Florida - West Coast

by Lenny Hughes

We're Tallahassee-bound.

The west coast of Florida is nicer than the east from what I can see. Melbourne is a cluster of strip-malls, churches, ugly local businesses and multi-national fast-food joints. But the folks are nice. We were set up at the King Center of the Performing Arts, on the campus of Eastern Florida State College.

Our old high school friend Charlie Rock joined us and spent some quality time selling merch while I took a well-deserved break. Charlie says the state governor awhile back declared all the community colleges could traffic as full-on colleges, of which Eastern Florida was one.

We pulled out Friday afternoon and drove down to Miami for the show at the Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theater. Miami is the Los Angeles of the east-the only difference is that the sun rises over the ocean instead of setting. Still, I can't complain about the weather that breezy evening...temperature was 58 degrees when we pulled the Big Bus in front of the monster theater.

We took off right after dinner-on-the-bus, and sailed across the state to Sarasota, a rather nice town, on the high-end side. I walked over to an antiques-store row on Fruitville Road.

The show was at the Van Wezel arts center, a gigantic purple monster designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (natives call it "the Purple Cow." Apparently, Frank wasn't too partial to merch salesmen, since he built in two separate lobbies, so half the people never saw my fabulous display.

We had dinner with another high school pal Rick Redcay who migrated to Florida decades ago.

This morning we headed up the coast, which is easier on the eye than that Melbourne-to-Miami trek. Olive-green trees, Spanish moss, sprawling cow pastures and fewer developments and billboards than we saw in the east. Some of the billboards carry right-wing propaganda and religious threats ("If you die tonight, will it be heaven or hell?"). Strange to see you can still buy baby alligators for pets down here.

Bus Driver Frank took on fuel at a truck stop in Ocala, and we all loaded up on Dairy Queen (tour manager Ben Brewer, the ever-zany John Bowman, Lewis and me). Fine dining is a major component on The Road. Lew stopped to admire the stuffed Disney animals (no Uncle Scrooge), saying that was as "close as we got to Disney World."

Home to the snow-bound north tomorrow (God and US Airways willing).