[Found this is the box from the liquor store where I’ve kept my writing doodles during 30 years. I used to write an hour or so every morning before going into work. It was a habit I found fun ..and it woke me up before facing the boss or clients. This was originally dated June 28, 2013]
Driving home late last night in an old two seater with the top down, the convertible top tossed back miles back at the last stoplight at the edge of town. Heading due south into farmland and woods, the land and the sky had long since folded over me with their cool dark tunnel of nothingness.
Nothing ahead of me but the narrow path headlamps painted on a deserted four-lane.
Nothing beside me but wind.
Nothing behind me but memories -catching up and connecting the dots left across my mind by wandering thoughts…
I remembered driving Florida’s A1A in a badly used MGB once, hugging the coast. Sometimes there were long stretches of pine, palms, and scrubby darkness.There, A1A was claimed only by the armadillos.
Last night, driving from Spartanburg on Highway 176 into Union County, for some unknown reason I remembered also my time on the other side of Florida. It was early in my career—in arts administration first, then ad agency work: PR and strategic brand planning.
What came to mind was the time I attended the annual fund raiser at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. My date and I won the “Purple and Silver Award” that night. I was silver, achieved by purchasing a three-piece suit from Goodwill and painting it with chain link fence paint. It stank, was stiff as a board, and gave me a rash behind my knees and under my arms.
My date was a purple Cinderella.
Alone on the highway last night, I laughed aloud to myself remembering the “third leg” to our date that night. A guy named Don who had come to the party with us. We’d invited him “last minute”. I can’t remember why.
He was twenty years older than us and a LOT wealthier. He owned the upscale men’s store on St. Pete’s main drag –a business popular with the town’s lawyers, dentists and and high end real estate brokers.
All Don had done to prepare for the party was to still have on his jacket and tie from work—freshened with a dry martini and cigarette.
As always, he had taken a long time answering the doorbell and, as always, he’d looked a little surprised when he opened the door.
No matter how many times we swung by to take Don somewhere, the martinis got in the way. He always made a big production. Always made the same face of “What? A surprise party for moi?!!!!” I saw that expression later on Bill Murray getting off the plane in Stripes.
Anyway, that night we picked up Don, it had taken a few more drinks and some relentless nagging to get him to wear a costume like we were going to do for the party at the Dali Museum.
So he pulled a 50′ roll of aluminum foil from a kitchen drawer then wrapped foil around his head until it resembled a gigantic Hershey’s kiss hat.
And then he stuck a fork in it.
Off we went to St. Petersburg, Florida’s “shrine to melting clocks”.
It turned out I wasn’t as boned up on Dali as Don was. It wasn’t until we got to the party that I made the connection between Don’s bent fork and the famous artist.
I recall it had been kind of a long right from Don’s house to the museum not knowing how things would go with Don, not knowing how guests would react to Don, a little tipsy, carrying a martini still, walking in with a foil and fork.
It turned out, however, that the arts donor/museum sponsor crowd in St. Petersburg were very used to Don. We had a great time. The next day I was in the society section of the St. Petersburg Times with Don and Purple Cinderella.
Anyway, last night I must’ve cruised for twenty miles on auto pilot thinking about that Stick A Fork In It night in St. Pete.
I bet there’s a bunch of people out in the world, perhaps driving lonely stretches of road at night like me, that would have never “got” that fork…
…never “got” Don.
In my case it took Highway 176 headed out to the boonies in another state nearly twenty-five years later.
# # #
— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill