Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I had several foreclosure properties to look at today. It is dreary and depressing work. We are in hard times, times when it is easy to be disgusted with events, the government, the country in general. However, after a right turn and finding $1.37 in loose change in the cup holder of my vehicle, I saw the day from a different and less disgusting point of view. The sign had a big red arrow, pointing in the direction of Dixie’s Dockside. Curiosity took hold of my steering wheel and led me to the dead end at the riverfront. Dixie’s is a bar for boaters and locals and anyone else who can find it.
I found it. I saw another sign on the building announcing $1 drafts, all day long, so I grubbed through the coins and found enough, plus a $.37 tip. I had no idea what to expect. I live in Florida, where some places can be a little like the old west. But I have put away those days, in exchange for a quick wit and ability to chat my way out of trouble. Dixie’s is located in Gibsonton, known as Gibtown or Carnietown.
It is a place well-known for its wiley inhabitants, who are mostly carnival owners and workers who travel around the county about nine months of the year, then come home and cause a ruckus the other three months. It is a place where justice is distributed in local fashion and then, if that does not settle the matter, by the sheriff and the county courts. But I always figure a man with a camera and a southern drawl will be welcomed and revered. Most of the seats and stools were empty,
but those who were there waved or nodded as I climbed the steps. That is always a good sign. I went inside, walked up to the bar and ordered one of the $1 beers, left my .37 and said, “That’s all I got, honey. Catch up with you next time.” She scowled at me and three roughnecks sitting at the bar each gave me the evil eye. I nodded and smiled at them. One guy says, “What you takin’ pitchers of?” I said, hoping to joke, “Well, at a place like this I figure it ain’t safe to leave a camera in the car, better to carry it on me.” They laughed like hell and another says, “I wouldn’t bet on that.” Then they laughed even harder. I went outside and took a seat across from an older couple, who I called Ma and Pa Kettle,
a biker, who I called Easy Rider and an 86 year old former biker, who I called The Kaiser. I always work the names in easy like, “You remind me of the old movies of Ma and Pa Kettle,” or, “Say, how are things on the road, Easy Rider?”
How are they going to respond to something like that, to a guy with a camera around his neck? I watch people, notice their eyes and body language.
I can tell when they are more curious than dangerous and these people were looking at my camera. In half an hour, and one beer, I gathered no names but lots of background. Ma and Pa have been married over 50 years. He was in the Air Force, served in Vietnam, was stationed in Guam and many other places. Easy Rider has been to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally where he was invited to stay with a family of strangers, where he witnessed a shootout between gangs, where he would like to go again. The Kaiser walked with agility and ease, drank with experience and ease, talked like a 50 year old and quit riding motorcycles a couple years ago. So, here is this out-of-the-way place, on the banks where the Alafia River is near its widest, where people shared information about their lives, their loves and their politics with a complete stranger. We all chatted and wished the best of luck to a couple of crab trappers and a couple other boats full of fishermen who strolled up the dock.
I have to consider whether these people were simply a bar full of tongue-wagging drunks, or just friendly, everyday folk. I think it was the latter. In fact, not one ordered a drink while I was there. Dixie’s is a place where seafarers, rednecks, bikers, rebels, carnies and others, including suburbanites like me, can gather and enjoy each other’s company, regardless of our obvious differences. Each of them made a comment, or comments, about the current ignorance in Washington, DC, and all the others agreed. These are not the privileged, wealthy or lobbied. They are ordinary folk, either working or retired, but each one concerned and worried about this country. I don't know about their religious beliefs, and don't give a damn about those beliefs. Nobody ran out to their car and strapped on a bomb vest or grabbed a weapon. In a way, I felt like I was in Boston, a couple centuries ago, huddled beneath the Liberty Tree, talking about how things are and how they should be. I felt like I was in the company of genuine Americans, people who are getting near to the end of the rope of patience and ready for the gong of the bell to strike their way. Damned if it wasn’t a good feeling, and it had nothing to do with that nice cold beer.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! this Steve... "Curiosity took hold of my steering wheel and led me to the dead end at..." and ....we should each be so lucky to have this experience...