Thursday, May 27, 2004

Gee, its good to be back home again

It's Thursday. We arrived on Monday afternoon, drove directly to Schooner Wharf Bar, took a couple of pictures to prove we made it, then made a quick tour to have a look at Duval Street, the homeless encampments on Higgs and Smathers beaches, and everything else. We were looking for changes, obvious ones, from what we left two years ago.

The island seems more crowded somehow -- more traffic, more parked vehicles, fewer parking spaces, but visually, it seems not to have changed substantially. Perhaps a little messier, but it wasn't that clean when we were here before. There was an article in the Citizen, front page above the fold, about taggers, grafitti vandals who raided Duval Street in recent days leaving the same tag on light poles, parking meters, and some private property. City officials are baffled. What a surprise.

We made our way to Bahama Village, returned to our former home on Thomas Street, and waited for David to return, which he soon did. It was good to finally get out of the car knowing that we'd be staying, not having to drive another three or four hundred miles the next day. It's good to be home.

Tuesday morning, after David left for Miami to pick a friend up a the airport, we went to breakfast at Harpoon Harry's. Cathy waited on us, but she was the only one left from two years ago, except for Ron, the owner, who was out for the next two days. Janet looked for our old NH license plate on the wall, and was disappointed when she didn't see it. Cathy told her where it was, and she was happy again.

We managed to get our first parking ticket while we were in Harry's, twenty-five bucks. I knew we had to feed the meter, but flat-out forgot. We were only inside for a half-hour. With the NH plates and the bike rack on the back, I'm sure we looked like a ripe target when the Parking Enforcement Police drove by. The whole thing is automated now, read the meter number, enter the tag number, print out the ticket and leave it in the convenient, self-addressed return envelope. Ka-ching! Janet moaned a little, but I screwed up and it was a righteous bust. I'll be more careful now.

We opened a checking and savings account at the Keys Federal Credit Union, pretty much the same accounts we had in NH. Héléne, a friendly French customer relations specialist originally from Brittany, took care of everything, and even gave us lead on a houseboat for sale.

A few other quick stops, then lunch at Schooner Wharf. Ah, Schooner Wharf! What a magical place. Captain Walt was at his usual table. Janet found him first while I parked the car (in the public lot in front of Waterfront Market, no more tickets for me). Walt came out on to Lazy Way looking for me just as I was walking in, and gave me one of those half-hug, half-handshakes that guys usually do. Vicki was working the bar with someone I didn't know, Jan and Tonna were waiting tables, and Mary Anne was in the kitchen. Lots of people have come and gone from SWB in the two years. Chris moved to Fort Lauderdale. Maureen is married and gone, Margo had already gone to work somewhere else by the time we left, Freddie is no more, Tim's cooking somewhere on Stock Island (and still making music around town).

Michael McCloud was on stage, singing the same songs, telling the same stories, making the same wisecracks to an ever-changing audience. He cut off his pony tail and now sports a short, curly cut. We approached him when he broke and got the usual smiling, not overly-friendly greeting, the kind that tells you "Nice to see you, and I'm kind of busy right now." He did have a clipboard and pencil in hand, so he was definitely working on something.

So, the first two days were mostly uneventful. I said to Janet over lunch at Schooner Wharf that it felt good to be back, and that it was beginning to feel like we hadn't really been gone THATlong.

Wednesday was a kind of busy day. I'll save that for another posting, either later today, or tomorrow.

As John Denver once sang, Gee, it's good to be back home again.

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