Anne and I journeyed to the sunny Florida Keys this year. "Why can't you just post the darned pictures?" she sez.
      Because there's always a story, and every picture is worth 1,000 words.
Please Note: this page loads about 400K of images. Although displayed as thumbnails here, each has enough resolution to exhibit separately at about 2x scale. Click on each to see it full scale. Without the text. Oh, except for the card and the peanuts.
      We arrived at Burlington International Airport the appropriate 16.3 hours before our scheduled departure. When the airport doors finally opened, we discovered the double snag of travel in the modern age: ID and food.
      Vermont is the only state that does not require a photo driver's license, although every airline does. Anne's photo ID expired a couple of years ago, so the ticket agent made her show her green license and her Social Security card.
      "Wow," said I. "I've never seen a Social Security card that looks that old." (Did I ever tell you that I sleep in a doghouse?)
      The agent and the spouse both grumbled as I squinted at the number on the card. "Your Social Security number is two!"
      They got back at me when I asked for Exit Row seating. The Exit Row has considerably more leg room than other rows in the aircraft.
      "Sorry, I can't seat you there," said the agent.
      "Already full?" I asked knowingly.
      "No. You have too much gray hair," he said looking at my pate.
      Although the airlines no longer serve food, he made us check our 30 pounds of peanuts through to Fort Lauderdale. It's a good thing the flight attendant took pity on me and showered us with teeny tiny bags of trail mix. For the record, our flights were uneventful. Everyone--airline folks and fellow passengers alike--were polite and friendly and our luggage arrived when we did. Even the peanuts.
      We had a strenuous vacation planned, starting with lying on the beach and eating, followed by lying on the beach. Then some more food. It's a great beach: protected from elephantine Atlantic waves by the coral reef, with white sand, green grass, a tiki hut, and a bountiful bevy of babes wearing tiny strips of cloth.
      One sun worshipper had a figure that makes old men forget Victoria and her Secret. Her tan was smoothly pure, except for the cutest 1/8-moon crescents under each cheek. Her hair was long and blonde. We nodded to each other when she arrived or we did. After a few days, she had screwed up her courage to say, "Hello."
      When she spoke it was with that cute little BeeGees head voice.
      <Sigh> I went back to my catalog.
      Later, purely by black magic, I created the holiday postcard you see above with both of us up to our necks in the Keys. Anne says I can't post the pictures of the bountiful bevy of babes with or without the tiny strips of cloth. Did I mention that we ate and lay on the beach a lot? We are now a nice golden brown and had to buy a new wardrobe to get home. The luggages were berry berry hebby.
      Monroe County frowns on permanent beachcombing whether by snowbird or year-round resident, but that didn't stop us from doing a little house hunting. Anne, of course, has her private beach, but Monroe County refused to give us a building permit there.
We tried again at Spanish Harbor. The structure in the background is the original railroad bridge. Some years ago, the state built a narrow two-lane roadway across the top of the trestle; that was so exciting when two trucks met that the state replaced it with a modern concrete bridge. The newer highway bridge is just visible between the railroad pilings. We tried house building here, to, but one stick of driftwood was the extent of our construction effort before a busload of foreign tourists chased us off. I think they were from Georgia.
      Friday my mom had a doctor's appointment in Miami, so we hitched a ride back to the mainland to pick up a small white tin box with wheels, and mooch a $100 lunch from our friend "Bob." He took us to Hooters (it was my first visit) for the, um, wings and after slaking our thirsts, to a restaurant with real linen and china for arguably the best grilled shrimp and bacon club I've ever had. Sorry, I ate it all, so there's no doggy bag.
      The Hooters girls are quite nice.
      No pix there, either.
      Our writer friends Deck and Alma had suggested that we visit them for a tour of the homes of the very rich and quietly not-famous. (It is said that those who live in the Palm Beaches work for those who live on Jupiter Island. It may be true; most of the houses had service entrances with directions for the gardeners and for Palm Beach residents.) We also dipped our toes in the Atlantic at Hobe Sound and I pointed out a flock of pelicans to Deck. The three nubile bathers directly below the pelicans thought we were staring at them, but both Deck and I assure you that is not the case. Alma introduced us to Cheap Red Wine (mine is cheaper, but it comes in a box) and we talked into the night about all of you. Heh. Anne took a picture of me there in her nightshirt, but it was very blurry and we discarded it.
      Did you know Florida is embroiled in a major PC battle? The Names of the Fishes Committee has officially renamed the jewfish. According to committee chair Dr. Joe Nelson, people were offended by its historical moniker. The new name is to be the Gargantuan Goliath Grouper. I wonder what they will call the creek?
      Sunday saw us back on our own beach in the Keys getting ready for another busy week. Friend and neighbor Joe Baran at Coco Plum Marina (that's a real plug, by the way) lent us a very nice little 25-footer, so we did some gunkholing around both sides of the islands. With 15-20 knots blowing, the Atlantic was a bit rough but the protected Gulf side was just right. As the water rat might have said, "there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as fooling around in boats." The parasailer and people on shore with binoculars thought so, too.

      We shot this year's Docksiders™ and Coppertone™ ads on the boat.
      We finally bid the Keys a fond farewell and climbed into the small white tin box with wheels to drive up the West Coast to visit with friends and prepare for the Wrevel™ by eating and drinking our way through the Tampa area. A "wrevel™" is a gathering of writers that involves gossip, beverages of choice, gossip, food, gossip, and chocolate. Before we got there, we visited the Un-Disney World.
      Seminoles called the Everglades a River of Grass. Today, this watershed and reservoir for South Florida is under siege. We drove along the swath carved by walking dredges through the marshes to link Miami and the Gulf Coast and saw agri-business and single homes, sugar farms and airboats, herons fishing and men fishing, and monuments to man and to nature.
      Florida celebrates the 50th anniversary of Everglades National Park this year with a cleanup expected to cost $7 billion over the next 50 years.
      Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery is the home of Florida's premier black-and-white landscape [and sometimes wildlife] photographer. His award winning photographs show the up-close and personal relationship he gets by wading hip deep in the environment. He captures incredible detail and textures with large format cameras. I don't know why he hasn't been eaten by some of the alligator-sized mosquitoes in the Everglades. Or by an alligator. The gallery itself is surrounded by more than a million acres of National Park wetlands and cypress strands of wild Florida.
      Inspired, I took a lot of pictures. I took off my shoes and waded into one of the canals for a photo or 12 of fishermen and foliage. No logs with eyes in sight there. And we stood high above the plain at the Flight 592 memorial and stole a look between the piers of the memorial at the river of grass.
      Later, when we stopped at a swampier spot for a look at a heron fishing in the water, I heard the growl of a hungry 'gator. I didn't take my shoes off or wade there, which means Clyde probably has better pictures.
      "Dave" and his lovely wife "Mrs. Dave" recently moved to Florida from Vermont so she could enter a PhD program at USF. They found a four bedroom apartment with three bathrooms, a lake, and a pool. They recommend not swimming in the lake. "Dave" had acquired some Goslings Black Seal™ rum for us to sample. And sample. Pools are almost as good as beaches for lying around and drinking rum drinks.
      As "Dave" said about the Goslings, "Damn fine rum, Dick." I'm beginning to understand why the British navy mutinies when they lose their rum ration.
      Good thing we turned in the white tin box with wheels. "Dave" became Chauffeur #1.
      A note of explanation about the following. Wrevels™ involve writers who may or may not know each other. The group I introduce below are email and Usenet acquaintances who gathered in a convenient spot--convenient means that the local constabulary has not yet become cognizant of the hosts--to meet in meat space for perhaps the first time.
      The Wrevel™ turned out to be more garden party than carnival since Eliska not only has a dynamite backyard for barbecuing, she also forgot to book the guy with the tattoos and the rides. Oh well, there was beer, peanuts, beer, blue cheese, beer, turkey, beer, rabbit food, beer, and even champagne. Did I mention the beer? On the off chance that some wrevelers didn't like beer (what?!?) Wicca Ed brought three bottles of champagne that he had won shooting small colored balls on a felt topped table. It might be wise to avoid playing him. I left the peanuts and blue cheese in Largo where the cheese has undoubtedly taken over the house. If you dispute me, have you heard from Eliska recently?

      Notably absent from the festivities was the master punster who was struck by laryngitis at the last minute. We believe she caught the pestilence via email transmission from Doyle who was also among the missing. "Alma without a voice is not Alma," Deck said.
      Eliska is a doll and everyone turned out to be wry and funny. We drank some beer, rode in Rick's bus to visit the world's largest and most disorganized bookstore, ate a lot of munchies, and goofed on our chauffeur(s). Since Ed arrived late, we made him guess who we all were, especially hard since we introduced Anne as Eliska.
      Here's the cast: Eliska and Jim, Bill Funke, Arlene and Rick, "Dave" and yours truly, Deck in a plaid shirt worn especially for the occasion, Ed H., and our hostess. She and Jim have spectacular offices at either end of their new house, so they communicate by email.
      After the obligatory roasting, Anne and I left unfortunately still sunny 80 Florida for North Puffin where the skies were only a little bit gray and the temperature had climbed to 46.
      On the way home, Anne noticed a traveler in the Philly airport carrying a tourist box of a quartet of Goslings black. Good thing there were guys with guns standing around. Damn fine rum. Later, we shared sardine class with two squalling infants and a noted North Puffin attorney.
      Our flight attendant noticed the image of a Vermont Air National Guard F16 flying high cover over NYC that I have as a background on my laptop. If I had been quick enough, I probably could have parlayed that into a few more bags of trail mix, but we were already going tray tables up for a landing.
      Finally, we can't have a vacation without complaining about what our fur sitter did to our cat. Ruined again, I tell you.

      Yes, dammit, that is the wrevelers' favorite beer. Or "Dave's," anyway.


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