Easter Weekend 2021: Matt Gaetz and Barroom Brawls

I wonder what Matt Gaetz is up to this weekend. Shopping for lawyers? Taking one last peek at nude pix of his sexual conquests before erasing them on his iPhone 12?[1] Checking out rehab facilities?

I suspect right about now Matt probably agrees with TS Eliot’s assessment that April is the cruelest month, breeding investigations out of his sordid past, mixing memory with desire, etc. 

You’ve probably heard the Hemingway definition of beauty: grace under pressure. Well, Matt’s initial response to the revelation that he may have been involved with sex trafficking with minors wasn’t exactly pretty. He allowed himself to be interviewed by Tucker Carlson and spewed a bucketful of ill-considered information, for example, that his father wore a wire in an FBI investigation. And although Gaetz has categorically denied the various lurid allegations, the long list of colleagues and acquaintances who can’t stand him are sharing raunchy stories of deviant behavior stretching back to his days in the state legislature where he represented Florida’s Panhandle, the setting of the murder in Easy Rider, i.e., a rustic-ridden south-of-Alabama rightwing hellhole.

Well, all I can say to Representative Gaetz are the very words I said to a drunk who got punched out by a woman last night at the Surf Bar, “There’s some danger in being an asshole.”

This incident is the second instance in which I’ve been interviewed by the Folly Police in the last year. The first dealt with a couple behaving Gaetz-like on the screened porch of a neighbor who had moved. He had asked me to keep an eye on the house, and when I saw a strange car in the driveway and the workshop door open, I donned my Philip Marlowe persona and investigated.[2]  Despite my deafness, I heard some clamor on the screen porch and caught a heterosexual couple in flagrante delicto.[3] I suggested they leave, and they apologetically obliged, but the police caught wind, so I had to be interviewed. The owner was benevolent, didn’t press charges, but wanted the lustbirds to suffer some slight discomfort for their misdeeds. 

The fellow last night at the Surf Bar suffered more than a little discomfort: he got punched twice in the face by a young woman who could have been Laila Ali’s sparring partner. 

Caroline, our friend Whitney, and I were braving the cold on the porch of the Surf Bar enjoying their excellent Philly cheesesteak. This short White fellow in his twenties, dressed like an Eminem wannabe, approached our table and asked for a light, which we couldn’t provide.[4] There’s a fireplace on the porch, and five young women were sitting in a semicircle in front of it, enjoying the flames. After a while, I noticed that the young lighter-seeking man had joined them on the far end of the semicircle. I also noticed that the man and a couple of the women were engaged in a heated conversation. I asked one of the women who had returned from the restroom if the fellow was bothering them, and if so, I’d be happy to intervene. She smiled and said, “No thanks.” She then circled around the back of the dude and yanked the leg of his chair, sending him sprawling backward. As he attempted get up, she smacked him in the face twice with two well-delivered rights. Before she could cause more carnage, I leapt up and pulled them apart. He, of course, had been harassing them, had called one next to him the c-word, told her she was too ugly to sit next to, and continued to harass them until our heroine had had enough. 

the fireplace at the Surf Bar

I suggested to the fellow that he mosey along because he wouldn’t want the police involved, but he adamantly refused and sat back down in the now upright chair, whining about how he had been hit. Some muscle from inside the bar emerged and escorted him out, trying, as I had, to reason with him. 

It was sort of exciting in an adrenaline pumping way, and our meals were comped, but then who returns with policemen in tow. The twerp. He actually summoned the police because “a girl” had punched him. After interviewing the provocateur, the officer asked for my version, and I gave him a non-judgmental cinematic retelling of what had transpired, including the toppling and punching. The officer said this fellow had already been banned from several Folly bars and that he was from Philly on the lam from a petty larceny charge that was too smalltime to warrant extradition. 

So that was that, but I couldn’t help but feel in light of how horribly Gaetz treats women, how horribly many men treat women, a certain warm glow of satisfaction to see the sawed-off Kid Rock get coldcocked by a pissed-off damsel.

Yes, there is some danger in being an asshole.


[1] I understand that nude photography is now commonplace among romantic partners and that sending explicit photos of oneself can be part of the early stages of wooing, and although I have no personal experience in the phenomenon, I do have some advice for Representative Gaetz: hire an airplane, fly down to Costa Rica, and drop the phone into the volcanic vent of Arenal. 

[2] Not surprisingly, I was sporting a fedora. 

[3] Literally, “in flaming offense.”

[4] A less delicate sensibility than mine might tag him as a w-word, you know, that designation for funky clad White hip-hop aficionados that rhymes with the name of Roy Rogers’s horse. 

Shagging Revisited

Early in July, my good friend and former college/grad school roommate Warren Moise wrote an article for the Charleston Mercury describing his former existence as a beach musician in the 60s and 70s. He admitted in the article that he had never learned to shag, which for me was a shocking revelation.

No, British readers, not that kind of shagging!

We’re talking about the venerable North and South Carolina dance known as “the shag.” According to the website NCPEDIA, the shag might trace its evolution back to early settlers of the Carolina in an attempt to preserve their European musical lineage. According to the article, in the 1920s and 30s, the shag evolved as dancers adapted it to swing music and jazz. However, the dance really came into its own in 50s and 60s with the advent of Beach Music, a genre made famous by such groups as The Drifters, Tams, and the Embers and performed at beach pavilions up and down the Carolina Coast.

Essentially,  the shag is a two person hand-holding shuffle that allows room for much improvisation. Knowing how to shag is almost a social necessity if you live in Charleston or Myrtle Beach. Nevertheless, like Warren, I, too, never learned how, essentially because I didn’t have the inclination.

Folly Beach, where I live, used to have a shag dance club on Center Street where old people attempted to keep the fires of their youth ablaze, and you can still see lots of shagging at the Sand Dollar Social club on weekends.

Curmudgeon that I am, I saw members of the old shag club as victims of their youth, incurable nostalgia-holics stuck, like a stylus on a scratched record, in a repetitive rut, so I wrote the following rather acerbic poem. 

If you look closely, you can detect the traces

Of teenagers drowned in the puddles of their faces.

Perhaps this is beauty’s curse, the clinging,

King Canute by the seaside singing:

Stop in the name of love. But the aging process

Stops for no one. There’s no recess

In decay’s school day, no stopping the seasons,

Even if you’re sockless and sporting Bass Weejuns.

Not Among School Children

For whatever reason, in the second half of my teaching career, the last fifteen years or so, I became much more lenient.  In fact, one of the reasons I decided to retire was that I thought I was becoming too lackadaisical. When colleagues complained about slacker advisees from my homeroom, I didn’t rebuke the advisees. After asking them if everything was okay, I informed them that Mr.or Ms so-and-so was complaining to me about undone homework or subpar test performances, so they needed to talk to the teacher and rectify the situation. I rarely if ever called their parents myself.

In the olden days of the previous century, I would have warned the underachiever that in China or India youthful competitors were going to school eight hours a day year-round and would be competing with them economically on a global scale. “Why pay top dollar for an American CPA,” I would ask rhetorically, “when I can electronically send my taxes to Mumbai for a fraction of the cost?”  I’d point out that their parents’ wealth (I taught at an independent school) would be divided among their siblings, that the moment they graduated from college, they’d need health insurance,[1]that they were very likely as adults to suffer a lower standard of living than they’re accustomed unless they put their all in all into their studies. Then I might wax more spiritual by pointing out the cultural riches they were squandering – the elegance of algebraic formulae, the grand sweep of history, the thunder of Milton, the dirges of Keats. The more you know the more interesting you are, I’d tell them. “You don’t want to be an ignoramus, do you? Ignoramuses are boring.”

The older I got, though, the more I remembered what a slacker I had been in high school.  I mostly read my English assignments and history assignments, scratched out my papers on time, but I hardly gave math or science the time of day (or night, to be more exact). In my last few years as a teacher, when worn out Bennington (male) or Mason (female) laid their sleepy heads on their desks, I’d let them snooze. If they were that exhausted, I figured sleep was more beneficial to them that morning than the smug, self-righteous proclamations of Henry David Thoreau. Sometimes, if students were talking in class, I’d say.”Shhhhh, Bennington’s trying to sleep.”

My classes were still challenging, my tests still demanding, but I was less draconian in grading essays. 

Given that late mellowness, why then, now that I’m retired, do I find myself getting so easily irked by the petty transgressions of the people I encounter on the small bohemian barrier island I call home? 

This morning, for example, as I was walking my dog, I felt the hall monitor’s self-righteousness, felt like suggesting to pedestrians they walk on the left facing traffic and to cyclists that they ride on the right with the flow of traffic. “And while you’re at it, stand up straight!” I felt like bellowing.

And, oh, these just beyond toddlers, wearing their colorful little helmets, wobbling on their tiny bikes in the middle of Hudson Street. Haven’t their parents heard of natural selection? Don’t they realize that texting teens barrel up and down these thoroughfares?  Have they not noticed the memorial cross on the corner of 2nd and Cooper where some drunkard ran the stop sign and snuffed out another’s life?

But, of course, I keep my mouth shut. I don’t even bother to shake my head sadly. As Yeats put it:

Better to smile on all that smile, and show

There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.


[1] Obamacare didn’t exist.