St. Peterís Waiting Room Part II
By Tom Waters
February 1st, 2010
Click here for Part I!
Saturday, February 10th, A Dash Of The Red Sea, The Super 6, Grey Walruses in Seventy Degree Heat
7:30 AM. Iím back on my regular schedule and up at a reasonable hour. I have to rummage around to make coffee and Lindsay gets up shortly after me. Someone has left a paper out in the driveway even though my parents donít subscribe. I read it anyway. A lot of the Ledger is tailored towards tourists. Something came up in conversation last night that sparked a shift in the way I think about human migration to Florida. I never considered that some of the natives migrate North in the summer when it gets oppressively hot and humid. In the back of my mind, I always pictured the Buffalonians, the Alleghanians, and other surrounding northern state citizens flocking en masse down to the Sunshine state. I guess it goes both ways. Anna Nicoleís corpse has nabbed the front page again.
Lindsay and I head out on the tricycles and make some rounds. Renie and Gene arenít up, Dave and Mary are already gone, and we zoom (well, as much as one can zoom when the speed limit is under ten miles an hour) over to Bev and Billís. Itís nine a.m. and Bill meets us at the door and ushers us in. They both get to meet Lindsay and Lindsay gets the grand tour. Bill and I noodle around on his computer and Bev gets acquainted with my girlfriend. We get to see her pendulum, her crystals, her tarot deck, and some sort of Indian birthing blanket housing a collection of rare stones that look like other things. One of the stones is from the Red Sea, which I thought was pretty cool. Bev dares me to lick it and it tastes like exotic salt. We get to talking and all of a sudden itís quarter to ten, so we head back towards home base and get lost. Every road is named after a state and all the roads are lined with trailers and Rvs, so after a circuitous route around the community center, we make it back.
Butch drives us all to a country diner for an old fashioned southern pancake breakfast while he runs some errands and grabs gas. For six bucks, I get two eggs, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage and two pancakes with a side of home fries and a cup of joe. Lindsay gets a southern omelet with three kinds of pig cooked into the egg. The pig slaughter continues unabated. I polish off the majority of the plate and then leave some messages for work and for Mike, whoís watching our apartment and our cat while weíre away. Butch circles back and I decide to get a straw fedora for our trip to the beach, so we drive out to the closest mall. The bookstore has a poetry section that fills two shelves and it sucks, and I canít find GQ to save my life, so I settle for a Rolling Stone. Then I find a gaudy straw fedora over at JC Penneyís for a cool twenty bucks. With the straw hat, the Hawaiian shirt and the flip-flops, I blend right in. Aside from relatively wrinkle free skin and grey free hair, I look just like a senior citizen. Lindsay starts getting punchy on the car ride back, so we decide to delay the beach trip for tomorrow so she can get a nap in.
While sheís lying down, Twig and I go over to say hi to my Uncle Spike. Spikeís building a Florida room onto his trailer with a small team of relatives including Uncle Bill, Uncle Gene, the development landlord and some other guy whoís sucking back coffee and smoking cigarettes. Spike is Ďsupervisingí and the rest of the crew is winding down at one in the afternoon because theyíve run out of materials for siding and other projects. Bill was an electrician for Kodak in his past life (before retirement), so he shows me the outlets and the ceiling fan theyíve put in. We monkey around with the 135 millimeter zoom lens on my Nikon digital camera that seems to keep locking up half-mast and end up dismounting it from the base and that manages to do the trick.
Twig gets changed into a bathing suit and we motor over to the pool on the golf cart. Iím a bit bashful at the thought of unleashing my pale, burgeoning vacation gut on the general populace of the park, but once we get there, I can see that Iím the skinny guy at the shallow end of the pool. The dozen or so septuagenarians wading around look like a pack of gray walruses blinking around and standing still in a miasma of chlorine, ben gay and other ointments. And there is no deep end of the pool, which is most likely a safety issue. The middle goes to five feet deep, so I wade in and dive under to breast stroke to the other end. After two laps, I think about the ratio of weak bladders to chlorine and bring my head up above water. Call me germ phobic, but Iíll swallow a pint of Lake Erie water before I gargle with a cup of Florida vitamin piss with a chlorine chaser. I get friendly with the two guys in the middle of the pool and start quizzing the inhabitants as to where I can find some good fried chicken. The ladies are clustered together clutching at foam Ďnoodlesí and drifting around on inflatable rafts, and I get a grandmotherly barrage of questions about the weather and so forth. Weather is religion to these people.
After a half hour of kicking with my head along the side of the pool the breeze sends me inland in an attempt to get some color into my skin during the better part of the afternoon. Yoda is there again in dark blue starched jeans sitting in the shade and watching his wife swim. I smoke a cigarette on a plastic white deck chair and the pair limps slowly out of the deck area and I feel a twinge of heartfelt outpouring for the couple. Yoda has a caretaking look of love as he takes her arm and follows her out of the park. I canít even imagine what itís like to make it through kids, fights, jobs, and all the other bullshit the world throws at you over the course of a full lifetime and still make it out of the gate to the twilight years of your life with the same person. Theyíre the lucky ones, arthritis and all.
Twig and I hop back into our golf cart and stop to visit with Renie and Gene, who are getting ready to go to Wal-Mart for sewing material. Rene is making bibs for a nursing home she visits at and Gene shows me his famed Western pulp novel collection. We putter on to Uncle Daveís and heís home. Aunt Mary pulls up with groceries after a half a day at Wal-Mart and starts showing me picture after picture after picture of ancient history. My paternal grandfather who died before I was old enough to meet him. Shots of my dad when he was a baby, caught stealing pennies out of his older sisterís piggy bank. He was the baby of the family, and his sisters beat the shit out of him. My Aunt Bev winged him in the back of the head with a brick once and heís still got the scars to prove it. Then Mary shows me portraits of my great grandfather, whom I bear a passing resemblance to. Iím worn out enough for a nap and start saying my goodbyes. A half hour later, weíre out the door. We get to the trailer and Lindsay and Butch have driven off to the store with a note on the kitchen counter.
I cop a few zís on the couch in the Florida room and after forty minutes or so, Butch and Lindsay get back with strawberries and grocery supplies. After quizzing the populace as to where we can find good fried chicken, I tell Butch that Iím leaving to go get some. He offers to drive, so we go to Maryland Fried Chicken, a takeout shack in the middle of town. The lot is packed and there are cars around the building and parked near the dumpster and more orange groves. The interior is filled with white and black trash waiting impatiently for their orders, the staff behind the counter is slow as dirt, and thereís a dry erase board in the dining area with a bible quote for the day from Philippians or some other obscure chapter from the Good Book. They take their religion seriously down here. After standing in line for ten minutes, Butch decides that itís not worth the wait and that we can go to Kentucky Fried Chicken. I can go to a goddamned KFC ten minutes away from my home in Lancaster and this flies in the face of my culinary quest down here, so I tell him not to bother and we drive home in a huff.
Itís a little after six and time for dinner. I havenít eaten since breakfast and after the fried chicken fiasco, Iím in a foul mood, so I do some work on the computer and pop in Dylanís Modern Times album and type away in silence. Butch fires up the grill and throws four meaty Porterhouse steaks on and cracks a beer. We eat our dinner in the kitchen at the island and I flip through my copy of Rolling Stone, a magazine that exemplifies whatís gone wrong and how badly with magazine publishing these days. Seven thirty rolls around and itís halfway to being dark out, so I pop open a Bud Light and read some Catwoman. Lindsay and I take the go-cart out for a spin to the community dumpster and I open it up on the straightaway. The jalopy can do about fifteen miles an hour tops, so I floor it and take the corner with a slight gravitational pull.
Everybodyís a little run down from the day, so we pour our cocktails and throw on Beerfest. Butch makes it through half the movie and calls it a night. Iím on my second snifter of bourbon and flip through the channels, roosting on the Flintstones. Twig reads some of my more recent articles in the Florida room and Lindsay cracks out on Animal Crossing for the DS. I wanted to stay up for SNL but itís not going to happen. We crash out at ten thirty and Lindsay gets pissed at me for hiccupping three times during my last cigarette. I get chronic hiccups when Iím plastered but this isnít the case tonight. Ah well. Itís tough to proclaim your innocence when the symptoms fit the crime.
Sunday, February 11th: The Triumphant Return Of Maryland Fried Chicken, The Ocean Rears Itís Ugly Head, The Only Decent Bookstore In All Of Florida
6 AM. This is what I get for going to bed early. I get up like a bull in a china shop and it takes me three minutes to turn my t shirt inside out and put it on in the dark. Twig botched the coffee prep and the first pot is full of floating grounds, but I drink it anyway. Itís cold this morning but it still beats the hell out of Buffalo. After checking my email, I decide to try and catch my Aunt Mary and Uncle Dave early in the am before they both head out on their respective errands, so I hop on a trike and take it over. It looks like Iíve gotten the drop on Dave when I get over there because he comes out in old man boxers with no shirt on and claims that he was just getting up anyway. Daveís making an apple pie topping for the French toast at the church service he and Mary attend on Sundays in Orlando, so he experiments with pie filling, corn starch and apple juice in a pot on the stove to see if he canít add volume. The result is a bit tart, and Iím not a fruit fan to begin with, but it doesnít hurt to try new things. Mary gets up, puts on a pot of black raspberry Javana coffee and we all get into a protracted conversation about spirituality versus organized religion because they buy a copy of my last book and I warn them against my anti-religious piece. Eight thirty rolls around and I get ready to head out so they can get ready. Mary and I sit on the side stoop and she tells me some stories about my grandfather (who died before I was old enough to meet him) and my grandmother (whose cooking bug haunts us all to this day).
I peel rubber over to Bev and Billís and Bill is throwing on a sport jacket and getting ready for church himself. Beverly stays back and throws some eggs, peppers, onions and bacon bits into her wok for me while we start going over the rules to a financial investment board game where you need to keep a ledger and a calculator. I take a strong lead and before we know it, its quarter after ten, so I hightail it back to my parentís trailer. Everyoneís up and theyíve already had breakfast. The sun is out in almost full force, so I decide to take a dip in the pool. Lindsay and Twig follow closely behind and we sun ourselves on the deck chairs for a bit and Twig takes some pictures with Butchís camera. The two of them are about as technologically retarded as you can get, so I have to coach her through it. The poolís deserted and the girls claim that 79 degrees is ítoo chillyí, but I go in anyway and grab a few laps. After a towel off, we head back to get ready for a ride to Vero beach.
By noon, we pile into the car and head out. Butch and I stroll in to Maryland Fried Chicken and the wait has dropped considerably. Some Hispanic girl takes her sweet time taking care of us and tells us thereís a fifteen minute wait, so we drive over to see Butchís eagle with a nest atop a telephone pole overlooking the town softball field. My Nikon is giving me problems and the zoom wonít extend all the way, so by the time I finish monkeying with it, the birds have flown the coop. We go back to the chicken shack after fifteen minutes and I still have to wait inside. They must have an extended time limit for gringos. I pick up our fifteen piece chicken assortment with biscuits and macaroni salad and we resume our hour and a half trip east. I pop in the Bob Dylan CD and Lindsay and I fire up our DSís. I get bored with mine and take some shots of the palm trees and a stucco church. All the buildings seem so new and so clean out here. We pass a chain bookstore called íBooks A Millioní and I make a mental note to stop on the way back.
The beach is crowded by our standards and Lindsayís in a pissy mood. Iíve had to go to the bathroom for an hour, so I make a stop at the public restrooms. We wander down to the beach and watch the briny surf wash up below the high tide mark among fat southern kids, Hispanic families, posturing teenagers and snappily dressed older folk. Some teenage girls are playing volleyball. We all grab the chicken out the car and set up shop in a small gazebo overlooking the ocean. Butch snaps some pictures. I snap some pictures. I start to feel like an idiot with my outfit because Iím the most touristy looking guy under seventy in a mile wide radius. After a half hour, Butch gets antsy to head back, so we get back in the car and make the trek home. While heís keeping his eyes peeled for the bookstore, Butch misses a highway turnoff and we take a fifteen minute detour in the wrong direction, so we have to backtrack. We get to Books A Million and it reminds me of our Borders back home, but a bit larger with just books. Not only do they have GQ and Charles Bukowski books, but they have one that Iíve never even seen, so I pick both up along with a twenty ounce pop for the ride back. Weíre all a bit strung out, so we take turns napping in the car. I read fifty pages of my Bukowski book and get stuck on the second level of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.
Iím ready to sleep more when we get back, but I have to get details about going to the flea market the next day with Bill and Gene, so Lindsay and I take the golf cart over to Renie and Geneís trailer. Theyíve been out shopping all day and the counter is full of corn starch and pie filling and off brand twinkies. Renie talks me into a giant sized white chocolate Nestle crunch bar and Gene gets to meet Lindsay. Renie tells me that Iím definitely a Waters because I tell her Iím full and yet Iím still nosing around the kitchen to see what they have to eat. Her entire trailer is full of rooster knick-knacks. I find out later from Uncle Spike that my grandmother used to collect them. Gene tells me that he and Bill are going to head out to Webster for the Flea Market at 7:30. I tell him Iíll do my best to get up early but Iím not making any promises. We head back home and I cozy up on the couch in the Florida room for a much needed nap.
An hour and a half later, I get up at eight oíclock and Lindsay is playing Animal Crossing while Butch is futzing around with his pictures on the computer. Twig is in the living room shuffling todayís paper around and itís leftover night, so we all fend for ourselves. I heat up some fried chicken and put out a bowl of hot sauce to dip it in. It is Sunday after all, and even though weíre a number of states away from Ron and my guyís night, I keep the tradition alive with some improvised Buffalo chicken. I flip on the 49th Annual Grammy awards and itís all R&B. Somehow Butch has managed to erase two days worth of my pictures on his hard drive, so Lindsay has to do some detective work to locate them and reallocate the shots to a different file that he wonít mess up. I crack a Bud Light, pour out a tumbler of bourbon on the rocks and pop in Tommy Boy. Butch is winding down so he eats a bowl of noodles and sauce with a few choice pieces of porterhouse steak in there for flavor and calls it a night around nine. Twig watches the end of the movie, she and Lindsay get into some of Renieís homemade fudge and Twig calls it a night. I fire up a cigar on the back porch, drain the rest of my third beer and decide to turn in if weíre going to be getting up at the crack of dawn.
Tune in next month for part three!