Archive for March, 2005

Mar 29 2005

Florida by the Numbers

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Farewell, Florida!

Number of palmetto bugs seen: 6

Number of palmetto bugs squashed: 6

Gross-out factor: On a scale of one to ten (10 being CSI close-ups), about 100.

Number of geckos seen: About a dozen.

Number of geckos scared: See above.

Number of armadillos seen: 2 (they are superbly uninterested in humans)

Number of ospreys seen: 2. One was five feet away. Eating a fish. With an armadillo attitude.

Spring training baseball games attended: Only two! Both starring the Blue Jays. Score: 0 for the Jays.

Spring training baseball practice sessions attended: 4

Kisses and autographs from ballplayers: 0

Sunburns: 0!! A personal best!

Days when it wasn’t about a million degrees: 0. Even when it was raining.

Days when Suzy didn’t complain about the heat and/or humidity: 0. (“It’s not the heat, it’s the complaining about the heat.”)

Number of states driven through en route: 5. Or maybe 6?

Number of miles driven: Do numbers go that high?

Number of meals not featuring fat: 0

Pounds gained: Ignorance is bliss.

Butt size: Southern fried, my friend.

Southern delicacies not consumed by Suzy: Grouper (due to moratorium); boiled “p.nuts”; alligator (I promised Kelly I wouldn’t); sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top; anything on a stick; deep-fried desserts.

Southern delicacies consumed by Suzy: Key lime pie; coconut shrimp; freshly squeezed grapefruit juice; grits (grits are gross, especially at the Waffle House, or, as those in the know call it, the Awful House).

4 responses so far

Mar 26 2005

More Florida Lessons Learned

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More Florida Lessons Learned

The glass in the windows slants outwards when opened, so when you get sudden torrential downfalls in the tropical heat, you can still keep the windows open to catch any errant breezes.

Men must wear white socks with shorts, no matter what color the shorts and no matter what the (casual) footwear (sneakers or sandals). Now, I personally feel that sandals should never be worn with socks – essentially, if it’s warm enough for sandals, you don’t need the socks – as well as the obvious aesthetic reasons. However, the sneaky and painful fire ants* down here do provide something of an excuse for the socks’n’sandals combo.

Spray tans last 10 days “with proper maintenance”, whatever that is. As soon as I heard that, I decided not to do it. Sounds like work to Slothful Suzy. I’m lucky if I brush my hair every day. Tan maintenance would be waaaay down on my list (if I weren’t too lazy to actually make a list).

Since you’re &agrave l’auto &agrave la time, I couldn’t help but notice that there are an astonishing number of different types of Florida license plates. I figured there must be hundreds. Curiosity and chronic underemployment led me to check Florida’s DMV website, where I obtained the following info on types of Florida plates available (by category):

Environmental: 14
Miscellaneous: 30
Professional Sports: 9
Universities: 36
Total: 97

So a hundred, not hundreds. I thought there were just a few types in California, and was surprised that there were as many as 11, according to the California DMV.

It’s all roadwork, all the time. I guess the weather is never bad enough to halt it. So it halts you instead.

Even though I’m all the way on the other side of the country, I’m still in the Bay Area (Tampa Bay, that is).

*They have actually killed people in this area.

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Mar 24 2005

Car Life

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carlife.jpg

In Florida, your life is in your car. Here are all the necessities:

– Cell phone (in case of more roadside emergencies);

– Sunglasses (in case the sun is sunny in the Sunshine State);

– Cigarettes (my friend’s. Really!); and

– One of them iPAHDS. I’m now officially saved from the three types of radio stations available:

1. “Classic rock” – how many times can you listen to Foreigner in one day? Not to mention the obnoxious announcers hollering their station identification (“The BONE…Bone…bone!”)

2. Talk radio

3. Religious programming.

Instead, it’s all Suzy, all the time. At least in the car.

4 responses so far

Mar 23 2005

St Patrick’s Day

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My father’s birthday falls on St. Patrick’s Day, with the result that I have always thought of it simply as Dad’s birthday, mostly forgetting about the Other Reason for celebration that day (a remarkable oversight, considering that it seems to be mostly an excuse for drinking). The fact that my Dad was the most English of gentlemen and born on the most Irish of holidays has always amused me, particularly since he was never an ardent fan of the inhabitants of Eire. Sample quote: “How do you solve the Irish problem? Replace the Irish with the Dutch. The Dutch will pump out the bogs and make Ireland valuable farmland, and the Irish will get drunk, let the dikes leak, and drown themselves.” I’m sorry to say that he actually trotted this one out at a dinner party with, yes, you guessed it, Irish guests. In his defense, he did apologize (but only after my stepmother told him to).

It’s been four years since his sudden death, and although I think of him every day, I think of him more on his birthdays and deathdays, marvelling as the number of years we have survived without him gets higher and higher. As faithful readers know, my mother has been fighting a valiant battle against cancer for the past few years, and though she has managed to survive – miraculously, in the true sense of that mostly over-used word – I can’t help but fear the loss of my remaining parent. I don’t think anyone is ever old enough to face being an orphan unafraid. And the fact that she has proven the doctors wrong on at least four different occasions when they were sure she was wiping her feet off on death’s doormat means that when she really does go, it will be almost as great a shock as my father’s death. Maybe even more.

I’ve been thinking about what it will be like if I can’t get up there in time, just as I couldn’t get to London in time to see my father’s body. My sisters, stepmother, niece, and brother-in-law did, but he was autopsied before I could get to London from San Francisco. I really wish I’d had the chance to say good-bye. My younger sister actually climbed into his hospital bed after his death and put his arms around her, resting her cheek against his stilled chest. He was still warm, he still smelled the way he always had, his hair was still soft. You could almost imagine he was still there. Almost. She says he looked incredibly peaceful, and for that I am thankful. She had been through so much taking care of him that she deserved that final gift, but I have to admit to a sneaking envy that I could not have shared it.

So I hope I will be able to say good-bye to Mom one last time, so it won’t be as if she, too, just vanished off the face of the earth. Other than that, I don’t know what to hope for a woman who will be 73 next month and has cancer throughout her bones and tumors on her brain. Maybe I do: the least amount of pain, the most happiness, the most dignity, the most love, and the most peace.

5 responses so far

Mar 21 2005

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This was voted the fourth most beautiful beach in the entire US of A. If this is the fourth runner-up, I can’t even imagine what Miss Beach America looks like.

The only way to reach Caladesi Beach is by boat – either ferry or your yacht – so you feel like this is a private island paradise. I was greeted by an armadillo, looking like a small, armored dinosaur. I had no idea they lived in Florida; I tend to think of them as desert creatures. But there they were.

The shore is fringed with mangroves, trees which actually remove the salt from the sea water they grow in to water themselves. There are jungles of spiky palmetttos. The sand is as white as sugar, warm and soft in the bright sun, scattered with pink and purple shells.

The sun was beginning to set in absurdly Technicolor pink and violet as I left the island. An osprey, starkly black against the incandescent sky, followed the boat back to port. On this day, just a few hours before my late father’s 74th birthday, I felt his presence strongly, as if he and the magnificent bird he so loved were one.

2 responses so far

Mar 15 2005

Accidental

Published by under Calamity Suzy,Florida

Calamity Suzy Rides Again…

…or not, as the case may be.

I’ve taken the accident-prone talent to a whole new level. Now I don’t even have to be awake. Yesterday, I actually woke up with a scratch on my face from an errant feather in my pillow. I’m beginning to think the birds heard that I was considering getting rid of them and acted first. While examining the scratch in the bathroom mirror, to the triumphant cawing and shrieking of the flock of conspirators outside, I discovered a whole flock of zits inside. They are a less than charming counterpoint to the scratch. Now I look almost as immature as I am.

While talking on the phone and stepping outside, managed to hit my still-wounded knee against the aluminum doorframe, re-wounding it. Note to self: don’t talk while walking. Or walk while talking.

Not that driving is much better, in my case. Faithful readers may recall my automobile adventures just three months ago. Apparently, I learned nothing from that episode, since I managed to lock my keys in the car yet again.

Bad news: As usual, I did not have my cell phone, because I was using a very tiny, but very cute handbag (patterned with Marilyn Monroe magazine covers) that could barely hold my wallet.

Good news: There was a payphone! So I called the towing company.

Bad news: “That’ll be an hour, ma’am”. Also, $60 worth of stupid.

Good news: I was at Walgreens, so I bought a bunch of trashy tabloids and caught up on my Bradifer, Charles’n’Camilla, and Wacko Jacko news. They even had a bench outside. And unlike the last time I locked my keys in the car, it was 70&deg outside.

Bad news: It took an hour and a half for Rescue Guy to appear, pleading traffic.

It took him about two seconds to get the car door open. It just goes to show how quickly someone could steal your car. He wisely wouldn’t leave until I had actually started the car, and when I thanked him, he said, “That’s all right, sweetheart.” I love how everyone calls you “sweetheart” and “hon” here.

Good thing I’m flying home.

One response so far

Mar 13 2005

Southern Shoppin’

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I love the names of the grocery stores in Florida. My total favorite is Piggly Wiggly, followed by Winn-Dixie (fun fact: the word “dixie” comes from an American mispronunciation of the French word for ten (dix) printed on ten dollar bills in New Orleans in the 19th century) and the Kash n’ Karry. Why replace C’s with K’s? You could spell it correctly and still get the alliteration. And I won’t even get into the punctuation.

At the local K n’ K:

PopTarts and Gatorade are food categories. I had never seen grape PopTarts before. Or chocolate chip cookie dough PopTarts. Fun fact: there are 32 flavors!

There’s a whole section devoted to frying mixes, for “blooming onions” (I think I saw those at the State Fair), for fish, chicken, etc. (anything that can be put on a stick can also be fried), and a great selection of hush puppy* mixes.

When they water the produce, they play “Singing in the Rain.”

You can get pretty much any kind of grits you want.

Top it all off with Cool Whip!

*For such a ubiquitous foodstuff, the origins of hush puppies are uncertain, and in some circles, hotly debated. According to The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink:

“The term appears in print for the the first time about 1915. Although unconfirmed, the common assumption regarding the hush puppy’s origin is that it dates from the period of scarcity following the Civil War, when cooks would toss scraps of corn batter to hungry dogs with the words “Hush Puppies!” But the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins cites a Southern reader’s account that in the South the aquatic reptile called the salamander was often known as a “water dog” or “water puppy”…These were deep-fried with cornmeal dough and formed into sticks, and, so the account goes, they were called “hush puppies” because eating such lowly food was not something a southern wife would want known to her neighbors.”

In case you were wondering, the “puppies” in question in the second explanation are children. Don’t go telling your friends what you had for dinner!

6 responses so far

Mar 12 2005

Florida Jim

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Who would have thought Jim Morrison could look so, well, Floridian?

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Mar 11 2005

Drivin’ Miss Suzy

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I don’t think I’m cut out to be a Floridian. Among other disqualifying characteristics, I’m extremely car- and driving-averse, and you have to drive absolutely everywhere here. To the grocery store. To the beach. To the post office. To the ballpark. To the gym!! It gives “driving me crazy” and “driving me to drink” a whole new meaning. I feel like I’ve been sentenced to endlessly drive up and down Highway 19 (or Alternate 19) like the Flying Dutchman. These highways are not all scenic, consisting mainly of strip malls (including one where there’s cosmetic surgery right next to a fast food place: “Would you like fries with that face lift?” I don’t think I’d have a lot of confidence in any kind of surgeon operating in a mall), car dealerships, trailer parks, and fast food restaurants.

You can tell you’re in Florida because in addition to the usual billboards threatening you with Hell if you don’t straighten up and fly right into church right now, there are lots of them for cataract surgery, macular degeneration surgery, and treatments for other age-related ailments. And if all else fails, there are also lots of billboards for funeral homes. On-site crematoria seem to be a big draw, though somehow that seems slightly undignified to me, like it’s a drive-thru or something. My favorites are the one with the laughing, very young lady with the slogan “Celebrate Life!” followed by the name of the funeral home, and the one that says, “Preplanning – the gift that keeps on living!”

One response so far

Mar 08 2005

Rise’n’Shine!

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Slothful Suzy is quite challenged by the neighbors. All of them.

Everyone gets up ridiculously early. The birds take over from the juvenile delinquent crickets, who yell all night at the top of their voices. When they punch out in the early a.m., the birds take over, squawking and hoo-hooing and cawing at the top of their voices and ensuring no interruption of annoying noises to keep you awake or get you there (I’m beginning to have sneaking sympathy for those folks in France who merrily massacre songbirds and eat them, too). This sets off the senior delinquents, who come out of their “estates” and start hollering good morning to each other. Why they don’t just walk right up to each other and converse in a normal, non-annoying-to-Sleepy-Suzy tone of voice is beyond me. Maybe it’s a sport: lawn hollering. All you need is a yard and a loud voice. Hearing is optional (and undesirable, as far as I’m concerned).

Not only do the oldsters get up really, really early (presumably so as not to waste what little time they have left), they find it perfectly reasonable to mow the lawn and use power tools at 8 in the morning or even earlier. No sleeping in for Suzy. I have to admit that it has made me go to bed earlier, and get up earlier, though filled with resentment instead of caffeine.

And it makes me feel all youthful, despite being 30-12 going on 30-13. I actually got asked for ID in the Kash N’ Karry liquor store yesterday! I was floored and told the guy how old I am – not something I normally care to admit. He didn’t believe me, so I showed him my driver’s license. He squinted at it, put on his reading glasses, examined it carefully, and gave it back, saying, “I shore do ‘pologize, ma’am.” Hee.

3 responses so far

Mar 06 2005

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Complaint du jour: Don’t talk to me while I’m watching TV. I have the attention span of a particularly capricious two year old, and can’t pay attention to two things at once. If I’m watching Gilmore Girls, you are not going to win this contest. Wait until the commercials. That’s what they’re there for. In fact, I will love you more for distracting me from their dullness and/or vulgarity.

Now back to your (ir)regularly scheduled programming.

Yesterday, I went to the first home game of the Blue Jays’ Spring Training. The ballpark is charmingly high-school scale, unlike Pac Bell Park, and the crowd was enthusiastic. I’m sorry to report that the home team lost 8-4 to the very nearly home team Tampa Bay, whose team has two ex-Blue Jays, Kevin Cash and Josh Phelps.

Seen at the ballpark: VP. We’ve all heard of VPL*, but this was the full-on VP. The woman in question was wearing sheer white trousers which revealed the entire vast expanse of her flowered grannypants.~shudder~

Heard at the ballpark: “Git yer ass outta my beer!” I hasten to add that mine was not the ass in question.

Seen outside the ballpark: A 1958 Edsel station wagon! Pretty much this color, too. And pretty. Much-needed aesthetic relief after the VP (and who knew that a VP could be more repulsive than Cheney?).

*If you are fortunate enough not to have heard of this particular fashion felony, it stands for Visible Panty Lines.

3 responses so far

Mar 03 2005

Mermaids

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Have you been wondering where all the glama is in this neck of the woods (or palms)? I’ll tell you where it is: the delightfully named Weeki Wachee Springs, home of the legendary mermaids.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to see the mermaids.* I think when I was little, I actually believed that they were real mermaids. But then again, I’d believe almost anything. My grandfather had me convinced that he put up the moon every night, and it was on a spring, which is why you could see it on both sides of the road. I still have a surprisingly high gullibility factor for a girl of my vintage.

I never thought I would see the mermaids, because they were in distant Florida and I never thought I’d go there. Now was my chance!

It was completely fabulous.

The mermaids have been performing in their natural spring since 1947. The audience watches them through a huge glass window in the Mermaid Theater. They are gorgeous and glamorous in their glittery tails, their long hair flowing in the water. They do wonderful production numbers under water (I loved it when all of them swam together in a ring), and can even drink underwater (now, there’s a skill I could use!). The finale was a tribute to the US of A, complete with patriotic swimsuits and an underwater flag. If Kerry had had the mermaids with him on the campaign trail, he’d definitely be President right now.

I’m now accepting donations to Send a Needy Suzy to Mermaid Camp.

*I spoke to one of the mermaids, and she told me she had wanted to be a mermaid since she was four years old. So it was her dream come true, too.

7 responses so far

Mar 01 2005

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springtraining.jpg

Sporty Suzy lives!

The sun was sunny again in the Sunshine State, and I learned that the Toronto Blue Jays do their spring training in this very town (actually, it’s spring training central, since the Phillies and the Evil Empire also train nearby). And anyone can go and watch them practice!

So Sporty Suzy came out of retirement in her retirement community. It seemed like forever since I’d seen any baseball, and we all know about the disgrace of the NHL. No sports for Suzy since the surprising, and brief, World Series. So it was high time for Sporty Suzy to get her sporty fix.

So here they are, warming up. I was hoping Alex Rios would give me a kiss, but alas, I just got a smile. And my sporty fix.

It wasn’t my beloved Giants, but it was gooood.

Advice from the catching coach: “Balance is key. Keep your feet under you.”

4 responses so far