Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Today we begin seriously packing up for the northbound journey home. It will be a couple of weeks yet before we cross the Piscataqua river but it's a good sign, nevertheless.

We have been gone too long. That being said, I must add that it has been a wonderfully pleasant visit and we have done everything we planned to do and more. I will miss knowing I can get in the car and drive to a beautiful beach and absorb it's tropical luxury. I will miss roads that are so smooth that I think sometimes they were built by a furniture maker. I will miss the Florida weather which, no matter what you've heard, is made for human habitation. I know this because it seems every human on the planet is here.

I will miss the gentle breezes into the late evening on the lanai (aka. back porch) by the pool. I will miss the excited hugs and kisses of two little children who call me Grampa Jerry. I will miss seeing the developing stages in the lives of the three older children: a freshman at Sickles High School, a sophomore at the University of Florida, and a senior at Florida State University. And I will miss the truly amazing hospitality of Michelle and Michael who make me feel special - like family. There is no set value on such a gift. And at the same time I truly miss my Maine home.

In Florida I am required to relax and have little in the way of responsibilities. In Maine I have grass to cut, a garden to try and rescue, wood to stack and an endless list of things to do. Even so, I want to go there and do that. I'm homesick.

I also know that after an hour or two of stacking wood and a session walking behind a lawnmower and driving down a road better navigated in a tractor, I'll be completely caught up and ready for another holiday. I know that. It makes no difference. I still want to be there.

Be the weather so unpredictable; be the list of chores an endless demand; be the roads a challenge for the best destruction derby driver; there is no place like home.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


One of the nicest things about travel are the places you find to eat.  But first a word about hotel breakfasts.

If all it takes for you to get on with your day is some dry cereal and milk, then you're covered.  It's when the hotel thinks it can do up an egg or a piece of sausage that it gets to the gag level.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in a couple of places and they served the same little omelette-like creation with a slice of faux cheese in it that was so uniformly made that it had to be machine made.  If dropped, I'm pretty sure they will bounce.  With enough Tabasco and black pepper it almost resembles the taste of egg. 

The sausage scene is not much better.  First of all, sausage is, ideally, ground up meat that is seasoned.  This was turkey sausage.  Perhaps it was.  I have to say it tasted not only bland but it required great leaps of imagination to come up with the idea that you were actually eating meat.  OK, it got the job done but only minimally.  And I tasted the whatever it was for several hours after.  I'm quite sure my system is still trying to figure out just what it was I ate.

Twice there was cream sausage gravy and hot biscuits.  Whoa there, I shouted.  I love the stuff as it fosters wonderful memories of that same menu at my great aunt Ora's kitchen table as a child.  I would go out and run it off quickly, but driving all day to the day's destination is not going to run anything off.  Biscuits (very likely made with lard) slathered ladles of hot cream gravy becomes a brick in one's digestive tract if sitting on it is the plan.  It was the plan.

Dinner was another story.  We were in Ft. Myers and were in a Pier 1 Imports looking for real glasses for our evening libation.  Why hotels provide those awful Dixie cups is beyond me.  No it's not: it's cheap and that's that.  After finding this pair of excellent and cheap $3 glasses that I was sure were more money, we chatted up the person waiting on us and asked her where we could go for a good meal with some atmosphere.  Without batting an eye, she said Bonita Bill's.  She said it would not be fancy, the food is great and inexpensive and there is no better atmosphere.

Hmm, a local recommendation like that is hard to ignore.  She was right on every count.  Here are a couple of shots from our table.

As the sun faded the evening turned gold.

Check out the napkin holder.

A sampling of the crowd.

To get here you went like you were going over the bridge/causeway to Sanibel Island but you turn off at the last minute and meander through this back street neighborhood and then drive under the bridge and find a huge parking lot with not a parking place to be had.   As I made the loop - as luck would have it - and I don't know what I'd do with out luck - a guy pulled out of an ideal spot just as I approached.  I parked and CA was saying things like, "This is it"!

The place was packed.  We strolled in and I saw this table right down on the water and it was empty.  I said, "What's wrong with that one?" and a guy standing nearby said, "Not a thing.  Go get it."

That was about it.  We hung out there for the better part of two hours.  Everybody there seemed to know ten other people.  I truly think we were the only patrons from "away" so to speak.  These people locals.  There was music and dancing too.  Well, a good time only goes so far.  I couldn't hear the music and I passed on the dancing but the beer was cold and the food was great. . . . .  Go there.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Myth of Key West

Key West is one of the more hyped destinations in the country. The hype is all in the history and geography. It used to be a great port. It used to be home to Earnest Hemingway, and Tennessee Williams had a home there. Though they were there at the same time they only met once. I wonder what that was all about. It used to be the Summer White House for Harry Truman. My guess it was used mostly in the winters. Jimmy Buffett began there years ago, and is likely wandering around looking for that lost shaker of salt. The tour guide kind of went over the top to point out the original Margaritaville location. I thought he was going to dislocate his elbow as he pointed to the exact spot. Sloppy Joe's welcomed Hemingway frequently. Well, Sloppy Joe's is not where it was then and of course Earnest is long gone. Only the stories remain and I am sure they benefit from a few embellishments.

Geographically, Key West couldn't help being located at the tip of a chain of little islands - "keys", which sounds more Caribbean - and ending up being the most southern point in the continental US. The rest of can't say that. So it's unique. If you're into that, go there. I once saw the sunrise at the most eastern point in the North American Continent. There was not a bar or coffee shop, for that matter, in sight, but I was there. I guess that's the point.

It is said that there are 360 liquor licenses on Key West. About 135 of them are on Duval Street. Also on Duval Street are straw hats, tee shirts, sandals, "art" that you would never even think of purchasing at home but in Key West.... and on Duval Street? There probably isn't a better or easier place to drink yourself blind while wearing a tee shirt with the logo of your bar of choice on the back. I don't know what I expected of Duval Street, but it didn't come close to any thing I had in my mind. I am quiet sure that if I were 22 and foot loose I'd find something to be excited about about Duval Street. Actually, if I were 22 and footloose it wouldn't matter where I was. I'd be hysterical! As it is, I wasn't too impressed. The phrase, "Tourist Trap" comes to mind. You can consider the source.

We were not able to be there in the evening. We looked for lodging for the night but couldn't bring ourselves to pay such obscene prices for it so decided to stay on Marathon and drive in for the day. I'm happy to have gone there. I wouldn't do it again or recommend it to someone I liked.

Confession time. On the way down we stopped off at a visitor information center on Key Largo. The guy there convinced us to purchase at a discount, of course, a trolly tour ticket. Parking for that was free and parking in the heart of where we wanted was either non-existant or expensive, he said. Sounded like a deal to us. We could get off and on the trolly all day. As with many such "deals" it sounded much better than it turned out to be. Take my advise: if you go there drive down town and pay the outrageous fee for all day parking and you will have more fun, see more, and not worry about catching the trolly at the designated stop. I mean how often are you going there anyway?

Here's the thing: I had all these expectations. I've never been so disappointed in anything. I should have known better. What others say bout a place is nice but it is not superior to your own experience. By that same measure, don't take my word for it - go see for yourself and pay for the parking. And NO, that was not necessarily a recommendation.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Last evening we were sitting at an outside table at a lovely restaurant by our hotel enjoying a wonderful evening of seafood and the warm ocean air of the Florida Keys. It would be hard to top this specially as the latest report from our Maine home is 38˚ and threatening. You could say that's why we are here. You could actually say that, but that's not the real reason we're here, but it fits. OK - - it's the real reason we're here.

Toward the end of our dinner, a guy at the next table said something to CA about having seen her earlier as they came into the hotel on their bicycles, and that began an hour long conversation between him and his companion and us. He said they were from Birmingham and I said I had breakfast there once. We all laughed and then we began an enjoyable evening of story telling and sharing of experiences. The two of them - old friends - were biking the keys. They were doing it right. Riding one way and shuttling back. Even I could do that perhaps. Very perhaps.

We were all "mature" people and as is the case when mature people meet up, the conversation turns to past experiences and other stuff older people talk about. They were very likable, even though confessed Republicans. I'm sorry, something just came over me and I couldn't resist that.

The two of them and CA were about the same age and I was their senior by about ten years, which meant we could all remember many of the same things. We had a marvelous evening of talking about careers, retirement, writing and places to get a good meal in the Keys.

It was one of those experiences that demonstrate the connection we all have to each other. One of them was a writer who loved the process as much as the content and that resonated with my own ideas about writing. The other person was a graduate of LSU in my home town and we shared memories of that experience as well as some from our New Orleans days. I mean six degrees is not a lot of separation after all.

I am always amazed when I find some kind of connection to total strangers. It has happened many times. Could it be that it's a sign of hope for an implied kinship between all humans? That's pretty grandiose, I agree, but humanity is worth the effort. Wouldn't you agree?

Today, CA goes swimming with the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center. She would include dolphins in that group of kinfolk with whom we share some important characteristics and gifts. That's probably not grandiose at all.