Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Friday, January 14

Time Flies When You’re...

Wait a minute! Is it almost the middle of January 2011???
That means we’ve been in Fort Myers for nine weeks. Which means it’s been eight weeks since my last update. No wonder everyone is harassing me!

Understand, people, that we have not been laying in the sun, listening to Jimmy Buffet and drinking Pina Coladas! Well…we have been drinking a bit, but not expensive Pina Coladas. Our drink of choice is a $1.00 draft.

However, the majority of our time has been spent taking care of business. Seriously. Living on a boat is not a life of leisure. There is constant maintenance and upkeep to be done. When you finish one project, another needs to be started. Honestly. OK, never mind, no one is sympathizing here. We might as well come clean.

First we did in fact work a lot, cleaning up Tessa and Taken Care of Business after the long trip south. There were water lines and hulls to clean, top sides and decks to pressure wash, and teak to be cleaned and oiled.

The day we checked in at Matanzas, Gary saw an ad in the local newspaper for a job fair at the new “Nauti Turtle” bar and restaurant, inviting people to bring their resumes between 1:00 and 4:00. He scurried back to Tessa, hastily composed a resume, and off he went on his special yellow bike (compliments of Tarpon Spring’s Ted) to apply.

As he is filling out his application, Brad Meyers, a former bartender at The Goat at PIB, pats him on the back and asks how he’s doing. When he turned to the gal accepting applications, he was surprised to see that it was Marika, the manager of J.F. Walleyes at Middlebass Island. It was, as they say, old home week at the Nauti Turtle.

The following Monday, we ran into Marika at happy hour, and she told Gary he was asked back for a second interview. She encouraged me to come along and apply if I was interested in joining the fun.

Long story short, we were both hired for an opening later in December. In the meantime, Gary checked in with the West Marine on San Carlos, and was thrilled to learn that they were going to have some hours for him this winter, probably a day or two a week. We agreed that we had better pile on the fun while we can!

One of the first fun adventures for Captain and I was to attend the annual Sand Castle Competition in late November. We left Walt and Vickie having cocktails at the Yucatan and jumped on the trolley down to the south end of the island where the event was being held. For a couple of hours we wandered around in amazement, trying to digest the fact that what we were seeing were actual sand sculptures. They were incredible. We didn’t get any really good pictures, as we didn’t spend the big bucks ($10.00 each) to get up close. That’s two pitchers of beer for gosh sakes!

Walt and Vickie phoned to say they were STILL at the Yucatan drinking with a crazy couple from Scotland. They demanded that we stop by for a beer. We contemplated stopping by to be sure they could make it back to their boat safely. So we pulled up a stool at their table and promptly witnessed the drunken Scottish girl lay a big lip lock on Vickie! Apparently, they had hit it off quite nicely. Vickie informed us she was going to Scotland to visit her new BF. Several spilled drinks later, the Scottish guy carried Vickie’s BF out of the bar and we convinced the Loopers to head home with Gary’s assistance. This, we wondered, is what happens when we let those two out of our sight for one afternoon?

A couple of Sundays later, they agreed to meet us at our favorite Sunday spot. The Dek in Cape Coral offers $1.00 Bloody Marys, Mimosas, Screw Drivers, and a daily special of a large pizza and pitcher of beer for $10.00. We knew Walt and Vickie would fit right in, as it is a “biker bar” and they rode Harleys for a while during one of their past mid-life crises. They were an hour into the dollar drinks when we arrived, and it wasn’t a round or two later that they made more BFs at the bar. Walt’s BF was Torra, a gorgeous blond, who began lavishing him with attention, just like Vickie does at home. Soon we were following them to a big Tiki Bar across the street, where a band harmonized away while the crowd filled the dance floor. Here, Vickie danced with several new friends while Walt gazed longingly at Torra, just like he gazes at Vickie at home. Our buddy Doug Lane was visiting this weekend, and he had secured a room at the Holiday Inn within walking distance to either bar. Therefore, we had permission to peg the fun meter with no worries about driving. Vickie departed with plans to see another new BF the following day on board Taken Care of Business.
“You can’t let me do this any more!” she groaned the next morning. As though any one could reign in her natural ability to make new friends!

Late November, Dave and Lynnette flew into Fort Myers and spent a fun packed evening on their way to Key West. We started the evening in a mature fashion, dining at Nervous Nellie’s and listening to our favorite local group “The Yard Dogs”. Things began to slide down that slippery slope when they ordered a Margarita the size of a bird bath. Gary and I were sliding right behind them after downing several house drafts. The Yard Dogs kept playing, and we kept partying, until the Wernings remembered that they had to get up at 6:00 am the following morning. I was excited to get back to Tessa and serve a key lime pie for dessert.
Except…..as we were walking back to Tessa, we heard a familiar sound that never fails to suck us in. Drunk people singing KARAOKE! We MUST join in for one round, mustn’t we?

Several rounds and songs later, we escaped from the Karaoke clutches and hurried to Matanzas office, where my key lime pie was stored in their freezer. Sadly, by that time the office was locked up tight for the night. What a scene we must have made. Four inebriated adults transformed into disappointed children, each with a raging sweet tooth, our faces pressed against the glass door, peering into the dark office and hoping for a miracle that would allow us access to the pie. Needless to say, 6:00 a.m. came way too early the next morning.

Before Thanksgiving, we celebrated Trace and Diane’s return to Matanzas at Fort Myers Beach with a party box of oysters. It was so great to be together again, and this reunion signified the official beginning of our winter here in Fort Myers.

We spent Thanksgiving by traveling to be with our Annapolis Boat Show buddies in St. Mary’s Georgia. The plan was to make the seven hour drive on Tuesday, so that we could maximize our time together Wednesday and Thursday, then drive back to Fort Myers on Friday. Unexpectedly, West Marine needed Gary to work on Friday. In keeping with our philosophy of working whenever possible, he accepted the hours. With so much going on, we just weren’t ready to head over there Tuesday, so we didn’t arrive in St. Mary’s until Wednesday afternoon just in time for our annual Painkiller Party on the dock. After a wonderful reunion with Jage, Archie, Leslie and Boat Show friends, the time flew by so fast that it was time for the Thanksgiving feast way too soon. We must be getting old, because we did the sensible thing and drove home Thursday after the big dinner, so that Gary could be fresh for work on Friday morning.
Early December, we made our annual trip back north to spend Christmas with our Port Clinton pals, Mom, and both of our families. We slept around as usual, and had a wonderful time with the many special people that we love and miss during our travels south. Gary and I so enjoyed our Sushi lunch with Mom. I phoned a local friend prior to it, inquiring about the best sushi place in town for lunch with Mom. “Your 83 year old Mom loves Sushi?” he asked incredulously. “Absolutely!” I answered. Mom is definitely one of a kind!
During the Christmas trek home, my brother David and I were suffering together with simultaneous outbreaks of our genetic inherited Hailey-Hailey skin disease. We compared notes and medications, and hoped that soon the outbreaks would subside. We knew that there is no cure for the disease, but we also knew all the home remedies that provide relief while the outbreak runs it’s course.

Unfortunately for me, it did not subside. Instead, it flamed on and expanded across my chest to encompass a patch the size of a saucer. To spare the horrible details, suffice to say that I have been in pain and discomfort for the past six weeks. I did not give in and miss work at the Nauti Turtle, but I sure wasn’t top of form, worrying about blood showing through my t-shirt and agonizing over the affects of keeping it covered all day. The most comfortable position was flat on my back in our bunk with a fan blowing across the wound to try to keep it dry. I suffered and cried, and Gary was so beside himself trying to help and make it all better. He encouraged me to stay strong and keep fighting, but it kept getting worse instead of showing any improvement.

A week ago, we sought a dermatologist’s help… and help me he did! His biopsy revealed that it had progressed to a staph infection, which he treated appropriately and I am feeling wonderful, heavenly relief.

After this long ordeal, I have a new appreciation of simply stepping off of Tessa and walking the dock without pain. I am no longer laying in our bunk down below, lonely and depressed, listening to the outside music and laughter. I was avoiding the entire reason we are here…activity, sun, and warmth, which only aggravate the condition.

Life is feeling good again! That’s not to say all of the last six weeks was totally ruined by the skin issue. There were many occasions where I covered it up and forgot about it for a while.

Dick and Molly Widdis invited us to an open house at their lovely, newly decorated condo in North Fort Myers.

My birthday lunch was spent at The Dek with Trace, Diane, and Don Dunn, enjoying our favorite $10.00 pizza and beer combo. That night, Gary and I celebrated by quietly slurping a couple dozen raw and grilled oysters.

We spent our third annual Christmas together with Don and Lauren, celebrating Christmas Eve with their Pine Island friends, grazing and drinking. Christmas Day the four of us joined June Stoiber and friends for a feast at her home in Naples.

Mark and Carole came down from Dayton to their estate home in North Fort Myers, and we spent a great evening dining at the Nauti Turtle.

Paige and Jim arrived at Fort Myers Beach right after Christmas, renting the same beach house as last year, which was our “party central” again for New Years Eve. Kevin and Carole, Larry and Debbie, and Denny and Sue came down from Ohio for vacation, and shared in the New Years Eve daytime festivities. Chas, his girlfriend Karrie, and his buddy Wac drove down from Fayetteville to ring in the New Year with us. Our good friends from Dayton, Greggie-Boy and Charlotte, and Huggy Jean and her friends joined us for food and fun and fireworks on the beach.

During the entire holiday season, we have been continuously surrounded by wonderful family and friends, which is really all that matters in the big picture. The saying “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got your wealth” isn’t exactly on the mark. We have realized that even though my health wasn’t up to par, we are still so very wealthy in all that is important. We have each other, and we have the love of family and friends.

We wish the same blessings for everyone in this New Year. Please be sure to count them and cherish them every day of 2011!