Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tournament Player's Championship

The "TPC" is under way in Ponte Vedra Beach. It is one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world. It is broadcast in 35 languages in about 500 million homes around the world.
I convinced Larry that we needed to take the beach "express" out there. Its last stop is at the Sawgrass Marriot, right there next to the boulevard which winds its way to the golf courses. There are flags hanging from each pole along that route with the year and its winner printed in bold, golfish colors. There are a lot of flags with "Jack Nicklaus" on them, a couple of Lee Trevinos, Arnold Palmers abound near the start of the lane. No animals are depicted untill you get way up the road, into the 2000's; then you see that a tiger has aparently learned the game and has won the TPC...

I told Larry that to miss such an extraordinary event where millionaires are walking around everywhere, would be folly. How could we fail to fill our tip hats, playing American music to all the golf fans.

We took the express and got off at the Marriot. We hadn't taken 10 steps when a black woman and her son asked us about our guitars. The lady wanted to buy one and learn how to play. I gave her a brief tutorial about finding good, reasonably priced instruments and showed her my Yamaha F-310. She gave us 5 dollars.

We had paid for our bus rides with a dollar to spare in less than two minutes. This seemed promising.

"I told you that there is money everywhere out here," I said to Larry.

Then, we went over by the ABC liquour store, which is where a lot of the pedestrian traffic seemed to be flowing. I went in for a beer and came out to see that Larry had taken out his guitar and was sitting on the bench in front of the store and playing. This is not a good idea on several fronts. First, playing in front of a liquor store might give the impression to people that we are playing for liquour. Not all people are enthusiastic about supporting alcoholic musicians (while others give you beer instead of money).

Then, a young man came over and started talking about music. He said that he was from Las Vegas and that he managed "supermodels" in some capacity. He had a lot of great stories about life in Las Vegas managing supermodels. He kept offering shots of vodka to us. I accepted a few. Then, he offered to bring us to a better spot to play. We got in his SUV, which was pretty modest; it didn't look like a super model of a vehicle. He appologized for it, saying that it had sentimental value to him. His phone rang. It was some friends of his who were having a party somewhere. He thought it would be cool for us to meet them. It seemed like enough of an adventure to give it a try, expecially if there were to be supermodels there.

The "party" turned out to be in Arlington, where I used to deliver pizza. It was in one of the worst parts of Arlington, a neighborhood that the locals call "Sin City." That's NOT it, to the left, not quite...

The "party" was his black roommate rolling a joint and playing video games.

My patience being short, I mentioned us getting back to Sawgrass. The guy just then realised that he didn't even have enough gas to bring us back. His slurred, cross-eyed appology was little comfort. Larry offered him 5 bucks to take "us" back to Baymeadows.

I thought "that's it? you're ready to give up that easily, after things looked so promising...before we met Mr. Vegas?"

Larry was ready to give up and go back "home."

I wasn't and so, I told them that I was going to walk back to Sawgrass. It was partially the vodka talking. Larry could go back home with his tail between his legs and 5 dollars poorer, provided that Mr. Vegas could make it there before crashing the SUV.

I Walk To Sawgrass From Arlington
I set out walking. Total Estimated Distance: 20.05 miles, according to Mapquest.

After about an hour, I went behind a Catholic Church and slept. I had brought my blanket and a bunch of food. The food was heavy and I was happy to eat a couple pounds of it and then discard the rest. It would only be good for that night. The 90 degree temperatures would compromise it the next day.

Good Luck To You, Brother
I woke up behind the church the next morning. The sun was just coming up and I had 26 cents in my pocket. The lady had handed the money to Larry, and we hadn't split it. I had walked off in haste. I found 7 more cents on the ground, while looking for cigarette butts. I was very thirsty. I stopped at a Salvation Army type place, where there was a big water jug. They said that I wasn't supposed to be back there, because it was a rehabilitation center, but the guy let me drink water. I'm sure he could see by the way I gulped down about 4 cups that I really needed it. He seemed satisfied that he gave water to a truely thirsty man. He said "good luck to you, brother."

I continued eastward. The sky began to threaten rain a few miles along. I stopped at a Kangaroo. I went inside with my 33 cents, and all I could do with that was strike up a conversation with "Are they calling for rain?"

"They didn't forecast it, but those clouds seem to have a different opinion," said the cashier.

I told her that I was afraid that, as soon as I started across the intercoastal, it would pour down, and I would'nt be able to protect my guitar. That made it seem reasonable for me to sit down in front of the store and wait.

The Grabbers happened to be there. The Grabbers are a guy and his girlfriend in a beat up van who go around to all kinds of dumpsters and grab stuff, filling the van. The van is equipt with racks and shelves and boxes, designed to organise food. We call them the grabbers because they won't leave a scrap for anyone else. Once, on Baymeadows, I asked them if I could get some of the chicken which they were grabbing. The girl begrudginly handed me a small package of skinny drumsticks. They supposedly go around selling it and then smoke crack. If you ask them, though, they have 8 children (who eat 100 pounds of food daily).

The grabbers were arguing. They seemed as surprised to see me way out there as I was to see them.

I took out the guitar and, out of the very next vehicle to pull up, jumped a couple guys who asked me to play "some Skynyrd." I played some and they gave me 3 bucks. I now had $3.33. I bought the best tasting Vault energy drink ever and then resumed walking. Part of me wanted to stay there and play because most of the people seemed to like it. I had my heart set on the TPC, though. It had become a challenge to walk the 20 miles. I thought that it was more like 30, and probably was; the way I went; I didn't have Mapquest available then.

I walked into Jax Beach and washed up at the bath house. I stopped and played at a few spots along the way, just to pay for what I was drinking. They were wrong about the rain but right about the 90 degrees.

Once into St. John's County, I stopped at another Kangaroo. I made another few bucks and then the police came and asked me for ID. They held me while the warrant check came back. Then they let me go. They told me that, while I might have thought of the TPC as a golden opportunity, I would stand out like a sore thumb because I am not a billion-aire, and they would be able to tell that I "did'nt belong" and the police would be called wherever I went. He suggested that I go back to Jax Beach and "get them when they come out of here after the tournament."

I told him that I would just like to walk another mile and visit the Dominos where I once worked. I did.

Joe Mormino was the only remaining employee from the glory days of John Abels reign. It was as if the whole crew knew me, though. They all gathered around and smiled and seemed pleased to meet me. Joe Mormino tells a lot of stories about the old days, I guess. They all knew who I was.

I went to the little liquor store around the corner where the same guy was working. He remembered my name. The last time I had seen him was April of 2005. He let me sit out in front of his store and play. He brought me some grapes and a bottle of water. I made about 17 bucks in an hour and then, since it was slowing down and since I had walked 20+ miles in the sun etc. I retired for the night behind a Gate Station, where there is a picnic area. Then, I came here to the Ponte Vedra branch Library, where I don't stick out like a sore thumb, because this is where the poor folk who don't have computers come.