Saturday, January 9, 2010

Drinking Beer In A Cold Rain: Grayton Beach 1987

It's raining here today--cold and damp and overcast--like a late fall day in Seattle or a March afternoon in Iowa City or mid-winter in the Florida panhandle. And thinking of a cold rain in the panhandle reminds me of one time when I lived in Seagrove Beach, not long before I moved away from Walton County for good.
I was living with dave then--who was co-owner of Bud and Alley's in Seaside--in that house among the oaks along Highway 30-A. I was working painting houses, specifically Mr. Hyatt's house, in Seaside, working for Mike (Bellville IL/St. Louis Mike) who was working for Hubert who was working for Peter, the contractor for Mr. Hyatt's house. Anyway, it was a cold day, a rainy day, that day, and so there was no going to work.
I had the downstairs bedroom which opened out to a screened porch among the trees. (It also had another door that went to the hallway that led to the stairs--upstairs--where the kitchen, living room etc were.) I liked to go out to te porch and watch the rain, smoke cigarettes, maybe write out there (though it was wet and cold). So, I was standing out there, dumbly getting the feel of bad weather, when I heard a car pull in at the house. The house had a sand/red-dirt/fallen-oak-leaf drive with a sand/red-dirt/fallen-oak-leaf little road alongside it, so I heard the car engine more than any tires or anything else. I went out to look and it was Robert.
Robert was older than me. He was a local guy--raised in south Walton since a boy (maybe born there)--and he was a carpenter. A good one. he was working for Peter but was the one who had taught Peter the trade of house-building. He was also, by my own observations and others, an alcoholic. But he was a good-natured, short, smiling, southern-boy, friendly to all. He drove this old Toyota Land Cruiser--4 wheel drive--that had no windows and usually no top to it. He had the top up that day--as it was raining and it was cold (in the high 30's probably)--and he also had a six of Red Stripe beer. He didn't get out of his truck/car but sat and drank, said it was a good day to be drinking, and we chatted. He gave me a beer. Then he was off again.
I remember first seeing Robert at the bar at Bud and Alleys. He sat at the bar with his young son, buying the boy cokes as he drank his beer. His kid was cute, funny; Robert was funny. Another time I recall saying to him that I remembered when Grayton and the other beach towns didn't have so much traffic, that there didn't used to be the new Highway 90 north of the beach and he said he remembered--as a kid--when there didn't used to be any bridges between the towns on 30-A, that you had to drive up and down around the lakes and creeks to get from say, Grayton to Seagrove or Seagrove to Panama City Beach. Yes, he was an old-timer for that area. But I also had the impression that drinking had held him back, that he'd lost work and jobs because of it, even though he was a "good" drunk.
I also recall one day at work, early in the next year, that Peter warned him not to go out and get drunk, not to be unable to work the next day (even though Robert was Peter's carpenter mentor) and that Robert just laughed and went out and spent the day drinking and did not come to work and Peter did indeed fire him.
Not good.
Not good for all of those involved.
Anyway. I drank Roberts beer and decided that he was right. That it was a good day to drink beer. And I went out and bought me my own six or more of Red Stripe (I usually bought cheap cheap beer--Goebels Beer, about $2 a six) and came back to the house, back to the screened porch. I drank. Smoked. Watched the rain. Soaked up the lonely depression of the day, that life.
It felt very good.

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