Yea for long holiday weekends! If you’re lucky enough to get one, that is. The Labor Day weekend always has been sort of a random mix of … well, randomness for me. I mean, it’s picnics and cookouts and road trips and fun — unless, of course, you a) have a job that does not recognize long holiday weekends off as the rest of the civilized world does or b) have few social contacts outside of your job so three or four days away from the office sort of stretches into boring nothingness and you promise yourself again that you’re going to get out more. Really, you are. Also, the Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer and the arrival of college football — although it’s still 92 in the shade and you’re going to get sunburned sitting at the stadium all afternoon. So in honor of all this randomninity, here are some random things that have happened to me this week.
1) I was eating lunch with several folks from my lapsed book club — now we just get together and eat and talk and drink – and the conversation turned to books we’d each read and would recommend. Everybody whipped out — or tried to, anyway — their list-making-tools of choice. Top prize goes to my friend who uses both her iPad and her iPhone to keep up with the books she’d read, the books she wanted to read and the books she’d share with others. The rest of us were impressed. And now here’s where the quality of our list-making as a whole goes down rather a lot, because coming in second was me, with my black Papermate Pilot pen — I buy them by the dozens — and my pocket-sized notebook I carry with me always and also buy in bulk. Everyone was complimentary that I not only had these things at the ready but that I could actually find them in my purse/survival bag for potential shipwreck on a deserted Pacific island. Next came my friend who did have a pen but was jotting down books on a the back of a Wal-Mart receipt and then my friend who fished an old envelope out of her purse but had nothing to write with. And, finally, there was the one of us who simply shook her head, ordered more wine and said, “Somebody e-mail all this to me.” I want to be her.
2) Turns out I’d worn unmatching earrings all day on Wednesday. Wore them to the office and to lunch and everything. Talked to dozens of people during the day. Nobody said a word. “I thought that was, like, your fashion statement,” a friend said. Nope — only a statement that I obviously need more coffee before I try to get dressed in the morning.
3) I was hanging out with 2 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable and he said what I heard as “want animal bacon.” I naturally thought he was a genius baby for recognizing the difference between animal bacon and vegetarian bacon, but then I realized that we probably weren’t talking about “bacon” at all because he kept saying it while gazing longingly at the TV. Translation from his mom (my older daughter): “Want ‘Elmo’s Blanket’,” a DVD about Elmo journeying to Grouchland to retrieve his blanket. No bacon involved at all.
Word that the leaking Horizon well is under control is encouraging, and that is good. But damage has been done in ways we’ll be dealing with for years. Husband and I were in Pensacola, Florida, this past week for a quick couple of days. It’s one of our favorite vacation spots and we were anxious to check out the oil-leak effects. Here’s what we found: The Emerald coast was gorgeous, as always … but, sadly, clean-up workers seemed to outnumber tourists. We didn’t mind no lines at restaurants and no crowds on beaches, but that also meant no money coming in and no jobs for the folks who live there. And that is not good. At Joe Patti’s Seafood, there were more employees behind the counter than shoppers in front of it — and no local shrimp, grouper or oysters. The Boardwalk shops in Pensacola Beach practically echoed with emptiness. A local newspaper story quoted locals as saying it was “January in July.” And even though theoretically folks who’ve lost money and jobs to the oil leak will be reimbursed, what’s going to happen next year when all the tourists who got scared off by the oil this summer decide to stick with the new places they found? We’ll be back. And you should, too. You can order from Joe Patti’s online at http://www.joepattis.com and keep up with the latest Pensacola happenings at http://www.visitpensacola.com/.
You know how when you go on a vacation that involves sharing a space with a bunch of other people who are mostly related to you and there’s always a point when you declare that you absolutely positively never ever will go to the beach or anywhere else again with your cousin Michelle? The key is to be prepared. Look, you plan the food and you organize the packing and you get the car ready for the trip so do the same thing for family dynamics. You know somebody will be the Worrier and somebody will be the Worker and somebody will be the Fun-Lover, so proceed accordingly. Just make sure the Organizer does her job. Read more at my weekly newspaper column, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100716/ARTICLES/307169994.
This looks like we had our car all packed up and ready for family vacation, doesn’t it? And we did … although we really hadn’t started packing yet. Fourteen folks in my family were headed to the beach in various cars and at various times and turned out Dear Husband and I had the fewest people and the most room in our car. So of course when we were all in the pre-packing stage, I told everybody, “Sure, we’ll take those chairs/boxes/bags for you if you don’t have room. No problem.” I was happy to help out and it wasn’t a problem — until I realized I’d almost offered out all available space and left only a few square inches for Husband’s and my bags. But some creative shifting freed up the necessary room. And, as usual, I overpacked, anyway. Anytime I’m lucky enough to go to the beach, I end up being totally minimalist and pulling on whatever’s easiest — T-shirts and shorts over swimsuits most of the time – and not even caring if I’m wearing the correct white top-with-black-capris combo accented with appropriate jewelry and handbags I usually do during Real Life. (Hey, I’m a Southern girl. Appropriate handbags are in our DNA, you know.) Sadly, I forget that and always persist in carefully packing coordinated outfits that end up unworn in favor of the wrinkled three-days-in-a-row tank top. And I bet there are lots of you all who suffer from Vacation Overpacking Disorder, too. We should band together and start a support group. And of course the only cure for our afflication is — more vacation packing! Who’s with me???
Because nothing says the Fourth of July like a family get-together at the beach over a long holiday weekend … or a gun show at the peanut festival. And actually I figured out that the gun show isn’t during the peanut festival, which is in November – it’s just at the National Peanut Festival site. But still. Somehow the combination of peanuts and guns seems … I don’t know … uniquely American? Like you can go munch on peanuts and buy a gun all at the same time. Me, I’ll take instead a comfy chair on the beach-house porch with a sea breeze blowing the clouds along and a fresh cup of French-press coffee or my new favorite drink of ginger wine with club soda and vodka, depending on the time of day. Or night. So here’s hoping your Fourth of July weekend is continuing along nicely. With your choice of peanuts, coffee or ginger-ale wine.
This is the Gulf Coast my family loves – serene white beaches, startlingly clear water and nature peacefully humming along, doing its thing without any interference from us. But we’ve sort of messed that up lately. Coastal communities in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana are in hurricanne-like crisis mode as oil gets closer from the recent BP deepwater drilling rig explosion that killed 11 people and is leaking more than 200,000 gallons of crude a day. Nobody can predict for sure what’s going to happen. But it for sure is not good. Read the Pensacola, Florida, News Journal at http://www.pnj.com/ ; the Biloxi, Mississippi, Sun Herald at http://www.sunherald.com/; and the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register at http://www.al.com/press-register/ for the latest oil-spill news and volunteer opportunities.
When winter is getting to you, isn’t it lucky to have friends with beachfront condos? Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mary Bonnie! She invited some of us to share one of her weeks at the Gulf coast condo she and her husband have — and just in time, too, since here in Alabama we’ve had enough snow and ice and cold to last us, thank you very much. We had a great time and I’ll tell you all about it, but first I want to give you a Florida wildlife report. No, not that kind of “wild life.” The nature kind — well, our version, anyway. One night we went to the Shrimp Basket in Perdido Key, Florida, when we all spied the most realistic statue of a blue heron ever and were in the midst of speculating why someone had placed such a statue so close to a parking space when suddenly the “statue” blinked its eye and we all jumped — and reached for our cameras. We got the distinct impression that the heron was posing for us and waiting for us to notice he (she?) had given us his (her?) best side for photography purposes. We didn’t see any dolphins/porpoises in the water while we were there, but we did spy an osprey perched high up in a tree next to its nest one day and walked along the beach with hundreds of twittering (in the non-online sense, of course) sandpipers. The weather was clear and sunny and gorgeous while we were there — too cold for us to get in the water although I did see a couple of energetic teenagers brave the waves one day. The sunsets were stunning — I caught a bit of the light in this photo. And the Shrimp Basket was great! Nothing fancy — just fresh good seafood and friendly service. It’s where the locals hang out and is about half the price of touristy seafood places (Crab Trap, we’re talking to you!). I had the blackened shrimp and fish with new potatoes, cole slaw (with shrimp in it) and hush puppies. Plus, I saved one of my oh-so-good raw oysters to show you. Other orders at our table were fried oysters, fried shrimp and tuna dip — everything was perfect. Check it out at http://www.shrimpbasket.com. There are locations all along the Alabama/Florida Gulf coast — just watch out for blue herons in the parking lot.
Oh my goodness — the holidays really haven’t officially started yet but I bet you’re already feeling stressed. Let’s see if any of these things are on your list: Baking, cooking, cleaning, organizing, traveling, shopping, keeping everybody happy. Sound familiar? Yikes. Well, I’m going to help you out here. For just a minute, slip away to this wondrously quiet and peaceful little piece of Alabama. This past weekend some friends and I rented a house at Lake Smith — and did absolutely nothing. The only two rules were that we couldn’t move the cars once we got there (and really there’s no place to go) and that it was an official MUFW (Makeup-Free Weekend). We pretty much hung out in our baggy PJ pants and T-shirts, talked and ate all weekend. But, look – we saved a chair for you! So in the next few days, when things get hectic and you start to wonder why those Pilgrims were so thankful anyway, hang in there and remember: Christmas is only a month away.