Bobby McGee and Thee - Port Arthur 2002 - Happy Birthday, Vickie

"You want to go to the beach tonight?" Vickie's Texas drawl was hopeful; we were finally meeting in person after knowing each other through the hotel system for years. The beach south of Port Arthur was suggested by Vickie's friend, her guy friend, the one who (you could tell by the wistfulness in her voice) currently held her heart; the one she said was her best friend. I wouldn't have to drive, she said, because I'd been driving since California.

"Sure," I replied.  I'd just left the desert and hadn't seen the Gulf Coast, which holds a piece of my heart, in over a decade. Of course I wanted to go to the beach. The problem was this: I was too old to innately know this was Spring Break, and there would be no beach to be seen.

It was joyous mayhem. There were jeeps and Beetles driving up and down the sandy shore, campfires burning, hippies dancing...

Around the other side of  Vickie's car a particularly greasy young man was sitting on a railroad tie, naked but for his pants down to his ankles as if he were on a toilet, dispersing his wisdom to two young girls. The dood was on fire like drunken Texans can be, probably on some topic the three of them had studied together in Sociology of Poli-Sci. He gesticulated for emphasis from his splintery throne.

"I mean, the way I see it, just another reason it's a mistake to judge people according to the technology they use, rather than how they're driving. Just pretend you're unable to think clearly, and have no impulse control. Whatcha gonna do?"

The victims of his inquiry, each holding a brown long-neck, giggled and rolled their eyes, looking away at nothing. I wondered briefly whether this was their first and only beer of the night, and then realised that this is a new generation. The three of them were probably on acid or X or something I'd never even heard of. I judged, and harshly, like a tired old woman.

Why are they all sitting there laughing? Why have they not gotten up and walked away from his drunken, mostly-naked, sand-covered ass, greasy hair, and disgusting goatee? Why am I even here? Please tell me I was never that stupid, never that crass. I knew better, though. I walked up the beach, noting the spaces where each song bursting from car speakers blended with the music from the next vehicle. None of them were songs I knew. I declined some unknown beverage offered me; I wasn't feeling it. I'd been on the road for days and just wanted to visit with my friend.

Everyone danced until dawn, until they dropped where they were. Even the naked guy was passed out, his pants still around his ankles. There was no sign of the two girls. I was the only sober person left on the beach excluding those who were rediscovering sobriety at dawn's early light. Vickie was awake, delirious and tired.

"You wanna go swimming still?"  I don't remember if she or I asked, but we both said hells yeah. After all, we'd been to the 24-hour Super Walmart to buy me a black and white bikini with random lettering all over it. I'd never seen a Super Walmart before; Vickie admitted to coming there during bouts of insomnia just to wander around. I took off my jeans; Vickie hesitated.

I knew the water would be cold, so I ran. I ran into the water up to my shins, halted, screamed like a girl. I was determined to at least get that bikini wet...I couldn't do it. I could. I had to pee. I edged forward enough to moisten the fabric, contributed to the Gulf of Mexico, and ran screaming back to shore.

Vickie had given up. She was sitting in her long black sweater and half-drenched jeans that were fastened up the sides with an hundred or so safety pins. Her blue hair gleamed as the sun rose and played in it -
I was gonna dye it back to red before my father found out, but I waited so you could see it...
 she leaned forward and to the side a little. Seagulls flew overhead, calling her name. She seemed completely at peace, so beautiful, looked a little like Janis Joplin. I wondered whether Janis had once rolled in the sand drunk and high and full of unrequited love in that same place. Sometimes the unrequited love is the best; it's definitely the most peaceful. 

I wondered if Vickie, or Janis, had also learned this about love. Janis was long dead; I'm sure she found out, somewhere along the way.

We finally made it back to Vickie's house, where we watched the movie Pitch Black long enough for me to confirm that Vin Diesel was the sexiest man I'd ever seen. We both passed out immediately. 
When we woke up, I got back on the road, headed to Mobile.

Vickie, I don't know where you are today; we lose each other from time to time. I hope you are safe and warm, but not too warm, and surrounded by cats and love. Happy Birthday.


  1. A beautiful tribute to your friend. :-) And Janis knew about unrequited love. She crushed on Kris Kristofferson BIG-time.


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