And just like that, We're on the Downhill Side of a Hundred Mile Ride. I'm doing the Homeless Pirate Run. I'm blasting South along a River Road that is beautiful enough on it's own; but there is so much Magic and History wrapped up in this trail that we are riding on that I fear my Beautiful Dreamers will find their credulity stretched to believe it. Relax, guys, I am done with the history lesson. Maybe. Maybe not. Ya never know.
South, then! Destination, Ponce Inlet. Let us pause for Visual Enlightenment:
This is the place where I live and ride
This is what happens the first time you taste Uncle Bill's Gator Sauce
Dangit! I told the Blonde to get out of the way, I'm photo-journalizing here!
Okay, here is the picture I was looking for
Back to the Bicycling
Ahem. South to Ponce, then. I get there, I do that aimless Drifting Around by Bicycle thing I do, I drift some more and then I pedal over to a Little Market that has served Ponce Inlet for many, many years. Back when the TPC was building Hideouts for Millionaires me and the Crew would retreat there for lunch and shade. These days, I go there on my bike rides and for you-know-what. Beer, I mean. And after a pretty fast (even for me) blast down the river, after meandering around this really nice sanctuary, I am ready for the Homeward Beer and interested in seeing what changes have taken place at that little market since the last time that I was there, several months ago. And change has indeed taken place: They Are Closed. Out Of Business.
OK, Now I'm Pissed
While it is true that I write this blog for fun and because I don't have anything better to do, sometimes I have got to break it down and step aside from the jocularity (sparse as it may be) and tell the truth. Twenty years ago, before I went over to Tampa for a two-week job that evolved into seven years of hard labor and wheelbarrows of money, I was a Pirate Captain and builder of Big Houses and I had a semi-loyal crew that went where I went and helped me do things that made all of us some money. Not a lot of money (for me that came later) but we made enough money to feed the fires and to feed the three-foot tall junior pirates running around in our various yards while the Big Pirates built fires and cooked meat and drank beer and said Har!
The Best Pirate of them all was a guy we'll call Broc Branham and he was my Right Hand and a Better Man and all that and all those houses we built, a lot of those restaurants throughout the South and etcetera may have been funneled through me and my various creditors but it was Broc and his Motley Crew that made it happen.
It was Broc Branham who made piles of lumber become buildings and and it was Broc Branham who made empty lots become places to eat and live. One day we were sitting on the side of that little market in Ponce Inlet, Florida. It was the only market in the Village. Off to the side was a retaining wall and some cool deep shade and we would go there to get Gatorade and slices of Pizza and yeah, sometimes, beer.
"We ain't gonna make it, brother," I said to Broc. He knew what I was talking about.
"It'll be alright," he said. "I'll make it."
Fuck it man, we were way down on payroll. Being the Master of Disaster that I am, I had conned the payroll company we were using at the time into carrying us for a couple of weeks until we got to the point in this McMansion where the tide would turn and I could get a big enough check to settle the waters. But it had been a steady 100 degrees everyday and the boys were hurting and the contractor we were working for was holding the check that would solve everything until we did This Much Work and the payroll company was holding the payroll until they got a check...which was leaving the boys a little less than motivated. And it was Friday.
"Look, Broc. We'll send them home now and call it eight. Then tomorrow you and me will come in and hack it out until we get the fuckers their money." He looked at me with that hard-core direct way he had. This was a man that was a little over five-foot-eight and about 150 pounds. He could stare a hole through a brick wall.
"OK, Boss," he said.
And we did. We sent them home and we all drank beer and whiskey that afternoon. I learned a long time ago the Hard Way: if you can't make payroll at least Buy the Beer and I did and the next day me and Broc Branham went up there and hacked away at it and got our asses kicked by the heat and by what came down to two guys doing the work of ten guys; we hacked away at it until our hearts were nearly broke. Then we hacked away at it some more and we fucking kept doing it for six days until I could walk into that fat-assed contractor's office and not say a word. He took one look at me and Broc and cut the check.
Twenty years later I have come to this little market in Ponce Inlet to grab a beer and sit in the shade of that retaining wall and remember my brother Broc Branham. But the market is closed. No Beer.
And Cancer took Broc six years ago, while I was off in Virginia, not here at home; I was off working in Virginia and there is No Beer Here and no Market; just these memories and the Blonde that Broc left behind and the two nine-year-old blonde-headed twins that lost their Dad...this must be why I like to ride Long Miles Until It Hurts but then, I too am getting old.
The Happy Ending
But what of that? Old Tim Joe was an Old Orphan his Ownself, Fat and Drunk and Dying the Hard Way over in Tampa Bay, dying of loneliness and depression and one day he took a drive over to his old stomping grounds on the East Coast and accidentally-on-purpose bumped into the Blonde and the Twins and now we have been five years together...the Twins are sixteen now and the Blonde is her Old Self and I Am Here and I Am Pedaling My Ass Off and sharing all of this with you guys.
Magic and History, wouldn't you say?
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