Category: vacation


Having three timeshares gives me the chance 3 times a year to vacate my job and my daily life and enjoy the ocean we are all drawn to.

Sometimes we must be made leave our busy and debt filled lives and escape the pressure of gettin by. Timeshares do that for me. With a timeshare, you use it or lose it. My sister Judie always rents hers out and then rents a bigger apartment/condo for her entire family and their friends. She just returned from Destin.

My Dad gave each of us (Judie, LuAnne and me) a week of timeshare some 20 years ago. He believes vacations are a necessity, not a luxury. He has convinced me he is and was right. All of my children have spent a week in Florida each summer of their lives. And they feel a sadness each time Diana and I go now as sweet Florida memories creep in to their heads.

My oldest daughter, Jessica and her family of 4 kids and husband just moved to Tennessee. It has been hard on her and her husband, but the kids love it in Tennessee. Brian, her husband, got a job in Jackson and was working before the end of their first week here and by the end of the second week, Jessica had started helping at the restaurant. When you have 4 young kids, a job gives you time away from their constant need for Momma…. and her attention. I am so proud of them as a family for moving to be near us and us to them. They had spent their entire life in the Cleveland Ohio area, where Brian calls home and all his family live. So I admire his blind faith as I did Jessica’s when she left Tennessee to go to nursing school in Ohio.

She always tries to plan to use one of my weeks in Florida but it has yet to work out for her. This morning I called her about a water leak at the Broken Spoke and have her tell the guys what to do so they can have water to open and cook with…. and all is a go…. for another day at the Spoke.

Yesterday Jessica and Ashely and Christen and all their kids, except for one, managed to get together and spend some time at “the creek” and even though a thunderstorm ran them all back home before they were ready to leave, they had a good time together – all together is something that only happened in the past on the holiday… some holidays. It made my heart calm and smile as I wrapped my mind’s eye around each one of them.

See, it’s not really the places we go, but rather the time we spend together when we get there. Time sharing is a deep and meaningful term. Time is money in a capitalist free world. We all posses time and in that way we are all created equal…. as long as we are alive…. we have equal time.

Time to do as we please, some folks find comfort in knowing what time will bring them… the hourly worker knows what his or her paycheck will be come payday…. others feel caged by the time clock and go out on their own…. like me… knowing the odds are against me, I fight with all my time and might to carve a living out of the work of my hands and mind and will to “succeed.”

Then there comes a time when you financially fail or win… or like me…. you fight the gorilla of life…. we fight it out every minute of every day…. me trying to get to the top of the tree and make sure my branch managers have plenty of bananas for their packs and on down the line.

The gorilla takes first and foremost the form of the taxman. That gorilla says give me bananas or you can’t swing in this tree…. where all the bananas are there for the picking.

Sales tax, business tax (city, county and state) liquor tax, unemployment tax, social security tax, tobacco tax (tobacco is already 1/2 taxes and then users are taxed on the tax) property tax (the only people that think my land is worth anything is the property tax assessor and I will gladly sell the county all my land at the appraised and taxed level of today) liquor insurance, property insurance, liability insurance, worker’s comp insurance…. all are required to even qualify to get in the banana tree of taxation.

I choose to go there because I like the “jungle”, the unknown, the chance of great reward.

Most folks don’t even get in the game because they are “fearful of failure”….. they never even try because of this one fear alone…..

Luckily, I left fear behind, along with my underwear, in 1973. I have been somewhat fearless ever since and I have gone and done things no human has duplicated and the list goes on…. because I choose to “fight the gorilla” instead of settling for the “known paycheck”.

This recession has been very hard on small businesses everywhere and the food business is in a war for what customers are available. Prices like 1973 for pizza, burgers and such…. nationwide.

Those of us who are still in business are in for the fight of our lives and for our way of life. The right to fight is already overpriced for many to enter the tree where the bananas hang and that affects everyone’s liberty. I am now forced to shop at big business because they have eaten all the small businesses and their bananas.

The gorilla of taxation is the size of King Kong and I am the one fool with my back foot planted in freedom and my front foot pushing forward in an effort to whip that gorilla’s ass.

Today that gorilla is sleeping while I battle the “breakdown and repair” gorilla. A major water leak, one icemaker needs repair, 2 cold tops went out from the extreme heat…. from a 5 ton a/c being declared dead…. and the gorilla roars and screams and beats his chest…..

While I try to fight the new “bank” gorilla who says…. things have changed, examiners won’t let us do that but rather you must do this… pay me now all your bananas or you get no more of mine. They have forgotten we need their help now more than ever because we worked through the recession… and it ain’t over…. “Mr Gorilla Banker”….. robbing me of my bananas ain’t gonna work out for you… for long.

My phone rings… gotta go…. its my lawyer…. time is money for a lawyer… and me.

As I choose to….. spend time sharing time with my best friend and the ocean and the sun.

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Morning Has Broken

My morning has started just right. I am up early and the coffee maker is workin and perkin, the waves are crashing against the sand, and Diana’s sleepin.

I take a couple cups of coffee from the balcony, amazed at the continuous trail of brown seaweed the night has deposited to the ocean’s edge. A few walkers fast walk, a few older couples stroll; as I watch, one runs. The cabana boys begin to set up the rental chairs and umbrellas as they trudge thru the sand, nearly hurting my legs to watch.

At 7:30 AM, I ice my beer down, grab my camera and a beach towel and after leaving the room 3 different times only to have forgotten something again, I go claim a rental chaise and umbrella. That alone, I thought to myself, proves I’m old. My mind using the mathematical, economical, logical combo, telling me the rental is cheaper than the visit to the back doctor and it’s a lot more better too.

One of my trips back thru the door was to get this pen and paper and my third cup of coffee. Now that I am here on the beach, I am glad I went back up the stairs for my coffee and pen and paper.

When I am writing things just flow; it constantly amazes me, and I often wonder where it is going and how far I will let it go.

Lettin go is hard. Allowing is hard. Having faith is hard. Believing you are good enough just as you are is hard. Times are hard. It all hardens me, making it hard…. to let go….. to allow…. to have faith. But I keep on tryin.

With each passing of each day, I am grateful for the air I breathe and the people who love me and depend on me. Those alone and collectively, keep me pushing the ball up the hill with no end in sight. I have accepted my life from here on out will be all uphill and hard. Thank God, I have been hardened and seasoned for the chore ahead called life.

So it’s 9 AM and I have popped my first Coors Lite, stuffed it in a cozzie cup and took a long sip… and it was good.

By now all the chaise lounges at our timeshare have been rented and at 57, I am the youngest renter by 20 years; oh wait, I see one couple with kids at the very end and they are 20 years younger than me.

I have been taking pictures all this time, stopping my writing off and on to do so. The beach is readying itself for the onslaught of tourists, like me, as families with tents set up for the day and new walkers appear, more family and middle age people, most with a drink of some kind in their hand. Old folks are reading books with heads down and hats on. I am laying facing the ocean breeze and squinting my eyes under my sunglasses as a subconscious self defense from the Florida sun’s brightness that makes writing and squinting a tiring chore.

So I lay my pen down and grab my second beer and my camera. The lady next to me has a broken umbrella so I try to help her put it in the trash and then try to help her adjust her rented umbrella to block the sun. The winds soon blow this one out of the sand, making it tumble down the beach. I catch it and reset it and go get in the ocean. After 15 minutes in the perfectly temperatured Gulf Coast waters, I see Diana coming to join me… a happiness comes over me and we make eye contact and I wave and come to the chaise lounge where she now sits. We exchange loving looks and small talk of the morning.

Diana has slept 18 hours yesterday, uninterrupted and she was so grateful. Dusty’s Oyster Bar is always my first stop, so lunch was shared at Dusty’s…. where we spent a couple of hours and devoured 24 oysters and a fried grouper sandwich. Out back there is a smoking deck and we spent an hour there, chatting and taking turns playing with the Sony A33. We got some good shots and enjoyed the nature of the setting, with hundreds of turtles, fish and other stuff like a raccoon feeding off the old oyster shells. Back to the room and Diana went straight to a nap and I started writing yesterday’s blog.


Where is this going….. nowhere it seems…. It’ll be alright as long as I keep it lite.

Morning has broken in today and I have allowed all to happen as my mind talks to me. I have faith that my decision not to go to the funeral of my friend is the right one, and I am ready to move on….. live some more as if nothing has changed.


A storm blows up and the beach clears around 3 PM. It’s nearly perfect timing for me and my fair skin, that now wears a nice sunburn tan.

I met my goal today and that was put in 6 beers in a row, back to back, in my belly before the rain ran us from the beach. After a shower and an hour we headed to Captain Anderson’s Seafood Restaurant for fresh caught fish and creamy pina coladas and back to the room and in bed by 9 PM…. old we are, as we laughed at how early it was and we were in bed…. in Florida… and the young people are just hitting the streets and bars.

I wake up at 2:40 AM and Diana’s watching TV…. she is still young I guess.

6AM wakes me and I get up and its Wednesday. Talk to you later.. It’s coffee time.

7:30 AM now and I ready for a day at the beach, while the cabana boys put up the umbrellas and place the cushions on our set of rented chaise lounges.

I received the call from Ryan, Jay Cotter’s step son, who says the funeral won’t be til Saturday. I told him I had decided to stay here, where Jay Cotter and I had spent our last time together – sharing time about the good times. Ryan was very gracious to call me and I love all them and hope for them daily.

I look at my loving wife sleeping and I see my better half…. at rest. I enjoyed talking to you even though this journal blog went no where…. just like I plan to do today.

Beach, here I come…. life’s troubles will have to wait on me…. until I return home…. to face that pile of bills and problems on Friday.

Daddy once advised me when I asked, “How were we always able to go on vacation?”, knowing preaching didn’t pay very much in those days. I was trying to figure out how to take my family on a summer vacation like my dad had managed gladly to provide for me.

He answered me, “Jay, I have always considered a vacation a necessity, not a luxury.”

He went on to explain his reasoning behind this affirmation.

Dad said things in a way that made sense. And this made sense this way: Families bond and rediscover each other on vacations. The daily grind and pressure escapes no one, not even children, wives, or husbands. He said it becomes necessary to have a “planned vacation” so that all can anticipate the upcoming getaway.

We took a summer vacation every year I can remember as a child and they always included a cousin or two and a car full of kids and a trunk packed tight and right…so Dad could access the big green Coleman cooler that we ate and drank from at various picnic stops along our route of travel.

Dad was a “Ford man,” and we traveled in Galaxy 500’s and LTD’s. In my younger days with four or five kids in the backseat, I would often lie in the back window or the floor board. Mom would pack the Coleman with her signature pimento cheese and tuna salad and Colonial white bread. We had crackers and cheese in the car for the ever hungry carload and we used the “recirculate” mode on the air conditioning, circulating Marlboro Red smoke  evenly to each rider. And I was always “hot in the back” and “don’t touch me” was second only to “how much further,” as the spoken word.

Finally the kids would be told to shut up and don’t touch anybody or we were stopping and daddy would warm that ass up for you out in front of the car where the others could see how lucky they were that it was not them and instead me getting raised by a daddy and not a fraternity.

One vacation I remember as the longest “road trip” we ever took and it was a trip to San Francisco. We had Danny Phillips, my first cousin, with us and we embarked on a 3-week venture.

We left Tennessee wide-eyed and excited, covering the predetermined miles per day by starting early and reaching our motel at each spot in time for all of us to swim at the pool which was usually in the center of the parking lot of a Best Western. We would swim until dark, eat some cereal and milk and go to bed exhausted in a double room with a “rollaway” or two. I always got a rollaway bed because I was the only boy in the family.

Mom would repack the Coleman, dad would repack the trunk, and about sunrise we were en route to the next stop along the way. This road trip took us north, the first few days to Kansas City and Boot Hill, Salt Lake City, and the Salt Flats, and each city was toured as we hustled from spot to spot. I think we saw “The Sound Of Music,” at the theater in Salt Lake City and we toured the Mormon Tabernacle and still saved time for us kids to swim.

We traveled west to Pike’s Peak and Yellow Stone National Park. It was July and we were all dressed in shorts and such, but Old Faithful was a cold wait and heading up Pike’s Peak, we encountered a snow blizzard, winding up snow covered roads, that had no edge and I can still see the view from the backseat of blinding white snow and mom telling dad to be careful. That was the only time during the whole trip that we were quiet without being told. We made it up the mountain to a dude ranch for supper and such on into the night and it was cold…in July.

We made our way to San Francisco and the BIG CHURCH MEETING, that gave us cause to go there. We experienced trolley cars and I loved it. People were jumping on and jumping off and bells were ringing and I was definitely ready to do some jumping, too, but Momma made sure I didn’t as we toured China Town, the Fisherman’s Wharf, and finally a telescopic viewing of Alcatraz from afar.

We stayed in San Francisco for about a week as Daddy attended meetings, Mom would watch us swim or take us somewhere, or we often gathered with other preacher’s kids and hung out. One day, Dad took us to Candlestick Park and we watched “Say Hey Willie Mays” and felt the constant wind coming off the bay chilling my young under dressed body to the bone. The Golden Gate Bridge was the coolest thing I had seen up to that point in my life; the Arch in St. Louis was tops up until then.

The BIG CHURCH MEETING was called “General Assembly.” In the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, once a year, representatives from “Presbyteries” come together for a convention and governing issues were addressed and Mission Work was reviewed and highlighted. It was always great 2 see the other preacher’s kids we met each year at General Assembly. And it was especially cool to meet all the foreign kids from missions in Colombia and China.

We left San Francisco and drove down Hwy. 1, LuAnne says, and went through Carmel and into LA. Hwy 1 wound down the coast viewing the Pacific until we turned for Anaheim and DISNEY LAND.

Disney Land was still kinda new then and it soon replaced the Golden Gate Bridge as the coolest thing I had ever seen. The Disney World in Florida had not yet been built, so going to Disney Land was a treat for the few from my neck of the woods. While at Disney Land we were at Frontier Land and a gunfight was about to happen in the streets of this fantasy land and the for real looking cowboys shot it out. And as they did it I was only four or five feet from one of the cowboys and that gun work amazed me, so I walked up behind him, (he was the bad guy,) and took his gun out of his holster before he could stop me and pointed it at him, after I nearly dropped it from the unexpected weight of this real Colt .45 that was still smoking hot.

All went quiet in “Didney” Land; the cowboy turned and scolded me and took the gun back before Mom or Dad could grab me. Needless to say, Momma laughed and Daddy disciplined. He had to, there was 200 people watching his kid pull a gun on a cowboy. I could get into more trouble than the average boy for some reason; a reason that I’m still trying to find. All of Disney Land was awesome and I’ll never forget it.

From Anaheim, we took a southern route home, that took us through the desert and to more Best Western swimming pools and more pimento cheese sandwiches and cold whole milk. It doesn’t seem like we ever ate at a restaurant but I’m glad because “picnic table stops” that were so common through America during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s were a much better dinner table, using that old green Coleman cooler as the sandwich making counter. It was so good to get out of that car and to stretch and run and pee because we didn’t stop to pee. A lot of the concrete picnic table spots would have a well traveled path into the trees nearby. The trail lead to a big tree and ended. That was where you peed.

People, like my family, used these rest stops that would dot the major roadways of travel consistently. These “picnic table stops” are all but gone now, replaced by the once in a blue moon rest stops or state line visitor’s centers and the thousands of McDonalds of today.

The trip home took us to El Paso, Texas, to Tootsie’s house. Tootsie was Mom’s cousin and her family, the Stricklin’s owned a very successful grocery store on the Mexican border. They made tens of thousands of fresh tortilla shells daily right there in their store, and their whole family was bilingual which I thought was 4 ever cool.

We visited Tootsie, Texas style and went to a bullfight in Juarez, Mexico, touring the poor parts of town and town central. Tootsie had a daughter that was sick with leukemia, so this stop was a very important visit for Mom and I experienced my first pain that cancer would bring to me, as I couldn’t understand why, since she was so young and so strong, she couldn’t beat this disease. Cancer is stout. Jim, her son and I see each other every five or ten years now. He is so nice and is politically active and operates a huge pecan farm…extremely well.

By the time we got home, half the summer had gone. I was ready to be out of that car but today, I wish I was back in that Galaxy 500 on day one of this very trip.

We had many great vacations because they were “a necessity,” not a luxury.

And as I look back, I can now understand so clearly how necessary those family vacations were. From that point, the day I asked my dad how he did it (take us on family vacations each year) on his income, I have been able to take my family on many vacations. As I was writing this entry, Ashley, my middle child now 24, came in and I asked her, “what was your favorite vacation you have been on?”  She smiled and said, “Dad, all our vacations were great and all our camping trips and canoe trips to Indian Creek were great, because you made sure of it.” She stopped and turned her head sideways in thought and continued, “I guess, that time you took us to Gatlinburg for Christmas was the most special vacation. I really, really enjoyed that one.”  And as she was walking to fold laundry, she says, “Or maybe when just you and me went to the World Series final game in St. Louis.” And she smiled with memories as she recapped this and that about this or that vacation or another and we were both refilled with joys of that particular trip.

Dad taught me by example ….and any time I would ask. I am so glad I asked “how did you do it, Dad”, about vacations. Vacations, especially planned family vacations, are a necessity in the formula for a healthy family. As you sit at the dinner table of life tonight, ask your loved one or loved ones what their favorite vacation spent with you was and also ask them to think further back to childhood for vacation memories and watch the joy fill the room with happy faces, laughter and chatter. So I asked my buddy, Raba Baba, what was his favorite family vacation and to my wonderment he said, “My dad never took us on one…but, Mother did.” And he began telling his story, recounting the fun he and his mom had on their trips.

So Dad, I thank you for my well planned summer life and vacations and I fully endorse your Affirmation: Family vacations are not a luxury, they are a necessity. And as Dad showed me, vacations are far more fun and far less expensive if you travel with a large green Coleman cooler filled with homemade pimento cheese, tuna salad and ice cold whole milk. Believe me, a sandwich never tasted so good as it did as when it came out of that old Coleman cooler; with Mom handing out the white bread sandwiches on the roadside, with the trunk lid up, and the sun shining down on her happy face. Mom was happy because she was proud of her Man, my Dad, and they made these special moments happier…year after year.

The roadside was our dinner table, but the wide world was our plate and I was the lucky one, the son of a preacher man who had to go to the BIG CHURCH MEETING that took us all on a road trip vacation each General Assembly.

Ashley said, as she was leaving the house, “and Daddy, that trip we took to Nashville for that BIG CHURCH MEETING (General Assembly when I was a delegate), was really fun…” and she passed me and said, “all those church trips were fun. I really liked all of them.” And she leaned over and hugged my neck and thanked me.

And I swelled with a tear and went back to writing about this trip as I remembered it…then I called LuAnne, my big sister, to get my story right about the travel path to San Francisco, and of course, I had us going there the southern route and returning the northern route, and I was wrong. So after a few changes and Lu’s help, we recalled that 3-week trip of a lifetime shortly over the phone. She nearly got excited. Then I wondered how many baseball games did I miss that summer and I couldn’t remember…… But I’ll never forget that trip.

So load up the kids and tell um 2 shut up and no we r not there yet and don’t touch her…..”but daddy she is still looking at me.”……and he looked at me with them Daddy stern eyes ….and I shut up.