I spent Sunday in my usual manner of home visit: lying around reading. Monday my oldest friend since junior high drove over from Arcadia and we caught up on family goings-on. Kelly also has a gay brother and was very pleased to hear about my progress in my church. My sister joined us for lunch on the Circle.
On each visit home, there are certain places I want to eat, and near the top of the list is the Columbia Restaurant on St. Armand's Circle. They’ve been around since 1905, and their famous salad is named for that date. But the salad wasn’t the same. It wasn’t nearly the pungent garlicky delight that I’ve always enjoyed. Family tells me that it changed a while back and has never been as good since. Why do people mess with perfection and change something for the sake of change? Change is not always better, new is not always better. Cross that restaurant off my list. Meh.
On Monday my sister suggested Mar Vista, a restaurant at the north end of Longboat Key. They have patio tables in the grass by the docks, where boats can moor.
It’s interesting to see the address on the menu, one by street and one by channel marker. Pelicans and herons frequented the docks, and I was able to get close to a couple of them.
We ordered the Stone Crab claws, something I can afford only once in awhile. Oh, hon, what a treat for the mouth. But you have to earn it; it isn’t easy cracking those claws to get a decent sized bite, but oh so worth it when dipped in clarified butter.
After lunch my sister told me to drive through the neighborhood at the tip of Longboat. Sure enough, a flock of peacocks was strolling through the yards.
They’re colorful, but they have an incredibly loud and annoying call. I’m glad they’re not in our neighborhood.
Monday afternoon I joined another dear friend (since high school) and we had dinner at a little Italian place downtown. I think you could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at a different place every day for months in this town. Such a wealth of privately-owned places which take pride in serving really good food. I talked away the evening with Lynn and we howled over memories until we both realized how late it was.
I had to leave for the Tampa airport after lunch on Wednesday. It was sunny and 75° and glorious. I drove back over the Skyway—of course—with Dire Straits cranking over the span. (Have you listened to the last four minutes of “Telegraph Road?” Whoa. It's on the playlist.) When I pulled in with the rental car, the attendant wanted to know the mileage for their records. I drove just over a thousand miles on this trip. And I loved every inch of the way.
The terrain was beautiful and the car was pretty cool. But it was the people that made this trip memorable: new friends, deepened friendships, old friends and loving family. It doesn’t get better than that.