Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh Mighty, Mighty!

Some time before we left Florida Tim predicted that towards the end of our tenure in San Francisco he would want to stay and I would want to go back - exactly the opposite of how it was when we left. I hated, I mean - hated - living in Florida. As it is with most things, hindsight is a different view. There are some things that miss so much: afternoon thunderstorms, good BBQ, leisure, and sushi bowls. Then I think about it more carefully and realize that when/if I leave here I will miss things like the vast abundance of organic produce, independent businesses, beautiful wine and the sound of the fog horns. Part of me wonders if we could live there again and another part of me thinks that we could live anywhere. Bloom where you are planted.


One thing I do love about Florida are the oak tress - grand and sprawling - with Spanish moss dripping sweet and thick from the branches.

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How unfortunate that oak trees, as fate would have it, make my poor firstborn baby girl look like this:

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One trip to the pediatrician (thank God my MIL networks) and some antihistamines later she was back to hanging out with her new best friend, Poochie, the cat. Poochie was high on mothers little helper = diazepam the entire time so he was exceedingly tolerant of her and she thought it was absolutely fantastic!

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What extra sucks is that she wanted to be outside literally ALL.THE.TIME. Like she discovered something intoxicating and new. Riding in the car or feeding the fish - she was in heaven either way. 

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Tim and I headed off to Gainesville on Tuesday. We had business to take care of but mostly this was pleasure. We had intended for the drive to be a time to get some of our 2011 goals hammered out but we didn't do that. We were looking mostly at the sky. 

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Bottom: heading north into Payne's Prarie


And the billboards.  

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And good BBQ:

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You wouldn't know it from the picture above, but I ran out of digits upon which to count pick up trucks and SUV's. I would say that there were about 1000% more large vehicles in this parking lot than all of the parking lots in all of San Francisco, and that might be accurate given that, first, I'd have to find a parking lot in San Francisco.
I scuffed through the sand and dried leaves of this parking lot. We walked in to Sonny's and the temperature was just as I remember. Dixie Chicks were piped in to the bathroom. It's my guilty secret: when I miss FL I play country music right there in the heart of San Francisco. The flourescent lights reflected on the terra cotta tiles. There was a waitress with an outstanding mullet and rivets on the pockets of her jeans.

When I got back from the bathroom, Tim had 2 beers waiting. Damn. I tell you this - beer in a frosty mug really, truly, honest-to-God is so much better than anything. 

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I salivated over the menu. I toyed with the idea of taking home some BBQ sauce. I wanted one bite of everything. See, San Francisco is amazing at most culinary ventures. But the thing about this city is that people here don't know when to stop tinkering with a good thing. It's BBQ!! Leave it alone - it is absolute perfection by definition. San Franciscans have to try to curry the BBQ sauce or make it healthy or skimp on the sides. It's just lame and disappointing. So when I find good BBQ I will eat until I am absolutely sick. In this case, it took 2 beers, 3 ribs, and 1 french fry to satisfy me. 

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Once in Gainesville, I visited my favorite haunts while Tim visited his. We met up later to check in to the hotel. Now, I like hotels. Nice hotels. I like the color-coordination and that everything is clean. I like to explore the room - open the drawers, see what little welcome things have been left around. Keeping with my exploration, I love to check out the view. I threw open the curtains and raised the blinds. Then I laughed out loud. The gorgeous Gainesville skyline ain't got nothing on San Francisco:

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The tallest structure - all the way in the back? Yeah, that's the football stadium. Gainesville has it's priorities in order.


The rest of the night was spent trying to find a good glass of wine. It didn't matter that we couldn't find one as there were tight, long hugs between friends, buffalo tempeh, and tuna tacos. Very precious little matches being in the company of people you love. Matt and I met for french toast in the morning while Tim went to do his own thing. I love talking with Matt - he has a way of distilling the information so that emotion becomes logic. I love that. And I need that from this friend of mine. In addition to the valued conversation I managed to get the chef to give up the recipe for nutritional yeast salad dressing. Wrinkle your nose in disgust if you must but this stuff is so good that I could drink it from the blender. If you tasted it you would be super jealous that I had the recipe and you didn't. Then I would share it with you.


Back in Tampa, we played the rest of the trip easy and slow. Instead of driving over the whole state like we normally do, we asked people to come to us. One day we took a drive down to the power plant. I know what you might be thinking, but in a brilliant PR move they have turned it into an environmental education opportunity. See, the power plant make the bay water quite warm, which attracts manatee. Even though Tim and I have snorkeled with the manatee in Crystal River on a few occasions, we were still tickled to see them in person again.


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Each little blip on the surface of the water is a manatee back. There were hundreds.


Ada was perfectly non-plussed about the manatee but she did enjoy being outside and going into the little education area.


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A few reasons I love this coast:

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Left: one ray. Right: school of rays.

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The past few times that Ada has met with Grandpa Steve, she has been terrified of his moustache. In fact, he last time Judy and Steve came to San Francisco, Steve fell asleep on our couch - Ada took the opportunity to line up some toys around him but that was as close as she would get. This time, Steve had a clear directive: to make his granddaughter like him. What better way to a girls heart than ice cream? They are best friends now. 

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Tim and I had a date. We went to Bern's Steakhouse. Lord! If ever you are in Tampa, it's worth a visit even for a vegetarian. The campy lobby of this historical culinary spot reminds me of Transylvania - right up to the crushed red velvet banister of the stairs - but it defies what lie beyond. The wine list reads like a novel and the cellar nearly made we weep. But the best, the very best was the dessert room. You get a private booth constructed of old, dark wood slates and glass in which to have dessert. There is an old box on the side where you can push the button 8-track style and with a loud click we got to listen to great 80's tunes (Chaaaange....and of course, you said you'd stand by me in the middle of chapter three) while we had, what I swear, was the most beautiful treat ever: strawberry shortcake with rhubarb ice cream. I'm not lying. The coffee? Save me - it was to-die-for. Tim presented me with a beautiful pair of earrings and we felt romantic. We will go back to Bern's. Should have known it would be a good night. This was the sunset we drove into as we left for our date

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Now then, the soul-searching was revealing and fruitful. I'll have more to say about this in a bit. For today, I am here. I walked home last night with Cowgirl Creamery cheese purchased from the Ferry Building in one hand and a bottle of wine from the corner wine shop in the other. The setting sun was reflected off the west-facing houses lining Ashbury Street creating brightness and beauty in a way that only San Francisco can pull off. The voice in my mind proclaimed that much as I love Florida now that I don't live there anymore, I think I'm growing into this city I live in now. How lovely to just be where I am. Bloom where you are planted.


1 Lovies:

Serendipite said...

While I am not necessarily close or visit that often, I would miss you if you moved back to Florida. Maybe you should look at Seattle :) I am still working on my husband to move!