The High Life: My First Spring Break Journey to Panama City

“Have you lost your damned mind Martha Jane?!” These words rang from many mouths in April of 1990 when word spread throughout the family that my mom had decided to allow me to travel to Panama City Beach with two older softball teammates. For the sake of anonymity and to protect the identity of the accused and the guilty, I will call them “Sally’s eldest” and “The other Martha’s youngest”. Seems those two had reputations as regular partakers of somewhat questionable activity. People worried too much back then.
Upon departing the big Q, we set out North toward the town of Bainbridge to pick up Sally’s eldest’ boyfriend. He had a blue streak in his hair. Totally unheard of and unacceptable at my high school. I thought he was cool. Like my traveling companions. Prior to picking up Blue, we made a quick stop at Pat’s Grocery to pick up our beverages for the week. Sixteen cases of Miller High Life. They were very accommodating back then. They didn’t even sweat the fact we were not close to 21, and a nice man even carried all sixteen cases for us, and placed them into the smallest car Pontiac manufactured at the time.
Upon leaving Pat’s we headed across state lines into what I later on realized was God’s Country. The Georgia State Patrol greeted us just outside of the Bainbridge City limits in the form of a checkpoint. We each quickly slid our open beers under the seats and covered them up with our softball uniforms, so as to not make too much of a mess. The trooper was nice. He let us go without even checking the igloo in the back seat. We managed to get the streak loaded up and we were off. Panama City Beach here we came.
I don’t recall anything worth mentioning of the trip down. I know we arrived safe and secure at the Sunswept Condominiums on Thomas Drive that evening. The streak had a friend that came down as well. Some of the guys from our school took to calling him Ben. Ben Dover. This caused some tension. So, the streak and Mr. Dover left after two days. Then shit got real.
Next I know, there is a dude from Chicago named Jim and his friend in a pink cast named Jason. All that mattered to me was they were over 21. That was not all that mattered to my traveling companions. Needless to say, I am sure the next month was stressful for the poor girls.
Seems our place was the gathering place for the class of 1990. We left Quincy on a Friday and I don’t recall eating until Wanda’s daughter and I loaded up in her Red Ford Festiva, sans brake pads, and went to the All American Diner on Front Beach Road on Monday morning.
For the most part, all I did was drink, sleep, shit, and sleep some more. The first morning I awoke, I was horrified of using the one restroom in the place, so I used the restroom by the pool. Beer shits are scary to a 15 yr. old trying to be “cool” with the seniors. And those two college dudes.
On Sunday evening/ Monday morning, I reached a peak of sorts in my life. Jim suggested a trip to a water slide. We each concurred this was a fabulous idea. At 2:00 am CST. Only it wasn’t exactly a water slide. It used to be. A long time ago. Before the fucking theme park closed. And was fenced off with “No Trespassing” signs everywhere.
We arrived in a caravan of tiny, fuel efficient cars to Petticoat Junction. Or what used to be. We all scaled the chain link fencing without a hitch. Spiderman, or anyone living on the Tally Southside woulda been proud. No “No Trespassing” sign could hold us back. Our goal; CLIMB THE SUI SLIDE.
As we ascended, the first thing I noticed was that that slide walls got shorter as we got higher. And I don’t mean on weed. With each foot we ascended, the fucking walls lowered by at least 3 feet. At the halfway point, I had begun to sweat bullets. A few more feet and I am certain I pissed a little. At about the ¾ point I froze. The other Martha’s daughter had to come back down for me. Her plan: we crawl the rest of the way. So, we did. When the slide walls were about 14 inches on each side, I feel confident I was crying and shitting simultaneously. Once I reached the top, I was at least surrounded by what was left of the wood fencing at the top. What was left of it.
I did manage to look up long enough to see Miracle Strip Amusement Park and fucking Destin to the west, before shitting my petticoat once again when they mentioned that we had to descend the fucker. I drank a beer before commencing to crawl back down. Bad move. The urge to hurl was immediate and strong. By the time we reached the bottom, I am certain my group had lost their buzz waiting on me. I have zero recollection of anything past reaching the end of the slide and noticing the murky, green, slimy, water in the “pool” at the bottom. Including how I made it to the car, the condo, or wherever else I may or may not have traveled that night. But, by God, I found out I was scared of heights. Which is good information to have. Oh, and that Destin can be seen from 200 feet above Panama City on a clear April night.
I called my mom later that day after sleeping off the 72 High Life’s I had consumed, to come get me. I was done. The 10th grader had her fill of senior superiority. The class of 1990 would have to enjoy the rest of the week without G love. Her petticoat was ruined and her liver was screaming. The wisdom of youth knows no bounds.

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