Holiday Time In Fort Myers/Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?*

“I don’t know Doc, I just seem a little disoriented lately.  Maybe it’s the time of year?  Maybe I should stay away from the egg nog…”

–Notation in the files of Dr. Hugh Roebottom, Psychiatrist, on the recent session with Patrick Egan.


It’s a pretty Christmas wreath.  I’m looking a one of the prettiest plastic Christmas wreaths I’ve ever seen.  I snap a photo of it to include in my “How I Spent The Winter” slideshow on my website.  There is an iced coffee in my free hand.  The condensation from the plastic cup of iced coffee has covered my iPhone with drops of water.  It’s not easy taking pictures with an iPhone and a dripping plastic cup at the same time.

I turn around and snap another photo.

mall lot

The PA system at the Outlet Mall is playing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”.  I’m supposed to be seeing snow on the ground and happy shoppers with bundled children walking through the falling flakes.  Where are bundled children, the red scarves, the woolen caps and the bright blue mittens?  Where do the children make “snow angels”?


It’s not happening.

Then I remember.  I’m not in my hometown of Owego, NY, or shopping in Binghamton in a snow storm.  I even remember that I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a senior citizen.  Here, I’m surrounded by senior citizens, and golf carts and adult tricycles.  No, I’m in Fort Myers, FL trying to escape the cold and snow.  Thanksgiving is next week.  Soon it will be December.  Soon, it will be Christmastime.

I go up the steps to the boardwalk at the Outlet Mall to think things over.  This is a little surreal to me–being here this time of year.  Even just being in Florida, for me, is a bit out-of-character.  I have Celtic blood in my veins.  It’s thick and doesn’t do well in sub-tropical climates.

Sipping on my iced coffee gives me a chance to digest the last seventeen days since we parked and unhooked our r-Pod. In the shopping centers I’ve seen Salvation Army Santas in teal colored shorts and Hawaiian shirts ringing the little hand-bell.  At least they have a red fleece Santa cap on their heads.  (They must be sweating under that cap.)

This place called Florida, this place where the Bush/Gore drama played out years ago, this place where Disney and Spanish culture collide like a bad I-95 accident, is a study in contrasts.  There is profound beauty in the Mangrove swamps and mind-bending varieties of shells on Sanibel Island.  The mosquitoes bite and the sunsets amaze.  The ants crawl on the cement and the storks take wing alongside the herons and egrets.


At the same time, the RV resorts and hotels and private marinas have taken the rawness out of the landscape.  I did a Google search on local beaches–I found a list under the link of au natural.  Thinking this was a place where I could walk naked, without shame, along the shore, communing with nature like Adam.  I checked one particular beach on Sanibel.

“Are you joking?” said the guy who was tying up the trash from a can in the parking lot.

I found that au natural basically meant that attendants didn’t pick up the litter and the driftwood stayed where the falling tide left it.

Yes, it’s a different world here for a small town Yank like me.  I’m going to miss the bleak grey skies of Thanksgiving and the snow of Christmas.  Most of my friends from high school are retired now and many have moved to the Carolina’s or here, to Florida.  I can’t speak for them, but I suspect that leaving behind the snows of yesterday with all the attendant activities, was a little hard.  Maybe not.

I remember being in New York City years ago.  They had just finished filming a scene from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on 5th Ave. and 59th street.  The set was made to look like Christmas in New York, and the Hollywood magic worked.  When I saw the film later, I was totally convinced Macaulay Culkin was indeed in the city in the heart of winter.  In truth, the scene was filmed in July or August.  An entire corner of Central Park and the plaza in front of the Plaza Hotel was covered in fake snow.

On my drive back from the Outlet Mall to our RV resort, I turn on the clearest FM station I can find.  I expect something, some song, that speaks to me in mid-November.  Instead, I hear the song: “Have You Left The One You Left Me For?”, it was quickly followed by “I’m Old Enough To Know Better But Young Enough Not To Care.”

They were kind of catchy.

There will be no family gathering for dinner next Thursday.  There will be no Christmas parties for us.  We are going to exchange presents, but there will be no tree to decorate.  It’s hard to hang lights on a palm tree.

New Year’s Eve?  No noise makers or funny hats or those things you blow into and they unravel.  (I never knew what they were called).  We’ll be going to bed early with everything packed and road-ready for our departure from Siesta Bay Resort on New Year’s Day.

On Christmas Eve, when I wrap the gift I already bought for Mariam, I will be singing a song inside my head–to myself–to the memories of my childhood.  I’ll probably have a CD in our player of Bing Crosby holiday music, but it’s the music in my head that I’ll be listening to.

I don’t know about the PA system at the Outlet Mall, but I’ll be quietly singing: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

palm sunset

Happy Thanksgiving!

[* “Where are the snows of yesteryear?”]







The Postman Always Winks Twice


Sometime in the late 1990’s, my wife and I drove to Owego, NY to visit my aging father.  My mum had passed away in 1992, so my dad was living quietly and alone as a widower in our big rambling family home on Front Street.

Room by room and closet by closet, any objects or artifacts that was evidence of my mother living in the house for nearly 50 years, began to disappear.  And, this is as it should be.  My father had lost his wife and really didn’t need or want to see constant reminders of their 56-year-old marriage.  My mother liked to save things, as many folks of their generation did.  So, it was no big deal with me, when I was a child, to open a drawer in the dining room chest and find several hundred buttons.

However, little things get swept under the rug, so to speak.  When I was cleaning out the house after his death in 2004, I found quite a few buttons in quite a few drawers.

But, buttons do not play a part in the story I want to tell.  This is a father, son and son’s wife tale.  I can attest to you that every word is true, although I may have fudged on the dates a little.  I mean, I’m getting old too, so my memory for certain things is a bit dicey.

On our visits, which were quick weekend jaunts from New York City where I was living, all went pretty much the same.  We’d call him on the cell when we approached Suicide Curve in Binghamton and he would phone in an order from Pizza Hut.  We’d pick it up and head to 420 Front Street.  The rest of the evening would be just talking until bedtime.  In the mornings, I would sleep in a bit and Mariam would get up early and sit with my father and have coffee.

It was on one of those mornings that my wife decided she needed a pair of boots.  She had seen the ideal pair in a Victoria Secrets catalog back in the city.  So, she called from our apartment and arranged to have the boots delivered to my father’s house in Owego.

Well, on this particular visit, things went smoothly.  The boots were waiting at my dad’s house.  Good fit.  Nice boots.  Everyone’s happy.

Several months later, we were again visiting my father.  He mentioned something to us that was annoying him.  It seems that Victoria Secrets saved the 420 Front Street mailing address in their data base.  Naturally, my father began to receive the catalog(s) on a frequent basis.  They would arrive and he would put them into the recycling.

One morning, he happened to be on the front porch when the mail delivery person came up the steps with the bundle for my father.  According to my dad, the postman gave him a wink…a knowing wink. And then another wink.

My father was 84 years old!

My father thought about this for a few days before he realized what the wink was about the almost daily delivery of the Victoria Secrets catalog.  Now, this won’t mean anything to someone who was born yesterday or happened to drop in from Mars last night, but the catalogs had more than a few scantily clad models in very sexy lingerie, in fact, the company is well-known for the way it peddles the bras…it’s nothing short of a PG-13 version of Penthouse. [Not that I would know, mind you, I never saw any of the catalogs, or a Penthouse, Playboy, Mayfair, Swank, Gentleman or Hustler magazine in my life! Certainly not at the $8.99 cost per issue.  I simply had no idea. I spent years thinking an underwire was something on a radio.]

As usual, my wife solved the problem with a simple phone call.  My father was taken off the mailing list.

And, that’s pretty much the end of the story.

It might be worth noting that my father was a frugal man, as many Depression-era folks were.  I often wonder why he didn’t realize that he would never have to shell out $8.99 for an issue of Playboy, when Victoria Secrets came to his house for free.

At least he would have known what an underwire was used for.