Panama City Beach

December 1987

A beach town without sun is no beach town at all.I had to take a vacation — it was either that or lose the days. That’s the only explanation. It was the week before Christmas. The day before I left, Pat, the quality control manager at my Yellow Pages proofreader job, gave me a heart-to-heart about joining her department. “Didn’t I want to amount to something?” she inquired, in her usual condescending tone. It was for the graveyard shift on a slacker job that already didn’t pay much. Nobody amounts to anything on the graveyard shift.

The Redneck Riviera: In December, the Florida panhandle is just lower Alabama. It was cold and it was gray. The beach was deserted. The water was freezing. The wind blew so hard I felt the sand sting. I tried to endure it. It’s Florida — tough it out.

The cheap motel was depressing. The beachfront was deserted, too. Most of the surf shops, fish restaurants, and bars were closed. Driving down the main drag, it looked like one of those Midwestern cities after the only factory had shut down.

Come spring break, there will be fat-bellied college girls and sunburnt frat boys. Eli will be playing at the Spinnaker. Two-for-one drinks, wet t-shirts, and Ray Bans. There will be sun.

A beach town without sun is no beach town at all.

So I drove north, up the slow, winding highway through small-town Alabama, Christmas decorations on lamp posts, holiday tunes on the radio. And I swore I wouldn’t wait for anyone anymore.

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