More Good Burgers and Brisket….

Sports bars are not for everyone. They have their own atmosphere rather than ambience and if you’re looking to have a quiet conversation over a meal, it rarely works. On the other hand, if you want camaraderie and laughter, you’re likely to find that. Downtown Homestead on Krome Avenue is taking another swing at a sports bars after the last one encountered a series of problems that caused it to close fairly quickly. We hope Lucky’s Saloon will fare better. And speaking of fare, if you like a good burger or a nice brisket sandwich, this is the place for you. They special blend their burgers and cook them to order. The brisket is slow-smoked and it’s one of the few places where you can get Tator Tots as a side. Their sweet potato fries are excellent, too, so it’s a bit of a choice to make. The beer selection is good, the beer served appropriately cold and they have a full bar if you’re in the mood for something stronger. What makes Lucky’s different from most sports bars is they are attentive to salads and have a selection to suit most tastes. They do chicken quite well also. I haven’t tried the chili, but was told it was good.

Big TVs for sports isn’t the only draw – there is Trivia Night, Taco Night, Karaoke Night and the immensely popular Line Dancing Night, plus live music on Saturday. It is noisy, no doubt about it, so you do have to take that into account. The staff is friendly though and the prices are reasonable. Here’s a big “Thanks” for opening and do give them a try.

Perspective Is Important……

I was more or less watching an Animal Planet show the other day that shall remain nameless for reasons that will become apparent. There was an individual on the show who was a big name in the music world. He shall also remain nameless since a) I don’t recall his name, and b) it’s not relevant. Now, do not get me wrong – touring, making records, constantly juggling the demands of productions is stressful and there are a lot of demands. The point though is that when the guy was being interviewed about a particular subject, he made the comment of, “I have the most stressful job in the world.” Really? Okay, it’s an expression and was probably no more than that, but still. Go on a combat patrol with a squad, be an aide volunteer in one of the world’s basket case nations, ride along with a cop in an inner city, work extended emergency rooms shifts in an urban hospital, and then think about the definition of stress.

There’s an old joke about a college student who writes home (which goes to show how old the joke is) with a litany of revelations all guaranteed to distress her parents (an obviously inappropriate boy she’s fallen in love with, etc.), and at the end of the multiple events, she closes with, “Okay, none of this has happened. I did get a D in chemistry though, but I hope you keep it in perspective.” This is not to say we don’t have problems that impact us or stressful periods. On the other hand, there are always times when something temporary is temporary and taking a step back, plus a couple of deep breaths and perhaps a soothing beverage (of whatever type works) will do the trick.

Sly, But Fun….

There actually are romantic comedies that guys can enjoy, too, but I’m not certain if Music and Lyrics falls into that category. If you want something entertaining and a great soundtrack, rent or find this to either watch or record for when you have time to sit and watch. It requires no great concentration, and the more-or-less predictable ending is delightfully executed. The main characters, Alex and Sophie, played by Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, are wonderfully drawn and acted. The movie highlights the foibles of celebrity status in both the has-beens and absurdly young rising stars. In essence without giving away too much, Alex was in a highly popular band that broke up, leaving the other members to do okay, yet never to regain their former glory. Through an odd set of circumstances, a young singer who has zoomed to the top gives him an opportunity for a comeback through a specific song she wants as a duet. The comedy of the timeframe allowed is well worth a chuckle and the way in which this all leads to Alex teaming up with Sophie is filled with great, droll exchanges.

Not being in the music business (there is a fabulous scene about that toward the end), I don’t know how accurately the process is portrayed, but it seems reasonable. The interaction with Alex’s agent is always funny as is the relationship between Sophie and her sister. The subplot of an event in Sophie’s past that emotionally threw her out of balance is well-drawn to show how we can allow others’ opinions to affect us. It is a lovely little movie you’ll probably want to watch more than once.

Fun To Hear…..

with-dad-spet-2016Yes, I did promise not to do many “proud Grandma” posts. This is related to books, however. As a note, I do not and don’t ever foresee writing children’s or young adult books. My brain doesn’t work like that. Naturally, I am a big believer in starting children on books as early as possible. In fact, when the current “proud daddy” was an infant, my aunt, the librarian, sent Pat the Bunny and in the letter she said it didn’t matter that the baby couldn’t understand – that the act of reading to an infant was a great foundation. I took that to heart. Did that lead to a lifelong love of reading? I don’t know for sure since there were plenty of other influences in the house to encourage reading. I have no reason to think it wasn’t a factor though.

Anyway, last week when we were talking, my son wanted to let me know that even though Amelia’s vocabulary has not yet progressed to sentences, she does now go and get books and bring them to indicate she thinks it’s reading time. She apparently points to certain items and words in what may or may not be her version of reading. There is obviously a ways to go yet, but hey, it’s a start.

When It’s Heartbreakingly Difficult….

Emotionally intense content alert. This is not a new theme for this blog, but recent events of people around me caused me to want to say once again that as Baby Boomers, we face two different, yet related issues. First, if your parent/parents or other aged relatives are still living, the time may come when they are simply not the person you knew. Dementia has a heartbreakingly wide range, not all of which is easily categorized. In some cases, dementia can be combined with terrible pain due to an injury or an illness. In either situation, I would strongly urge you to consult with Hospice. If the individual has left a home setting and is in an appropriate care facility, the facility  is usually linked in with Hospice. As I explained in Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, there may be multiple hospice organizations in your area. If so, you have a choice as to which one to use. When someone reaches the stage of severe dementia, they may well not be able to make personal choices and the chance of improvement is highly unlikely. Although every individual situation has to be properly diagnosed, everyone over the age of about 60 can be defined as being in a terminal state. Severe dementia is not life-threatening, but most of us have become so accustomed to taking routine medications for conditions such as high blood pressure we don’t even think of that as “artificial means”. (We tend to view “artificial means” as only being hooked to a machine.) Making the decision to cease all medications except for sleep and pain can be heartbreaking and create questions and self-doubt.

This leads me to the second issue which is none of us want to believe this will happen to us. It seems too unfair, too unkind, and surely there will be a treatment/cure before then. There is nothing wrong with hoping for that. It is incredibly important, however, to make your wishes known in the event you do suffer severe dementia. The sentiment of, “I won’t care because I won’t know what’s going on”, can be said cavalierly if you’ve never heard the panicked voice or sobs of a parent/elderly relative who suddenly can’t comprehend where they are or why, “they can’t come home.” It is true that in some cases, severe dementia does not cause distress and an individual can comfortably live in a “time or place” they have mentally created, knowing you less as the person you are and more as someone from their past or simply, “a nice young man/woman”. I urge you to have the courage to address this possibility as clearly as you do the eventuality of an illness or injury that leaves you in a coma. If you can no longer make choices for yourself, be certain whoever is in charge (and legally designate someone) knows what you want done.

A $200 Pizza – Worth Every Bite……

Topside View Jules Undersea Lodge Key Largo

Topside View Jules Undersea Lodge Key Largo

In general, I wouldn’t recommend paying $195 for a pizza or a sub sandwich, although Tower Pizza in Key Largo does have good food. In this case, however, thanks to a friend who bid on “Lunch at Jules” at a charity auction, I finally experienced the three-hour session offered at Jules Undersea Lodge. (  The single drawback to the wonderful diving we have in Key Largo is there is essentially no shore diving because the water is too shallow. (Yes, I know there are a few spots, but not like in places such as Hawaii and St Croix.) This makes it especially difficult for training when the weather keeps boats from going out. On those days, everyone who can’t wait for the weather to clear heads to the lagoon at Jules.

The lagoon is not large, but it has the distinction of being home to the underwater habitat (two actually) that was moved from the original location in the Caribbean. The two-bedroom habitat with a kitchen/dining/living room was of course designed for research to prove the viability of living underwater for extended periods of time. And while researchers do still use the habitat, it’s available for recreational options from three hours to overnight. It’s something I wanted to try, but since Hubby has to spend lots of training time with students in Jules, he wasn’t especially keen on the idea. Having now done it once, I’m not saying I would go again just to go, but it’s definitely the sort of thing I would do in the same manner that I take visitors to South Beach.

Okay, enough intro – I’ll describe the way it works. First, the staff is terrific in making sure you are comfortable and taken care of. (If you have your own equipment, you can subtract the rental fee. In this situation, my friend didn’t have equipment and I didn’t want to mess with hauling and cleaning my own gear.) You either have to be a certified diver or you can sign up for the one-day Discover Scuba – type class and that is a separate fee. Since both of us were certified, we arrived to what was a very quiet day and filled out the initial paperwork, to include our choice for lunch. There is a hot shower on the grounds and a hot shower in the habitat and they provide towels, shampoo, conditioner. I treated it like I would being on a dive boat and wasn’t going to bother with that part, but it is available. I did have a pair of shorts and t-shirt along just in case. You leave your shoes at the dock and anything else you take gets very carefully wrapped and placed into a watertight box. They are especially careful with your phones and any other electronic item you’re carrying.

There are steps that lead down into the water, so you simply sit on the step to gear up then launch into the water. Your Operation Specialist for the day will either enter the water with you, take you over to the habitat to orient you or you can do as we did and go for a dive of X-minutes (in our case about 30), then meet the staff member at the habitat. The lagoon is chockfull of items like old cannon, a second, smaller habitat, and is only about 25 feet deep.  The visibility is not particularly good due to several factors, however, there were plenty of fish and a nice crab. Nurse sharks will occasionally cruise through, too.

When we finished the dive, we made our way back to the habitat, swam underneath and came up into the “moon pool” as our guy was patiently waiting to remove our gear and give the orientation. This is like the foyer. The two bedrooms are to the right, the shower and marine head are straight ahead and the public area is to the left. Yes, there are portholes in the bedrooms and public area. Benches wrap around and there are two tables. The small fridge is packed with water and sodas, a little basket hold packs of snacks, there is a sink, microwave, TV with DVD player, some books, decks of cards, and a couple of board games. My friend opted to take a quick shower and then we settled in to pass the time until our same guy returned around noon with our piping hot lunch brought to us in a watertight container. When the staff called a while later to give us our “ten minute warning”, it hardly seemed like three hours had passed. We repacked our belongings and our guy secured them before we slipped back into our gear for the short swim to the dock to end our adventure.

Moon Pool Entrance Jules Undersea Lodge

Moon Pool Entrance Jules Undersea Lodge

Another Great Burger and More…..

Gator Grill on the Way to the Everglades National Park

Gator Grill on the Way to the Everglades National Park

The restaurant business is brutal. Trying to keep costs competitive, trying to keep good help and a thousand other things (only a slight exaggeration) owners/managers have to deal with. I have nothing against chains and dine in them, but we try to patronize independent places as much as possible.  And when we see an independent making moves that are apparently good ones to improve their business, we give a little “Hooray”. So it would seem is the case with Gator Grill. It’s always been of interest that with the millions of people who visit the Everglades each year, there was literally nowhere to eat close by. The small Gator Grill that opened several years ago in what seems to have been a little store previously had excellent food, but like four picnic tables beneath the trees. Not that it wasn’t good, but unless you knew about it, the inclination was not to stop. Things have changed. The “Grill” isn’t any larger, but they’ve added a nice-size Tiki Hut with 9 or 10 picnic tables and a fan to circulate the air. With the trees still mostly in place, it’s still warm of course, but definitely an improvement. They’ve also had the exterior done with eye-catching murals.

They are positioned not far from Robert is Here as you drive toward the Everglades and with the new murals, it raises your curiosity as you approach. The single drawback, if you think of it as such, is they do make to order and they don’t hurry. If you are really hungry when you first order and there are several people already seated or in line, it’s best to grab a little packaged snack to tide you over. They are also one of the places that cook to order and if you like your burger rare, etc., – go for it.

(I posted several months ago about the Redlander Restaurant at Schnebly’s which is a more up-scale dining option not too far from Robert is Here, so there are two choices in fair proximity to the Everglades now.)

The Senior Benefits…..

At this stage, I can still subscribe to the point of not being distressed about aging. As much as I would like to have back the less hefty body, our health in general is quite good and there aren’t many things we’ve had to give up yet in the way of activities. We aren’t at Medicare age and we’re able to let our Social Security continue to build for at least another year, but tomorrow I do plan to take advantage of one of those lesser known benefits. (Yes, I usually take senior discounts in places where applicable.) The National Parks Senior Pass is $10-30 depending on which method you use to get it and it is a lifetime pass. That’s correct. It’s good in every single National Park and there are a lot more of them than many people realize. Not all of them have entry fees (our Biscayne Park doesn’t), but many do and even though it isn’t usually very expensive, still, it is a charge. Now, at the moment, we won’t be visiting a lot of National Parks because our focus continues to be dive trips when we aren’t on family-related or business travel. The simple truth is most of the parks are not in dive-friendly places, so they have to take a later priority. Hubby has been to the Grand Canyon and we have of course done Shenandoah and Blue Ridge.

The intent will be to incorporate multiple parks into road trips as many people do. The parks were my daddy’s destinations for plenty trips and he didn’t miss many of them when they were still able to travel. I think they were 84 or 85 when they made the last excursion. Despite his short-term memory loss issues, long term is still pretty good and there are the photos. And speaking of photos, with Hubby being such an excellent photographer now, I can only imagine what our collection will be like once we start on this particular path.

Those Pesky Necessities….

This is one of those days when I am “chained” to the house in a five-hour window for a delivery. Five hours, in this day and age? At any rate, since it appears we may go all the way to the max time on that window, I was out most of yesterday and planned my inside to-do list accordingly. Last week when I attended the annual Chamber Conference, I was inadvertently inspired to tackle one of those things I do procrastinate about. The subject of this particular presentation was actually geared toward a different aspect of business, yet in the process of the discussion, I thought about how disorganized my office had become. I’ve never been a completely “clean desk” person nor do I own a label maker. On the other hand, I do like to have space on my table to write and enough order to my files to have a general idea of where they are. The “I’ll get to that soon” stack had grown, as had the “I need to file that” stack, and those plus the active project stacks had begun to spill into each other. This, of course, is not a task I recommend doing all in one day, so I divided it into chunks. Day One was separate and throw away the known trash. Day Two was file the writing related/personal and today is properly sort and divide the major volunteer work I am involved with and finish a couple of other things. Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of old files to go through, but the pieces I’m tackling allow me to return to a comfortable degree of order.

Oh, speaking of tasks one puts off – that reminds of something that has always made me chuckle. In my first novel, Orchids in the Snow, the main character was very conscientious about domestic matters. At one point in the story I had her cleaning the gasket of her refrigerator as she was trying to occupy her time. I was later amazed by how many women asked me, “You don’t really clean your refrigerator gasket, do you?” My answer was, “No, but I did have a friend who made that part of her spring cleaning.” It’s these interesting tidbits you store away because you never know when you might need them as a writer.

An Interesting Discussion….

This post has to do in part with how different views can be about the exact same thing and then segues into what was a heart-warming story to hear. August 30th is the local primary, plus election of judges, and one amendment. Like many places, early voting has been added to absentee voting as an option. And like many veterans, I have used absentee in those situations when it was necessary. I really like early voting because you rarely have more than one to three people ahead of you and that’s for check-in. I’m in, out, (I always say thank you to the poll workers), and I put my “I voted today” sticker on. It so happened the day I voted was Wednesday and at the mostly routine Happy Hour I attend, one of the individuals said she was a firm believer in the traditional go on election day, stand in line, and share in the spirit. Another individual said she almost always did absentee ballot dating back to one time when she was recovering from a surgery and couldn’t make it to the polls. Once she was in the system for absentee ballot, it was easier for her to continue to do that.

During the course of the discussion, the bartender told of her grandmother (I think it was, although it could have been another relative or friend), who had immigrated and received her citizenship at an older age. The first opportunity she had to vote came around when she was 92 and she was very clear about wanting to go to the polling station to be a part of the process. She had a red hat, and they decorated her wheelchair in red, white, and blue for the event. I can only imagine what kinds of smiles that must have brought forth to the poll workers and other voters. What a wonderful affirmation of something far too many people take for granted.