Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
Illegal alien...Illegal alien...Illegal alien.
Say that three times fast and you actually sound like an alien.
Considering the current state of political affairs, when you hear the term “illegal alien”, perhaps you think of someone from a Third World country or Mexico. When the Bahamian government called me and my future wife that in 1992...well, that's another story.
I was dating a beautiful blonde with blue eyes and pretty feet; and, I very often wanted to impress her. Like Sigmund Freud used to say, “Every conscious and subconscious action a man takes is aimed toward gaining the ultimate resolution of pyschosexual pleasure.” So, I figured, one good means to that end would be a cruise to the Bahamas for an island vacation.
We drove my old '73 blue Ford pickup truck from Waycross, Georgia to the Jacksonville International Airport, parked it, then rented a reliable, low-mileage automobile with good A/C that would get us all the way to Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida, where we would depart on the Sea Escape cruise liner to Nassau.
The drive was long; so, we broke it down and stayed overnight in a funky, little Daytona Beach motel. We hit the road the next afternoon, opting for the Highway A1A scenic route, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale around midnight. The cruise would not depart until the next day; but I had a plan...a money-saving plan.
We'd turn the used car in at Fort Lauderdale's airport, then take the shuttle bus to the Port Everglades landing, where I was certain there would be an all-night terminal—with chairs or couches—where early-arriving, South Georgia vagrants could lay their money-saving heads down as they dreamed about their dream boat. I was dreamin' alright.
At 2 a.m., the shuttle bus dropped us off in an empty, seaport parking lot with one lonely street lamp. Lynne and I hesitantly stepped outside. Before we had time to assess our new surroundings—lookin' like something out of a Robert De Niro mafia movie—the driver was chunkin' our suitcases out the door and leavin' Port Everglades—and us—in a cloud of dust.
My money-saving plan was working so far; but, at this point, it was turning into more of a life-saving plan. The terminal was locked down tight; so, we gathered ourselves and our luggage on a patch of grass, directly underneath the lone streetlight. I recalled a John Wayne western and began to circle the wagons, placing the bags and suitcases around us.
As Lynne pulled out a beach towel and spread it on the ground inside our flimsy fortress, I asked if she had any weapons in her cache of feminine supplies. She produced a 6-inch pair of scissors with floweredy handles and a curling iron from Eckerd's. Smart girls are always prepared for the unknown.
Feigning bravery, I told her to lie down and rest, jugging the floweredy-handled scissors in the ground in front of me. She cacked out like a lightbulb, leaving me to pursue every wind-blown creak and gangster whisper in my sleep-deprived, film noir imagination. After several hours, the long terminal door slid open, releasing a fresh-off-the-cruise crowd down the ramp, all staring wide-eyed at the two hapless tourists beneath the street lamp.
Thankful we were okay and my plan back in effect, we boarded the Sea Escape, checked our bags, and went topside, flopping down in the nearest lounge chairs and passing out. We slept all the way to Nassau and missed out on the Orientation for New Arrivals to the Bahamas, which covered important details regarding passports, customs, and proper procedures for visiting vacationers.
On the island, I immediately hailed a cab that took us to our hotel, once owned by Lucy and Desi Arnaz. Well, that, and the fact that it was flamingo pink, was impressive; but, a Coke from the hotel vending machine was a cool five dollars. Not cool.
Whenever we vacation, we always like to “do as the natives do”; so, we ventured out to a homegrown restaurant, not much more than some Bahamian's wood frame house, for conch fritters, pigeon peas, and johnnycake. We drank and danced in a downtown nightclub one evening, where Lynne boldly entered a banana-eating contest, got shy, and still came in fifth place.
Most of our time was spent on the beach or poolside, where local ladies were constantly preying on the American with long, blonde hair, “Braid your hair, dahling?” We kept to our fiscally-minded plan as much as possible; and because alcohol is about the only thing you can get cheaper in the Bahamas, we bought a big bottle of Bacardi 151 Rum to take home with us.
Before boarding the cruise ship to Fort Lauderdale, we followed our fellow tourists' lead and stood in line with our passports. We handed our papers through the window. The little Bahamian attendant looked at them, looked back at us, and bitched, “Do you realize you've been on the island illegally for three days?”
“Listen hear”—I says to her—“between the $5 Cokes and the high-dollar cab rides, you pretty much already raped and pillaged my money-saving plan; so, whatever you do to us at this point cain't be any worse!” She sneered at me, stamped our visas, turned to Lynne, and said, “Braid your hair, dahling?”
NEXT WEEK: PART 2
20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival Advance Weekend Passes:
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin