…funk for the old soul…


Posted by crowbiz on April 7, 2010

I relented.  Put the business empire on hold, canned a week of classes and agreed to drive two days down to a sentimental vacation spot.  Our destination was the panhandle coast of Florida, affectionately referred to as the “Redneck Riveria” (OK, not affectionately, and it’s probably really un-PC to use the term, but I like it and it’s my blog).  To be fair, the area is now called “the beaches of South Walton,” a term concocted sometime after we started visiting 17 years ago.  It’s a longish story, but the quick and dirty is that my brother used to live down here, maintained another house for friends and family, and we done spoilt ourselfs at a locale we could otherwise not afford to visit.  He’s no longer living here, so our last trip down was five years ago when the kiddies were but wee things, and that time we had to outrun an early season hurricane.  After much deliberation, Mr Crow and I chose to bite the bullet (read:  “pay”) for a place a tad away from the old haunt – then hit the road.

We rolled into the beaches blasting Cheap Trick and the Jackson 5, fueled by Slim Jims and giddy after 20+ hours on the road and the prospect of sand between our toes.  Nice house, quiet street, quick walk to the beach, miles of wide white sand, etc. – alright, no use throwing it in your face.  But what tickles me almost more than the sand is the realization of how we always stand apart in this neck of the woods.  Our Northern accents and fast gait are only part of it.

After passing a large neatly lettered homemade sign on a fence in Alabama reading “God Bless America, the Military and Fox News” I knew we had arrived, despite being still a hundred miles away from fantasy land.  The beach towns are clogged with every manner of vehicle named to connote maximum hugeness:  Yukon XL, Avalanche, Navigator Gigantus or some such, many with suspiciously fresh looking McCain/Palin stickers.  For those vacationers not mortified by driving a three year old car, there is the older “W” sticker.  Lots of Southern college sports stickers and decals for private schools and cheerleading teams.  As long as we were going to stick out like sore thumbs, I started wishing after a day or two that we’d gone over the top.  Our dorky orange Honda Element with New York plates is enough in itself, and the boys’ Bison Hockey decal helps (“Hockey?  That’s on ice, right?”), but I regretted not having an Apple sticker and our “Yes We Can” Obama window cling, which the boys appropriated for their treehouse window.  A “Coexist” bumper sticker would have been jimmies on the cupcake.

The place has changed, as expected.  Tons more people, particularly enormous roving bands of entitled suburban teens spending their parents’ money on $68 rubber flip flops and texting while walking blindly into Route 30A.  Tons more people (oh, did I already say that?  I meant to say TONS.)  Development is rampant.  Costs are up.  It’s easy to forget that you have a really lucky life when you find yourself thanking a shop proprietor for their outrageous prices.  It’s the kind of region where “the luxury of simple living” is a marketing line, and cloying folksy “Simple Abundance” placards dot the boutiques.  One of my favorite lines is a retort to this sentiment, written by David Brooks in his book “Bobos In Paradise:  The New Upper Class and How They Got There.” A paraphrase goes along the lines of, “…’Simple Abundance’… as opposed to, say, ‘Complicated Poverty?'”  But some things are consistent:  coiffed moms still wear Lilly Pultizer headbands, and many dads actually enter the beach wearing polo shirts tucked into belted chino shorts.  For our part, I spend 7-10 days in a sarong and Mr Crow in variably odd old-man plaid shorts.

Jellyfish galore. Guess who got stung?

Regular readers, you may wonder what draws us here if all I’m doing is a rip on the place, but even godless Democrats love a week at the beach.  Endless expanses of soft white sands, scrub oaks, oyster shell side roads, small town charm and speed and so on.  The towns may be jammed, but the beaches are wiiiiiide open.  Every person on the beach can have their own acre of space, but should you require more, I thought of a great solution.  Shouting “Jacob!  Emma!  Austin!  Gracie!  Time to go!”  would clear 97% of all children out.  That would leave us and a few locals.

Lest I get mushy and turn this into a stock piece for the chamber of commerce, I can offer a simpler glimpse into our affection:  SonWon is named after one of our favorite beaches here, which causes a bit of confusion when he meets people and has to re-repeat his name, then explain it; and SonToo was conceived here on our 2001 jaunt, most likely after a couple of unplanned rum drinks.  When reminded of this, Mr Crow exclaimed, “What?!  Oh right.  That could explain a lot.”

This relaxin’ is all fine, but it can’t last.  We have to restock the Slim Jims and drive back.

Deep in comtemplation: oyster or grouper po-boy?

3 Responses to “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N”

  1. Oh, that sounds like fun. I haven’t been to the Florida panhandle since I graduated from Auburn in 1976. I’d be in for a huge culture shock. Maybe my Texas license plates would fit right in… or not. You should add the coexist bumper sticker for your next trip. Thanks for the pics and a bit of a walk down memory lane!

  2. Ms. Crow,
    Honestly, you are an incredibly good writer. I really enjoy reading your prose. I’ve been reading for about a year now (I think that’s about four posts for you). You never cease to entertain. Having known you now half of my life, I can only hear your voice when I read these posts.

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