Monday, September 26, 2016

Sam: Grayton Beach 1986

Actually I was living in Gulf Trace at this time, living with T. in the unfinished house on the beach after I had come back to the Panhandle from Iowa--after I had dropped out of the Iowa Writers Workshop (something that still pains me to say to this day).

Sam was a guy I met at a restaurant party, probably for the holidays. I don't recall exactly. He was with another guy--someone's older brother or son of the restaurant owner--and the two of them were, shall we say, a few of the more educated, self-aware and worldly among the usual crew of people in that area in the nineteen eighties. Sam stood out because he was of Asian descent (Korean, Japanese, Chinese--I don't know), which was unusual for that part of Florida. Anyone who wasn't white was unusual for the beach, really. So he and his friend (the older brother) were standing around at the party and I went over and introduced myself.

We--the three of us, I must have been there with T. but I don't think she was there at the moment--made chitchat. I asked Sam where he was from and I could see him and the other guy exchange wry glances, so I quickly added, "Well I assume you're an American, and just wondered what town you're from." This set things up better between us, as (as I could tell) they thought I was referencing his race. Turns out he was from Virginia and had been in the Navy.

As I said, they were good guys who had been away from the South Walton County bubble.

So, one night T. and I threw a party at our beach house. Clark and Charlotte (other friends, connected to Seaside) had been giving us a bunch of scrap wood from construction sites because T. and I had a fireplace for heat (only a fireplace) and we had stored the wood under the house. I think we threw the party because our electricity went out and we had bought a bunch of chicken and stuff and decided to grill it all up--so we invited people. A party along the beach communities mean't everyone was pretty much invited, so a lot of the young crowd showed up--the local teens and a bit older who had grown up there, who maybe hadn't finished high school, who all slept with each other and drank/drugged to oblivion together etc (not a bad lot on the whole, but who pretty much, in general, fit the bill for your stereotypical white trash Southerners). Sam and his friend also came.

Well, the party started well enough, with chicken, beer, pot, a big fire in the sand. But the younger people just couldn't quite accept an Asian man in their midst. They kept bothering Sam about Kung Fu and other silly stuff like that. I'm not so sure they did it out of malice as much as a sense of curiosity and stupidity, as these were the only cultural references they had for someone who didn't look like them. No matter what, they were complete and annoying idiots. So Sam finally had enough and left.

The kids also left, taking the time to run over our neighbor's mailbox in the process. (That's another short tale, the next door neighbor when I went to apologize for his run-over mail box.)

So, the party wasn't such a big success. We'd run out of chicken pretty quickly (the power had come back on, so we didn't really need to grill everything). We'd burnt up our wood that was for heating the house in the winter. And Sam--one of the few people around I could have an intelligent conversation with--had been insulted.

I never saw him again.