Tag Archives: Florida

A stately DISPLEASURE dome!

One of the problems of growing older is that you’re supposed to be smarter too. People think you’ve absorbed all of life’s lessons and can face any situation with Zen-like wisdom. The senior years should be rewarding, free of the challenges that trip up the younger set (which these days means anyone born after about 1970). Sorry, but what you get from being old is a bunch of new ways to find yourself saying, “Oh, for dumb.”

The other day I wound up in an urgent care clinic at the beach in Florida. Was I there because I imbibed a few dozen too many beers, wiped out on a boogie board, scorched myself while setting off fireworks, or got slapped silly by a beauty queen from Mobile? Not in this lifetime. On a warm, sunny morning, I sat in a waiting room trying not to feel extremely foolish because part of a hearing aid was stuck in my ear.

The piece in question is the dome, a little rubber cap that covers the receiver, which slips into your ear canal. It looks like a UFO but as you can see, it’s a lot smaller.

Hearing aid dome

Rogue dome

I suddenly realized I couldn’t actually hear very well in my left ear even with the aid in place, and when I took it out the dome was missing. Cue the sinking feeling. So I headed off to the clinic, where a nurse practitioner with a blessedly steady hand reached in with alligator forceps and extracted the thing.

The sympathetic doctor said he’d taken out three or four others. I still felt like a putz, yutz, mope, and dope because after all, this is the kind of thing little kids do, lodging various objects in inappropriate places.

At least I’m not this guy, who had a toy traffic cone stuck in his lung for 40 years (or the guy mentioned in comments on the article, who had a light bulb stuck in a different spot). Nor am I one of those preening peacocks of both sexes who try to look and act like they’re 20 when they’re closing in on their second century (see Hefner, Hugh, the late).

Truth be told, even when I was younger and hopefully studlier, I never got close enough to any beauty queens to get slapped anyway. What if I somehow stockpiled my karmic klutziness for my later years? Maybe I should guzzle a couple of cases and launch a whole arsenal of fireworks while riding a boogie board! Or maybe just go look at the beach again. Yeah, that sounds good.

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Dragonfly days

Blue dragonflyAs long as you don’t have to go home, Saturday morning can be a great time in a beach town. That’s when all the rental places turn over, with the last batch of summer people checking out and the next crowd not arriving until afternoon. This gives us long-term beach bums some precious peace and quiet: no loud pool parties, amateur fireworks shows, golf carts buzzing up and down the streets, or Atlanta-like backups on the highway and in the grocery store.

You can set up your beach chairs wherever you please and walk the white sand without dodging boogie boards. Or you can take your coffee out on the screened porch if you’re lucky enough to have one, listen to the waves and the songbirds, and watch all the dragonflies that appeared in the last couple of days, this time of year being one of their peak seasons.

For me, and I suspect, a good many people my age, life seems a lot like one of these mornings, but not always in an idyllic way. I recently left one career behind, and though I’ve published a couple of short stories, my first novel and my career as a fiction writer are still at an early stage in the countdown. Other people may have children who’ve moved out, graduated, or gotten hitched, but aren’t having grandchildren yet.  And if you have aging parents, your life is always as uncertain as theirs.

Intellectually, I knew this would be a transition time. Emotionally, my attempts to “be here now,” as Ram Dass wrote, are up against the feeling that my life is in the fourth quarter (and sudden death doesn’t include overtime). My body isn’t helping, as it still wants a daily caffeine blast that could waken a dead volcano, and gets crabby when I try to do something important like reaching for a pillow  without getting out of my recliner.

But here by the sea, if you can just open up your senses, the natural, wild world becomes the best medicine. Walking the shoreline, it’s clear that the saying, “It’s never the same beach twice” is the truth, and the new, with long sandbars and higher waterlines, is as beautiful as the old. You realize what miracles those big* dragonflies are as they swoop around the houses and trees, magically hover for a split-second, then dart away.

At night, you go back to the porch and over a few weeks watch Venus and Jupiter move toward each other in the sky, appear for a moment to be almost joined, then pull away again. Things change, and we will too. We always have.

 

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*How big are they? The other day, one touched down at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, tanked up on jet fuel, and took off for Dallas before anybody figured out what it was. (That’s the kind of joke I’d usually save for a small child, but since none are around, y’all will have to do.)

 

Birds of the weather

OspreyAs I’ve said before, Florida sure is an interesting place, especially the wildlife, and no, I don’t mean Justin Bieber in Miami. When my wife and I went down to Ft. Myers last week, our hotel was on a classic suburban strip, yet just a short walk from an old canal that’s also a bike trail, park, and home to lots of birds. We saw a wood stork, great blue and little blue herons, egrets, some ducks I haven’t ID’d yet but looked like they had Mohawk hair, and this osprey.

If you’re a serious birder or watcher, the place to be in that area is the refuge on Sanibel Island. True fact: you can go to Ding Darling to look for the Marbled Godwit. We didn’t see any of those but did get to watch some white pelicans, roseate spoonbills (which look just like their name), and more other species than I have room to list. State parks are one of the things that Floridians do very well.

Little blue heron on sandbankOf course, at this time of year, the native feathered fauna are outnumbered by their flightless, RV and SUV-riding counterparts from up naw-wuth: the snowbirds! From Michigan they come, and Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, the whole Big 10, plus some auxiliary Greater Upper Midwestern states like Ontario and Nova Scotia.

If you think I’m kidding about their numbers, just try to get off Sanibel or onto I-75 in late afternoon; you’ll swear the city had imported Chris Christie to manage traffic. The locals sure know their customers, too. I heard more Bob Seger in restaurants around Ft. Myers than I’ve ever heard anywhere except Detroit.

In fact, most of the interstate south of Atlanta seems designed to fleece the birdies. At the point where anybody coming from Grand Rapids or Wapakoneta is bound to be desperate for a break, there’s a place called “Café Risqué – We Bare All!” and multiple billboards touting not one but two Adult Superstores: the Lion’s Den and Adult Central. I may be old and jaded, but come awwwnnn: how super can a porn shop be?

You can also get “Fireworks – Ground Shaking Mortars,” just the thing for that veteran of Afghanistan, Baghdad, or Khe Sanh in your life. And no trip is complete without visiting the Florida Citrus Center, which also conveniently peddles GATOR HEADS and WIND CHIMES. A bit north of Ft. Myers, there’s a billboard for the “No Needle, No Scalpel Vasectomy!” (If I were the copywriter, I believe I’d just leave out any mention of needles and scalpels altogether.) Then for women whose husbands missed that sign, there’s “My Gynecologist – We Deliver!”

We saw this too: a couple of Confederate flags the size of a barn door on tall poles next to the highway. One was north of Tifton, GA, the other right at the junction of I-75 and I-4, near Tampa. They weren’t flying when we drove down on January 18, but coming back on the 24th, the week of the Martin Luther King holiday, there they were. Coincidence? Not likely.  The snowbirds might think this is common in the South, which it most definitely is not.

The follies of FL

Right now I imagine a lot of you are digging out of, shivering through, griping about, and generally trying to survive the big winter storm* that somebody christened “Hercules” but could also be called “Hyperbole.” Those who live in the frozen zone (frozone?) also are probably wishing they could decamp for someplace warm, especially Florida.

As a former Michigander, New Englander, and Washingtonian, I can definitely relate. I’m now a part-time resident of Inlet Beach, FL, where the picture above was taken and my wife and I visit every chance we get. However, Florida has some little eccentricities that you really don’t run across in Grand Rapids, St. Paul, Parma, Mahwah, Worcester, Westchester, and all those other places where the flakes are flying.

Let’s take a quiz: Which of these are actual Florida news headlines and which are made up?

Man Tries to Trade Alligator For Beer

Amorous Dolphin Tries to Boink TV Babe in Theme Park Pool

Kangaroo Leads Florida Deputies on 10-Hour Chase

Florida Beachgoer Discovers Human Foot in Shoe**

Man Loses Hand, Has Weed-Whacker Strapped Onto Stump

Florida Man Bitten by Shark, Punched by Monkey (Twice), Struck by Lightning, Bitten by Snake

Slimy, Giant Snails Invade South Florida

Police Ticket Man for Running Backwards

Killer Chops Off Victim’s Legs at Knees to Fit Body Into Suitcase

Woman Allegedly Calls 911 to Report Drunk People Inside Bar

Except for #2, 5, and 9, all of these things actually happened in 2013, according to our friends at Buzzfeed. The others describe events that took place in a few of the many great books by Carl Hiaasen, which any northern immigrant (and everyone everywhere) should read for some wild and hilarious tales (but at all costs avoid the movie version of “Strip Tease”).

*As the Almighty Editorial Poobah, Pontiff, and Kahuna, I hereby ban for now and forevermore the use of “The Big Chill” to describe actual weather events, as opposed to the movie.  Unfortunately, one of the best quotes from the film – “C’mon, Blue, you’re not supposed to fold until the fourth quarter!” – remains relevant.

**Presumably not his own foot and shoe.