Philosophical Shaggers

The Pad was dilapidated on the day it opened in the mid-Fifties, and it stayed that way for thirty-nine summers. The interior of the place sort of fermented over the years. The rafters and upright supports became collage-like with graffiti. The scrawled signatures and initials of future banking executives, safecrackers, beauty queens, doctors, lawyers, and outlaws decorated the joint.

The Pad was a legendary mess. It was somewhat reminiscent of an old ship wreck which might have washed up after Hurricane Hazel and been appropriated by the dazed survivors a clubhouse. It was actually a garage of a wood-framed beach cottage which had been enclosed, probably with scrap lumber. The structural integrity of The Pad was always in the eye of the beholder. The city fathers of Ocean Drive perennially threatened to have the joint condemned. The Pad’s beer license was under constant siege by state authorities. The very existence of the place seemed to violate the public trust.

The Pad was at once glamorous and gritty. Most accomplished dancers left footprints around the jukebox. For generations of Shaggers, The Pad was a temple of memory. As the temple was demolished years ago, much more than nails and timbers was carried away. One middle-aged woman stood in the street and wept. An entire population of dancers throughout the Southeast accepted the news with a sense of the inevitable. And yet, the reality of that minor demolition, long delayed and often postponed, came as a cerebral, subconscious earthquake.

The old joints and pavilions came and went like the carefree summers. And even if one day they were all demolished or washed out to sea, a philosophical Shagger would still have to keep and know forever the eyes of a girl he danced with after two a.m., thirty-nine years ago. That wild and free dancing female, who married and moved to Oklahoma, could still close her eyes and feel the breeze that climbed off the ocean and cooled the skin where it disappeared into her short shorts. The beach, the music, the joints and the Shag stayed with you, like the lights of Paris.