Lake Mead and Toots, the Badminton Hustler

Vegas had been all kicks and now we were checking out of the hotel, I'd decided to ride down to Flagstaff with my friends, at least for the night. We hopped into the car, I was still sipping on a bottle of whiskey with a dumb smile on my face as I starred out the window remembering the events of the past couple days.

We didn't head straight for Flagstaff, first we went towards Lake Mead. We parked for a minute and I started walking towards the water, meanwhile, my fellow McCormicks found a road that lead all the way to the water, so they were already on the beach by the time I got there. They'd also found some new friends, a group of lesbians traveling around the country. We sat with them drinking beers and eating snacks.

The water tempted me, I stripped my shirt and started wading in, I was the only one. The water was cold, but the whiskey and beer neutralized it. I spotted a booey in the distance and deemed it my destination, soon I was swimming once the water became too deep to walk. It was a good swim out to it, I grabbed onto the booey once there and hung on for a bit, then launched off and swam back to shore.

The lesbians soon took off, they had a "get over it, we're lesbians, don't judge us" sort of attitude, but their fun-loving attitude balanced them out. When someone expects to be judged, they usually are, even if it's all in their head, which makes it as real as anything else anyway.

We laid out for a while, the four of us, napping by the water. We drove back to Flagstaff, just a few hours or so, Keith dropped Mary, Molly and myself at Mary's place. It was a bit of a lazy night, Keith came back eventually and the girls got some beer, we didn't drink much though. I glanced at the map every once in a while thinking about a destination for tomorrow, soon we fell asleep in the living room.

More talk of plans in the morning, Keith was wanting to go to the creek, then head on to Phoenix. I figured this would be a good day, then I could head to Phoenix with him and go from there. The four of us and another of Keith's friends jumped in the car and headed towards Sedona.

We hiked down to and along the creek until we found a group of friends, then sat by the creek a while relaxing. After some hours of this we hiked back up to the road, Mary caught a ride with some people back towards Flagstaff, I got in with Keith and Molly heading for Phoenix.

We parted with Molly at a shopping mall just north of town, waiting for her mom to come meet her there. I headed to the east side of Phoenix to Keith's house where I met his folks and got a bit of a feast - meatloaf, brownies, beer. We sat on the patio out back and passed a bowl around, Keith's dad joined us out there. I talked with him about my travels, but mostly listened to his stories, he used to hitch around quite a bit growing up.

He'd once snagged a bill from a wallet while hitchhiking, the guys he was riding with were sniffing paint and refused to let him open the window, and they had him driving too. They'd all passed out and he'd been carefully sliding a bill out of a wallet on the dash bit by bit, deeming it his compensation for putting up with the paint huffers. He got out in Flagstaff in the late late hours to realize it was a hundred dollar bill, no sooner did he figure this out that he heard a car coming back, distinctly the sound of that car, he knew they'd found out and were looking for him, but he'd managed to slip away, catch another ride and then party all night with whoever it was that had picked him up.

We told some more stories, and soon my friend Nick was there to pick me up. I cruised back to Nick's place in Scottsdale where I'd be staying the night, we caught up for a while, watched a movie and soon I passed out.

The next day I unwound and relaxed, Nick was at work. He stopped by on an extended lunch break with a box of donuts and complaints about his boss, typical office related nonsense that'll drive the working man crazy, but donuts solve many a problem.

When his work day was over we headed out to a pool party his friend was having. There was a big barbecue spread and I filled myself up on burgers, hot dogs and all kinds of good food. He called this a Mormon party, he was Mormon himself, but understood the relative tameness of these types of parties. "Don't curse around these people", he told me in the car ride over, "actually... curse all you want, it'll be funny."

We played badminton with a couple of the girls there. We convinced them that my name was Toots and that I grew up playing the trumpet in the streets of New York City in order to feed my family and survive, a bad apple with too sad of a story to look down on. It was good fun, we stuffed some more food and helped carry some things back to the girl's apartment before heading back to Nick's house.

We popped a movie in, Nick's nightly routine, but I didn't get all the way through it by the time Keith arrived to pick me up. The plan now was for me to hitch to my brothers place north of San Diego in the morning, Keith would be cruising to Joshua Tree with Molly for a festival there. Right now Keith was picking me up so we could crash on the west side of town at my friend Larry's place for an easier start come morning.

Larry was working, but his neighbor let us in, we went right to sleep with thoughts of an early morning and good times to come in the days ahead.

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