Travis McGee & The Busted Flush

When I lived in Florida in the late 90’s I was not quite right, translation… fucked up, fed up, and livin’ on the prayers of desolation, addiction, and sunburned regret for not being all I could be. But somehow, all these Miami moons later, I still swoon over the notion of the sunshine state and its trashy authenticity as I wipe the snow-sludge off my boots and warm my bones from a NYC January day.

South Florida, in particular, is a dichotomy of diversities, the flagrant display of those beautiful and expensive and untouchable trappings of style that manifest themselves in mansions and yachts and exotic cars, the kind of flagrancy that is not the norm in most other places, versus everything that hovers below what would be commonly referred to as middle class financial struggles. These fabulous obscenities of materialism are obviously ill-gotten, the accoutrements of those who practice duplicitous behavior on the other side of legal, moral, and ethical. At least that is what immediately comes to mind when one sees a 20-something driving a Bugatti. Must be drugs… Maybe, maybe not, whose business is it?  My Chevy gets me around town with much less chance of getting killed by carjackers. With less to prove to the world. Maybe some of these people actually earned the privilege of being seen in a car that costs four or five times what an average middle class working stiff’s house does. As I’ve gotten older and wiser with less _____’s to give, I’ve come to admire the blind tenacity of those who live a life of luxury without guilt or remorse or even humility. Reminds me of a meme I saw once; a Prius says to a Bugatti: “I get 70 miles to the gallon, what do you get?” to which the Bugatti succinctly says: “laid.” Even better when it’s rented.

Utopia- I’ve traveled this subject before; the ideal if unrealistic expectation of happiness in one’s own little world of fantasy and comfort. Why not, right? To quote Dudley Moore as Arthur Bach: “Not everyone who drinks is a poet, some of us drink because we’re not poets.” Meaning, life is very fleeting, it goes by fast, and shit always happens, and regrets will always be more than few. So to live live live by one’s own compass is the ultimate revenge on mundane inevitability, the meaning of a life with no meaning. No regrets, my way, that’s amore! The notion of utopia is a writer’s best friend. Anything can happen, all I have to do is envision the outlandish and unpredictable and bring it to fruition with words. Words are important, they carry reactionary power, just ask Meryl Streep.

One of my favorite writers is the departed pulp-to-mystery bestseller John D. MacDonald, creator of the fictional Travis McGee, a strong silent type who lived on a boat he’d won in a poker game called The Busted Flush at Bahia Mar in Ft Lauderdale and only went to work when his cash ran low and a damsel or friend in distress came calling on his innate alpha male ability to take care of things the old school way.   When I lived in Lauderdale in the late 90’s I read every book in the McGee series, not only for the escapism but for admiration, as MacDonald was truly a good writer, a genius storyteller who created a grey area anti-hero hero that is still a rarity in this century of good versus bad, especially now when EVERYTHING is SO preciously sensitive and black & white and RED all over (meaning everyone’s seeing Red even when they don’t know why). The McGee series ran from 1964-1984 within 21 novels. That twenty year span is as historically significant as it gets in the sweeping scheme of popular culture.  I always say I was born too late in ’68. Had I lived as an adult though the Travis McGee period of actual political and social unrest I might be a little less disheartened by the virtual unreality of the world now. I have re-read a few of these books, some of them on the beach across the A1A from the Bahia Mar, one of the last pristine and untarnished condo-free zones left in Ft Lauderdale. The first time I read many of these books I was drunk. Now I go to meetings on the very beach where I used to sit and wonder what life must have been like for Travis McGee whilst killing a 12 pack and considering the best methods for suicide. How have things progressed? They have, just not sure even I know what the secret sauce is. But that’s part of the great mystery of life, the realization that I don’t NEED to know WHY or even HOW. 

As I can’t help but fool myself into sometimes thinking about the future I always come back to the ideal of Travis McGee. If I were to model my ambitions after anyone else’s it would be his. So, will I end up back in Florida? Living on a boat? Writing mystery novels and living as my authentic self with someone else’s diagram? Maybe, maybe not. The fantasy of the possibility is the only thing that keeps me going.




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