Day 7: Panama City Beach, Florida
Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Panama City Beach was not how I remembered it. When I drove in the previous evening it was teeming with people. The main drag down the beach was bumper to bumper traffic. People were walking up and down, on mopeds, and the best part... there were a few pickup trucks with chairs in the beds and kids sitting on them just cruising the strip.

The next morning when I woke up I was by the beach with my good friend Julie. If you want to shoot your MTV music video, or your Hollywood movie you go through her. I met her in the spring on an advertising job we shot there. I told her I would be back... and I was.

Julie lives with two dogs and a guy named Mike. They live in a mobile home in a subdivision away from the beach. I had my own room with a bed that had tiger striped sheets and mood lighting from a plexi table setup at the foot of the bed.

A letter from one of Mike's friends over in the Middle East I read while eating breakfast. He wrote about how they threw soccer balls to kids in the street from the convoys and what a mob scene it was as a result because children just appeared from the woodwork and swarmed the soldiers. They are not allowed to do that anymore as a safety precaution.

Julie made breakfast and then Bobby came over. A friend of Mike's who had just got out of prison for stealing an ATM machine (or attempting to steal said machine)... I can't remember which. He and Mike were going to get a gun appraised so they could sell it and he brought an ounce of marijuana with him also to sell.

It was a shock to wake up first thing and have this whole transaction unfold in front of me over breakfast. Julie confessed that he is not a bad person or a dangerous person he just make stupid decisions.

After the two went out back to do odd jobs around the house. Julie & I went for a drive around Panama City Beach and she took me to her friend's house on the bay.

One side was the ocean and the other side was all marsh and they would have alligators come up. The dogs had to be locked in so as not become gator food. We discussed how sometimes her household gets a little too redneck for her and she was happy to have my company for a change.

We stopped off and had a drink at Pineapple Willy's for old times sake and did a little tour of the area in Mike's red jeep with no doors. I've never been in a jeep with no doors. It's really fun and makes it really easy to take pictures.

Afterward, we drove home and setup shop poolside.

Michelle, Julie's friend who came over, is a pre-op transgendered person. She has brain cancer and has had many surgeries. Julie told me when they examined her the cancer was so advanced her brain looked like an orange and the outer layer was the cancer and you had to peel back the rind to get to her brain.

The rest of the day was spent eating lunch, taking pictures, and sitting by the pool. It was so unbearably hot I cannot even explain.

The deafening roar of tropical insects was maddening. The heat was so thick it's tangible. I felt as if I was being swallowed up. Why one would live in such a crazy place I don't know. The cockroaches alone are reason enough not to live in the South. They are on average three inches long and everywhere... some fly. Nasty little fuckers. By this point in the trip I had killed one with a brick at Zola's house and dodged a few in the bathroom at Julie's. Since then I have encountered plenty more.

I had definitely arrived in the South and for the first time felt far from home.

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