It was time to get back to Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg. The Fall 2018 semester was over, I had shaken a lot of hands at graduation, and we were ready to go back down south to visit my mother and be on the beach.
We again chose to fly Allegiant to the PIE (St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport). The direct flight is convenient and the cost is reasonable, although it flies only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We paid extra for seats in the front row, and I was in seat 1-A. That one has a lot of legroom in part because it is adjacent to the main cabin door. As I watched all of my fellow passengers board, I had some not-so-random thoughts. One thought was shaped by images of 737s past that had somehow “lost” the main cabin door. Should the pressure in the cabin change drastically, the door just a few feet away from me might be blown out and I would be the first one sucked out into the wide open. Think about that. I did.
The A320 had 150 passengers aboard. It seemed fairly new (it had that new aircraft smell) and our seats were right in the epicenter of the action. We watched the flight attendants working hard, together, and saw the kind of camaraderie that makes for a place fun to work. We overheard stories of past and present personal drama as well, probably things they really did not want me to hear. The show that came with seat 1-A was well worth the price. And, I was the first one off the plane at the PIE, the door still intact.
Snagging a rental car at the PIE is a breeze. We were out of the airport quickly, soon heading west on Highway 60 toward the beach. There was little traffic, and we arrived at our destination in 20 minutes. We emptied the car, used the key code to get unto our rental unit, and headed-off on foot toward Frenchy’s Palm Pavilion, right on the beach.
It was after 10pm, and the crowd at Frenchy’s was small, but lively. Given that it was Saturday night, we were surprised that the turnout was so low. We’ve been there on Saturdays when the wait for the restaurant was more than an hour. The band that was playing focused on 60s-90s tunes. Four guys were playing songs that they grew up with, songs they have played hundreds of times. I hope they have day jobs. I’m not sure that they knew of any music from the 21st century, and the crowd did not seem to care. Audience members were drinking, a lot, dancing (kind of dancing), and drinking more, and probably thought that the lead singer sounded just like Tom Petty and Michael Jackson. He didn’t sound like them, and besides Petty and Jackson are dead. Perhaps I needed to drink more. On the positive side, people were just having a good time. We kicked back, had shrimp and grouper, and wandered back to our place.
When we first visited Clearwater Beach in 1989, the sleep options were a mix of hotels, motels, some quite old, and houses that had been subdivided into rental living spaces. Each subsequent visit was marked by a different small apartment-type of experience, as long as we stayed out of the better-known hotels, and condominiums. On this trip, we bunked in one of those subdivided houses, around the corner and up the stairs to a bedroom/living room, kitchen, and bathroom combination—perhaps 600 or 700 square feet in total. It looked and felt like a beachfront rental, a good quality to have. We were adjacent to a sand dune and could see the ocean, not bad given that a few hours earlier we were residing in a sea coast free environment. These kinds of places, which are gradually being razed and replaced by new construction, have character. The next time you head for the beach, find one of these places and stay there, while you still can.
We had a fine visit with my mother and her husband Sid. My sister, Terry, was there for a few days as well. My mom gave me a new view of getting old, one worth repeating. She’s always dressed very well, and frankly looks marvelous, especially at age 90. I asked her about her days, time at the pool, dancing, and such and she told me that at her age she was having to spend half the day in what she refers to as maintenance. I’ll remember that one.
We also caught up with a friend of ours, Bob Miles and his friend Alex Sink. Alex had run for governor of Florida a few years earlier, and despite being outspent by Rick Scott by a huge margin, she nearly won. Both Bob and Alex are fun to be around. After dining at a neighborhood cafe, Bob took the three of us to The Straz Center for Performing Arts. Bob has four season tickets to the Jaeb Theater at The Straz, and we saw Amythyst Kiah perform. She’s a real talent. She sings and plays a mixture of folk, jazz, and blues. See her (view youtube as well) if you can.
Much too soon, it was time to go home. So, back to the PIE and another ride on an A 320. We saw a number of familiar faces, folks who were on the flight to the PIE just a few days prior. This time, we were sitting in the emergency (exit) row, 14. Remember this (if you sit in the exit row):
- You can’t wear high heels if you are seated in the exit row and plan to push out the door (if there is a crash)
- Don’t open the door if there are flames directly outside
- Don’t open the door if the door is underwater (Why would I open the door in that situation?)
- Don’t open the door if we are still flying (mmm…)