I reckoned my next/best hope was Milwaukee. (And, if that isn’t the textbook definition of a dilemma I don’t know what is.) But, I figured it was a big enough city where I could be anonymous and find a job – maybe even an acting job. If Milwaukee didn’t work out, I’d ride the rails. In yet another LSD-addled fantasy, I hallucinated my life as a rugged, soulful vagabond – Paul Muni in I Am A Fugitive from A Chain Gang, but with music by Woody Guthrie. I might even change my name to Woody or Slim and I would wear nothing but denim accented with red bandanas. I’d learn harmonica and my Mulligan Stew would be legendary in hobo jungles from Bangor to Baja.
Yeah, just try and find me, Uncle Sam. So, one morning after Steve left for work, I left him a note. Then I grabbed my few rags, grabbed a Greyhound and made for Milwaukee aka “Beertown.”
Dilemma: Milwaukee was Sheboygan, only larger and less welcoming. Worse – it reeked of roasting hops, beer and beer vomit. I hated beer. I hated beer vomit. And, “Beertown” hated me.
1988. West Palm Beach, Florida – a hateful shithole where the theater has imprisoned me and the rest of the cast in a retirement home hi-rise that overlooks the Greyhound Bus station. We are in sub-tropical Florida but our rooms have no air-conditioning. So, to avoid heat prostration, we are forced to keep our windows open and eat bus-exhaust 24/7. Meanwhile, our fellow residents sit staring into space while drooling prune juice down their T-shirts that proclaim “Sexy Grandma” and “Over What Hill?”
West Palm. Did I mention it’s a hateful shithole populated by hateful rednecks, hateful New York Jews and hateful Haitian junkies? Did I mention the hateful Haitian junkies have AIDS? I’m warned before embarking on a drive across the Everglades not to stop in Belle Glade – the Haitian capital of Florida and the AIDS and felony capital of America.
West Palm Beach is, not to put too fine a point on it, a hateful shithole. And, a hateful shithole drowning in a drug-fueled crime wave. Make that crime tsunami. Muggings and burglaries do abound. So, to protect its vulnerable residents, the retirement home hi-rise hires Rottweiler’s to patrol its halls after 10 PM. One Rottweiler per floor.