Southern Fried Inspiration

photo-LeeSometimes despite doing the right thing, life can still serve up a good ass whopping. Lately it seems I’ve been the recipient of a multi point pincer assault. When this happens I retreat to a chicken restaurant in the hood, HAMPTON’S.

It’s not the comfort food that buoys me, but the waitress who serves me my southern fried chicken. She is a middle aged woman with one arm. When I first met her I tried not to study her and her technique too intensely, that would have been rude. I did observe her tucking her order pad under what remained of her left arm. She maneuvered her heavy silver tray more adeptly than Mercury handled his discus. I thought there are so many other things this lady could do, but she chose to be a server, and a superb one at that. I never have to ask for a refill of my unsweetened ice tea, she instinctively knew when I was thirsty. When I want to pay for my meal, I never need a search party for her or my tab.

Even the best of us can be occasional bellyachers. There are legions of us who blame life’s problems on everybody else but ourselves (and our dubious choices). There are also inspirational folks who not only talk the talk but walk the walk (sometimes with a heavy tray of chicken, biscuits, and collard greens ). In this life you can meet some remarkable people in unremarkable places.

What the H••• Did I Do?

Facebook can be cool. I recently reconnected with a gal I knew from high school, Mary. She lives in a great community New Smyrna Beach, seven minutes away. We both mutually asked,”What brought you here?” In a sickening chorus, Mary and I chuckled and answered, “I followed my kids!” When I moved to Florida in 2008, my friend Sona yelped, “My God Lee, you are entirely too young to be moving to Florida!”

As a New Yorker, I had roots. I grew up on Long Island and lived in the beautiful Finger Lakes for fourteen years. Florida is a transient state and I’ve bolstered that demographic. In my short three year tenure, I have resided in four places. This last year was truly a halcyon one. I moved into a condo on the Intracostal that had been vacant for three years.

My new apartment was fifteen minutes further from work, but I could live with that. Each time I crossed the bridge named for a dead congressman, I felt as if I was going on vacation. Even when I came home late it was a visual delight looking at all the hotels and condos bathed in lights. When I slid open my patio door, the Intracostal was on full three dimensional display. Manatees slowly navigated by, fish flopped, pelicans soared, and the breeze, always briny. I had a box seat for the most incredible sunsets to boot.

Like many seaside romances, this one was fleeting. The real estate mis-management company informed me at the eleventh and a half hour that the condo was for sale and when my lease was up in less than thirty days, so was I. One of my first friends here, Gary, is a fellow New Yorker. I call him the Donald Trump of house flipping in 55+ communities. He showed me a two bedroom / two bathroom furnished home that I could purchase not for a song, but for a few musical bars. All I technically needed to move in was a toothbrush. As a salesman, I sniffed a hyperbole laced pitch, but it was true. My brother was visiting from Maine at the time and enthusiastically said I’d be insane to pass on this opportunity, he dug the simplicity of it all. Impulsive I ain’t, but I went for it.

I moved last Thursday. On Thursday night at 7:30 I muttered to myself, What the hell did I do?” I tried to bolster my decision and did a Ben Franklin close on myself. The positive side of the sheet was sparse, I listed: 1) lower cost of living, 2) no paternity suits, 3) no mortgage. There are a myriad of activities here – zumba classes, water aerobics, ice cream socials, bus trips for meds to the CVS, and walker races. I live on a quiet cul de sac, the operative word being quiet. The silence was beyond deafening. My former neighbors downstairs were surfers, my new ones shuffle boarders. On Friday I met Gertrude, a retired nurse. She was at Clara Barton’s side aiding wounded soldiers at Gettysburg. At age 57, I am the youngest single man in this community. Gary has crowned me the “Casserole King.” A stream of delightful ladies have graciously welcomed me and left a mountain of casseroles and baked goods. I had to create an excel spread sheet to solve the Pyrex return dilemma.

I like my music and was happy when Wes Borland rejoined Limp Bizkit. I played their new album at a very high volume and was the only resident that heard it (since many here use hearing devices). Last night I reheated a casserole and enjoyed it in my screened porch. The mature palm trees that frame my simple home swayed like nature’s wind chimes.

On my day off I planted lime, grapefruit, and fig trees. It was good to reconnect with the earth again. Then I hung my sheets on my clothes line. They snapped rhythmically in the breeze. I went to a Christmas party that night and met many lovely folks. There was a wealth of experience, interesting stories, and knowledge in the room. The big mystery was how could a young kid like me even be eligible to live in a 55+ community?

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago when I was playing Pink Floyd in my dorm room? I hear a knock on the door and see another generous neighbor with yet another covered dish.

On-line Dating Blues

For me, the world of internet dating has been an odyssey for sure. I didn’t start at the shoreline, gingerly walking out into the surf. I galloped like a race horse and plunged right in from the Steel Pier.

I tried to be accurate with my description and images for my profile. The first lady I met was very pleasant. She described her body type as – ATHLETIC. Not to be unkind, but it was a bit of an embellishment. I think she probably meant she was a fan of the Oakland Athletics (baseball team). I was next hijacked by a number juggler at an Italian restaurant. Her profile said 57, she was closer to 75. Her profile picture was probably captured by famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.

The hobbies some of these gals had were a bit intimidating – surfing, lobster diving in the Keys, sailing, mountain climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding. I immediately went to my profile and edited out playing horseshoes while smoking a stogie and drinking a warm Genesee Cream Ale. I confidently changed it to – fencing! A few of these delightful women had some grandiose expectations for a first date. One wanted to be jetted out to Napa Valley for lunch and wine! I countered with a box lunch and a narrated tour of Love Canal New York. Other ladies merely sought, “A man that can make me laugh.”I dusted off my vintage, Shecky Green mono albums for material to fine tune my comic chops.

I wasn’t much of a participant of the free love moment of the sixties and seventies. More than a few of my dates were too frisky, too soon. Glad I visited the locksmith to have my chastity belt altered. Another was possessive and jealous with a mere seven hours logged on our collective trip computer. She was like a heat seeking relationship missile, and I was thrilled I avoided her determined trajectory.

I’m not a great catch, but have a basic skill set and familiarity with manners. One date polished off beers like a Mid-Western fraternity pledge. She then cleaned food fragments with a mint flavored toothpick! I prudently opted out of the goodbye peck. Another gal wasn’t a conversationalist, she was a talker. The only dead air was when her fork was inserted into her mouthpiece. Me, I replicated the dusty, spring loaded Eric Mould’s Buffalo Bill bobble head on my shelf, I did a lot of nodding.

I learned that the whole website is akin to a huge used car emporium. The site offers candidates that, “want to meet you.” A good dialogue is usually established, and then the trail mysteriously goes dead. The prospects probably moved on to newer, sleeker models on the lot. I have to admit, I am guilty of this callous pattern as well.

In my short time on the sight it’s replicated a convention of unrequited love. That is life in general but there seems to be more urgency when one possesses an AARP card. I fell like a ton of bricks for the one I was convinced was “the one.” The only one, was the date, one and done, she ‘didn’t feel the spark.’ Her proclamation stung worse than an attack from a squadron of hornets. In the affairs of the heart, bless all the seekers stepping up at the plate (as opposed to the vanquished warming up a TV dinners alone). To me the process is akin to the beachside treasure seekers with their metal detectors. I am confident that with perseverance and optimism, I’ll find my elusive treasure.