Valium Vickie

Monday, June 05, 2006

Nestled along the southern shore points of a state that is often unfairly judged as America's asshole lies the quaint town of Ocean City, New Jersey. A dry town, Ocean City attracts blue hairs and families alike. In an alcohol-free environment filled with the simple pleasures of funnel cake and ski ball, sandcastles and boardwalk bike rides, Ocean City is an idyllic spot for wholesome people to enjoy some well-earned relaxation along the crystal-clear waters of the majestic Atlantic Ocean.
Okay, anybody from the Tri-state area knows that last paragraph is a crock of shit. Nevertheless, Ocean City is regarded as a nice family spot 50 weeks out of the year. The other two-weeks, for some reason or another, attract area high-school students celebrating the monumental accomplishment of "graduating 12th grade" in a hedonistic orgy of drugs, drinking and sex that is commonly known as "senior week".
That is where this story takes place.
The Gary Dean Lovelace Story
On his way back from a one-evening courtship, my roommate Matt stumbled upon the equivalent of a winning to lottery ticket to a bunch of recent high school graduates miles and miles away from any type of supervision: A driver’s license that belongs to someone over the age of 21.
It was dawn and the sun was just starting to creep over the horizon with a slowness that seemed to mirror our own sluggish movements. It was really fucking early or really fucking late, depending on how you spent the night before. We were still awake as Matt bounded up the steps of "Beach View" (? is that right Greg?) and onto the porch to show us his newfound treasure.
It was a Virginia driver’s license of a man named Gary Dean Lovelace. Unfortunately, the man on the license is not only at least five-inches taller and 80 pounds heavier than any of us, Mr. Lovelace is also an African American (or Jamaican). We find this whole situation hysterical and commence to laugh for what feels like hours. It not the picture of Mr. Lovelace, or the combination of the license and the picture, or even the porno-like name Gary Dean Lovelace that makes us laugh. It’s the fact that this time of day makes anything hysterical when you’re drunk, you haven’t slept and you’re 18.
The laughter died down and Ian, one of the five who was still awake, said, “that’s funny and all, but I really wish there was some way to use that.” That's when it clicked. I ran inside to start the coffee and the rest of the guys started brainstorming. When I come outside, Tom (another one of the original five) offered his plan: “We can always find a black guy that looks like the Lovelace guy and pay him to use it.” This idea wouldn't work for three reasons:
1.) There are no black people in Ocean City.
2.) Even if there were any black guys that fit the description, they would definitely be over 21, so why wouldn’t they use their own correct identification?
Right as we were about to give up on the whole idea and start drinking again, it came to me. I would paint myself black and attempt to pass as Gary Dean Lovelace at the liquor store. The laughing started again, but I didn't join this time. I was dead serious about this one. I started spewing out reasons why I thought it was a good idea: What could it hurt? What if it works? What about the story? Eventually, everybody was on board, and we had to decide what could be used to transform me from a skinny, Polish white kid named Jared Bilski into a tall, stocky black man named Gary Dean Lovelace. A sharpie marker seemed too unrealistic, time-consuming and bothersome to remove; shoe polish seemed too pungent, dangerous and likely to run in the heat; and even though charcoal didn't seem like best option ever, it was the best we had.
We decided it would save time if we only painted my face and I covered the rest of my frame in baggy clothes. Despite the strange appearance of a person covered in bulky, long-sleeve clothing in mid June, we figured it was safer than showing up at the state store with an entirely charcoal-covered body, plus the clothes gave me a few extra pounds.
I don't want to imply that I ever really experienced what it was like to go through life in this country as a black man, because if it got too intense, I could've just washed my blackness off and went back to the comfort of being a white, middle-class teen in a white-dominated society. However, I will say this: From the moment that charcoal engulfed my pale face, things changed. The people strolling by our house stared and gawked at me with gaping jowls and curious, mischievious eyes. Even the tone of my friends' voices was altered. These changes were not concrete or tangible, but I could sense them, nonetheless. Instead of shirking my newfound "blackness", a strange pride overtook my entire person. I began walking with a cool, rhythmic swagger and added a full-step of bass to my smooth, velvety voice. "Let's do this shit," I commanded and with those words I became Gary Dean Lovelace incarnate, for the next half-hour, anyway.
We drove to the liquor store in a sea-foam green Minivan with the air on full-blast to ensure that my blackness was not prematurely lost because of the extreme temperatures of that June morning. I tried to live every moment as a black man to the fullest, and I promised myself that from this day forward, I would never forget what it was like. And just like that we were there; it was sink or swim time.
Everything went off without a hitch until I got to the register, despite the fact that the four other guys in the van were all of ten feet behind me giggling like a bunch of girl scouts at a slumber party talking about their first blowjob. When I got to the register, I actually felt confident. The cashier was a cute, blonde vixen that looked about 22, tops. I figured even if she wasn't fooled by my clever disguise, she'd at least reward me for my persistance. Maybe she wouldn't even card me, right? No such luck. Not only did she ask for my ID, but she only briefly glanced at it before stating, "I'm sorry I can't serve you with that." I quickly retorted with, "What's a matter sweety, you don't take out-of-state licenses here?"
"No, it's not's....look, I'm not gonna serve you," she stated with a tone of finality.
There were only two ways I could go from here: I could cut my losses and walk out of the store, go back to my week of debauchery and laugh about this over some breakfast beers, or....
"Oh, I get it now," I came back. And after a dramatic pause, "it's because I'm black isn't it?"
I'm not sure what I thought was going to happen. The cute blonde was going to be so intimidated by the faux race card that she not only served me, but handed me a number while asking, "is it really true what they say about black guys?"
Actually, she called security, and these two guys came and informed us that if we didn't leave, they'd call the cops. So, Gary Dean Lovelace and his posse left the liquor defeated with our tails tucked between our legs.
Luckily for us, there was this wino loitering in a semi-conscious state right outside of the store. He watched the whole thing and told us it was one of the funniest things he'd seen that morning. For a small tip and a ride home, the man offered to buy us what we needed. We had achieved our story, got some liquor and met a man that came to become a symbol of our time that week. We called him Uncle Leo, though we never actually learned his full name, and as promised we gave his tip and ride in exchange for the liquor. We actually dropped him off in the general vicinity of where he was staying; Uncle Leo had been drinking since 1983 and wasn't completely sure where the exact location was. Anyway, that's the last we ever saw of Uncle Leo. Though we got a number and called repetitively for the rest of the week, we were never able to bring Uncle Leo into our world. We did write a song in his honor and sang it ceremoniously at the start of every morning and at the close of every evening. After all, Uncle Leo was essential to the success of the Gary Dean Lovelace story.