Florida Day 8

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Today was Ma’s birthday. (For the life of me, I never know how old she is. I’m terrible with people’s ages in general — I just judge them by the condition of their skin. I know she is in her 40s and her skin isn’t terribly wrinkled or covered in age spots, so I’m guessing either 43 or 44. I hope that’s right.) I, again, bought the perfect gift: a beautiful edition of Dickens Great Expectations, because she has always talked about this book and kept saying Miss Havisham for some reason the other day, so, I knew it would be the most thoughtful and considerate gift she would receive this year, and it was.

After Ma opened up her gift from me, I went out to the beach to get a bit of tanning in for the day. I will never understand how people do this. I am bored in five minutes. It is so mind-numbing to sit there, knowing you are allowing cancer rays into your body, when you could be doing something productive like reading a book or retiling a bathroom. I’ve never done that, but I always think it would be fun. I found a website full of pretty patterns for hexagonal tiles and another site that sells replicas of the tiles in the Parisian Metro. When I design my house, it is going to be one sexy place, let me tell you.

After a spell, the rest of the family came out and we all walked along. I picked up shell after gorgeous shell, they were really splendid this year. The last time we were on the beach there were none. I never knew that shelling was a seasonal sport. Jessica found a sea friend and promptly killed it by shouting, “He is my Franco and I love him,” and then refusing to return him to the sea. By the time we had told her the various reasons he wasn’t coming home with us, he was dead — just lying there on the wet sand. It was rather sad, but this isn’t the first time Jessica has slaughtered animals out of love.

Everybody on the beach is hideous. I hope all of the pretty people are at their job or in the city somewhere, because if this is a true representation of the population, then I’m going to be some kind of god-like Adonis if I ever move.

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This is my MyFace profile parody picture. Jessica should be proud.

On the way out of the water and to the room, we met two crazy ladies who looked exactly like Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. They weren’t, of course, I would have surely dropped dead on the sand if it had been. They had a poodle dressed up in a bikini and it was just so ridiculous!

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After some time walking up and down the beach, it was time to go the Harvest Festival at Mixons. I was excited to see this, assuming it would be quaint and mildly cultural. I was very wrong, it was like a magnet bringing all the freaks and the carnies of the world together to one little orange grove. I have never seen so many hillbillies in one place, even in Nashville there are classier people!

There were stalls selling crap, other stalls selling junk, and a few others selling shit. It was the most ridiculous assortment of nonsense that I have ever seen. I was delighted, of course, watching the hill folk run about buying shark’s teeth and cloth covers for their generic-brand Kleenex boxes. Then, there was a small amusement park. You could go on something that claimed it was certified for astronaut training at NASA. I doubt this. It was hand powered and looked incredibly dangerous. There was a miniature pony ride that had full grown people riding on it. It seemed cruel. There was also an inflatable jumping thing, I don’t know what they’re called, which popped with children inside. You could hear their squeals as the plastic deflated and fell on top of them. I was amused.

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Ma, Pa, and I all wanted to go on the tour of the grove, as we had planned on doing a few days ago. Jessica, being herself, thought there could be no punishment worse so she thought she would stay inside. Little did she know that we would be gone for an hour seeing adorable animals.

After the trolley was filled to probably ten percent of its capacity, we were off. I was impressed with how terribly ugly the trees look, they are tiny and very unattractive. I never knew! They have also hybridized a kind of tree that grows lemons, oranges, and grapefruits all together on the same tree. If you just wet yourself, you’ve had a pretty similar reaction to me. Could there be anything better? Getting one!

We learned about all the different kinds of frost prevention, which I found very interesting. Before electricity, orange farmers would burn a pile of wood between each tree to keep the fruit from freezing. When diesel fuel was more accessible, they started to burn this. The smoke from the diesel hung in the air like a black cloud of death. It was warm, though, and created a secure barrier against the cold. Then when electricity came they began using windmills low to the ground. This was my favorite one. The wind produced would shake the leaves and by the power of kinetic energy, the plants couldn’t freeze! Genius. Nowadays, though, there are little tubes that look like sprinklers that shoot out a fine mist of warm water that keeps the fruit from freezing.

After this lesson, we got off the train to see the animals. There was a baby deer that loved people who lived with a hen. It was probably the cutest thing ever. The deer would run up to the fence to say hello, the chicken not far behind, clucking merrily. We then saw a blonde raccoon, something I didn’t even know existed, but immediately fell in love with. I mean, it’s a blonde raccoon! There were skunks that had their “gas glands” removed. They reminded me of silky cats. I want one. There was a friendly pig who had been caught running down the streets of Bradenton. Wouldn’t that be something to see? We met the tiniest owl I have ever seen, he was probably the size of your fist. Then a hawk. Then a friendly lizard. And then, a fifty-year old tortoise who attacked grass like it was going to disappear if he didn’t get it. The host let children sit on top of the tortoise for pictures, and my innate PETA came out a bit, but I didn’t say anything. It just seemed rude.

After the tour of the animal conservation site, we were taken back to the gates, where a drunk woman with a large glass of white wine leapt on board, crying, “Where y’all goin’?” It was great.

By the time we got back, Jessica was super pissed, but we were so used to that attitude, that we didn’t really notice a difference. She demanded to have some fudge and I got a muffin, then we left.

I ate a few bites of the muffin on the way back into town, and it was really good, it was orange flavored and studded with cranberries. I don’t think I had ever had a cranberry before that, and I will have to add them to my list of things to eat.

We were going to go to Columbia’s in St. Armand’s Circle to celebrate Ma’s birthday. She had been talking curiously about this place ever since we had gone there a few nights ago for bread, so I only assumed she would enjoy trying it out. (Good Lord! I was wrong again. Today was not a good day for my intuition.)

The ambiance was elegant and refined, just the way I like it, if a bit over the top. Our waiter’s name was Jesus and he unfolded my napkin for me, he did the same for Pa, but not for Ma nor Jess. I don’t know what that was about, this custom was not familiar to me, and I know fancy.

Ma did what she does at restaurants and refuses to make up her mind. I do not understand this particular trait of hers, she just cannot make a decision about what she is going to eat. Instead, she will spend the time pulling on her earlobe. Take her somewhere new and watch — it’s fun! While we were all reading the menu, Jesus brought us each an individual piece of bread wrapped in parchment paper and a little butter dish that was absolutely adorable.

I ordered the black bean soup for an appetizer and the cheese and truffle ravioli for my main course. Pa got something with cheese. Jess got two different kinds of crab cakes. Ma finally decided on bacon-wrapped shrimp. They both ordered a salad as well because Pa didn’t know any better and assumed it came with the meal.

The house salad was known as the 1905 Salad, and is supposedly the same recipe that was used at the original Columbia restaurant in Miami. It was fun to watch Jesus mix the oil and vinegar together and toss it up, then evenly portion it out. Ma tried to like it, I think, but she is pickier than anybody I know, so she didn’t like it. I enjoyed my soup, even if it was lacking something. I don’t know what it was, but it needed some kind of kick. Jessica made a retching sound when she looked at it, so I’m sure she thought it looked like menstruation. She says that all the things I eat look like something vile. She isn’t all that classy.

The main courses came and I loved it! The portion sizes were absolutely perfect. It reminded me of meals in France — you get just enough food to fill you up, not stuff you like a suckling pig. The raviolis were delicious and the truffles, which was the first time I’d had them as well, were lovely. I enjoyed every bite.

I ordered an espresso for my dessert and it really wasn’t good. It tasted like Cafe Bustelo, which is a really cheap coffee blend for espresso that you can get at Walmart. It came with a slice of lemon, but that couldn’t salvage it. It just wasn’t good. The bill was about a hundred dollars and we left.

Jessica wanted to get some ice cream from the Häagen-Dazs shop so she got some of that. There were paintings by a local artist on the walls. I’m not usually a fan of modern art, but this was absolutely beautiful, and simple, and I’m going to do it myself one day. It cannot be hard. I mean, it wasn’t anything a child couldn’t do, and what is the difference between a painting by a child and a painting meant to look like a child’s painting?

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I bought a few more basil macarons, because I’m crazy about them, and a Nespresso just to see if it was good for when I open my bakery. It was. Nespresso is just divine! I know that it goes against everything I stand for ecologically and economically, but you can rarely top a cup of Nespresso.

Then, when Ma and I were alone, she exploded. I guess she had hated every moment of her meal. I had no idea, she seemed to be amusing herself well enough, even if she had stripped the bacon off her shrimp with that face she makes when she sees “green things.” She accused me of ruining her meal because I had expressed an interest in the restaurant. Sorry, Lady, but you were the one who picked up the menu and read it again and again, saying how you thought people would like it. Blaming me for your preferences is completely unacceptable and I was righteously pissed off and went to pack my bags, as we were leaving the next day. I’m still rather upset by it all.

I watched the latest episode of 30 Rock in the darkness with a big pile of chocolate chips and then went to bed, already over it, as I don’t believe in anger. My disbelief in negativity always seems to get me into trouble. Earlier today, when Jessica was moaning about her near death with the shingles, I told her to think positively and they would go away. Everybody yelled at me for that. I mean, if you keep saying, “I have the shingles! Doom!” Your body gets the message and does what you say. If you convince your mind you are at the prime of your life, you will be. Don’t just take my word for it, there are books upon books and studies by all kinds of boards that have come to the same conclusion. Anyway, in the same way I don’t believe in illness, I don’t believe in anger. So, my terrible flare up with my mother was quickly forgotten as I laughed at Liz and Jack on 30 Rock. I love that show.

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