- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)

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Deerfield Beach FL, May 16th 2002
My first sight of Florida, after getting picked up at the airport
by Ol Folkie Jim, was of a kid going fishing. Six-gallon drywall
bucket with tackle box on top, going by on his skateboard,
fishing rod in hand.

Deerfield Beach, where I have been staying so far most of
this trip, is forty or so miles north of Miami. Just to
the north of Deerfield is Boca Raton, and their
relationship is quite a study in contrasts. While
Deerfield Beach is evocative of Florida middle class
housing in the 1950s, Boca Raton is a treasury of opulent
stucco ostentation. Deerfield Beach is John D MacDonald,
Boca is William F. Buckley.
Boca Raton is more toney. So toney in fact that solar
panels are banned as being unsightly. Which makes sense,
given that the wealth invested in Boca is probably
dependent in large part upon the continued exploitation of
oil reserves as opposed to conservation.

Deerfield Beach is strongly Catholic for some reason...to
the extent that last night in the bar around the corner I
heard part of a bitter joke which seemed to be about
wrestling holds on a parochial school team, the punchline
of which was "the half nelson, the full nelson, and Father

Miami could not have done me better. Sweet original song
junkies...the importance of Florida in the Pantheon of
Places cannot be overstated. The gig at the Wallflower
Gallery got off to a shaky start: Bobby Ingram had had a
sudden job thrust upon him at Ransom Everglades School
where he works, Rachelle Coba's dad had to go to the
Emergency Room, so she couldn't be there either. So that
left my old friend John Brown and me to soldier on and
carry the show. John, who hosts an open mike at the Taurus
Steakhouse in the Grove on Mondays, is the genuine article
-- an old folkie from the Chicago daze basically, and he
has a way with swing tunes and proto-jazz that will make
you throw your hat in the creek. And he also has a silver
tongue, which makes for easy stage patter.

The show went splendidly I thought. It would have been
hard to seat another person in the room, audience attentive
and appreciative, and, best of all, no guitars were injured
in the production of the show.

As I had hoped, it was an evening of many reunions with old
friends...George Blackwell, master of classical guitar, and
his wife Lori met me on the steps of the Wallflower. Hugs
and backslaps. And of course, dear Beth, my adopted little
sister of a Babe since she was sixteen, so twenty-nine
years ago now. We couldn't stop smiling and laughing and
squeezing each other to make sure we were really there
After the show a Bee Ay Bee Ee comes up and says, "Do you
remember me?" "Every day," I reply, because she is a woman
I fell in love with on the first and only date once.
There is a song in there, that one night stands out in my
memory and in hers was probably just a one night stand.
Sic transit amore.
I head back to my comfortable but suddenly lonely bed in

We have two places to be: WLRN, the Miami NPR station at 1
pm and then Borders Books from 2 to 4. The LRN interview
goes off with only a couple of anduhs, an so Ol Folkie Jim
and I jet up Dixie Highway into the Grove. Good thing I
did the radio show, for other old friends/fans who would
otherwise not have known about the Borders gig come out of
the woodwork. It's a pretty good turnout, I sell a couple
of CDs at least and chat with old timers.

One of these old friends is Bobby Ingram, dyed-in-the-wool
folkie, now the head of the theatrical arts department at
Ransom Everglades School, with "his" own brand-new 900-seat
theater smack dab on top of the very ground on which once
stood the Bethlehem Asylum mansion. I can think of no more
fitting a use for the turf. OFJim has headed back to
Deerfield, and after Bobby takes me on a tour of the
theater's innards, I set out looking for trouble. But
trouble is hard to come by tonight, and so I go back up the
Coast myself.

We head out to John Brown's Jam in the Taurus Steakhouse in
the Grove. I do my little set, sell a few more CDs, and
then run into Ric O'Barry, who invites me to sleep on his
couch in South Miami.

There is an organization called The Dolphin Project whose
mission statement is simple: return as many "entertainment"
and "research" dolphins to the wild as possible. My old
Grove friend Ric O'Barry co-founded The Dolphin Project
with the folksing Fred Neil, and now is a leading advocate
for dolphin and other animal rights. Travels constantly,
works the phones and the computer, writes books that are
translated into six or seven languages, one of them
Ric trained the several dolphins who were used to make the
TV series "Flipper". Seven years he spent integrating
dolphins into human contact, and he has spent the last
thirty trying to return them to the wild. He is widely
regarded as the world's expert on aquatic mammals.

So in the morning at seven am I wake up to Ric on the phone
to Europe trying to engineer the safe return to France of a
dolphin name "Georges" who has gotten lost and ended up in
England under the name of "Randy ". While Ric haggles on
the telephone through the stuff to do this, I take a cup of
coffee and Ric's old Miguel Company six-string back to the
garden. I've noticed this trip that just being in South
Florida is enough to make me in private do my best Freddys,
and I can move around down there easily enough in this
early morning voice, but only manage to move about
one-eighth the amount of air that The Cat himself could.

About two o'clock Ric pours me into his sled an we go up
I95 to Lake Worth for my gig at The Bamboo Room.

-to be continued-