Saturday, 15 January 2011

Mickey Mouse vs Saddam Hussein - Round 10

I returned to the billion dollar concentration camp to find that one of the carpenters on site - a big, friendly and stupid man - had been so overcome with the notion of history and permanence that the stone fire-surround inspired in him, that he had written his full name and current date, in pencil, in the corner of one of the flatter areas on the front of the surround, thinking that he would go down in history for generations to come. This pile of masonry must have looked like Stonehenge in his eyes, surrounded as he was by all the transient trappings of a town which was satellite to the seat of Mickey Mouse.

I wiped it away with one stroke of a damp cloth, but not before the Hilary Clinton lookalike had seen it and read the incriminating evidence. She wanted to sack the poor fool, but I told her that - although it was a stupid and thoughtless act - no harm had been done, so she just gave him a humiliating bollocking in front of his work-mates instead.

My faithful worker, Ray, was back alongside me, and he was discovering how easy it was to carry out the ancient and honorable Masonic tradition of 'tarting up' stonework. So easy, in fact, that he actually asked why they had gone to the expense of flying me back over to do it. I told him to keep his voice down, otherwise I would have to resort to the ancient and honorable tradition of killing him.

Ray asked me if I had tuned into the local 'Reggae' music station on the radio yet, and I said that - when I drove to and from the site - I usually listened to Country Music, because it just seemed to fit with the circumstances I found myself in. Country just enhanced the whole Southern experience for me, but just didn't fit in with my life back home in England, so I was making the most of it. It was a bit like listening to Scottish dance music in the Highlands - somehow, it does not travel well. When you get it home, it's a bit like that fantastic pebble you find on a lonely and windswept beach - it has lost all it's colour and magic once on your mantle-shelf.

I found the local Reggae station on the car radio that night, and I could not believe how insipid and bland it was. It was softer than soft - so soft, that I could not bear to listen to it. Unbelievably, they had hardly heard of Bob Marley, even - he was certainly not played on this station.

I had brought with me quite a few tapes of real Reggae - the proper Jamaican stuff which was imported to Britain by West Indians. It was all bootleg, so you could hardly buy it at home. I took the tapes into work the next day, and that lunchtime, Ray called all his black friends over for me to show them. They could not believe what they were listening to, and one of them asked to borrow the tapes to copy. So I think that I can claim that I introduced Jamaican Heavy Dub to the Orlando area, around 20 years ago. There should be a blue plaque on that fire-place.

Her Indoors decided one night that she would come over from England for the weekend, so she booked a ticket. For some reason, her stop-off for the internal connection flight was Detroit, all the way up there in the North. This meant that by the time she arrived at Orlando airport, it was late at night and I was quite tired, though probably not as tired as she was - or would be...

I made my way out of the car park and headed for Orlando proper. In the dark, I became confused about which turn-off I should take that would get me to Sand Lake Road, and we found ourselves on a large and deserted highway, with downtown Orlando glittering away a couple of miles to our right. I needed to be on the other side of town, so I kept to the highway, thinking I could cut around the other side if I kept driving.

After about 10 miles, the road started to look extremely strange, then suddenly terminated with a huge set of wire security gates with a private estate on the other side, so I turned around and went in the opposite direction. I then found myself on a private highway, and about 300 yards ahead was an enormous, sculptural edifice shaped like an old-fashioned gramophone horn. This upturned horn was designed to throw money at, and was shaped like this so that the worst shot in the world could not miss when chucking the coins that the sign asked for to use the road. Since there were cameras over the horn, I threw the money at it, then carried on driving.

I apologised to H.I. for this balls-up. She was beginning to look as though she was about to faint, fall asleep, or both. After about 10 miles, I still hadn't found the turn off to Sand Lake, so I drove into downtown Orlando, and became horribly lost. All I could think of was to try and get out of town, then start all over again. I knew that Sand Lake was only a couple of miles away, but did not know in which direction.

So I found myself on the private road again, throwing money into the horn and driving away at high speed whilst H.I. fainted with hunger and exhaustion on the seat beside me. 10 miles later, I came to another dead-end, so turned around on the deserted road.

10 miles later, I found myself feeding the horn with small change again. H.I. had fallen into some sort of coma by now, and I decided that this horn had got enough of my money, so drove into Orlando again, this time sticking to one direction only without stopping or turning back.

I don't know how I eventually found the Days Inn on Sand Lake, but when I did, beer had never tasted so good - even though the bucket of ice I had put it in 4 hours previously had all melted.


  1. You are making me homesick.....even for the Palmetto Bugs (large flying roaches).

  2. I've been on that road Tom, the one that's called "you can't get there from here'...amazing how any of us find our way home.
    Loving more of your story on this snowy, house-bound weekend.

  3. There's a road just like that in Toulouse, which I managed to discover very late one night; to this day I still have no idea where I was. Luckily I came across 4 Gendarmes having a smoke in some bushes. They eventually unraveled the knots, and guided me back to civilisation. I received 'tongue pie' from Lady M for months afterwards.

  4. I think those roads appear from nowhere on dark, moonless nights, then sink back into the swamps at daybreak.

  5. I drove once from New Smyrna Beach to Orlando, and decided, for whatever reason, to be economical and rent a car from a small local business, instead of using one of the corporate giants, it came with a huge sticker on the bumper advertising its company name...
    'Ugly Duckling Rent A Car'...the car was so big I could hardly see over the steering wheel...oh well it did get me there and back in one day...but I do remember missing the turn off into Orlando a few times.

  6. I can only imagine you were stuck on the Beeline (now the Beachline), but 20 years ago who knows what parts of it looked like. I think it was a conspiracy to get those extra tolls outta ya! Enjoying seeing this area through your eyes. Ann

  7. that was one great date
    your sure know how to look after a lady!!!!

  8. These days, I use rohypnol, John.

  9. Bumper stickers - dontcha hate 'em? I thought about getting one made up saying: "PROUD PARENT - MY SON IS OFF CRACK AND MY DAUGHTER HAS PAID OFF HER PIMP!"

  10. We call them "troll roads" Tom. Actually we try as best we can to avoid getting on them. At night that is not always easy in a strange place.

  11. Ah - I wish I had you as a guide when I was there, Olive. Don't go under the bridge!