In case you are wondering about the title of this blog, it means “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” in Cantonese. February 5, 2019 is New Year’s Day on the Chinese calendar. It is the year of the Pig.
I was born in the year of the Rat, as was my first grandson. My wife was born in the year of the rabbit. According to the Chinese, rats and rabbits are not compatible. That, I’m certain, is why upon learning of my intention to marry her daughter, my future wife’s mother advised her “DO NOT MARRY THAT RAT!”
That’s why I didn’t take it personally.
Today my wife and I had carry-out Chinese food to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I was instructed by my bride to “Get some long noodles! They signify long life to the Chinese”. To the Chinese at Stir Fry 88, they signify a $3.25 additional charge. A small price to pay for long life, I suppose.
Our meal included fortune cookies. Opening the fortune cookie is one of my favorite rituals of eating Chinese food. Fortunes can range from optimistic (and boring) like my wife’s “You will be selected for a promotion because of your accomplishments”, to complimentary, like mine – “You are sociable and entertaining”. My favorites are the funny and/or honest ones.
Here are a few of my favorites in that category:
If you have a difficult task, give it to a lazy person. They will find an easy way to do it.
The sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up.
Whenever anyone says “theoretically”, they mean “not really”.
Anyone who uses the phrase “easy as taking candy from a baby” has never tried taking candy from a baby.
Nothing is impossible as long as you are not the one that has to do it.
Help! I am being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery!!
Confucius says you suck!
Happiness and success rightly elude you.
Appearances can be deceiving, but you are not fooling anyone.
I cannot help you, for I am just a cookie.
Only a fool would look to a cookie for words of wisdom. And, finally,
That wasn’t chicken!
In closing, 我希望你有一个快乐和无压力的新年！(translation: I hope you have a happy and stress-free New Year!)
It wasn’t the best 24 hours of our vacation in Fort Lauderdale.
My wife had developed an earache and a sore throat. We abandoned our tourist agenda and headed for nearby Broward Medical and Urgent Care. My wife was seen promptly by Dr. Chau Nguyen and she walked out of the office clutching two prescriptions.. One prescription we were able to fill immediately at a nearby Walgreens. The next would take overnight.
And then some.
When we went to pick up the prescription the next day it wasn’t ready for two reasons:
First, we hadn’t paid (or been asked to pay) in advance. And,
Second, they didn’t have the ingredients. Would “after 2 the NEXT day” be ok? It wasn’t, so they transferred the prescription to another nearby pharmacy in their chain and told us it would be ready in two hours.
I suggested a little sun might be good idea so we headed for a fast food chicken place I remembered to pick up food for an impromptu picnic at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. After a longer drive than I remembered it to be, we came to the chicken place. It was closed for remodeling. Nevertheless, a person was patiently waiting in the drive-thru lane for someone to take her order.
Next door was a Burger King. Not our first choice, but it was convenient and didn’t appear to be busy. Only one car ahead of us in the drive-thru. Even so, it took awhile before it was our turn. And then it took quite awhile longer before they took our order.
I ignored my better judgement and waited.
We placed our order and pulled around the corner to find two cars waiting for their food ahead of us. By the time we got to the window, there was a pickup truck and a car waiting behind us.
“Be right with you!” said the lady working the window cheerfully.
And we waited some more.
Then the honking began.
First, I thought it was the guy in the pickup behind us. The honking continued. If anyone has any suggestions about how to hurry when waiting for a very simple order at a drive-thru window I would be interested. The honking continued until a woman two cars behind us had had enough. She veered out of line, pulled alongside of us, and hollered “What the f*** is taking so long?”
This was a woman in a hurry for a whopper.
The window clerk politely hollered back “We are slammed and doing the best we can!” to which the impatient whopper-craver hollered another rude comment. Use your imagination.
The drive-thru attendant then hollered “Have a blessed day!” as the honking woman beside us accelerated out of the parking lot.
Whew! That’s a big departure from the normal “Would you like fries with that?” drive-thru dialogue.
Thru the window came our bag of food. I thanked the lady and off we headed to our picnic site.
On the way we encountered a work zone traffic jam. As we slowed, an SUV suddenly swerved into our lane in front of us causing me to slow much more abruptly. Prominently displayed on the back window of the SUV was a sticker that said “BE NICE”.
Nearing Birch State Park, my wife got an email. Her prescription was ready. Things were looking up. We found a picnic table alongside the Intracoastal Waterway which borders the park on the west. and had our hard-earned, not exactly hot by then, lunch. Soaking up the sun, we watched boats pass, some of which cost more than many people would earn in a lifetime.
Feeling refreshed after a meal, some sunshine, and the absence of any high-volume arguments, we headed to the pharmacy to pick up my wife’s prescription.
“Be ready in 10 minutes!” the attendant said.
“But we got an email saying it was ready” I responded.
“It was wrong” said the attendant. “Come back in 10 minutes.”
With the wisdom displayed on the back window of a crappy driver I nearly rear-ended running through my mind, I pulled around, parked in the warm sunshine, and cooled my jets.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
“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’.”
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:
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.
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.”
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.
On October 29, 1924, a statue of the Roman goddess Ceres – goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility & motherly relationships – became the tallest object in Jefferson City, Mo. Per an article in the missouritimes.com describing that endeavor 94 years ago, “crews tied a wench to a tree and hoisted her in three pieces using a pulley system to the top of the Capitol.” For those sticklers regarding the use of the English language (like my brother who pointed out the incorrect word use), the proper word was “winch”.
“I hope, in 1924, they tied a ‘winch’ to a tree as opposed to a ‘wench’ as the article states. That was probably illegal even back then” noted my brother.
On November 15, 2018, Ceres was scheduled to be removed from the Capitol dome and transported to Chicago for a make-over.
I planned to be there on the historic occasion of Ceres return to earth from her perch overlooking beautiful Jefferson City.
The morning of November 15th, 2018, dawned clear and cold. I donned warm clothing and made my way downtown under a bright blue sky. Shortly before 9:30 am I filled a parking meter with enough quarters for the maximum 2 hours of parking and walked the two blocks to the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court building. It was a perfect vantage point to watch the operation.
When I arrived, I was so excited about witnessing history, I barely felt the cold. After two hours, my cold feet began to compete with my excitement for my attention. Though Ceres lift-off was originally planned for shortly after 10 am, technical difficulties forced a delay.
Shortly after 11 am, employees from Jimmy John’s came down the street passing out free sandwiches. Thank you, Jimmy John’s! My turkey sandwich was delicious. Not wanting to sound ungrateful, next time please bring some free napkins as well to avoid the unappetizing sight of diners with frozen mayonnaise on their chin.
At 11:30 am, the time on my parking meter expired. Should I risk missing the main event of Ceres being lowered by walking the four block round-trip to replenish my parking meter? Purely for the sake of witnessing history, I decided to take a walk on the wild side and risk getting a parking ticket rather than possibly miss Ceres descent.
Good thing I did.
At 11:45 am, following three sharp blasts from an air horn, Ceres was slowly lifted off the perch where she had rested for the past 94 years.
Ceres was originally created by New York sculptor Sherry Fry. The statue is thought to be modeled after Audrey Munson. Munson is sometimes referred to as “America’s first supermodel.”
After seeing the face of Ceres, it made me wonder who modeled for the Statue of Liberty, which came to the U.S. from France in 1886.
As near as I can tell, the face on the Statue of Liberty was modeled after the mother of the statue’s sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. In my imagination, I can envision that face saying to a misbehaving Frederic Auguste Bartholdi as a child, “God help you if you ever do that again!”
Though probably not in the “supermodel” catagory, Charlotte Beysser Bartholdi’s son, Frederic, did her no favors in the portrayal of her face on the Statue of Liberty. Instead of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . . ” the face on the Statue of Liberty would seem to be saying something more like “If you get on my lawn again you are going to be sorry!”
Ceres is now safely in Chicago.
Or at least as safe as an inanimate object can be in Chicago.
She will return, all gussied up and shiny, in about a year. I plan to be there to watch her once again ascend to the tallest perch in Jefferson City where she will once more preside above the beehive of activity that is the Missouri State Capitol.
As I neared my truck to head home, I strained my eyes to see if Jefferson City’s parking enforcement division had deposited anything under my windshield wiper. Though the meter was frantically flashing an alert that I had exceeded the two-hour time limit, my windshield was free of a parking ticket.
Thank you, Jefferson City.
It won’t happen again. At least until next fall when I return to once again witness history as Ceres again ascends to the Top of the Capitol Dome.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain