Monday, May 28, 2012



JEREMY: The night before the big day I was chatting with my grandmother when she began to cry. She hugged me and told me that she didn't want me to go. I understood that she had no real friends and her husband pretty much ignored her unless he was bitching about bills or wanting to be fed. She and I had always been close and when I left she would be alone. Though I truly felt bad for her I couldn't pass up this opportunity. I told her that it wasn't like I was leaving forever. It would only be a year, maybe two tops, and I would write her every chance I got (though this last would turn out to be easier said than done. For a writer I've always had trouble composing letters).

I had a hard time falling asleep that night and when morning finally came and the Devine family's car arrived my grandmother was fussing over me and making Joe's parents promise to watch over me. They assured her they would and when I had finished cramming in the last trash bag full of belongings we were off.

As the hours passed and Joe and I grew tired of talking about our plans once we got to Florida our conversation drifted to the recently made Wastelands movie. Apparently Joe had shown the flick to his parents because his dad jumped right in with a comment along the lines of "How did you pull such a piece of crap out of your ass?" I tried to defend myself by explaining all of the problems I had making the movie and how I had originally envisioned it but the old man wasn't biting. He tore into me about the laughable dubbing of gunshots, of the wooden acting (here Joe bore the brunt of the verbal abuse) of the lousy editing and choice of music for the soundtrack. I was close to saying "Fuck you, let's see you do better" but I didn't feel like thumbing a ride to the Sunshine State so I kept my trap shut.

JOE: I remember a few weeks before we left for Florida Darren's mother told me to watch out for her son. She said that I was going to be the one who held things together. I wasn't sure exactly what she meant. I promised to do my best.  About the same time Jeremy's grandmother said what amounted to the same thing. They seemed to think I was the one who was going to make sure all the bills were paid in a timely manner and things of that nature. I just remember a sort of heavy weight there on my shoulders. I was still young and naive myself. I needed all the help I could get.
I also remember Bob, Jeremy's grandfather, grilling Jeremy and I about our bills and budgeting for living in Florida. He seemed more belligerent than helpful. It was like he wanted one of us to swing on him or something. We rolled our eyes at him and assured him that everything would turn out well.

My mother told me I should take things that reminded me of home. So I packed all my movies and favorite books (which was mostly a collection of Eddie Poe books) I threw all my clothes in a suitcase and that was that for me. I was ready. I was excited. I wanted to be in Florida yesterday. I was eager to start classes at Full Sail, but we had to get there first!

My mother and father would be taking us to Florida. My littlest sister, Jackie, was also along for the ride. We got to Jeremy's house sometime after sun-up. I helped Jeremy load up his things. As we were loading one of the trash bags burst and Jeremy's massive collection of porn almost spilled out over the driveway for all to see. Lucky for us, we caught it in the nick of time. The porn was safe!

JEREMY: That was a close call with the porn. I don't know what we would've done had Joe's mother spied it. I remember spending the remainder of the journey worried that she would come across it.

Hey, don't judge me! Four guys alone in a new state needs all the porn they can get.
JESSE: We were a day away from starting the big trip. My parents decided to take me out for one last night in the city of my birth. We didn't do anything particularly special, just ate a good meal and rented some movies and before we parted ways they gave me some advice that I followed to a T: Bills were to be paid before anything else, including food. My Mother told me she wanted me to call once I got down there. I told her it might take a day or two before we got the phone hooked up.

She wrote me a check for the hookup and told me she wanted to hear from me the day after I arrived. I promised her I would and that I would make them proud. My Dad said, jokingly, "I'm already proud. You're my last born but the first to get the hell out of my house."

I was supposed to go over to Darren's house at that day since that was when his brother, David, was scheduled to swing by. We were all supposed to stay the night at his place and leave the next morning. This sounded like a peach of an idea as we wouldn't have to pay for an extra motel room. Darren wouldn't have it though. Jeremy and Joe had left that morning. He wasn't going to be a whole day behind them. He wanted to beat them there so that he could claim the master bedroom. Darren's Mom agreed and I went along with their decision only because they were my ride.

My parents dropped me off and waited with us. David arrived with his pickup truck. Darren and I began to load all of our stuff into the truck bed. David was told that we were heading out after we finished. He looked beat and ready for sleep. David took Darren by the arm and said, "Okay, we can leave tonight but we find a motel once we're outside of Indiana."

Even though Darren wanted to ride down there non-stop he had no choice but to comply since David was driving. We finished loading and it was time for goodbyes. I hugged both my Mother and sister. I walked up to my Father who held out his hand. I shook it firmly and that was all that was needed. We were Handlons and shaking a man's hand was all the emotional contact we needed. I put my backpack in the backseat and hopped in. Darren hopped in on the opposite side of me and we were off.

It took us two hours to get to the state line. Once we came close to the border I looked back, half expecting to see my family still there, waving. I watched as Indiana became Ohio and it dawned on me that I was alone in a different state for the first time in my life. Indiana looked like a distant memory as we crossed that invisible line.


 After waking up early in my strange motel room I found myself wondering something: Jeremy and Joe had about a ten-hour head start on us. Where the hell were they in their travels? I looked over to see Darren in the bed next to me. His face was buried in the pillows and while I was considering the consequences of holding his head down and smothering him to death I heard a knock on the door connecting us to Darren's Mother and Brother's room. I opened the door to see David dressed and ready to face the world. He beckoned me into his room, stating that we needed to discuss the travel schedule.

I asked if Darren needed to be there. David assured me he did not. I walked into the room in a half-sleep daze. David offered me a chair, which I gladly plopped down into. Darren's Mother smiled and said, "Darren didn't tell you how we're going to do this, did he?"

I told her I didn't know a thing. Both she and David laughed. She then explained that we would get up at , drive all day, stopping only for gas and lunch. When the sun went down we would call it a day and find a motel.

I didn't like the plan but had to live with it. I asked them to compromise lunch. I said we should grab drive-thru. That way we really wouldn't have to stop. David agreed to this addition to the plan so long as no one needed a restroom break. We shook on it and I went back to my room to get ready.

Around Darren's Mother came into our room. I was brushing my teeth at the time and luckily I was fully dressed. She called to Darren, telling him to get up, that we would be leaving soon, and then left the room.

After about five minutes Darren murmured, "I'm awake." Dramatic pause, then: "Damn, that's fine acting."

I stood there, bewildered. This was in no way fine acting. I walked over and pushed him out of bed. He looked up at me groggily. I said, "We leave in fifteen minutes, fucker. Get ready."

An hour later we were on the road. Our travels went like this: Darren and I would chat, do some writing, or read books. I find writing in a car a waste of time. It is nearly impossible to write legibly in a bouncing car. My handwriting is bad enough as it is. Reading is even more futile. Reading in a moving car is good for one thing and one thing only, putting one to sleep. Yet I kept at both in the hopes of killing my boredom.

David would blast Vince Gill through the back speakers until our ears were fit to bleed. Darren grew so frustrated he started to yell at David. David, in response, put on Michael Bolton instead. Darren never complained again.

The bright spot on the trip was David. That guy is a born entertainer. He regaled us with stories and jokes, all of them raunchy. Darren was slightly embarrassed by this, as was his Mother. Of course, I couldn't help but trade dirty jokes with him. We both laughed our asses off. This was the most enjoyable part of our trip.

On the last leg of our great journey I mostly slept. I was tired of trying to write and read; so much so that by the end of our trip I took a week off from both. Then, in the middle of a wonderful lesbian-based dream, Darren woke me up and pointed at a sign. "We're in Florida."

This really didn't affect me the way either of us thought it would and I closed my eyes, eager to slip back into the land of nod. "Wake me up when we hit Winter Park," I muttered, already winking out again. However, instead of the lesbian-based fantasy I was hoping for my mind fixed instead on Joe and Jeremy. I wondered absently how they were faring on their portion of the trip. I could only hope they weren't as bored as I was.

JEREMY: After spending the night in a cheap hotel where Joe and I swam in a slime-laden pool and ate a complimentary breakfast of one small bag of Quaker oats and a rock-hard muffin we were on the road once more. To pass the time I tried to give Joe some pointers on how to draw the human body but gave up when our creative partnership produced a being akin to Frankenstein's monster.

When we reached Georgia I remember staring out at the lush plains and valleys and thinking, Wow, this is the state Doc Holliday was born in. It was beautiful country and for a minute it seemed as if I had been transported back to the nineteenth century, save for the cars, fast food joints, and modern buildings of course.
Joe's father was adamant that we stop at the Etowah Indian Mounds in Bartow County and I was more than happy to second the motion. The Etowah Indian Mounds is an archaeological site, which sits on the north shore of the Etowah River. There are three large mounds and three lesser ones in the park that at one time contained a hodgepodge of buried goods belonging to Native Americans of the Mississippian culture, circa 1000-1550 CE.
Joe and I climbed to the top of the largest hill and stared out at the surrounding countryside. I tried to imagine what the land must have looked like those many centuries ago and what it was like to be a member of this particular tribe. Afterwards, we hit the little museum/gift-shop on the premises, studied some of the artifacts unearthed from the mounds and then we were off again.
I wished we could have visited some more sites along the way but we had a schedule to keep and Joe and I were determined to reach our apartment ahead of Jesse and Dar so that we could claim the master bedroom (You see, we were going to have to live two to a room. Yeah, I know, bummer).
As it happened, we did make one last stop before reaching Florida and this was at the Kennesaw Mountain where in May of 1864 General Sherman and one-thousand of his men came to Georgia, hoping to destroy General Johnston’s army of fifty-thousand as well as lay waste to the vital railroads and factories.  At least, that’s what the plaque said.


JESSE: Darren nudged me back awake when we arrived in Winter Park. I shot up, wanting to see my new surroundings. I stared out the window, transfixed by this strange new land. I was confused and excited at the same time. David was lost and bitching at Darren, telling him for directions to the apartment. Of course, Darren didn't know and we ended up calling the complex's office. They were more than happy to direct us and we were soon on our way again.

It took us a half hour before we finally pulled into the Glen of Winter Park. We found our building number and saw Joe carrying his boxes inside. We watched, crestfallen, as he and Jeremy would run in and out for another box. Darren screamed, "Damn it, they got the master bedroom!"

I had no clue what Darren was complaining about. Of course, I knew one room was bigger than the other but who cared? None of us had enough stuff to fill a single room. I just smiled, glad to be here. It was a long journey and here we were. I sat back and let the pure, untainted feeling of happiness wash over me. David parked the car next to Joe's parents. In my excitement I jumped out of the car before he brought it to a complete stop. As much as I wanted to run into the apartment my stiff legs wouldn't let me, so I ended up limping as quickly as possible over to our little bachelors pad.
Joe passed me as he came out and, laughing, said, “What’s the first thing Jeremy does when he gets out of the car?  He starts chasing lizards!”

“Lizards?”  I said.

“Yeah,” Joe retorted.  “They’re all over the place.

I looked, and sure enough there were these tiny lizards running around all over the ground and along the walls of the apartment.  At that moment Jeremy stepped outside, nodded to me, spotted a lizard and took off after it.  I shook my head and stepped inside.

Believe it or not, this was my first time inside an apartment. I looked around, a bit mesmerized that this was my own place. Joe walked in and put his box in a corner. He just stood there with me, basking in the glow. When Jeremy and Darren walked in they did the same thing. We took a moment just to soak it all in. We'd finally made it. This was one of the biggest accomplishments of all our lives. We were now beholden to no one. We were out on our own.

JEREMY: I remember thinking at this point that I could get arrested if I wanted to and wouldn't have to put up with any bitching from my family for it.

Hey, we all celebrate our newfound independence in our own way.


JESSE: Darren and Joe's families walked around, checking out our place. Darren and I got the small room. The room was only an inch smaller than the other. The only real difference was that they had a bathroom in their room. Ours was at the other end of a small hallway across from our room. The situation didn't bother me at all. After unpacking my things I sat down in my room and began to picture where all my movie posters would go.

After a while Darren asked me to join them in the living room. I walked in and saw just the boys. The families were outside checking out the pool. I walked over to the kitchen counter with the rest of them. Joe said, "All right, we need to gather up the cash for the first month's rent. We all owe a hundred-and-fifty a piece."

This was no problem for me. I had brought down fifteen-hundred-dollars, which was what was left over after paying for my travels. I put my money on the counter. The other boys had their cash too. Although the first month's rent almost broke them. Joe collected up the cash and put it in his pocket.

JEREMY: I, not being the sharpest knife in the drawer in those days, had arrived in Florida with a mere three hundred dollars, confident that I would have a job within the week and thus able to pay rent, bills, groceries and whatever else came up. Poor, deluded me—but mostly poor.  Seventy-five or so of this went to purchasing a bike, as I needed some form of transportation since none of us owned a car.

JOE: Jeremy brought up another point. We needed groceries. I told Jesse and Dar that my parents were going to drive Jeremy and me up to the grocery and that they could come too if they wanted.

JESSE: Frankly, by this point another car ride sounded atrocious. I declined the offer and decided to make my way by foot. Joe then adjourned the meeting and we went back to unpacking our things.Darren came into our bedroom a little later to see me going through my Fango mags. He sat down across from me and said he would accompany me to the grocery store.

I just shrugged my shoulders and muttered “Whatever”, lost in an article on Sam Raimi. After a few minutes of Darren staring unblinkingly at me I got the hint that he wanted to go soon. David and Darren's Mother came into the room. They told Darren they were on their way back home. Darren left the room with them. I sat there and waited for them to exchange goodbyes. Darren reentered the room shortly thereafter and we were on our way.

We first went to K'mart, which was rather close to our house. Darren wanted to buy an air mattress for his bed. I too was looking for something to sleep on. I found a cushion chair with a drawing of Wolverine on it that you could unfold and make a cushion mat out of. It was only ten dollars and I didn't trust the air mats.

After a quick trip home we had a choice between two grocery stores within the vicinity. There was the slightly less glamorous Winn-Dixie and then there was Goodings, where all of the rich and pretentious people shopped. I decided on Winn-Dixie for one deciding factor: It had a video store right next door called 16,000 Videos. We dropped in there first to look at their selection. I remember walking in and seeing such an enormous display of videos (Dvd's were still a bit away) that I came in my pants three times. I walked carefully through the store, slobbering over their selections. I inquired about becoming a member but sadly I didn't have enough ID.
Before leaving I made sure to grab a bag of freshly made popcorn that was free to all customers (which I wasn’t). They had a machine like the ones at the circus that constantly made popcorn. Little did we know this would become a welcome treat throughout our days in Florida.

JEREMY: Thank God for 16,000 Videos. Whenever we were low on food, which was often, we would make the fifteen minute trek through ninety-degree heat to the store, grab a bag of popcorn, and chow down as we looked over the endless selection of movies. Ah, the days of loitering (oh wait, I still do that).

JESSE: We got all of our groceries and headed back home. On the way Darren asked me how much money I still had.

I looked at him and wondered what business it was of his. Yet he was my friend and was probably just curious. So I told him I had less than fifteen hundred.

He smiled weakly and said, "I have six-hundred left. My first thought was left o
ver from what?
He hadn't spent a dollar since we left his house back in Indianapolis. So how did he only have six hundred left? Frankly, it was none of my business, so I let the subject drop.

We got home and found Joe and Jeremy hanging out. Joe's family had also left for Indiana. We packed away our groceries and sat around. Jeremy had brought his TV/VCR combo from home. We turned on the TV and put in a tape of the Simpsons and let it play as we talked about our adventures getting here. Listening to Joe and Jeremy my first thought was that I wish I had rode with them. Our talk soon turned to our plans for Florida. I told them I would be getting up early so that I could go job searching. Jeremy agreed and we made plans to search together. It was getting late so I told the boys I was going to hit the sack.

After setting my alarm I laid down on my mat, forgoing any kind of covers (who knew Florida was so fucking hot?).  Staring at the ceiling I waited for sleep to take me. I had to admit I was a bundle of energy. I was excited to be on my own. Soon, however, exhaustion overcame me and I drifted off into a sound sleep.



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