I am looking for a word to describe an elderly man briefly remembering his teenage years. An old geezer attempting to recapture a moment when the “world was his oyster” (cliche). To go back through a portal, through a gate, to emerge in one of the classic passages of one’s life.
There are many memorable eras, periods or epics in one’s life. One might call them stages as we pass from childhood to adolescence and on into adulthood responsibility. I would think the time before we became adults, got our first jobs and got married and had children were the dearest. When we were still nurtured by our mothers and testing the fringes of adulthood. Taking those first hesitant steps to test ourselves and our environment. We became bolder and more assertive and stepped out.
A week or so ago I revisited one of those worlds. I left this world where I live and I left the life I live to travel back in time to another world where I once lived. I went back in time to a time when I was a teenager. I was tanned, golden brown with blond hair, bleached by a Florida sun. I was built and buff and thought I was God’s gift to all those teenage girls that visited my world. I was a “Beach Bum” and I attended a “Beach Bum Reunion “in Panama City Beach, Florida.
The Beach Bum Reunion has been happening for thirty four years at the same place by the same people. I am one of those people even though I only attend every four or five years. We are a cult or click of people that share a common experience, a common place and a common attribute.
In our teenage years we monopolized a place called the “Hang Out” and it was a dance floor situated right on the beach. We performed a ritualistic dance called the “Panama City Beach Bop” We danced to our own special music and still do. It is a private party and the pre-requisite is your ability to perform this dance. We spread sand on a concrete floor and slide past each other in an intimate ballet of stylized steps and turns, all performed eloquently to recapture what we once were. We are still those young beautiful creatures but now older of course. We are snobs and elitist I admitt and we always were because we did something other people could not.
Different worlds, might as well be different planets. A different culture, with people I knew in my youth. The comradery and hilarious jesting. The hugs and the teary eyes as we clung to each other and told each other how much we loved and missed each other. We remembered those of us who had passed and raised our beers in "lump in your throat" salute them. I openly wept as the widow of a dear friend asked me to dance with her to the song “Scratch My Back” which was her deceased husband’s favorite. Oh the Songs! My Girl, Hello Stranger, A Boy Named Tom, The Entertainer, We’ll Sing in the Sunshine. No rock and roll here, its rhythm and soul, songs with our special beat and timing.
Four days of beer drinking and dancing in between afternoon naps (remember our ages). I was able to go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. To immerse myself in those tepid emerald waters, clear and pristine. To stand neck deep and see your toes, to luxuriate in the world’s largest spa (good for my old age psoriasis) to walk in the sand that is as white as sugar and squeaks underfoot. Of course I indulged myself with some oysters on the half shell and some crab claws. I almost overdosed on all the water I saw, the Gulf, the Bays, rivers and ponds. Of course, Florida is wet verses the High Sonoran Desert where I now reside. Trees, trees and more trees verses the mesquite and cactus and creosote. I think every place on this earth has its own majestic beauty. It’s all created by God.
I have paid the price since I returned. The trip was expensive for four days but what the heck, we all know you can’t take any of it with you. Right? I could barely walk upon returning being my knee hurt horribly. Went to the doctor, got an x-ray and a cortisone shot. The doctor told me that I needed to replace my knee at my leisure. I guess I’ll wait until I have to use a cane or walker before I go down that road again. My shoulder ache and backache have subsided being I used muscles over there I ordinarily never use here at home. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I did inform them that it would probably be my last sortie over that way being the expense and my age.
I said my farewells Saturday night when we shut it down. I drove to the airport and surrendered my rented car the next day. I left some beer in a Styrofoam cooler near the dance floor. I hope the hotel staff enjoy them. I climbed aboard my airline and returned to this world. It is also a good world with my loving wife and my two yellow labs greeting me at the airport. I resumed this life of church and friends and welcomed a homemade guisado taco and some good old Pico de Gallo(salsa). It has taken a gallon of milk to quell the tempest in my stomach after four days of beer drinking with little sustenance. I have now acclimated back to Laredo Texas. I am surprised that I missed the warmth (62 degrees in Houston, Texas), (85 degrees in Laredo, Texas.) I had forgotten what the humidity was like in Florida, Wet!
I will sign off with this poem which is one of my favorites. It’s about friends and memories. I wish I could substitute some of my words for his but it stands by itself.