A Man and his Laptop
Before resuming the nearly stone-cold thread of this subtropical cycling epic, let’s have a quick round of applause for my humble macbook, only just back from death’s door after having weathered many thousands of miles over at best, asphalt, and at worst, plain old ass. but it is back, and collectively we are in business. it required a two week trans-american journey to some miracle worker on the west coast who possessed the last of the weapons grade logic boards. Miraculously he was convinced to part with one of them for the modest sum of $300. But, as i say, what’s $300 between a man and his laptop?
so please forgive the interlude. I hope this makes it a little more comprehensible to the one or two of you left out there reading this thing. And so, we resume.
Arcadia – March 12th, 21:20
Just got in to Arcadia, after a brutal 70 mile pull straight into the wind. many things hurt. I have found a cheap ass hotel run by a Gujurati family. it’s the usual trade off: shabby, breeze blocked, some atrocious design decisions, really poor finishing – but cheap. $30 per night.
The town itself is a total throwback. Some super-outlets and fastfood restaurants at the intersection of two highways are the main concession to the current planning craze in Florida. But there is a charming old Main Street (completely abandoned at all hours of the day) and a smattering of older style bungalows which are slowly falling into disrepair as the town creeps closer to the WalMart . I’ve heard rumours of a Rodeo somewhere to the west.
After a day that hurt more than it probably should have done, I’ve been totally foxed for a decent place to have a beer. Had to resort to buying a six-pack of Yeungling from the grocery store – this one’s rather charmingly called Sweet Bay – and now I’m sitting in semi-darkness on a bench outside, sipping furtively at my beer, wrapped in the obligatory and specially-provided brown paper bag (the outdoor liquor laws in Florida seem to be somewhat vague on this point. From all of the brown paper bags i’ve seen wrapped around beer cans, it seems like it must be illegal, yet at the same time, the bag seems to confer some sort of legitimacy. Like: ‘I know i’m doing something wrong here folks, but look how dang discreet me and my paper bag can actually be!” Oh well, whatever works.).
Looking at the predominantly BMX-and-mullet-based traffic circling through the parking lot, i’m wondering if this is as good as Saturday night is likely to get in this town. Six thousand souls (according to wikipedia) and I find myself guessing how many of them are cousins.
Strangely enough, I have two Chinese restaurants to choose from. Both are buffets. I’ve only set foot into one of them, since through the window of the other one it was clear that the client base hasn’t risen above zero for quite some time. An hour before closing time, the place was empty, the chairs were on the tables and the ratty carpet was getting thrashed by a small girl and a hoover.
Sadly, the other one – King Buffet – seems little better. This is too bad, since I have concluded on this trip that Chinese is the (non-breakfast) food of champions. However, things didn’t exactly start out brilliantly chez King, since I was no more than three steps into the place before being informed that soda or juice were my only two beverage options (i.e. no beer). Moreover, a quick nose round the buffet revealed hours-old tureens of sweaty crab legs and noodles that had long since given up the right to be referred to in plural. I was glad and repulsed in equal measures to finally discover the source of the rancid stink that had been making me seriously doubt my own sanity for stopping there. It was cowering in the very last row of the buffet at the back. Up close it smelled like a cross between curdled milk and a festival sweat sock. The few hummocks that remained were huddled shamefully in their stainless steel tray as if they were only too aware of their disgraceful state. I’m talking about you, bacon-wrapped shrimp. thankfully, the smell seemed localised enough that I felt safe with (some of) the other foods (plus i was so hungry i kept having to negotiate with my stomach to stop it from eating itself). Still, it seemed a useful lesson: if, for whatever reason, you need to fake a convincing illness, waste no time in whipping yourself up a dish of bacon-wrapped shrimp. Neglect before eating. It’s certain to do the trick.
The Clock Restaurant – Revisited
I do love the Southern inflection, especially when people get excited (this, I’ve found, is usually on account of dogs, trucks or guns). I just heard this phrase, which jumped out of the restaurant hubub somewhere behind me. I had to turn and look and discovered that the speaker was a rather sizable white man with white sneakers and a grey Hitler moustache:
“You can’t do nothing when that dog’s got hold of you.”
But, in his giggly excitement, it came out as “Ye can’ do nuttin’ when that dawg’s got hold of ye!” This over three octaves in exactly the kind of tones that make you want to slap your knee at the end of it. Just as he was doing.
There’s now another huge drama unfolding behind me, as a lady discovers that she has lost the winder to her watch – “it cost me forty-nine dollars!”
It’s certainly a credit to the good people of Arcadia that just about everyone in the restaurant is now crawling around on the filthy carpet trying to find the thing. The manager is on his knees under the table and people are offering theories left and right:
“You need a magnet!’
“Get the vacuum cleaner out. You’ll hear when you git it!”
“It would jam the darn thing!”
“it woodint jam a vacuum cleaner!”
“You shore would hear it, though!”
“Yup, I reckon you would hear it…”
And so on….