And the Answer is: Bolt, Lime & Bird

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Johnny Carson as “Carnac the Magnificent”

Back when late night comedians specialized in comedy rather than political commentary, the incomparable Johnny Carson frequently portrayed “Carnac the Magnificent”.  Carnac, a mystic from the East, was able to determine the answers to written questions that had been “hermetically sealed inside a mayonnaise jar kept on Funk & Wagnall’s porch for security purposes”.  An example:

Carnac the Magnificent:  The answer is ‘Sis, Boom, Bah”!

Ed McMahon (unscrewing the lid from a mayonnaise jar and removing a sealed envelope):

And the question is “What sound does an exploding sheep make?”

In the title to this blog, the answer is “Bolt, Lime & Bird”.

The question is “What are three things that might run over you on Fort Lauderdale sidewalks?

Bolt, Lime and Bird are electric scooter brands scattered around downtown Fort Lauderdale (& beach) sidewalks since last November.  Lime official reported that 14,000 different riders covered nearly 48,000 miles in just the first 3 weeks the scooters were available.

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Electric scooters for rent along Hwy A1A at the Fort Lauderdale Beach

While some scooter riders use the bike lanes, many others preferred the already busy sidewalks.  Scooters have a 15 mph maximum speed and make very little noise, so unless you can run a 4 minute mile you better get used to being startled when these scooters zip around you.  One idiot we encountered came at us full speed hollering “OH SHI*************!!!! as if he had lost control only to swerve around us at the last second.

Ha! Ha! (DIPSTICK!)

We encountered entire families on scooters, as well as an older child ferrying a younger child along the crowded streets and sidewalks.

In our car we passed a guy in full business attire -suit & tie – riding a scooter, presumably to work or to an appointment.

 

My favorite was when my wife and I approached an intersection just as a young woman wearing a thong rode by us on a scooter and stopped for a red light.  Her booteus maximus was as unencumbered as the day she was born.   I am sorry I didn’t have time to take a picture.  You will just have to take my word for it.

Or my wife’s.

Or perhaps that of the lady with a Bronx accent standing beside us staring in wide-eyed amazement who exclaimed “SHE’S GOING TO CAUSE SOMEONE TO RUN INTO A TREE!”

On the positive side, it did seem to make the time pass faster while we were waiting for the light to change.

Don’t Judge a Bird by its Beak

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Me Feeding Flamingos at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida

It is a cold morning (by Florida standards).  I arose before dawn and watched the sky transform from black to gray.  That’s not as much of a sacrifice as it sounds.  Dawn arrived at 7:07 am.  Rain pelts the windows in front of me and the ships moored off the Atlantic coast are barely visible.  The weather lady on tv just said “the temperature will struggle to reach 70 today.”

Can you feel my pain?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

It is a good day to reflect on the week’s high points and low points of trading some January days of ice & snow in Missouri for balmy days in the sun in Florida.

First, the good.

I manned up, looked fear right in the eye, and let flamingos eat directly from my hand this week.  While flamingos are unquestionably beautiful and have never personally threatened me, their beaks are long and pointed and look like they could sever a finger with little difficulty.

Maybe they could if provoked, but the flamingos at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida were gentle and patient.

Inspired by an intrepid 10-year-old girl ahead of me, I placed a quarter in a vending machine and received a fistful of pellets in exchange.  A row of flamingos lined up patiently waiting in front of me.  Placing a pellet in my hand, I extended it to a large flamingo.  It very gently nibbled the palm of my hand until it secured the pellet.  No pinching, no biting, and no aggressive jostling among the flamingos to compete for the pellet.  I methodically went down the row until each flamingo had politely & gently nibbled a pellet from my hand.  I then repeated the process until my pellet supply was depleted.

Flamingos – I am impressed!  You are surely the most polite birds I have ever encountered.  Not at all like the duck who spewed a 12-inch circle of semi-liquid poop near my shoe later in the day.  NO PELLETS FOR YOU, Mr. Duck!!

A less pleasant memory occurred on a visit to the food court at Sawgrass Mills Mall yesterday.  First, let me say that my wife and I have been eating at Chinese restaurants ever since David Leong began his successful quest to make Springfield, Mo. the “Cashew Chicken Capital of the World”.  I am confident with a Chinese menu.

Stepping up to the food line at Asian Chao, a Food Court eatery at the Mall, I proceeded to order what I thought was a two-entree meal for $8.99 which my wife and I planned to share.  As the server pointed to a rib, I nodded ok.  Same for a shrimp dish.  Though we normally go for orange chicken and bourbon chicken, what the heck!  We are on vacation.  Why not experiment?

Well, I can give you one reason.

When the checker totalled up my plate and added two drinks, the bill came to $26.38. And that fortune didn’t even include a fortune cookie!  My single  rib was $11.99.  I now understand why God borrowed one from Adam.  Shrimp was $3.99 extra as were the two egg rolls.  I’m guessing even the well-mannered flamingo’s might have gotten a mite peckish when presented with that bill.

On the bright side, I learned a valuable lesson.   Don’t hesitate to utilize the words “IS THAT INCLUDED FOR $8.99?”  when ordering a meal from Asian Chao.  And, after reluctantly paying the tab, I also decided what my given name should be had I been born Chinese:

Me So Dum

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The menu said $8.99 for two entrees.  Which entrees made a big difference. I could have fed a lot of Flamingos for $26.38

 

 

 

 

Home of the Sunset* (*Sunset not Guaranteed – Your results may differ)

Promptly at 7:30 am yesterday my wife and I climbed aboard a 45-foot long tour bus.

Destination – Key West

We were greeted by Tour Guide Felipe and driver Ivy.  We took our assigned seats in Row 3 and headed south.  4+ hours later we climbed off the bus after having been given thorough instructions on things to do and the importance of returning to the bus no later than 7 pm.   I marked our location on Google maps – 813 Caroline St.

As we were getting our bearings, we were startled by a nearby rooster crowing.  Throughout the day, we shared the sidewalk with chickens, tourists & Key West residents of every size, shape & description.  According to the FloridaRambler.com, like Key West residents themselves, the chickens are “historic, colorful, sort of wild, a little noisy and occasionally annoying.”

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Key West chickens on patrol

First stop – Pepe’s Cafe.  The oldest of nearly 500 restaurants, Pepe’s opened in 1909.  A sign out front advertised “NOW OPEN UNDER OLD MANAGEMENT”.  The service was a little grumpy.

Me:  Could you repeat the specials?

Waitress:  All of them???!!!

Me:  How much is the scallop salad?

Waitress:  I don’t know.  Probably about $14  (Note:  On our bill it was $16.50)

On the bright side, the food was great.  And if I have to choose between good service or good food, I’ll take good food every time.

After lunch we walked Duval Street, advertised as the “longest street in the world.”  At 1.25 miles in length, it is not actually the longest street in the world, but it is the only street in the world that allows you to walk from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

Located in Key West’s historic “Old Town”, Duval Street has lots of ways to take your money.  My wife found a Key West Pandora charm for her bracelet at a nice store named Artisans.  The charm had Key West and a picture of a rooster on it.  Allysa, the lady that helped us was extremely nice.  My wife likes to buy a charm to add to her bracelet each time we travel.  Going on 47 years of marriage, the bracelet is getting heavy enough that her left arm that sports the bracelet is approximately twice the size of her right.  Note:  If she gets mad at you, watch out for her left hook!

Upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, we stopped at the marker for the “Southernmost Point in the United States.”  At that point you are closer to Cuba than you are to a Walmart.

Circling back toward the Gulf of Mexico on Whitehead St., we passed the haunts of former Famous Key West celebrities Harry Truman and Ernest Hemmingway on our walk to Sunset Pier.

As we arrived at the pier and took a seat, a great band was playing the old Johnny Cash hit “One Piece at a Time.”

Though the day had been mostly overcast, when we arrived at Sunset Pier the sun was visible on the western horizon, framed by the sails of those who prefer to watch the sunset from the water.

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An “Almost” Sunset from Sunset Pier.

After the sun disappeared,  I clicked on my iPhone GPS and we headed to where we were to board our bus back to Fort Lauderdale.

After a great day in Key West, tour guide Felipe did a headcount to make sure everyone in our group had made it back.  He then darkened the interior lights and our driver Ivy began our 4 1/2 hour trip north.

Key West residents sometimes refer to their home as “the smart end of Highway 1”.  With wintry blasts hitting the northeast and the temperature a balmy 75 degrees in Key West, I tend to agree.

Except when unwelcome visitors like Hurricane Irma come to town.

 

 

 

Just Me and the Man ‘o War on Shore

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I awoke this morning to the sound of the wind and the surf pounding the beach outside the sliding glass door to our  balcony.  Not unusual, but the sound is usually a lot more muted on the 17th floor.  Even though the temperature was 70 degrees at 7 am, the gale force winds made it seem chillier.

I don’t expect any sympathy from my friends & family back in Missouri.

When I made it down to the beach in the afternoon, the lifeguard stations were sporting TWO warning flags that tend to discourage beachgoers.  First was a red flag indicating a significant danger from the water itself – a strong current that might carry swimmers out to sea.

There was also a purple flag.  That one was new to me.  Not any more.  A purple flag indicates a clear and present danger from marine life.

Like sharks.

On our third day in Florida my wife and I and our friends from Osceola, Mo. attended a short seminar on how to LIVE LIKE A LOCAL.  Before it started, we were gazing into the clear blue waters along the shoreline from the meeting room on the roof of the hotel.  There was a single swimmer in the water.  Not far from the swimmer we saw a large, dark shadow moving purposefully toward the unsuspecting swimmer.  I thought we might witness a “How to get eaten like a local” moment.  As the swimmer spotted the shadow moving toward him, he began to move purposefully in the OTHER direction.  The shadow didn’t follow.  We suspect it was a harmless manatee, aka “Sea Cow”.

During my walk I discovered the reason for the purple flag.  Washed ashore by the heavy surf were dozens of Portuguese man-of-war.

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One of Many Portuguese Man-of-War I found washed ashore on Fort Lauderdale Beach

According to Wikipedia, ‘the long tentacles of the man-of-war can deliver a painful sting which is venomous and powerful enough to kill fish or, rarely, humans”.  The article said the sting is excruciatingly painful and that even a dead man-of-war on the beach can deliver a sting.

I enjoyed my barefoot walk along the beach despite the red & purple flags hoisted at the lifeguard stations.  The wind was greatly stirring the waves which made them even more beautiful and the Portugese intruders stranded on the beach were a lot easier to spot and avoid on land than in the water.

The only thing that has caused me bodily harm on this trip has been a rogue chihuahua.

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Just me and the Portuguese Man-of-Wars (and a lot of sea weed) on the beach

 

 

Nature Walks Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

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Everglades Gator eyeing me from a few feet off the paved visitor trail

As vacations go, this has been a good one.  It’s chilly in south Florida today (upper 60’s) but the weather has been perfect since we arrived a week ago.  Back home in Missouri, it has been less than perfect thanks to Winter Storms Gia & Harper.

We have visited two beautiful parks this week trying to maximize our time outdoors.  First up was the Everglades National Park near Homestead, Florida.  It was teeming with wildlife.   We witnessed numerous species of birds, turtles and fish.  We also saw a couple of manatees frolicking in a river and a few dozen gators sunning themselves on land or cruising the river as kayakers paddled by unaware.  On our nature walk we encountered several gators relaxing in the sun only a few feet off the trail, seemingly oblivious to our presence other than an occasional sideways glance.

Despite their inert appearance, we never let down our guard when near any creature that thinks it is higher on the food chain than us and has the teeth to back it up.

Unlike Missouri boat ramps, Everglades boat ramps have gators monitoring the activity.

boat ramp gators

We were unmolested by the Everglades gators, though a pickup pulling a boat passed us and threw up a rock that cracked our rental car windshield.

I did experience a traumatic event at a different Florida park not far from our hotel in Fort Lauderdale.  The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is one of my favorites when we visit south Florida.  Bordered on one side by the intracoastal waterway and the other by Highway A1A and the Atlantic, it is a chunk of natural Florida mere steps from hotels and multimillion dollar mansions.  I was hiking among huge banyons and mangrove trees on a nature trail at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park while images of a large cottonmouth snake that someone had posted pics of on-line were on my brain. Each root crossing the trail looked like a snake and each vine suspended from a tree brought to mind the giant Burmese Pythons the State of Florida is currently paying professionals to eradicate.

As I came around a bend in the trail, I encountered not a snake, but an elderly lady leading two small dogs on leashes with a Chihuahua trailing behind leash-free.  As we passed on the trail, we paused momentarily to exchange small talk. That’s when it happened.  To quote FDR, “I was suddenly and deliberately attacked.”  While I was distracted, the unleashed chihuahua darted over and bit my shin.

“Did he just bite you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, he did.”  I responded, torn between remaining calm while also wanting to dropkick the sneaky chihuahua that had penetrated my defenses and my leg..

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Hugh Taylor Birch State Park Attack Chihuahua.  Don’t let that innocent look fool you.

“Has he had his shots?” I inquired.

“Oh, yes!” she responded, as a small spot of blood appeared on my left shin.  “I’m so embarrassed!  You bad dog!” she said to the miniature attack dog, who I hope is rabies-free.  I suspect that dog is probably more up-to-date on its shots than I am.

But now what Margo Kaufman once said makes perfect sense to me.  She said “I asked my Vet  what kind of dog he’d get.  He told me ‘I’d get a Chihuahua because when it died, I wouldn’t care’.”

 

 

 

A Boomer’s Guide to Embracing New Ideas – Flexibility

As Winter Storm Gia was in the process of depositing a foot of snow on our home in Missouri, my wife & I landed safely in sunny south Florida.  Temperature – a balmy 74 degrees.  We walked smiling into the sunshine outside the terminal, joining a phalanx of people waiting for or looking for transportation

My plan was to impress my wife by summoning a ride from Uber on my phone.  Our very first Uber ride!  Inputting our location and our desired destination on the Uber app, I awaited a response.

Then I awaited some more

Finally, I got the following response:

uberfail

So much for impressing my wife.

On to Plan B.

We dragged our luggage a few feet to the airport shuttle desk.

Within minutes we were aboard a van with a very personable driver with great depth perception who maneuvered our van skillfully in and around traffic while telling funny stories. My wife and I, leading edge Baby Boomers, were the youngest passengers on the van.

Check-in at the Marriott Beachplace Tower went smoothly and an hour after our plane touched down we were gazing in awe at the turquoise Atlantic from our 17th floor balcony.  My wife was duly impressed.  That may have been influenced somewhat by the tasty fruity drinks they kept handing her while I checked-in.  I suspect some fermentation may have been involved in their making.

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Pictured – My wife, Val  – Not-pictured – Winter Storm Gia

On our minds were our friends who were going to join us a day later. They were scheduled to fly out of Kansas City the next morning with Gia still snarling traffic and disrupting air travel.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump’s mommy “January weather in Missouri is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get.”

 

 

 

Gia – It’s So Good to See Ya (In the Rearview Mirror)

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Dawn from inside Lambert Airport in St. Louis with Winter Storm Gia quickly approaching

Six months ago I decided it might be nice to miss a little of Missouri’s January weather and booked a getaway for my wife and I in Fort Lauderdale.  Though we prefer road trips, I booked a couple of tickets departing from St. Louis on Southwest Airlines at 8:45 am on  January 11, 2019.

Little did I know when I booked the tickets that we would have unexpected company from far away arriving at our house that same day.

Winter storm Gia began her journey in the Pacific, spreading extreme winter weather across the midsection of the U.S.  Check-in time for her arrival in St. Louis was noon, January 11, 2019.

We actually prefer road trips to flying, but this time I’m glad we made an exception.  First, it is hard to outrun a winter storm in a car.  We’ve tried before and came up short.  Second, my wife has more metal in her from her hips down than most cars leaving the assembly line these days.  Successfully getting through the metal detector usually involves her being the recipient of some serious groping.  We secured “KNOWN TRAVELER NUMBERS” through the TSA a few years ago which have helped.  We are now able to retain most of our clothing & footwear when passing through the metal detector.   AND, the post-metal detector groping of my wife after she invariably sets the metal detector beeping has decreased from the “Honeymoon – First Night” level to the “In a Relationship” level.

We made it to the gate area 90 minutes in advance.  My wife was still in a good mood, which is no gimme after she goes through security.  One time in Kansas City they claimed they found gun powder on her shoes.  Later I discovered they test for nitrates, found in gun powder, but ALSO found in plant fertilizer.  My wife is no stranger to plant fertilizer.  That time ended up in a little room with 3 TSA agents who subjected her to their “pretty sure you are a terrorist” treatment.  Her mood had declined precipitously by the time she rejoined me at the departure gate

I was thrilled to see our plane already at the gate when we arrived.  As we took our seats, I noticed a beautiful red sky in the east. “RED SKY AT MORNING, SAILOR TAKE WARNING!”  Bad weather was imminent.  Our phones began to beep frequently with weather warnings & school closings as Gia approached St. Louis.

As my wife made a final bathroom visit before boarding the plane, a young woman wearing a “BUDWEISER KING OF BEERS” sweatshirt and carrying a cute toddler with a giant red bow in her hair sat down next to our seats.  I wondered if perhaps traveling with a toddler had helped solidify her fondness of Budweiser.

We boarded right on time.  By 9 am we were airborne.

Winter Storm Gia could kiss our contrails.