Siesta Key - 2017

We kicked off the new year doing as little as possible for a few days on Siesta Key, in preparation for a whirlwind bout of Family Fun that we had to schedule for the 1st week in January because…well, just because.

Despite the delay, we did indeed have a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. One could go so far as to say it was the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.*

Seriously, does anyone ever actually get through the holidays without someone shouting “Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?” at least once a day?

Today’s the last day of our visit, so Mom and I made it as challenging as possible for Husband. Mostly, this involved taking both cats to the vet. Mom makes separate appointments because it’s too difficult to manage both cats at the same time.

In the morning, Tom T. Cat struggled a bit while we inserted his ponderous bulk into the cat carrier, but then he settled down and spent the car-ride singing the song of his people. Tom may be of mysterious parentage, but that voice is all Siamese.

Getting Count Scratchula into the carrier later in the afternoon wasn’t quite as easy. It involved 3 adults running around the house after a cat acting as though her hindquarters were being licked by the very flames of perdition. Did I mention the screaming? There was a lot of screaming. And, at one point, mom and I collapsed in a heap on the kitchen floor and laughed until we nearly passed out. Husband didn’t find this terribly helpful, for some reason.

I believe this day will go down in family legend as a spit-drenched fiasco of feline proportions. No video exists of this incident. All witnesses are currently resting comfortably and expected to make a full recovery. After we staunch the bleeding.

*I’m appalled how many of you don’t get that Christmas Vacation reference, so here’s the whole NSFW clip, for your post-holiday enjoyment:

embedded clip: Christmas Vacation

Yikes, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’ve neglected you all for months and I should probably be writing something profound about the new year (or something snarky about resolutions). Instead, I’m posting a draft that’s been hanging around since last New Year’s Eve.

I’ve been a little disorganized this year.

Last year, we drove to Florida and spent a few weeks with my mom for the holidays. The night before we set out on our journey, I had a nightmare.

A terrible, crazy nightmare.

A wake-up-drenched-in-sweat nightmare.

Here’s what I remember: Husband and I were driving on I-4 in Orlando, near Gatorland. There was a huge traffic jam and we weren’t going anywhere.

Suddenly, Harrison Ford sprinted by the car. We leaped out of the car and ran after him to help. It was the (dream) logical thing to do.

Ford was being pursued by Florida Governor Rick Scott, who was in the process of shedding his human skin and turning into a giant Chupacabra-like monster.

Now, in real life, I’d recently presented a conference paper on archaeology in feature films. Gatorland was on my mind because it was used as a location for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Also, because it’s awesome.

Clarification: Gatorland is awesome. Temple of Doom was kind of a stupid yet lovable mess of a movie. The racism, however, not lovable.

I went back to sleep after my heart-rate returned to normal and didn’t give the dream a second thought in the morning.

Until I got a text from JunglePete.

JunglePete was a bit disturbed about the dream he had that he was stuck in traffic on I4 and Rick Scott turned into a Chupacabra.

I have no explanation for this shared brainwave. We’ll be visiting him again in a few days so I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

One year later….

We never did figure this out. The only logical explanation is that the Governor is a Chupacabra.

image: meanlouise


image: meanlouise

I know, I know – my photoshop skills leave much to be desired.

{update January 30, 2015} This post apparently went into the draft file even though I really meant to publish it. Then my blog had some sort of wordpress meltdown. I guess I’m just going to have to get my act back together and quite neglecting you all!

[another post that’s been hanging around in the drafts files for a few months]

It was nice of Santa to bring me a boxed set of all 4 Indiana Jones movies on BluRay, since I need them for thesis research.

When we watch movies in La Florida, we tend to turn the volume up very loud to compensate for the weird acoustics in mom’s house and the fact that mom tends to wander in and out of the room a lot and then ask a lot of questions because she has no idea what’s happening in the movie.

This results in all of us yelling, “WHAT???” at one another until someone pauses and/or runs back the movie.

We watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom on New Year’s Eve. Mom had a LOT of questions.

This didn’t lead to me questioning my commitment to archaeology but did result in me renewing my commitment to bourbon.

There was one thing we could all agree on: Well of Souls and Snakes would make the worst restaurant concept ever.


image: meanlouise

A visit to Fort Myers beach (that included dinner with the JunglePete Family) before heading back up to Sarasota for some wandering around Lido Key was an excellent way for Husband and I to conclude a year that swooshed by incredibly fast.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go create a “true life 2014” category. Crazy.

photo: meanlouise

photo: meanlouise

Florida builders have been making epically bad home design decisions since the first Spaniards hauled their sorry hides onto these shores 500 years ago.

Somewhere along the way, some builder said, “Hey, let’s put skylights over the showers in these ‘villas’ to distract from the fact that the bathrooms are in the dead center of the houses and therefore dark as caves.”

For the last 10 years, every time I’ve stayed at my mom’s house I’ve looked up at some point while showering and thought, “Hey, those skylights are some pervert’s dream.”

Not today. Today I looked up and thought, “Hey, Roofers!”

It’s Wednesday, you love Florida, and you want to disappear down an entertaining internet rabbit hole for a while? I have just the solution for you: Craig Pittman’s month-long Slate series Oh, #Florida!

Here’s a teaser from the 1st post:

The other day my friend Shannon called me asking for help. She said her women’s group was putting on a luncheon for a group from some other country. Each member of her group was supposed to sit at a table full of the visitors from, I don’t know, Shteyngartistan or something, and somebody came up with the idea of arming the ladies with fun facts about Florida as icebreakers.

The problem, she said, was that the facts they’d compiled about Florida so far just weren’t all that fun. Leading industries, form of government, that kind of thing. Then she said, “I was wondering if you … ”

“You got a pen?” I asked. “Take this down: In 1845, when Florida joined the Union as a state, the first state flag that flew over the capitol bore the slogan: ‘Let Us Alone.’ ”

I went on to tell her about Ochopee, the town with the nation’s smallest post office (it used to be a tool shed), and Carabelle, the town with the world’s smallest police station (a phone booth bolted to the side of a building), and Cassadaga, the town that has so many crystal balls per capita that it’s known as the “psychic capital of the world.” I even mentioned Sweetwater, the town founded by a troupe of Russian circus midgets whose bus broke down.

I reeled off about a dozen oddball bits of Floridiana but avoided the really weird stuff—the nude biker gangs, the Wiccan Klan members, the convocations of furries who sometimes throw costumed parties at the beach.

You should go read, from the beginning, because I’m too lazy to reproduce all of the links (and there are a lot of links). Plus, you should just go read it, because it’s fun and interesting and, dare I say it, educational.

You can also follow Pittman on twitter – @craigtimes.

reginaangelxmas77

When I was a small child, my parents adopted a kitten. A Siamese kitten who I loved dearly. Siamese kittens grow up to be Siamese cats, creatures who possess a very special kind of crazy.

This cat was very tolerant of family members, but had a tendency to bite other people – viciously, and with the intent to maim. But not until she’d thoroughly washed the location she was about to bite. You can tell people this, but they don’t listen.

“That cat is going to bite you.”

“Oh no, cats love me. Look, she’s licking me!”

“She’s preparing the surgical site.”

“Ha-ha. She’s adorable.”

“You’re going to be sorry.”

etc.

2 years later, we adopted a second kitten. The picture at the top of the post shows Kitten (left) and Cat (right). It looks like Cat is about to eat Kitten. They were probably actually sitting around trying to look harmless, biding their time until they could partake in their favorite Christmas-time activity: rocketing around the house and launching themselves up the middle of the tree to bring the whole thing crashing to the ground.

My brother and I thought this was hilarious.

My mom did not.

My mom did find it hilarious when our Pentecostal neighbor, tired of being bitten by Cat, decided that the only course of action was to pray the devil out of her. My father pointed out that she could avoid being bitten if she’d just leave Cat alone, but the Exorcist was determined to rid this cat of demons.

Kitten, she reasoned, was a good Christian, so surely it was possible to save Cat’s soul, as well.

She prayed and prayed for the demonic forces to release their grasp on this poor beast.

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Then she prayed some more.

Then she pointed her finger in Cat’s face. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you not to bite me!”

I’m sure you know what happened next.

Then my mother laughed until tears ran down her face.

For years I could reduce my mom to hysterical hiccupy laughter by mentioned what a good Christian Kitten was. Her name, incidentally, was Angel.

That kitten was many things, but angelic wasn’t really one of them.

In retrospect, it’s astonishing we didn’t all find ourselves on the receiving end of an attempted exorcism, because this lady was not to be trifled with. (Neither, apparently, were my Cat’s demons).

She was a nice lady, otherwise. If memory serves she may have supplied the candles for the massive elvis shrine on our street that year, but I don’t remember her visiting our house very much after the attempted exorcism.

Ah, Florida.

Bonus content, now that I know what process-obsessed weirdos some of you are, here’s the storyboard for this post:

catexorcist

When I was a kid, I found a monkey.

Siamang at the Naples Zoo, photo courtesy of Pete Corradino.


A Siamang, photo courtesy of JunglePete Corradino.

Technically, it wasn’t a monkey, it was an ape called a Siamang, but I wouldn’t learn that detail for many years. 30 years, to be precise(ish).

Back on that day in the late 1970s, dad and I stopped at Wendy’s.

I guess we were there for lunch. We definitely weren’t there for primates.

We chose a table and I sat down. Dad was about to go to the counter to order when I noticed there was a bag behind my chair, presumably left by the recently departed occupants of the next table.

(This isn’t the weird part of the story).

In my memory it was one of those canvas totes like they sell at LL Bean, but I honestly can’t recall much about the bag.

Other than the fact that the bag was moving.

The bag was moving because there was a monkey inside.

Long hairy arms reached up out of the bag and grabbed the back of my chair. A small furry head followed and the two of us had what seemed to me to be pretty meaningful moment.

The events that followed probably unfolded quickly, but in my memory they happened in slow-mo:

My dad matter-of-factly instructed me not to talk to strangers or feed the monkey, since it might have a special diet.

My dad was very practical.

My dad went to call a deputy to come and pick up the monkey, since dad figured mom would kill us both if we took it home. Plus, it’d be wrong to take a lost-and-found monkey home.

While dad was at the counter asking for the manager and I was chatting with my new simian friend, a Wendy’s employee began to wipe down the table, saw the monkey, and freaked the fuck out.

The memory may be slightly murky, but I’m pretty confident in the sequence of events because I thought the employee was screaming because she saw me.

Which was more than a little upsetting. I was wearing my favorite dress! I loved that dress! Why was the woman screaming at me? Didn’t I look adorable in my favorite dress?

A girl came running in from the parking lot, panicked because she’d left her sister in a bag.

I swear that’s what she said.

“I forgot my sister. She was in the bag.”

She grabbed the diaper-clad creature and the bag, and then she ran back out.

I immediately stopped caring about the Wendy’s employee who was still staring in my direction and screaming, for I had just had an epiphany.

Wow! My parents can trade my baby brother in for a monkey! I knew this had to be possible!

My parents didn’t trade in my brother, but I guess in the long run that worked out okay.

(Still not the weird part).

Now that I think about it, this incident probably precipitated both my lifelong love of primates and my lifelong wariness around fast food.

Fast-forward a few years.

I was at a new school and one of my classmates lived on a monkey sanctuary. I was at his birthday party or something. We’ll call him JunglePete, because that’s his name.

(Calling a kid JunglePete would be weird, but at the time he was still just plain “Pete,” so in the final analysis this isn’t the weird part, either).

I was talking to one of his sisters. This, I shit you not, is a pretty accurate approximation of the conversation she and I had:

Her: “My sister left a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Me: “We found a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Her: “No way!”
Me: “For real. A monkey!”
Her: “That’s crazy! I wonder if it happens a lot?”

For smart kids, we weren’t always very smart.

Fast-forward a whole lot more years, to last Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Husband and I were at the Central Florida Zoo with JunglePete, his wife and son, and his father and his father’s wife.

jpsiamang

Our first stop was the Siamangs.

When we made plans to meet at the zoo, I didn’t understand there was a personal nature to our mission. I thought we were just too cheap to go to Sea World during the peak season and had chosen a more off-the-beaten track Father’s Day outing destination.

It turns out that in the 70s, the sanctuary had a rescued Siamang named Bridget. Eventually, Bridget went to live at the Central Florida Zoo, which had better facilities for apes and a mate for Bridget. Bridget had some babies over the years, but she rejected one of them. JunglePete’s parents took in the baby, who they named Topaz.

We were at the Central Park Zoo to visit with relatives of their old friends, Bridget and Topaz.

(We haven’t gotten to the moment of weirdness in the story yet, but we’re getting closer).

After we visited with the Siamangs, we wandered around the zoo for a few more hours.


JunglePete & I at the Central Florida Zoo, photo courtesy of Eric “Husband” Gordon.

(Whatever is happening in this photo may or may not be a little weird, but is otherwise unrelated to this post).

At some point, JunglePete and I ended up back at the Siamangs and I casually mentioned to Pete that my dad and I found a monkey one time in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida.

JunglePete replied that his family once almost left someone behind in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida. But they didn’t leave a monkey – they left Topaz! Fortunately, they remembered as soon as they got back to their van and JunglePete’s older sister dashed back into the restaurant to reclaim her.

Being older and a little bit wiser, we understood that we were remembering the same event.

Okay, to be honest, we didn’t realize it immediately.

We didn’t realize it until Husband started laughing at us for being idiots.

Then we realized it was the same incident. What. Ever.

The fact that our childhoods had intersected years before we met was, even to us, pretty weird.

Then I made JunglePete talk to the Siamang. (While I made a video so he couldn’t deny it later).


[embedded video: me forcing JunglePete to speak Siamang]

Then 6 full-grown adults crammed themselves into a 1951 1/5 size replica train operated by a dude in a conductor’s hat who probably didn’t even think it was weird to be wedging himself into a tiny car and driving grownass people around all day in a miniature steam train.

I bet you think I’m making that part up.

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I’m not.

This post is full of hazy memories from the late 1970s and early 80s. JunglePete’s mom and my dad are both deceased, so you’re at the mercy of mine and JunglePete’s memories on some of the details (and may god have mercy on your souls) but we do have witnesses who can corroborate the important points.

While writing this post I realized that I still have a habit of automatically checking behind my chair whenever I sit down in a restaurant, hoping to find another monkey.

I haven’t ever found another one. It’s probably a rare occurrence, but if you ever find one, please let me know!

On Saturday, standing there watching the relatives of the gibbon I met at Wendy’s several decades ago (and a hundred miles away), with the people who left the ape – that was weird. I think the word surreal is overused and often abused, but I’d go so far as to label the moment surreal.

Back in the 70s none of this was newsworthy. Or if it was, it didn’t occur to anyone involved to contact the press. Very few things in Florida are particularly odd to native floridians (except the weird & crazy crap that snowbirds and transplants do, but that’s a subject for another day). While writing this post I did, however, do a bit of googling and turned up a picture of Pete’s mom and Topaz from an unrelated news article about the sanctuary:

janietopaz
JunglePete’s mom, Janie Corradino, with Topaz, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, December 15, 1978.

As for that day way back when? After lunch, dad and I went about our usual errands. We probably went to Lido Beach so I could play on the swings or up to Jungle Gardens to visit with dad’s friends. They’d shoot the breeze while I watched them milk the cobras to make anti-venom.

You know, the usual father-daughter stuff.

—–

editor’s note: I just changed some of the dates because JunglePete informed me I was off by a year or two here and there.

Also:

Full disclosure: obviously, it wasn’t a monkey. It was a lesser ape, but monkeys make better headlines. Plus, from 1978 to 2013 I thought it was a monkey so I use the word monkey a lot in this post even though I am well aware of the difference. Get over it.

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I was drinking coffee and watching sandhill cranes by the lake this morning when a woman, who obviously lives in the neighborhood, let her yaptastic dog scare them off.

Well, you don’t scare a 4 foot tall bird away so much as you annoy it into leaving. I rather jealously wished I could fly away with the cranes.

Now, I enjoy incessant barking and owners who don’t clean up after their dogs as much as the next person, but I decided to make a little small-talk to let this woman know that by not controlling her dog she was harassing protected birds in a designated habitat, not to mention that walking her dog like that was going to result in tragedy sooner rather than later.

Admittedly, I was a little short with her as I watched her tiny terror run around.

Me: “That’s a bad idea.”

Her: (sneering) “You don’t believe the rumors about an alligator in the lake, do you?”

Me: “I did count 8 in there this morning.”

Woman: (condescension in full bloom) “HOW did you count them?”

(What kind of question is that?)

Me, pointing at the alligator her dog was barking at (who would have been about a foot outside the frame of this photo of the gator in question): “One…”

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click to view larger image

It amazes me how willfully ignorant people can be about their own environment. You aren’t in the city anymore and there are wild animals here. There’s ample, reputable information about alligators that’s easily obtainable (including in the neighborhood newsletter).

People make me tired.

An 8 day house-sitting getaway with ample time and quiet and opportunities for swamp-y adventures and research sounds great, doesn’t it?

(No, it doesn’t. It did before I had to get up at 5 a.m. to catch a plane. Right about now it sounds like the stupidist fucking idea I’ve ever had).

The house has air-conditioning and there are adorable kittens!

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ve been informed that the snowbirds have flown north, so it’s nice and peaceful. Which, now that I think about it, sounds like a euphemism for “desolate.” The power doesn’t go out that often anymore, though, so there’s that! The internet works sometimes, or so I’ve heard. There’s no landline, but if you wrap yourself in aluminum foil and stand in the bed of a (parked) pickup truck while there aren’t any clouds in the sky and you’re super-lucky you can apparently get a decent cell signal.

Oh, hell.

I’m either going to get loads of research done or I’m going to be starring in the sequel to Tucker and Dale vs Evil.

I have to cook for myself for most of the week. That alone has great potential for tragedy and/or comedy.

Luckily, I’m just up the road a-ways from Publix so I’m sure everything will work out fine. They have awesome fried chicken.

Plus, I hear you can get fantastic cell reception in the produce section.