It's New Year's Day and already I've gone astray (is that word right? ASHTRAY or Ahhh..Stray? Does it matter?). Anyway, having lost repeatedly at 'Lode Runner', 'Castle Woffenstein" and 'Planet Fall", I've come to the conclusion that I'm too fucked-up to play video games on the computer, and that the only thing I can do to retrieve this situation is to haphazardly record some random thoughts on past disasters. What follows is the first portion of a major Vander-evento namely, the Key West Powerboat Race:
Every year in early November there is a powerboat race in Key West. This is a good excuse to play hookey from work for a few days and get downright crazy. This year Derek decided to take his 28 foot Manta down rather than drive. My brother, Craig, was flying down from Pittsburgh to join in the slaughter. It promised to be a Vanderevent of the first magnitude. Last year was bad enough. I'd paid for a Budweiser in the can at Sloppy Joe's with a C-note thinking it was a five. I was so bad off by Sunday morning that I'd driven back white-knuckled, my hands shakin' so much I could hardly take my right one off the wheel to shift gears (I still had the brown vette then). This year would be even more brutal in the end. I may have thought twice about going had I known what was about to go down. Well, let's get on with it. The sooner I document the grim sequence of events the sooner I can forget the whole episode.
My brother arrived in Palm Beach International on Wednesday afternoon, November the 7th around 4:45 PM. I picked him up at gate four. He had one little gym bag of necessities and a grand in cash and traveler's cheques. Craig and I think alike. Travel light. This is America. You can buy anything you could possibly need just about anywhere, so why carry it around with you. All that stuff can only slow you down. We came back to the office, but everyone was gone. This was one of those rare occasions when the Vandermaze was deserted at 6 PM. I took Craig on a tour of the office and the computer system before we headed south.
We motored straight to Rubino'ls. It was Wednesday, afterall, and Oscar was on duty. She was a little too glad to see me. I'd seen her wear that cheshire cat grin before. It turned out that she was working on a school project concerning interior design. We made a date to work on it the following week if I survived Key West. Craig and I had a few Pauli girls and moved on. Even though he searched the entire weekend, Craig never found a place serving his favorite brand of poison, Iron City Beer. Up in Pittsburgh they still put the stuff in heavy steel cans. I suspect it's too corrosive for aluminium cans. The water they use to brew it must come out of the Ohio river just downstream of the steel mills. I used to drink it myself when I was young and tough. I'd drink it warm, on breakfast cereal, out of a dirty glass, when I could find one. The good days.
Next stop, Roland's, in Fort Lauderdale. I calculated we would run into Vanderpeople there. My calculations were off. We did run into others who have played parts in these adventures. We first run into Kat and Mitch, Roland's door managers.
'how ya doin', Kep?' (Kat)
'Hey, krash!' (Mitch)
'What's new guys? Kat, Mitch, This is my brother Craig.'
'Glad to meet you, Craig.' (Kat)
'Same here.' (Craig)
'Good to see ya again, Craig.' (Mitch)
'I doubt you know Craig, Mitch.' (Me)
'Sure I do. We've met before.' (Mitch hedges)
'He hasn't been to Florida for seven years.' (I've got mitch squirming, and I won't let him up for air)
'You don't look a day older, Craig.' (Mitch will not admit defeat)
We no sooner get past Kat and Mitch when we run headlong into Jeffy Foster. Jeffy is a madman from earlier days, and I haven't seen him for over a year. I got pissed when he came into his inheritance and hired Dan Duckham to remodel his Intracoastal house. Dan's a damn good Architect in these parts, but that's no excuse for not giving me the commission. Jeffy's been spending most of his time in Aspen lately, it seems, and doesn't get into town often these days. We comtemplate old times, drink beer, and He and Craig discuss racing motorcycles. Craig and I later move down the bar to where Joe Butler, Bobby Brant, Nic Hosking and other regulars have taken up residence. Everyone meets Craig and each in his turn relate their war storys. We're having a good time when Craig falls off his stool. Bobby Brant's eyes go wide. He points his finger at Craig and begins to scream. "Oh my God, there's two of them!' From this point on, Craig will be known as Krash Jr. to the initiated. Craig is becoming wasted at an ever increasing rate and I decide to get him out of Roland's.
Next thing I know, I'm turning the Cavalier over to the parking valet at Flashdancers, a nude dancing nightclub. I must be starting to lose it myself. I haven't been in one of these places since I was kicked out of the dollhouse a few weeks back. We run into Shane Moore and TC at the bar. I introduce Krash Jr. and we smalltalk for a minute before moving on to a table. Craig sees a cute blonde in lace, and he begins to drool slightly at the corners of his mouth. I call her over for conversation and tabletop dancing. She remains at our table for the duration of our stay. It may have something to do with the fact that I begin to give her twenty dollar bills for each tabletop dance in lieu of the five dollar amounts the girls customarily receive for this type of entertainment. Like I said, she was cute. We close the place and manage to safely run the gauntlet home (it was this stretch of threacherous roadway that earned me my DUI and a night in jail the previous Feburary, but that's another story).
I get Craig bedded down in the "library' without too much noise and retire to my own room to pass out. On the edges of my mind, I get the feeling that it's kinda chilly, but the antifreeze in my bloodstream soon dispels this thought. Sometime during the night I get up and get a wool blanket to ward off the cold.
I wake up about seven, but I don't want to get out of bed. It's FUCKING COLD in South Florida today, the lower fifties at least. I begin to feel guilty when I remember that the only bedding I provided Krash Jr. was a light, threadbare cotten quilt. I sneak into the Library to see if he's suffering from hypothermia. Much to my dismay, he's laying there, spread out, wearing only U.S. Navy undershorts (they even have his name, rank and serial number stenciled on them). The quilt is off to the side. I feel like throwing icewater on the fucker. I kick him in the kidneys instead. Just a brotherly kick, ya understan'. Not hard enough to make lim pee red or anything like that .
'Ya gonna sleep all day? We gotta get this show on the road! We're on our way to Key West where they separate the men from the boys with a crowbar!' (Craig opens one eye in annoyance)
"What the fuck you talkin' about, BOY. It's still the middle of the night. And shit! It's too gawddamn hot to get any shuteye around here.' (I noticed at this point that he had the paddlefan going at high speed)
'Yeah, well get yore sorry ass in gear. We got to be at Marina Mar at nine.'
We manage to get cleaned up, packed and on our way by eight-thirty. Even the taxi was on time. I took it as a good omen. Our hangovers hadn't started yet and we were still comfortably hazy. I intended to stay that way. We were the first to arrive at the marina, and while we were waiting for the others, we decided to grab a 7-11 breakfast. Afterall, it was to be a four-day party, why not grab for the gusto. We careened into the convenience store, a block from the marina, and as Craig headed in the direction of the beer cooler, I surveyed the microwave burrito selection. While I was lost in deep comtemplation someone said something to me. I turned to see two fairly good-looking women trying to engage me in conversation. I had worked with the older one at Chuck McKirihan's office a few years back, but for the life of me, I can never remember her name when I see her. We exchange pleasantries, and the girls move on. This encounter is not lost on Craig.
'Jesus Christ, you've run into someone you know everyplace we've been so far!" (He looks at me, questions in his eyes)
'It's not the years, it's the mileage.' (a quote I'd picked up from Indiana Jones. Ah yes. Good omens indeed!)
We go back to the parking lot to eat and wait for the others. I spy a green pumphouse enclosure and mention it as a good place to park our butts while we scarf down the junkfood. After a minute I begin to wonder if the burrito is bad. What's that GODAWFUL smell. SHIT! FUCK!! DAMN!!! I realize we're seated on a sewerage lift station. It's bad enough to remind me of enumerable summer camp Boy Scout latrines. Krash Jr. will question my judgement for the rest of his stay because of this incident.
Bob and Judy Silvia pull into the parking lot and we begin to haul survival supplies to the dock (ice, coolers, etc. The necessities, you know?). Bill and Faye Clark follow shortly and we boys hit the 7-11 again for beer. We're going out on the ocean, and you can't drink saltwater. Derek's running on Vanderstandard time and he and Isabelle roll in around ten o'clock. We get underway shortly thereafter and head south on the Intracoastal Waterway. We have a radio for emergencies, but we also have a small problem - no way to connect it to the Manta's electrical system. I'm not worried. Krash Jr. is an electronics engineer and he could probably jerry-rig a connection out of a rolex watch band or a beer can with a minimum of tools. We had both those items with us. No problem. We found a place down by the Southport raw bar that had the standard connection and solved the problem once and for all.
At the S.E. 17th Street Merriott we ran into the 'Fleet', a group of about 7 big-engined, thirty-odd and forty-odd foot powerboats. We would run across these guys several times in the next four days, and they were the source of endless amusement. They went on ahead while we stopped for the radio patch.
The next hour or so was spent traversing the various no-wake zones, shoving down Budweisers and enjoying the scenery. When we got to downtown Miami, we had caught up with the 'fleet'. Racing across Biscayne Bay with them at 50-plus mph with the Miami skyline in the background seemed right, the only noble thing to do, as Derek would say. It was just another day in Paradise. Then something strange happened. At the south end of the bay the fleet veered off towards the ocean and a area known as the 'featherbeds'. First Billy and then Bobby wondered out loud, 'Hey, where are those guys going?'. The featherbeds are so named because the area is shallow and sandy, the water often between six inches and a foot deep. The fleet was hell-bent for leather in this direction. We could only assume that they didn't know where they were headed. soon we could not see the boats, only the roostertails of water they were throwing up ... and then all the roostertails stopped at the same time. We knew there were seven beached mechanical whales in the featherbeds (These be threacherous waters, just ask the Spanish. They found out four hundred years ago). These guys eventally made it to the Key West compound sometime after dark.
I gotta break off now.. This tale is too long for one sitting. The carnage involved is too much, even for me. It's good training though, I mean I could probably qualify for a correspondent job in the middle east.
More later ......
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Last updated: 8/3/96