Monday, May 30, 2016

Pass-A-Grille

Pass-A-Grille is an interesting little community.

I remember when I first came to St. Pete in the 70s, it was the place I wanted to be. I rented a funky little house a block from the beach right behind Shadrack's (a biker bar that's still there today). Down the street was Hubbard's Pier which is also still there but no longer owned by the Hubbards. The beach community was very laid back and relaxed until sundown when fights broke out just about every night at the bar. 

I was teaching 6th grade at Canterbury School and my friend Karl lived down the street from me in the White Houses (cottages across from the point). Before Karl lived there though he lived on my floor in his sleeping bag. Lots of interesting stories in those early years. 

Karl became the inspiration for my first novel, Home Movies. My protagonist was even named Karl "Buddy" Rosen and taught Kindergarten at a school on Pass-A-Grille Beach. 

In doing research for my book I found out that Pass-A-Grille was a derivation of the French (name) Passe aux Grilleurs," or Passageway of the Grillers. The Grillers would be the fishermen who used to grill their catch of the day on the shore when the island was still a post for pirates.

No pirates or grillers around today. There's no place for them to park!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

At the Beach

Finally!

This weekend, Deb and I are staying at our beach condo. It's only been a year since we bought this place on Pass a Grille Beach. We have never spent the night. 

There were good reasons. Debbie changed the lock ... it was a combination code that she cleverly had installed so we didn't need keys. That way when the kids wanted to stay they could use the code. Only problem was ... Deb forgot the code and threw away the instructions which had the identification code (the only way to reprogram it). 

Then there was the bed. We didn't have one for months because we weren't here for the delivery. When we did get one we discovered it was the wrong one ... Well wrong for me. The floor was softer than the mattress. Returning the bed took a long time too. 

Debbie wanted to have everything perfect. Paint, pictures, furniture ... All had to be perfect.

Turns out the condo building is undergoing renovations, new external repairs on the stucco and the structure. Scaffolding is everywhere as well as flaking paint chips. 

But you know what?

I couldn't be happier this weekend. Check it out. It's a gorgeous place to be! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Miss You Mom

I thought a lot about my Mom this morning. I reread  and wanted to share this posting that I did last year: 


May 9, 2015

With Mothers' Day here, I've been thinking a lot about my mom.

I wanted to write something sweet and uplifting about her now that she is no longer with me ... but  she would probably just roll her eyes.

You see, sweet and uplifting are not the adjectives that someone who knew her would use. Interesting, funny, a little crazy, smart, competitive, obsessive/compulsive and prickly would be closer to it.

Esther really didn't want kids. This fact she told my brother and I repeatedly. I think the day the house was on fire and she forgot to get me out until she realized that perhaps she was hasty running out alone was a sign of that.

She was born to be rich (we weren't), destined to be famous (she was known in New Orleans as ... well lets skip that part) and spent time in the kitchen only as a visitor (she never cooked a meal ... just made sandwiches and reservations).

She was freakishly smart. She graduated from Newcomb College (Tulane's woman's college at the time) on a full scholarship. She was only 19. She was a math major. Got married to my dad, had kids and didn't work.

Esther's biggest fear was always being poor and not being able to have "things". The irony was that she spent all the money we had on shoes, clothing and jewelry. Her closet was as big as our house .

Now in fairness to Esther, I have to disclose an important fact: she was neurotic. No ... not just ordinary neurosis, the type that required treatment. She was obsessive/compulsive, had a fear of flying, fear of being in a small room, fear of being in a large room, fear of being outside, fear of being inside, fear of having children, fear of being married ... oh well ... you get the picture. My dad just had one fear: Esther.

We would never be confused for The Brady Bunch or Ozzie and Harriet. But, Esther tried her best. She had no role models when she was growing up. She could have been a doctor or a lawyer or just about anything after she graduated. But instead she put her own career aside, raised two children and tried to do what she could to help build a family unit.

At times, she was often a prisoner in her own body. As children, we didn't understand this. We would be embarrassed that our friends didn't come over or that she had fits of depression and anger and hopelessness that were hard to deal with.

But she stayed ... for us.

That's what good mothers do. You were there Mom ... for better or worse. It's taken many years for me to appreciate what a strong commitment that must have been for you.

Thank you Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What Do YOU Have In Your Wallet?

Yesterday, I spent the morning trying to untangle a mystery surrounding my credit card.

For the past few days I have been trying to figure out why I had been getting messages from my dry cleaners, iTunes and even SunPass telling me that my card wasn't working. 

So I called the dreaded 800 number on the back of the card. 

The automated voice welcomed me asked me to enter the card number and listed 7 options like ... would you like your balance? has your card been stolen? or what's in YOUR wallet? (none of which related to "my card sucks and suddenly doesn't work"). So I pressed 0 for an attendant. 

"Hello, this is Antoine can you give me your card number?"

"Hello Antoine. I entered it when I called "

"Yes sir. This is just to verify who you are."

"The same guy who entered it 5 minutes ago."

Silence. 

"Antoine? Okay ... I'll read you my number."

"Thank you sir. Now what can I do for you?"

"Well. My card doesn't work any more. I have been getting calls from companies that tell me the charges aren't going through and yesterday the ATM rejected it."

"I see. Will you hold?"

Antoine must have taken a cigarette break because it seemed like an eternity until he came back. "Sir? When was the last time it worked?"

"I don't know. I think probably about a week ago."

"Sir. I'm going to connect you with card services ... Please hold ..."

"Wait ..."

Too late. I've been through this before. Being passed off to different departments is a fate worse than death. 

"Hello sir this is Sarah. Can you give me your card number?"

"Really?"

Silence. 

I gave my number. Explained my problem, held for another 10 minutes and sure enough ... You guessed it ... was transferred to another department. I repeated the process for Bambi or Brandi or Bimbo I can't remember. She told me that there was nothing she could do because my account was locked and I would have to take my card to one of the bank branches.

"Bambi, you can't be serious. You can't fix it? What are they going to do at the bank?"

"Sorry sir. It has to be done at the bank. "

Well now all kinds of thoughts were bouncing around in my head: Was my account compromised? Did someone steal my identity? Did I make a purchase that triggered this? 

But I persevered. Bright and early yesterday morning I showed up at the bank. The lobby didn't open until 9 ... It was 8:30. I went to the drive thru and told my story. 

"Well, sir. I can't help  ... But ... You know one of our banking reps is here. I'll see if he can help you."

Finally, someone who actually went out of her way to really try ...

"I'm sorry sir. He said you have to come in to the lobby."

"He's right there and can't just do it?"

"Um I guess not." Even she was embarrassed to tell me. 

So I waited in the parking lot as the minutes ticked away.

At 9, I went into the lobby and spotted one bank rep in his office showing a guy who obviously never had a credit card in his life how to use it. "That's right ... this side has the magnetic bar and you put it in the machine this way ... and you wait ... and then you push in your numbers ..."

The anger was rising. I wanted to physically grab the poor slob who never had a card in his life by his throat and throw him to the ground. I could take him. He looked at least ten years older than me.

Finally he came out. "So what can we do for you today?"

I retold my story, he took my card and called THE 800 NUMBER! I kid you not... The same people I called.

"Hi this is John from the Gateway Branch calling .... FT 1256-78P ... (Something like that. These guys probably use code when they go to the bathroom). Yes... Customer has a lock on his account. That's right ... uh huh ... Yes ... "

He hung up and handed me my card. "Okay. You're all set. She took the lock off your account and you're ready to go."

Now I'm seething. Sitting there staring at this guy with a big smile on his face. "Really? REALLY? I came in so that you could do the same thing that I did at home and was told it couldn't be done?"

"I ... um ... guess they wanted you to come in for identification."

"Do we know each other?"

"Sorry sir. I really don't know ..."

"Did she say what was wrong with the account? Why it was locked in the first place?"

"I don't think she could tell."

"So you guys lock my account, don't know why, can't fix it through the automated system that messed it up to begin with, make me come to the bank and you pick up the phone and call the same people ... And it's now fixed. Right?" 

"When you put it like that ... I guess so. Well sir ... Have a very nice day. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

SILENCE