Gainesville, Florida used to just be a hog farm in the middle of nowhere, but thanks to football messiah Tim Tebow and Gatorade we are now featured on the map on most Clock Restaurant place mats. Gainesville is also home to a sea of doe-eyed, binge-drinking 19-year-olds hell bent on blowing their trust funds during their time at the University of Florida. What many people don’t realize about Florida is that it’s not just the suburbs of Boca Raton and West Palm Beach where old people go to die. Similar to Gainesville, much of the state is actually a land-locked, water-less island and if you are part fish like me, you may dry out if you stay too long.
I was in such a state one afternoon and so I found myself on Hawthorne Road, a tragicomic trailer park wasteland and the only thing in between here and the ocean. Hawthorne Road is truly a trail of tears, which are most likely made up of Cheez Whiz, whiskey, and Crisco. With a population of barely 500, I was shocked to see the only billboard on the road emblazoned with the begging and pleading, “Stop! Please don’t abandon your infant!”
For God’s sake, there isn’t that many people living here, so chances are this must be happening often enough for someone to put up a billboard about it. I can picture the major in the town hall saying, “Goddammit, I swear, if I find another infant in the dumpster I’m putting up a billboard!”
Another point of interest on the trail of tears that is Hawthorne Road is Lori’s Diner, which features a photo of a meal on the sign outside. I can make out the onion rings, but I’m still trying to figure out the hazy, gray-colored slop sitting next to it. One day I’ll stop and eat there so I can taste the local flavor – which is probably filled with tears and cigarette ashes – much to the chagrin of my stomach, which will surely punish me afterward. I’ll just tell Lori that I want whatever is pictured on the sign.
Noise disturbance calls are also problematic on Hawthorne Road since A) the cops will argue that it’s the right of every American to blast a pile of leaves on their lawn for as long as they want to and B) they will want to join in on the fourth-straight hour of semi-automatic target practice.
You don’t see people doing much for fun around here either. But I did see an overweight kid riding a lawnmower to McDonald’s, although it didn’t look like he was really enjoying himself. It was more like, “I’m too lazy to walk half a block to McDonald’s, this place sucks, and all I have is this lawn mower to get me around.” Clearly driving a lawn mower along a busy highway was routine for this kid.
– If Hawthorne Road can teach me anything, it’s to just keep driving.