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Sunday, June 16, 2024


Notes to my neighbors 2/1/2006

By Rick Racela

 And it’s not because I don’t appreciate the high drama of grown men in tuxedoes annoying a defenseless (and very unattractive) rodent.
It’s because I decided to take the future out of Phil’s paws and place it into my own hands.
A short time ago, I predicted warm, sunny days on my horizon.
Four of them to be exact.
Art and I reserved a room near the beach in Key West for a long weekend. 
Last Wednesday as we headed for Philadelphia International, there was a thin coating of snow on the grass along Route 55. 
It wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun to escape from winter to summer if the comparison wasn’t so drastic. 
As it turned out, I didn’t predict the weather very well. I packed for 90 humid degrees, but it was more like low 70s with some pretty strong winds at times.
I had a suitcase full of sunscreen and bathing suits and snorkeling gear, (this was going to be my first Jacques Cousteau experience), but none of it ever got unpacked.
Instead, I had to go searching for a sweatshirt. No, I resisted the ones that read “Toadily Cool” and “I got wasted in Margaritaville.” I found a much more tasteful “Flying Monkeys,” named after one of the funkier outdoor cafes we got to know well.
Well, my first prediction didn’t pan out exactly as I’d thought it would.
Who cares? Only a few hours after we left home, we were in Margaritaville, with (what else?) margaritas in hand.
My second prediction was that since we booked this getaway on the spur of the moment, and we didn’t have time to ask anyone else along, I expected a quiet few days, just the two of us, just relaxing.
Ordinarily I’m not very good at relaxing, which my daughter-in-law pointed out when she dropped us off at the airport and saw I was bringing my laptop on a tropical getaway.
Anyway, we hadn’t even finished our first cheeseburgers in paradise when we met up with friends Debbie and Vince from the Crest. And before the first sunset, we had met several other couples we were to share our mini-vacation with.
All right, so I was wrong again. But that’s okay, because the reality was at least as much fun as my prediction.
And maybe we didn’t get to go swimming or parasailing, but we had lots of fun being tourists, checking out the “tourist attractions” like museums and saloons, a unique cemetery where all the graves are above ground, a craft show that brought crafters and their wares from all over the country, and some excellent blues musicians playing in the most interesting venues.
We found out that Key West has a fascinating history full of explorers, pirates, slavers, and ghosts.
Lots of first-rate writers went there, too, and were so intoxicated by the scenery and the fishing (and, of course, the rum) that they made it their home.
The most interesting stop was Ernest Hemingway’s home, a museum dedicated to his stories and his cats. It’s still inhabited by 40 to 50 cats, direct descendants of those who lived with the old man by the sea, and many of them are polydactyl (six toes per paw).
How touristy was I? Well, I wasn’t ashamed of wearing my camera as my main accessory, even though I really only took pictures of all Hemingway cats I saw, including the most photographed named Charlie Chaplin.
Thank goodness I managed to hold myself back from buying the T-shirt with an airbrushed picture of a cat in sunglasses saying “Gimme Six!”
As I write this, our plane is about to land at rain-soaked Philadelphia International that’s 20 degrees cooler than Key West. There goes that contrast again.
I’m adjusting, though, layering sweaters and scarves and stoking the fire.
What will really help me get through the rest of the cold weather is a calendar full of enjoyable events to look forward to. 
And now for my final prediction: I’ll find plenty such events in the Community News Planner.
There’s one prediction I know is correct.

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