In search of a lost salt shaker

Or how I spent my summer vacation

Many of my readers have come to believe that my entire life is one big vacation. Not quite true, but there are times when I travel for the express purpose of enjoying myself. This past week was one of those times.

I began with a trip to the mountains. I ventured to Goody, Kentucky, on the Tug Fork River. Here I enjoyed the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon  This event is popular with the class of runners IMAG1328seeking to run a race in all 50 states as it crosses both KY and West Virginia. I’m not one of those, but I know one. Note the attached photo where the two feuding namesakes fire the starting guns.

Upon the completion of the event, I pointed my trusty car south for a marathon drive to Key Largo, Florida.

Maggie Ryan gave me one of her audio books, His Passionate Pioneer, to keep me stimulated on the long drive. She is such a dear to be so concerned for my mental fortitude. This tale of Maggiethe old west was of particular interest as I have just finished co-writing a Western with Savannah Rollins. In Maggie’s book, a new bride learns of love and domestic discipline along the Oregon Trail. She has many encounters across her husband’s knee as well as lessons in lovemaking. This is an exciting, fast-moving story that will hold any listener’s attention. Being an audio book, I feel compelled to mention the performer who read the story. Logan McAllister did a good job despite the drawback that the story was largely from the female perspective. He seemed a little confused with the timeline at the beginning of the story. That is, he seemed to be unaware of the flashback. {Yes, my description does sound odd.} And, the reader did have a bit less enthusiasm during the erotic scenes than other reader’s I’ve encountered. I don’t mean to express these as negatives. They were just impressions I noted.

Thank you, Maggie, for keeping me wide awake as I rolled down that long lonesome highway.

Arriving in the mid-afternoon the following day, I sought to see what had changed in Key Largo since my last visit, two years earlier. Those who have read my book The Naked Sea will recall my description of the marina-side restaurant: Coconuts. Well, this closed a few years ago, but I happily discovered that it has reopened under the name Skippers with much the same charm as the old haunt.

IMAG1335Here is a photo of the marina below the Tiki bar.

After enjoying their craft IPA on draft (that’s beer talk), I walked along the canal to my other favorite dive (there’s a pun here somewhere) – Sharkey’s. Ah, imagine my pleasure to discover that time had left this establishment untouched. The conch fritters were still the best to be had anywhere.

IMAG1336And this was where I ended my day.

In the morning, I walked to the water’s edge to watch the sun rise and then spent a few hours writing. Then, not wanting the noon hour to catch me without a beer buzz, I made the IMAG1338short journey to what is now called the Postcard Inn.

I had spent many joyful days staying in this resort in my youth when it was known as the Holiday Isle. This is where I come to enjoy cracked conch. Allow me to digress and say that conch used to plentiful and served most everywhere in the Keys. However, it is now rather rare and you have to go looking for it. The sweet-chewy meat is worth the effort. IMAG1339However, on this day it seemed that the cook dropped the salt shaker into the breading mix (Jimmy Buffet’s lost salt shaker perhaps?). To enjoy my lunch, I had to scrape off what I could of the breading. But the Rum Runner that I had for dessert met my expectation as it was unchanged from that I first had thirty years earlier.

Continuing my afternoon, I drove a few miles IMAG1341further south to what is perhaps my favorite haunt in the Keys: the Lorelei

Seeking to continue my bar hopping within crawling distance of my condo, I returned to Skippers. Here I befriended a talented musician playing reggae on a steel drum. I also met a delightful young woman who warmed my heart as she read her Kindle while sitting at the bar. What a woman! IMAG1342-1-1-1Unfortunately, she did not read romances. But she did read science fiction! Notice my two new friends in this photo.

I enjoyed the conch chowder and stayed until closing.

After my sunrise walk the following morn, I had breakfast at Sharkey’s and watched the scuba dive boats load-up before resuming to my writing. I was so engrossed in the plight of IMAG1343my characters that I almost worked past noon. However, I managed to get back to a barstool at the Lorelei in time to celebrate the peak latitude of the sun – ah, those changes in latitude! I shared some of my conch salad lunch with one of the locals, shown here. He begged for lettuce in the manner a cat would beg for a shrimp.

IMAG1347With a few hours left to kill, I did some more writing while waiting for the sunset cruise.

This is the best snorkel-boat ride in the Keys, and not to be missed by any visitor. Walking to the dock I followed the shapely bikini-clad bottom of what only I would call a young lady. As we arrived, seemingly together, the woman collecting the fares announced, “Here’s Daddy.”

Undaunted, I stepped up to the counter with my credit card as the woman behind me, and the two teenage girls waiting beside the counter, began a stammering explanation that I was not the father that they were expecting. The flustered clerk began an apology, then I told her that, “lots of women call me Daddy, but they usually preface it with: Sugar.” Hence forth, I was known as Sugar Daddy.

IMAG1349As always, I befriended several of my fellow sightseers. At first Bob was quiet and reserved. But as the voyage continued, and the pitcher of rum punch made a second circuit, this 82 year old radio comedian became the life of the party. His librarian wife was very interested in my writing, and was not the least put-off when I confessed to the erotic nature of my books. While an avider reader, her forty-plus daughter wanted nothing to do with sex stuff. Additionally, a delightful couple from North Carolina wanted the details of my books. She was excited to learn that my titles were available for her Nook. My librarian friend took a photo and I hope she remembers to email it to me. Perhaps I have some new fans.

IMAG1351And so we sailed into the sunset with our rum and conversation.

Feeling no pain, I returned to Sharkey’s with my adopted family (and their real Daddy). A female patron arrived and sat beside me (she smoked and I was along the exterior railing). Before long I learned that she had moved to the Keys a few months earlier and enjoyed the bar as much as I did. Four school teachers took possession of the adjacent table. The two mid-twenties women nearest me described how they were from Ohio and had landed in Miami only an hour earlier. I expected they had imbibed in the Keys a bit longer than an hour when one of them went to the restroom and ran smack into the sliding glass door (in full on cartoon fashion) when she returned.

IMAG1355Sharkey’s does not have a dance floor, but one couple decided to make the best use possible of the available space. It quickly became apparent that the young woman wore nothing under her skirt. Following my comment on the situation, one of my young lady companions observed, “With an ass like that, she doesn’t need underpants.”

I never imagine that any female fanny needs to be fettered. Thus, I agreed.

With my adventure complete, I was a hundred miles north when I next observed the sunrise. However, I had one more noteworthy encounter. While purchasing a grape Crush at a truck stop in Georgia, I was delayed while the clerk reloaded the self-serve hotdog bar. (If you have never been to a Love’s Travel Stop, you don’t know what I’m talking about). I was enjoying the opportunity to stretch my legs and told her, “Don’t worry, I’m in no hurry.”

Another patron arrived to wait with me. He was purchasing two of the hotdogs smothered with relish and mayonnaise. Observing that he had my attention, he explained that he put mayo on everything, but that his wife didn’t like the habit. I couldn’t imagine why his wife would care where he put mayo (where on his food, that is).

I explained, “Tuna salad is nothing more than tuna fish, relish, and mayo. So, what you have there is a tube steak salad sandwich that just hasn’t been mixed up yet.”

He enjoyed this comment and when the clerk returned, he insisted upon purchasing my beverage for me. Rather dumfounded, I thanked him profusely and he asked only, “Remember me in your prayers.”

Considering the violent weekend that had transpired in Orlando, my trek concluded with this evidence that there is still a great deal of humanity in this country of ours, and I’m glad of it.




One thought on “In search of a lost salt shaker

  1. Savannah Rollins

    Mark, this was such a fun, lovely account of your time away! I appreciate the mention of my name and our story. That was kind of Maggie to give you the audio book. You’re such a sweet, talented, amazing man 🙂 It’s nice to know you online. I’m glad you found new fans on the road.

    Liked by 1 person


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