In addition to its ideal climate, bucolic views, friendly people, historic Norman Rockwell-like downtown, delightful harbor, golf, fishing, and relaxing beaches there is another aspect of Amelia Island that intrigues me and that’s the island residents’ fondness …. no, their slavish devotion, for dogs.
I’ve lived in other communities where people owned dogs and I’ve owned a few myself, but I’ve never lived anywhere where the feelings for dogs runs so deep.
Linda and I don’t own a dog, not because she doesn’t want one…she does. I don’t. The last one we had — a pure white Samoyed — was probably the nicest, most gentle pet I’ve ever had but when she had to be put down at 18 it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced. If we ever get another pet it’ll be a turtle, a parrot, or another critter that’ll out live us and mourn when we die. And selfishly we want the freedom to travel without having to worry about who will take care of Rover and we don’t want to wake up at 6 a.m. to take him for a walk.
But back to the locals and their devotion to their canine companions. There are a number of bars in town
that are considered “dog friendly” including the Green Turtle and the patios of others where they are welcome. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sipped a beer at the Turtle bar sitting next to Maggie, a medium-sized docile black dog owned by quirky Canadian Bob Tidball, the owner of Ash Street’s Addison Inn B&B. Unlike her oddball master, Maggie doesn’t snarl, growl or bite and the only thing that disturbs her (and I’m not making this up) is when people put money in the cigarette machine causing her to loudly bark her disapproval in their direction. She always has her own stool at the bar where, with fierce intensity, she follows the movement of the various bartenders until they produce one of the numerous doggie treats kept behind the bar for their canine patrons.
I can also set my watch by many of my neighbors who, armed with their requisite plastic bags, walk their dogs at scheduled times through our neighborhood in a timely ritual that enables the owners to take a bit of exercise while their pets use the break to relieve themselves and sniff a neighboring pup’s posterior. I’m betting there are as many pooches in the neighborhood as people. They are all well-behaved and rarely do we ever hear one bark.
There’s even a special bakery in Fernandina Beach for dogs; an annual parade featuring dogs; various dog charitable events and a spic and span Humane Society and “doggie park” generously supported by locals. Friend Pajamadave Voorhees and his fiancé Zan Maddox produce dog biscuits made from the residue of their beer-making process that sells out as soon as they hit the shelves of their Pajama Life South 2nd Street shop. And just about every shop in town features a fresh bowl of water near its entrance where local dogs can quench their thirst.
I’ve even been party to discussions hereabouts when the conversation turned to pets and heard stories about how these seemingly sober, sane and reasonable people prepare specially cooked meals for their dogs; have doggie birthday parties for them; postponed or refused trips because they don’t want to leave their dog behind; or spent thousands of dollars in veterinary services to prolong an ailing geriatric dog’s life by just a few months. I sit and bite my tongue because it is less socially suicidal to criticize their attitudes towards their kids than their dogs.
I’ve had local friends show me photos of furniture in their home that was destroyed beyond repair by their dogs who slashed and chewed it to bits because they were annoyed by the owner’s absence. If the owner’s kids had performed such a malicious act it’s possible family services or the police would have been called to remove the children from the home to escape the parent’s wrath. But after showing me the dog’s mayhem they just shrugged and laughed. Go figure. The Internet is also chock-a-block full of locals eager to display photos and videos of their dogs doing absolutely nothing but standing upright. And I’ve watched as locals try to sneak their dogs into restaurants, bars and shops that aren’t “pet friendly.”
Again, I like dogs and I’d get another one if they lived as long as I might have left. They provide unconditional friendship, devotion and affection. They don’t betray you or talk back. They don’t have Facebook or Twitter accounts and don’t give a rip if you voted for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Now, cats on the other hand…….
Watching The Democrat Party Disintegrate: One of the most powerful and emotional moments in President Trump’s joint session of Congress speech Tuesday evening came when he introduced the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who was killed in action in Yemen. The late SEAL’s wife, Carryn Owens, broke down in tears and received the longest ovation of the night — more than two minutes. While others around them stood and applauded, disgraceful Florida Democrat Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Minnesota Democrat Congressman Keith Ellison, feeling pressure to do so, popped up for a few seconds then quickly sat back down and remained seated and scowling, apparently feeling that doing more for a soldier who died for his country was just too right wing. Some other Democrats around them are seen seated during the entire ovation. Could these losers be more pathetic? Following the speech, which has received solid reviews from the press on the right and left, most Democrats didn’t hang around to chat or shake the President’s hand, fleeing the chamber faster than Jacksonville Jaguar fans in the third quarter.
Who Won The Super Bowl Department: I’m not much of a movie fan and didn’t watch the Academy Award presentations this past Sunday, but after reading about the snafu in announcing the award for “Best Picture” (It was “Moonlight” that won and not “La La Land”, which was announced) it seems to me this screw up would be similar to the NFL presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy to losing Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank instead of the winning Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft following the end of the Super Bowl.
No Talent? Need Cash? And Lots Of it? There was a time when a professional baseball player who hit .206 wouldn’t make a minor league roster. And a pitcher with an earned run average (ERA) of 6.15 and a 3-12 record would be cleaning out his locker for a long summer vacation and a job search in another profession.
Not anymore. After reading the sports pages the past few weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that if you know which end of the bat to swing and the general direction of home plate, you not only make the team but will be rewarded beyond your wildest imagination.
For example, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller was so impressed with his 3-12 won-lost record and 6.15 era last season he went to arbitration and asked for a raise to $5.1 million this year. The team said “no”, that his “impressive” stats were only worth $4.7 million up from last year’ $4.35 million. Huh?
And in Tampa Bay, outfielder Colby Rasmus inked a $5 million dollar deal with $2 million in performance bonuses for his eye-popping .206 batting average last year with St. Louis. This is a guy who failed to get a hit eight out of every ten times at bat. To earn less than $4 million as a major league baseball player you apparently have to be blind, in a wheelchair and fail to show up at the stadium.
What the hell is going on? In 1959 Ted Williams failed to hit .300 for the only time in his career when he played most of the season with a pinched nerve in his neck and finished at .254. At age 41, he decided to play one more season but insisted on taking a 30 percent pay cut from $125,000 to $90,000 in 1960, his last season. He hit .316 with 29 home runs. Compared to the former players these guys today look like jerks — very rich jerks — but who can blame them for milking their stupid owners for all they can get?
When I lived in Atlanta I stopped going to MLB games when the prices increased to the point that it was costing more than $100 a game for a ticket, parking and a hot dog and a beer. Then the millionaire players went on strike and that was it for me. I only went when someone offered me a ticket. I love the game but now enjoy it on TV or by attending, local little league, high school and minor league contests. In the minors the prices are right, the games are fun and the players are fighting like crazy to make it to the multimillion dollar club where wealthy and dim MLB owners will pay them millions just to put on a uniform.
I’m looking forward to attending a few Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (a great name) games this spring and summer even if I have to endure the crime riddled streets of Jacksonville (City motto: Maybe you won’t get stabbed, shot, raped or robbed) to do so. Is there a place on Amelia Island for a minor league baseball team or someone rich enough hereabouts to buy one to plant here? How about a baseball stadium instead of a welcome center, terminal or whatever?
Speaking Of Baseball: There’s talk in major league baseball circles of making a number of changes to the game including cutting it back from nine to seven innings to speed it up, eliminating the intentional walk, and cutting the regular season schedule from 162 games to 82. Where the heck are these people coming from? Leave the game alone. These doofuses have already screwed it up enough with the designated hitter, manager challenges and video replays. That’s not how the game is supposed to be played. Pitchers are supposed to bat, whether they can hit or not. Umpires are human and make judgment calls and managers storm out of the dugout kicking dirt and screaming until they are ejected. That’s part of the charm of the game. Baseball doesn’t need fixing. It’s perfect the way it is. If you’re in a hurry then you don’t belong at a baseball game. People go to a baseball game to relax and watch how it all unfolds. One of the great things about baseball is that there is no clock. You get to chill out, chat with a pal, drink a few beers and eat hot dogs. If these time and motion fanatics want to slow an event down pick on golf or NASCAR, monotonous sports that go on for boring hour after hour or day after day. What’s next, getting rid of hot dogs and beer and substituting tofu and juiced kale? Leave the game alone you twits, you’ve done enough damage.
Reporting From Florida: Piers Morgan, a British newsman who was bounced from CNN due to poor ratings and who isn’t exactly considered conservative or even close, responded to the massive media criticism of Donald Trump and vice versa. “I’ve been in Florida,” Mr. Morgan tweeted about the President’s anti-media Tweets. “They love Trump here & especially love him whacking the media. Liberal crowd just don’t get that at all.”
It Doesn’t Keep Me Up At Night But: Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?
Misplaced Ire Department: The Foreign Ministry of Iran expressed outrage and is calling President Trump’s temporary pause on its citizens visiting the U.S. insulting. That’s interesting coming from a country that places draconian travel limits on Europeans, bans Israeli citizens (Jews and Palestinians) altogether, executes Christian proselytizers and homosexuals, and is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism that kills thousands of men, women and children and provides weapons to those who kill U.S. soldiers. For this President Obama awarded them one of the most lopsided treaties ever signed and secretly provided these thugs billions of dollars. Keeping these Iranian psychopaths out of the U.S. is a small step compared to what they deserve.
Where’s The Nearest Port-A-Potty Department? More than 2,000 folks probably spent last Saturday evening with heartburn, indigestion and various stomach and intestinal rumblings following the 11th annual Fernandina Beach Chili Cook-Off. According to Fernandina Beach’s Parks & Recreation Manager Jay Robertson 22 teams entered this year along with 12 vendors, ranging from chiropractors to various craftsmen. It cost just $10 to buy a wristband enabling those who did so to prowl the closed portions of North and South 2nd Street and parts of Centre tasting the variety of chili offerings. Smoke N Da Cockpit won the People’s Choice category where folks who pay to taste cast their ballot with the tokens they receive when entering the cook-off area. Quality Health came in second and Pajamadave’s and my Pajama-Wrecker chili coming in 13th out of the 22 entries. The Overall category was won by Quality Health with Mosquito Control (Mosquito Control?) taking second place. The Open Division was won by 2 Smoking Phat Boyz; the Restaurant/Business category taken by Quality Healthcare while G’s Low & Slow won spiciest with Pajama-Wrecker coming in 6th in that category. Much of the money raised by the festival went to the Amelia Island Montessori School as it does each year since the school initiated the event. Due to a busted Fibula in my left leg, I was wheelchair-bound during the event and Mr. Pajamapants blonde bombshell fiancé actually concocted the Pajama-Wrecker Chili which contained the secret ingredients of Jack Daniels and a bunch of habanero pepper laced chocolate bars. Local musician Dan Voll and Dr. Harp entertained the Pajama-Wrecker team and surrounding chiliheads with guitar, harmonica and vocals. My very patient Texas-native wife, Linda Scott, donned a longhorn apron to help serve the tasters while I kibitzed along with PJ Dave. It was great fun and from what I observed nobody was complaining.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: It’s been a longtime since I last ate at Marche Burette, but this past Wednesday friend Joe Murphy suggested it for the monthly lunch shared by Joe, me and our pal Cal Atwood and we’re happy he did. First, the entire experience is sort of like eating lunch at Fauchon on Place de Madeline in Paris, without the sky high prices and French speaking servers, but with the patisserie, gourmet food store, chocolates, wines, ice cream, confectionery, etc. The 85 Village Circle landmark location has tables scattered around its deli area with attentive and charming servers, reasonable prices and a bright and cheery atmosphere. The lunch menu features a variety of salads, hot and cold sandwiches and even three plated meals of chicken, shrimp and “today’s catch”, which was the most expensive item at $19. I had the $12 ham and gruyere melt with a side of potato salad and ice tea that came in at $16 with tax while Joe ordered a southwestern turkey Panini (a sandwich made with Italian bread) and chips also for $12. Cal had a combination tuna and chicken salad plate for a very reasonable $10. Nobody complained about anything and as we polled each other on our selections there was 100 percent agreement that it was all very good and that we’ll be back again soon. If you’re lucky you may have the pretty and charming Romanian server Laura take your order. And next time I think I’ll order the Salmon salad Nicoise, to see how well it compares to the one at Fauchon. Oh, don’t ask for milkshakes as that machine has been displaced for a new coffee maker. It is open for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Wines and beer are available. Call ’em at 904/491-4834.