Category Archives: Friend

Friends

My Dollar Hoop Earrings


A couple of weeks ago, I went to Santa Cruz and Capitola for a “Girls’ Getaway”. While there, I splurged on a pair of $1 hoop earrings. Usually, I wear small, practical earrings; more placeholders than jewelry, but with my sassy new ‘do, I figured, what the heck?!

Since I’ve been wearing my new hoops, I’ve added my old bottom eyeliner, too. This has given me that edgier look that I had “back in the day”, whenever that was. As I leaned into the mirror to apply a flawless line, then quickly backed up to bring my face back into focus, I wondered how I was supposed to do this without a 10x power magnification.

I returned back to the salon where I’d gotten my hair cut, and said, “Jessica, take it shorter”. She was resistent at first, but when she saw my new hoops, she gave me a super pixie.

Now, when I go places, the young men who previously ignored me, flirt and fawn. At Pep Boys earlier today, two cuties were both on the ground competing to be the one to explain the difference between a shock and a strut, and why I didn’t need any. I saw another straining to see if I was married. On one stop today, I was asked if I was 35, when I said 51, he said, “Wow, you must work out a lot”. I just smiled and replied that it was good genetics.

I’m the same 35 lbs overweight I was two weeks ago, and just as cellulite-ridden. It’s how I’m carrying myself. Somehow I’ve got my mojo working.  All because of my $1 hoop earrings.

\”Got My Mojo Working\” Muddy Waters and Friends

Are All Friends Alike?

ENB Dallas 2009

My father always said that if, at the end of our lives we could honestly say that we had one friend, we would die rich.  That the word friend was not one to be used lightly. When I came home from school, and said my new friend this or my new friend that, he’d correct me, telling me that until our relationship had grown into something significant, we were simply acquaintances.  Like the bumper sticker reads, “A friends will help you move, a real friend will help you move a body”, we were never to take friendship for granted.

In this age of short tenure employment, neighborhood turnover, and Social Media, does friendship really mean the same thing today as it did in my father’s day? Let’s face it, the days of the gold watch and living next door to the same family for 30 years are the exception in 2010. Families are geographically dispersed, dependent more and more upon the Internet to communicate. Friendships from our youth are being rekindled through Social Media. Some of these so-called friendships fit more closely into the category my father referred to as acquaintance, and would have been better served remaining in the past. But, that’s another story.  Facebook has become the new calling card; Skype brings you right into people’s living rooms – and bedrooms; and Twitter has made everyone a cross between Tom Brokaw and Dr. Phil, with a little Joan Rivers thrown in.

At one point, I would have written that Social Media friends are the same as real life ones. The people who have come into my life as a result of social media are fascinating, enriching, and from a wide range of socio-economic levels and geographic regions. I have laughed, learned and commiserated with men and women whose faces I have no way of knowing are really accurately portrayed in their avatars. We’ve debated health care, marriage equality, global warming, you name it. I’ve learned of their illnesses, and felt real emotional distress as I worried waiting for test results. Waited for that tweet with news. Social media has made the world very small.

On more than one occasion people have disappeared. As suddenly as they appeared in my life, they were gone.  Once, the Twitter account was suspended without explanation, and since I really had no solid way of knowing if the person I was friends with was who she said she was, there was no way to track her down. When someone’s avatar is a an ethereal image or a cartoon, or even a face, how do we REALLY know it is them?  In the case of another friend, the updates just stopped. Nothing.  After months of nightly discussions on the most challenging of topics, sharing our love of Pearl Jam, music trivia, all I heard was crickets.

Today, I went to contact a friend, and noticed that she had unfriended me. That I was no longer her ‘friend’ on Facebook. This saddened me a bit because I never wish to be on the outs with anyone. However, at this stage of life I’m not really concerned about popularity either. The big difference here is if we were really friends, by my father’s definition, I would have picked up the phone and called her. In fact, if we were real life friends, she would have called me if there were a problem. That’s what friends do.

Because I travel full time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet dozens of people in real life (IRL) who I had first encountered through social media. There is no question that the ante is raised once we meet, shake hands, hug each other, share a meal, really laugh out loud (LOL) together. The same way I met my husband through Social Media, in this case, Match.com, the guy he was in his profile was great, but the warm, loving man he was (is) in person was so much more.

Yes, social media is a great door opener for meeting people, learning, sharing, rallying causes. But, just as Internet sex doesn’t replace lovemaking, and Zhuzhu’s don’t replace man’s best friend, Internet friends won’t be the ones you call when your car breaks down, they’ll be the ones you tweet about it.  And, the picture? This was taken in November 2009 in Dallas, TX when a group of us who had met on Twitter got together for the premier of Men Who Stare at Goats. I had met Mark Hundley @MarkHundley, Jamie Inman @ibeatcancrtwice, Jessica Moore @inspiremedaisy, Scott Whitelaw @lifecruise,  and Karen Brown @Toadjumps on Twitter, and the friendship Stewart and I have with these people after meeting in person is much richer than before. There’s just no getting around what happens when two dimensions become three.

A Tale of Four Cities

Now that all the excitement of disease, death, and urine samples is behind us, it’s time to get back to the real purpose of this blog – FUN! We have a lot of catching up to do, so we had better get started.

As I mentioned previously, we left the Keys, and headed over to the Florida West Coast. Our first stop after driving through the much lauded and equally overrated Everglades was St. James City on Pine Island. You may ask why we stopped in this particular place when Sanibel Island was our destination, and all I can tell you is I let Stewart make the arrangements. Note to self: Google all reservations made by Stewart before departure. The Island was in a beautiful location right on the Gulf of Mexico, and the Intracoastal Waterway, however the median age was 63.2. The only thing that come to mind is they averaged in the ages of great-grandchildren who were visiting at the time the census was conducted. Even the biker bar had a handrail in the restroom with a raised seat.

Besides the mosquito and noseeum infestation, we were able to manage a bit of fun. One of the restaurants we returned to a couple of times was The Waterfront Restaurant and Marina. The food was delicious and plentiful. The fresh clam chowder was particularly good, as was the broiled seafood gumbo. The first time we at there, we sat in the bar as it was packed. Beer was 25 ¢ and served in a mason jar. As you can imagine, hot sun mixed with cheap beer made for an interesting group of diners and drinkers. A few locals entertained us with stories, some of which are just not appropriate to share on a PG-13 blog. The many stickers that graced the wall behind the bar were also good for a few laughs.

The biggest drawback to St. James City being Heaven’s Waiting Room was that Stewart and I are night people. We first began to think about food when the street lights were being extinguished for the night. Fortunately we were able to find one of the best meals we’d had to date at The Lazy Flamingo. Though they are known for their Dead Parrot Wings, we shared an appetizer of conch (pronounced conk by the locals) fritters that were moist and delicious, followed by grilled grouper sandwich for me, and a grilled fish platter for Stewart. We were stuffed to the gills, so to speak, but our very persuasive waitperson convinced us our meal would not be complete without a slice triple layer chocolate mousse layer cake. We didn’t want to let her down, so we dug in. When the bill came, the waitperson had deducted 10% from the bill because she liked us – not something that happens every day. (Note: I did not tell her I wrote a travel blog, which made it even sweeter!)

The third and final noteworthy place we visited that was Woody’s Waterside. Now, before I go any further, I think it is important that you know Woody is a dog. More specifically, a hound dog. His picture graces the wall behind the bar asleep with his tongue akimbo and paws wrapped around a can of beer. After eating there, I will be adding restaurants named for pets to my list of places to skip. In retrospect it seemed like a good idea as the parking lot was full, and compared to the geriatric biker bar, it was fabulous.

If you happened to read my previous post, you know about my experience with the less than competent folks at Quest Labs. Needless to say, I was extremely happy to see Pine Island in the rear view mirror. Our next stop was beautiful St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach. This was 180º from Pine Island. Though we had an inauspicious approach with GPS directing us into a cemetery, we ended up in this beautiful lush place on the bayou where Tampa Bay empties on its journey back from the Gulf of Mexico. Our campsite was surrounded by old growth trees and flowering bougainvillea bushes with the view of the water right across the path. Our three days there stretched into almost two weeks as we were reluctant to give up our corner of paradise. Then, the heat and humidity arrived. Florida in late April/early May is just no fun. There were so many wonderful restaurants and places we went during our stay in Madeira Beach that I couldn’t begin to mention them all. Instead, I will focus on a few standouts.

This was the first real sense we had of the West Coast versus the East Coast of Florida. There was decidedly a different feel here, more Southern than Eastern. The pace was slower, the locals and tourists younger and friendlier. We ate at a lovely place along the boardwalk in Clearwater called Britts’ Laguna Grill. We started out with a dozen raw oysters. They were so large and plump they actually took two bites a piece. Fortunately, we had ordered a couple of caramelized salmon salads. The dressing was made with fresh ginger, and was outstanding. The couple at the next table had smuggled in their dog. It was the cutest little thing tucked inside the man’s shirt. I tried to ask them about the dog, but they spoke no English, and I spoke no Portuguese.

Our Fifth wedding anniversary was during our stay in Madeira Beach, and we had a full day. First thing we did was meet briefly with Tom Morris, whom I had ‘met’ on Twitter. There is always a chance when meeting someone who is only a virtual friend, that they will not be who they seem in cyberspace. In this case, Tom was the real deal. A true gentleman, kind and generous of spirit. I have a pretty finely tuned BS detector, as does Stewart, and no bells went off. Tom was in St. Pete’s giving a speech, and coincidentally, we discovered we were in the same town. This is known in tweetspeak as a tweetup. After his speech, Tom stayed to be interviewed for an Internet TV show. The producer and a freelance journalist were also Twitter folks, ProducerGirl and McMedia, aka, Sandi McKenna. More about Twitter later.

After taking a walk along the beach, Stewart and I decided to look for a place to eat. We stopped in at Crabby Bill’s. It’s been around for over 25 years, and from what we can figure out, Bill is crabby because he wants some good food and good service! There were very few people up on the roof deck overlooking the water, so we thought there would be no problem having a leisurely meal. I’m just going to leave it that if I don’t have anythi
ng good to say, I’m not going to say anything at all.

Later that night, after spending some time with Jeffrey and Emma, Stewart and I headed into St. Petersburg proper to see “I Love You, Man”. It was very funny example of a modern day bromance. One of the bonuses of traveling is seeing concerts and films in strange venues. The audiences are different, the feel of the place is foreign – even if it’s the same film showing in your own neighborhood.

There is this little gadget I have on my laptop that allows me to enter the city we’re currently in, and it pops up all the music in the area. While in St. Petersburg, I found out SEAL was going to be performing the following night at the Mahaffey Theater. We immediately bought tickets assuming we’d be in nosebleed seats. Instead, to our delight, we were able to get box seats right next to the stage. Apparently, they save these until the last minute in case some big shots decide to attend (the venue saves them, not Seal). We have both been to hundreds of concerts, and can say without a doubt, that we have never witnessed as masterful a performance as this. The energy in the room was electric. Seal’s connection to the crowd was almost intimate. The man is a masterful entertainer, a humble man who is grateful for his life, and a gifted singer. He had us in the palm of his hand from the first note. I’ve thought long and hard how I was going to explain this experience in words, and frankly, I’m stumped. It was just too divine even try.

One of the most unexpected treats we’ve had so far on this journey was discovering my dear old friend, Marta Rose, is VP Communications for Panama City Beach. Marta and I had been close friends years ago when we both lived in Santa Monica, CA, but had lost contact with each other until quite recently. One thing I always loved about Marta was her ability to connect with people and places in a very special way. She was able to show us around, and provide some local colour. We ate at the Boatyard, which was delicious, and Guy Harvey’s Island Grill, which was horrible. It was a shame, really, because it is perfectly situated at the end of Pier Park near the waterfront.

James Johnson, another Twitter friend lives in Panama City and was gracious enough to take us to a couple of really cool restaurants. The first one was Captain Anderson’s. It was an old local staple with a variety of delicious fish overlooking a dock with boats moored all along the backside. Next, we went to Ernie’s Bayfront Grill & Brewhouse. They have a great wraparound back deck that overlooks the dock – a coastal feature present at most establishments in this neck of the woods.

Did I mention it was Bike Week in Panama City Beach? Tens of thousands of Harley Davidson’s roared through the streets creating a cacophony of engine noise, music and general revelry. One of the things that really spoiled the dinner we had at Guy Harvey’s was the occasional biker who just had to rev his engine for effect in the parking lot. We were unable to hear each other, and the smell of exhaust was stifling. I did learn a new acronym, though. RUB, Rich Urban Biker, and there were many of these! The way RUBs were described to me was guys who have their bikes shipped down while they board their private jets, change out of their suits into their leathers, and paint on temporary tattoos for the week. As funny as this may seem, from what I saw, the description hit its mark!

One last thing I feel it is important to mention before we leave Florida is we spent three full months along the coastline from Miami down to Key West, and over to the west coast and up through the panhandle. Stewart loves to fish, and as I’ve previously written about even caught Emma while engaged in night fishing off our back dock. During all this time, with countless hours spent bridge fishing, dock fishing and bank fishing, money spent on bait, tackle and equipment, we did not have a single fish dinner that did not come from the grocery store or a restaurant. Stewart is a lot of wonderful things. A fisherman is no one of them.

(I realize this blog is really, really long, but it has been a while since I updated, so please bare with me.)

We headed back to New Orleans, and spent two weeks at the Pontchartrain Landing RV Park. Of all the places we stayed, this was the most enjoyable. It was not the most scenic (we were for the most part in a shipyard), or the best facilities (no restaurant, game room or boat rentals), or the most centrally located (we were down a torn up road right in the midst of Katrina’s devastation), but it was STILL the best campground so far. It’s all about the people. This place had some of the nicest folks we’d met anywhere. The Property Managers, Nate and Dawn Garrder, were always available, kind and working hard to make this the best place to stay in New Orleans. The people working with them, like Jim and Bunny McElyea stopped by just to say hi and see if there was anything we needed. When Jim heard I had gotten good news from Kenner, he immediately went and found his wife to tell her. Bunny was by to share in my joy. We’ve been traveling for almost seven months, and this was the first time we even knew the names of staffers, nonetheless visited with them. They are doing a lot of work to make this place beautiful and fully functional for its guests. We will definitely be going back there.

16 May was our last Saturday night in New Orleans, and we didn’t want to miss one last chance to enjoy the fantastic music scene this great city has to offer. So, around 9:30 we headed over to Bourbon Street where you are almost guaranteed to find good music for free (or the very most, the cost of a beer). We walked around for a bit before we heard some of the best guitar playing either of us had ever heard coming out of Tropical Isle. The place was packed near the front, so we worked our way to the back of the bar area right near the stage. Right in front of us were friends of the bands, one of whom was a music producer out of Austin, TX. He started telling us about the history of the All Purpose Blues Band, and Billy Gregory, lead guitar, in particular. It seems Billy used to play with A Beautiful Day, and has been a New Orleans staple for decades. Their rendition of Black Magic Woman would have made Santana proud! When the band was through with their set, they came over and introduced themselves to us. Stewart and Billy quickly got into a discussion of calluses (Stewart had them, Billy didn’t). I was chatting with one of the other musicians, when suddenly Stewart grabb
ed my arm and starts pushing me. I was a bit surprised my gentle husband was manhandling me in this way, but decided to ignore him. When he kept at it, I decided maybe I should investigate what he wanted. At this point, his gingerly pushing became much more direct, with verbal instructions. “Move”, he yelled. “Let’s go”. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you, those are fighting words for me! When I asked him what the bleep he was doing, he yelled, “this place is on fire! Now, MOVE!”. Finally, I got it. I moved. Poor Stewart. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, it turned into a 4-Alarm fire with 70 firefighters working over the next couple of hours to extinguish the flames. Miraculously, no other buildings were damaged. The owners are planning on rebuilding, and the employees and band assured us they will find temporary work along Bourbon Street until the Tropical Isle reopens.

After we were certain everyone was out safely, and that they would not be playing another set, we wandered down the street to Famous Door, a venue we had visited previously. The same band, Rock Box, was playing. They did a good job covering everything from Led Zeppelin to Lynyrd Skynyrd. We stayed until they finished their set, then moved on to another blues club, where we heard New Orleans Levee Board Blues perform. They were world class musicians, but it was obvious they were playing to the crowd instead of playing what they loved. We were seated right in front, and the dance floor was empty. The place was about half full. I nagged Stewart until he finally gave in and danced with me. Within moments the dance floor filled up, and the band came alive. A group of young women gathered for a bachelorette party saw the crowd enjoying themselves, so they came on inside. The bride was up on stage dancing, her friends all donned wigs in colors ranging from pink to green to purple. By the time the band had finished two songs, there wasn’t an empty table or an empty inch on the dance floor. It was time to call it a night.

After all the excitement of Florida and New Orleans, we decided to bookend this segment of our trip with a return to my hometown, Dallas, TX. We arrived in Dallas on 21 May, and will be taking some trips throughout the state. More later…

Peregrine is Great, a House is Better!

After three straight weeks in Peregrine, I definitely was ready for a little square footage. Heck, I was ready for a square foot. Granted, we were staying in this beautiful place, Fiesta Key, but the restrooms were about a city block away. When we first got there, being on the water seemed more important than proximity to the toilet. Lesson learned: choose facilities over view. So, we met this really nice couple, A.W. and Beth, who turned us on to this really cool little house on Long Key. If this journey was going to be successful, we were either going to have to add plumbing to our trailer, or rent. Obviously, renting won. Check out our digs. Here’s a picture of the balcony overlooking the canal.

There is a phenomenon here in the Keys known as “bridge fishing”. The main bridges actually include a pedestrian bridge parallel specifically for this purpose. We decided to give it a try. Most of the time was spent baiting the hook, as those fish are hungry and smart. Turn to your left, and your casting into the Gulf of Mexico. Turn around, and you cast into the Atlantic ocean. Very cool. While Stewart was busy putting the squid on my hook, a local guy steps up next to us, drops his line into the water, counted to five, then pulled in his line with FIVE FISH ATTACHED! “OMG”, I shouted. “How did you do that?” He proceeded to throw me a couple of fish, and then explained they were for bait. Darn, I thought he had just given me dinner. Anyway, they are called ballyhoo, and the line is called Sabiki, which in Japanese means “little bait fish rig” I thought he said “ceviche”, so was completely confused. I was trying to figure out if it was the vinegar that made five fish bite at once. We can’t wait to try it ourselves. Stewart bought rigs in three sizes.

Speaking of Stewart and fishing…. It is time to tell you of the latest Emma saga. Stewart decided that a little night fishing off our dock sounded like a good idea. Even better, he took Emma and Jeffrey with him. It was 11:00 PM. When I looked out the top of the deck and couldn’t see anyone, I yelled down to make sure he hadn’t fallen in. This small, tight voice replies, “I need your help”. As quickly as these old bones would allow, I scampered down the stairs to find Stewart crouching over Emma with his hand down her throat. Blood was everywhere, later to be discovered mainly from Stewart’s hand, though Emma was wearing it in her beard. When I asked what happened, it turned out instead of catching fish, Stewart caught Emma. Fortunately, his instincts are still intact in spite of his advanced years, and he tied off the weighted fishing line before she could digest the hook completely. I called the local 24 hour vet, and was told to sedate her with benadryl ’till she could be seen in the morning. After a very long night, the vet was able to remove the hook from her esophagus with minimal damage – and even gave Stewart back his hook. Now, Emma waits with baited breath for her next adventure. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

A lot of our time during this segment of our journey has been spent relaxing and enjoying a fully-stocked kitchen. Alyson and Vopni Hauksson, my cousin/niece and her husband came down for the weekend, and Stewart made his always delicious breakfast. It was like being back at one of those casino smorgasbords. We all ate until we were comatose. Also, Vopni taught me all sorts of little tricks on my iPhone, as well as how to “borrow” movies on line. Very valuable information when the road is your home. After attending the Marathon Seafood Festival, we went to Lorelei for drinks and sunset. Someone had taken a 1964 (?) pink Cadillac, and set the shell of the car over their boat. Here is Vopni sitting next to it. Stewart tried to get him to climb in, but this is as close as he would get. As we were sitting there listening to music, the space shuttle flew overhead, and everyone there joined in one of those spontaneous moments of joy. Very cool.

Since so much of my time is spent in contemplation, I decided to share my streams of consciousness in another format. I am now on Twitter, and loving every minute of it. If you can’t find it on Twitter it doesn’t exist. It is a fascinating social network. If you haven’t looked at it, give it a try, or as we say in tweetspeak, give it a twy! I’ve added Twitter updates to the right side of the blog, plus a link to join. Stewart loves listening to me read out some of the more ludicrous postings. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

This couple we met, A.W. and Beth, as a welcome to our new digs, gave us a list of all the area Happy Hours, complete with the times and specials. It is hilarious the way some of the vacationers eat and drink their way across the Keys. We tried out a couple of the places, and they were packed. As soon as the drink specials were over, everyone cleared out like there had been a fire drill. I’m not big on finger-food, but Stewart sure is. He was all over the .10 cent peel and eat shrimp. So far, he likes the conch fritters at Sparky’s, but hands down, we both think the best key lime pie is still at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo. We happened upon Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen on the way back down to Long Key hungry for dinner. Our only criteria were a full parking lot, and no “Mom’s” or “Aunt” in the name. Mrs. Mac flew under the radar with a marital
reference instead of familial. They have this delicious drink called a key lime freeze that is like milk shake. Anything that good should be illegal. Also, we had the hogfish, and it was exceptional. What an unfortunate name for such a yummy fish. We will definitely be going back there.

March 8 was International Women’s Day. In honor of the day the film, A Powerful Noise, was shown in 450 theatres nati
onwide. Afterwards, a panel discussion was held with Madeleine Albright, Nicholas Kristof, et al, addressing the issues facing women globally, and some of the things we can do to help. CARE sponsored the event. Fran Sevcik made dinner for us all, and she, Alyson and I went to the viewing, while Stewart and Ron hung out talking fishing. Personally, I like the idea of micro loans, which help people help themselves, so Stewart and I strongly support Kiva. I strongly encourage you to give them a look. As little as $25 can change an entire family’s lives. Plus, it is fun.

We’re making plans for the next installment of our odyssey. It does look, however, like my health is once again casting a grey cloud on our adventure. It looks like we are going to be headed back to New Orleans mid-April for a consult at LSU. I will keep you posted how that goes. Until then, hope you all are well, and are enjoying Spring.