We rolled into Clearwater late Tuesday afternoon, checking into the Birdsong Motel in Largo, just to the south, (click on the picture for the album of Birdsong Motel photos).
Depositing our things in our room, we went with Ronda's Aunt Pat to see Uncle Ray in the hospital, where he was being tested. I was so tired from my house-cleaning efforts in Windermere. Ray showed us an album of photos of his quite remarkable paintings. I kept drifting off, closing my eyes. I had to force myself to sit upright and attend to his narrative.
Ray must have noticed my fatigue, because he sent us off after a little while. We went from there to Bob Heilman's Beachcomber Restaurant on Clearwater Beach. The Beachcomber is a time machine to the 1950's, with a serious bar; professional, mature waiters; live lounge music; and excellent, if old-fashioned, food. Ronda had veal picatta, and I had "bronzed" jumbo gulf shrimp.
It rained while we dined, so we had to forego a walk on the beach. St. Pete/Largo/Clearwater has the best white sand beaches in the world, bar none, I say. You're wasting your money if you go to the Yucatan or the Caribbean islands.
We returned to the Birdsong Motel, had some drinks, watched some TV, and turned in. I slept like a dead man.
We had breakfast at the Largo Family Restaurant, a watering hole for local seniors. I had ham & eggs with grits and rye toast. Talk was of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.
If you want to feel young, plan your vacation for St. Pete/Largo/Clearwater. Away from the beaches, the area runs on Social Security and Medicare. People call you "kids", even if you're in your fifties.
Ronda called Pat. She had taken Ray home, and we were to join them there. Ray looked so good, back in his house, and we had a wonderful visit. He and Pat have so many interesting stories. They have been faithful Catholics all their lives, and it was easy to see that they had true peace of mind, whatever may come. We were glad that we made our visit. It was like what the Hindus call darshan, a blessing received by being in the presence of a guru. Just being with Ray and Pat was like getting a blessing.
Then we climbed back into our Subaru Impreza wagon, which has been such a great car on this long journey, and headed north toward home. I don't usually listen to music while I drive, but the Dead's American Beauty had been playing in my head all during this trip. After lunch in Crystal River, as we drew clear of Central Florida for the long run up Highway 19 to Tallahassee, I put the CD in:
In the book of love's own dream,
Where all the print is blood,
Where all the pages are my days,
And all my lights grow old,
When I had no wings to fly,
You flew to me.