It’s pretty easy most of the time to figure out that you are not in Maine anymore, Toto, as you wander around the great and sunny state of Florida.
Take Famous Dave’s.
That Route 41 emporium is the closest bar to the Red Sox baseball park in Fort Myers which offers 99-cent drafts in chilled mugs. After a long ballgame in 83-degree heat, you need to restore your electrolyte balance, after all.
Seeing that we have a gourmet cook back at the Lehigh Acres condo, we usually limit the Famous Dave’s order to snacks only. I was stunned to see a couple across the bar get a meal delivered in the top lid of a metal trash can. Honest to God.
This is Dave’s “All American BBQ feast,” and includes — get this — a full slab of St. Louis-style spareribs, a whole chicken, half of either a Texas beef brisket or Georgia chopped pork, Famous Fries, Wilbur beans, four ears of corns and four corn muffins. Serves two, the menu says. How about 40 to 50? Cost? $34.99. Unless you want even more (gasp!) for 4-5 gluttons; then it’s $59.99.
Dustin Hansen, the Famous bartender, explains that when Famous Dave Anderson started out, he barbecued in 55-gallon trash barrels (how appetizing) and used the covers to serve the food. For your information, Anderson is a native American who has served several presidential task forces as a business adviser.
Everywhere in Florida, there are alligators. Quite rare in Maine. One gator walked into a Fort Myers house last week. The answer to concerns from Mainers is always the same: “They won’t bother you.”
Personally, I find this hard to believe. Far out on the Tamiami Trail is an outpost called Everglades City, the spiritual home of gators. When we were directed to a certain side road to see a few hundred reptiles, we were startled to see RVs backed right up to the creek. One hearty and hardy camper erected a tent (a tent!) within 60 feet of the gator creek. I wanted to talk to this pioneer, naturally, but no one was home.
Maybe the gators got him.
For the benefit of Maine tourists, NASA organizes shuttle launches just to spice up those Florida nights. Three nights, the Maine crew stood in the Lehigh Acres night to watch this phenomenon. Three times NASA canceled the liftoff, something about leaking fuel. The fourth attempt went off without a hitch and, naturally, we forgot all about it, heavily immersed in another gourmet meal on the lanai (porch).
Maybe next time.
No matter what state you travel, sexism prevails. Women can travel in bunches and no one questions their sexuality. But assemble a group of white-haired men without female companions and the questions fly.
“Where are the women?”
Fashionably Bohemian Bob and I spent St. Patrick’s Day at Ichabod’s Restaurant in Fort Myers, where we watched Ireland’s Screaming Orphans, a riotous band of sisters. We were beguiling (we thought) a Cleveland woman during the concert when she asked, “Are you two partners?”
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Then we decided to drive the 5,000-mile (seemed like it) trip to Key West when the Red Sox actually took a day off. On the Internet, I got a room at the fabulous Ocean Point hotel in Key Largo. We were stunned when we got there at the waterfront location, expansive room with a water-view veranda and Olympic swimming pool.
“This is the most romantic place I have ever stayed at, “ Bohemian Bob complained. “And I am here with you!”
Some people are never satisfied. In truth, if I was looking for a man, I could do a lot better than Bohemian Bob.
Naturally we had to go to Sloppy Joe’s, the famous Hemingway hangout, since I am convinced I am his twin. Instead of getting cheered, I was totally ignored at the joint since a dozen other impostors were there on the same night.
A hilariously obscene duo, Pete and Wayne, who claimed to have played Old Orchard Beach, played to an overflow audience, the majority of which claimed to come from Maine.
Pete and Wayne performed the Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline,” with lyrics that would have made Tipper Gore pass out cold. But the audience, young and old, chimed in for the ribald chorus.
I can never hear “Sweet Caroline” again without thinking of Pete and Wayne.
One of the last Florida nights was spent in Fort Myers Beach, at a waterfront grill with pelicans overhead dive-bombing fish like it was Pearl Harbor and a family of dolphins sliding along close to the beach.
Pelicans, dolphins and a 75-degree night at the beach. We are not in Maine anymore, Toto.
But I can’t stop wondering about that guy in the tent by the gator farm.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.