Let me tell you -- being a part of the advance party for the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is tough! My lovely wife, Lisa, and I decided to head south Wednesday morning. It takes me at least two days to recover from such a long drive these days.
We'd never been in Jacksonville on the Wednesday before the Georgia-Florida Game, so we decided to walk over to The Landing to see what was happening. My friend, who loaned me his apartment for the week, assured me that it was in easy walking distance.
As I walked over the tall baby-blue bridge that spans the St. Johns River I was reminded of two things. "Easy walking distance" is a relative term and I suppose everywhere is within walking distance if you have plenty of time.
The last time I visited The Landing was on Halloween night, four years ago. You couldn't stir them with a stick that night. It wasn't like that Wednesday. The place was dead. We walked the entire length of the place and didn't encounter a single Gator chomp. There were four old boys wearing red T-shirts and Georgia baseball caps sitting in that restaurant that has the really good wings and the girls wear orange shorts. I wanted to join them for dinner but Lisa would have none of that. Instead she made me ride a water taxi across the river to a place called the River City Brewing Company.
I could have told her that was no place for two people who don't drink beer. I paid $9 for a salad that would have been absolutely delicious, if I had been a rabbit. It had a ton of carrots and those funky greens that people eat to seem sophisticated, even though they'd really rather have plain old iceberg lettuce and a quartered tomato. A few coconut shrimp set me back another nine bucks, a cup of cold grits would have cost $3.95 but the server took those off the menu when he realized I couldn't dig into them without bending my fork.
We sat on the deck, though, and the view of the sun setting over the river was nice. Plus, our server was very friendly -- slow, but very friendly. As we were waiting for our food, Lisa decided to go powder her nose. When she got back she remarked on how helpful all the men in the place seemed to be. She said that three of them offered to buy her drinks and two tried to escort her to the ladies room.
That seemed a little suspicious to me, so I decided to take a walk back to the restroom myself. Lisa was right. The people were helpful. One 60-year-old lady in a short, tight dress that I am sure was made for a 20-year-old, offered to teach me the foxtrot and a couple of others asked if I would like to sit down and buy them a drink -- or dinner.
When I got back to our table there were two strange women sitting with Lisa. I introduced myself and learned that one was Pam and the other was Sue. I assumed they had already met Lisa, since they were sitting with her, and told them I was her husband. They looked rather shocked and Pam turned to Lisa and said, "You brought your husband to this event?"
"I didn't realize this was an event," was Lisa's response. Then I started looking around at the cast of characters that had assembled at the RCBC on Georgia-Florida eve. I saw caricatures of every decade since I graduated from high school. There were 50-year-old (and older) women with big hair and that '70s look, and there were men older than me with Aloha shirts on that were probably sewn before Hawaii joined the Union. There were rhinestone cowboys with slicked back hair and polished boots and I swear, one man had on a powder blue leisure suit and another had on a Members Only jacket. I saw more bad hairpieces than I had seen since I spoke at the used car salesman convention in Dothan last spring. I'll add that there was a lot less to many of the women than met the eye and leave it at that.
Never known for my tact, I asked Pam and Sue if this was an early Halloween party. Pam looked hurt. Sue laughed and told me that this was a Match.com meeting. Pam responded to the bewildered look on my face by explaining that Match.com is an online dating site. She showed me her phone, on which she had downloaded about a hundred pictures. "These are the people who are supposed to be here," she explained. "We have talked to some of them online and are hoping to meet a few in person tonight."
"Or at least one good 'un," Sue said, and then amended, "That's one apiece."
Lisa and I quickly paid our check and got out of there.
These are strange times we're living in, and they get stranger every day. As long as the world is populated by human beings, I will never be at a loss for something to write about.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.