Way back when I was 19 most of the young people in my area hung out at an arcade in a small strip mall called Diversions. Back then arcades were the rage and I was and always have been very good at Foosball (table soccer) and they had several tables. Arcades were all the rage at the time but Diversions had advantages most of them didn’t.
The plaza that Diversions was in was tiny but it hosted a small water-slide and a movie theater. In all the years I hung out there I never went on the water slide. The movie theater was only ever busy on Friday and Saturday nights and the rest of the week the staff was pretty nonchalant. They didn’t really care that a handful of us locals could pop the emergency door open and sneak into the theater and smoke pot while the movie played. I’ve seen Caddy Shack and The Blues Brothers more than I can count. Additionally, the theater had great air conditioning and if you’ve ever been to South Florida in the summertime you know that it is a sweltering hell hole. In the much larger plaza next door, there was also a bar called Alice’s Restaurant (no shit) so those of us old enough to drink could scoot over there in between Foosball games as the drinking age was only 18.
Much of the hanging around at Diversions happened in the parking lot especially at night when the sun wasn’t turning our cars into rolling saunas. The crowd that hung out there was mostly poor to lower middle class, White, and from broken homes. Some of us were fortunate enough to have a car but a lot of kids old enough to have cars walked, hitched a ride, or rode their bicycles to the arcade hoping to hook up with someone with a car as a ride along.
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For those of us who had cars, we kinda drove around on a wing and a prayer. These weren’t a bunch of college students, these were young people who went to work instead, and most of them didn’t get paid very much. We didn’t have the kinds of parents who could or would cosign a car loan or the kind of parents who would give or lend money for a car repair. So we had to figure it out by ourselves.
Now bear in mind this was 1979 and there wasn’t YouTube with step by step video instructions on how to make repairs on old cars. What we did have was manuals from the auto-parts store that was about as easy to follow as sand-script and it wasn’t like there was anyone around to teach us.
Those of us who had cars and were in the cool James Dean kinda group would often hang out at Henry’s house to help fix each other’s cars/trucks, share automotive repair knowledge, play poker, and get high and drunk. Henry’s mom was hardly ever around so it was almost as if the house belonged to him. Or at least the carport did. On the weekends we’d either all go in our separate cars (sometimes with ride alongs) to either the Ft. Lauderdale Strip or a place we called the Rock Pits, the latter being the most likely location as it was much closer and there weren’t any cops.
That is what life was like in 1979 for this 19-year-old. Get up and go to a construction site every day pounding nails (when you had work), go home, grab a shower and off to Diversions. Play Foosball, get high and chase pussy all night. Maybe go to Alice’s for a few drinks before heading off to the Rock Pits or Henry’s house. Try to keep the car running and not get killed driving around in a vehicle with 4 drum brakes when you’re 3 sheets in the wind.
It was good times but to be honest, in retrospect I should have joined the military, learned a little discipline, and made something more out of myself than I was at 19. I wasted a lot of years.
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