Roman Forum 2006

Roman Forum 2006
Foro Romano, from the Palatine Hill - a favorite photo from one of my favorite cities

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bloggo Floridiano: a Few Days (Deeper) Down South with the Family

Dottore Gianni has just returned from a quick visit to several of his relatives in Florida. All in all a wonderful trip! However the trip had its downs as well as its ups! Per esempio, Dottore Gianni loves his relatives in all sorts of weather, but prefers to visit Florida in the winter – or at least NOT during hurricane season. So imagine his surprise when he discovered, having long in advance booked his trip at the VERY beginning of that season – after all, what are the chances that in the first days of a storm season something would develop? – that a fairly powerful tropical storm, Andrea by name, had indeed developed and that, more importantly, that this lady of lovely name but dubious character was moving through Orlando, where the good doctor usually lands, on the very day he was due to fly!

Four-fifths of the flight could not be faulted. Even though in the Greenville area there was a good bit of “weather” the takeoff was smooth, the ascent equally so, the lion’s share of the flight (at about 38,000 feet), remained very pleasant. Dottore Gianni desires to note and praise his airline, Southwest – first flight on that carrier, but there will be more – for creating an atmosphere pleasant, also at times quite humorous. The plane, a 737, was comfortable, with it seemed to the doctor, more legroom than usual in the cabin. Also, partly because of the airline’s smart seating policy he was able to have an entire row of three seats all to himself. One flight attendant in particular was equipped with a barbed but positive sense of humor. There was a ten-year-old boy traveling alone on the flight, and at one point she stopped at his seat, called another flight attendant over, and said severely to her colleague, “This man is cut off! NO more drinks for him, no matter how much he pleads for one!” And her colleague soberly agreed with her, before both of them beamed down on the lad, who seemed happy for the attention, and maybe just a little less alone.

Everything was tickety boo (don’t know that song? Check out Merry Andrew starring Danny Kaye – in fact check out ALL Danny Kaye movies. He is one of Dottore Gianni’s very favorites, in part because they share the same birthday 18 January, in part because they are both brilliantly talented) until the final descent into Orlando, when the skies turned black and rainy, and our little 737 (which is not so little actually) was buffeted around and bounced about almost as badly as the good doctor could remember – and he is a frequent flyer! 
Once on the ground I called my sister-in-law (how about SiL after this? Good, thought you’d agree!) Donetta who was waiting in one of those stand-by parking lots so that she could swoop in and pick me up in an instant, and a mere 5 minutes after my call there she was, and we were off to Melbourne.

But not all at once. She had driven through hell to get to me, crawling along roads that maniac Florida drivers usually take at 80-90 mph at 25 mph, and she’d been advised by her mother, who also lives in Melbourne and happens to be an avid weather-watcher, that there were several bands of very severe rain and wind between Orlando and our destination. I had hoped for a meal in Orlando whatever the weather, as it was nearing the lunch hour and I was feeling peckish (also in need of a stiff drink after that descent), and Donetta had already chosen a place not far away where we could ride out the storm (it was predicted that most of it would have passed by 1:30 pm). So to an Italian restaurant near the Florida Mall named Buca de Beppo we headed. It featured a wonderfully packed and tacky décor reminiscent of Naples. In fact one of the tables, too large for the two of us but suitable perhaps for a gathering of say twelve family members, working colleagues, disciples…l’ultima cena (last supper), anyone? was named il tavolo di Papa -- the Pope's table!

When we got home after another stop to dodge storms at a Publix, where she picked up supplies and I picked up vodka, I had a nap, and then around 5 pm her husband, my brother Tom, arrived. I had a great time with Tom and Donetta, watching the recent production of Carousel with Kelli O’Hara on PBS, and I slept well that night.

While I arrived on a Thursday afternoon, I'm calling Friday "Day 1" as it was the first full day of our reunion, and other members of the family began to join in the fun. My youngest brother Rob and his lovely wife Karen had intended to drive us down to a great seaside restaurant in Vero Beach, but we determined that we could not fit that into either couple’s schedule, so they drove Tom, Denetta and me to old downtown Melbourne for lunch.
Karen, Rob, Tom and Donetta in Melbourne
We decided on an Irish Pub, as we wanted to stay away from starchy, fatty foods...which is the three brothers ordered the slimming and healthy pastrami sandwich! Heh heh…
The bartender took this one so that even Old Blind Jack could get in on the photo.

At the pub!
Donetta and Karen had some shopping to do, and left the brothers to their own devices. so they ordered another round -- but a round with a slight twist. Tom, who has been fond of single malt scotch almost as long as I have, decided on a flight of three different years of the Balvenie: 12, 15, and 17. We all shared in Tom's wise choice(s), even Rob, who is not a fan of scotch. And even Rob had to admit that the 17 year old was not bad.

Tom's flight, and while it is poured in a Guinness glass,
my Smithwick's
That evening Tom’s daughter Sara came home from a week in Mississippi where she and her church group did good work in a hurricane ravaged area, and while she was exhausted she was not too tired to watch a good bit of another musical film, West Side Story – Tom and I lasted a tad longer, but let’s face it, we knew the end of the story, and went to bed ourselves before it ended. I’m blaming the flight of single malts, but at the same time I wouldn’t have missed it!

Phil and Kara and their son Cam arrived from SC on Day 2 but due to some fairly dicey weather they, Rob & Karen, along with my godchild Kristen, were unable to join the rest of us to hear Delgado, the band that my brother Tom plays in, at Grill's Riverside.

Delgado! My brother Tom almost completely hidden
by the wooden post
My oldest friend (and look-alike) Dottore Gianni DID turn up at Grill's however, and had a Mahi Caesar Salad for dinner!

Dottore Gianni dines
Tom's daughter Sara was just back from a week in -- they are here pictured with one of her mentors at church and his girlfriend.

Also present were Tom and Donetta's longtime friends...and fans of Delgado...Lynne and Dwight. They're off to London in August, so needed the help of Dottore Gianni to find out where all the hot spots are in that city.

Lynne & Dwight

The whole family (minus sister Judy who could not make the trip all the way from CA, darn it) finally gathered on Day 3 at Rob's for drinks, before heading off to lunch.
 Poor Rob lives with his wife Karen in a really awful hovel...worse than a trailer really, with lousy views like this one, but we decided to humor them and spend some time there anyway.

The view from Rob & Karen's place
Three of the Hrkach brothers (Rob throwing, Phil center and Tom at right) are pretty good at darts -- the fourth brother, who shall remain un-named (though his nom-de-plume is Dottore Gianni) is better at photography, so he took the photos.

The dart game
After drinks we all got together at a waterside bar called Rusty's in Port Canaveral.

Where the handsome brothers…

The four brothers at Rusty's, in oder of age
(and importance heh heh) from left to right
Jack, Tom, Phil, Rob
and the lovely SiLs...

The SiLs
as well as the younger generation (from left Sara, Cameron, and my godchild Kristen) enjoyed lunch! By the way, young Cam is in heaven here, surrounded by pretty, older cousins...we must explain to him that there is a line that must...or SHOULD at drawn with cousin-love!

Then after lunch, several of us crashed:

The crash apres lunch
Kristen had to return to Orlando that afternoon, but she and I had a good chance to chat, which is always a pleasure for a doting godfather. Then we all returned to our home bases and I had another great evening at Tom and Donetta’s. They introduced me to a wonderful “family” film (Dottore Gianni enjoys film, but as he is a solo artist he rarely enters the realm of films labeled family) called Up. Charming, simply charming!

On Day 4 (my last day in FL) we gathered at Rob's again, where the four Hrkach brothers engaged in a fairly friendly game of cornhole -- at least that's what Rob called it -- it was known to me in my youth as bean-bag-toss.

Tom and Rob formed one team...aptly called team kielbasa, and Phil and i formed the other, even more aptly called team cabbage. Kielbasa won in actual points, but Dottore Gianni awarded himself several points for his senior citizen status, so he calls the game for team CABBAGE!

Sara and Cam were seeing whose muscles were bigger at Rob's pool

For some reason many of us wanted to wear the odd sunglasses with two guitars on them - Donetta does the honors here, seen with hubby Tom

Phil is wearing them here, while trying to keep Cam calmed down momentarily

Philip in fact seemed to very much enjoy posing that day

Brother Rob got in on the sunglasses act too

Kara got rather demonstrative wearing the wacky glasses

Like mother, I fear, like son

Some of us decided to do a group jump into the pool

And they're off!

a good bit of time was spent in or at the pool

Tom and Phil found time for it

Dottore Gianni, or in this case Uncle Jack (Uncle Vanya) performed brilliantly a drowning man -- Cam is enacting (if not very convincingly, or at least not very enthusiastically) someone trying to save his poor uncle.

Sara had to go to a church event directly from Rob's place, so Aunt Karen pulled the lucky girl a dress from her own rack!

Sara REALLY liked it

Even a passing Manatee liked her dress! Difficult to see here (look for the mass of brown at center) but I promise that a Manatee showed up at our party! Smart Manatee!

Tom and I returned to his place pretty much eaten and partied out. Sara and Donetta joined us after their church event, and Sara seemed as tired as the brothers, heading off to bed immediately.It was a low-key but pleasant evening, and I shuffled off to bed myself before 11 pm.
The next morning Tom and I had a brief chat over coffee as he was getting ready to go back to work, Donetta ran off to havee some bloodwork done, and Sara slept. After bidding a fnd adieu to my brother I read for a bit, then Donetta got back and she and Sara drove me back to the airport., then headed for the Florida Mall! The flight back to Greenville was uneventful, dull even, certainly compared to the flight down. No big storms, happily, and no witty flight attendants, sadly. But Southwest brought us home ten minutes ahead of schedule, and thus ended a very nice trip to the Sunshine State.