Part III will be presented in the ‘Formal Incoherence’ style, rather than my customary policy of using only ‘Informal Incoherence’.
For the first time in my entire life, I have gotten up at four-thirty in the morning and not regretted it at all. We went snorkeling at Homosassa Springs.
With the manatees. I got to pet a calf.
It was awesome, in the classic sense of the word. They’re very friendly and inquisitive, like minivan-size puppies. They like to be scratched. They also give kisses, which is startling to the recipient. Plus they mate in orgies, and eat twenty hours a day. We could learn a lot from our aquatic cousins.
Here’s something interesting: No matter how thoroughly you think you understand the phrase ‘Nine feet long and a thousand pounds,’ you will be unprepared for the size of the things when you meet them on their turf. You will be extra-unprepared if you are accustomed to being in the 90th percentile of human size, and are suddenly a mayoral candidate in Munchkinland.
But it’s still great.
Oh, and your narrator looks sexy as fuck-all in a wetsuit.
Hungry Harry?s is in the Barbecue Hall Of Fame. For those of you to whom the statement is meaningful, it was pin-worthy…as were Big Bob Gibson’s, Sonny’s Barbecue, Bern’s, Camille’s, the Branch Ranch, and Moonlite Barbecue, which is one of my life’s Holy Grails: A barbecue buffet.
We ate at the Branch Ranch and meandered around Plant City for a while. Jesus was smiling on us, as we were there, accidentally, during the Plant City Strawberry Festival. Plant City’s economy is based on strawberries the way Miami’s is based on hating Castro. This is a Big Deal, this festival, so we stopped. The first tent we came wore a sign: ‘DEEP FRIED BACON’.
We had found my people.
The festival is very much a rural state fair, and three things about it stand out in my memory:
One is an exceptional strawberry shortcake which cost $2.50 and was dubbed something ungainly like ‘The Official Strawberry Shortcake Of The Plant City State Strawberry Festival And Hoedown, Made For You Especially By The Lakeland Area Baptist Women’s Guild, Except Flo, That Husband-Thieving Cunt’. It could have been shared by three people.
The second was my inability to not giggle in the children’s area, which was filled with biting things you could pet** and was called ‘AG-VENTURE!’. I am even now unable to think about, or even say, ‘AG-VENTURE!’ without channeling Hank Hill. I defy you to do this, either, after reading this sentence: ‘Dang it all, Bobby, now we’re going to be late for Ag-venture!’
The third is the best carnival booth I have ever seen in my many years of enthusiastic attendance. A very small and rustic looking shack/booth, with an old man in it, wearing bib overalls, and sitting in a rocking chair, surrounded by bales of hay and a few chickens. The sign on the booth said ‘ASK UNCLE NAT’. There was no other detail or explanation. I loved it. I hope that Uncle Nat hadn’t actually sought permission to be there or anything, but was just a hobbyist who carried his setup with him and dispensed abuse. No prizes, no contest, just Uncle Nat.
(BTW, what they call ‘deep fried bacon’ is what we’d call a pork rind.)
We also went to the Tampa Zoo, which has a free-flight area filled with lorikeets. I had negotiated a deal with the lorikeets before we arrived: In exchange for my providing two small cups of lorikeet food, the lorikeets mobbed my companion mercilessly. (One of them peed on her, which was NOT FUNNY AT ALL SO JUST STOP THAT GODDAMN LAUGHING.)
We drove home from Tampa, which was pretty cool except for the Cavalier having an untranslatable light go on, which necessitated us getting out the manual, which was, of course, in the glove box, which is the natural habitat of the manual, which every normal person knows, right?
The manual in the Cavalier required, without exaggeration, two phone calls and a mechanic from Sears to find. You had to open the trunk, unload the luggage, TAKE UP THE TRUNK LINER, and reach BEHIND A QUARTERPANEL.
I would not have hidden smuggled diamonds as well as Avis concealed this manual. We found the thing when we called Avis to vent at them for failing to include a manual in the car and to ask them to patch us through to a mechanic so we could DESCRIBE the stinking light to him and hope it wasn’t indicating something like ‘Cyanide Leak’.
Also Avis overcharged me by $54 when I returned the car to their O’Hare location and told me that in order to dispute the charge I would have to drive the car back to the pick-up location. In Tampa. Avoid Avis.
On the way home we saw the World’s Largest Peanut, which was a great disappointment to one of the passengers in the car, who I believe misheard me when I said ‘Today we will see the World’s Largest Peanut.’
Japanese steakhouses of the Benihana-knockoff type are enormously popular in South Georgia along I-75. The billboards make magnificent non-sequiturs.
Speaking of billboards, this one, for a housing development, was a hundred miles south of Macon and was, at the time, really, really, really funny:
“New homes from $130K in Butts, GA: Sweet Secret in the Heart of Georgia”
Yes, we were tired, but imagine having to answer the phone at this sales office.
My least favorite part of the trip was a twenty-mile drive in pitch darkness through farm country and towns called things like Fartburg on a two-lane undivided late on Friday night between Owensboro and I-64. It was forested with wreaths and little white crosses, which I hate whenever I see them, but especially when I’m in a tiny car and I can’t see very well and I’m going 70 on a road I don’t know and they’re just singing at me ‘Laura died here last week and she knew where she was going and here comes the car carrier over the next hill but you can’t see it, ha ha!’
I understand the need to grieve, but can you refrain from putting a cross right where I’ll see it when I’m rounding a blind curve and don’t need any further reinforcement that what I’m doing is not maybe the best move, statistically?
That’s it. That’s the trip.
Next run is the Memphis Open. Leaning toward the first weekend in April. Who’s coming?
* We all know the secret to great strawberry shortcake, yes?
** Normally an entertainment genre I support with gusto, if in slightly different form.