We’re on our way to Hutchinson, Kansas to visit our Ormond Beach next-door neighbors. Our first babysitter Tamy and her sister Teresa, who’s rebounding from a quick bad marriage, are spending the summer with their aunt. Though Hutchinson is known as the land of Dorothy before Oz, for me it’s cruising American Graffiti style – the 1973 hit movie of one night in the life of rocking and rolling teenagers. And that’s what we’re doing. Since we have a motel room we decide to get in a little (young) adult nightlife.
“I wanna go,” charms Tamy through her cute smile. Ray takes his turn babysitting so she can join us girls cruising the well-traveled route down Main St. checking out the scene. Taking a sharp turn into the local drive-in we scan the parking lot for friends and cute guys hanging in their cars, then back out on the road to smoke some dope and retrace our steps for one more run through town. We turn into the local 3.2 joint.
“Time for a beer,” I call.
Teresa orders, “Red Eye please.”
“Beer and tomato juice,” she laughs.
“Gross.” my nose involuntarily wrinkles.
“Me, too,” orders Tamy. “It’s good.”
“Never heard of that. Okay, I’ll try one.” They serve us all, no questions. Tamy’s only 16 and already used to getting served without ID. All gussied up she looks older than her 24-year-old sister.
I look longingly over at the one crowded pool table. I’d picked up the habit in Ormond Beach hanging out on rare weekends at the closest beach bar on the pier. I place my quarter in the line on the table, the only woman to challenge. It’s okay to serve minor girls liquor, but maybe not okay for women to shoot pool. I have another drink to get loose. Everybody’s watching as my turn comes up. I’m edgy when I saunter over and grab my cue, “How’re you doing, man?”
“Howdy,” he nods a jittery little smile.
But I love a little competition and win my challenge game. The next guy grabs his cue for an almost unheard of match between a black man and me. I lose my initial good luck and during the game relax enough to get to know my partner, who grew up in my hometown Sarasota where his parents still live. We laugh at the coincidence of meeting up in a place like Hutchinson.
Time to switch and give Ray his ‘turn’ on the town. He’s had trouble getting the kids to sleep after the excitement of being in a motel room with a pool, TV, toilet. Ray’s souring sense of humor is sweetened as the girls grab him laughing and push him into the car. I hear of their escapades in the morning.
Teresa’s a very warm upfront person. She reacts to life more emotionally than intellectually and let’s her feelings rule. I like that. Teresa brings out the dope while she, Tamy and Ray do the cruise through town, “Wanna toke?” giving no thought to the idea that Ray might not like our young babysitter Tamy seeing him do something illegal. He’s always been a paranoid pot smoker, but since it’s not me offering it he tries to stay cool when she passes it around. It takes us leaving the neighborhood and a trip to Kansas to break down that barrier. After a few drinks, which is Ray’s choice of poison he relaxes and adores the cruising, flirting, drinking, and dancing with these cute young girls on his arm till late into the night.
Although the girls try to talk us into staying another night – we’ve all had such a good time with our hometown friends – the double Virgo in Ray makes him want to move on and keep to some schedule he has in his head. I’ve never been able to change his attitude about taking life easy and we never stay long in one place. I get pretty good at taking photos from a speeding car.
Children’s Diary – July 5, 1974
We stopped in Kansas. We saw Tamy and Terry Fain. We swam in the pool.