Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Honeymooning Beach Bums
The shiny gold band on my left hand aroused an until-then foreign concern of losing my ring digit to a toothy, marauding mackerel, barracuda, or bluefish. It wobbled and glimmered like a Johnson spoon. If these fish knew what gold cost these days, it would have been gone for sure. Friends told me I could count on sacrificing the uniquely male parts of my body; didn’t take into consideration what marriage could do to my index of fingers. Luckily, my finger survived – too early to tell about the rest of the anatomy, though.
Carolyn and I were hitched June 26th. On the 28th, we repaired to Longboat Key for a week of honeymooning. Longboat Key is a wonderful Florida destination of white sandy, mostly private, beaches. The condos and beach homes of the millionaires dot the shoreline. We stayed at the Silver Sands resort, a surprisingly clean set-up settled a few miles south of the Longboat Key Bridge.
We love the beach. It is engendered as a Floridian. The saltwater and surf is alluring each summer and pretty much the single reason I won’t bail out of Florida.
If you’re a beach newbie, allow me to rear back into my extensive coastal knowledge and experience and clear up some “facts” you may have heard from less reliable sources. Don’t be alarmed.
1. The Stingray Shuffle is a myth. If they want you, they’ll get you.
2. There is no way to make Shell Hunting sound masculine – even if you add “hunting” to the term. Actual example from the weekend: “Ian, you need to find more shells so we can make a picture frame.”
3. I worry about the decline of sportsmanship in this country. In the good old days, one had to stay up all night and actually search for egg-laying sea turtles. It was work, man. Now, biologists rope off nests with orange flagging tape. It’s akin to shooting a tethered deer. Then, they have their Texas ranch-style price list tacked right onto a stake. $500 daily rate – they call it a “fine.” $25,000 if you actually take eggs.
4. Drink responsibly on the beach. If you open a beer, finish it. No matter how quick you think your dip into the surf may be, when you come back, the coldie will be warm and wasted.
5. Some folks are afraid of sharks. Let me calm your nerves. There are thousands of sharks near any given beach. I did find a way, however, to guarantee you never get the chomp. I procured a shark tattoo from Mote Marine and sealed it onto my left bicep. Originally, I wanted it to scare away stingrays, mackerel, barracuda, and/or bluefish. Not only did it do that, but not a single shark bit me while I sported this tat. That’s 100% success. The numbers don’t lie. Always wear a shark tattoo in the water.
6. Body surfing is the world’s most dangerous beach-based threat, more so than rogue sea life, skin cancer, or swimming within fifteen minutes after eating. This was especially true last week. With Hurricane Alex churning in the Gulf, Longboat was treated to waves as high as 2 ½ - 3 feet. It was like the Mavericks out there.
When I was a younger I did a lot of boogie-boarding. I tried surfing a few times back then, but a rude gang of surfers called the Ex-Presidents kept chasing me out of their break since I couldn’t actually stand on a board and didn’t quarterback for Ohio State.
So, I boogie-boarded. After you turn about 22 or hit 200 pounds – whichever comes first – boogie-boarding ceases to be “cool.” You languish for a few years until one day you quit caring what’s cool and join the other lost causes body surfing in the break, the foam pushing you onto the sand, and alternately, the sand into your pants. When you stand up to dust yourself off and retrieve your bathing suit lining from your crack, you realize you’re surrounded by a dozen eight-year old on Mickey Mouse rafts that had also caught the same “wave.”
The thing about those eight-year olds is they will never remember the injuries. I don’t remember any specifics, but recall getting cut up and busted from time to time when riding waves in my younger years. After that magical 22 or 200lbs. mark, your memory for such things sharpens as does your preparation to avoid hospital trips.
It’s amazing how fast your brain can process all these details on that 1.3 second ride.
“Do I stick my arms straight out and hope I don’t break an arm? No, that leaves my head and neck exposed to concussions and possible paralysis. At best, I will get a whelk shell in an eye.”
Quick historical note – a whelk shell to the eye was the leading cause of eye-patches for all those pirates you see in the cinema.
You cycle through the potential severity and preference for shoulder, leg, and groin injuries. It’s an ordeal. I choose to go the fetal position route, hunkering into a ball like they drilled into you in elementary school in case of tornado, fire, or nuclear attack.
So to put this all into a fantastic flip book for you, I would stand there scouting through these monster waves. Let the kids have those one-footers. When the trophy wave appears, I’d kick off the bottom and paddle like crazy, my baggy board shorts holding me back like a parachute. If I was successful catching the ride, I’d stretch my arms out briefly, then tuck my head into my chests and roll onto the beach like(NOTE: I have two analogies here appropriate for two different senses of sensitivity and humor.)
a) Sonic the Hedgehog.
b) A Tar Ball.
OK, so that last one was a tasteless joke. My self-defense manuevers did nothing to impress the ladies, but what the hell? It doesn't matter any more.
Carolyn loves to eat out. I’m hit or miss depending on how badly I think I am about to be screwed. Hemingway’s in St. Armand’s Circle had a June special for Maine lobster that was excellent and a great value at $17, though our waitress hummed like she was holding back her anger for tourists. The Chart House had superb wait staff and fine shrimp scampi. My favorite meal was at the Euphemia Haye. Tell me this doesn’t sound good!
NOISETTES OF BEEF MADAGASGAR
Three medallions of beef tenderloin, pan-seared medium-rare to medium, kissed with a brandy green peppercorn and meat glaze enhanced cream sauce, accompanied by truffle oil infused mashed potatoes
Their Caesar Salad was top-shelf. The Columbia in St. Armands was excellent as always, and our waitress, Zoe, tolerated the Sangria Chugging Competition.
We visited Mote Marine Laboratory and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Mote is near synonymous with Gulf Coast conservation and marine research. I overheard one portly gentleman say, with much confidence, that the blue marlin mount hanging over the entrance door was a fine swordfish. The Ringling Museum is a fascinating history of the old big top circus displays. Florida State University runs the operation - fitting for that school of clowns and freak shows.
By the Fourth, we became clowns of our own. The Silver Sands packed with Independence-celebrating revelers, and we invited children onto the back patio to visit our pet hermit crabs we plucked out of the sea and re-introduced into a glass brownie pan.
If I could remember more, I would share more, but by the end of a week of surf and sun, I'm pretty well shot. And by Monday it was time to pack and head home and prepare for our next adventure together.