This is the final installment of Pat Jordan's Spring Break adventure, in which our correspondent attends a wet t-shirt contest and finds America in a state of permanent adolescence and mild arousal. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Part 3: USA Today? What's that? ... A day without reading ... The helicopter blonde and the ritual hefting of the ta-tas ... Breakfast and shit ... Anomie at the wet t-shirt contest ... "I love you, Asian girl!" ... A fabulous fucking wedding, and a farewell to Daytona
* * *
I woke up the next morning, the bright sun shining through my sliding glass doors leading out to the balcony. I went to open the glass doors, but they were locked. I called room service to ask them to bring up a pot of coffee. "We don't have room service," a voice said, so I grabbed my man bag and went out into the hallway to the elevator. The elevator door opened and I got in and pushed the lobby button. On the floor beside me was a dirty wet towel, a pair of men's underwear, and a piece of paper ripped in half. I leaned over to see what the paper was: a condom wrapper. Great!
At the lobby, I went to the reception desk and asked where the lobby coffee pot was. "We don't have coffee for guests," the kid behind the counter said. "You have to buy it in the restaurant." I said: "You're kidding. Every hotel has free coffee in the morning." He shrugged. I said, "Well, then give me a USA Today." He said, "What's that?" I said, "A newspaper — every hotel gives them away." He shrugged again. "We don't have newspapers," he said. Of course not, I thought. These kids don't fucking read, and even if they did, the hotel didn't want them spending their time reading newspapers and debating Obama's health-care plan. They wanted the kids to eat and drink mindlessly.
I went outside and crossed the street to a gas station at 7 a.m. to get a coffee and a newspaper. The gas station was closed. I went back across the street and almost stepped on a dead seagull that had been squashed by a car.
I went to the hotel coffee shop and bought a coffee for $3.75 and sat down at an outdoor table in the lounge that looked down over the swimming pool. I lit my cigar, sipped my coffee, and began writing in my notebook. When I looked up after a few minutes I saw that my table was a mess of spilled beer and cigarette butts. All the tables were filthy, the floor was littered with wet towels and crushed beer cans. An older black man was beginning to clean up the lounge. I said, "Why don't you just wait till the kids leave, then blow it all up with a hand grenade and start all over." He said, "That's what I'd like to do."
I went back to my notebook in the early morning silence. A man came up from the pool with volleyballs and buckets, toys to amuse the kids around the pool. It dawned on me that this hotel was like a college dormitory, only without adult supervision. In fact, the adults at the hotel — people like Jimbo, the events coordinator — encouraged the kids' insane behavior to keep them occupied, and drinking.
"Fuck you, man!" came a voice behind me. Three kids and a little helicopter chick in a bikini came through the lounge. They were already drinking beer. One of them saw me writing and said: "Hey man, give this hotel a lousy fucking review. Who ya writing for?" I told him. He said he'd never heard of Gawker or Deadspin. He said he didn't know what an online magazine was. Jesus! I'm a fucking troglodyte, at 68, charging headfirst into the 19th century, as Susie says, still using an old typewriter, yellow second sheets, pencils, glue, scissors, and I am a veritable computer genius compared to these kids.
It was getting warm now, so I went outside to a table closer to the ocean that looked down over the pool. I was wearing my threadbare Hawaiian shirt with the pink flamingos, my OP shorts, and Publix flip-flops. I stretched out to get some color. The low-lying sun glistened over the water, sending a funnel of light up to the shore. There were a few scraggly-ass palm trees close to the pool and big, heavy-breasted gulls swooping low over the ocean. I wondered if they were related to the roadkill on the street. Smaller birds swooped down onto my table and began to nibble crumbs left over from yesterday's food. Jeez, I wish I had something to read. Even the Abbeville Press and Banner would do, with Henry Green's deadpan columns. Then I thought, hell with it! I'll be like them. I'll spend the first day of my life reading NOTHING! Like an alcoholic going cold turkey. Just empty out the bottle in the sink. I finished my coffee and was about to pick it up and throw it in the garbage pail. Fuck that! I'll just leave it here. Like them.
The three boys and the helicopter chick were drinking beer by the pool. She had long dirty blonde hair, big tits, and a big beer belly hanging over her bikini. Her left arm was covered with a tattoo from her shoulder to her wrist. She had a huge butterfly tattoo that covered both cheeks of her ass. She saw me looking down at her and called out, "Hey, man, you having a good time?" I smiled. She smiled back and hefted her tits at me with both hands. One day those titties won't hide the fact that she's become a fat woman settled into a despairing adulthood. Still, she'll have her tats. All the co-eds had tats all over their bodies, as if Trash Chic was in on campus. It used to be that only self-respecting strippers had tats, and even those were discreet.
One of the boys with her said, "If I don't get some fucking sun today I'm gonna be pissed."
The blonde helicopter chick said: "Yeah, but later. We should, ya know, go eat some breakfast and shit." Lovely. They left the pool and walked toward the coffee shop. Someone turned on loud rap music over the loudspeakers around the pool. The noise was too much for me. I needed quiet, so I decided to go back to my room. Before I did, I saw a fat guy with a droopy walrus mustache and a Molly Brown's strip club t-shirt, standing off to my left staring out at the sun. I went over to him and struck up a conversation. He was pushing 50, a French Canadian, and he told me he had been to Spring Break in Daytona 14 times. "I take bus Quebec," he said, "take four days. It minus-60 degrees when I leave. I stay in hotel with buddies, four in room." He smiled, a sad, sweet smile. "See wet t-shirt contest today," he said. I said, "I'll see you there." He said: "TV camera film contest. Maybe you get on TV." I said, "Yeah, that's just what I need — my wife to see me on TV, hugging two co-eds with their nipples jutting through their wet t-shirts." I went to the elevator in the lobby. I got off on my floor and passed three boys and a girl entering their room. When I got to my door, I heard the girl scream, "Jesus, there's shit all over the floor!"
I went into the room and called Susie. "How's it going?" she said. I told her about the helicopter blonde and the girl entering the room. "I guess 'shit' is hyperbole for these kids," I said. "I mean, the blonde didn't mean, ‘Eat breakfast and then shit.' She meant, ‘Eat breakfast and stuff.'" Susie listened to my insane raving without saying a word. Finally, I said, "And what are you gonna do today?" She said, "I'm going to the grocery store to buy food and shit."
I lay down on my bed and watched CNN for awhile. Then at 10 a.m. I called A.J. I woke him up again. I growled at A.J., "I'm up since 6 a.m. working and you're trying to sleep till noon!" He mumbled something about "a long night."
I went down to the pool at 11 a.m. and sat at my table looking down over the pool, the kids dragging themselves to lounge chairs and plopping down after a long night of drinking. The pool area was crowded with kids catching some rays, but strangely quiet. I checked out the girls — not a decent body among them, all pretty faces and fat bellies and asses and thighs. I longed for Fort Lauderdale beach and its local strippers. I sat there in the sun, catching some rays, and remembered how boring and mindless it always was, catching rays.
I heard a girl's shriek and saw the helicopter chick come running out of the hotel and, without pausing a beat, leap high into the air and splash into the pool, soaking the kids around the pool, who looked up annoyed. But she didn't care. She was here to have fun. She got out of the pool and then screamed and leaped in again and again and again. Finally, she tired of her game, and stood on the lip of the pool, shaking her ass, bending over, and hefting her tits. She stood up with a bottle in each hand, one Coke, one vodka, and swigged from each in turn. She put them on the lip of the pool when one of the guys she was with tossed her a football. He tossed it just short enough so that she had to dive into the water to try and catch it in the air. She played catch like this, screaming at each dive, for the next 20 minutes, working so hard to be noticed, with her inexhaustible energy, that, at 68, I envied her. Jesus, I was exhausted just watching her have so much fun. The French-Canadian guy was watching her too from a table down from mine. He had a small smile on his face, as close as he'll ever get to having fun with that girl. He saw me, smiled, and waved. "Wet t-shirt contest one o'clock," he said. I nodded.
I called Susie to tell her about the helicopter chick, and her inexhaustible energy. Susie said, "When she jumps into the pool, do her tits like flop and shit?"
* * *
Later in the afternoon, after they'd roused themselves from last night's stupor, the kids trudged across the parking lot to a fancy hotel and resort where Jimbo was staging the wet t-shirt contest around an Olympic-sized pool. I trudged after them.
There were almost a thousand kids around the pool, and a dozen or so security guys in their late 30s, and me, 30 years older than anyone else there. I felt like such a fool, a dirty old man hanging around kids, but what the hell, I was getting paid, right? I hope. I thought of calling A.J. to remind him of our contract, but I figured he was probably still sleeping, and I didn't want his mother to wake him.
I sat at a table near the bar and eyeballed the kids. I had never seen so many fat girls, covered in tats, in bikinis, who thought they were so hot, flaunting bodies that should have been hidden in fucking burkas. Anomie. A distorted view of oneself in relation to reality. These kids all had a sense of entitlement, but for what? Their youth? That was it? They were young and others weren't. They better enjoy it while they can because it won't last. Or maybe it does last these days. Adolescence on into their thirties. The Adolescencing (is that a word?) of America.
The kids were drinking beer and Jell-O shots and cheering on their college classmates in the swimming races. Yeah, Cornhuskers! A group of girls were drinking beer from a long garden hose (a beer bong?), one girl tantalizing all the cheering boys by trying to deep-throat the hose, choking on it, spluttering, spitting out beer all over the other girls. A boy shouted out, "You didn't have that much trouble swallowing it last night!" His buddies whooped and laughed at that, until the girl, embarrassed and pissed off now, shouted back, "Yeah, well, this thing is longer than 3 inches," and now the girls began to laugh and the boys got red-faced.
At 4 p.m., after the belly-flop contest — won, as always by a fat kid from the University of Vermont, his prize a $25 bar tab — the emcee announced the wet t-shirt contest. A group of girls lined up on the edge of the pool close to the beach; beyond, the ocean and the bright sunlight. I went to the other edge of the pool facing the girls and took out my camera. I was jammed in by a crowd of guys already whooping and yelling out, "Show your tits!" One kid had on a t-shirt that read across the back, "How can I miss you if you won't go away." Behind us, I saw three guys, standing together, looking insouciantly bored, pretty-boy California blonds with tousled hair, perfect tans, not a patch of body hair, and, I swear, lip gloss on their petulant lips. They were prettier than any of the girls at the pool, and they knew it, which is why they were so obviously showing their boredom toward the wet t-shirt contest.
A big roar from the crowd went up, and the first girl, a zaftig blonde with huge water-wing tits and a belly and ass to match, stepped up on the lip of the pool. She wore a flimsy t-shirt. A black guy with dreads threw a bucket of water on her t-shirt, and she began the ritual hefting of her ta-tas, shaking her ass, turning her ass to the crowd, and bending over. The emcee announced the next contestant, but the zaftig blonde wouldn't leave the stage, hamming it up until the two security guards grabbed her arms and pulled her away.
The next contestant was a little helicopter Asian chick who'd been spending the last few minutes slapping her nipples with her palms, as if they'd been bad, but now they were nice and distended as she stepped up onto the lip of the pool, and the black guy, who couldn't have looked more bored, threw water on her t-shirt so that her nipples looked as if they were trying to pop out of her t-shirt like palmetto bugs. Her nipples brought down the house, the boys shouting, "I love you, Asian girl!" and, "Oh, my gawd, Asian girl!" and, of course, "Show your tits!" — all the guys picking up the rhythmic chant, "Show your tits! Show your tits! Show your tits!" but she didn't.
After the Asian chick won the contest, to unanimous applause, I squeezed through the crowd to walk back to my hotel. I passed a black hip-hop kid wearing two Yankees baseball caps, one bill facing front, one facing back, like a double-billed duck, so cool in the Bronx, but here, among all these brainless white-breads he must have felt foolish, which was why he walked with his eyes lowered, slinking through the crowd.
Then I passed the French-Canadian guy and waved to him but he did not notice me; he was already drunk, his eyes half-lidded as he staggered, lurching through the crowd, like me, unnoticed. I wonder if he had had a good time or was just frustrated.
* * *
When I got to the lobby there were a hundred kids sitting on their luggage, waiting to check in. One kid told me they'd been waiting for hours. They would be coming in in droves, every Sunday, and leaving a week later for the rest of March and part of April, until Easter.
I got in my elevator with three kids from the Bronx and pushed my eighth-floor button. The elevator stopped at the fourth floor and a pretty girl dressed in a gown got in. One of the boys said to her, "Why so dressed up?" She said, "I'm going to a wedding." He said, "Where?" She said, "In the hotel." The kid said, "There's a wedding in the hotel? During Spring Break? Jeez, you gotta have balls."
When the girl got off at the sixth floor, the kid grinned at her and said, "Have a fabulous fucking wedding, honey."
When I got to my room, I called Susie and told her I'd be coming home soon. She said: "Hurry up, baby. I missed you and shit."
Pat Jordan has been a freelance writer for over 40 years. He is the author of A False Spring, and his work has been anthologized in The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan. Visit him at PatJordanStories.com.