Friday, January 4, 2008

The Sunshine State, Happy New Year, and Whatever

The kids and I spent last weekend in Florida with my parents, my sister, and my sister's family. We had a great time. I like Florida, at least for visiting. I probably wouldn't live there, but I might change my mind if I could find an affordable house with avocado and citrus trees. And an olive grove. But I'm pretty sure I couldn't find that. Florida seems to me to be all sprawl whenever I go there.

The phallic symbol (I see them everywhere) in the above picture was at an electric plant near Apollo Beach. It's where you go if you want to see the manatees, who are attracted to the warmer water produced by the plant. Tampa Electric has turned the area into a Manatee Viewing Center. There's a small manatee museum, and a walkway out to where the manatees hang out. There's also some sort of museum of electric power, but no one goes to that. I'm sure that Tampa Electric is using the manatees to generate some good press, but the manatees don't seem to mind. The kids (mine and my sister's) had a good time there, and I was willing to suspend my cynicism until I saw this:

Apparently, pictures of not-so-young and not-so-fit guys wielding automatic weapons is considered reassuring rather than frightening by the Florida populace. Well, they did vote Republican. Sort of.

Among the other activities we enjoyed were a trip to the beach (bizarrely, there was fog covering the beach, but I didn't mind), a round of miniature golf (EFU beat me by one stroke), a trip to Chipotle (my sister and her brood had never been), and a trip to Mixon Fruit Farms. If you buy the tour at Mixon's, the guide tells you a few things about citrus, and then he takes you to see the animals. His main gig is to rehabilitate wild animals and return them to their proper environment, but the ones that can't be released in the wild end up in cages at Mixon's. The kids love this. Here's a picture of my nephew, wrapped in a python.

Apparently, this is the sort of thing you should only try with a qualified wildlife expert standing by. The guy in the hat (and his wife) sleep with a hybrid wolf that he's rehabilitating, so I think he qualifies. He didn't seem particularly troubled by the snake, but he did tell us that two Americans had been killed by their pet pythons last year. FYI (in case you ever come across my nephew wrapped in a python when my nephew isn't smiling), the best way to get a python off you is to pour a cup of ice water over it. If the python bites you and wraps himself around your neck, killing the python will not stop his nervous system from strangling you to death, but cold water will. So if you're going to be handling pythons, maybe do it next to the water cooler at the office.

I also learned at Mixon's that most Florida orange juice actually comes from Brazil. Apparently, even though Brazilian men are the hottest men on earth, their oranges are inferior. Mixon's fresh OJ was extraordinarily tasty, but the men I saw in Florida were mostly not so hot. There's some sort of cosmic balancing going on there.

Did you know that car rental agencies now charge $7/gallon if you return your tank less than full? I didn't, but now I do.

We left my parents' place around 3:15 on December 31. We drove across the state to the Melbourne airport, then flew back to BWI. We actually got home a little while before midnight, but we hadn't necessarily expected to, so NYE was a very low-key event for us. 2008 arrived anyway: go figure.

On New Years Day, b&c, fwp C., and I decided to catch a movie. After a truly ridiculous amount of back and forth, during which each of professed to be willing to see anything, we ended up going to b&c's choice, mostly because when he says that he'll see anything, he means that he'll go along and sulk if we don't see what he wants to see. So C. and I will go see Sweeney Todd (C.'s choice) this weekend, and I'll go see Atonement (I finished the book earlier this week. It was a pleasure to read something so intelligently written, but I found the ending annoying.) by myself sometime.

I do have to say that The Kite Runner (b&c's choice) was great. The action was gripping, and it was very moving. Two of the three of us (I won't say which two of us it was, but the two didn't include me, so you might be able to guess) got a little weepy at the end. It's worth seeing in the theatre: the cinematography is terrific, particularly in the kite-flying scenes. Also, I learned that the Taliban were not especially good people. Who knew?

I don't make a big deal over the new year. I appreciate any excuse for drinking sparkling wine, but January 1 mostly just means that I'm a month away from tax season. I would get into the whole thing a lot more if we could get rid of the ridiculous Gregorian calendar and return to marking time based on solar and lunar cycles. A lot of people think that my embrace of paganism generally and alternate calendars in particular comes from a desire to have more holidays and more sex. To which I reply: do you really want to be a part of the anti-holiday, anti-sex movement?

Anyway, I often get a bit lost in the doldrums right after the new year, and this year is no exception. It's a little like what happens right after you've had really great sex with a guy you find otherwise uninteresting. He's sitting there and talking to you, and you know that you had a really good time with him, but now you just wish he'd leave so you could get back to your book or go have a cheeseburger. You just have to wait it out for a bit, and then you're free of them (the guy and the doldrums). It's good to remember that you don't get the let down without first getting the lift up. And that it's not so hard to bounce back.


John said...

Welcome back, TED, and Happy New Year. You've been missed ... and not just by the submissive bottoms of Maryland!

D-Man said...

Sprawl is depressiing, no?

When I was 19, I swam with a manatee in the Keys and fed it lettuce. Such a gentle, beautiful creature - although it had really bad breath... Now I know that it is wrong to do so, as they become more endangered when they get close to humans. But then I was young and stupid (I was still pretending to be straight, riding around Key West on a pink moped with my girlfriend...)