Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Vacation: relaxing respite or evacuation plan?

September 19, 2008

My wife and I recently spent a week at a condo in Daytona Beach, FL.  We both grew up on the Atlantic coast of Florida, me in Jacksonville and she in Hialeah, and it was nice to get back close to our roots.  The first afternoon of walking the beach, bouncing in the surf, and avoiding being dragged to death by a rip current, brought back many fond memories of life on the coast.  Speaking of life on the coast, it should be noted that on the home front, we were just brushed by Hurricane Gustav the week before vacation. We boarded up the windows and lost power for 34 hours which, compared to Katrina was very minor.  We then watched the TV closely to see if Hurricane Hanna would clear the Florida coast in time for us to visit Daytona Beach, and if they still had a beach worth visiting.  No matter, we were locked into our reservation and, short of a forced evacuation, were committed to keeping.  On top of all that, Hurricane Ike was barreling through the Florida Straits toward our home, so we left the boards up while we were gone lest we come home to a hurricane ravaged home with broken windows, full of raccoons using our abode as a shelter of last resort.

But as it turned out, it was beautiful in Daytona Beach.  We were at a time share which, being the second week of September, was largely inhabited by retirees.  There were not many people there as it was the off season so we had no problem identifying each of them.  By day two we had assigned names to each of them.  There was Sunscreen, the old guy with skin the color and texture of beef jerky.  He would be at the pool or in the ocean by 7 am and spend most of the day in the sun.  He would put a layer of sunscreen on his head so thick I thought, looking from our balcony, it was white hair.  But no, it was several ounces of SPF-45.  Then he would oil the rest of his body so it would simmer without actually turning to leather.  One afternoon he swam past my wife with what looked like a cigarette in his mouth.  But when he submerged he removed it and held it aloft like a periscope.  That’s when she noticed it was a Tootsie Pop.  So we had to change his name to Kojak.

Then there was Bar-B-Q, who was at the grill for lunch and dinner every day we were there.  And Mullet, the middle-aged guy with the long braid hanging halfway down his back.  And Cutie Pie, the very pretty young lady who was with Bald Spot.  And here would come Ms. Cellulite, flapping in through the gate to the beach.  The coolest person there was the one we could barely see, Wind Surfer.  All we saw of him was his kite careening through the air and his dim silhouette flying over the waves.

Being on the coast one would naturally think, seafood.  Yes, there were plenty of seafood restaurants throughout the area and we did eat at a couple. But I have to tell you, NO one anywhere cooks seafood as good as anyone in Louisiana.  Not even a 4-star Florida restaurant can serve anything close to what any and every Louisiana cook puts on the table day to day.  It’s all in the spice.  Louisiana uses it, others don’t.  And Louisiana has a take on presentation.  Sure, Floridians can serve a fillet of fish with a side of garlic potatoes and a sprig of parsley, but it can’t hold a candle to dumping a load of hot crawfish, potatoes, corn and sausage on a table covered with newspaper.  And never wear a white shirt to a crawfish boil, it won’t be white when you’re done.

Seafood aside, it was a delightful week.  I was able to cook some excellent steaks, made easier because Bar-B-Q already had the grill hot.  And the rip tide lessened as Hanna made her way up the coast so we were able to spend some quality time in the surf.  We even were able to relax as Ike bypassed our home town, choosing Houston as his primary target.  As Ike turned north, my brother in Cincinatti got more damage from it than we did.  He lost a tree and was without power for 15 hours.  Welcome to our world.  I need to e-mail him to say that I know a great place to evacuate if he needs to get away.  And no need to bring sunscreen, Kojak has plenty.

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The Cricket Bag

June 11, 2008

“A man in a tuxedo walks into a bait shop…”  This must sound like the set-up for a joke.  But no, this is the true story of my first encounter with crickets as bait.  My wife and I were spending the weekend with two other couples at a place on the Tchefuncte River.  My friend James had brought his bass boat, and Glen had a canoe.  There was a dock and a place to swim, so altogether this had the makings of a great weekend.

Glen was a prolific beer drinker.  That Saturday night, after a long day of Glen’s heavy drinking, I was awakened by the sound of him getting up and walking to the bathroom.  I heard a loud bump and a louder “&%#!!”.  I giggled a little at his plight, and noticed my wife had awakened as well.  Being in a small cabin it was not hard to hear the waterfall as he vented the day’s drink.  But he went on, and on, and on.  I started to laugh, trying hard to hold it in.  But my wife started to laugh, too, and we both lay in bed shaking violently as we tried hard not to laugh out loud as the waterfall went on, and on, and on.  Finally I said as quietly as I could, “Why are you laughing?”  She said, “No wonder he braved whatever he bumped into, he REALLY had to go!”  “That’s why I’m laughing, too!” I said, and we both exploded into loud guffaws.  Fortunately Glen was oblivious to our laughter.

Sunday I had to do a magic show in town.  In those days I wore a tuxedo, even for a kid’s party.  James said to me before I left, “There’s a bait shop in Madisonville.  Why don’t you stop and get some crickets and we will bream fish when you get back.”  Sounded like a plan.

I did the party and, as I was driving back to the cabin, found the bait shop right where James said it would be.  I walked in still dressed in my tux and, as the proprietor eyed me suspiciously, I asked for 50 crickets.  He promptly served them up in a small, brown paper bag which I stuffed into my pocket as I headed back to the cabin.  After arriving, I changed into jeans and a T-shirt, transferring the cricket bag to my pants pocket and I went to find James.

He asked, “Did you get the crickets?”  “Yeah, I have them right here,” I said, pulling out the bag.  He said, “They didn’t give you a box?”  “Were they supposed to?” I responded, genuinely confused.  I had never fished with crickets and did not know about the now familiar box with the two small holes and revolving top where you could release them one at a time, then close it off so more would not escape.  “Well,” he said, “we’ll have to make do.”  So we headed down to the bank for the boat.

“We’re just going over to the other bank,” he said, “so let’s take the canoe.”  So we got in with me in front and James in back.  We paddled to the other side and it was time to bait up.  As carefully as I could, I opened the top of the bag and grabbed the first cricket that crawled out, handing it to James.  The second one I grabbed for me.  The third and fourth jumped past me into the bottom of the canoe before I could close the bag.  Oh well, a little less bait.

For easier access I laid the bag in the bottom of the canoe.  As often is the case, the bottom of the canoe had a little water in it and before too long the bag was wet.  The next time I tried to get a cricket, the bag broke and crickets went everywhere!  James was yelling at me because the bait was now all over the place, but I had a much greater concern.  One of the crickets had made his way up the leg of my jeans and was headed north.  As he passed my knee I was slapping and yelling as the canoe started tipping back and forth.  “Sit still or you’ll tip us over,” James yelled.  But that cricket was on the move and I was determined to stop him before he reached critical mass.  I finally was able to grab him through the denim and smash him between my fingers.  By that time, most of the rest of the crickets had jumped over the side so we paddled back to the shore.

We caught no fish that day, but I think in the end James found the experience profitable, judging by how many times over the next twenty years he would chuckle as he said to me in front of our construction worker friends, “Jimbeaux, tell ’em about the cricket bag!”