For reasons having little to do with the guest beds, I’ve again started waking up at night since I’ve been down here. Part of it is the less-familiar environment — to say Pinellas County FL has a far higher population density than the part of Planet Georgia surrounding FAR Manor doesn’t do justice to the contrast. Maybe this will help: at FAR Manor, I can stand on the roof and not see anyone else’s house, even if I try. On the patio behind Solar’s house, I need only turn my head to clearly see four houses and a fifth behind some foliage. If I were to climb onto the roof, I could probably see a dozen or more. But that’s nothing: Mom’s porch is on the third floor and faces the Intracoastal, and you can see a half-mile stretch of totally-developed barrier island from there.
But here, the morning’s soundtrack is surprisingly dominated by nature at the moment: jays and other birds screeching and chattering; a soft breeze stirring leaves. Humanity provides a counterpoint, occasionally coming to the fore: a train honking a few blocks away, a siren. Traffic hums in the background, sometimes blending with the wind whisper. An air conditioner buzzes to life, even at 10 a.m. Saws and other power tools make their presence known, but not nearly as often as I would expect — something is always under construction here, and you want to do most of your work in the morning before the heat gets overbearing.
Looking around, one is reminded that not all wildlife finds it difficult to live around people — squirrels and many birds actually thrive in our presence, not to mention bugs — and plants are even more aggressive here than on Planet Georgia. Some invasive species like the Brazilian Pepper spread here like kudzu does at home. Tall trees have half the back yard in full shade now, and the neighbor’s trees provide evening relief. A cedar fence surrounds the back yard, providing privacy and a nice walkway for lizards. The grass is still getting established, but it looks better every time I come down. Semi-wild plants surround the trees and poke through the fence, reminding me how quickly nature would re-take this territory were humans to retreat. Considering that the previous owner, in Solar’s words, “used it as his private landfill,” the back yard is thriving.
Solar bought the house as a fixer-upper and really fixed it up, with the help of Mom and some of his friends. It’s small, but a single guy really doesn’t need more than this. He even re-converted the garage back into a garage, although it’s still climate-controlled and he often leaves the door open so the cat can come in. He should get some before-and-after pictures up where people can see them. Indeed, he enjoyed the fruits of his labor so much that he bought the house next door and (again, with help) flipped it. Not too much flipping going on these days, though; the housing market here has cooled off a bit. Interesting to think that when this house was built 40-odd years ago, that it was about the average size for a family of four.
Mom’s birthday was yesterday — happy milestone, Mom! — and we celebrated here. Solar grilled salmon, and it was fantastic. He brushed on a marinade of honey, mayo, and olive oil and let it sit for about an hour, then we spread on some pesto (basil from yours truly) and grilled the fish on a cedar plank — similar in principle to hickory chips, I’d just not heard about it before. Wicked Stepfather and Solar’s girlfriend are both not fish people, so she got chicken and he got steak. Salad and asparagus made up the side dishes. Ice cream cake with not nearly enough candles, and a successfully terrible rendition of “Happy Birthday,” was the dessert.
Speaking of Mom, I’m waiting on her to come by — we’re supposed to take a bike ride. Hearing a car door, I look out front. Mom’s not here, but Fred has come by. He’s a humongous orange and white cat with a busted tail (severed nerve). The tag on his collar says he belongs to a particular neighbor, but in another way the entire neighborhood belongs to him. Solar keeps a little container of kitty treats out front, where he has a smoking bench in front of the window sill, so this is Fred’s second home. In a lot of ways, Fred is many things that Newt (Solar’s cat) isn’t — Fred is good-natured, loves attention, has short hair, and (like I said) big. Newt has gotten cranky in her old age, but that’s actually an improvement… when she was younger and had enough energy to care, she had a nasty temper (although she was actually pleasant to be around at Christmas). Now she’s just a cranky old long-hair cat who isn’t eating much, although she tried to munch a lizard and Solar wouldn’t let her.
Looks like lunch and a solo bike ride are on tap for the afternoon.