This past Monday I accompanied three local pals — Billy Cimino, Cameron Hansen, and Hupp Huppman — to a Spring Training baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates at the Braves complex outside of Orlando.
This quartet was an eclectic mix and we learned a lot about each other during 15 hours in a car and at the game. To avoid being confined in the car with this crew, Steve Hall, wisely drove from his second home on Merritt Island and met us at the game.
The fun started almost immediately.
On Interstate 95 just outside of St. Augustine Billy’s car began making noises cars aren’t supposed to make and doing things cars aren’t supposed to do. We limped off Exit 318 and sputtered into a nearby strip mall parking lot where the car was pronounced DOA, with a blown transmission by a nearby mechanic.
While Billy and I discussed repairs and costs with the mechanic, Hupp and Cam took off on foot to a nearby Enterprise Car Rental agency. It was identical to the one here on Amelia Island. It doesn’t have cars either. This is my second consecutive “no-car” experience dealing with local Enterprise agencies, leaving me puzzled about how employees of a car rental agency without cars occupy their days. A nearby Budget Car Rental agency had cars, but its $500 “let’s gouge these poor saps special” was unanimously rejected.
While we were considering our options Hupp placed a call to Lulu, his wife of just six months, an exceptionally intuitive nursing supervisor, who sensed an emergency and immediately sprung into action. She recruited her mom, Joanne, and they drove two cars to our rescue, providing us one of them, and driving the other one back to Fernandina. After falling to our knees and kissing the hems of their skirts, we all agreed that Hupp is a fortunate man, and we were on the road again.
At this point we’d been gone almost four hours, with game time only two and a half hours away. As we entered the Disney-infested Orlando area bizarre volcano-like structures with water features appeared prompting me to realize I hadn’t used a restroom room since I left home at 7 a.m. But when you’re in a car driven by guys stopping to pee isn’t an option. It’s part of some unwritten code. I was the first to crack, politely asking, then eventually pleading with Hupp to pull off anywhere, even at the filthy Disneyworld wannabe building with a wooden dwarf holding a sign reading “You have to be this tall to pee here” and a restroom that contained the skeletal remains of public health officials who once tried to inspect it. Hupp was having none of it. (Did you know Hupp’s real first name is Alan, but he doesn’t like people to call him that?)
When we pulled into a stadium parking lot so large it had its own climate, Hupp finally comprehended the magnitude of the situation and appreciating that it was his wife’s car, pointed to me and barked to the no-nonsense-looking uniformed parking lot attendant in an urgent and authoritative voice: “My elderly father here has a medical condition that requires me to park at the entrance.” The attendant snapped to attention and enthusiastically motioned Hupp over a curb and through some nicely manicured grass where he pulled up in front of a sign that read: “Restrooms.” (Forget that I mentioned Hupp’s real first name is Alan, that’s no longer relevant).
I raced in, pulled on the handles of the two restroom doors that were LOCKED! While frantically scanning the area for a potted plant one of the doors opened and I sprinted through it almost taking the exiting gal back in with me.
I was followed in turn by the car’s other passengers, who were as desperate as I was, just not as vocal.
Prior to the “I need to pee incident” we passed time in the car talking to each other. The radio remained silent, nobody was staring at a cell phone or displaying pictures of their dog, cat, or a silly meme.
It was a polite group, one that would make any mother proud. Political conversation was muted, there were no off-color jokes told, no profanity spouted, and only musical Hupp was permitted to sing without being told to shut up. Billy brought a 300-pound, 1,500-page baseball encyclopedia that I used to read aloud obscure statistics about ball players none of us had ever heard of. We told stories about the most memorable players we recalled and rated the best players any of us had seen in person. Ted Williams ranked number one for the oldest of the crowd followed by Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Cal Ripken.
I learned that three members of this crowd went to college in their 40s, 50s and 60s to earn degrees, a fact that I find very impressive. I also discovered that we all have at least one family member we’re estranged from for various reasons be it a child, parent, brother or sister. Cam has an 84-year-old dad who stays in shape by working out on a boxing speed bag in his basement and lifting weights when watching TV. Some of us grew up with an alcoholic parent or sibling and others in strict disciplinarian environments. I’m beginning to think that the only family in America that wasn’t dysfunctional was Ozzie and Harriett, and I’m not sure about them since Ozzie didn’t appear to have a job, yet lived in a very expensive suburban home. Something didn’t add up in the Nelson household. Nobody complained, said they hated anyone, or bemoaned their fate, just the opposite. A spirit of optimism and contentment was obvious.
However, if you’re thinking that this is a group of wussy choir boys, you’re wrong. Hupp is a retired US. Navy submariner, Billy a former captain in the US Army Rangers and retired federal prison and corrections executive, and Cam an Air Force veteran and former Chicago construction worker turned County Road & Bridge executive. As a former newspaper reporter and public relations professional I’d probably be the one to fall into the wuss category.
Before arriving at the stadium I joked that since the game had already started it would be just our luck to miss a triple play, something I’ve never seen in person even during my sports reporting days. As we inched our way to our seats balancing $9 beers and hot dogs in the top of the 2nd inning I heard the crack of a bat and looked up to see the Braves’ Ender Inciarte ground into the first triple play I’ve ever witnessed. Is this a great country or what?
Following the Braves, 6-2, victory we headed back to Fernandina. But first we had to get past the obstacle ahead of us on Interstate 4 — the entire population of Ontario in cars driven by elderly blue-haired ladies peering through steering wheels to see over the dashboards. In front of them was a caravan of cars that left a St. Louis Browns spring Training game in 1952.
After inching about two feet in an hour Hupp wisely exited Interstate 4 and maneuvered us through the bowels of Orlando and its outskirts, past cars piloted by people dressed as large mice, ducks, dogs, princesses, princes, etc. on their way to and from work at Disney World.
Here’s an Orlando travel suggestion. If, for some reason, you decide to visit Disney World, do so in 1968 to avoid the crowds and traffic.
We finally surfaced a number of miles east of Orlando near the exit to Cassadaga, a tiny town populated by Spiritualists, who believe that when folks die their spirits live on and people called mediums or psychics that live there can help you communicate with them. The entire town and its only hotel look like a ride straight out of Disney World, except its real. Linda and I spent a weekend there once with Pajamadave Voorhees and his fiancé, Zan, but that’s another story. We didn’t stop this trip even though I was told by a Cassadaga tarot card reader that my mother and grandmother spiritually hang out there. He also told me that I was going to win the Florida Lotto in February 2017, so his credibility is shot in the Scott household.
As we broke out of the blue-haired Canadian caravan, and headed north on Interstate 95, I mulled over the fact that, according to panicked climate change fanatics, by next Thursday at noon everything on that highway will be covered by the Atlantic Ocean, which means our insurance rates will probably increase. I also realized that we hadn’t eaten anything except a few hot dogs, peanuts and a couple of convenience store bags of cracklings all day.
As we whizzed toward Daytona Beach we noticed that the diminishing numbers of Canadian blue-hairs had been replaced by the entire population of Michigan on motorcycles. The ever-alert and observant Hupp gleefully announced to his passengers that it was “Bike Week” and dutifully pulled into a joint called “Wild Wings.” Wild Wings serves vast quantities of beer and was heavily populated by attractive scantily-clad waitresses and tough looking Michigan motorcyclists, a volatile combination we enthusiastically waded into.
To get a sense of the crowd, I introduced myself to a grizzled, heavily tattooed cyclist, who reached out to shake my hand and politely told me he was from Indiana and trucked his bike to Daytona because he has a bad back and the long journey on his bike would have been uncomfortable, etc. Not the response I expected.
That all changed when I settled in at the table with my travel companions and a biker gal approached us asking if we were members of a band because she wanted to hire one. She may have noticed Hupp’s neon T-shirt flashing “I’m a rock and roll star.” She went around the table pointing to us individually saying “you must be the drummer, you the lead guitar, and you the bassist” to my three companions, skipping me. So I asked; “What’s that make me?” “The a__hole,” she blurted out without hesitation.
Once the laughter at our table died down, I suggested we eat and run. I also whispered that the biker chick probably has a dog named “Booger.”
We got back to Amelia Island around 9:30 p.m. ,about the same time the people who arrived at the back of the line for Disney World’s Space Mountain in 1978, were being admitted.
Would I do it again? You bet I would.
And We Have This Bridge In New York Too: If you have any junk in your attic or garage that you want to get rid of, no need to drag it to the curb on trash pick-up day or donate it to Goodwill, instead just call Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross, who’ll have the city write you a check for whatever you think it’s worth, maybe more.
The city, at Ross’s urging, is buying worthless pieces of property that have no value to anyone other than mosquitoes and folks seeking a dump. Even the homeless shun locations Mr. Ross considers prime real estate. So what! It isn’t his money, it’s the tax payers.
For example the online Nassau County Florida Independent newspaper reports that ” Floyd Garrett of Sevierville, Tennessee has owned a soggy 1.5 acre parcel near the WestRock mill since 1982 that the Property Appraiser has designated a “wasteland/dump” and valued at $39.” According to state codes the “wasteland” designation means the property is sewage disposal, solid waste, borrow pit, drainage reservoir, or waste land. .
It appears that Mr. Garrett now has a buyer willing to pay 641 times more than the assessed value — The City of Fernandina Beach, says the paper.
Fernandina Beach City Commissioners unanimously agreed to option the sale and purchase of the undeveloped land, which is mapped but not accessed by any roadways on N. 12th St. for a whopping $25,000.
According to Mary Maguire’s reporting the city is seeking to buy the property and then put it into conservation along with a contiguous 5.48-acre parcel owned by the Episcopal Church of Florida that is undeveloped but designated for use as single-family residential. The Property Appraiser values the land at $296,000. The city has a sale and purchase option for this property with a purchase price of $340,000.
Commissioner Ross’s home is located not far from this “wasteland” and if the city purchases it and makes improvements then it seems reasonable that the value of the commissioner’s property would increase.
The city had professional appraisals done for both properties but the reports are confidential, according to City Attorney Tammi Bach and they would only be made public if the sales are closed.
In an interview with Ms. Maguire Commissioner Ross said the city’s budding effort to preserve property is important, and paying $25,000 for Mr. Garrett’s parcel is money well spent. “This is the beginning of trying to keep the wild as it is, to keep nature as it is,” said Mr. Ross in the interview. “If they put a few trails in there, I don’t know at this point. I know we don’t want buildings.”
Sacré bleu! I can’t verify this, but a Canadian cousin tells me it actually happened to an Englishman in France, who was totally drunk. When I Lived in France I saw many English drivers there so it’s very probable.
In his telling cousin Bill relates that a French policeman stopped the Englishman’s car and asks if he has been drinking.
The Englishman admits that he has been drinking all day, that his daughter got married that morning, and that he drank champagne and wine at the reception, plus many single malt scotches thereafter.
Visibly upset, the French policeman breath tests the Englishman and verifies that he is indeed completely hammered.
He asks the Englishman “Do you knows why, under French law, you are going to be arrested?”
The Englishman answers with a chuckle, “No sir, I do not! But while we’re asking questions, do you realize that this is a British car and my wife is driving on the other side?”
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Tuxedo clad Pianoman John Springer and drummer Rob Taylor will make another appearance on the downstairs dining room stage at the Main Beach Sandbar Restaurant & Kitchen tomorrow, Saturday, March 16 from 6-10 pm. The last time these two performed the house was packed so call and make a reservation by going to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 904/310-3648. The two also play every Wednesday starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Patio Place, the corner of Ash and South 5th Street downtown. Baseball fan, chauffer and friend, Hupp Huppman, will be at Sliders today, Friday, March 15, from 1-5 p.m. and Kayak Amelia Grub & Groove 6-9 p.m. this evening for a special St. Patrick’s Day sunset $20 dinner.