Monday, February 21, 2011

Time warps

Down here in the land of sun and fun, on the West coast of Florida, it's a haven for the older folks. We're them, so we belong. When we got to this part of Florida we realized we were in a time warp.

We're on an island off the west coast. It's really a land of it's own. I doubt the "natives" here listen or care to bother about what's happening off the island. Most of them were law abiding citizens of the Midwest at some point in time, and most held pretty good jobs. However now, they're a bit different. You know that saying, "Birds of a feather stick together"? Well, it's true.

Most of these folks are very nice. They are here from "Up North". That can mean, anything north of Georgia as I see it. Most are from Michigan. Why? I have a theory.

I'm betting someone came down here to do some fishing, went back "Up North" and told his friends and family what a great time he had and how good the fishing was. This snowballed into droves of his friends and family migrating down here for the winter. That's what I think. The ones around us down here are all related either by blood or marriage. I feel like I'm in an episode of the "Waltons". There's a "JimBob" a "LucasBoy" a "Moose" a "SamuelKid"and an assortment of other "Waltonian" names. It's funny.

They love life to the fullest down here. You can't fault them for that. When they decide to have a "party" they go all out. This weekend we decided to go to one of their annual dances, it was a "sock-hop", if you don't know what that was you're too young to be down here anytime soon.

We had been driving by this community center that had a sign out front advertising the "Do-Wop Dance". Larry loves the old Do-Wop music so he wrote the dance info on the calendar we keep to track all the events we may or may not attend while we're down here.

As the time came for the dance, I thought I better find out some info about the thing. I called the advertised number asked a few pertinent questions about the times and the price of the event and decided this seemed like a fun thing to attend.

The day of the dance was the same day were had five other events scheduled. That's what happens down here, there are days with nothing to do and then there are days with too much to do. We decided we would do some of the events that day.

We left the trailer at 9:00am. Hit the Garden Gals on the island. I thought it was going to be a rinky dink affair. Man, was I wrong. This was the "big time", "the event of the year", "the meeting of the garden minds, affair", you name it, it was it. Honest. The plant ladies (you can always tell them right away, they have their noses in planting books, have funny looking hats and their nails have dirt under them) were in orgasmic heaven. They were touching and caressing the plants, giving impromptu lectures about the nasty aphids and the virtues of fertilizers. They were surrounded by other similarly festooned ladies touching and caressing other plants. It was a sight to behold, for sure. They were so serious in their lectures and discussions I was afraid there was going to be a test afterward that I'd need to pass in order to leave the place.

Larry just kept walking around shaking his head. He's become pretty used to having me take him to places where the women all look pretty much alike, mainly because they have similar tastes and likes. He thinks they're "cult like" in appearance. They all seem to have salt and pepper hair, they wear loose fitting clothes, no make-up at all, Birkenstocks or some other equally comfortable but clunky shoes, and they all seem to carry hold-alls filled to the brim with all sorts of paraphernalia for whatever the event they're at requires. He could be right.

We were able to leave without the dreaded testing. The next event we had scheduled was in Punta Gorda. It was the famous "Banjo Bash". We decided to go for the matinee. Little did we know that the place would packed on a Saturday afternoon. We're not too smart sometimes, we should have realized since the matinee performance was cheaper all the senior citizens would flock to get a deal. We were there for that reason too, so I can't condemn anyone for that thinking.

The Banjo Bash was terrific. The stars of the show were kids from a music program in Huston Texas. The average age was 12 and they were all fantastic. Most of the kids played more than four instruments and played them well. We were impressed. Some of the other groups that played in the program were old enough to be these kids great-great grandparents and believe me, they were never as good as these young kids were. As a matter of fact one of the groups playing had the curtain drawn on them before they could finish, and that was a blessing to the auditorium...

It was time to go to the Dance, so back onto the island we went. The dance was held in a community room of one of the mobile home parks. It was pretty nice. The hall was decorated as though it was 1955. It was as though a black hole had sent us back to our youth. Most of the women had on jeans and their "Dad's " white shirts. The guys had the cigarette packs rolled into the sleeve of their Tee shirts. Some other women wore the traditional "Poodle Skirts" with kerchiefs in there pony tailed hair. Saddle shoes were in the house, although, I still don't know if they were "originals" or they bought them from some costumer. It was like walking into my youth. Larry was in his glory because the DJ was playing,"his" music.

The food tables were lined with munchies and the beer on tap was free, (how much better does it get?). Each table had record album covers on it and the records which once played the music of our youth were now melted into the shapes of bowls filled with snack foods that none of us should eat today, but we lived on as kids....Necco wafers, potato chips (the real kind, not the "baked" ones), pretzels (laden with salt), oreos, gum drops, life savers, baby ruths, and a whole lot more.

A song started and Larry grabbed my arm and said, "Let's Jitterbug!" My life flashed before my eyes as I stood to wiggle my ass in tune to the music. I was sure one of us would end up face down on the floor with paramedics hovering over us.

We danced like we were kids. We drank the free beer (that was not something available when we were kids....we had to bribe someone to buy it for us for a price!) and we ate the things we loved as kids. I played hopscotch, hula hoop, and marbles. Some people won prizes. I didn't. My prize was being able to bend down to grab the stone on the hopscotch grid.

We got there a bit late, but we were the last to leave.....we had a blast!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What is it about men and fishing? Can you tell me?

This winter we're in a fishing village off the coast of Florida. All the folks in this area seem to be from Michigan and they're either related or neighbors of each other up north. They're all retired and living a great life.

The guy next door is the epitome of the "Fisherman". He's got a boat(a very nice Boston Whaler), a bunch of fishing poles, some pretty heavy duty knives, and an assortment of fishing gear,(I still don't know what some of it is, and I was a buyer of fishing accessories in a former life). He has a fishing table in the back yard of his trailer next to the canal. The table is to clean the tons of fish he catches, and the birds love it as well. When he's out there with the fish he's caught, the birds are there with him, cheering him on, because they know when they see a good easy meal coming their way.

This guy fishes nearly every day. He loves to be outside doing whatever the season says he should be doing: fishing, hunting or anything else he can do outside. The guy has a number of very old friends (or relatives) who love to fish as well, so they leave early in the morning with all their "stuff" to do their fishing. The wives (the smart ones) stay home keeping the home fires burning...

Now, here's the rub. Most of the guys around here are old...I mean really old. The neighbor and his most recent fishing buddy have defibrillators inserted under the skin in their chests. The neighbor had his put in last month after his 7Th heart attack. His pal? He's had his for 6 months. They take off in the morning to fish. They're both highly intelligent men, but neither one knows how to use a cell phone.. Oh, they have them, but they don't turn them on, but honestly even if they were on, they don't know how to open them to talk. They both have hearing loss, so whoever was trying to call them hasn't got a prayer of getting them on the cell phones. If, the operative word being "if" here, they had the cell phones on, it's debatable whether or not they could hear them ring. Even if they did hear them ring, it's questionable if they would know how to open them, then they more than likely wouldn't be able to hear who was calling them anyway. It's a riot.

They came home late yesterday and the wives were understandably worried. Both wives knew the guys didn't have the cell phones, since the phones were still in the houses. Finally one and a half hours later than expected they come home with their little boat. In the boat, with them, was a live shark... Yes, I said "live".

The shark had half it's guts out of it's body, but it was still thrashing. The neighborhood came around to see this thing because it was big, over 6'4". It was looking at everyone with it's clouded eyes. Larry, my husband, got down on his haunches to look at the thing "up close and personal". As he was getting into a better position to get a good look at the thing, the shark flopped around to get a better view of Larry. The shark was trying to get a little nip of Larry. Larry jumped straight up in the air, far away from the jaws of, "Jaws". I nearly peed my pants, so did Larry.

The old guys, Larry included, continued to battle with, "the shark that wouldn't die" for about 10 minutes. No one was willing to take a chance with this thing. When the old guys caught the thing it took them more than 1/2 hour to land it. They thought it was dead, dragged it into the boat but apparently it was only resting, because the fight continued in the boat as they were hauling ass to get home. I don't know who they were more afraid of by that time, the shark or their wives because they were late.

The whole fiasco in back of our trailer houses took about 3 hours to play out. The guys, Larry too, were all gleeful at the Man vs. shark entertainment. It was pretty entertaining, even for me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Living the life in Old Fogey Land

I come here annually, down to the land of sun, fun and really old people. I'm old too, so I know what I'm talking about, but honest this place is really something.

They call it God's waiting room, for a damned good reason. The newspaper we get has at least 12 people listed in the obituary, daily. We are not in a huge metropolitan area. We're on a barrier island off the west coast of Florida. There aren't that many people to warrant that many dead notices...honest...but each and every day I open the paper to find more.

After the first couple of days I decided to look at the ages of the people and see if I could figure out how they kicked the bucket. Most were old folks, well into their late 80's and 90's. I could accept that, but others were women in their early 60's and it seemed as though the illnesses that took them were pretty much the same thing, cancer.

I went to a garage sale today, which is a big social gathering thing down here. It seems that all the old folks hit the garage sales on Friday morning to check out each others junk, then end up talking about where they originated from, what they did when they weren't old, and what ailments they were fighting at the moment. The men especially.

At one of these social gatherings I met five women, all with no hair. They were all breast cancer patients in different stages of chemotherapy. They were laughing and talking about things that happened to them as a result of the chemo. None of the women wore wigs or those bandanna things. They were bald as babies and they didn't care. It was great to see they were out and about and didn't give a damn what others thought of them or their cue ball heads.

It's like that down here. Many folks seem to love to tell strangers about their last surgeries, exams, colonoscopies, wart removals or the different fungus that's engulfing their bodies like some alien life form. It's amazing. I stand, watch and listen. Honest, I couldn't make this stuff up. This is amazing. There seems to be nothing that's held back. You ask a seemingly benign question and you find out the most personal things about a person. It kind of shocks you the first few times it happens. After a while though, you sort of join in without realizing it.

I think people down here think they may as well say whatever they want to because they're not going to be here for a long time so they don't care. I'm sure when they were younger they didn't spill the beans so to speak, but they sure do now.

I met a guy today who told me that the new pills he's been taking were really helping with his excessive urination. Did I need to know that? I was looking a pair of wine glasses he was selling. Did the wine glasses remind him that he had to pee, or didn't have to now because of the pills? I don't know, but apparently he thought I should know.

How do you respond? You look at the guy and say, that's great, I should find out what those pills are so I don't have to worry about my diaper leaking....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 2011 Dateline:Florida

In the last blog entry I told you about the place we're living in down here in the sun and fun state of Florida. Anything is better, I guess, than dealing with the weather in Northern New York at the moment, but this place has given me a new look at the differences in life as we know it.

The place is situated on a canal, nearly in the canal, I might add, and it's very old. It hasn't been rehabbed as I was lead to believe, and rarely has it seen a mop, bucket or cleaning agents. It is however, a place to learn how to repair things.

So far I've learned to repair slats of vertical blinds (which if you think they're cool, think again...they're awful in humid conditions and they rip apart quickly if there's a slight me, that's experience talking and I've only been here one week) , repaired drain plugs, wiring, oven, mirror, shelving and some other assorted items that broke as I touched them.

The decor leaves much to be desired in 2011. Although, perhaps it was state of the art in 1968. At the moment I'm being seranaded by a myriad of fine feathered things. I can't call them all birds, I think they're more like ancient dinos that didn't realize they were supposed to be extinct.

We decided to check out some other parts of the island today. It's about 15 miles across the island and there is only one road in and out. There are no traffic lights and everyone is pretty good about courtesy on the road. There are many accidents though, usually motorcyles vs. cars. Motorcycle drivers are not required to wear helmets, and as far as I can see, that's just hoping for suicide by old people driving cars.

There are lots of old Americans on this island all looking for their youth again. They have all the toys they wanted when they were kids but couldn't afford them, or else their wives, Moms, or kids wouldn't let them have them. They look kind of cool I think, but Larry thinks they look pretty foolish. The ones I like are the ones with the longish hair tied back with a bandanna, jeans, boots and tee shirts that say things like, "road hog", "don't be jealous, you can have me too", and assorted other things unprintable. You KNOW they wouldn't have worn some of this stuff when they were younger but now they figure, "what the Hell".

It's really quite a place. It's not all bad, mind you, but it is different. We wanted different this year and we certainly got it........

Friday, February 4, 2011

How Does this Happen?

We live in upstate New York State. Upstate New York State does not mean, Westchester County, which we refer to as "downstate". We are in the Northern regions where folks have Winter Olympics and speed skating. We are in the Adirondack Mountain range and quite happy about that, usually.

In the winter months we can get as much snow as we like, sometimes more than we like, although not as much as our neighbors to the west, Syracuse, Rochester and the lovely city of Buffalo. They get far more than we do, but sometimes our temperatures are colder than theirs so it's a trade off.

In February, when we know the probability of getting really bad weather is upon us, we bail. We decided several years ago we would take off for parts south and get away from the weather. This year is no exception.

I ( was my decision) decided this year we needed to go somewhere different from past years. I wanted to see a "different" Florida. I didn't want to be in another Condo, townhouse or duplex in some ultra suburb of some large megalopolis down here.

I searched the Internet and found a real estate management company that specialized in "the true Florida experience". I spoke to the folks there, felt a warm fuzzy feeling when conversing with them and decided to give them a try. They sent over photos of some of the rental units. We (now I say we" because I don't want to take all the blame for this now) decided on a manufactured home in St. James City, Pine Island, Florida.

The trailer is on a canal...almost IN the canal. We are very close to our neighbors, nice folks albeit a bit older (but Hell, we're older too). The setting is gorgeous. Out the back door we have a patio over looking the davits, dock and fish cleaning tables (oh, did I tell you this is a mega fishing area?). There are some strange looking cacti (plural for cactuses...) and some dead trees. I think the trees once bore fruit, but God knows what kind....

The trailer is...vintage...old...decripit....generally yucky.....It's gotta be circa 1960, and that is not an exaggeration...We were told it had been rehabbed...perhaps in the latter part of the 20th century but I can guarantee it hasn't had anything done to it in the 21st century.

The whole place is paneled...a walnut sort of wood, kind of. The "accent" colors are harvest gold (yep, appliances and all) and this throw-up orangie color. The bathroom (there are two so I better explain them) that I use is...well...scary is a good term, I guess.

I feel as though I'm in Japan. I'm afraid to sit on the toilet for fear the whole thing will end up on the ground under the trailer...The floor is bit soft and kidding. Consequently, I sort of hover over the top of the bowl and pee astride the bowl. The shower and tub are original and it sort of reminds me of the movie Psycho when I get into it....There are shower doors and they're the same kind we had in our house 25 years ago. As a matter of fact, lots of the stuff in here reminds me of the 60's ans 70's when I was, shall we say "tripping".(I exaggerate a bit but you get my drift).

The kitchen is something out of a bad Brady Bunch episode, double ovens (one doesn't work, the other sets off the smoke detector when I turn it on) , built in stove (one burner makes ungodly noises when turned on...needless to say I don't turn it on), small but adequate refrigerator, tiny sink (no dishwasher) and all this Harvest Gold loveliness is surrounded by a counter island/dining area situated between the living room and the kitchen.

The living room has an addition...Thank God. Although, the tenants that used this place before had a cat perhaps two, (or twelve). The house reeks of cat pee, not all the time, only those times when the humidity hits high...Did I mention we are situated between two canals and the sides of the trailer have perpetual mold??? It's tough to get away from the humidity....

Oh, and by the way, I'm allergic to cats. We're having cleaners come in next week to see what can be done ab out this...not on MY dime I might add.......

Well, I said I wanted to experience Florida in a different way....this is certainly different...I'll say that much...