I became aware recently that I still tend to focus on the wrong things, which prevents me from fully enjoying ‘the moment.’ For example, while sitting in my cart beside the dumpster, having unloaded my 3rd load of palm fronds and tree limbs, I was thinking only about having to dump my tanks when I finished up with my sites. I had 3 sites to clean that day (the smallest workload since I’ve been here), which meant I could focus on what I really liked to do — making the park look cleaner and neater. And it was a much cooler day than usual — hallelujah! But there I was thinking about something I hated instead. . . Why?
That’s something I’m going to have to figure out in order to work on it, but I think it stems from my goal-oriented conditioning (whether I was conditioned by life or did the conditioning myself). In order to get done what I had to get done in the past — while raising kids, going to school, working, and managing the finances — I had to focus on specific tasks to ensure they got done and nothing slipped through the cracks. It worked for me then (not that nothing slipped through the cracks, and lists would have made my life much easier), but my life now doesn’t lend itself to goals so much. Things get done when they get done (my brakes, for example). I like the lack of stress resulting from this attitude, but I can’t quite manage to fully let go of the old ways. Despite the eight months I’ve been in Florida in my RV, I still have many unwanted remnants of the old me left.
Gecko Fest in Gulfport
The previous weekend included a trip to the Gecko Fest in Gulfport, Florida, which is a small town right next to St. Petersburg. It’s a really cute little place, with lots of diversity and quirky characters. There are artistic types here, primarily, and many interesting shops and places to eat. The Gecko Fest is in its 12th year, and this year’s theme was the Roaring 20s. While we did see people decked out in sequins, long necklaces and boas, we also saw a fairy and lots of pirates, and, of course, a guy dressed up like a gecko. My friend and I took our cameras and photographed pretty much everything, from the street performers to the architecture. I was a very enjoyable day, but extremely hot. We were sweating profusely within half an hour, and kept ducking in and out of air conditioned shops and restaurants to cool down.
We ended up having lunch at an Italian restaurant — Pia’s — which was a very nice place in midtown, right beside the festival. We got a couple of shots of the outside, which had a rustic charm that we both like to photograph:
Then there were the street performers — magicians, musicians, dancers, and artisans:
We saw a French restaurant and went inside to see it, and we were bowled over! It was the most romantic restaurant I had ever seen (although the menu had something of an identity crisis), so we took some pictures and, after we met the owner and she gave us a couple of buy one dinner get one free coupons, we decided to make a reservation and come back later. Turns out, the menu was somewhat mixed up (German and French, with some Italian thrown in for good measure) because the owner came from Swiss parentage and had lived abroad for quite some time — obviously in different parts of Europe. Here’s what the restaurant looked like inside:
When we went back for our dinner, it was around 6:00, and we were some of the first people there for that evening. We both decided on veal (which turned out to be very thinly sliced — not a good thing for me). The meals were good (including bread, a salad, a couple of vegetables, and some kind of rice). When we finished, we decided to split a dessert and I ordered a coffee. Before our dessert and coffee came out, though, a huge storm that had been threatening finally broke.
The dinner rush was fully underway, and the dining room was filling up around us, when there was a huge peal of thunder and the electric went out. Cell phones lit up the room as people found they were unable to study the menus with nothing but candlelight. Our dessert came out about that time, so we ate that in the dark, basically, and I had my coffee. By the time we finished, it was getting warm in the restaurant — the air conditioning was no longer working, of course — so we passed the fans we had picked up at the festival to the couples at the adjacent table on our way out.
I was parked close by, but the rain and lightening was unrelenting, so we were soaked by the time we got to my car. I drove my friend to her car and then headed home. I have to say the light show was spectacular on the way — it was apparently over the Gulf — and I still had electric when I got back so I just enjoyed the storm from the comfort of my RV.
This past week my sister came down for a visit, flying in after I got off work on Wednesday and flying back out on Sunday morning before I went back to work. We didn’t stop running the whole time she was here, which is very typical of her life and of mine when I’m with her. She wanted to share her latest accomplishment with me — making fermented food — so we headed to the store to pick up the ingredients and supplies for that. I had a surprise for her later that evening, having made reservations at an Indian restaurant. I had decided a long time ago that I was not a fan of Indian food so I had previously refused to go with her, but my Montreal friend had made chicken curry for dinner one night and I was hooked!
Well, she was very pleasantly surprised when we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, but the surprise was on me because she ended up buying my dinner for my birthday. We weren’t as pleased as we should have been with the restaurant (as raved about in the reviews); the atmosphere was wonderful, but the sauces were too sweet for our tastes. We decided we’d have to try another Indian restaurant before she left to see if we could find one we liked. . .
My sister loved my birds, but she decided they needed a bigger cage (after all, they had two little birds on the way, as evidenced by the two eggs in the nest basket). So the next day, we started searching for thrift stores for used birdcages. We must have hit 7 thrift stores that day — with no luck — and were finally saved by our aunt’s invitation for us to join her and our cousin’s wife for dinner (along with the new baby). We met at Leverock’s, a seafood restaurant in Pasadena, and I had fish and chips. It was good and, more importantly, reasonably priced (I’m trying to disavow myself of the notion I’m independently wealthy). We had a very nice visit with the ladies and got back in time to have a drink (or two) and chat under the awning.
The next day saw more thrift shops, with no birdcages, although we did pick up some things we needed (and some we didn’t — oops!). My car had been making a noise like I was dragging something, and I knew it was the brakes, so we headed to Pep Boys to get it checked. Sure enough, it needed new rotors (of course — don’t they all?), so we left the car there and went down to the drug store to kill time. As we were walking back to Pep Boys for the bad news, we spotted an Indian restaurant just down the street in the other direction. So I told the mechanics to go ahead and do the brakes — and threw in an oil change for good measure (I had neglected to get one after my return from Kentucky several months ago).
The buffet at the restaurant was pretty sparse, but we had already decided to eat there, so we sat down with our plates, trying pretty much all the dishes. At one point, my sister wondered how much the buffet cost and determined it couldn’t be more than $8 or so, right? The food was decent, but there was really only one dish with meat — butter chicken — so that was a disappointment. When the check came, it was actually something of a shock: $10.99 per person! My sister paid — again — for our meal and we headed back to the shop to wait, and wait, for the car. It was finally done nearly an hour later and we drove off with me marveling at how the brakes actually worked now! I hadn’t realized how bad they’d gotten, obviously.
Since we hadn’t had any luck finding a birdcage at the thrift shops, I broke down and went to the pet store where my sister had found on the previous day the bird equivalent of the Hilton for $30. It is four times bigger than the birds’ first cage, complete with a pool (found at a thrift shop), and they love it! Unfortunately, they don’t seem inclined to hatch any chicks (birdlings?), so I guess they’ll just enjoy the cage themselves until they figure out this parenting thing, like sitting on the eggs until they hatch, etc. I really don’t think they were ready to be parents anyway. . .
The next day, we were invited to go out on our aunt and uncle’s boat, and our cousin and his wife would be joining us. Since this was to be after lunch, we ran down to Fort Desoto to actually see the fort (my sister hadn’t been there before). Again, it was a hot day (doesn’t seem to be anything else in Florida in the summer time), but I had a mission on my mind, as well. Remember Sponge Bob? He was going on a journey, and I knew just the place from which to launch him. We drove down a road to the picnic area (also a hiking path) until we saw no other people or power lines, and Sponge Bob was released into the stratosphere. He had been a fabulous birthday mascot for the year, but I was getting a little tired of his happy face all the time — give it a rest, guy! Here’s a picture of his ascent — still grinning, with arms and legs dangling:
I have no idea why I find this so funny, but I do. If you zoom in, you can see his grin. . .
After visiting the fort, it was time for our boat ride. I only snapped a few pictures on the ride, but here they are:
I got a call from an old friend last week. I hadn’t heard from her in years, so when I realized who she was, I knew why she was calling. An old friend — actually, an ex-boyfriend — had died. I was in shock, so I only half heard what she was telling me. He died of lung and bone cancer, which they didn’t even know he had until he went to the emergency room with breathing difficulties. He never came back out of the hospital. He was a character, and I will miss him, but I hope he is finally at peace. RIP, Brad. . .