Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ramblings and Recipes, Part 4 - Moving to Florida

“Life takes you down many paths but my favorite ones lead to the beach.” – Author Unknown
I remember packing up the family station wagon back in 1960 for the long move from Arizona to Florida.  We were promised sandy beaches, swimming in the ocean, and fishing from a boat.  What we got was Hurricane Donna.
Hurricane Donna struck the Florida southeast coast with 150 mph winds and a 13 foot storm surge.  My mom was ready to pack it up and head back to Arizona.
Life was different in Florida. 
During the summer months, you could ride the City Bus downtown for ten cents, walk down Flagler Street past Burdines and the Biscayne Hotel to the movie theatre, sit in the balcony and watch a great movie for six RC cola bottle caps.   
I spent most of my teen years hanging out at the beach in Fort Lauderdale somewhere in the vicinity of the Elbow Room, especially during Spring Break when all the young girls knew that was “Where the Boys Are”!  Oh how I remember being 15 years old, walking along the sidewalk on A1A, near Las Olas Boulevard, wearing my newest bikini trying to act older and more sophisticated when I suddenly realized that I had stepped on a big old wad of bubblegum and it was securely attached to both the bottom of my foot and the sidewalk, with stretchy strings of pink goo following every step.  So much for sophistication!
I recall one night being awakened by a phone call and hearing my dad’s irritation boil over with language he generally reserved for those times when my mom and us kids were not around.  It turned out that the police had called him to come to the station to pick up my brother Bill.  Bill and his girlfriend had been arrested for trespassing.  Apparently they had decided to go for a swim at the Yankee Clipper hotel pool on Fort Lauderdale Beach.  It was late at night and no one was in the pool except for them.  I guess they were getting a bit… um… romantic… not realizing that the hotel bar had a big window that peered into the underwater area of the pool.  My brother’s shenanigans caused quite a stir with the crowd tipping back a few drinks.
My brother Roy taught me to drive.  My dad tried, but went into panic mode the moment my foot touched the accelerator.  Roy had a calm demeanor about him.  Nothing seemed to frighten him and he was just a real easy-going type of guy.  Even when I managed to hit the only sign in the entire vacant parking lot, he just calmly sat there and smiled, told me to put the car in reverse and try it again.  I had to check his eyes to see if they were glazed over.  After all, these were the ‘60s.  Nope, he was good!
My first car was a 1959 English Ford Anglia.  It was a little car, about the size of a VW, only squared off instead of bubble shaped.  It was rusty and dented and not much to look at, but it was mine.  At the time, my dad owned Buck’s Garage and Body Shop on State Road 7.  As a special treat for me, he told me he would have the car painted and he would fix the dents.  I was overjoyed.  When I saw the finished product, I stood there in shock.  My dad had painted my car pink with big purple flowers all over it!  Now keep in mind, this was the 1960’s… days of Flower Power!  Needless to say, I was ecstatic!  I loved, loved, loved it!  But surprised as I was that my dad would be so hip, little did I know at the time that he had a hidden agenda.  From that day on, my dad always knew where I was.  Friends of his could spot my car a mile away!  “Oh, I saw your daughter’s car at the mall this morning”, or “I saw your daughter’s car down on Dania Beach pretty late last night”.  Smart dad.
Keeping track of me secretly like that was my dad’s way of letting me know that he truly cared about me.  Being an emotional, hormone-driven teenager, hell bent on having drama in my life, I left home at the ripe old age of 14.  There was no real problem at home, nothing that a rational person couldn’t deal with.  But I was a teenage girl.  Teenage girls are not rational.  And after dealing with the antics of my brothers and my sister, my parents just didn’t have the energy to deal with me. 
For a while, I lived with my friend Pat on a flat bottom, 2-story houseboat on New River.  They were building and furnishing the houseboat themselves with whatever they could scavenge.  We got scrap pieces of carpeting from dumpsters behind carpet companies, cut them into various shapes and created a puzzle-like carpet in each room, gluing together various colors of the previously discarded shag in different lengths.  
Life on that houseboat was rather interesting.  It wasn’t very stable.  Every time a boat would travel down the river near us, the waves would cause such rocking that we would have to hold onto our dishes when we sat at the table to eat.  One time it rocked so hard that I fell into the batch of glue we had just mixed up for our carpet project.
Living on a houseboat, our diet consisted largely of fish.  We found different ways of cooking fish to keep from getting bored with it night after night.
Coconut Almond Fish
·       Yellowtail or Red Snapper fillets
·       Coconut
·       Coconut Milk (canned)
·       Extra Virgin Olive Oil
·       Unsalted almonds, sliced
·       1 Egg, beaten
·       Pineapple juice
1.    Crush almonds (or macadamia nuts, if you prefer) into fine pieces and mix with coconut in a plastic bag.
2.    Beat egg in a bowl and set aside.
3.    Rinse fish filets and pat dry.  Gently coat each piece of fish in the beaten egg and then toss in the bag to coat with almonds and coconut.
4.    Heat frying pan with a small amount of olive oil.  Sauté fish until done (do not overcook).  Remove from pan and set aside, keeping the fish warm.
5.    Pour the entire can of cream of coconut into the frying pan.  Add an equal or slightly less amount of pineapple juice.  Heat to a boil stirring constantly to mix with the drippings from fish, until the mixture thickens.
6.    Drizzle the sweet sauce over the fish.  You can also add sliced tropical fruits on top if you wish.
When my friends moved their houseboat to Miami Beach, I moved in with my sister after first making her promise there would be no more toilet dunking.  Penny was recently divorced and actually wanted my company, so the promise was made.  We lived near a drive-in movie theatre.   Sometimes we would sit on top of our cars in the parking lot of our apartment building and watch whatever was playing at the drive-in.  We couldn’t hear the movie, so we would improvise with what we thought they were saying.  Our version of the movie lines was far more interesting than the actual script.  Of that I am sure. 
My brother Bill had joined the Army and had gone off to Viet Nam.  I wrote to him regularly and was overjoyed when he would write back.  When several weeks had passed and I didn’t hear from him, I got worried.  So I did what any worried little sister would do.  I wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Adjutant General and asked that my brother be located.  I soon received not only a letter but a phone call from my brother.  Apparently he was on leave and enjoying himself in New Orleans with his female companion when the Army came knocking on his hotel room door.  Needless to say, Bill was not happy with me. 
In my junior and senior years of high school, I participated in a work program where I completed my high school credits in the morning and went to an office job in the afternoon.  What the school didn’t know was that I worked a second job after that, sometimes late into the night.  A couple of nights a week I worked in the coat room at The Tiger’s Den, a teen nightclub.  Sometimes I even got to dance on stage.  That’s where I met Mark Lindsay of the group Paul Revere and the Raiders.  He danced with me on stage and I had a teen crush on him for years after that.  Of course I also had a teen crush on Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Bobby Rydell.
One night after work, Penny called to tell me she had left her car at a local pizza place on Federal Highway.  Assuming she had too much to drink and had someone else drive her home, I got a friend of mine to drop me off at Pizzio’s and slid into the cream colored leather seat of her ’62 Chrysler sedan.  The car didn’t start immediately, which was nothing unusual, so I sat there a couple of minutes waiting to try it again.  That’s when a couple of U.S. Marines decided they would come to my rescue.  They were too drunk to realize that I didn’t need help.  But one of them was kind of cute, so I gave him my phone number before I shooed him away.
And that was the beginning of my 49+ year marriage.


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