California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 11 – San Diego, CA – Ocean Beach

I woke up early. The sun was up but it was early. Frank was still asleep in the back of the van. I felt the chill of the morning as I slowly drove out of the desert and back up to highway 10.

Final day on the road.

Frank soon awakened and was up front with me. Once on the road we stopped and had breakfast at a roadside diner. Their all the same wherever you go in America. Nice little warm spots that always have quick service, friendly waitresses and fresh food. I like consistency in my life. It helps me cope with my anxiety.

We finish and hit the road again. It’s a long drive across Southern California. Highway 8 is close to the Mexican border. There’s not much out there. Drove through a few Indian Reservations. Highway 8 heads a bit north and continues right into San Diego. We should hit it by dusk.

I think about the trip leading us out here into the unknown. I’m 3000 miles from home. There’s no going back now. I’m happy to be on this adventure with Frank and we both still have plenty of money, so we’re in good shape financially. I brought $1000 in Traveler’s Checks and left $1000 home in my bank account in case of emergency. (Travelers Checks! Google it. It’s what we used instead of carrying cash when we traveled back in the days when there was no such thing as debit cards.)

No cell phones. No internet. Just letters, postcards, a landline phones to communicate with out loved ones. And folded paper maps to guide us on our journey. Primitive by today’s standards but that’s how we rolled back then.

As we get into San Diego’s city limits it starts to feel like California. Palm trees, taco spots large Latina population. This doesn’t look like any city I’ve ever been to.

San Diego (/ˌsæn diˈeɪɡoʊ/, Spanish for “Saint Didacus”; Spanish: [san ˈdjeɣo]) is a major city in California, United States. It is in San Diego County, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico.

With an estimated population of 1,406,630 as of July 1, 2016,[9] San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest in California. It is part of the San Diego–Tijuana conurbation, the second-largest transborder agglomeration between the US and a bordering country after Detroit–Windsor, with a population of 4,922,723 people.[12] The city is known for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, long association with the United States Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology development center.

San Diego has been called “the birthplace of California”.[13] Historically home to the Kumeyaay people, it was the first site visited by Europeans on what is now the West Coast of the United States. Upon landing in San Diego Bay in 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed the area for Spain, forming the basis for the settlement of Alta California 200 years later. The Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded in 1769, formed the first European settlement in what is now California. In 1821, San Diego became part of the newly independent Mexico, which reformed as the First Mexican Republic two years later. In 1850, California became part of the United States following the Mexican–American War and the admission of California to the union.

The city is the seat of San Diego County and is the economic center of the region as well as the San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan area. San Diego’s main economic engines are military and defense-related activities, tourism, international trade, and manufacturing. The presence of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), with the affiliated UCSD Medical Center, has helped make the area a center of research in biotechnology.

We head down to Ocean Beach and get a motel room. We plan on staying for awhile and seeing the sights and figuring out the job situation.

But we’re going to the San Diego Zoo this week because I heard it was awesome!

We finally made it! What a trip!

 

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 10 – Yuma, Arizona – Rodeo Week

We drove most of the day across Arizona and stopped in Old Tucson. We went there because Frank wanted to walk around an old western town. It had been used in several films in the past and they do daily shows there for the tourists. It was a fun couple of hours, but we wanted to get back on the road after lunch.

Around Casa Grande we exit onto highway 8 west. That’ll eventually take us to San Diego, CA.

We end up in Yuma, Arizona. It’s right on the border of the state of California. We’re nearly there!

Yuma (CocopahYuum) is a city in and the county seat[5] of Yuma CountyArizonaUnited States. It is located in the southwestern corner of the state, and the population of the city was 93,064 at the 2010 census, up from the 2000 census population of 77,515.[3]

Yuma is the principal city of the Yuma, Arizona Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Yuma County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the 2014 estimated population of the Yuma MSA is 203,247.[6] More than 85,000 retirees make Yuma their winter residence.[7]

The area’s first settlers for thousands of years were Native American cultures and historic tribes. Their descendants now occupy the Cocopah and Quechan reservations.

In 1540, Spanish colonial expeditions under Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz visited the area and immediately recognized the natural crossing of the Colorado River as an ideal spot for a city. The Colorado River narrows to slightly under 1,000 feet wide in one area. Military expeditions that crossed the Colorado River at the Yuma Crossinginclude Juan Bautista de Anza (1774), the Mormon Battalion (1848) and the California Column (1862).

During and after the California Gold Rush to the late 1870s, the Yuma Crossing was known for its ferry crossings for the Southern Emigrant Trail. This was considered the gateway to California, as it was one of the few natural spots where travelers could cross the otherwise very wide Colorado River.

It’s late afternoon, and we start stopping into motels looking for a place to stay for the night. But every place we go to is booked. After about five fails we finally ask why there are no vacancies in this town. We get our answer from one of the motel clerks.

“Because it’s Rodeo Week in Yuma! It’s one of our biggest events of the whole year!”

“Any suggestions?”

Well, I see you have a van parked in our lot.  You won’t find a room for the night in this town. What we’re suggesting to people is this. Get back on highway 10. Cross over into California. The first exit you’l see is called ‘Sidewinder Exit.’ Take that exit. It puts you out in the desert. There should be a bunch of people out there camping.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

We thank her and get back on the road.

We get to that point and I see the exit. The sun is an orange disc the color of a penny in the western sky. I take Sidewinder and it puts us square in the middle of the desert. There are hundreds of vans, campers and RV’s parked everywhere. Couples and families are all out there camping, cooking and drinking and laughing. Children run about playing on the hills around us.

We find a spot, park the van and decide to do a bit of exploring.

I remember us climbing around on this little mountain. The sun is going down. It amazing how fast the Earth turns. You only really notice it at sunset. Because the sun can vanish on the horizon in a matter of minutes.

I tell Frank I’m going back to the bus but he wants to try to get to the top. I tell him I’ll wait for him back at the van drinking a beer.

I get there and relax in the vehicle sipping my beer and smoking a cig.

But about a half an hour goes by and now it’s getting dark. In the desert at night there is no light.  Maybe a few lights you can see back on the highway, but we’re a ways from the main road.

I get out of the van and start calling out to Frank.

Nothing.

Now I’m getting panicky. What if he’s lost? What if he fell and he’s hurt? What if his leg is caught in something and he’s trapped somewhere. What if he’s attacked by a mountain lion or a pack of coyotes? My anxiety is kicking into high gear and my mind is racing.

Then I get an idea. I grab the flashlight from behind my seat. I go back outside and start calling his name again and flashing the light on and off as a signal. I’m calling, whistling and flashing. Praying he’s okay.

Within a few minutes Frank emerges from the pitch blackness and appears in the flashlight beam. I’m so relieved I just grab him and hug him tightly.

“Man you had me so scared!”

“Ya, me too mate! Good thinking with the lamp!”

“Beer?”

“Fuck sake, please!”

We hung out for a bit drinking and laughing about our day, then slept in the van for the night. I thought it was cool that we spent our last night on the road sleeping in the mini bus under the stars in the California desert.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 8 – Ozona, Texas

“Ozona’s been dry since 1891!” the old cowboy croaked. Frank’s heart sank…

A lot of this country looks the same. Especially the east coast. It’s all woods wherever you go. But once we left Sealy and kept on highway 10 the landscape starts to dramatically change. Texas becomes miles and miles of rolling chapparelle country. That’s when you know you’re far from home. Most of our days were spent on the road driving six to eight hours a day. I remember when we first hit the high desert. It was the first day the sun had come out. Frank pulled a couple of bottles of Harp out of the cooler and we sipped them in celebration that we were well on our way to California.

There’s not a lot to tell about this part of the trip. We just took turns driving the van and kept going towards our destination. There were great sights to see along the way and I was happy to be on an adventure with my buddy. No parents. No curfew. Just us and the open road. I’ll never forget this wonderful trip with Frank as long as I live.

The desert gets cold at night. There’s nothing to hold the heat in because it’s so barren. I remember one morning Frank got out of the van to take a piss. I’ll never forget when he said: “For fuck’s sake, Chaz, I’ve never been so cold in all my life!”

From years of my dad taking the van on the beach to go surf fishing. The salt air and water coming off the wheels had rusted out a small part of the floor boards on the passenger side. If you lifted the rubber mat you could see the right front wheel spinning and the road under you through a four-inch hole. “Fuck sake! The wind is coming up through hole and freezing my leg!”

I just laughed and handed him a little box of cereal and a banana to shut him up.

 

We pull into Ozona late that night. It felt like a one horse town.

Ozona is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) that serves as the county seat of Crockett County, Texas, United States. The population was 3,225 at the time of the 2010 census.  Ozona is the only Census Bureau recognized community in Crockett County, which is named for Colonel Davy Crockett, a hero of the Alamo.
Ozona is called the “Biggest Little Town in the World”. Located on Interstate 10 some 200 miles (320 km) west of San Antonio, rural Ozona is also 82 miles (132 km) southwest of San Angelo. Crockett County is one of the nation’s leading producers of wool and mohair and is situated in the Edwards Plateau region at the western edge of the Texas Hill Country. Hunters come to Ozona in search of white-tailed deer, javelina, and game birds.

The county was organized in 1891 under a giant oak tree, which still stands and shades the historical marker describing the event. The Davy Crockett Monument is a large statue in the City Park on the town square. Across from the monument is the Crockett County Museum.

Ozona was known as “Powell Well”, after land surveyor E.M. Powell, when it was founded in 1891. In 1897, it was renamed “Ozona” for the high quantity of its open air, or “ozone”. A flood in 1954 killed 16 people and destroyed about half of the homes in the town.

A “Heritage Appreciation Monument” honors pioneer families who came to settle the land. The three-story Crockett County Museum at 404 11th Street features a blacksmith shop, ranching artifacts, and a wool/mohair room. A scenic drive from Ozona to Lancaster Hill, west on Texas State Highway 290, provides a panoramic view of the Pecos River Valley.

We crash in this little motel owned by a nice old couple. She’s chubby and jolly and he’s a skinny grizzled old cowboy.

“Hey man. Can you tell us where we can buy some beer around here?”

“Ozona’s been dry since 1891!”

Frank’s heart sank. But I suddenly remembered something.

“Go back to the room Frank. I have a solution.”

I went out and opened up the back hatch of the VW bus.

I remove a box and head up to the room and set it on the table.

“What’s all this?”

“Open it.”

Frank reaches in the box and produces a bottle of Beringer Merlot.

“There’s like six bottles in here! How did you…?”

“At the last-minute my dad put that in the van before I left Jersey.”

“We’ll drink to your dad tonight!”

“Sounds like a plan. I miss him.”

“I miss my ma and dad as well.”

I could see we’re both getting a little misty.

“How are we going to open these?”

I reach in the box and feel around then produce a corkscrew.

“Your dad is the best!”

“That he is my friend. That he is.”

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 7 – Fun in Sealy, Texas

“Frank got out of the van holding a steel ice pic in his fist, while I remained inside the van filling my diaper.”

I love this one!

We left Louisiana and were headed west on highway 10. It’s like an elevated road through a swamp which was actually pretty cool. It had been overcast for most of the trip so far. I was hoping for some sunny days.

By nightfall we crossed the border into the state of Texas. We’re tired from driving all day so we decide to stay in the town of Sealy for the evening.

Here’s a little history.

San Felipe, Texas, sold part of its original 22,000-acre (8,900 ha) township to the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad to create Sealy in 1879. Sealy gets its name after business tycoon and majority stock holder of the GCSF RR, George Sealy of Galveston. In 1881, Daniel Haynes, a cotton gin builder, filled a request for a cotton-filled mattress which started a company. He named this the Sealy Mattress Company after the town. Business grew exponentially, which led to more innovation and several patents, such as a machine that compressed cotton.

We were always looking to save money and this would be the first motel we would stay in on the road. I don’t remember the name of it but it was off the main highway. I suppose it was one of those places that was once vibrant and busy but when the new highway came in not many people came by to stay there anymore. Sort of like the Bates Motel.

We pull the van up in front of the lobby and go in. It’s a dingy, dimly lit office. Sitting at the counter is this guy who appears to be in his late twenties or early thirties. Drab clothing and long greasy hair. Sort of like some character out of oh… I don’t know, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

He’s sitting there coloring. Yea. With crayons. In a coloring book. I swear to God.

So we fill out the registration card and give the guy the money for the room. I don’t remember how much it was. Maybe $22 for the night.

Frank’s been going on all day about how he wants to watch the Superman movie on TV tonight. “Fuckin’ Supermon! It’ll be brilliant!” he said in his Irish accent. I guess he hadn’t seen it when it was in the theater and was all excited that we could watch it on TV tonight for the first time. It was supposed to come on at 9pm and it was only 8pm so there was time to get beer, settle in and watch it so Frank wouldn’t lose his shit. (This is the Superman starring Christopher Reeve for all you youngsters reading this.)

So the weirdo gives us some bath towels the keys and assigns us a room down the end. (No one will hear our screams) We go back to the van and get in. I toss the towels on the seat behind me and we slowly drive down to our room and park in front of it. Over the door is a dome lamp emitting very little light because it’s so clogged with dead insects. I put the key in the door expecting to be snatched inside by Leatherface, But happily that doesn’t happen.

However, I do realize we’re the only people staying here. There are no other cars and all of the rooms are dark.

We go inside and I find the light switch on the wall. It’s a dingy little room with two beds, a night table between them and TV on a stand on the opposite wall. The room smells like mildew. I walk to the bathroom to see what’s doing in there. The bathroom is always a good barometer of the level cleanliness in a motel. Frank’s busy playing with the TV.

The bathroom looks ok. Not great, but ok.

That is until I pull back the shower curtain. (Oh a bloody dead body? Kidding!)

On the wall I see the biggest fucking roach I’ve ever seen in my life.

I’m originally from Philly. Born and raised. I grew up in Lawndale in Northeast Philly. Everybody had roaches in their basement. My mother would say it was because we live between two rivers. I don’t see how that had any relevance to why we had German cockroaches in our basement, I just knew those things creeped out me and my sisters growing up. I may at some point write an exclusive piece about my hatred and respect for cockroaches as a species.

But this thing appeared to be over two inches in length.  I was immediately terrified and looked for something to smash it out of existence forever in Kubrickian glee.

And that’s when it opened it’s wings and flew right at my face. I squealed like a schoolgirl and ran out of the bathroom.

“Wot the fuck’s up with you?”

“I just saw the biggest goddamn roach ever… and they can FLY down here!!!”

“Fuck off mate. We’ve got bigger problems.”

“Rats?”

“No! There’s no reception on the TV. How the fuck am I going to watch Superman now?”

I’m still trying to process the flying monster in the bathroom. Because where there’s one, there’s more you can’t see. Apparently what I witnessed that night was my first Palmetto Beetle. They look like roaches but have hardened wings so they can fly. Leave it to the state of Texas and the South in general to come up with some scary shit and then make it even scarier.

“We can’t stay here. Gotta see Superman.”

“Will you shut the fuck up about fucking Superman?!”

 

We decide that’s we’re going to drive back up to the office and tell the coloring book guy that we saw a bunch of roaches and the TV doesn’t work and that we just want our money back and we’ll go.

We do just that and after some back and forth with this half wit he begrudgingly opens the register and gives us back our money. We thank him profusely and hop back in the van. We’re on the winding road through the woods back to highway 10 only a few minutes.

Suddenly, this car comes roaring out of the darkness behind us flashing its headlights. I’m thinking, what kind of Urban Legend has been wrought upon us?

Frank rolls down the window and sticks his head out and starts barking at the driver of the late-model convertible behind us. I’m thinking he’s going to get a shotgun blast to the head and that’s going to be the end of it.

“For fuck’s sake, Chaz, It’s the guy from the motel!”

At this point my heart is pounding and I’m terrified.

“I don’t think this old horse can outrun him. Should I pull over?”

“Ya… Fuckin’ pull over I’ll see what your man wants!”

I bring the minibus to a halt. I pull the emergency brake but leave the engine running. Frank grabs this foot long metal ice pick out of his rucksack.

“What the fuck, dude? Where did you get that?”

“No worries let’s see what this fucker wants.”

Coloring book boy doesn’t know that Frank was formerly in the junior wing of the IRA back in Belfast. The Irish Republican Army is any of several armed movements in Ireland in the 20th and 21st centuries dedicated to Irish republicanism, the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic. It was also characterized by the belief that political violence was necessary to achieve that goal.

Yea. You don’t want to fuck with Frank.

He approaches the guy.

“What the fuck do you want?”

Of course the coward that I am, remained safely in the van filling my diaper waiting to hear the sound of someone trying to start a chainsaw.

The guy is saying something to Frank but I can’t hear the exchange because of the blood rushing through my ears in fear.

Then I hear it.

“My tails!”

“What?”

“I want my tails!”

“What the fuck is he going on about, Chaz?”

And then I get it. The Southern accent. He’s not asking about the hindmost part of an animal, especially when prolonged beyond the rest of the body, such as the flexible extension of the backbone in a vertebrate, the feathers at the hind end of a bird, or a terminal appendage in an insect.

I reach behind my seat. (My Gun? Kidding!)

I walk back in the glare of his headlights carrying the bath towels he had given us back at the office. I totally forgot about them!

“My tails!”

“Yes. Your towels. I’m sorry, sir. We totally forgot about these.” He grabs them from me with a suspicious look on his face. I apologize again and we walk back to the van.

Frank and I both sit in silence for a moment taking in what just happened. We see the guy turn his car around and head back down the dark road. We watch as his tail lights vanish in a cloud of dust and darkness.

I pop the brake and we both explode in fits of laughter. It was that kind nervous, fearful, relieved laughter. We had just experienced our first harrowing night on the road together.

We got back out on the highway and within a mile or so pull into the lot of a brightly lit motel with several cars in the lot and people out and around laughing and drinking on their balconies. We checked in and went to our room.

Frank goes into the bathroom. The place was lovely and clean. We’re both elated to be where were at that moment.

“Fuck sake, Chaz. Look at the bathroom! It’ll dazzle ya!”

Place was really clean. I hop on my bed and pull a couple of cold ones from the cooler and hand one to Frank.

“What time is it?”

“Nine.”

Frank leaps up and turns on the TV.

We clink our bottles together as the opening scene of Superman appears on the big color TV.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 6 – The French Quarter – Part 2

First, let me give you some history on Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras is actually only one night. Fat Tuesday. The night before Ash Wednesday. The weeks of partying before Mardi Gras is actually Carnival.

For the entire Carnival, they never clean Bourbon Street. They can’t. Since the bars are open 24 hours a day, never close no matter what, it’s impossible to clean up. In other words, when you walk down Bourbon Street, you never look down. If you drop something, it’s gone man, forget it. After Mardi Gras, you throw away your shoes.

When you walk down Bourbon, things you step on squish, crunch, slide, make little crying noises, so you NEVER look down.

Some of the people arrested during Carnival are held in jail until Mardi Gras and forced to clean the streets. Now that’s punishment.

At Midnight on Fat Tuesday, they lock all the doors to all the bars and other establishments on Bourbon, and anyone caught on the street is arrested. Once all the doors are locked, the Police come down the street. A line of three Patrol cars, followed by a line of Police on horse back, followed by three SWAT trucks, followed by three Street Sweepers.

They cruise down the street arresting people while they clean the streets.

On to the story.

Frank and I are just going from bar to bar and drinking our faces off. It’s a crazy time and I can’t believe I’m already living this life on the road. People are dancing in the streets and i feel like I’m in a scene from Easy Rider at 19 years old.

We’re in Bourbon Blues (an awesome club on Bourbon Street) and I start talking to the guy next to me. He says his name is Tim and he’s from Cincinnati. He sells Bingo supplies. We talk for a while and he offers to buy us a round of drinks. Four, thirty-two ounce Hurricanes. And these are seven dollars each, plus one for himself….Do the math.

I thank him, and he says, “No, you’re not done yet.” And proceeds to order two shots of Tequila and two shots of 151 Rum into EACH drink. Shots are five bucks each, that makes each drink worth Twenty-Seven dollars, and he bought five of them.

My idiot friends ( We just met yesterday) don’t realize what’s going on, all they know is that there’s a fresh drink waiting for them. They don’t know about the four extra shots in them.

So we talk, finish our drinks and I tell him that I’ve got the next round.

He says no, and buys another round of five, Twenty-Seven dollar Hurricanes.

And the guys I’m with still have no idea what the hell is going on. They still think it’s just a normal Hurricane.

We finish that round, and once again I offer to buy a round. And once again, he declines and orders another round the same way.

And once again, my friends have no idea what they’re drinking.

When we finish this round, I offer one last time to pay for the round, and once again, he buys it instead. Let me break this down for you. Four rounds of five drinks at Twenty-Seven bucks a drink = $540.00.

I figure this is the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life.

Then my Philly Paranoia kicks in and I figure he’s going to ditch and stick me with the bill. Until I see him hand the bartender a credit card, get his slip, sign it and hand back the receipt.

Now I know he’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met.

Halfway through the drink I turn around, and Tim’s gone. He’s like the alcoholic Lone Ranger. What a nice guy. For the next hour, I was truly planning on flying to Cincinnati and find Tim and thank him personally.

A little while later I’m at the bar talking to a girl when I feel a rumbling in my stomach. I excuse myself and proceed to puke all over the floor while sitting right there at the bar. Thankfully my friends were there to take pictures.

After I was done, I wiped my mouth, apologized and continued talking to the girl.

That was when we realized that Tim isn’t all that nice. He got us so drunk we could hardly walk. From then on he was known as “Evil Tim” and we all planned a trip to Cincinnati to kill him, or at the very least, hold him down and pour a bottle of 151 down his throat.

At 2 am, I turn to my friends and announce, “I’m leaving.”

“You can’t leave,” Juan tells me, “They haven’t opened the doors yet.”

“Why do you want to leave?” Mikey asks.

“I’m out of cigs. I’m leaving.”

Ten minutes later we’re outside the club, on the street, in the middle of an insane riot.

To this day, we have no idea how we got outside. There were bouncers guarding every door and window.

So we’re in the street, there are people running everywhere, and about thirty feet away I see a bunch of cop cars with the sirens on.

I turn to Frank, Juan and Mikey and say, “Hey, let’s go see what’s going on with the cops over there.”

And I started walking towards the ruckus.

Mikey grabs us by the arm, points down a side street and says, “Why don’t we go this way instead?”

I turn to Mikey and say, “For once I agree with the Jew.”

And we followed him to safety.

The next day Frank and I walked around the cloudy aftermath and took some pictures and then got back on the road.

Definitely and insane detour but well worth it.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 5 – The French Quarter – Part 1

We are driving along highway 10 headed West. Frank suggests we take a little detour into New Orleans. I’m down. It’s Mardi Gras so we kind of have to go there. Should be interesting. We check our guidebooks and settle on staying at the YMCA. That wouldn’t be too gay right?  It’s situated in the heart of the French Quarter. I remember the room costing us $14 for the night!

The room was like a jail cell. Just a door leading into one room with two single beds pushed against opposite walls. There was a bureau and one window with bars on it. The walls were just cinder blocks painted light green. Best part was the parking lot was gated and they locked it at night so the van with all of our stuff was safe.

We drop our bags and head out into the over cast afternoon. A lot of cities and towns look alike in America. The French Quarter looks like you’re somewhere else. All the beautiful French architecture is incredible. But lying beneath and around all of that is Sodom and Gomorah with a two drink minimum.

We stop in the first bar we see and grab a couple of beers in plastic cups and head out to explore the madness.

After waving at the parade and skillfully dodging (sometimes) beads flying past my head we entered the most epic street of all, Bourbon Street. From there, an oddly religious themed Mardi Gras began.

I saw the Pope! Ok not the real Pope, but a guy on a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street sporting the Pope hat and robe. He tossed beads to the crowd and blessed all the sinners below in jested fun.

As we continued to go down the street we ran into the infamous Jesus group. There is always one at every “sinful” event. They were continually shouting that we were sinners and preaching their faith to all the drunks in the street. Everyone proceeded to take pictures as if they were a tourist attraction. What I would like to know is do they ever get one person to come over and say, “Ya know, you’re totally right! I’m going to leave Mardi Gras right now to go home and repent.” Now I have nothing against any religion or how people choose to practice and share their faith…but I’m not entirely sure in the middle of Bourbon Street halfway through Mardi Gras day is the most effective way to go about i

Afterwards we entered a bar with a small half circle stage in the front where about five girls were booty shaking like no tomorrow on the stage. I don’t think I could get that much of me to wiggle if I tried. Then lo and behold a large woman dressed as a tri-boobed nun took the center of the stage and started busting her own moves to the music. Then she proceeds to put her leg up on rail, thrust her pelvis towards the crowd, whipped out a cigar and started to smoke it. The scene unfolding in front of me was like Sister Act gone wrong and it doesn’t end there.

As we’re laughing at the hilarity of the situation, three topless yet painted chest girls walked on stage. One of the girls looked like she just had a baby with the belly drooping down low. That didn’t stop her. She was a brave one. Then in the middle of all the dancing came the ultimate shocker of the night. The nun went up to post pregger lady and they started full on making out right in the middle of the booty shaking.

My mouth just dropped as I was trying to process what was going on. It was hilarious and shocking and definitely a memorable highlight of the trip.

Mardi Gras is full of shocking sights and stories but it’s an experience I would definitely have again. There are a lot of brave people sporting the goods, (if you know what I mean) but you can have just as much fun observing as you can participating. Provided you do not have virgin eyes or ears and wish to keep them that way, Mardi Gras New Orleans is definitely an event that shouldn’t be missed.

The next day…

We watched the Lundi Gras parades from Canal Street. We got there kind of early to get a decent spot, and so we waited for at least an hour for the floats to arrive. Two guys selling merchandise set up behind us, selling shirts that said, “I’ll suck your titty for a dollar.” The entire time we were there, they were yelling this at people passing by. “Suck yo titty for a dollar! I’ll suck that titty for a dollar!” Entrepreneurial spirit at its best.

Some lady in her 40’s or 50’s was set up a little way down from us on the neutral ground before Endymion. She and her friends started taking shots of whisky from this contraption: a wooden plank with slots in it for shot glasses. Before too long, she was karaoking and dancing enthusiastically while her teenagers tried to pretend they didn’t know her. It went on for hours. Great people watching.

We chanced a walk down Bourbon during the day time, before it got too crowded. Frank went in to use the restroom, leaving me under a balcony that had a direct view of many girls flashing for beads. There was this old guy set up there, and every time a girl looked ready to flash, he’d run forward and take pictures of it with his camera. We saw him get about a dozen shots in 10 minutes. I wonder what he does with the photos.

Two things that give me a grudging respect for city employees:

1) watching a completely destroyed, trash-filled Canal St near Carrollton made near pristine in under an hour by the street cleaning crew. Good job, y’all. That’s some serious business.

2) Shortly after overhearing a couple of girls arguing in the bathroom line and a threat about “gettin yo ass beat in a Popeye’s!” A fight broke out at the Wendy’s next door on St. Charles. (We think maybe it was the same girls who’d wandered over there to find friends.) Swarms of teenagers started running over there exclaiming about a fight, and within a minute, a bunch of cops in neon yellow vests and about half a dozen mounted officers were there. There were shootings near Lee Circle at a recent Mardi Gras, if I recall correctly, so it was encouraging to see the police were taking crowd safety seriously.

So far I’m loving this odyssey on the road to California!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 4 – On The Road Again

The week in Atlanta went by fast and before we knew it, we were off again. We got on highway 10 and headed west. Our first stop was in Mississippi. Apparently Frank had another Uncle that lived there. I told him if he had enough relatives scattered across the country we could probably make it to California for free.

We stayed at his Uncle’s place in Mobile, Alabama overnight. I was never clear if this Uncle was the ex husband to Frank’s Aunt we just stayed with for a week. He was really nice and took us out to a nice southern place for some delicious cuisine. I was eating and enjoying things I’d never seen or done before. The world is such a bigger package that the little borough you live in.

We stayed the night and in the morning we were off again and headed West.

Next stop… New Orleans!

 

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