Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gator Tales & It's A Small World After All

Quite a few years ago, three of my friends, Stewart, Frank and Pat, came down from New Jersey to visit. I remember before they got here, one of them asked me if my car had air conditioning. "Of course," I said. When I picked them up at the Orlando airport, they said, "Hey, I thought you told us your car has AC." I said, "It does, but, you didn't ask me whether it works or not."

For months before they got here, I kept telling them about this terrible gator problem we were having. Gators everywhere, strutting up to homes and snatching little poodle dogs away from their owners. "Yelp! Yelp!" A real epidemic. They believed me but it did nothing to stop their trip. Stewart knew better. We've been friends far too long and he can tell when I'm full of it. I think, in the years I had been in Florida, up to that point, I had only seen one in the wild, while canoeing on the Wekiva River.

One of the features of the greater Orlando area back then, was, that it had an abundance of dancing facilities of the female persuasion where the uniform consisted of just high heels. The only time I ever went to those places was when my married friends would come down to see me. They insisted. I felt a little arm twisting and they were so persistent, so I reluctantly gave in. "Hi, Dave," one of the girls said as we entered an establishment in Fern Park. We locals referred to it as the "Fern Park Ballet."

This particular time they came down, they wanted to go to EPCOT. Fortunately, I have enough friends here to get me a free ticket whenever I need one. Having lived here so long, I had been there enough times and didn't want to particularly go, but, heck, a free ticket's a free ticket, and I couldn't let them go without me since it was me they came to see. We got to EPCOT bright and early, paid the parking fee and waited in line. I told them we need to get there early since the lines get very long and the overwhelming crowd can keep you from seeing as much as you want to in a day and, besides, we might want to get out of there early. While we were waiting to get into the park, my friend Stewart asks, "So, Dave, you think there are people from all over the world here?"

"Of course, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone from Flemington was here, too." Flemington is where I was from and where these guys lived. Old time friends.

"Nah, no way," Stewart replied, "If anybody from Flemington's here, I would know it."

All of a sudden, the gates opened up and we were all flowing in. Frank is about 6' 4" give or take an inch, so he towers above the rest of us. "Burgers Cycles, 782..." he says, "Hey, I see someone up there. It couldn't be..."

"What," I asked, "the motorcycle shop up on Route 202 heading to Three Bridges?" We tried to catch up. We followed as best we could. They were heading toward the American pavilion, along with hundreds of other people. As we got to the entrance, the young girl closed the door and announced that they were full and the next show was in about 45 minutes. My friends started to turn around and walk away. I said, "No. Wait." When the remaining crowd dissapated, I asked her if we could go in. She told me no, but, I was insistent. I told her about my friends visiting from out of town and what Stewart told me, that if anyone from Flemington were here, he'd know it. I wanted to prove him wrong and, besides, four more wouldn't hurt anything. "I mean, you didn't actually take a head count, did you?"

"No." She looked around. "OK, go ahead in." We scurried in to the tail end of the line, looking into that vast crowd.

"Oh, no way are we ever going to find that shirt," Stewart said. He underestimated the power of Dave. As we all filed into our rows and sat down, who do you think is sitting right in front of us? I mean, directly in front of us. Morris Postun. We all knew him. Worked at Burger's Cycle Shop. He brought his mother down for a nice little vacation. What a great guy he was for taking good care of his mother like that and having Stewart eat his words. Thanks, Morris.

I don't remember how many days they were here, but, my sister, Maggie and her husband, Bud, had a sailboat they kept on the west coast, near St. Petersburg. Wanna come sailing with us? Great idea, so we all headed toward St. Pete. Back then, long before Bud got sick, he was quite the avid sailor. Maggie helped out a lot, too. He always gave us little responsibilities to get us involved in the sailing. Stewart was the most experienced from our crowd, having grown up around boats. Pat was probably in charge of drinks. Frank was in charge of music on the portable stereo. Stew and I manned the boat with Bud. The stereo was out on the bow. We had started to move at a decent clip, probably around seven knots and the boat started to heel. Frank had forgotten about it. A cassette tape of classical music was playing 'Flight of the Valkyries.' All of a sudden, we watched in horror as the radio slid from the boat into the water. We couldn't stop it. It continued to play as we tried to come about to save it. By the time we got close, it slowly had sunk into the depths of Davy Jones' Locker, but, it continued to play, "blub, blub, blub," until it was out of sight. I guess it's a shrimp reef now, somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

On our way back from the coast, they had noticed picket and other assorted fences around many of the homes and businesses. One of them asked me if that was to keep the gators out. I had a tough time holding it back.

"Yes. That is the only reason why people put fences up in Florida. Those gators are everywhere." Needless to say, not one of them saw any gators while they were here.

Stewart and his wife now live on the west coast of Florida, just south of Port Charlotte and they have 2 gators in their back yard, right on the golf course, near the retention pond. They've only been here since June of last year. I've been here 24 years and they've already seen as many as me, in the wild, that is. That's them, up top. Go figure.

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