Me Am Me, Meet Me

Donuts Are Forever
We camped out on the Florida Keys dependent on some mirthful god who would leave us booty on the beach. Or, maybe it was a carnie god—spinning wheel, chuck-a-luck—or some pirate god that leads you to treasure or protects the gold you’ve buried in shifting sand. I never saw a bluer ocean and whiter sand. I unrolled my sleeping bag on the scruffy ground cover under the trees as soon as the last joint was smoked, but before the fires went out. I was abstaining, mostly, since the guy died in the bus accident, sitting across the aisle from me one minute, lying under a bus in a snowy Pennsylvania field the next. Scared straight. Though I still drank my drank. Got to take your medicine as needed.
     The folks I was touring the Keys with were Canadians, but I liked them anyway. I had just done a month up in Ottawa and Montreal, back in the winter of 72, following the teenage guru Mahraji, who taught me a technique for releasing nectar. We sang, “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the lord…and we pray that our unity will one day be restored; and I’ll know you’re my brother by our love…,” and Elton John’s, “Love Song”, as we marched through the streets of Ottawa. I ate a lot of bananas. Classes were big, even bigger than Penn State, with over a thousand supplicants learning his meditation techniques. So, I had nothing against Canada or Canadians. Although they were from Toronto, which is like Detroit for French people. Hey, that’s what they said.
      Jeremy was a motorcycle racer and Thomas was his mechanic. They drove a wicked VW bus with a little trailer for the bike. The Keys were nothing but serious R and R for them to get ready for the motorcycle races up at Daytona. These races were on the big track, leading up to the granddaddy stock car race, the Daytona 500. Thomas was the serious one and Jeremy the trickster, and they could really work a crowd.
     Down at Key West in the parking lot, watching the sun set over the ocean at the southernmost point of the USA every night, Jeremy would juggle on the seat of his bike, while it was moving forward, no less, or do his Bogart imitation while cutting the tightest, boot-in-the dirt donuts I’d ever seen. He was a madman. Afterwards, Thomas would calmly swoop in and collect the ass, grass, or cash to keep their traveling side shoo going on down the road.
     “Hey, we’re just a couple of poor Canucks trying to show them how hard we can ride up at Daytona, so, every little bit helps us out,” Thomas announced, passing the hat after the show.
     Hey, how could you not help but help out.
     These were mostly college kids on the Spring Break before the official Spring Break, so, we all knew they had it to give.
     And we took. It’s a give and take world. That’s what I learned from them.
     If you got an act, a story, a shtick, well, you need to get up and put it out there. Everyone needed real, actual entertainment to take them away from the horror—Vietnam, terrorists, riots, crime, Nixon!, Agnew!, and all our heroes, Janice, Jimi, and Jim, now dead.
     So, they took me in on account of they liked my Jamaican stories. And I wasn’t afraid to open up and tell them around the fires at night.
 twinkies birthday
But early next morning, it was down to business. The importance of the morning Twinkie truck raid cannot be overemphasized. The entire day hinged upon this event. Failure was not an option. There were three of us, so we had two watches and an inside man. Me. The reason for this was threefold: 1.) I was their guest, earning my keep. 2.) I was very slight and light on my feet. 3.) I was American. They were Canadians with a race up in Daytona waiting for them. Deportation or jail could not happen to them. I ran track back in High School, so, I was made for this job.
     The Hostess truck parked on a wide skirt along route one, rather than entering the little shopette serving the state park. We were camped out, mostly—though we had to move around to stay ahead of the smokies—at mile 67, Long Key State Park. The rangers were much busier up at the Everglades Park, stopping gator and turtle poachers, plus any other living thing not nailed down. So, we were more of a nuisance than a priority.
     There were a million and one bait and tackle shops along route one and they all carried Hostess products. No time to linger at Bob’s Bait and Tackle, Long Key. In and out for the driver.Which was why we had two lookouts.
     Jeremy was positioned at the door to run interference and wave the first signal to Thomas, standing near the back door of the festive Hostess step van. The idea was, the minute the delivery driver had concluded his business and was headed to the door, Jeremy would give a huge wave to Thomas, standing about 50-75 yards away. Thomas would then give me a yell. At this point, I would throw my little gym bag filled with loot at Thomas, and he would immediately run across the road and into the state park. I would jump out and head across the road empty-handed, sprinting in a more southerly direction. First look out would stand pat and casually drift our way after the Twinkie truck had left the scene. Well, I was so fast that only once did we implement our getaway plan. And the driver was oblivious, anyway. I always got out with ample desserts for the day before the driver could even exit the store. Yep, I was made to rob Twinkie trucks.
     I knew what loot to take. No dozen donuts, too bulky, no Donettes, too weird, no Sno Balls, no way, just Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding dongs and cupcakes, chocolate or golden. And I wasn’t greedy. I took about a one and half dozen packages total. Never more than about two dozen. Never less than about fifteen packages. It was plenty, and plenty to share or trade. Twinkies were an awfully good thing to have after the joints had passed around on the beach. The Canadians never carried, so our desserts were traded for weed, beer, and smokes. The mechanic, Thomas, smoked.
     Robbing that truck everyday for almost a week, you would think the driver would catch on. Don’t they ever take inventory?! Maybe it was just factored into the cost of doing business on that road. About one and half dozen individual treats will get pirated on the way down to Key West. Hey, it’s over a hundred miles. That’s not a steep toll. The seven mile bridge alone should cost that much. Granted, I was careful to tread lightly and not disturb the sleeping Ho Hos spread out upon the perforated metal shelves. When you’ve robbed a Twinkie truck by seven, it just makes the whole damn day feel that much sweeter.
                      (Excerpted from: “Have a Nice Day, Man–tales from the dark side of the 70s”.)
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