Part One: Welcome to Daytona
Sometime in the late 1980s, in a far-off exotic tropical place called Daytona Beach, Florida, my brother and I saw one of the oddest and funniest things either of us had ever seen in all our young lives. Something once witnessed, never observed again. The event was both horrifying and humorous in a twisted way, depending on one's own perspective.
We were living there in squalor and basic homelessness on and off the beach, in a large red Pontiac Bonneville; Joseph, his girlfriend, a baby rattlesnake, and me, Johnny. We were there because we were dirt poor while possessing a grand sense of adventure, and determined to really see things in whatever way we could, with no better place to be anyway. We had limited funds (meaning none) and would often end up siphoning gas from other cars in the dark watches of the night. Strangely enough, we were never caught in this unscrupulous activity. It seemed a victimless crime, mainly because we never actually saw the victims, obviously.
Of course, I was never the one siphoning, that was Joseph’s unpleasantly tasteless duty. My role was the criminal lookout, conspirator, and distraction if need be. My own criminal contribution to our very unique existence. It was his car, he was the one eternally driving, so the taste of stolen gas was his to bear thank goodness.
Our living situation wasn’t ideal, nor luxurious, but it was OURS, and where we wanted to be at that moment. Just three wanderers, seeing the sites, and surviving however we could. However, we had no shackles, no set rules, and no agenda besides living in the moment, and making sure we woke up the next day. That was our reality at that moment.
Our lifestyle wasn't particularly luxurious, but it was free and it was exclusively ours .
Daytona Beach is in the middle of the state on the east coast, and is often the main place in America considered “the life of the party”. Oddly enough I wasn’t a party type, but a shy quieter teen, happier with the company of a good book than a bevy of bikinied drunk females, not that the latter was ever an option for me anyway. I preferred quiet reflection, and peace was my primary comfort. However I was part of an informal strange family, bound together in poverty and brotherhood, so I usually went along though it wasn’t always my preference.
I still could appreciate the chaos in my own odd way. That place was a center for entertainment and often very chaotic, maybe that’s the draw, that anything could happen at almost any time and often did.
The neon lights of the Daytona strip sets the stage for a heart-stopping show, highlighting drama, chaos, violence, and often ridiculous human comedy. It was like the epitome of everything wrong with the human species, a plethora of insanity laid bare in glittering lights by night, and the brightest sunlight during the day.
Walk any block down the beachside strip in the day, you’ll encounter all manner of people, events, crimes, and strange distractions. You may pass an old motel being torn down, with homeless bums scrambling to get out, or beggars lining the sidewalk, cups out, guitars playing, with needy expressions on their faces; Hoping against hope for a generous soul willing to give. The taste of salt was in the air always, with the breeze and sounds of gulls flying above all of it. Like they were somehow lording over the whole scene, giving caws of disapproval at the activities they witnessed below.
All day long, on every block were slim goddesses wearing the very least they could get away with, without getting arrested. They swayed, and glittered, with gleaming tan skin, the very representatives of human desire. They laughed, charmed, and beguiled without a single invitation to me, which I understood on an instinctual level as rejection without a single question. I knew my place in life, they weren’t meant for a being as lowly as I was. They kept their gifts of themselves only for the richest, or the best looking adonises around. Which sad to say I was neither.
They were beyond my ability to ever have and always would be. Daytona was a fabulously grand feast of pleasure for the most “deserving”. The richest and most shallow beautiful people to ever grace the land with their presence. Guys like me were mere trespassers, nasty trolls watching from under bridges, destined to see, and never enjoy. This was my place, the eternal observer, and that’s exactly what I spent much of my time doing.
Joseph and I found other pursuits for our days. He had a cute girl for his female companion, and I had both of them as mine. Being utterly social creatures, we seek others like us, if not for friends, at least for company. When we can’t befriend or find humans like us, we’ll settle for being among others, just for the feeling of not being alone all the time. The lucky ones have actual friends, the rest are mere faces in a crowd, and always end up remaining that way.
At that moment, on that beach in that year, I had one brother, closer than any friend, and one associate, his girlfriend. She didn’t really like me, and the feeling was certainly mutual, but Joseph was the binding that kept it all going. As the only close friend I’d ever had, our destinies were bound together. Where Joseph went, I’d go, and vice-versa. For now, we all lived and slept in a hot and dirty car, three wanderers among thousands of transients. It was spring break in Daytona Beach, the ultimate party destination for American college students. Why was my brother and I there?
Both Joseph and I were uneducated, unenlightened, not enrolled in any university, poor as peasants, enrolled in no trade school or course anywhere. Neither of us had ever even been to high school. Why were we living homeless on the beach? No better place to be at the moment. That’s the brutal truth. For some beings, experiences are the greatest form of riches, they can be priceless, outshine gold or pearls, and live forever, and we were pirates collecting our own form of treasure. What were our treasure chests? Our minds and memories. Our pirate ship was our feet, or the car, or whatever worked to get us around at the time. As for the actual beach, it was beautiful, vast, loud, often dirty, and completely irreverent. God was the blue waves, the gulls were the high priests above us all, and we were the mere supplicants, making our worship plain.
That beach was around since long before mankind walked its sands and would be there long after, guaranteed. A perfect stage for the plays of the Gods to watch and enjoy, and laugh obscenely at our insane human antics. No one does comedy like us. Why is that? Because we think, plan, and plot, and these plans fail spectacularly! In the comedian’s vein, we dance, cavort, make faces, and think we are actually in charge, that we understand how things work. We try to instill a sense of justice, balance, and fairness, and fall on our rear ends pretty much constantly because these don’t exist, and never did.
So our existence is a sad yet funny comedy, trying to attain things that will never exist. Inside, in our hearts, we know the truth, but we are unwilling to accept it or live by it. We force a sense of fairness upon society, and it fails every time.
It’s hard to live, breathe, go to work, raise families if justice and fairness aren’t real, so we deceive ourselves, and insist they are real, and pass the days believing this. Repeat something long enough, loud enough, and common enough, and it becomes what we believe. Societies grow and are nurtured on such concepts. So we become the comedy act for the Universe, and all the higher sentient forces watching us. The line between tragedy and comedy is merely perspective, nothing more. Blood can be funny, and breath can be tragic, it’s all point of view ultimately.
Joseph and I cruised the beach, up and down, and his girlfriend tagged along, tolerating me and adoring Joseph. I was always the third wheel, yet somehow indispensable, considering our history together. We were brothers, if not in blood, in existence itself. The beach was our purview and residence right then, and the Daytona strip was our playground. The human drama was our personal TV, with round-the-clock entertainment.
We weren’t exactly the normal type of spring breakers or beachgoers. We had our very own style, completely unlike the thousands of normal beach people, we stuck out like aliens among humans, and there was a high price we paid for being ourselves. We were harassed daily by the beach patrol, constantly being singled out, and we never once truly fit in among the partiers. One of our first walks from the main pier to far down the beach was an interesting jaunt. A perfect example of how we were commonly treated.
Joseph asked his girl if she wanted to come with us on our long walk, but she only wanted to sit on the water’s edge near the pier and watch the water. Joseph and I nodded to each other in perfect synchronicity and brotherly understanding. It would be only us, as per usual. This was what we both preferred anyway. No one could truly understand our connection. It goes back to when we were small boys, bedeviling the local school and the neighborhood he lived in.