East Coast Tour 2013 – Day 10 – Saint Augustine, Florida

I rose the the scent of belgian waffles that my dad was cooking up. He bought one of those flipping waffle irons after seeing one at a hotel and just had to have the gadget. He has developed his technique so the waffles are perfect every time. I get a kick out of my families quirks. We are an interesting bunch.

I goofed around the house and watched loads of television. I plunked on one of my dad’s guitars. He adopts any kind of musical instrument and over the years has collected a rough menagerie of orphans. He can play a variety of instruments in a rudimentary fashion. “Apple meet tree,” I thought to myself.

My parents and I went to a bar for lunch called the Hurricane Grill and Wings. I of course got some hot wings and a beer. I was in a better mood today and was more my usual self – cracking jokes and being a wise guy. My parents have been living in this area for a long time and I have seen it develop from zero stores and restaurants to the wide and plentiful offering the strip of CR210 has to offer. The once 2 lane road is now 4 lanes wide and subdivisions have popped up like mushrooms overnight. Where does the time go? Why does time move faster as we age? These are the questions I ponder while eating wings in a strip mall.

Back at home, I had my dad sing to me accompanied by his own player piano. He loved singing so much with my brother’s player piano that he got his own. He scored it for $100 knowing that John could fix it for him and of course he did. He has a nice collection of scrolls – the punched our paper rolls that a player piano uses. My dad has the most beautiful Irish tenor voice even though he looks like he is straight out of Goodfellas. He got his looks from his Italian mother as opposed to his German father.

My father walked me around the house showing me his latest model airplane builds. He does detailed work and even wires electric motors he scavenges from discarded Swiffer WetJet mops to spin the props. He is a crafty guy and I am lucky to have learned so much from him. He showed me his small watch repair work bench. I noticed similar tools to the ones that adorn my own bench. Watch bodies and movements in various states of repair were carefully laid out and prepared for surgery. My dad’s personality is similar to many men of his era. He is stoic and with a work ethic of a miner. His entire life, like my mom’s was about giving to the family. He worked hard to keep a roof over our heads. One time he traded a set of side pipes from his muffler shop to get me my first electric guitar. When my cheapo amp blew up he took me to Music City in Jacksonville and instead of getting me a used replacement, he plunked down over $250 to get me a brand new Peavey Classic VTX 212. It was my first real amp and it was super loud. That was a lot of money back then, but he saw my love for music and wanted that to blossom.

I remember watching my father looking over some sailboat plans he had hidden in a drawer. He had a dream to build a sailboat although he never really talked about the idea much. I am sure after pulling out those plans a few times, he arrived at the fact that he would never have either the time or the money. There was always a new baseball mitt, a dollhouse, or guitar amp to purchase to fulfill the dreams of one of his children. He made sacrifices I know I could never make, and although he is a quiet man and emotionally guarded, his actions scream what a great man and inspiration he has been to me.

After dinner I threw a post up on Facebook to see if any old Jacksonville friends wanted to meet up at one of my old haunts called Sherwood’s. It is a divey but very cool place in the San Marco section of town. Three of my old friends showed up, Natalie, Chip, and Doug. We had a great time discussing high school antics and former teachers. Natalie and Chip left after a while, but the closest of these old friends, Doug, stayed for a bit longer. We used to hang out all the time in high school and even shared a locker our senior year. We attended rock concerts and local shows. He introduced me to live punk music and we even took a few road trips to see some great bands. I have not sat with him face-to-face in over 30 years but we picked right up where we left off, ribbing each other and telling stupid stories.

I left Jacksonville in 1990 to move to Tampa and in doing so I left a lot of good friends behind. There was no internet then so when I moved a few postcards and phone calls dwindled to no contact with any of these people. Through Facebook, I have developed an online rekindling of many of these friends, but out of my 35 or so online “friends” from Jacksonville only 3 showed up to see me. I guess that’s the greatest thing about Facebook, to be somebody’s friend the only effort ever required is a simple click.

I headed home to St. Aug and crawled into my bunk. Memories of my days in Jacksonville flooded my head. I felt  stifled here when I was young because of the conservative Southern attitude, but I made the best of what I had. I found like minded friends. I played in bands and worked in a music store. I learned my craft here, and I was loved and supported my many. I often curse growing up in Jacksonville, but looking back at my 13 years here, I realize it wasn’t so bad after all. Life is what you make it. You can’t blame a place for your lack of happiness. And as a wise person once said, “No matter where you go, there you are…”

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