Larry Cohenís Regional at Sea Buttons

Larry Cohenís Regional at Sea

Day 10 Sunday December 25, 2012
Port St. Lucie - Clearwater

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Four good friends.

I was up and at íem at 5:30 in the morning. Chris fixed us some coffee, and I finished off the fruitcake that Sue had purchased at Publix. Sue also enjoyed a quick breakfast. We then packed our stuff up and loaded the suitcases into the Cruz.

The plan for this Christmas day was to get an early start and drive across the state to Clearwater to eat dinner with Sueís father, Art. Sue had previously made certain that Art, who was not exactly the Iron Chef, had purchased everything needed for dinner. Sue also provided him with precise instructions concerning when to place the pork roast in the oven so that it would be nearly ready when we arrived at around noon. Sue planned on fixing the side dishes herself. The good new was that Artís neighbor Dominic, who knew his way around a kitchen, had volunteered (or perhaps had been commandeered) to help with the roast.

Santa took a different route.

Sue and I departed the Tsiartasís house at 7:45. That gave us plenty of time to get to Clearwater on time. We had to be a little careful. Art had had some problems with his heart in the previous few years, and if his oldest daughter showed up early, it might be more than his pacemaker could handle.

We took Floridaís Turnpike north again and donated another $3.50 to the stateís coffers. After a few miles we turned west onto state highway 60, the road that bisects the bleak landscape of central Florida. My two favorite features of this road are that (1) it contains, for the most part, only two lanes, and (2) cars can freely enter and exit from the occasional side road or parking lot. The driver is therefore required to pay fairly close attention to the other traffic. Otherwise, the danger of falling asleep at the wheel would be overwhelming.

This was panther territory!

At one point we were surprised by a sign that announced that the area we were driving in was a panther crossing. Sue, who somehow knew that panthers, mountain lions, and cougars were all the same species, started explaining to me that the panthers in this vicinity liked to nest in the palm trees. From that point on we kept our eyes peeled for panthers. We knew that it was a long shot, but one becomes desperate for entertainment when one drives across central Florida on Christmas day.

We thought that it might be a very rare white panther, ...

Our vigilance was at last rewarded. Sue spotted not just one panther but a whole herd of the wily beasts. At first we thought that the lead panther, which is commonly known as the panthim, was an example of the rare and mysterious white panther of lore. However, when we consulted our guidebook to the fauna of central Florida we determined that he was actually a white-faced panther. Nevertheless, we were proud and excited by our sighting.[1]

... but it was actually a white-faced panther.

The only stop that we made was at the Bank of America in Lake Wales to make sure that we had enough cash for the last couple of days of our vacation.

Bartow marked the edge of civilization, and at that point we headed northwest to hook up with I-4, which drained us of another $1.25 in tolls.

We arrived at Artís house at about 11:20. Sue had phone him from the car so that he would not be overwhelmed by the shock of his daughterís promptness.

Sue was not too happy with the state of the roast, but everything turned out fine.

After the exchange of a few pleasantries Sue went to the kitchen to see how the roast was doing. She found that the roasting pan was completely dry. The reason for that became apparent to her almost immediately. The oven was on broil, not bake. The good news was that the roast was already done and was quite crispy (but not burned). The bad news was that there were absolutely no pan drippings for gravy. Art called Dominic to see if he had any gravy, and to my surprise Dominic came over with two cups of extra sauce.

Babe guarded the table until the humans assembled.

Sue cooked up some green beans, peas, and mashed potatoes. Everything was delicious. I think that Art, who seldom got to enjoy a home-cooked meal, was appreciative of the effort that Sue had made to make sure that he had a nice Christmas dinner. We each had a piece of pie a little later. In Sueís family a slice of pie serves primarily as the foundation for elaborate whipped cream constructions.

A pretty impressive layout, all things considered.

Artís fishing buddy Mickey and his wife Marilyn also came over. They brought Art some Clementines and a big box of cookies. Art told them about the problems that he had had with his digestive system. They were severe enough that he minimized his traveling, even for incidentals. He was scheduled to go in for tests in three days.

Art also shared his dwelling with a cat. This felineís real name was Shelley, but Art had always called her Babe, and since Sueís motherís death a few years earlier so had everyone else. Babe was a rather private cat. She liked Art, and she liked her sunbeam. The rest of the world she only tolerated.

I think that Art really enjoyed supper.

After supper I took a nap for an hour and a half. I then went out and walked around the neighborhood for another hour and a half. I ended my walk in the park along Gulf-to-Bay that was near Artís house. I saw lots of birds in the park and lots of people out walking their dogs. No one was carrying a bag or a pooper-scooper. This was not New York.

The programs on television on Christmas day were just awful. There werenít even any minor bowl games to watch. I spent a fair amount of time working on the journal. I knew that if I did not record events while they were fresh in my mind, they could be lost forever.

Sue and I raided the box of cookies fairly often. Only enemy combatants in the War on Christmas would worry about their diets on this sacred day.

We enjoyed a light supper of delicious pork sandwiches, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and potato chips. There was still some pie left for dessert.

The weather forecast warned that bad weather would be coming overnight and in the following morning. A big snowstorm had come across the Midwest and the southern states to the north of us. Snow was expected in the northeast. It looked bad, but not that bad.

Artís house did not have a wifi connection, but Sue and I were both able to leach off of a neighborís network. I checked us in for our flight on Wednesday evening. I was shocked and disappointed that we got positions 37 and 38 in the B area, hardly any better than on the flight down. Sue registered us for notifications if there was any problem with the flight.

On the whole, it was not exactly a traditional Christmas, but we had a pretty good time, we spread a little cheer, we were happy to see Art and Babe, and I enjoyed some exercise and sunshine.

[1]  When we were driving on the M4 through the western suburbs of London in 1989 Sue claimed that she saw a bear off to the side of the road. As of this writing she was still sticking to that story.