1/8/10 - I was awakened far too early by Diesel's plaintive cries as he sought some relief for his bowel and bladder pressures. Donning slippers to match my PJs, I walked him to the dog defecation club where he proceeded to fling great rooster tails of debris in celebration of each excretion. While the other club members cleaned Diesel's dirt from themselves they spoke of his handsomeness and of how much we missed seeing Fred Neff. As I wrote last year, Fred stood like a colossus at the gateway to the Sugarloaf Dog and Philosophy Club. As the eighty-something father of seven children and the two time husband of their mother, Fred had acquired a doctoral equivalent in relationship management. He also had much understanding of animal husbandry and is greatly loved by his dog who was originally known as Dutchess but is now addressed simply as Dutch. He is the father that all of us always wanted and together we laughed about almost everything that can be laughed at and some things that shouldn't. Fred had been a seasonal tent camper here at the KOA for five years, but did not intend to return this year and he is very much missed by all of us who knew him.
After I reviewed the previous evening's hasty hookups and extracted bicycles from the back of the Chevy-Woo, Linda drove off to the Winn-Dixie on Big Pine Key to replenish our larder. While she was gone I seized the opportunity to update this site with news of our arrival and upon her return we changed into our swimming togs and walked across the street to the pool. After we had exercised and basked for some time, we were joined by Larry and Gwen who told us of their adventures since we saw them last year. I was green with envy when they told me of how they had been in Key West for Fantasy Fest in October. They provided excellent descriptions of the naked and nearly naked participants and also spoke of the arrival of a nude cruise ship traveling under the Banner of "Bare Necessities." Cruise members and landlubbers mingled together in Dionysian revelry lasting through parades and into the night with only a few random couplings to mar the Eden-like atmosphere. Now we are very much excited about scheduling an October visit but not this year because of our currently scheduled debauchery in the Mediterranean.
After watching the sunset on Sugarloaf we walked to the legendary Mangrove Mama's where we very much missed the great company of our friends from Western Pennsylvania with whom we had celebrated the previous year. Over shrimp and scallops we listened to Chris Towne the Alaskan Singer/Songwriter & Classical/ Spanish Guitarist. During a break, for the cost of a single shot, we got to chat with Chris about his life and travels.
1/9/10 - It's cold and raning when Diesel requires attention in the semi-darkness of early morning. We are the only man and beast that are out on such a morning. We sat around for most of the morning cursing our luck and then drove to the Geiger Marina for a chilly lunch before shopping for a gas grill replacement. Unable to make up our minds, we returned home to watch the play-off games.
1/10/10 - My warmest coat and hat were inadequate for accompanying Diesel to his morning ablutions. I met a Jack and Judy from Gainesville in the good company of five dogs including two rescued greyhounds. Next we stopped at the much decorated tentsite of Mark from Wisconsin who was covering his traveling costs by selling items that he had created from coconut husks. He introduced Diesel to the slow moving iquana that he had captured and I took some snapshots of his artistic creations. I am now reliving the horror of the Eagles loss to the hated Cowboys in last night's play-off game. Just to inform you of how desperate we have become with the bad weather, we are now contemplating going to a flea market at Big Pine Key for the remainder of the morning. Soon enough I will be putting on my, 'Ask me about my Grandchildren' T-shirt, my plaid mid-calf shorts, my black socks and sandals to go to the clubhouse for a nice nap. We will then go to line up for the early bird dinner about 3 PM, but will get there by the fashionable 3:45 PM, because we're late eaters. The large portions will allow us to take home enough food for the next day's lunch and dinner, including extra bread, crackers, packets of mustard, relish, ketchup and Sweet-and-Low along with mints.
1/11/10 - The sun came warm and bright today but an ill wind continued to blow. After lugging our accumulated dirty clothes to the laundry, I accompanied Diesel to the Dog Club where I chatted with Susan and Diesel introduced her pugs to the club facilities. On our return to the whale I began reading a book called "I Am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter examining in depth the concept of a strange loop originally developed in his 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach. The book argues that the key to understanding selves and consciousness is the "strange loop"--a special kind of abstract feedback loop inhabiting our brains. Deep down, a human brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles, on a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol in your brain or mine is the one we both call "I." The "I" is the nexus in our brain where the levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down, with symbols seeming to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse. For each human being, this "I" seems to be the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real--or is our "I" merely a convenient fiction? Does an "I" exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics?
After a day spent wrestling with these matters, I let Diesel wrestle with a tree and we then ventured out to the No Name Pub to share a pizza and a Caesar Salad and listened to people from Ohio,Wisconsin, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as they celebrated being far from their cold homes.
1/12/10 - With much grumbling I retrieved my tools and began to develop my sanitation engineering skills to repair a slow leak in the toilet. After I removed the toilet from the bathroom and examined its functions in the sunlight, I was able to see that the problem was associated with a non sealing valve. I then took the toilet down to mile marker 22.5 where I found an unobtrusive little RV repair shack where I was able to secure a new valve and succcessfully reinstall the toilet to the delight of my spouse.
It's reunion day at Sugarloaf Key as Craig and Khristine Sink arrive from Iowa followed shortly by Harvey and Jan Olson from Minnesota. We started telling lies where we had left off last year especially those involving Bernie, Yvonne, Bill, and Al from Western Pennsylvania since they were not here to defend themselves. Blame for all of last year's debauchery has now been firmly placed on their frail shoulders and this year we are pledged to daily exercise and Bible study. The Sugarloaf "Special K" club dispersed to various venues for the evening and I assembled my new propane grill for searing some steaks for dinner. After we had finished, we were joined by Kelly and Susan (pug parents that we first met in 2008 and saw again last year) and they played a dulcimer concert for us at our picnic table outside under the stars.
1/13/10 - Again, Diesel announced his needs at the first crack of a promising dawn and I met another old friend named Jean at the Dog Club for reminiscing about our absentee president, Fred Neff. Later the "Five Dog Night" group arrived and I provided them with more reviews of the local restaurants. When I returned with Linda's newspaper, a quorum of Larry, Gwen, Craig, and Chris had gathered at Larry's digs for the Bible study class, but decided to postpone the class to meet later at Schooner Wharf in Key West where the study could be enhanced with the background music of Michael McCloud and a bit of the Yuengling to wash down the fish and chips. .Michael McCloud (born 1947) is the stage name of Michael Snyder, an American folk singer and songwriter who regularly performs at Schooners. His album, "Aint Life Grand " features the lead guitar playing of the late "Doctor" George Turner. He gained national attention after filing a formal complaint for copyright infringement against country music star Toby Keith in 2006 when McCloud claimed that Keith's 2003 hit song "I Love This Bar "...was copied largely from (McCloud's) work, "Tourist Town Bar."
We bought a copy of Michael's latest CD and then wandered past B.O.s to Duval Street where we were suddenly overcome by dehydration and walked into Sloppy Joe's for a pint or two.
1/14/10 - Met the "Five Dog Night" at the Dog Club and then said goodbye to Kelly, Susan, Abby, and Sugar. In the afternoon I returned from a Diesel walk to find Linda already partying at the Chris and Craig Club. I momentarily hesitated befor plunging into a couple of rum and cokes that left me reeling. Hoping to hide the sad state that I was in, I stumbled off with Diesel to walk off the edge of the buzz so that I could again be seen in polite company for the dinner gathering.
1/15/10 - Finally we observe our second sunshine day and the pool exploded with Northern White Porpoises for the entire afternoon. After dinner we drove to Key West with the hope of finally seeing a Mallory Square sunset. Unfortunately we tarried too long at the Hog's Breath Saloon and arrived at Mallory Square too late for the sunset but just in time for the fire swallowing and juggling of dangerous equipment.
We next walked along the harbor to Schooner's Wharf where we listened to George Victory and the Observant Lion Band. This five-piece band is fronted by George Victory from Trinidad, on guitar and vocals. He was joined with Carlon Lyons on steel pan and djembe; Rolando Rojas, on percussion; Ken Fradely on trumpet and flugle horn; and Marty Stonely on sax and vocals.
1/16/10 - At about 9:00 AM we drove to the Big Pine Restaurant where we had a great breakfast before going on the Flea Market where I was able to purchase a cute little outfit made up of Eddie Bauer shorts and a lovely black and olive green shirt embossed with variety of Japanese or Chinese characters in brilliant gold. I intend to make this my standard dog walking costume so that can steal some attention from Diesel as a chick magnet. The heat soon drove us from the FleaMarket to the swimming pool where we remained until an early dinner followed by a trip to the Marathon Community Theater for an excellent performance of "Sylvia."
Sylvia is a romantic comedy about a man, a woman and a dog. Sylvia, a street-smart dog, meets Greg in the park. She has no identification except a tag with her name, “Sylvia”. Greg brings her home, surprising and dismaying his wife, Kate. Tensions rise as Greg spends more and more of his time with Sylvia, learning about himself in the process. The marriage is put in serious jeopardy until, after a series of hilarious and touching complications, Greg and Kate learn to compromise, and Sylvia becomes a valued part of their lives. When Sylvia played in New York's Manhattan Theater Club, Vincent Canby wrote "Not since 'Abie's Irish Rose' has there been a play as critic-proof as "Sylvia," at least for anyone who has ever owned a dog, loved a dog, wanted to wring a dog's neck or wished the dog would take a long weekend"
1/17/10 - Sort of a dreary morning of gray skies marked only by Diesel's first meeting with young Lily, a seven month old English Bulldog puppy in Lot #157. She now gazes longingly out of her window at him every time we walk past. We were invited to join the Olsens for the final half of the Minnestota/Dallas game so thar we could gloat over the Cowboys as they were beaten worse that they had beaten the Eagles on the previous weekend. We were very jealous of the Olsens who were attired in matching purple t-shirts depicting a Viking player with Brett Favre's number 4 urinating on a Green Bay helmet. After the game I was able to make some protocol adjustments on the Olsen laptop so that they could connect to the campground WiFi signal.
1/18/10 - After a late breakfast we rushed to poolside to gather as many rays as we could while the sun was out. Fueled with gin and tonics we then rode with Harvey and Jan to the Geiger Marina where we joined the usual suspects for dinner and paid proper attention to a beautiful sunset.
1/19/10 - At the Big Pine Restaurant we celebrated Larry's Bingo playing success and his kindness as he treated us to breakfast with his winnings from the previous evening. Next we replenished Linda's medications and recoiffed ourselves to meet the Tebbs and Rose families at Tranquility Bay on Marathon Key. Afer the rest of the places we had visited in the kes Tranquility Bay seemed like a pristinely maintained gated community. Even the No See'ums seemed to be the product of genetic engineering such that they just nibbled off flakes of dead skin and excreted some sort of aloe that caused a body to have a buffed and polished look upon return from a walk along the beach. Bill Rose soothed our palates with some fine Manhattans before we ventured out to the Keys Fisheries where I very much enjoyed my first sauteed hogfish.
1/20/10 - After breakfast at the Galley Restaurant with Chris, Craig, Gwen, and Larry we made a quick stop at the Winn-Dixie and then raced to the pool for a day of basking. I'm reading a book called "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell in which he examines the lives of people who's IQs would place them way out in the foothills of the north slope of the bell shaped curve.. Then I started to speculate with the pool occupants that perhaps our hereditary ancestors had perhaps been lacking in fighting skills and great strength but had managed to survive and replicate by lying around looking unappetizing to large carnivores because of our pasty and nasty looking skins. Any carnivore that was anywhere short of absolute starvation would have regarded us as unworthy of attention as a food source or thought of us as already dead so long as to have been poisoned by decay. If a sabre-toothed tiger had managed to get inside the pool fence on that day, he would only have paid attention to a golden brown young woman off in the corner and would have passed by the rest of us.as appearing completely unedible.
1/21/10 - We learned by telephone that Thea Rose had fallen on the stretch of the old Key Bridge that is reserved for walkers. Her nose had been broken in two places and he had required "911" attention. While she and Bill Rose recuperated at Tranquility Bay, Bill and Rosalie picked us up at our campsite and drove us to Key West where we drove past the beaches and had breakfast at the Croissants de France. Next we parked at Key West Harbor and wandered along the waterfront before rehydrating at Schooner's Wharf. After our return to Sugarloaf in the early afternoon, I joined the usual suspects at the pool and then again at the Sugarloaf Pub for a sendoff evening for Craig and Chris with background music supplied by Lou Renshaw.
1/22/10 -Reluctantly said goodbye to Caig and Chris and spent the morning at the pool before making arrangements for a sunset cruise with my bride of 7 years and 362 days. I scrubbed myself up as well as I could, donned my recently purchased Japanese ermbossed shirt, and tried to stay clean until Linda was ready to drive us to Key West. After parking we heard the good music of Joel Nelson coming from the Conch Republic Seafood Company so we sat under an umbrella and listened to him while we ate our lunch. After getting our cruise tickets we were still too early to board the boat so we wandered over to Schooner Wharf to listen to Michael McCloud and Friends including the best Mark Knofler sound alike guitarist that I have heard. Finally dagged our feet away from their great rendering of "Sultans of Swing" to board our Sebago catamaran and begin surrendering to the temptations of the demon.
We left the Key West harbor in the wake of the schooner Haile and Matthew, past by the envious hordes on Mallory Square, and then glided majestically along the port side of the hugh cruise ship "Crystal Symphony" to a hovering spot a few miles southwest of the end of the keys where we could bask in the sunset and further partake of the libations.
We were less steady getting off the gangplank than we were getting on but nontheless we walked over to Schooner Wharf for a night-cap and a listen to whoever was playing. The whoever turned out t be Caffeine Carl and the Buzz accompanied for the evening by Raven Cooper,a talented guitar player and singer, Raven Cooper has a wide range of vocal styles. Her diverse singing ability rivals an earthy Janis Joplin, orchestral Julie Andrews and masterful Marilyn McCoo Davis. Together with Caffeine’s incredible harmonica playing and smokin’ guitar work churnin’ out Delta Blues and Classic Rock covers and originals, they held us enthralled for several parking meter refills.
1/23/10 - After we goofed away the day watching the Colts beat the Jets for the AFC Championship we were treated to an anniversary dinner at the No Name Pub by Larry, Gwen, Harvey, and Jan. Strengthened with grouper and Yuengling we then reassembled in the Sugarloaf Pub for another fine evening of entertainment by Lou Renshaw.
1/24/10 - Pre-departure day from Sugarloaf with many well-wishes from our friends who will remain here. In the evening we joined many who wished success for Brett Favre and the Vikings only to groan at the hits against our hero and the errors of his team as they fell to the unsaintly Saints. Now we all wish the Colts success so that we can witness the Saint's comeuppance.