Skinny Dip

“Nothing good ever happens in a bar after 2 a.m.”

That was advice – and an admonishment – given to me by a therapist more than two decades ago.

The theme of this issue of the magazine is Gulf Coast living and loving. This here is a story – consider it a cautionary tale for those of you new to the region – about the murky waters of the Gulf and how bad decisions often lead to worse decisions.

Our tale begins all those years ago at Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge in Uptown New Orleans. It’s a bar for hipsters, which me and my friends fashioned ourselves to be back in our younger and more vulnerable years.

And it was way past 2 a.m. when some genius in our group (probably me) came up with the brilliant idea to drive over to the Mississippi coast to hit the waterfront casinos.

This was back before New Orleans had legalized gambling; that was the closest place at the time to piss away your paycheck. So five of us hopped in the car and headed off for a great Gulf Coast adventure.

What could go wrong, right?

The casino trip was uneventful – pretty much like all casino trips; we all lost our money. It was the drive home that was particularly informative for one in our group.

Let’s call him Scotty. (Because that’s his name.) He was a new hire at the Times-Picayune, where I worked at the time. A young southern California buck with wide open eyes and a sense of carefree adventure.

It has occurred to me over my three decades living here that, the closer you get to the Gulf waters, a strange sense of mirth and abandon can take hold of a man. A magnetic force? Something in the water? I don’t have the answer to that.

Anyway, driving home in what is now bright, full daylight, it’s clear that our Saturday night is long over. It’s full-blown Sunday morning now.

Along the Gulf Coast highway, traffic is packed with cars full of proper, well-appointed families heading to their churches. We, however, are a motley, disheveled bunch, collectively relieved of our cash, our dignity and our sleep.

Scotty had never seen the Gulf before and was smitten by its vastness and the beach’s proximity to the road. Somewhere around Pass Christian, he asked: Can you swim here?

We consented, but began to advise that this might not be the best location to do so. But before we could explain why, he had stripped naked – like I said, he was a California hipster kid – and he yelled “Let’s go!” And he was off and running to the water. We never got the chance to tell him that you have to go out about half a mile before the water even reaches your shins.

And so there he is, this white, early morning, shining ball of naked flesh running at full burst into the Gulf. Or what little of it there as at that location.

He hits the water, arms up and joyous, like a long distance runner reaching the finish line in an inspiring movie. And he runs. And he runs. And he finds out the hard way that this stretch of beach is no swimmer’s paradise. It’s where parents bring their young children and dogs to play because there are no waves, the water is about three inches deep and the likelihood of a drowning, even for an infant, is pretty low.

And so, he runs and runs. Naked before the eyes of God, and His horrified church going followers along the highway who have slowed to a crawl to witness this spectacle.

Scotty goes way, way out to the horizon before he figures it out. He turns around looking puzzled and disappointed. He trundles back the several hundred yards he has run with that familiar two-handed cupped protection over his privates that guys do when they realize they’re naked and probably shouldn’t be.

And this is but one example of why the experts and professionals will tell you, with affirmation: Nothing good ever happens in a bar after 2 a.m. Take it from me. And Scotty, bless his little newbie hipster heart.

He hung around the newspaper for several years, married a colleague in the art department there, started a family and then moved off to settle in – you guessed it: southern California. Where the waters run vast, wide and blue.

And deep.

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