Sigh of relief

Codeine makes Uncle Peter happy

Today we are unwinding from the pent up anxiety over the last 2 days.  Mom is recovering nicely.  Dad reports that she is more alert than she has been in a while.  Since mom can’t communicate normally there is no telling how long the problem was there.  Lethargy is a typical symptom of Alzheimers so that obscured things, too.

I helped my Uncle Peter and his friend, John with some minor computer problems this week.  Another case of the blind leading the blind.  OHHH the ache in my brain as I try to simultaneously solve the problem and explain to them what I am doing.  This looks like a case where my success is haunting me and everyone thinks I am an expert.  The more I help the more they think I can do…I wound up as band sound person from the same phenomenon.  I hated that, too.

On our daily walk at the doggie beach we met a young dude and his Rottweiler, Chloe.  I liked him and his dog despite the fact that he wanted to regale us with his knowledge on global warming.  He purportedly was running his own models that prove we are on the cusp of the next ice age (hence the bitter weather we’ve been having.)  I refrained from inquiring on his methods or mentioning that the currently preferred term is “climate change.”  Meanwhile Elvis humped Chloe.


Chillin’ in Florida

Many of you know my mom has Alzheimers and one of our goals this trip is to see her and give my dad some help.  I’ll be writing more about this in the future.  Yesterday dad took mom to the doctor because she had been dizzy for a few days and seemed to be getting worse.  Dad is doing a great job single handedly taking care of my mom.  At the doctor’s office mom’s heart rate and bp were so low they called an ambulance and took her to the ER.    They kept her overnight for observation.  Dad is calm and unphased.   It probably is a minor problem.  Alzheimers makes everything more complicated.  We’ll know when we know.  Burt and I are headed there soon.  Reminds us of, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”  Of course we can’t help it somedays.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying ourselves just hanging out with Uncle Pete.  I am so glad to be here and reconnect and have his support. Yesterday I had another deep tissue massage and we walked the dog beach.  I found a piece of a fossilized TURTLE shell.  So cool.  Elvis found his own coconut.  It was the very first time he had spontaneously brought something to us to throw for him.  He really likes coconuts.

The fossil find lead to a great conversation with Uncle Peter on how they date things like fossils and rocks.  The semi-ignorant leading the partially informed.  After flashy discourse that was partially correct at best I looked it up: radiometric dating.  Shows you how genuinely uninterested I was in my college geology class.  But I like fossils.  I’m like a 6 year old.

Last night we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  We interacted with the staff  in Spanish. I should say we watched Uncle Peter and we threw in a phrase or two here and there.  Sort of like our geology lecture.  Uncle Peter taught Spanish for 35 years.  He also speaks Latin and Italian.  He calls himself a linguist, but I dominate him in Scrabble.  I am going to write a column on why Scrabble is a math game and not a word game soon.

The Pinochle wars continue and we are learning one of the state games of Italy: Briscola.  It’s fast and fun.


Fossilized Shark Teeth

Get this sand off of me

After a night out with my Valentine’s Boys we woke up to sunny skies and sixty degrees.  Time for a walk on the beach.  Florida’s Venice beach is famous for a high concentration of fossilized shark’s teeth.  The atmosphere here is quite different from Venice Beach, California.  You can search for my early post and make the comparison yourself. We accessed the beach via the area dog park.  Since it was a nice day and a holiday to boot there were lots of dogs at the beach.

We walked about a mile before Burt spotted the first tooth.  It takes a while to calibrate your eyes and to figure out where to look.  The book Your Inner Fish does a great job describing what it’s like to look for fossils.  Once Burt found one we both started to really pay attention and had some fun collecting a bunch of different kinds.  We didn’t find any big teeth but every tooth we found was different.  Some are short and squat.  Others are long and sinuous.  There are teeth with rusty bases and a glossy black tooth and there are some that are worn into smooth black triangles.  To be effective you had to roll up your pants and get in the water.  The teeth tumble around differently than shells.  Each wave washes the debris and might expose a new tooth to find.  We wound up walking all hunched over for about an hour.  Some people use mesh baskets and rake through the sand to try and increase their haul.

Burt doing the "Get the Stick" dance.

After a while we eased up and focused on trying to get Elvis out in the waves.  Waves is an exaggeration.  They were about 1’ high.  Elvis loves to chase sticks, but he isn’t so happy to pick up sandy sticks with his mouth.  He does a kind of funny pounce dance trying to get a stick in the sand to stand up and present an end out of the sand for him to pick up.  Sometimes we throw the sticks in the water.  Elvis isn’t too keen salt water and the waves either, but eventually he was overcome with the instinct to do his job (He is bred to retrieve after all) and get out there and chase the stick down.  Generally it takes a great deal of coaching and dancing about on Burt’s part to get Elvis over the hump.  Burt found a coconut and that proved to be irresistible, as long as Elvis could see it.   Burt threw the coconut out past the surf (about 10’) and the coconut would barely float at the surface.  Elvis would paw and scrape at the edge of the water and then finally launch himself in and swim after it.  The first time out the coconut kept getting away from him.  He would try to grab it and it would bob away.  He valiantly plunged his head in over and over until he got it in his teeth.  With it lodged in his maw he swam to shore and maniacally ran around.  He settled down up in the dunes and started tearing into the coconut.  He peeled the stringy husk like feathers off a bird.  We would ambush him and get the coconut and throw it again.  We tossed it out over and over until it became too water logged for Elvis to see.  He threw in the towel and we headed home.

Brave doggie. Look at the wave looming over him.

Happy Valentine’s Day

We’re all under the weather and it’s yucky outside to boot.  Pinochle and the Olympics are how we pass the time.  That and lots of laughing about my father (just kidding, Dad).   We went appliance shopping yesterday.  Uncle Peter’s place was built in 1972.  The oven and range and dishwasher are original with an avocado finish.  They function better than I would have guessed but it is time for an upgrade.  If Peter can decide what he wants Burt is going to have a little work to do.

The day before I forgot to mention that we went shoe shopping with Burt.  After I and a salesperson talked to him about what was and was not appropriate to wear with shorts (ahem…suede birkenstock clogs, anyone?),  he was left paralyzed.  I was pushing a nice pair of leather closed toe sandals with no success.  We’re going to Wal-Mart today for a $10 pair of crocs knock-offs.

Last night Peter’s friend John came over for dinner.  John grew up in the same neighborhood as Pete and my dad.  John also was in the same seminary in the early 60s as Pete.  John made it through what he calls the “Lockdown.”  Lucky for my cousins, Uncle Peter got out.  We are adding John and Peter to our list of nearly-ordained and ordained but no longer Catholic priests we know.  It’s surprisingly lengthy and multi-generational.  We had a lot of laughs at dinner and all of us are going out tonight for Valentine’s Day.



Day One Venice, Florida

In the sixties and raining.  We are in a sweet little subdivision.  The Nash is parked on the front lawn under a shade tree.  I got a massage and a chiropractic adjustment.  Too much fiddling has given me a shoulder impingement.  Everyone was optimistic that it is muscle stress and not an actual injury.  We’ll see how I fare over the weekend.  I am under strict orders not to play for a couple of days at least.  Major bummer in the rain.  Meanwhile we are having fun playing cards with my Uncle Peter.  He and my father are very similar in appearance (one noticeably less tall, though) and have many identical mannerisms (one noticeably more lippy).  General harassment while playing cards is increasing all around.  My uncle is a linguist and I have thrown down the gauntlet on scrabble.  I believe math skills trumps word aesthetics in Scrabble.  I am very confident in my taking him for a few games…We’ll see soon.

The familial similarities spill over into the hospitality area.  We have moved out of the trailer and into his guest room (twin beds!) with a private bath.  He would NOT hear of us sleeping in the trailer.  God Forbid.  So we pushed the beds together and jostled around the crack over night.  I am already hearing the same noise from my dad up in South Carolina.  At least dad has a queen sized bed.



Burt woke me up at 6 AM ready to leave the Florida line rest area where we stopped for the night.  After 12 hours straight yesterday and a lousy night’s sleep due to a cold I was in no mood to wake up or move.  We reached a stalemate where he didn’t get to move and I didn’t get to sleep.  It was pretty gruesome for about 40 minutes.  I came around when Burt made an especially nice version of bows for breakfast.  Bows are simply farfalle in chicken broth.  This time Burt added sautéed mushrooms and broccoli.  Top it with parmesan and red pepper flakes and you can make the cold sufferer start to act a little nicer even if they don’t feel better.  Thanks Burt for helping me out.

Black Buzzard

We are all the way to Manatee Springs State Park today.  Sixteen hours east and south of Houston.  They are predicting 23 degrees here tonight.  Manatees are dying from the cold out in the gulf and the river.  Here they are a little more comfortable because the springs are 73 degrees.   Eleven manatees were spotted in the spring this afternoon.  We saw a bunch.  My pictures look like eye tests for color blindness if you are color blind.  You can discern a manatee only by the subtle change in the ripple patterns on the water.  They are not worth posting.  We also saw several hundred buzzards, both the red and black variety.  Here is a picture of one.

On our way in to the State park we stopped to fill our propane bottle at Gator Gas.  Burt inquired with the technician about the possibility of finding a spot to camp at the park.  The good old boy replied, “You shouldn’t have any trouble this time of year…well I don’t know what with the snow birds and what not.”  I hope we qualify as a what not.

I can’t blame my cold for all of my off and on crankiness today.  While trying to navigate to a campsite I realized I couldn’t read the fine print on our map.  Options I am considering: corrective surgery so I can see distances and only need reading glasses, self induced cataract requiring a lens transplant, reading glasses to add to the sunglasses and  regular glasses juggle I do all day long or bifocals.  Anyone have a better idea?

Tonight I made pizza in our trailer oven.  It was great.  Artichokes, garlic and red pepper.  We played pinochle while we ate.  Both of us won a game. We only have a couple of hundred more miles to go before we run out of Florida.  When we think about the weather we  keep in mind a phrase we learned from the book Your Inner Fish, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”


Manatees!!! baby at 10:00

We got up this morning and the manatees were easier to see.  Here is a picture of two adults and one baby.  The baby is under the rippley water behind the two adults.   We are warm and safe at my Uncle Pete’s house in Venice, Florida.


We waltzed across Texas

Leona with biscuits and eggs

A blue northern rolled into town last night.  Forecasts call for two weeks of cold weather and rain.   We are heading for Florida.  Dreams of loitering on the Gulf Coast will have to wait for another day.  Last night we made it to Sweeny, TX to visit Leona and Hop Hopper old friends of Helenan Ralph Holmes.  Thanks for sending us this way Ralph.  The Hoppers have lived in this part of east Texas all their lives.  They speak with an an accent and with pace and rhythm that is musical but difficult to understand at first. My southern ear is still in tune after spending a decade down here.  Burt was mesmerized by the east Texas accent and manner of speaking.  I wish I had a picture of the look on his face as he was deciphering the conversation.  He was a word behind all night.

Leona and Hop made us the best fried shrimp we have ever had.  The Hoppers used to have a shrimping boat; they know how to cook shrimp.  First you roll them in flour, then dip in egg and next bread with panko (the Japanese bread crumb).  Fry at just the right temperature and you’ll have a perfectly crispy succulent shrimp. On the side was a bowl of chilled boiled shrimp and Burt’s coleslaw.  What else do you need?  According to Hop we needed fries.  I for one am relieved there wasn’t anything else to stuff down my pie hole.

After dinner we looked at pictures of hogs on the Hopper’s property near Waco.  We are already planning our route back to get our hog.  As we headed off to bed we learned Leona is an avid clogger.  She and her clogging class once danced on stage in Disney World.  Burt and I hatched a plan to get her to clog for us in the morning.

Nuts cracked here

We awoke to a massive breakfast of homegrown eggs, biscuits, gravy, canned pears from their yard,  hashbrowns, homemade pig sausage and bacon.  OMG.  Leona said, “We’ll make you fat if you stay in Texas.”  No doubt.  It was all delicious.  When we finished we pulled out the guitar and fiddle and tried to make her dance off her breakfast.  No luck.  If your thinking it was my fiddling, you might have a point. She called over her sister Dorothy to come listen but declined all our requests to kick up her heels.  Maybe next time.  We left with an arm load of homegrown food:  tomatoes, salsa, summer sausage, pork and venison spicy sausage, eggs and 23 pounds of pecans.

There are pecan trees at the Hopper’s place.  Hop showed us this cool device that you roll over the yards and it collects the pecans.  They have collected hundreds of pounds this year.  So he gave us a bag of uncracked pecans.  We took that bag down to the feed store and for 25 cents a pound they cracked our nuts.  I spent an hour of the drive this morning hulling some of the nut meat.  There’s nothing like a fresh pecan.  Folks downstream can expect to share some with us.

Close-up of the nut cracker

While we stretched our legs along Lake Charles this afternoon I spotted a bleach bottle with line attached.  I pulled the line out of the sand and retrieved the full rigging plus desiccated bait fish of a jug line. SCORE!  We only know it’s called a jug line because of the song Choctaw Bingo by James McMurtry.  I can’t wait to set it up in the lagoon behind my parent’s house.  Dad will be so proud when we haul in a snapping turtle for dinner.


Studly Pets

Elvis retrieving from the Crain's tank

Last night we caught the last half of Super Bowl XLIV while enjoying Burt’s huevos Rancheros.  What a fun half a game of football to watch.  I am XLIV so I had to slip that in.

This morning we donned our mud boots and walked to the creek.  There were a heap of golf balls in the banks.  For a while we thought Bill must be hitting them in his leisure time then we remembered the golf course was just upstream.  They get flushed down in the monsoon season.  Both Bill and Barbara mentioned that they hadn’t seen any snakes yet this year which gave our walk an air of excitement.  Maybe we would see the first snake of the year?  Barbara  mentioned that almost all of them around here are poisonous.  We didn’t find any.  We did see an Inca Dove and some amorous Cara-Caras.  The picture is Elvis getting a swim after rolling in cow poop.  Doesn’t he look manly?

The Crain’s have three dogs.  Two are terriers.  The one in the picture with Mimi is a known cat antagonizer.  When Corky came in the trailer Mimi came out to see what was happening.  She is friendlier to small dogs than humans, other cats or large dogs.  Things went smoothly except for one bit of Mimi reminding Corky who was the boss.  Mimi is reported to be the first cat to stand her ground and not run from the manic terrier.  Go Mimi.  Glad to see you aren’t

Mimi showing Corky how she feels

getting soft in the trailer.

Thanks for the fun visit Bill and Barbara.  We really liked meeting your friend Bea.  I’m glad she set me straight on Beeville’s finer attributes.  For the record folks, Beeville has a very fine art museum and public library.  And there are nice people who live there.