Going with the old WordPress Daily Prompt here, which is:
You receive a gift that is bittersweet and makes you nostalgic. What is it?
Photographers, show us GIFT.
And this one’s easy, because I really did get a gift today that was bittersweet and made me nostalgic. Want to see it?
Yes. I received this gift on Facebook today, although it was really a gift from the guy on the far left to the guy in the white shirt. We were all 17 in the photo except one of us, which makes this photo twenty-five years old. As you probably guessed, I am the one wearing the stolen hat.
Here’s what happened. For some reason, despite being all children, all of our parents allowed us to take a five-day trip down to Myrtle Beach. I forget which one of us was 18, but that was the reason we were able to rent a motel room. Please bear in mind that six years before, my mom wouldn’t let my sister go to Grad Night at Kings Island overnight. At the time this photo was taken, me and basically the same crew had already been on a weekend trip to New York City, where we ran afoul of stolen merchandise vendors, and were nearly arrested in Chinatown.
Yes, a bit of a parental double standard, but that’s cause I was a big strong guy, right? Who’s going to mess around with a man with his middle school pants still strapped on over tiny, chicken legs, wearing a baggy sweater in May? You should have seen my arms – like bones with panty hose on them.
Who cares. We drove down, checked in, and there was actually a fifth guy with us at first named Jeremy, who went sort of crazy after drinking a ton of alcohol, and brought a strange, self-proclaimed beach bum back to our room. He was an African-American male with long, tightly braided hair who was in his thirties, told us his name was St. George, and who – although ostensibly there because he had promised for no reason to buy Jeremy more alcohol – kept telling us that he could really use some marijuana.
None of us had any marijuana. It’s unlikely any of us had cigarettes. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing down there, but we had just been talking about the urban legend regarding cops, and how they had to say “yes” if you asked if that’s what they were.
Now, I’m not saying that’s a true urban legend, but I am saying that when I asked St. George finally, after he hung around our room for twenty minutes, if he was a cop, he said, “Yeah. I’m a cop. Psshhh.”
Rolling his eyes. Too early, culturally, for him to make a “W” with his hands, but I’m sure he would have.
That’s odd, I thought. A couple of us froze, exchanging looks. I said, “No seriously, say ‘no’ if you’re not a cop. I’m asking you if you’re a cop.”
Same answer. “Yeah – I’m a cop. Pshhh.”
And Monte and I freaked.
“Hold on,” Monte repeated. “St. George, we’re asking if you are a law enforcement officer. If you are, would you please identify yourself?”
“Pssshhh. Yeah – I’m a cop.”
Like a recording. Holy. Donkey shit.
So we all leapt to our feet and told him, sir, we do not want you in our motel room anymore. Please leave. We have no marijuana, nor any interest in any alcoholic beverages. We are but pilgrims traveling to learn the complex ways of this world, etc. etc. etc.
And St. George left, with Jeremy trailing him and telling him, come on, man, those guys are dicks. You’re not a cop, you’re my new beach bum pal. Let’s go to the liquor store, forget those guys. But alas, St. George was offended, and left.
Well, not completely. A half hour later, we spied him behind the front desk of the motel, making a phone call. That’s what you had to do in 1989, actually find a phone, and do you suppose the motel made a habit of letting beach bums use the phone whenever they wanted?
It didn’t take Jeremy long to find a couple of dudes who were willing to take him to the liquor store and buy him some much-needed liquor in exchange for paying for an extra bottle for them. Awesome – so off they went, and when they came out of the liquor store, there were cops waiting for them, nice and conveniently. Off to jail for Jeremy!
Now, it may alarm you to learn that we did basically nothing to bail him out. I’m not saying we were intoxicated teenage children who had no interest in going near a jail, but let’s just say it didn’t seem like a good idea to go poking around the police station, and let’s just say it seemed to us Jeremy had basically called a cab and asked to be taken there.
So – off to the beach. We screwed around for four more hours, and then all crashed back at the room.
Jeremy arrived not long after, very upset. For a moment, I thought he was going to kick my skinny ass, but Mike explained to him that he would be doing no such thing – thanks, Mike! And then we all slept, and Jeremy slipped out in the wee hours of the morning, leaving a note explaining that he was pissed at us (!), that he owed some guys money (!!), and that they would probably be around looking for it and to “deal with them(!!!)”
Actually, it turns out, Mike has been walking around with the Actual Note From This Story in his wallet this whole time. I know, because he scanned it and sent it to me:
So, we all sprang into action. The universe began playing hilarious banjo music while we threw all of our crap into the only car we had left, trashed the room like rock stars for no reason other than being idiots (and now that I think about it, that might have been Jeremy’s credit card), and then we screeched out of the parking lot without so much as checking out.
We got lost on the way home – again, we were jackasses, and there were no magic map phones, there were just maps and eyeballs and signs – and at some point we ended up at a tourist trap called South of the Border, which is where the picture up there was taken. Who took the picture? So far, none of us has any idea.
So today’s Mike’s birthday – he’s the actual first kid I met in Kindergarten, and we lived together in college, and the last time I saw him was a couple years ago, when his wife was frowning at me for stomping around their house in bare, filthy, Huckleberry Finn feet – and because I’m so sentimental, I put up a hilarious photo on his timeline from Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Monte followed suit with this one, and so there I was, looking at my own unbelievably awkward, jackass self from the past.
Wasn’t easy walking around high school looking like some kind of Third World freedom fighter, but it could have been worse and as you can probably guess, I’m like, Super Cool now. Note the blogging and the Star Trek knowledge and the long, bald guy hair – Cool City. Ah yes, we all go through an awkward phase, just for some of us, it lasts decades.
Very Stand By Me. Very nostalgic and bittersweet. Normally what I’d say, if I were in a country song or if I were an introspective writer returning to Castle Rock, is something like, “Man, what I wouldn’t give to go back and do that again.”
No thank you, though. It was fun fellas, but let’s go do something in our forties, with our brains working, and preferably, without our old pal Jeremy. Or I guess if he’s also in his forties and not a jackass anymore, Jeremy can come too.