Enter the Dream

Dreamland Dancing

(Black screen. Fade in slowly on extreme close-up of very full lips, heavily covered in fire-engine red lipstick.)

Happy birthday to you”

(Slowly zoom out to face. Very tight shot of eyes, face to chin and forehead, showing blonde bangs. Very wide-eyed, and expressive face of a Marilyn Monroe impersonator.)

“Happy Birthday to you…”

(Slow zoom out to reveal MM on all fours, on top of a long table, dressed in only a black lace bra and panties. The rest of the room is dark.)

“Happy Birthday Mister President…”

Zoom out to reveal a long, tapered dinner-table candle protruding from the ass of MM. It is lit.)

Happy Birthday to You!”

(Long shot of room, lights have been turned on. MM impersonator jumps up, revealing that it is a male, gleefully clapping hands together, jumping up and down. Falsies pop out of a bra. A half-dozen men in EMS uniforms clap and generally camp it up. It is as if the entire troupe of the Village People is now in the employ of one of the local private ambulance services.)

Welcome to a private ambulance service in the early Eighties in Miami.

(Cut to close-up of the face of Jeff, a paramedic asleep in the cabin of an air ambulance. His eyes snap open in a startled expression that instantly explodes into laughter.)

All this was a replay of a memory from Jeff’s first ambulance job, about twenty years ago. As bizarre as it may seem, it is not an especially isolated event in his memory bank from this period of time, or for that matter, from any other period of time in his life. It is as if the bizarre has been the connecting thread that had run through most of his life. Then again, it all depends upon your perspective. If you focus on the bizarre, then the picture you reveal as you connect the dots will be a great deal different than if you attempt to ignore, or block out those same experiences. And of course, there is no accounting for just how much of a magnet some people are for the weird.

Take for instance, the episode that immediately prompted Jeff’s journey into the dayroom of that Miami ambulance company. He had been sleeping in the lower bunk in the crew room at their main station. It was a large room with about ten bunks in it. The overhead light was rarely ever turned on, day or night, since there was almost always someone sleeping in it. Twenty-four hour shifts, and lots of overtime, frequently resulting in forty-eight or seventy-two hours of continuous ambulance duty. (At that time, “full-time” employees were forced to work “more than” seventy-two hours per week to either get benefits as “full-time” employees, or even be paid time-and a-half rates.) One-hundred-plus hour workweeks were not uncommon then. Whenever possible, day or night, you slept.

At approximately three am, he was awakened by the steel bunk bed in which he had been sleeping creaking and rocking, accompanied by muffled groans. He eventually realized that his partner, a fellow EMT, was having sex with another (male) EMT. It was like some low-rent grade-B, XXX-rated prison movie that never ended. Now that he was awake, this kind of thing would be hard to just ignore, so he decided to go outside to have a smoke, and went by way of the dayroom so he could take a leak first, resulting in yet another indelible “Kodak Moment” being burned into his memory banks.

If this seems too disturbing, or too offensive an image to be associated with medical professionals upon whom people routinely entrust their very lives, then you really won’t like hearing about the ambulance that used to station itself every Friday afternoon in the parking lot across from the Orange Bowl, dealing cocaine to fellow ambulance personnel, and friends. Sometime before noon, an Ohaus Triple-Beam scale was extracted from a black gym bag, and grams of cocaine would be weighed and placed into tiny zip-lock baggies and sold for fifty dollars each. Just like that. It seemed like everyone knew about it, and yet it went on like it was the most natural thing in the world, either ignored, or tolerated by those in whom it held no appeal. A third of the company personnel openly smoked weed, and made no bones about it. Another third did so, but tried to keep it a secret from the third of those who didn’t.

Imagine it is your first day of work as an EMT. It is a little after 0800 hrs. Suddenly the radio begins to “broadcast” from one of the ambulances, which is to say, the microphone has gone “live” due to having the transmit button being accidentally held in, either by a leg, or some piece of personal gear. Every word being spoken in the rig is now being heard by not only dispatch, but also every other rig that is on the road, and 10-8 with the radio on. (In New York, for instance, an ambulance is called a “car”, e.g.: “six o’clock car”. In Florida, they are more likely to be called a “truck”, or a “rig”. Some locales use the initialization: “ERV” (Emergency Response Vehicle), or similar references.)

“Cummon, nigga! Ya gonna smoke dat whole spliff yo’ self? I toned you on yestiday, ya cheap-ass muthafucka!”

 

“You’ll get ya share when I is good an’ Goddamn ready…dat shit you braht yestaday was nuthin’ but a bunch a’ Mexican bush-weed. Dis ‘ere is da real ting…sinsemilla. Two tokes gonna put ya on da floor trippin’. So shut ya mout’ an’ wait yo’ turn, bitch!”

 

“Who is you callin’ bitch, yo’ nappy-headed assho?”

 

“Speakin’ a nappy-headed bitches, tell yo Mama I lef the money on the dressa, and I’ll see her tamarra night.”

This dialogue continued for more than twenty minutes before the supervisor eventually recognized the voices, and intercepted them at their next scheduled pickup. They were not fired, nor were they even officially identified or the subject of any known disciplinary action, only unsubstantiated rumors about their suspected complicity. Speculation aside, the conversation was real, and heard by everyone who was on duty that day, including Jeff.

Eventually, one of the company’s top collectors was arrested in uniform, with the ambulance parked outside, while trying to enter a Miami crack house while it was being busted. Phone calls were made, but it never became a news item. This was before mandatory pre-employment, or even post-accident urine testing for drugs. (Bonuses were awarded each month for drivers who collected the most money for their transports-COD. The top collector for the year usually received a paid vacation in Hawaii. Some even had credit-card imprinters (just like the most elite Miami prostitutes), and some even were known to take their patients through the drive-through lanes of local banks on the way to their destinations.)

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