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The Easter Parade

Before April comes to its utter end, I should let my dear loved ones in on my take on Easter Sunday – right?  If for no other reason than they may have fond memories themselves which will be triggered by the photos posted herein.  So, without further ado . . .

Usually Easter is cold and wet enough around here to wear your winter coat and a scarf.  For someone like me, who longs for equatorial heat even on some “cooler” evenings in July, cold Easters mean that I cannot even stand to wear a dress under my winter coat, but rather have to don pants and my winter boots over heavy socks.  But this Easter was anything but usual.

It was a true Easter Parade outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  All the women and little girls looked darling, while the men looked dashing in their spring suits.  The cathedral was full at high mass and looked lovely adorned with white lilies.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera with me and if I thought I might manage to get pictures at home of everyone in their Easter best, well, forget about it.  Before I could say, “Say cheese,” my family had changed back into their casual clothes. Which was okay, I guess, because we had an Easter-egg hunt to attend.

The day before, Luvy and I planned to head down to the playground after church and hide 3 dozen colored plastic eggs filled with money for the kids to hunt.  Yim was on his way into the city with his 3 boys and time was of the essence.  Lord Mycol pitched in and helped Luvy and I hide the eggs.  Once they were hidden, Rock brought Rockwell down, and Yim arrived with Bird, Choc, and NB.  These four boys hit the ground running and scoured the playground for Easter-eggs.  In a half an hour’s time, each of them had a nice blue grocery sac of eggs, which they wouldn’t dare put down for fear of losing them.  They ran, climbed, and played all over the playground.  Their bags rustled and jingled behind the sounds of shouts and laughter.

Lord Mycol was being the best big cousin that day.  I enjoyed watching him help Rockwell, the youngest boy in the bunch, find his share of eggs.  He helped him reach things by picking him up, he helped him get his shoes back on when he had stones in them, and he helped him count his booty.

The Easter Bunny stopped by the playground after the hunt.

That is Yim and NB’s bunny, Wolverine.  He was a birthday gift for NB, who says, “I’m going to be a zoo-keeper, a scientist, and work at the pet store.  I’m gonna be a busy man!”

While us big kids occupied the little kids at the schoolyard, the real grown-ups got the feast ready and the table set back at the house.

The entire holiday was spent in anticipation of mealtimes, which are the keystones of family life.  On holidays past and also in Italy, I have spent a good 6 hours at the dining table, listening to stories, eating great food, and drinking a little vino!

Well, until next year, Buona Pasqua!

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When I was in high school I discovered the real difference that warmth and sunshine could make in my life.  Growing up in the city, I lived in a huge, drafty house built a hundred years before we moved in.  Nights between October and May were spent under so many layers of blankets that I couldn’t roll over under the weight.  To this day I can go to sleep and wake up eight hours later in the exact same position.

Then I went to boarding school my freshman year of high school.  And there was warmth.  I spent a lot of time after that thinking of ways to stay warm once I graduated.  The short story is, I went to live in San Diego for three years before moving back north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  The long story is for another time.  But since moving back I have closed my eyes more than once in the dead of winter, to imagine myself lying in the sand, half naked, with the sun toasting the surface of my skin, as a balmy breeze drifts over me.

In the summertime I feel energized and strong.  Even though when we reach August I start to feel a little anxiety over the eminently approaching winter season, I am able to convince myself that it’s no big deal.  This is false, of course.  This is the talk of “summer muscles.”

In November I will start to think about flying south in January or February, but the holidays provide just enough distraction so that I start to rationalize with myself that I could buck up and survive without falter, save my money, and maybe even embrace the weather.  And when February makes me shiver, I begin to regret my fear of flying, metaphorically speaking, and start to look for opportunities to GET ME OUT OF HERE.  Seriously, people, you must try to understand that cold weather HURTS me.  I am obviously too weak to fight the chronic pain of it.  After all these years of being told to “put another sweater on” to no avail, for the love of God, if you love me you will understand my burden.  Enough said.  (Until I address poor circulation, low blood pressure, and what the acupuncturist did.)

Enter 2008.  It was February.  I was heartbroken.  (See “On Time and Love“)  This is when it is good to have great girlfriends who will hang out with you while you pick up the pieces.  And, as promised, a cure for the winter doldrums. . .

One of my favorite pastimes is beach camping.

From the beaches of Assateague to Puerto Rico, I have enjoyed the merging of outdoor living with my favorite outdoor location.  For adventurists who love the ocean and are more impressed with nature than a mint on their pressed pillowcase, beach camping is an ultimate vacation.  In 2008 my friend Alison told me she wanted to return to the Florida Keys for a camping trip.  In my wretched state it was music to my ears.  We made plans to fly out in April.

Although I often travel without a plan because I get excited about feeling as free as possible, Alison assured me that it’s best to make reservations in the Keys.  Even when camping.  Especially when camping.  The Florida Keys are a hot spot for RV’ing fishermen who are devoted to spending their vacation time fishing the blue waters.  And don’t forget that each key is narrow and small, limiting accommodations.  There are only about 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West.

So, Alison and I flew into Miami and rented a car.  We had packed our luggage wisely, I with the tent and lantern, she with the headlamps and lavender mist for inside our shared sleeping quarters.  Incidentally, there are approximately 65 miles between Miami and Key Largo which can be enjoyed driving with the windows wide open and Luther Vandross belting “Never Too Much” as you sing along.

Alison made reservations at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo and Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon.  We spent a day at Bahia Honda, touted as the “Best Beach in the Continental U.S.”, and although we did not bivouac there, we did mooch on their facilities.

There is a lot of snorkeling to do in the Florida Keys and Alison is an ocean lover of the aquatic variety.  There are two types of people who love the ocean.  The type that loves it from within, i.e. Alison, Yim, etc., and the type that loves it from without, i.e. me.  All I wanted to do was lie in the hot sand and warm my bones, but Alison is such a good friend and when she begged me to go snorkeling with her I acquiesced, on the condition that she sing karaoke with me later at the Caribbean Club.

From Pennekamp we made arrangements to board a boat going 7 miles out to snorkel the Banana Reef.  There were about 25 people going out that day.

I should mention here that I am not a fan of horror movies because they are generally unbelievable and therefore do not frighten me.  I don’t mind a good scare, though.  When I saw the preview for Open Water, I made a point of seeing it because my worst fear ever is to be in water that I cannot see below the surface of.  And that hosts other living creatures.  And that is too deep for me to touch my feet to the bottom.  And that movie scared the crap out of me.

So many things happened in my life when I was three, but one of them was that I stepped off a sand ledge in the Atlantic while camping on Ocracoke Island and when I realized I was under the water with the fishes, fishes that I could see!, I had to quickly learn how to swim towards the light to save my skin.  This is why when I was 15 and wiped out while water-skiing (hey, alliteration) I panicked while waiting for the boat to swing back around for me because I saw an enormous dead tree log floating waaay over by the bank of the lake and was able to convince myself that it could possibly be a Loch Ness Monster.

When snorkeling 7 miles off the coast, the guides advise you to stay with your partner.  Seven miles off the coast the waters were colder and there was a damn cloud, the only cloud in the sky, right above us, blocking the sunshine.  My bikini and a life jacket were not enough to keep me from shivering with goose bumps.  When someone said, “Hey, there’s a shark,” I did not care that it was a 6-7 foot lemon shark swimming deep below us in the reef.  My eyes confirmed what my ears heard and I turned and high-tailed it back aboard our boat, leaving Alison alone and up to her neck in sharky waters.  I was the first one back to the boat and I had to wait another half hour, at least, before the guide signaled everyone else back.  I am a land creature.  I do not require breathing apparatus on terra firma.

Alison did sing karaoke with me at the Caribbean Club.  We sang Madonna’s “Cherish” and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  Alison did not run off the stage.  Later in the week we would return to the Caribbean Club to witness a rehabilitated manatee being released back into it’s natural habitat.

My favorite place in the Keys was Curry Hammock in Marathon.  The camp facilities were pristine and the beach was peaceful.  Beaches in the Keys are narrow and sometimes a bit rough to walk on, but the sand is nearly white, the water is shallow and warm a long way out, and the wildlife is amazing.  At Curry Hammock we got kayaks from the park office and paddled out around the key.

If you are quiet and patient the wildlife will reveal itself to you.  Manatees and sharks, jumping fish, cranes and other birds of Florida can be seen.  Alison and I took the kayak into the cave created by the low growing tangle of the mangroves that grow so thick, only slivers of sunlight shine directly through.  I felt like an explorer in the rain forest.

Lastly, we drove down to Key West and toured Ernest Hemingway’s house.

We ate fantastic food and drank salted margaritas while listening to live music outdoors.

We stumbled upon a street party celebrating freedom of expression . . .

And athletic abilities . . .

We stood in a crowd and watched the sunset, just like Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines (R.I.P.) did in Running Scared (cue Michael McDonald!).

http://veganpotluck.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/runningscaredboobs.jpg

And then we enjoyed the buskers performing on the waterfront.  I bought 2 great pieces of silver jewelry in Key West, a ring and a cuff bracelet, as souvenirs.

So there they are.  The Florida Keys: cure for the wintertime blues.  And for heart-ache.

So we went in April, which is technically spring.  And Hemingway killed himself anyway, but he was a severe case.

Oh, what the heck:

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Around about 1979 or 80 our mother went out with a fellow with connections.  His arms were connected to his shoulders, his legs were connected to his hips, and his head was connected to his neck.  If memory serves me.  So anywho, I go out to get on the school bus after school lets out one day and there’s mother and her man waiting for me in his car.  Bruvvah Rock was with them already, he may have been a 4 year-old half-a-day-er at the time.  And out to the country we went! Through the valleys and into the highlands where we spent the weekend at a motor-inn with a pool.  Hiking along the dirt roads surrounding the motor-inn, we found a box turtle with one eye, which is why we should have named him Dick, what with him sticking his one-eyed head in and out all day long, but we didn’t.  I don’t know what we named him, but we did put the box turtle in a box and brought him home to the city with us.  Again, if we’d named him Dick….

https://i1.wp.com/www.statesymbolsusa.org/IMAGES/Tennessee/eastern-box-turtle-2.jpg

Back in the city our one-eyed friend found himself living outside in our old gerbil’s aquarium.  We were feeding him frozen fish from the pet store and it was fun to watch him wildly tear them apart by shaking his head back and forth with his beak sunk into the dead fish.  It wasn’t long before our mother’s boyfriend brought home another turtle, this time a painted variety from the pet store.  Now we had two turtles, with three eyes betwixt them.   And not long after that we were back to one turtle.  The victims of turtle theft.  Of course, we were left with the one-eyed country bumpkin, while that painted tart of a turtle likely jumped right out of that glassed confinement.  But really, anyone could have just lifted the screen off the top of the aquarium and reached right in.  And turtle thieves of the late ’70’s knew a re-sale opportunity when they saw one.  These turtles were moving faster than ever.  And I’m not sayin’ I know whodunnit, but I think you mightn’t had to look much farther than our very next door neighbors.  But before Cara Capra stole our turtle, I discovered an egg!  There we were, near the end of another perfectly played out summer day.  I took the egg out of the aquarium and excitedly showed it to my bruvvah.  It looked like these:

https://i1.wp.com/www.ornatebirdgarden.com/assets/images/turtleeggs1.jpg

You know, when we were kids we used to find these rocks on the ground a lot and we called them “lucky stones.”  They look like this:

http://xe9.xanga.com/199c907707733209032159/z162839135.jpg

See the resemblance?

So this 4 year-old half-a-day-er who thinks he knows more than his big seestrah tries to prove me wrong by placing the egg squarely on the sidewalk, raising his tuffy-shoed foot above it, and stomping on it.  The amount of yolk a box turtle egg produces made the entire event somewhat anti-climactic, but still.  Bruvvah killed my turtle egg!  (Did I mention that the the turtles were living in our old gerbil’s aquarium?  Yeah… Bruvvah ALSO killed my gerbil!!!  And he KNOWED how much I loved animals!)

And so the story goes….

This guy that Mother was dating seemed hell-bent on getting us pets.  He knew some people with a farm who had a horse to sell.  He was going to buy her this beautiful black horse with a white blaze down it’s face.  We took a ride out to the farm and they also had a litter of beagle pups, the cutest things you ever saw.  I was in instant LOVE.  I spent the entire time ogling those puppies in that pen, letting them yelp at me and lick my fingers and face through the gate wire.  And I knew which one I wanted and I how I would take care of her and love her and call her…. “Clover?”

A few weeks after the first trip to the farm we returned to get our pup.  In sort of a trade, we put our box turtle in a box again and headed out of the city.  Along the side of a country road we pulled over to reintroduce our turtle to the free life.  There inside the box with our box turtle was another box turtle egg.  Not a lucky stone.  This time my mother saved the egg and we buried it in a bowl of salt on the warm window sill to wait and see if it would hatch.  But really, would you sit and watch a bowl of salt in the sun with a beagle pup nipping at you to play?

Oh, geez.  I nearly forgot the moral of this tale.  So, here is the stuffed turtle I made for my nephew:

Of course, little Rockwell won’t have a clue about what I am referring to, but little children like stories.  Plus, I figured my bruvvah would get a kick out of this reference to our past.  See, my stuffed turtle only has one eye!

And my bruvvah says he doesn’t remember a thing about all that I’ve just told you.  Which proves what Samuel Johnson said, which is, “The true art of memory is the art of attention.”  But even more so, in the words of Nisbet, that “A good memory is an essential element of genius.”

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Hey, wait a minute…..

I haven’t mentioned the wildlife yet. For a long time on the road I was wondering whether or not any wildlife existed anymore. I finally came upon a smattering of it in Utah.
Here’s what really made my heart smile at Zion! (Sorry for all you people who know it’s wrong and want to argue with me about how it’s wrong. I know it’s wrong. But tell me, how can something that is wrong feel soooo right?) I fed a wild animal right out of my hand!! Just like my childhood hero, Grizzly Adams, I felt a true connection with the beast. Like our souls were on the same level, when no one else on earth has been able to fully understand me. It wasn’t easy, we both had to work through our issues with distrust. And now, I’ll never forget my little buddy. I miss him already.

We met while we were at a designated picnic area in the park. Word spread and then this guy came over with some friends.

These little monkeys were so cute (that’s right, I said monkeys), I decided to bring them home with me. They fit nicely in the car and they are behaved enough, they don’t distract me too much while I’m driving.


And last, but certainly not least, the beast that used to rule the grasslands. The beast whose numbers were decimated down to a mere 200 head in just 15 years time. This beauty of a beast.

He’s real cool. They call him “wild”, but he’s fenced into a pasture and he rolls right up to the fence line to get his water while 30 humans gawk. Then he turns to stroll back to his herd real stately like. But I feel like he’s saying something smart-ass under his breath as he goes. Don’t you?

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