This time of year, brush fires are a huge problem in Central Florida, as the vegetation has dried out during the winter months. During the day, the winds had changed, blowing clouds of smoke over the beach areas from fires on the mainland.
So it was with a sense of ugly foreboding that I rode in the car, expecting an uncomfortable meal out on that deck, inhaling the smoky air, with Love Bugs plopping into my clam chowder every 30 seconds.
However, you can't argue with a sunset junkie. For them, sitting on a patio watching the red sun sink into the sea as they sip on a glass of Chardonnay is pure magic, and never seems to get old. So I knew I couldn't say anything until I was proven right, and the situation became intolerable for her. I was prepared to suffer for my wife, but a man has limits. The moment we walked onto that deck, I knew I wasn't going to eat there.
Between the diners and the water, a small stage was set up, and a Hemingway look-alike was playing the guitar and singing jazzy, easy-listening chestnuts that set my teeth on edge. The waitress led us past several tables occupied by Chardonnay-sipping sunset junkies, and seated us at the table directly in front of the performer. He was warbling something about "wasting away in Margaritaville" at a volume that made conversation impossible. Plus, the smoke had settled in to the point where the sun was no longer visible.
We ordered drinks, and in the middle of "Sloop John B" I picked a Love Bug out of my beer and expressed my extreme displeasure, expecting to be shot down. But the lack of a visible sunset had broken the spell, and the girls were completely uncharmed by music from a prior generation. To my relief, we moved indoors and enjoyed the meal completely.
Afterwards, the women wanted to walk in the shallow water and look for shells.
Without a word, they all removed their shoes and handed them to me, as though I was a pack animal. They took off and I found a comfortable beach chair, where I waited, holding all of the shoes, while the women waded away into the smoky air, hunting for something you could buy in the souvenir store across the street from the restaurant for fifty cents. But you can't argue with a shell junkie.