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

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Tampa Florida, May 21, 2002
My sister Donna and bro-in-law Paul, high school
sweethearts still together, came and picked me up in
Deerfield Beach. I said goodbye to my stalwart friend Ol
Folkie Jim for the time being until I see him at the Folk
Festival in White Springs this weekend coming up.

I hung out with my sis and Paul for a day, doing exactly
what I had planned: caught a couple of bream, unhooked
them with minimal damage and threw them back. Looked at
The very large alligator who had been the scourge of the
canal and getting bigger all the time when I was here two
years ago has gone...back to Lake Okeechobee when they
opened the gates in response to the current drought in the
Glades. I was some disappointed that no alligator was

But then, just at dusk I look out onto the canal, a little
choppy with the evening breeze, and I see a slight anomaly
in the surface of the water, and it turns out to be the
eyes and snout of another gator, smaller but nonetheless
just as menacing as my old friend Albert had been. And
he's looking at me thinking no doubt ah, here's dinner.

I call Paul and he comes out and leans on the fence behind
where I am sitting on the dock. We stand an sir
respectively, watching the gator watching me, and discuss
the millions of years this species has been on the planet.
Evolution apparently rolled a seven on the first try in
this instance, as there seems to have been no upgrades on
this model for quite some time.

They have very small brains, Paul tells me quietly. He
goes on, that's probably why they're hard to kill with a
headshot. But they can stay under water for forty-five
minutes at a time, have remarkable senses of smell and
hearing. Just about perfect in every way for their gig.

This whole time the gator has been out in the canal not ten
feet from where I am sitting there on the dock. But I've
gotten so involved in the concept of "alligator" in general
that I've forgotten that the genuine article is still out
there, still contemplating roast Panama.

I stand up to stretch. There is an explosion of water as
the gator, startled by my movement, dives and heads to the
other side of the canal. I am startled too, so that I sit
quickly back down in my chair. Paul laughs so hard at this
impromptu slapstick that tears are flowing. Wow, I'd
forgotten he was there, I say. He'd forgotten you, too,
til you moved, says Paul, wiping tears from his eyes.

Next day Paul drives me the rest of the way across the
state to Bradenton, where I have a gig Saturday and Sunday
at the Fogartyville Cafe. After some scouting around we
find a decent bar in old downtwon Bradenton called the Lost
Kangaroo and have a parting drink. Then Paul heads back to

Fogartyville Cafe turns out to be not quite ready for prime
time; they're just getting it together, don't even have a
license yet, so every performance is presented basically as
a private party. The PA sucks, the beer cooler has a nasty
knack of turning on its 80 decibel motor exactly in the
middle of the most poignant parts of the most poignant

For me, though, all this is greatly relieved by the news
that Fogartyville Cafe was, once upon a time, a Greyhound
Bus Station. In other words, a kind of soulful presence
lingers in the ambience, redolent of all those lost souls
on lost highways. There is also, in the immediate
surrounds of this not-quite-a-venue-yet, a substantial and
growing artists' community, many of whom grace my show
both nights with their presence, buy a few CDs and Disco
Still Sucks soulful trip T-shirts, respond gratifyingly to
the tunes.

The first night, a couple of nephews and their old ladies
and wives and friends they have dragged along from St
Petersburg turn up to "go see Uncle Danny". I am grateful
for their presence, but it is a little unsettling to to
have an audience wherein the only hecklers are blood
relatives, and these particular two are always in such
competition with each other about anything that it is nigh
impossible to get them to shut up. I think about ratting
these thirty-something rednecks out to their respective
moms. I mention something about taking the family out of
West Virginia but not being able to take West Virginia out
of the family. Which is a mistake, as, during the break,
they corner Dave, the Fogartyville owner, in the parking
lot to loudly insist that they are NOT from West Virginia,
but Florida.
When Dave later repeats this to me, I say, So they were
saying they're not West Virginia rednecks, they're Florida
rednecks? Basically, yes, he replies, laughing. But they
are all your basic salt of the earth.
Sunday morning Dave drives me to Tampa for a brief
interview at WMNF, a listener-supported and widely tuned in
alternative radio station, so that I can plug my Sunday
night gig at Fogartyville and my Tuesday night show at
Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa.

We go back to Bradenton and at four pm, Dave's partner
Arline shows up, just back from a Sierra Club powwow on the
East Coast. Dave had cautioned me, unnecessarily I might
add, the night before that Arline was "my girlfriend, by
the way." Now I see why he went to such lengths, as Arline
is unquestionable one of Creation's greatest gifts to Ol
Panama. That is, of course, and absolute BeeAyBeeEe. I
will wax no more, suffice it to say that I'd play the joint
with no PA whatsoever. But not for free, of course.

Also turning up to see the show at Fogartyville Cafe the
second night is my next boss on this tour, Gloria Holloway,
known to all as the folkie's friend. She will be
presenting my show at Skipper's Smokehouse.

I finish my show and say goodbye to my new Bradenton
friends Karen and Barbara. Gloria drives me to Tampa, puts
me up and puts up with me for the night.

Next morning Gloria and I have breakfast and I place a call
to one of the real reasons I wanted to make the trip: my
old music biz compadre and general outlaw Ronny Elliott,
with who I have charted a parallel if not always-in-contact
musical course the last thirty years.
Ronny says Hey Man Great to hear from you, I've been
looking forward to it, come on over.
So we do.

-to be continued-