Divine Daytripper Freelance Travel Writer


Gator Girls Weekend: From Past to Present

Palm Springs, CaliforniaI met up with four of my childhood friends in Palm Springs for the weekend. I’ve known these women for over 30 years. We call ourselves the Gator Girls, after the Hannah-Barbera cartoon character named Wally Gator. In the ninth grade we were part of a school volleyball team. After each victory we would sing the song…Wally Gator is the greatest alligator in swamp…see you later Wally Gator. Every girl would place one hand across each one of her shoulders, raise her elbows up high, make an open and close motion, and say, “Chomp…Chomp…Chomp…” It was obnoxious, loud, and insulting to the other team. We had so much fun singing this song that even if we didn’t win, we would still sing it.

Let me introduce you to the Gator Girls. I met Jocelyne in Mr. Lister’s sixth grade class. She always had a box of Lemonheads candy, which she would never share with anyone, claiming they were her “medicine.” Every time we get together I remind her of this story, taking a chance that I will get a punch in the arm. “Forget that stupid story,” she’ll say. Jocelyne is a contradiction. She is the toughest of the bunch and swears like a sailor, yet her heart is soft and open. She told us that every time she looks at the full moon, she remembers us and hopes that when we look at the full moon, we remember her.

In P.E. class, Sheila was the superior athlete, always first around the track, her long, brown 70’s hair parted in the middle, trailing behind her. We all laugh when we recall that as sixth graders, we wanted to trip her. We were too lazy to run and she made us look bad. Sheila came from a large family without much money. She began working at El Taco, down the street for our junior high, at 13. Today she is a successful corporate business woman, a mother of three children, and wife to a devoted husband. There is a sweet victory in her life, and we all bask in her glory.

Of our Palm Springs group, the closest friend to me is Janey. As a freshman, she committed social suicide, playing the clarinet in marching band. We called her a “bando” and laughed. Her swan-like transformation took hold at 16, when she came into her glory. She embraced a beguiling natural beauty that drove hormonal teenage boys nuts. Her crown jewel was long, straight, brown hair the color of a walnut tree. She had full, luscious lips, and her sixth-grade, colt-like legs became athletic and toned. We were varsity cheerleaders together and bought the same Peugeot Moped. We spent a lot of time eating sour cream and onion-flavored potato chips while fantasizing about how great it would be to have football players as boyfriends.

We met Laura as freshmen in high school. From my own immigrant point of view, her parents were rich. They lived in a two-story home with a swimming pool. She was the first one of the bunch to get her own car. I learned how to drive on her stick shift yellow Toyota Celica. Back then, there was an enticing danger to Laura. She was lewd, crude, and took chances. Today she works for a five-star hotel and travels all around the world, staying in lush locales. Tales of her rock-star travels to exotic locations mesmerize us.

Our Palm Springs weekend was spent floating in the pool, drinking frozen margaritas, a gangsta drink called Hypnotic, and Red Bull with vodka. A gentle buzz followed us as we reminisced about Bain de Soleil suntan lotion, Wallabee shoes while singing top twenty AM radio songs…Delta Dawn what’s that flower you have on… When an intimate tidbit is cast out to the group, our flotilla draws into a close circle as we await a revelation or a confession.

Listening and telling stories brings each of us closer to knowing what lives in the heart of a woman. We express fears, concerns, and lots of laugher. We talk about our children and ask one another advice on how to best guide them on their way. Should I allow Joshua’s girlfriend to spend the night? He’s in college after all. Is buying a $57 dollar pair of shorts, spending too much? Do you invite kids’ friends with you on vacation? We float, drink, talk, laugh, and throw F-bombs around like we’re Hell’s Angels on a joyride. Our flotilla cuts loose and we release our hold on one another. An Elton John melody plucks our heartstrings…hold me closer tiny dancer…each woman melts into her own world, yet remains connected through the resonate vibe…we groove.

After a while, we come back together again. I start to go off on a pontificating jag about how our culture has an insatiable appetite for consuming goods and about how material objects can’t bring you closer to happiness, and something or other about contentment coming from within, when Janey interrupts me. “You know how to use the right words,” Janey said, “but I wouldn’t consider you to be a good communicator.” Open heart, insert knife. Ouch. Thanks a lot, I say to myself, considering that’s what I’m supposed to do for a living. Only a childhood friend I’ve known since sixth grade can tell me her bitter truth in such a direct way.

We start to talk about what makes a good communicator. Is it someone who is direct with their message without apologizing for it? Or is a good communicator someone who polishes the message and tells people what they want to hear, sparing hurt feelings? We never come to agreement. The sun is setting and we are getting out of the pool. It’s time to get ready for a serious night of fun.

As we drive along Frank Sinatra Boulevard on a back route to Palm Springs for cocktails and dancing, Jocelyne was changing the radio station in a relentless search for the perfect song. “Would you choose one station, you’re driving me crazy!” I said, “How’s that for being a good communicator?” I asked Janey. I voiced what most were thinking but was too indulgent of the channel changer to express it. There was unanimous agreement. Good communicator.

The weekend with the Gator Girls goes by fast and is over by Sunday afternoon. There is packing, cleaning, and last minute group photos. Goodbye. I love you. See you next year. Have a bitchin’ summer. I left Palm Springs in a rented convertible Buick LaSabre, top-down. I looked in the rear-view mirror and said goodbye to my life-long childhood friends. I hum the theme song to the movie Billy Jack. Listen children to a story that was written long ago…