Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Feat of Strength & The Entertainment Center: Grayton Beach 1985

In the Florida panhandle I lived in a small town along the beach in Walton County: Grayton Beach. I was working at a restaurant, really the only business in town at that time, called the Paradise Cafe. There was a group of us there--young, mobile, hideaways from more populated places in the world--and we worked and wandered around that little beach town like we owned it. Matt was there--which is how I came to be there (via L.A.)--and then Brock drove up from Key West (where he had driven from Seattle) and the three of us, plus an older guy Jeff from Arkansas, lived in a house on stilts in the white sand in the "new" part of Grayton, just west of the main part of town. The house was windswept and sandy, was rented from Mr. Butler month by month, furnished, but not furnished very much. 
Anyway (this is after Matt left town with Roger and the two of them went to New Mexico and lived in the woods for a spell) one night--late night--after work I went over to Doug and Tommy's to drink a beer, smoke a bowl, smoke cigarettes. They had a solid wood stereo cabinet that they no longer wanted, so I said I'd take it. But they wanted to get rid of it NOW and would throw it away if I didn't come get it by tomorrow. I don't know why they were so sick of it. It really was solid wood, not so bad looking, shaped like a sideways "H" with top and bottom open shelves. It was about the size of a dresser. So I said if they wanted to get rid of it NOW then I would take it NOW.
"What? You're gonna carry that thing way over to your house? It's heavy."
As said, I lived in "New" Grayton and would have to walk it through oyster shelled lots and a loose sand trail to get to the road to the stilt house, then up the creaky wood steps.
"That's right," I said. "And I'm going to drink my beer and finish my cigarette at the same time."
They got a laugh out of that.
But I got up from their couch and pulled the big wooden structure out on the porch, lifted it and slung it onto my broadside back, holding onto it with one hand keeping its weight settled on my bent back, then with me left hand I had me my cigarette and picked up me bottle of beer, took a drag of smoke and looked at them as they stood in the doorway, took a slash drink of me beer and then trudged off down the road, saying thanks and goodbye. They were a bit amazed at either my strength or my stupidity but I carried it home through the shells and sand and up the steps. I finished my cigarette and my beer.
I was young and strong in 1985.
It was Brock who called it our entertainment center. We put it in the linoleum-floored sand-gritted living room. Upon it we had 1 lamp, 1 clock-radio (AM and FM of course) and below we stacked some of Brock's books (he had a whole trunkful of books, like he was some kind of Seattle to Key West to Grayton Beach bookmobile) and it was indeed a nice piece.
I don't think it was that entertainment center that kept me in Grayton Beach. Matt and Roger--out in New Mexico--thought that Brock and I were going to come join them by then (it must have been October). And, yes, I had told Brock (who was ready to leave, ready to return to Seattle) that I'd drive with him that November, that he would drop me off in Eugene, Oregon. I'm not sure why I wanted to live in Eugene, exactly, but that was the plan nonetheless. But I liked Grayton. I loved Grayton and the panhandle and the people and the silky waters and the blind-white calcite sand. I did not want to leave and Brock was royally pissed when I eventually told him so.
So Brock left, and then I too eventually left--home to Iowa for Xmas (the cafe in Grayton, like most places there, in 1985, closed in the winter)--and the entertainment center stayed in that stilt house, ceded to Mr. Butler, I guess. But I came back, in the spring, and lived in a different house in a different part of tiny little Grayton Beach. And it was only a few years later that I did get to Seattle, where Matt and Brock were once again, and we lived in another upstairs crazy place and had much the same entertainment as before.

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