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NYC to the Florida Keys, Jan 10-23, '08.(G&S, a first taste of warm weather in January. Road, sea, sun, and palms.)
Cathy was up for the week at The Cabin and George and her smart Russell mouser got along fine. When she offered to take George to her place on the Island it made an easy start for my city visit. Mille grazie, Cathy! No running to Jersey for the Country Kennel in Bernardsville. Dropped the Black Thing (I think I'll call it that!) at a west side garage ($48 per!) and got right to my little hotel (midtown near the park, cheap, $115 tax included, clean and safe, a secret of mine).
Trial By Jury and Princess Ida aren't often performed, but Bergeret, the G&S maestro, does them all. Mikado was too slapstick for my taste, but you get reminded (in the adlib) that NYGASP is not for purists. He has to shape G&S for a big theater, big ticket $100 (NY City Center) audience. Penzance was perfect. Found a sweet Greek restaurant for supper right near the theater (and hotel) and made note of the lamb shank (with tomatoes, orzo) which I will try. Went farther afield to Korea on 32nd for food supplies and a frenzied all-trucker lunch, seafood pancake, soju, ample kimchi and a ginger-cinammon flavored (cold) tea I'd never seen. I asked for barley tea. Guess I'm old-fashioned. Breakfast at different places near 7th and 58th, lox with baguette, cafe latte. I got asked (offering me a menu), "Do you speak English."
[You can skip this paragraph.] A roadtrip, like life itself, depends on accident, resources and personal qualities. The time scale, however long the trip, though, is so brief compared to ones whole life, the linear quality of experience is heightened, becoming comic, like a picaresque novel. The great Don Quixote for example or the even greater (for me) Laurence Sterne. Not like Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie, which I just learned about, who didn't appreciate accident as the first element, but brings his axe to it. I read Cannery Row as a pre-teen, propbably looking for the dirty parts, so I know. I used to say (to myself, who else would listen) my life is an extended series of serendipitous events. Your Mom would laugh at that, and not in a kind or understanding way. It's a zen thing.
I first had little Del Rio TX in mind, for the weather, the winery and the friendly "half in Mexico, not really Texas" ambience. I remembered passing through it on my '95 trip back from the coast. When I found it now had a Seoul (not Soul) restaurant that clinched it. But I had been in touch with Scott who did work-stay visits with me when he lived in Syracuse and now manages a KOA in the Florida Keys. He offered me a free camping spot. Couldn't refuse. Sunday the 13th I picked up George at Cathy's, a levitt cape cod neighborhood, sweet middle america, mixed. Met her brother who was a cop on duty when 9-ll hit and made it out alone on foot, walked the bridge and caught a bus to Queens, quite a story, true. He quit the force after that. Now teaches high school biology and chemistry. Maybe he'll come to camp with Cathy next time.
I snooze-cruised nonstop over two-thirds of the 1400 mile trip to Long Key, stoppping at a Motel 6 above Miami to rest and repack. Chinese take-out (delivered), soju. Never do this. I won't talk about the other meals on the road or on the Keys either. Americans have no taste in food and will eat anything. Worse than the British. A standout exception was the first meal I had in the Keys at the shopping center in Tavernier--rice and black beans with an aromatic roasted chicken and "pulled" pork. But that was Cuban. Proves the point. I spent the rest of my stay looking for cuban kitchens. No luck. Everything is done "Keysey." For example, this morning got up early and thought I'd treat myself to breakfast out. "Green Turtle," upscale. I was in a bit of a hurry. Asked the waitress for steak and eggs, my fave. Sorry. She suggested eggs benedict. OK. It didn't look right. Under the eggs was a sort of crabcake, not like the ones we know, but stinky with awful spices. They own Key Lime Pie here. You can get it anywhere, even gas stations. Ugh. I did like one specialty, though. Conch fritters. Like a hush puppy with content. Yesterday I had two orders with lots tabasco. That was overdoing it and I paid for it today, but they are yummy.
The Keys is a 100-mile long stretch of highway with shops on either side, marinas, motels and a few shopping centers where the population concentration will support them. It's made of coral rock which formed millenia ago when this was 30 feet under water and coral lived here. Sometimes the highway is 4-lane but mostly 2-lane with cops hiding in the bush looking for unwary visitors. Some of the road is just fill with rock sides like a jetty. A good deal of it is causeway up in the air over the water on concrete piles. The places have names, like Ann's Beach, Snake Inlet, Tea Table, Islamorado (pronounced eyela-morada).
My favorite place is Long Key State Park with wrinkled pines (sort of) and palms along the shore, mangrove swamps, a quiet hardwood hammock, good toilets. Paid $3.50/day, well worth it. I walked George all over, parked the Black Thing on the shore to work, snoozed, picnicked on a nice table or went out to eat.
I met some interesting people. Carl travels in a Cummings Diesel, big like a bus, $500K or so. Has lots of money and stays every winter at Long Key since 1960. He's had three of them, all with structural problems and drove the last one out to the private enclave of the Mennonite multi-millionaire who sold them to him (in Arizona) to get satisfaction. He got in and did. He's now in a Silver Bullet he got from two ladies 84 years of age who were giving up that mode of travel. We were interrupted by a Lutheran who caught the part of the story where he parked the rig at a Lutheran Church while he went to have it out with the Mennonite.
Fred is an Atlantan who roadtrips on a bike. He was staying at the primitive area at the state park $6/night that I couldn't get into because of George. He's out for 2 weeks and starts back Thursday. In the Summer he goes with a big group that has a fanciful name I can't remember from Buffalo to Saratoga Springs. He likes upstate NY and was interested in how and where I live. His gear is upscale. I think he's a carpenter. Not married, lives with his GF. He and another guy were talking about a red-backpack guy who roadtrips on foot. The other guy says he saw him earlier in the day about 5 miles away, and they talked about a rate of traavel about 2mph, I think. Fred and the red-backpack guy had gotten together in Marathon and shared an accommodation in a marina $38, which was very nice on the water. They found out about it from just a small inconspicuous sign at the Publix market there. The "other guy" roadtrips in a normal car.
Melissa is a single woman (her words) who is employed at the KOA. Her third-wheel rig was right next to me, George and the Black Thing. She had Christmas lights in the trees, a white plastic fence, 4 dogs and a horse. The horse trailer was parked right there. The horse was boarded nearby and Sunday she went out to ride it. She wore a cowboy hat all the time. She came here 7 months ago with just the horse and a tent, slept in the horse trailer, liked it and got a job here. Very cheap rent, near minimum wage, enough to get by and enjoy the climate and freedom from regular life. I tried to get friendly and learn more. No way.
It's Tuesday, Jan 22, 10PM. I stopped over earlier to say goodbye to Scott, apologized for not having dinner with him. We looked for a Sears on his computer. I'm planning to get a cartop to clean up the mess of excess stuff. His wallpaper is Wainwright and New Camp at Camp Gate. He took the photo himself. He says he'll come back this Summer. I shaved and washed at the Men's Room, but I'll really get to clean up in a Tallahassee Motel 6, my next stop. Plan on being out early for 6AM breakfast at Bob's Buns served by the skinny 60-ish Arkansas lady with the cute accent. Steak and eggs. Apalachacola here I come!
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