On wheels

Once upon a time, on a vacation …26 years ago? Sounds about right… I took a pedicab. It was in Key West, in September. Note to all: Never visit Key West in September. Not only is it hurricane season, it is hot like you wouldn’t believe. I mean: LIKE YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE. It was a strange vacation in lots of ways, but the keyword most firmly attached to that week is: Hot.

I was visiting my friend Jeff, who with his friend Dennis, a Japanese/Hawaiian drag queen, had set off from San Francisco to live in America’s other gay Mecca and see what they could see. It was a disappointing experience; they could only afford a crappy shotgun-shack rental without air conditioning. Really. The front half of the duplex was occupied by the Stop Domestic Violence poster couple; he bounced her off the walls whenever his blood-alcohol level reached .10, which was around 1 in the afternoon. Next door was a large extended family that, I am not exaggerating, fought with one another at top volume from sunup until the wee hours, stopping for about four hours between 3 a.m. and 7. In between were Jeff and Dennis and their single fan, which ran all the time. The rule was: Never turn the fan off for any reason, because the last time anyone did that, it almost didn’t start again. Periodically it would sloooooww down and all conversation would cease — we’d stare at the fan, willing it to start back up, please please please don’t die don’t die — and the force of our collected thoughts would somehow give it the strength to start whirring again.

For this reason, we spent most of the week going out. We started at this place on Duval where a friend of Jeff’s was bartender (if you don’t know what it means to know the bartender, particularly back in the days when inventory wasn’t tracked quite so closely, you don’t know what you were missing — hic), and then we moved somewhere else for the Tea Dance, and then to the Monster, and finally to another place called, I think, Delmonico’s. Something like that. It was the same people in every place, and I wonder now why we bothered moving. We drank Myers’s gimlets — dark rum over ice with lime juice. We drank them like water, they were so delicious, and I’ve only had a few since then. When I do, it catapults me back to that week in Key West so thoroughly that I have a conditioned response: I start to sweat.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the pedicab. On my last night in town, it seemed to be even hotter than usual. On our way from the Tea Dance to the Monster I said, “Let’s take this pedicab. My treat. It’ll be nice not to have to walk.” And so I hailed the first one I saw, operated by some dreamy-looking hippie woman. We climbed in, and she set off.

The first thing we noticed is, we seemed to be moving really, really slowly. The other people from the tea dance were passing us, and they were walking. And it’s not like anyone was walking fast; it was still about 89 degrees, with 2,000 percent humidity. I had hoped for a breeze in my face, but the closest thing we got to that was the air stirring from people passing us on foot.

“Um,” I said to the woman. “We’re moving kind of slow.” She turned and gave me a stoned smile. “Yes,” she said. “Isn’t it nice? It’s sooo hot.”

We sat there and sweated. What the hell? You pay for a service and this seemed to be pretty bare minimum. She didn’t seem to be exerting herself; her legs pumped with the lazy cadence of someone out for a Sunday meander through the neighborhood — no, slower. Pump. (Pause.) Pump. (Pause.)

There’s no real punchline to this story, although I thought we’d arrive at the Monster in just enough time to make the en masse move to Delmonico’s. But as we got out I swore off pedicabs. I mean, if I’m going to be dragged through the world by another human, I want to see some goddamn effort. Not to be a Brit in pre-revolutionary China, but chop chop, my good man.

Now I see Detroit is getting its first pedicab service. Guy’s going to run it with his son, at a price of $1 a block. With my recent interest in cycling, I think this might end up being my retirement business. Today I make one promise to my someday-clientele: I will go faster.

Posted at 9:51 am in Popculch |

16 responses to “On wheels”

  1. brian stouder said on August 23, 2006 at 10:05 am

    And so I hailed the first one I saw, operated by some dreamy-looking hippie woman. We climbed in, and she set off.

    Mary – by any chance, were you in Key West in the early 1980’s?!

    189 chars

  2. mary said on August 23, 2006 at 11:06 am

    Hey…by the early 80’s I was all suit, silk blouse and pumps.

    62 chars

  3. brian stouder said on August 23, 2006 at 11:07 am

    Well that sounds “dreamy” indeed!

    33 chars

  4. mary said on August 23, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    It was briefcasey.

    18 chars

  5. Pam said on August 23, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    What time of year is Key West not really hot? I went in May and just couldn’t believe the heat! It was hotter than Jamaica! But I really liked it, especially the many-toed cats at the Hemingway house.

    203 chars

  6. Randy said on August 24, 2006 at 9:37 am

    My wife and I took a pedicab in Toronto years ago. It waqs our first trip to a big city, and we were young and wide-eyed. The pedicab ride was just for the novelty, and we only went three blocks. Then the guy says “that’ll be thirty dollars, please”. I haggled him down to $15, with a stern warning that he shouldn’t rip off tourists like that. He took the cash with a grin on his face. I was/is such a sucker/rube/dork.

    420 chars

  7. Danny said on August 24, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    Guys, I just got around to spending some of my birthday loot and pone of the CD’s I picked up is Little Feat: Waiting for Columbus. The newly released, expanded edition. WOW!!! What a great, great live album.

    211 chars

  8. Dorothy said on August 24, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    You still get birthday money?! Hmph.

    37 chars

  9. Connie said on August 24, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    I still get birthday money from my 74 yr old dad.

    49 chars

  10. brian stouder said on August 24, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    as do I, from my possibly 77(?) year old mom.

    (she has always kept her birthyear somewhat blurry. One thing on my to-do list is to utilize the Allen County Public Library’s geneology resources and resolve that question, amongst others. One of the most astonishing things I ever came across at mom’s house was a picture of a baby in a cradle, seemingly sleeping. Turns out it was my dad’s still-born sister; I had heard talk that such a tragedy had occurred in the late 1920’s….but that picture reached right across 80 years and touched me.)

    546 chars

  11. Dorothy said on August 25, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Well, I didn’t mean to “poor mouth.” My father-in-law usually gives me money but he’s spotty about it. My birthday is next Thursday but I might not get anything from him until the next time we get to Pittsburgh (Christmas maybe?). At least he does remember. He just rarely writes checks out for birthdays. He’s a cash kind of guy.

    My parents stopped sending us money for birthdays once we all got married. That’s cause they have 21 grandchildren and 3 great-granddaughters.

    481 chars

  12. brian stouder said on August 25, 2006 at 10:35 am

    Happy birthday, Dorothy!

    I’d send money, but then people would talk

    70 chars

  13. Dorothy said on August 25, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Thanks Brian! (No one would talk cause I’d never tell)

    55 chars

  14. mary said on August 25, 2006 at 11:54 am

    I think we should have a birthday party here in the blogosphere.

    64 chars

  15. brian stouder said on August 25, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    I think we should have a birthday party here in the blogosphere

    Yes! Mary is charge of fancy schmancy decorations; I’ve got plenty of hot air for the balloons; Dwight the Troubled Teen can bring the ice cream (I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream); and our lovely hostess can be in charge of the cake (since her columns ALWAYS take the cake!)

    365 chars

  16. Dorothy said on August 25, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    If it’s too late to start this, y’all can wait for next year when I turn the big 5-0!!

    86 chars