Destination Clearwater: 1987

I turned 15 in 1987, so I couldn’t drive yet. I spent a lot of time in the front seat of my friend Chad’s maroon Ford-type car, heading to Rocky Horror at Countryside Mall, driving up and down a pre-roundabout Clearwater Beach, and taking trips to the airport to ride the trams back and forth and page each other over the loudspeaker.

Chad’s car actually belonged to his parents, but they let him drive it all the time. As the declared ringleader of our merry band of misfits, he spent hours chauffeuring us on his latest adventures. At the hands of teenagers, this marvel of midwestern engineering took one hell of a beating. The gray headliner sagged. The electric windows went up and down as the spirit moved them and not in response to us pressing the flaking metal switches on the heavy doors. The air conditioner had two levels: “Arctic Tundra” and “Good Luck With That.” Lumbar support? This was the 80s. We didn’t even know what that meant.

The radio worked, though, and that’s all I cared about, because this was the age of the hair band. Namely, Poison. Whenever “Talk Dirty To Me” came on the radio, we’d turn up the radio and turn into the greatest air band that ever lived.

Fast forward to 2012. I’m on the front side of 40. I’ve traded passenger-ship for a sporty red Volkswagen Rabbit, and I can plug my iPhone into the auxiliary jack and hear Poison at a moment’s notice. I still turn it up to an unsafe decibel level, but it doesn’t feel the same as when I was wholly at the mercy of a disc jockey’s mood. 

A couple of weeks ago my friend Kelli and I took a trip up to the Saint Somewhere Brewery in Tarpon Springs. We followed Alternate 19 back from the brewery, and just as we left the inky black sea to our right and traded Edgewater Drive for Fort Harrison, she turns up her radio. Within seconds, I hear it: that sliding, repeating guitar that pushes the music into a big intro, followed by an insistent, definite drum beat.

You know, I never seen you look so good…

By the time we pass Nicholson Street, I’ve gotten the band back together. Forget about deadlines and healthcare and power bills, I’m back in my tight-rolled acid washed jeans, shoulder pads and big hair. The green traffic lights and amber street lights blur back in time. Chanel No. 5 suddenly smells a lot like Love’s Baby Soft, and even though Kelli and I don’t smoke, I swear I can smell the reek of Chad’s Dorals in her leather-interior Envoy.

At the drive in, in the old man’s Ford, behind the bushes, until I’m screaming for more…

I’m a drummer and a vocalist. It takes little encouragement to get Kelli – restaurant owner, mother, and a beach suburbanite of sorts – to join me on vocals:

Down the basement, lock the cellar door, and baby…. and baby, talk dirty to me!

As the last of C.C. DeVille’s guitar work fades into the next glam rock song (apparently some sort of Hot Tub Time Machine wormhole exists between Edgewater Drive and Fort Harrison), we look at each other and giggle.

It must be my imagination, but for a second, the time it takes to blink, Kelli’s sleek, close-cropped hair sprouts a hairsprayed wall of bangs, uniform permed curls, and smells ever so slightly of Sun-In.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.