I’d like to thank Kim for allowing me to talk about a quaint little custom you’ll find down here in Florida known as “early bird specials.”
I’m a native New Yorker, and of course I’d heard the term “early bird special” before moving to Florida. The thing is, up in NY, it meant department store sales. Or, y’know, mattress sales.
After I moved to Florida… Well, let me just say I was in for a treat. Or an experience, however you choose to view it.
Early bird specials down here refer to dining, and can start anywhere from 2 or 3 p.m. and run until about 5 or 5:30 or sometimes even 6, depending on the restaurant. The major bonus is that the meals are a good deal less expensive than during the usual hours.
As you may (or may not) know, Florida is also referred to as God’s waiting room, due to all the senior citizens who retire to the Sunshine State, and if there’s one thing they like, it’s a bargain.
Within the time frame I mentioned, you’ll find diners strolling in. (or rushing in, in order to make sure they get a table and their order is placed on time, otherwise they’re just out of luck.) After being seated, usually by their favorite waitress, they get a menu with specific meals listed on it. (Let’s face it: as good as the choices are, you’re not going to get a lobster dinner for $9.99.)
Generally the meals will consist of a soup or salad, entrée, potato, and veggie. One place I patronize includes dessert, and needless to say, I visit them frequently. They can be sneaky though, slipping in the caveat that you have to order a beverage as well, and you need to be prepared for that.
However, you still get a great deal.
So… if you come down to Florida, this is what you need to know if you plan on taking advantage of the early bird specials: you don’t have to be a senior citizen—that’s what senior citizen menus are for—but you do have to get there in plenty of time. These places don’t have benches outside just for curb appeal.
The Light in Your Eyes (Pick Up the Pieces)
is the story of Theo Bascopolis, a Greek boy who lived in Tarpon Springs, Florida. He was a good boy, until the day a few weeks after his fifteenth birthday, when his father discovered he was gay and threw him out. A chance meeting with an older man resulted in Theo, renamed Sweetcheeks, becoming a rent boy. Eventually, years later, he left the business because someone loved him enough to ask him to stop. However, when his lover had to go out of town again, and failed to keep in touch—again—Theo started to worry that it was the beginning of the end.
(And although I didn’t mention it in the story, there’s a good possibility that Franky, the older man, took Sweetcheeks to a local diner that offered early bird specials.)
As much as the Greek girls of our community in Tarpon Springs had their lives mapped out, so had the boys.
Once I grew up, I’d become a fisherman as my father was. Eventually I’d marry a nice Greek girl, and we’d give our fathers a new grandson or granddaughter every year.
That was the way it was supposed to be, only….
When I was fifteen years old, my father threw me out for being gay.
I knew what my father thought of homosexuals, had heard him and his friends, the fishermen down at the docks, sneer and tell coarse jokes about them.
But he was my father. He was supposed to love me, just as I loved him.
Instead, and as I probably should have expected, he shouted, “Theo Bascopolis, you stop being gay right now, or else you get the fuck out of my house!”
Ma cried and wrung her hands, and my little sister threw herself at me and held on, but Poppa just stood there with his hands clenched into fists, his face set.
I had no choice. I couldn’t obey the one, so I obeyed the other, and I got the fuck out of his house.
Since that time, I’d been a rent boy.
But it didn’t start out that way.
It was getting late, and it was starting to drizzle, unusual since this was the dry season in Florida.
Was this God’s way of punishing me for being gay?
I sat on a park bench trying not to cry.
“Whatsa matter, kid?”
Before me stood a man. The rain didn’t seem to bother him. He must have been about twice my age, but he was wearing jeans and a white tee-shirt and Reeboks. He had a tattoo of coiled barbed wire around his upper arm and numerous piercings—along the cartilage of his right ear, along his eyebrow. Through the dampness of his tee, his nipples were prominent. The one above his heart bore a ring.
He looked so sexy that in spite of my predicament, I felt my dick hardening.
I shouldn’t have said anything, he was a stranger, but he also looked so sympathetic that I found myself pouring out the story of my plight.
“And… and then Poppa told me to get out.” I sniffed hard.
“That’s tough. You’re a sweet-looking kid. What’s your name?”
I glanced away, reluctant to tell him in case he was a social worker or something and was going to take me in to the cops, who’d put me into some kind of juvenile home after they called my father and found out he didn’t want me anymore.
He laughed softly. “Well, I’ll call you Sweetcheeks. My name is Franky. How old are you?”
My birthday had been a few weeks before. “I’m fifteen.” I bit my lip. I hadn’t even thought of lying to him.
“Yeah?” His eyes were hot as they ran over my body. “Sweet fifteen.” I blushed. “You’re getting wet. Why don’t you come with me, Sweetcheeks? I’m pretty sure I’ve got some leftovers in the fridge, and I’ve got a bed you can use.”
“Sure.” There was a tingling sensation in my groin, and my asshole clenched. I wouldn’t mind sleeping with him, if that was what he wanted in exchange for a place to stay. I’d fooled around with some boys in the men’s room at the multiplex, and I’d liked it, but I’d never done much beyond mutual hand jobs.
We had to walk a bit to catch the trolley that would take us to where he lived. “Cabs won’t go there,” he said, his smile apologetic.
I guessed it was a good thing that Poppa that thrown me out on a Friday, when the trolley ran until midnight.
The trolley driver gave us a bored look. Franky showed the driver his pass and gave him the fare for me without even asking if I had the money, which was a good thing, because I’d used my last couple of dollars at McDonalds.
I walked ahead of him to the back of the trolley.
“Hey! You’re a redhead! I just noticed! It was too dark to tell before we got on the trolley, and I guess your hair was too wet.” Franky tipped his head to one side. “Are you a natural redhead?”
“Excuse me?” Was he flirting with me? I liked the thought that he was.
“Are you a redhead… all over?”
I realized he meant the hair that covered my groin, and I blushed and nodded. I got the deep mahogany coloring from Ma’s side of the family. There was at least one redhead in each generation. I would have preferred to have brown hair like Poppa, but my sister Casey got that.
“Cool.” He winked at me.
I opened my mouth to tell him about Greeks having red hair—not many people knew that—but he started talking.
I sat beside him and listened while he talked about the cities he’d lived in: New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles—the exciting, glitzy cities that I’d read about and wanted to see myself but knew I never would. There was little chance I would ever get out of Tarpon Springs.
This book will be available in February/March of 2014.