Welcome to Florida (or Georgia, take your pick), the voluntary petri-dish of America, where Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted to initiate an intriguing, if impulsive, experiment on the populace. The hypothesis is this (CDC guidelines being damned): can society return to normal without catastrophe? But this is no controlled experiment; not when the test subjects have been deprived of freedom of movement for 10 weeks and made depraved from want, made drunk as a cure to boredom, made paranoid from short-circuited nerves, made girthier from excessive snacking with teeth made sharper from constant gnawing at confines. We are your Florida/Georgia lab rats, now loosed back into the world on Memorial Day weekend. Welcome to Florida (or Georgia). Welcome to the Summer of Wait & See.
“It’s like a massive uncorking, right?” Gwayne Goshawks says as he coasts atop his skateboard beside my hurried gait. “Florida is like this shook-as-fuck bottle of champagne. Shook for months of quarantining without friends, without dating, stuck in house-arrest like a sex-perv with an ankle monitor. The bat-flu isn’t even gone, but Governor Ham-Fist pops the cork and slack-jaw grunts at his own money-shot as bubbles of chaotic fuckery spill all over his hands and spill on the floor and spill on the lady next to him clutching her pearl necklace. Man, I don’t know what even happens next. I mean, we’re deep into NBD AF territory, like a church pancake breakfast headline by a donkey-fucking demonstration.” Gwayne waves at one of our neighbors as he skates past, “Hi Mrs. Sanderson!”
“NBD: never-been-done; but fuck, man, donkey-doinking has been a main course at pancake breakfasts for centuries, back to Caligula, but this coronavirus is called ‘novel’ for a reason and this shit is uncharted territory, bro.” Gwayne says. “Hey, you remember the Enlightenment? Bunch of French dudes who said, ‘Voila, oui-oui, starting now, instead of letting our penises guide our actions, and fear of god write our laws, we shall rely on reason! C’est magnifique!’ Right? Those dudes were performing tricks NBD. Yeah, so, instead of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, the year 2020 is, like, the exact opposite. This is the ‘Age of the Dumpster Fire’, where it’s a buffet of god-fearing righteousness and dick-worshiping fuckery and fake-news and Tik-Tok dancing, table reservations for 8 billion.”
Gwayne has lost his damn mind. Though… I give his rant consideration as we continue our trek. Could his “Dumpster Fire” theory help explain a strange week of events occurring on the abandoned golf course neighboring our community? Last night, I was woken by a helicopter sweeping over the suburbs through the 2 o’clock hour. No passenger aircraft or hospital helicopter would circle endlessly like that (unless it had accidentally spilt its cargo). No, this must have been the county sheriff in our skies. Or… no! It couldn’t be the black helicopters showing up at UFO cattle mutilations as those fly in stealth. Come morning, I sought-out well-respected-man-about-town, John Chardonnay, who admitted he too had seen the helicopter and noted there was a spotlight searching into the darkness of the abandoned golf course. “Looking for wild dingoes, likely.” John suggested.
Wild dingoes? Really? I play devil’s advocate. I don’t think dingoes are available in an un-wild variety.
“Rabid corgies then.” John is a bit foggy from the prior night’s drunk. “Right. Fuck off.”
Last night’s helicopter was not the only police presence this week. I have seen three separate instances of a Sheriff’s Department SUV cruiser driving out onto Hawk Haven Country Club, as well as a separate incident when a tow-truck hauled a Seminole County squad car off the former golf course. What bedevilment was occurring on Hawk Haven’s forsaken eighteen holes? Why are police driving past the hauntingly condemned clubhouse, onto the cart path, beyond the dunes, searching the feral prairies overcome with weeds, ticks and chiggers? What are they looking for? Smuggled contraband dropped by a tree-top flyer? Have Satanists been sacrificing virgins and roasting s’mores in sand bunker bonfires? Or, as John Chardonnay alluded to, is there a pack of marauding wild dogs in these Florida hills?
Gwayne Goshawks and I walk past the private property signs on the outskirts of the former golf club and from here on out begins a dangerous game of minor infractions of law. The sun-scorched fairways and browned greens barely resemble what they once were. In the year since the course closed, the grounds have been overcome with weeds while grasses withered in what has been a dry spring. Following the cart path from the clubhouse, past the front range of mediocre hills, there is a fairway valley hidden from passersby of the outside world. It must be here the police begin their searches, as evidenced by the dirt gullies left by their tires. Not to mention the pint bottles of cheap schnapps tossed asunder. County Deputies are fairly easy to track.
We poke around in the sand, each of us with a stick, half-assed crime-scene detectives, Vic & Gwayne, the paranoid and the misfit. I ask him if the Sheriff might be looking for Fux the Rewilder, the anarcho-primitivist who was camping on the abandoned golf course earlier this year.
“Nah, they’re long-gone. The land-developers who own Hawk Haven got a goon-squad of hobo-kickers from the railyard to come out here and scare-off Fux’s crew.” Gwayne says, wistfully gazing east, likely thinking of Nadia. “Fux and them are huddled on the 13th floor of the I-4 Eyesore…” he refers to the infamous unoccupied and underdeveloped commercial building north of Orlando’s skyline. “They keep warm by barrel fire, drinking rain water, eating seagulls they trap with stale bread, all as Fux continues writing his anti-civilization manifesto. Or, y’know, this is what people are saying.”
If the Sheriff isn’t scouring the golf course for anarchists, what is he looking for?
“Sign of the times, man. These are the days of the coronavirus shit-show.” Gwayne says. “People need to get their freak-on. This place is desolate. Who the fuck do you think would come out here but folks who need to snack on a little strange… y’know? Think of all the folks bottled-up at home because coronavirus. Think about the Mr. Johnsons of the world, who would normally be stopping by The Organ Grinder’s Gentleman’s Club on his way home from work, but now the dude works from home and the original O.G. has been converted into a foodbank anyway. Or the Mrs. Johnsons out there, the bank executives and housewives who spend their lunchbreaks working-out with their private cross-fit trainer, Spiff, who specializes in doing chin-ups and squats between their legs. But there ain’t no gym in coronavirus and Spiff ain’t making house-calls. Dude, Vic, people are freakier than you think. People need to screw, but when they can’t find anywhere else to go they come here.”
Fair enough, I nod, looking at the landscape. This was once land rich with vegetation, but after cultivation as a golf course and decades of chemical treatments, before abandonment to the elements, this terra was likely as confused as I am on what the fuck purpose it was to serve.
“What purpose?” Gwayne asks before answering. “People come here to fuck total randos in the woods. Think about it. Mrs. Jones goes to the grocery store and spots Mr. Johnson in the produce department; he’s squeezing lemons like an Eskimo who’s never touched fruit. Mr. Johnson sees Mrs. Jones blowing dust off a zucchini. They make eye-contact. Their breathed-in facemasks are dripping with pheromones. In one corner, you got Mr. Johnson walking around with an extra carrot in his pocket and in the other corner Mrs. Jones looks like she’s been spending too much time in frozen foods. They approach each other and Mrs. Jones says ‘howdy-do?’ and Mr. Johnson puts up the ‘okay’ sign and Mrs. Jones, well, she sticks her finger through the ‘o’ part of ‘okay’. They’re gonna bone, but where are they gonna go? A bathroom stall? The alley out back? No, they agree to drive behind the forgotten dunes of the golf course where no one would spot them. They meet here. After a quick park & poke, they drive back to their own homes and their spouses are yelling because the milk is curdled, but damn do they feel like a million filthy dollars.”
Conceivable, I allow. But why would the Seminole County Sheriff be so concerned with coyotes and sex-fiend super-spreaders (of coronavirus or otherwise) he would send his air-patrol to chase after a pair of hypothetical, pale-assed naked, suburbanites practicing infidelities in a cloud of mosquitos. It’s absurd.
“Yeah, dude. Definitely absurd, but let the people screw is all I’m saying.” Gwayne says. “Sheriff ain’t gonna get re-elected cock-blocking with his fancy helicopter.”
Mmhmm, I agree. I check the bottoms of my shoes for strange residues.
“But you think this shit’s bananas?” Gwayne asks. “Whatever is happening in these woods, at least the pervs had the good sense to do it here away from society. But starting right about now, the flood gates are open and all that pent-up sexual energy of the repressed is going to be released on a holiday weekend. You want to see some freaky shit? I’ve got an invite to a party in Kissimmee; it’s for all us furloughed theme park workers. We’re supposed to come dressed in-character. Imagine all the theme parks of Central Florida and each of the juggling rabbits and knife-throwing pandas and Jonah-eating whales and the Grimm’s Brother fairytale rip-off princess and the scare-actors in zombie makeup: they’re all present in the most fucked-up casserole orgy you’ve ever seen. It’s like taking conventions of furries and cosplayers, which happens all the time in Orlando, then giving them MDMA refreshment. Dude, Vic, have you ever wanted to be in a three-way with a pair of cartoon princesses? Bring enough cocaine and all your dreams will come true.”
Fresh out, I shrug. I’ll pass.
“Hard pass or soft pass? Okay, next year then. But hey, bro, don’t get me wrong.” Gwayne insists. “I’m social distancing. I’m a non-combatant, like an observer for the UN. And I’m skipping the best party of the weekend, the ‘Over 70s Dance Party’ up in Deland. I went last year thinking it was a disco thing, and maybe I shouldn’t have done blow before I found out it was a senior-citizen shindig, but those old ladies could dance! And they said they ain’t never seen a white boy move like me. But not this year, not with Covid, and all, they’ll be no dancing for this dude.
“But I may go up to Palatka for the Krab Festival. They rescheduled the official Blue Crab Festival for Labor Day, so this is just the fake Krab Festival, but there’s sure-as-shit going to be a million drunk-hillbillies in boats off the St Johns River. If you ever wanted to invade Cuba, show-up on Saturday around 2 pm before people start passing-out, promise them each a suitcase of piss beer, yell something redneck, like, ‘the South shall rise again’ or ‘I don’t care if it sounds wrong, but my cousin has the finest tits here’ and then shoot a gun in the air and you’ll have a whole flotilla of fired-up hillbillies. When you show-up, Havana is gonna think it’s the great-great-grandbabies of Teddy Roosevelt! Havana is yours.
“But enough about me. What you got going this weekend, Vic?”
I think I’m going to lay low for about two weeks. If by mid-June, half of Florida is not dead from Covid-19 then I think we’re going to be alright. Until then I am not taking any chances.
He walks off and I am left contemplating the world when my phone buzzes; Josefina picked up tacos. Nice.