not meant to be here? Was Paul not meant to be here? Certainly all of this misfortune could not be a good indicator of things to come.
Paul lasted about 6 months in the sunshine state. I couldn’t blame him.
To this day, he is one of my best friends, and knows me better than most people on this planet. We lived through this story, and share a bond because of it. We piss our pants together when we talk about it.
There’s a scene in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors where Alan Alda is explaining comedy. He says the formula is Tragedy + Time.
My God was he right.