Chilly winds started blowing through Easton in late December and early January so we packed our shorts, sandals, and sunglasses in the storage bins of our trusty steed and departed for points south on the day after Christmas. We left Easton at 3:15 AM, drove North to cross the Bay Bridge and then South on I-95 to a quick breakfast and Diesel relief at a Northern Virginia Cracker Barrel before continuing on to Myrtle Beach. We arrived at the Legends in time for dinner with every known member of the Tebbs family. After five nights of disturbing the peace of the Tebbs family home with my racking cough, we departed on the morning of December 31 to overnight stops in Jacksonville and Key Largo before docking in the Sugarloaf KOA on January 2 for a stay of three weeks through Sunday January 25th. I had grown quite attached to my cold by this time, but by January 8th Linda had heard enough of my continuous coughing and demanded that I call the doctor or commit suicide. After long and careful consideration, I called the doctor and had an antibiotic perscription faxed to a nearby pharmacy.
By January 9, I could take a few faltering steps so after discussing matters with Fred and Dutch at the morning meeting of the Dog and Philosophy Club we drove South to the 11 mile marker on Big Coppitt Key. We then traveled a few miles East to Geiger Key where we enjoyed looking at naked people and at the remains of a home that had been constructed out of Coral blocks and driftwood so that it could offer minimal solace to its former occupant. That once happy man had now descended into the more prosaic life of a working stiff with investments in costly but now worthless IRAs and 401Ks to place over his head during his declining years. Weakened by contemplations, we drove to the nearby Geiger Marina and Smokehouse where Diesel was treated like visiting royalty as we feasted on shrimps and blackened Yellowtail snapper that will resonate in our culinary consciousness until the end of time.
Still buzzing from afternoon beers we returned to Sugarloaf where we were attracted into a conversational bouquet with Bernie, Yvonne, Bill, and Al from Western Pennsylvania. For all of our friends and family who can't understand why we put up with Diesel's bad behavioral aspects; being Diesel's parents continually allows us to meet fascinating and laughter inducing people who we might not have known without his enablement. Eventually our throats were parched by our laughter and we were driven to allay the thirst with whatever we could find but that, in turn, fueled even more laughter and the telling of various lies.
I simply must take a moment to elaborate on this first meeting to punctuate what I think is going to later mark a period in which my character began to decline precipitously. It was late in the afternoon and full sunshine was only available in one corner of the poolside so I excused myself for moving so closely to some women who were having their own conversation and might possibly be offended by a nearby ear. Instead, one recognized me as "Diesel's Father" and the more fair haired of the two began to actually bend my ear with talk of the animals who had taken part in the molding of her character including the current, much skilled Murphy, the much missed Willie, and John; who's spirit was somewhat less generous but who non-the-less had played his part in sculpting this fine person who's skills as a raconteur were immediately obvious. Skillfully she wove together the notes of the leitmotif as Yvonne added Stradivarian reassurances. Then Bill and Al arrived and weighed in with terse, lower-toned restatements of the essential qualities of John's snarling lips and his ominous growl when his requirements were not being satisfied by his supporting cast. I knew right away that this band had been cooking up some fine music for a good long time. Dogs were the subject of some fine string quartettes but over the ensuing days I was to see that people known as the Pennsylvanians could stimulate an intricate symphony of words and pictures.
01/14/09 - Things have gone from bad to worse since I ran into that group of wrong-doers that I briefly described above so that today I am being humbled in penance for my performance of the evening before. Five days and nights have gone by in an alcoholic blur while cheering the Baltimore Ravens to victory in various drinking venues on Saturday (01/10/09), followed by a stroll through Mallory Square to the daily goodbye ceremony for the sun, a great fish taco and chili relleno dinner at Chico's Cantina, and an even more surprising victory for the Arizona Cardinals.
On Sunday (01/11/09) we observed the sabbath by re-committing ourselves to lives of decency before drinking some beers and huge mugs of Jack Daniels at poolside and watching the Eagles beat the favored but much hated Giants. Then we took a test run for about ten miles North to No Name Key to check the weather conditions and have dinner at the No Name Cafe. Over a monstrous and wonderful grouper sandwich and a shrimp basket we cheered the Steelers to victory before returning to the KOA for recuperation.
On Monday (01/12/09) we re-leased our rental car for another week, visited the Southernmost Point in the US, walked past Hemingway House and then began another day of drinking with some sort of rum, orange juice, and pineapple juice concoction that was recommended as a cure for the common cold along with nachos and jalapenos. I think that it was the nurse's uniform worn by our waitress that caused me to to take a turn toward indiscretion, but I was absolutely undone by the Pennsylvanians when we met them at Hog's Breath and began re-examining the credentials of Jack Daniels. Soon we were off on an extended hike to the B.O. Fish House where we roared through drinks and dinner without any pretension at all.
By Tuesday (01/13/09) the manure was beginning to accelerate into a near fatal collision with the fan. I met the horrible Pennsylvanians at the swimming pool and we were going along pretty well with our day until a handsome young woman from Iowa named Kristine introduced us to a couple concepts called Caramel Apples. While we were not deeply or permanently enamoured of these concepts, they did remind us of the joy of a midday buzz so that we were quickly induced by Yvonne into following up with some truly massive Bloody Marys. Bill quickly approved of the size of these drinks, but was mildly critical of the amount of vodka. Remedy was quickly found and the drinking went on without interruption for anything except chips and dip until some hour of the darkened early evening. Highlights included a phone call to the almost legendary Leo who informed me that we had a shared history of beating up the male members of the small Pennsylvania community of Carbondale before carrying off the females. Next I was steered toward a perfidious abandonment of the Baltimore Ravens and into becoming a Steelers fan by the siren song of Yvonne's daughter, Renee. Finally the amount of lies became morally reprehensible to me and I tried to make good my escape but was somewhat functionally disabled and could not make my way to the comfort of my own bed. I learned only on the following morning that Linda required the assistance of the Pennsylvanians to enable me to achieve my desired retirement goals.
01/15/09 - I completed my atonement day by walking on eggshells and doing several acts of penance including laundry and fixing the door screen that I had fallen through during the previous evenng's indiscretions. After first learning of these matters, I was loathe to leave the cover and protection of the RV for fear of meeting up with the Pennsylvanians but Bill and Yvonne stopped by to lay healing hands on me and provide me with assurances that "we have all been there at some time or another." They made it very easy for me to cop a plea and now I am beyond shame. I started today with a stroll with Diesel to the Dog and Philosophy Club but we were scorned by the other members who apparently have a higher sense of propriety than the Pennsylvanians. Then we cleaned ourselves up as well as we could and set out for the Croissants de France Cafe where we shivered through brioches, classic egg benedicts, and the insults of our Czech Republic waitress before departing to the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center at the end of Southard Street on the Truman Waterfront for a not-to-be-missed experience at a very modest cost of nothing-at-all. We interrupted our return from Key West with a short stop at the locally legendary Bat Tower where we again contemplated the trials and errors of ecological scheming before going back to the KOA for some well deserved naps. After I finish my afternoon Key Lime pie we intend to seek out the always dangerous Pennsylvanians for an evening's adventure to the No Name Cafe for pizza and whatever.
01/16/09 - I was delighted to again be received by the Dog and Philosophy Club and there was an abundance of old and new business to be dealt with. As presiding officer, Fred Neff deftly managed discussions of nuclear power plant development before and after Three Mile Island. With the nervous US citizenry reluctant to endorse further development, Fred had taken his supportive talents to Veracruz, Mexico where he spent the next ten years. He drove from New Jersey with his oldest son in a red Volkswagon van equipped wth minimal necessities. Landing near Veracruz, they then took up residency in the Macombo Hotel which more than satisfied Fred's desires for foreign intrigue. From that time since he has been working on a novella describing the trip.
I suggested that Fred should read Ray Bradbury as a literary inspiration. I had read long ago how Bradbury had fallen in love with Mexico when he visited there in 1945. He had stayed at the home of a certain Senor Iturbi who usually rented out his rooms to college girls studying Spanish. The girls were gone so he rented out the rooms to his friend Bradbury and the writer John Steinbeck, who's room was next door to Bradbury's. Imagine Ray's shock when Steinbeck and his large sheep dog came downstairs to breakfast and sat across the table from him. "Shall I tell him that I'm a writer, too?" Bradbury pondered. "No, I'll play it cool." "But what a wonderful thing to have this man sit down right in front of me." I was having breakfast with my hero! We must have these heroes. We must love love and worship them in the proper way, then push them out of the way at the proper moment, to move on to our own careers, our own thoughts, daring to put our own thoughts on display."
What a wonderful thing it has been for me to meet and talk with this man who stands like a colossus at the gateway to the Dog and Philosophy Club. As the eighty-something father of seven children and the two time husband of their mother, Fred has acquired a doctoral equivalent in relationship management. He also has 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 have laughed about almost everything that can be laughed at and some things that shouldn't. Fred has been a seasonal tent camper here at the KOA for the last five years, but will not return again next year so I am very eagerly seeking his endorsement as next year's president of the club.
After a hard day frolicking in the pool, we mustered our remaining strength for a very short venture to the other side of US-1 to have dinner at the much heralded Mangrove Mama's. Within seconds of being seated, we were hailed from the semi-darkness by, you guessed it, the magnificent Pennsylvanians. Soon we were reseated near them and the hilarity resumed over major quantities of food.
01/17/09 - We shopped for souvenir trinkets in Key West and then connected with Bill and Yvonne at Schooner Wharf for lunch. This was my first visit to the Schooner but through Al Boyer's generousity, I had earlier come into possession of a Schooners Wharf T-shirt bearing the intention that I was "Growing Old Disgracefully." After mirth and music we strolled to the much loved B.O.'s, for some photo-ops and then made our way back to the car ahead of some persistent paparazzi.
01/18/09 - A day that will live in infamy for its concentration on the NFC and AFC Championships and a carefully controlled experiment with Jack Daniels which resulted in lifting the veil of suspicion which had hovered over Kristine for having initiated the uncontrolled implosion of Tuesday the 13th. This new experiment switched the fickle finger of fate to point in the direction of the demon gin and other similarly uncolored beverages as being the causal factor in the generalized system failure of that day. With that determination made, I drank Jack Daniels all day without any negative consequences and was held in some esteem by my grateful wife as we watched the Eagles go down in flames and the Steelers stride onward toward their next date with destiny.
01/19/09 - We almost had a liberal majority at the Dog Club with Gabriel the feral Siberian Husky and his mother who had just arrived from Australia on her way to Minnesota to care for her ill mother. Fred and I admired the independence of her life as she told us the secrets of raising Gabe and advanced our understanding of the two layers of his coat that made it possible for him to be comfortable in extremes of temperature. Later we met Roxie and her mother who was greatly enjoying her retirement by venturing to the far corners of the US in her 20 ft. rig. She had included southern Alaska in her travels and had one-uped me in her courage by driving across Glacier Park's high, narrow, and treacherous "Highway to the Sun" with Roxie as her boon companion. These two wonderful additions to our set of models for feminine independence were soon followed by a man who convinced us that he was growing the best pineapples in Key West. We were initially skeptical of this claim but he soon had us enthralled wih his knowledge of an area of endeavour that had previously eluded us. Unbeknownst to all but a very few, this Dog Club is the near equal of the ancient Library of Alexandria in its coverage of exotic topics. After focusing on these topics for two hours Diesel was so exhausted that I had to carry him back to our campsite. On the way he was the subject of derision from the Pennsylvanians as they observed him over breakfast from the Lazy Lizard Cafe.
Somehow in the midst of my frivolity of the last few days I had managed to acquire conjunctivitis and that plus the continuation of my cold symptoms caused Linda to march me off to a doctor's office in Key West where I was quite thoroughly examined for the sound of Rice Crispies in my lungs and pronounced to be in possession of a concept called "Walking Pneumonia." It seems not to have any enormous consequences but is said to reduce one's energy and enthusiasm for life. I definitely wanted to back away from that consequence so I agreed to purchase several pharmaceutical remedies including more antibiotics, eye drops, and a probiotic to restore the balance of things that had been reduced by the antibiotics.
After loading up the car with drugs we returned to the Schooner Wharf venue to meet Bill and Yvonne and two other wrong doing Pennsylvanians named Danny and Sharon. Rather than taking up any time to strategize any new behavioral protocols, we reused some familiar ones and began to eat, drink, and laugh together. I was very embarrassed to make known that I had been at the doctor's office because Danny is a very manly man who's normal remedy for such little medical matters would likely be to rub a little dirt on the offending area and "Get 'er Done." But he seemed to summon up a little sympathy for me and soon I was having more fun than I ever thought a person with "Walking Pneumonia" could have.
After Danny and Sharon retreated on their ferry to Ft. Myers, Al and Bernie arrived just in time to drive us off to our car in their fashionable vehicle. We had agreed to meet up later at Chico's Cantina so after we completed some shopping at the Publix Market and the Pennsylvanians had launched a mobile assault on Mallory Square to observe the sunset ritual, we reassembled to give attention to some Mexican cuisine.
01/20/09 - Overnight a cold front had moved into the Keys and we used up our remaining propane reserves in fighting a record low temperature in the low fifties. I had hoped that propane could be delivered to us so that I could avoid the minor unpleasantness of unhooking the umbilicals and driving out of the site without doing any injury. That proved to be impossible but Al and Bill were able to safely guide me though my egress and re-entry without incident. After watching the swearing in of our new president Linda and I renewed her medications and then had dinner at Boondocks followed by some observations of a talented karaoke artist named Sue.
01/21/09 - By Wednesday we were wearing long pants and sweaters as we strolled around the waterfront in Key West, had lunch with Bloody Marys at Island Dogs, and then mounted the famous Conch Train for a tour of Key West and a narrated glimpse of its history. Nearly dazed with cold we then hurried past a statue of Ernest Hemingway and into the old Key West Customs House which now houses a museum of the city's history and a very fine collection of modern sculpture.
In the evening Linda drove Al to Mangrove Mamma's and I rode with Bernie, Bill, and Yvonne. The cold weather during the day had driven Al to the desperation of purchasing a brightly colored Rastafarian hat complete with dreadlocks to warm his ears. In what I have now come to believe is his standard modes operandi, Al began to use this new acquisition as a means of gaining access to the hearts and minds of impressionable young women. Soon the rest of us were swept up in enjoying the spoils of his skill in this sort of thing. The evening ended with us again pledging to behave better in the future because the old adage maintains that there might be some sort of zero balance between the total amount of laughter and tears in the universe and, if so, we had imposed much sorrow on some corner.
01/22/09 - Sometime around ten o'clock I called the Pennsylvanians and found them sitting down at Bobalu's for brunch. I needed to return my rental car to Key West and they had been kind enough to offer me a ride back to the KOA. In talking with them I learned that they had decided to seize a window of opportunity to return home to Pennsylvania before they succumbed into some sort of Bonnie and Clyde life of crime on the road or something even more desperate. Upon my return to the KOA, Linda and I donned sackcloth, covered ourselves with ashes, and began to tear at our hair before deciding to behave more gracefully about the departure. Our mourning continued into the evening when finally we were driven by hunger into preparing a meager repast.
01/23/09 - Having given up our rental car we were happily restricted to the KOA on Friday so we made the most of our poolside venue by examining the politics of Minnesota and New Jersey with our neighbors. While preparing what I had intended to be a gourmet dinner, I momentarily redirected my attention to talk with Yvonne about her redeparture from the Keys when my tabletop grill became a pillar of fire that was drawing the attention of customers in the nearby pub. I began to respond as if I was hearing the voice of God from the pillar, but Linda quickly saw through the act and requested that whatever remained of the expensive Angus beef be served without further flame exposure. The results were unfavorably compared to hockey pucks and Diesel was the happy recipient of any remaining nutritional content.
01/24/09 - Philosophical insights in the morning followed by pancakes and sausages at the Lazy Lizard and absorbing rays at poolside. Then in the late afternoon we trekked to the Lazy Lake RV Resort with Jan and Harvey where an open house promised free musical entertainment, free food, and free beer plus the possibiity of a surprise visit by Kenny Chesney. Howard Livngston played very well, the hot dogs and hamburgers were great, and the Yuenglings went on forever. Larry and Gwen had ridden bicycles to the freefest so as darkness fell we departed for the KOA. I then leashed up Diesel the Chick Magnet and returned to the scene of the drinking after the responsible people had left. I had hoped to put into practice some of the methods that I had observed in Al the Chick Master as he lured handsome young people into putting their arms around him and posing for pictures. Sure enough, the beer lines had dwindled to nothing and the handsome youngs were now distributing beers to customers who were incapable of walking to the beer wagon. Diesel drew his normal amount of attention but most of his admirers were incapable of pronouncing his name so we returned to the KOA to rest from our social labors.
01/25/09 - On the seventh anniversity of my marraige to the excellent Linda, Diesel woke me early with the whimpering expression of his social and biological needs so I headed in the general direction of the Dog Club meetings and warned Fred of my intention to push through an avalanche of liberal legislation if he was not present for the opening role call. He threatened to retaliate by vetoing anything involving "earmarked" funding or "don't ask, don't tell" rulings for same gender dog relationships. Later at poolside with Jan, Harvey, Gwen, and Larry we recapped our observations of the previous day's "Woodstock South" and made plans to travel together to the No Name Cafe for an anniversary soiree.
01/26/09 - I found Fred still in his pajamas at his tent and we wished each other a good life before parting. After Diesel had completed a minimal set of his morning ablutions, I unhooked our umbilicals and we had a photo-op with the representatives from New Jersey and Minnesota before hitting the pike at about 9:00 AM. We restored our victual supply at the Wal-Mart in Homestead before setting off on US-41 across the tip of Florida toward Marco Island. We stopped for photo-ops at Cypress Island where we had many observations of fresh-water fauna.
01/30/09 - After an uneventful night at the Marco's Island KOA we sped diagonally up the length of Florida to have a pizza fueled but fogbound night in the St. Augustine KOA before continuing on to Myrtle Beach where we rested and restored ur strength to return home on the morning of 01/31/09 so that I can re-assume my teaching duties on Monday, February 2.
Images of Greece 1989