Thursday, December 29, 2022

A Day In The Life

I think I’ll go to Paris next year.  Not the one in Kentucky or the other one in Texas, the real one in Europe where people speak French and snub outsiders.  Both my sisters and most of my friends have been there and tell me it’s the bees’ knees, and I have viewed all the appropriate Woody Allen movies, so I think I’m ready.

I’m a little worried about the language, it’s very oily.  I took two years of Spanish in high school, so when I go to Mexico I’m in good shape.  I can read all the signs, tell people what I want and even understand them if they talk pretty slow.  But I wouldn’t know merde from shinola in French.  How do I order an apple fritter or tell a woman I’m impressed with her assets?  How do I find the bathrooms?  Is it Uber or Ubaire?  If I start singing “There was an emperor, Napoleon…he never heard a nickelodeon,” will French people get pissed off?  Maybe I’d be better off with a tour, where the management can bail you out of jail if you slip up.

I might gain some weight.  The food, as they say, is to die for and if you eat enough of it that’s just what you might be doing.  It’s practically impossible for me to pass a bakery, especially if the door is open and the odors are wafting outside.  My wife might be even worse than me.  Her philosophy has always been to eat dessert before the entree (there’s one word I know) just in case there’s an earthquake or a sudden societal uprising and you have to flee the restaurant.  It’s easier to take your lemon meringue (see, there’s another one) pie with you than to haul off the pate de foie gras (I’m on a roll!  Or is it a baguette?). 

I might meet my friend Danny Levine on the Left Bank, wherever that is.  Danny’s been around, he’s very cosmopolitan.  If some pseudo-intellectual Frenchman gets snooty with him, he’ll jump right up and ask him some fancy questions about the French Renaissance and the wise guy will put his hands to his forehead and go skulking off into the shadows.  Danny knows where all the good stuff is in Paris and how to frustrate the pickpockets.  We can even visit 83-year-old Gilbert Shelton if he’s still sentient.  Gilbert and fellow-cartoonist Robert Crumb both moved there decades ago to bathe in the adulation of comics-loving Parisians.  Luckily for them they haven’t made any wisecracks about Muhammad, so nobody’s shot them yet.

And I don’t care what anyone says, I’m going to the Eiffel Tower.  I may even go to the top.  I’ve heard all the yahooing about the place being an overcrowded tourist trap, but how do you go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower?  You come home and people ask how you liked the famous landmark and you say, oh, I skipped it and went to a drag show matinee at Boas ‘R’ Us instead.  They’ll think you’re a pagan, a Neanderthal, a cultural bumpkin.  Nobody wants that.  When you travel to France, of course, there are also certain expectations placed on you by the folks back home, like photos from the cheese caves, pictures of you dancing naked on a table at the Moulin Rouge, small trinkets from the Louvre, and air shipments of exotic pastries from Boulangerie Utopie.  It’s all so galling.

Maybe I’ll go to Lithuania instead. 

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

My friend Will Thacker is coming to visit today.  This is always an adventure.  Will likes to take “the back roads” through the wilderness and he usually gets lost and shows up an hour late, if at all.  Once, he got in a dustup with a homeless person at a boondocks gas station and arrived a little unkempt.  Say what you will about turnpike oases but this almost never happens at the Okahumpka Service Plaza.

The last time he arrived with Tudy Hanke, a wild woman from Tampa who had just damaged her leg in an urban bar fight.  A large piece of plastic from somewhere behind the bumper was dragging on the ground but Tudy was very blase about it, as if all cars had big wads of plastic dragging behind them.  Will being the ladies man he is, even at an advanced age, is subject to show up with all manner and make of people he has met at rattlesnake roundups and alcohol emporiums for senescent DJs.  Once he drove up with a heavily tattooed woman named Marge who liked the neighborhood so much she left him and set up shop in an abandoned railroad car in East Williston.  If you want a nice switch-blade with a smileyface on the handle, head for Levy County and look for the sign of the flying red cleaver.

We love Will, partly because he is one of the few remaining Gainesville Originals of the 1960s and 70s.  In those days, he was an infamous disc jockey called Montana who could get away with saying anything he wanted to on the air because his show was sponsored by rich joolery magnates and the nookular fission industry.  Thacker also ran a serpentarium called The Underground Zoo, which was barely legal.  When he got bored, he would talk nice local girls into accompanying him on snake-hunting journeys to exotic places like Rangoon, Bimbombay and the scary Ilha de Queimada Grande, returning with scads of smuggled reptiles which he would stash in his clothes closets.  Needless to say, in those days, nobody would go to Thacker’s house for dinner.

Will is older now and maybe a little wiser.  He stays closer to home, maintains less than a dozen snakes and has moved on to more genteel women who have no extensive police records.  He hums about in a little vehicle he calls The Phoenix, explores the wilds of metropolitan Clermont, carries a boxcutter around homeless ruffians and has been the subject of only one Silver Alert in the past four months.  He said he was bringing along a nice lady friend called The Spider.

Lemon Tree, Very Pretty, But….

“If you see me comin’, better step aside.  A lot of men didn’t and a lot of men got lemoned.”---W.T. Killeen

Once upon a time, an eager young girl planted a Meyer lemon tree on her property and nothing happened.  A few years went by with no fruit, but the girl and her family admired the healthy-looking tree and wrote off the failed experiment as just one of those things.  But then one day, a visitor spotted a tiny lemon in the upper branches, and then another.  Before long, the tree was swimming in healthy, growing lemons, far too many for the family to use, and the girl began giving them away willy-nilly, loathe to see any of them reduced to fallen pulp.  Neighbors got lemons, distant relatives got them in the mail, Fedex drivers were gifted with yellow fruit, repairmen and landscapers and Jehovah’s Witnesses were victimized.  But it still wasn’t enough.  More lemons fell to the ground, perished in the dust, causing great consternation for the members of the lemon tree family.  There was only one thing to do; call in Bill, Incorporated, sometimes know as “The Dispenser.”

“Have Caddy, Will Travel” reads the card of a man.  On daily trips, The Dispenser carries with him Fruit of the Infinite Tree.  Pharmacists receive them in plastic grocery bags, bank tellers see them slide into their deposit windows, street people rush up to greet The Lemon Man.  No one is immune, not the butcher, the baker or the Los Angeles Laker.  The Delivery Man roars up to the ATM machine, leaps out, smiles, hands the customer a bag and says, Here, you’ll be needing these!”   Who was that masked man, the recipients wonder in awe, staring at their golden bullets.

Needless to say, if there is a dire lemon shortage in your neck of the woods you should immediately rush up to your roof and turn on the Lemonsignal.  Relief is just a swallow away.  Or you could call 352-lem-onad(e).  Our operators are standing by.

How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm After They’ve Seen WEC?

Siobhan and I had dinner at Stirrups restaurant in the grandiose hotel at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala the other day.  It’s lovely to look at, delightful to hold, even when they spill champagne on you.  The waiters replaced our $11 glasses of bubbly with the $65 stuff in atonement, as if we’d know the difference.  The hotel, majestic as it is, surrounded by enormous Christmas decorations and fronted by the Grand Arena, a 145,000 square-foot equine playpen (almost twice the size of your average soccer field), is but a single part of this far-ranging Metropolis.

The WEC is a world-class facility, the largest equestrian complex in the United States situated on 378 acres of state-of-the-art arenas and luxury accommodations, with another 300 acres set aside for future expansion.  They have a laundry on the property that is bigger than a blimp factory.  The Center is like a Plaza Hotel for horses, who show up from everywhere for equine competitions of every description.  You remember the old saw about anticipation always exceeding actuality?  Uh-uh, not this time.  Whatever someone tells you about this place, it’s more awe-inspiring than that.  Don’t care about horses?  Makes no difference.  It’s worth your time just to drop in, walk around the massive grounds surrounding the main arena, grab a pizza and take a gander at the Christmas decorations.  If you are horsy, you can shop in any one of the several equine-flavored shops, just remember to get a loan from the bank before setting out. There are also two monster-sized exposition centers on the property, each big enough to house huge conventions, auto shows or ten volleyball games at the same time without crowding anybody.

The 248-room Equestrian Hotel, which opened in 2021 cost a piffling $800 million to build, and it looks like it.  The interior is stunning, the ultimate in posh.  The builders of WEC, Mary and Larry Roberts, make Scrooge McDuck look like Ebeneezer.  The cost to construct the entire facility is unimaginable and will take decades, if ever, to reclaim.  Maybe the Roberts gang knows something we don’t know, such as the likelihood of eventual casinos.  Maybe they have endless money to burn and a wild desire to expand forever.  Who cares?  The result of their madness is a colossal island of extravagant beauty and wonder, a magic land for everyone from small children to ancient citizens looking for a lively after-dinner stroll.  And better yet---no Towers of Terror, no upside-down roller coasters or Haunted Mansions to give you frantic acid flashbacks.

“Come, let’s mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks or umbrellas in their mitts.  Puttin’ on the ritz!”

That’s all, folks….