Sunday, October 23, 2016

About Maribel’s birthday and Hurricane Mathew; an uninvited hotel visitor and an otherwise great vacation.

Thursday October 6th was Maribel’s birthday. When it works out we usually try to celebrate in the United States with dinner at a good steakhouse. This year the location we chose was Miami. We had reservations at the Texas Roadhouse. They do great steaks and have this ‘ride the bull’ thing on your birthday plus a free drink. Hurricane Mathew brought those plans to a screaming halt.

The local and national news was all about Mathew possibly destroying half of Florida. All the TV stations were broadcasting nothing but Mathew…the precautions to be taken and the businesses, schools and whatever else closings. “Stay tuned to WXXX – YOUR Mathew storm tracking center!” By mid-day on the 5th the city had virtually shut down. Our hotel posted warnings and procedures to be taken when Mathew hit. All guests were advised to purchase bottled water, flashlights, and non-perishable food to last for several days. It was a forgone conclusion that power would be knocked out. So instead of the Texas Roadhouse we celebrated Maribel’s birthday that night hunkered down in our room with plenty of water, fruit and bakery and two flashlights, while alternately peeking out the window wondering if the flood level would reach our 4th floor room and if palm trees, cars or other wind tossed debris would come crashing through the window. Nothing happened…Mathew was a no-show.

We saw no lightning and heard no thunder. The forecasted deluge never got past the drizzle stage, and if that forecasted 140 mile per hour wind reached 25 I’ll eat my hat. Don’t get me wrong…I’m all for the precautions that were taken, but I am selfishly glad that Mathew decided to go north of Miami. The next morning in the hotel’s breakfast nook I used the waffle machine to prepare a golden brown, powder sugared and syrup drenched waffle. I put a candle we’d bought the night before on it and presented it to Maribel, saying “here’s your birthday waffle.” The look on her face convinced me not to sing.

After a few days of knocking around Miami we drove to Clearwater Beach, one of our favorite destinations. It’s a great town to just relax and unwind. It has a lot to offer but one of its offerings this trip is something we could have done without.
It was 4:00 AM when someone began pounding on our hotel balcony door. I ignored it hoping it would stop but it just got louder. I looked through the peep hole but couldn’t see anyone so I pushed the curtain aside. Looking back at me was a big biker dude. He looked as surprised to see me as I was to see him. He explained that his woman had told him to meet her at this hotel at this room number and he had driven his bike all the way from Orlando to do that. I tried to tell him his woman wasn’t here but he said he couldn’t hear me and insisted that I open the door. Yah…..right….I’m going to open the door for this guy. Just at that time Maribel got out of bed. He saw her and shouted, “That’s her!” I shouted back that she was my wife and that we had rented the room three days ago and this conversion was over and I closed the curtain. The banging got louder. I’m thinking that this guy is going to come through the door or window, so looking for a weapon I picked up the first thing I saw. I was not completely confident that the sight of a 75 year old man in his underwear brandishing a corkscrew would cause this guy to back off. Fortunately Maribel was thinking clearer than me and had phoned the front desk. In less than a minute we heard voices outside and then silence. We didn’t see or hear from the guy again.
Naples was our next stop. We visited relatives and discovered some attractions we hadn’t known about on a previous visit. The city is best described as a wealthy residential community and nowhere is that more apparent than on 3rd street in the fashionable historic district…with one exception: the Third Street Plaza. It is a two-level ultra-modern design with fountains, sculptures and winding walkways fronting the chic store fronts. An inscription on the central clock tower reads, “The Plaza – 1988.” And for at least the past ten years it has been 100% deserted.  A former occupant told us the problems started when the owners “…couldn’t decide what they wanted the plaza to be.” She could not be more precise than that other than to say the rental costs were excessive.

City regulations oblige the owners to maintain the property, thus there is no graffiti, broken windows or other outward signs that the mall is not functioning. Even the foliage is watered and trimmed. Walking through the silent mall even in broad daylight conjures up eerie images of a scenario in a Walking Dead movie. It’s hard to imagine what other use the property could be put to, but it’s also hard to imagine that it can continue to just sit there.

We enjoyed 16 wonderful days in Florida. Now we’re back in Chiclayo with batteries recharged and ready to resume our Promesa Peru activities. Oh…I almost forgot. We brought back with us the Dell laptop that crashed seven days after we bought it last April. The Dell factory replaced the hard drive, motherboard and cable…all under warranty. They also reinstalled the operating system and Office. Now that we finally have a working laptop, all I have to do is figure out how Windows 10 operates.