When I was sixteen years old I drove two of my girlfriends to Panama City Beach, FL. for Spring Break ’91. (That was only twenty years ago, now I take vitamins, fish oil and anti-reflux daily.) The night before our trip I purchased a sheet of LSD, an ounce of Magic Mushrooms, and a quarter of Skunkweed at a Grateful Dead show in my hometown, Atlanta, GA.
We went to see the concert at the Omni Coliseum, (Check out the attached cool picture of the old venue, @http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Omni_2.jpg) before it became known as Philips Arena. The Omni was built on top of an old rail yard, with track remnants running behind the building. It was resurrected next to the Martin Luther King viaduct, which was constructed over the top of the remaining of rail yard. The deadheads took advantage of the living space beneath the underpass and along the old train tracks by camping out and populating it whimsical tie-dye, turning it into a colorful patchouli forest. It looked like a maze of dancing, greasy heads, and it smelled tangy and acrid. Tents were pitched, and temporary homesteads were constructed for the three-day “Garcia” geared event.
It was the perfect start to our junior year, spring break. We headed downtown in my 1980 silver, Honda Accord with a dancing bears sticker on the side. (I didn’t think I was a poser because I knew the words to “Box of Rain,” but I didn’t know shit other than my interest in the drug culture.) The mass of deadheads was overwhelming, even at sixteen I could see the dysfunction. Un-bathed people were everywhere and many of them had children, but that didn’t stop me from asking.
I’ve never had trouble asking folks for drugs. I ended up buying the mushrooms from an eight year old while his dad napped. He was sitting at a little makeshift table while his dad was passed out next to him on blanket. I kept making eye contact with the kid as he watched me buzz around. Finally, a nearby semi-incoherent fellow pointed me in the direction of the kid. My friends weren’t slack-jawed about it either. “Shannon, NO! You can’t buy drugs from that kid.” Oh yes I can, the money he gets for the mushrooms is going to feed him tonight.” My friends stayed back as I walked over. “That man over there told me you have shrooms. How much for an ounce?” The deal was done and I didn’t feel guilty, it was spring break.
I wanted some LSD for our trip too. I decided it was safe to ask anyone with kids. I ended up buying a sheet (120 hits of acid) from a sweet, big bosomed girl with a baby strapped to her. “You’ll love this stuff, it’s called blue-star.” She said in a peace-loving voice. The sheet was folded inside tinfoil. I opened it up and saw that each individual hit was marked with a blue star. Too easy, I should’ve known.
The next day we loaded Wanda, the Honda with our goods and headed down to the “Redneck Riviera” or Florida Panhandle, with her beaches like emptied bags of sugar. My friend Lilly and I were going with our friend Katie, her dad and his girlfriend, and Katie’s little sister and guest. Obviously we needed two cars so I signed up for driving-a sixteen year olds freedom. We followed them down 1-85 towards Alabama and through scenic towns with overgrown moss trees and antebellum homes.
We had a loaded dugout (a 2 in 1 marijuana and pipe holder) in the car but our other party favors were stashed in the trunk. I carved a big square out of the pages of my King James Version and filled it in with our bags of goodies. The unsuspecting hiding spot for sure. Who would ever suspect a girl that brought her bible on vacation? And I sometimes wore long Laura Ashley dresses too. (Stylish, name-brand plural-marriage-girl, type dresses.) I certainly didn’t look the “druggie” part, but that’s how I played it so well.
I was a crafty teen. I forged, and designed my own report card that spring. I knew even my mother wouldn’t let me road-trip it down to P.C. with columns of F’s and D’s. I signed my mother’s name on the legit report card, but I had her sign the one I made in keyboarding class. I couldn’t pass the class, yet somehow I managed to create a believable enough official looking document. I knew better than to give myself all A’s. I packed in the C’s and even gave myself a D. I spent a lot of energy faking it when I could’ve made it had I tried. I accomplished anything I wanted once I set my mind to it, but trouble was usually more appealing.
After many stops and drops of Visine, we arrived at the Summit hotel. At the time, the Summit was like Panama’s version of Trumps Tower. We were in the Mecca of the party although at the more distinguished address. After all, there was a Waffle King right across the street. We stayed in a two-bedroom condo and Katie’s sweetheart dad gave us the master suite.
Dan the dad was an amazing guy. Katie’s dad had custody of her and her sister. He was a handsome guy with an enormous heart. He actually took me in for a while during my junior year. His girlfriend was madly in love with him and treated him like a he was her daddy and lover. She spoke to him in a toddlers whine and drew hearts on his sandwiches with the mustard. Dan had us on a leash, but it was long and loose like a zippy line. He let us girls run wild during spring break, but he always knew where we were. He was the type of dad you didn’t want to let down by breaking his trust. He trusted us so much and gave us the choice to make the right decisions.
I’m serious, to be continued.