The Lemon Tree

This was about a chance encounter early one morning on A1A on the Daytona strip just south of ormond Beash in Florida. I thought that I was in for a big surprise.

 

 

INDEX

These are articles, stories and accounts of my life, as I recall them, and are copywrited. Unauthorized use will be pursued at my determination, to the degree that I am inclined. Any hard feeling caused by memories that don't match yours are unfortunate and you'll just have to get over it! Feel free to contact me if you have a request for their use. I am not writing for prose or poetry, but just to tell a story. Neither do I try to be politically correct. I consider political correctness an act of cowardice, trying to placate the uninformed, ignorant of history folks that are filled with ego and braggadocios, demanding that their perspective be the prevalent one.

 

"Damn it Rossi" seethed Smokey, "I told you not to come over here before midnight, you know damn good and well that we work at least until 12:00, now get the hell out of the dyno room 'til Ralph or I tell you guys it's OK to come back in here".

"Damn, what a grumpy ass prick he is tonight" I said to Rossi. I'd never seen him in such a bad mood. Mario Rossi was the crew chief on the newly formed DiGard racing team here in Daytona Beach and had introduced me to Smokey Yunic and his right hand man Ralph Johnson several weeks earlier and on subsequent visits to 'The Best Damn Garage In Town', neither Smokey or Ralph had seemed anything but cordial and informative. Mario seemed to be a little bit pissed as he thought he was privy to any and all of Smokey's 'tricks' and 'secretes', but Smokey seemed very protective of even getting a glance at his 207 cubic inch turbocharged small block Chevy that was mounted on the huge Heenan-Froude dynamometer. They had run this motor in this year's Indy 500 and they must have been looking at some issue that they may have had.

The noise and vibration as a result of 'pulling the lever' on one of these large water brake dynos is an experience unto itself. The developing torque makes the floor shake and vibrates noticeably and the very loud deep throated roar of the horsepower resonates and bounces off each of the walls. ( I was later to learn of the effect this has on ladies, particularly if they are bare-footed at the time.) Rossi was duly impressed by the noise and vibration as well and commented that motor must be 'one stout puppy' to make the floor shake like that.

We had sat on the pole earlier this season at the opening race here in Daytona at the 500, and we had set this motor aside for the 4th of July race next week, also here in Daytona, and Rossi had spent most of the last 2-3 days installing a new designed camshaft, changing assorted gaskets, installing new valve springs, and a new set of exhaust headers and generally giving it a 'once-over'. Mario had chosen to use Smokey's more accurate dyno for this important task so Mario and I had spent the time after our normal working hours at the shop on Fentress Boulevard, by cleaning up our own small dyno room. After getting the motor crated, covered and loaded on the shop truck, and intending to make my own way home after the dyno test, I followed Mario in my own car, a red '71 corvette, and we made our way east on International Speedway Boulevard headed towards the Atlantic ocean, turning north just before we got to the causeway, on North Beach street for a few blocks until we reached Smokey's. As we continued to wait for word from Smokey or Ralph, I reminded Rossi that the motor was still outside, and that it was starting to drizzle, so we had better get it unloaded and inside where we could get it uncovered and mount the newly built motor mounts that would allow us to mount it on Smokey's dyno, then go ahead and install the headers, saving us time for when Smokey would actually let us in the dyno room. Rossi and I both were getting tired and frustrated at the time Smokey was taking using the dyno. We did not usually mind the time it took to reach a particular goal in our line of work, but time spent while nothing was being accomplished was grating on each of our nerves.


Finally, at 1:00 in the morning, Ralph came out and said that they would have the room cleared in a few minutes and for us to get ready. Rossi and I came prepared for this installation and had brought all of our own tools for resetting the timing, adjusting the valves and assorted jets and valves for the carburetor work. We got our own 355 cubic inch small block Chevy up on the dyno in about half an hour and after another hour and five 'pulls' we had gained 8 horsepower for a total of 656 HP, a feat we considered a successful achievement. We were preparing this motor for Donnie Allison to use in the upcoming 400 mile July race, and things were looking good at this time regarding our chance to sit on the pole on this, what is now, our 'home' track. We disassembled the dyno apparatus, re-crated the motor and loaded it in the shop truck for Rossi to take back and park in the shop until morning, and easing out the side door, I slid behind the wheel of my 'vette, intent on releasing the stress of this day and gather some semblance of a working plan for the following day.

It was now 2:30 in the morning, the drizzling rain had abated, leaving my pride and joy appearing clean, detailed and ready for an excursion into the Florida night. Not too long ago, I had crashed this car at the North Carolina-South Carolina border on my way home from the Charlotte race track and after it was repainted it had been buffed to a nice shiny gloss red with the exception of the hood that I had painted flat medium blue. I then had five stars painted on the hood making it look sort of like the American flag. The race car that I was crew chief for the previous year had been painted just like this, and I had taken a liking to the patriotic image that it had. With only a twitch of the switch, the big block Chevy motor instantly came to life and was purring with its own throaty rumble. While the car was being painted, I had removed the motor and took it to a NASCAR motor builder and had it re-balanced and blue printed and a slightly more aggressive cam was installed, and along with a blue printed heads and intake manifold, I was able to see a vast improvement from the previous wimpy idle to the current husky idle that made the entire body vibrate, to the wild top end speed. This 454 cubic inch equipped 'Vette had a top speed listed as 116 MPH in all the advertising brochures, but I had actually seen 120 MPH on the speedometer on my way home from Jacksonville early one morning since this work had been done.

Sliding into the familiar and comfortable seat, I was reminded of one of the trials of my current occupation. Sitting butt-first into the seat, I was OK getting my right leg under the steering wheel, but the left leg was being difficult. Standing and walking was currently not a huge effort, but bending at the knee to get in the car made me take a quick breath as a result of a pit road incident at the 2nd race in Atlanta last year. I had just jumped out in front of Joe Frasson's car to change the front tire, but he was slow on the braking and ran into me, hitting my right leg, knocking it into my left leg which was the one that was planted on the asphalt, knocking me ass-first into the next pit stall. I got up and gathered the air gun in my left hand, and sliding my right hand down to the whip hose connection, I walked up the right side window, twisted to my left and with my right hand I swung that air gun at the end of the whip hose thru the passenger side window trying to hit Joe, but it first hit the wedge bar and bounced upward just enough that it hit Joe right in the helmet. In typical Frasson fashion he just flashed that toothy smile at me and pointed to the right front tire. After I got both feet into the car, I reached to close the door and I was reminded of a more recent incident. Two weeks earlier on the last pit stop in Michigan as I was coiling up my air hose, the car in the pit stall just in front of ours ran thru his stall and slid to a stop cross ways in our pit. I was able to avoid being hit, but the air hose got caught in a piece of torn sheet metal just at the rear of the front tire, catching a coiled section and wrapped it around my left hand and dislocating my thumb. It had to be put in a cast, but several days ago I was helping Mario test fit that new set of headers and being unable to get my hand down between the header pipes to change the spark plugs, I attempted to use an air powered 'zip' cutoff wheel to cut off the cast, but soon I was seeing red all over! I had cut all the way thru the cast into my left hand just where the thumb joins the back of the palm, and a lot of blood was spurting out one side of the gap that I had just made. Rossi was pissed that I had sprouted blood all over his 'prized' motor but soon calmed down enough to run me down the street to the hospital where seven stitched put me back in business.

As the shake and rumble smoothed out somewhat as the motor warmed up, I bumped the pedal gently just to hear the quick rise in RPM, and the smooth transition in tone indicated that this little lady wanted to prance and prowl among the ribbons of neon that line the asphalt of highway A1A. I was not inclined to turn her down as it also coincided with my own enthusiasm for viewing those two legged animals that were continually on display meandering among the asphalt and neon in Volusia counties most heavily attended zoo, and usually provided a soothing transition from the turmoil of the days physical activities to the more visual and peaceful encounters derived from people watching. As my willingness began to match her ability, I eased her into reverse, carefully backed around the 'Best Damn Garage in Town' sign, and eased my up to the edge of the road where, using the dim glow of a nearby street light, I fumbled thru my 8-track tapes looking for my recently acquired Jim Croce tape. As I pulled out of Smokey's parking lot I was treated to Jim Croce and Maury crooning their rendition of Alabama Rain. Both the quadraphonic eight track player and the Jim Croce tape had been given to me by an 'acquaintance' from near Talladega, and was the perfect way to provide a musical background for cruising the famed Daytona strip. My little red car was a convertible, but I mainly drove it with the hard top installed as it made the sound both smooth, close and resonating, but without the loudness.

I found my way across the Fairview avenue bridge and past Hallifax Avenue, then Peninsula Drive and just as I reached A1A, Jim Croce was beginning his song These Dreams and singing about "'now we're just lonely people...", and a familiar feeling began to reveal itself as I motored north toward Ormond Beach. Racing seemed to have an extremely wide physical and emotional gap between ups and downs that could be imagined. On a given day at 2:00 PM in the afternoon there would be more than 130,000 people watching your every move as your testosterone level had built to its peak and there was enough motion, heat and energy to deal with it and it was loud as all Hell while you were changing hot and heavy tires, in seconds, just inches from of speeding 3800 pound banshees, and the smell of burnt rubber filled your nostrils. A mere twelve hours later at 2:00 AM in the morning on the way home from who-knows-where, you could find yourself with only a cold and silent steering wheel, alone in the dark, with little more than the occasional tail light and a rare pair of headlights across the median. With many hours left before reaching home, your energy level was nearly depleted, yet your testosterone level was till churning, leaving you feeling alone but yearning for a lone companion, preferably one with an alluring fragrance, tempting lipstick and imploring eye shadow who might be willing to slowly minimize the distance between you and graze your arm or thigh with even the slightest touch. Even better if she would caress your neck while speaking softly in your ear telling you of her desires and hinting that if you were similarly inclined, she would agree to be a willing participant in any activity that might address that high testosterone level.

"Oh shit!". Damn near running a red light, I brought my little red baby screeching to a halt at a very busy intersection, just short of the crosswalk lines, mere feet from hitting a pedestrian. "Holy crap!" And what a pedestrian it was! Walking left to right, inches away from my windshield was some kind of a choice specimen of feminine pulchritude. She was tall and thin, dressed in a long sleeved, loose fitting silk blouse, strutting on what appeared to be four inch high stilettos, ideally suited for emphasizing the correct tailoring of those perfectly fitting jeans, but the most obvious aspect of this feminine apparition was the wide brimmed hat with an ostrich feather pointed rearward and canted just a little to her left with about a 30 degree tilt upward . Clearly this young lady knew how for attention.

Despite the fact that I had nearly knocked this gorgeous feminine specimen to the ground, it had not made her miss one single step in her march across the intersection, and she stopped on her own and looking in my direction decided to share her smile with me. Damn, she had nice teeth! She continued across the street, turning to her right and stopped once more, bent at the hip and peering in the passenger side window gave me another look at her dental features and continued to the parking lot that was to my right, where I lost track of her.

It was three or four blocks up A1A at another stop light that I noticed that the car behind me was flashing their lights, but looking around I could not see that I was not in any place that I shouldn't be and all my lights were on. Then at the next light, the flashing continued, and looking in the driver's door mirror, I see that lithe lass with the gorgeous ass, strutting straight towards my car door. The windows were up and the AC was on, so I rolled my window down, muted Jim Croce in expectation of her speaking to me, which she did. Holding onto the brim of that large hat, she again bent at the waist and said that she liked both my car and my choice in music and would I like to follow her to a little bar just up the street and over a few blocks to listen to some more music? "Is a pigs ass pork?" I said to myself, but I said to her that I was still in my work clothes and I might not be suitable for public display. She said that would not be a problem as the place is usually quite dark, and besides, my tousled hair and the multiple patches on my uniform were interesting to her and she wanted to see more of them.

The light had turned green, but it must have been a guy in the car behind us who was looking at her posterior attributes as there seemed to be no horn or no hurry. She then told me to pull into the right lane in the next block and she would pass me and I could follow her to the establishment that she was telling me about. In a short time, as I had done as she requested, we pulled into the parking lot under a large yellow and well lit sign notifying me that we had indeed entered a music related venue with floor shows as well. It was called The Lemon Tree. Once inside, even in the dim lighting, she was a sight to behold with carefully and expertly applied make up. Her eye shadow was a complimentary shade to her lipstick and the coloring of her cheeks formed a gentle transition between her inviting lips and her taunting eyes. The large, feather adorned wide brim hat, padded shoulders within the loose fitting top, and gazing downward....form fitting jeans tapered to a skin tight fit around the calves and ankles and then those dark red shoes shaded to perfectly match her lipstick. She was a veritable walking geometric array of feminine couture and desire.

We had barely got more than a few feet inside the door when a gentleman at a nearby table stood up and called out "Hey Allie, were over here. We saved you a seat." She turned and grabbed my hand and said to follow her to the table, where that gentleman found another chair, and everyone slid down a little and we worked our way into the group at the table with most of us sitting against the wall and facing the darker portion of the room. After the introductions, I ordered Allie a mixed drink and I had a large Coke, remembering that tomorrow was a work day (they all were), Looking around the table, there were about 8-10 folks sitting around and as my eyes got accustomed to the lighting, I began to notice that there was a wide variety of dress codes in this group. Some guys wore open front shirts with hairy chests, while others had unusual hair styles, some men wore ear rings, a clearly femininely attired lady sat across the table from me, but there were at least three attendees at the table that I was struggling to determine their gender affiliations. Just at that moment the darkened area suddenly lit up quite brightly and an announcer of unknown location began to welcome us to the Lemon Tree and the weekly talent show.

While the stage lights maintained their own intensity, a spotlight lit up the right side of the stage and out comes an very nice looking lady dressed up nicely and wearing plenty of makeup, who began singing a contemporary song, prancing and dancing while doing so, and as good as she looked, it was apparent that she was just mouthing the words, which amounted to not much more than an elaborate karaoke display. She completed her song, and another lady followed, and then a third one appeared, with each 'chirping bird' seemingly more talented than the previous one, but this one seemed to be a little more nicely attired as well as more accomplished in her dance routine and the all the folks at our table took particular attention to this performance, especially the young lady that I was with. Allie turned to me and said that she had designed and made this dress, to which I responded that it was very nicely done and this lady seemed more talented than the first two that we watched, and she was beaming as she shared with me her penchant and enthusiasm for clothe designing as well as dance instructions.

When this routine was completed Allie asked if I would like to meet that contestant, and wanting to appear interested, I said that I would, at which time she left the table and disappeared behind the stage curtain and reappeared with this performer in tow. When they had reached the table Allie turned to me and said "Will, this is my friend Tony". I stood up and extended my hand only to find that this particular hand was as hairy as mine was. "Nice to meet you" I heard in a subtle baritone voice! "What the Hell?" I said out loud as in my mind I was immediately recalling all the recent questionable appearances and comments that I had accumulated while seated at this table. My sudden reaction made me turn loose of that hand, and my chair tumbled to the floor as I backed up placing my back against the wall behind me, at which point the entire table burst out into uproarious laughter, reveling in the thought that I had just discovered for the first time that I was in a gay bar!

Allie reached out to me as the guy next to me picked up my chair and each person that was at the table approached me with a smile and asked shake my hand. I was closely checking for hair follicles at each handshake. Reassured that each forearm matched the accompanying voice and haircut, I settled back down in my chair as another round of drinks were ordered and my breathing returned to almost normal. I could tell that Allie pondering hard about something seriously, and I was having curious thoughts of my own when she leaned over and said "come with me". As we stood up, she reached for my hand and led me across the room and I could see that we were headed towards the restrooms, and she continued to hold my hand as we turned the corner into the darkened area of the communal hallway, abruptly stopping between the men's and the lady's doorways.

She stood face to face with me and said "I bet you're wondering if I am girl or not, huh?" "It has sure crossed my mind in the last few minutes" I responded. "Here" she said as she grabbed my right arm with her left hand, lifting my arm up and turning herself inward, she placed her backsides up against my stomach. Then, again with her left hand she fumbled at the zipper of her jeans and taking my right hand in hers, she holds open the top of her jeans and guides my right hand down her taunt and flat stomach, past the top of those jeans and under the elastic of her panties, stopping as I reached that point where it was clear that there were no hanging appendages to be found. maintaining her grip on my right hand she takes hold of my left forearm and raised my arm up and over her left shoulder and stopped where my palm would gently conform to the softness of her right breast. "What do you think now?" she whispered. "It's clear that you are a girl" I said, "But do we have to go back right away?"

After we both had tucked and smoothed our clothes that had been in recent disarray, we went back to the table enduring the endless comments from those that had figured out what had just happened, Allie explained to me that she had been the second runner-up in a Miss Florida contest a few years earlier and it had opened up to her several opportunities to enter into fashion design, which was her lifelong dream. She was currently engaged in designing and building clothes for female impersonators because it turns out that store bought feminine attire does not fit the male physique very well, and it was rather lucrative to create and make this type of clothing for that market and I had just met one of her clients.

Over the next period of time she taught me a little bit about dancing (in men's clothing), graphic design and color coordinating as well as an alternate use for ostrich feathers. Eventually I found myself in a position one moonless night in Florida where she slowly slid next to me and caressed my neck while speaking softly in my ear, telling me of her desires and hinting that if I were similarly inclined, she would agree to be a willing participant!