On The Road. Last Days: Panama City, FLA


I loved New Orleans. Besides the miraculous cross-cultural melting pot thing, the rich history thing, the crackling creative energy thing, and the whole chugging-daiquiris-wherever-you-go thing, in New Orleans the lady folk call you ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Honey’. I ordered in an ‘All That Jazz’ sandwich on our last night (resting in my hotel room because I was about to crap my liver), and the lady I spoke with on the phone melted my heart with Angel’s and Darling’s and Sugar’s. I wanted to climb through the phone and curl up in her lap.

So it was tough saying goodbye, but we had to. The beaches of Warren’s hometown, Panama City, beckoned to us like a siren, a really white, sandy siren…with huge fake boobs and a jet ski. Joe flew back to New York, and we set off for Florida in a modern car with a fully functional transmission. In the car with me were Warren, Grady (Warren’s best friend), and twin sisters Lindsay and Hailey–P.C. locals and old friends of Warren and Grady­. The car belonged to one of the girls, possibly Lindsay, but I can’t be sure.

On our way to Florida we passed though Alabama and Mississippi, and they looked as swampy and quietly menacing as you’d expect from all those movies you watched. When we stopped at a Starbucks, however, I was surprised to find black and white people sipping lattes in perfect harmony. ‘Huh,’ I thought. ‘Guess I need to reconsider my idea of Alabama.’ Then we went back to the car and found someone had slashed our tires and spray-painted ‘Ya’ll Gonna Die!’ on the side. That never happened.

After four sweaty hours on the road we reached Panama City and enjoyed a delicious Japanese meal at a Japanese restaurant. Then we won a $20 tab playing a trivia contest at the bar next door. Go us. Then we went to a bar called Foghorn’s and met up with Warren’s old skate/surf buddies. A quick word about Foghorn’s: it’s gnarly. It’s not gnarly gnarly, but there were some heavy dudes in there and it was best to keep eye-contact to a minimum, which I did until I’d drank enough courage to try my luck on the Ultimate Big Punch Deluxe Boxing Arcade Game–slash–strength tester. I waltzed over and introduced myself to the tough chaps who were loitering about the machine. They had tattoos on their faces and carried knives on their belts; I wondered if they’d been to jail. ‘Yes,’ said one, and that was when I realized I’d been wondering aloud again. I put my money in the slot and took a running punch at the bag, glancing it and falling to the floor. Jailbirds Cletus and Billy Ray helped me up, and recommended I stick to pool.

At the pool table I was king. I didn’t actually play, but I did help my new best friend, Reid, win multiple games by heckling the crap out of all his opponents. I tapped the end of cues, I jiggled my crotch over pockets, I scrawled a fat penis on Warrens pants with pool chalk. Warren was mad for 3 seconds: a new record.

The next day, after wolfing down some ‘Heavenly Hash’ from Corams’ (a local diner), Warren, Grady and I hit Sandpiper beach, where we took a catamaran out and dove to 30-feet, a depth Grady referred to as ‘dark waters.’ He wouldn’t get in. And who could blame him? Three great white sharks were being tracked close by: Katherine (2,300lbs), Betsy (1,400lbs), and Gretchen (not sure how heavy that bitch was). But Warren and I reasoned that if they were being tracked, we’d know about them via shark alarm before they could eat us. A few minutes into our expedition, I saw a dorsal fin breach 40 feet away, and I went into full panic mode (as did the ever-squeamish Grady). But then the fish’s body wheeled out of the water and we saw that it was just a dolphin. I suggested we sail the catamaran a little closer so I could punch Flipper for frightening us, but everyone said that was stupid.

That night we returned to Foghorn’s, and met a man who lost four fingers to a helicopter. He put his hand up without thinking and the blades made a clean chop. When we asked why he didn’t race to the hospital to have his digits sewn back on, he explained that his dog had ran over and eaten them before he could pick them up. True story.

The next day I met Warren’s dad, Hugh, who is a cross between Sam Elliot and Harrison Ford. Hugh is awesome, but more importantly his voice is about 300 octaves deeper than everyone else’s. I wish I’d had the pluck to request he record my voicemail greeting.

What else? I don’t know. Everything else is kind of you had to be there. Do you wanna hear about Hugh’s amazing disco hot tub? Do you want the recipe for my new Panama City-themed signature beverage, The Toe Cramp? Should I describe the bit where I got two hours sleep and then had to fly home via Atlanta? Maybe. But I don’t want to. I will say this: even though we were stuck in Kingman, Arizona for almost a week, and even though we spent most of our travel time in the sky, we still had an unforgettably awesome time. I haven’t laughed so hard in years, and the three of us will be boring everyone with our in-joke peppered road stories until the day we die.

Thanks to everyone who made this adventure memorable: the P.C. Trailer crew, Hailey and Lindsay, Dave from the Sportsman, Jon Martinez and ‘Wendy,’ that miserable cocktail waitress in Vegas (I love you, Alice), everyone in Kingman who tolerated us and what we put on their jukebox, the sharks that didn’t eat us, the dudes that didn’t shoot us, and Arthur, the hurricane that missed us–thank you.

Special thanks to my brothers Joey Slots and the Goth Frog for being the best travel companions anyone could ever wish for, and of course Brenda, who is right now riding on the back of a truck bound for New York.

God bless America.


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