Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Florida is the weirdest state in the union, Pt 1:

We're cruising east on 60, just west of Yeehaw Junction. The temperature wobbles on the edge of three digits and our 4/60 air conditioning--4 windows down going 60 miles per hour--serves only to sweep the scalding air past my face, singeing my eyebrows. Brad is in the driver's seat of his dented rust bucket named Sheila, his shoulder length hair waving wildly in the breeze. His left leg, bored, shifts around restlessly in the well under the steering wheel. I am in the passenger seat, bare legs folded on the dashboard, one foot with each toenail painted a different color stuck out the window. My hair, long and bleached blonde, is piled untidily on top of my hair and secured with a pair of chopsticks found in the back seat. The sun bounces off the fair skin of my shoulders and nose, and I am slowly roasting.
The car approaches a handwritten sign on the right shoulder of the road. "Good Food. Next Right." The words are written in black permanent marker and underlined with red. I look at Brad, and he looks at me. We shrug, and almost simultaneously say "Why the hell not?"
The next right turns out to be a barely perceptible slightly rutted road hidden under crab grass. After a good deal of bumping and oh shitting we approach the man. Moments before stopping, we hear a thunk at the front of the car. "Hope that wasn't his kid," says Brad. We step out of the car, my bare foot landing squarely on a mole cricket, squishing it into my arch and up as far as my toes. "Awww, sonofabitch!" I hop up and down, grossed out. "What?" Brad moves around the front of the car towards me. "We can't stop here, it's mole cricket country," I answer, showing him the bottom of my foot. "Oooh, you got a juicy one." We walk around the back of the car and down the lane a few feet until we come across the curled up armadillo that was the source of the thunk. "I hope that's not the good food, is all I have to say."
For the record, I'm not a big fan of armadillo meat. It's stringy and musky in exactly the way you would expect something that my father always called a 'rodent on the half shell' to be.
The man sits on a folding chair, a pile of watermelons a yard or two closer to us. Directly in front of him sits a folding table with two crock pots on it. The crock pots look just like the one my stepmother has at home, with a blue pattern of roosters and things and one wobbly leg. The sign in from the of left-hand one says "Collard greens $2." The right-hand one says "Boiled peanuts $2." Two dollars for what? A peanut? A green? A crockpot?
"How y'all today?" His voice is strangely high pitched and we're taken aback.
"Not so bad. Yourself?"
"Doin' good. Hotter than a Calcutta whorehouse today, though."
I don't know how to answer this, and from the look of Brad neither does he. We haven't ever been to a Calcutta whorehouse, or even -near- one. We move towards the watermelons to confer. "Where is his car?" Brad asks. I look around and, sure enough, no vehicle of any kind. "This dude obviously fell out of the sky." "So, does he leave when the crock pots are empty? Does he have more hidden in the grass?" "It's probably all magic." "Right-o. I'll take the collared greens, you take the peanuts."
We make our requests and from behind the crock pots he produces plastic cups. He fills them expertly, no spillage, and we give him our money. But we wait until we get back into the car and on the highway to try them, just in case none of it was real and it disappears once we leave. We want proof. I crack a peanut and Brad dips his fingers into the greens and pulls out a pinch, and then we switch.
The most astonishing part is that, indeed, it is good food.

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