Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Features and More

Prey at night, provider by day

I'm outside a house. The sky is dark. It's a dream but I know it's a hurricane.

An alligator climbs out of a window.

I'm a Florida boy. I've learned a few things about alligators. They're not always there, but they could be.

River. Swamp. Lake.

Ditch. Pool. Front door.

It's a dream, but I know the house is abandoned. Maybe it's a neighbor's.

Maybe it's mine.

• • •

Age 15: Westside Jacksonville. Blue-collar golf course.

Entrails float in cattails.

The old guys in the pro shop belly laugh. No, nobody got murdered. Gator got something.

Age 32: Gainesville. Tumblin' Creek.

I'm tracking the flow into Bivens Arm, a ruined lake as gross green as pea soup. The creek disintegrates into a delta of muddy, garbage-strewn woods. I know I'm close. I shimmy part way up a tree. I see water through waving reeds.

Then, water moves. Knobby head surges.

I jump. My boots lock into muck. I think of the end.

Age 42: North St. Petersburg. Betty's Coin Laundry.

We don't know if we can afford to get the dryer fixed, so every other night, I tote wet clothes. On the bright side, I have time, finally, to seek therapy in fiction.

My wife borrows a book for me. It's about a gator wrestler.

•••

I've never been so on edge.

Double-digit unemployment. Neighborhoods under water. Pay cuts. Layoffs.

We bought our house in 2004. Two bedrooms. One bath. It's all we could afford, but to me, it was plenty. In hindsight, it was extravagant.

Around New Year's, my boys would climb the orange tree. We'd eat a dozen a day, right there in the yard. Sunshine dribbled down our chins.

Then the plagues came. I drenched the tree with every something-icide I could buy at Home Depot, but it was too late. The leaves fell off. The oranges turned black. Sloughed-off bark left the limbs skeletal, like a Christmas tree in a Tim Burton movie.

I know the boys miss their tree. They're having alligator dreams, too.

•••

North Shore Beach is free. Our Great Recession getaway.

In my duct-taped, '97 Nissan, I croon to the Ramones' Rockaway Beach: North Shore, North Shore Beach, we can hitch a ride to North Shore Beach . . . The boys giggle as spazzy daddy sings the verse:

Chewing at a rhythm on my bubble gum

Sun is out, I want some

My gentle beasts splash far and wide in the literally life-giving sea grass. Sweaty, sandy, briny, happy. Here they're in their element, pitting hermit crabs in gladiator fights, and I can feel like the provider I'm supposed to be.

I don't worry about alligators at North Shore. Bull sharks maybe. (Shrug.) But not alligators.

From the seawall, I watch clouds of skimmers in formation, trippy orange beaks swirling against endless sky. A crazy wind crinkles through the palms. It's paradise, right next to me, whispering.

I want to believe what I hear.

     
Comments
Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

It started with jugs of olive oil and cans of tuna, lots of it, which my husband hauled in one day and plunked on the counter. "That’s my lunch!"That was about three months ago, and every day since there has been a new entity in our house to consider...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

More than 50,000 people are estimated to attend Pride weekend in St. Petersburg, which runs Friday to Sunday. (June is LGBTQ Pride Month.) Whether you plan to march in the parade or host your own smaller gathering, we’ve selected five rainbow-themed ...
Published: 06/20/18
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If you’re like, "Huh?" you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-...
Published: 06/19/18
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Published: 06/19/18
A perfect pick for dessert

A perfect pick for dessert

America’s Test KitchenIt might seem impossible to improve on a perfect peach, but we decided to try. We wanted a simple, warm dessert that amplified the peaches’ flavor. To achieve tender, flavorful peaches with a lightly sweet glaze, we began by tos...
Published: 06/19/18
Everything you need to know about marinating meat

Everything you need to know about marinating meat

For a lot of home cooks, marinating meat is almost as automatic as cooking the meat itself. Douse the meat in some kind of flavored liquid, pop it in the refrigerator overnight and cook it the next day.Seems straightforward enough, but there are reas...
Published: 06/19/18
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. There’s Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Published: 06/18/18
Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

When we started seeing ads for Nestle Toll House cookies already baked and prepackaged, I knew it was time for our tasters to get involved. They are cookie lovers, and one even has his own cookiemaking business. We found the Nestle brand and had hope...
Published: 06/18/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

Still shaken by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination six days earlier, I sat in the hospital waiting room mindlessly thumbing through a May 1968 Rolling Stone while my wife, Fran, gave birth to our daughter Elle. As was customary, when everyone had been fre...
Published: 06/15/18