The sun was slowly making its way into the west as we drove east toward Pensacola Beach, Florida, on our second day at Ft. Pickens Campground. We were flanked by blinding white dunes and blowing grasses on both sides, contrasting sharply with the charcoal-hued road seeming to stretch to earth’s end. Then, like a choreographed performance, the city came up out of the horizon like a child of Atlantis, rising proud and golden in the sun. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
The beauty of Pensacola Beach and its surrounds is hard to define. It’s not so much the architecture, such as it is, of colorful condos and the business of the beach. It is the texture of the air, the almost ethereal quality of the light, watching clouds from above and below waltz into formations so different from landlocked clouds, some rising up to punch into their pillowy fellows above.
As we drove into the city proper, I felt we had stumbled upon a fantasy land of color and light and clean tranquility, a feast of the senses. Soothing. Nothing harsh assailed. I breathed deeply. A fist seemed to loosen its grip from around my heart, my lungs expanded. Heavenly inside and out.
We arrived at the restaurant, Peg Leg Pete’s. A long line waited for seating. On the deck, friendly people and their stomachs grumbled. But no one was standoffish. Smiles abounded. Conversations struck up among perfect strangers. How could they not with that old pirate, Peg Leg Pete around. I love my picture with him.
“Grandma,” said my granddaughter Montana. “People here are so nice. Mama, can we move here?” Our hearts were hungry for more than food.
On the sparse deck seating, Mike and I were between another Alabama couple on our left and a doting grandmother with a beautiful little boy on our right. We chatted up the couple, who were from south Alabama, discussing travels and home scenes. On my right, the grandmother and I discussed our mutual Irish heritage. The beautiful baby kept wanting to hold my hand, his chubby little fingers lying trustingly upon mine. I turned repeatedly to look back into those big blue eyes underneath dark curls, eyes that studied me with a serious demeanor. On the phone, his grandmother told his parents he was “flirting with the ladies”.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“Kendall,” she replied. A beautiful and unusual name for a beautiful and unusual baby boy. I called him “Little Lord Fauntleroy”.
As people kept coming, Mike gave his seat to a waiting lady. More than one gentleman — even the older ones with obvious health problems — refused seating, making way for older women. I kept looking across at Montana and Heather (Montana’s friend), seated beside their mother. They didn’t understand my facial hints. I gave up my seat to a woman who seemed to be in distress from standing so long. She tried to refuse, but since I insisted, she capitulated, though she wanted her husband to sit first. He had obvious health problems. But he refused.
“That’s very nice of you to give up your seat,” she said as she sat and sighed.
“I’ve been sitting long enough,” I replied.
Later, Granddaddy had a talk with our girls about manners and proper etiquette — like the hierarchy of seating. Gentlemen always seat the ladies first, younger men give way to ladies and older men and young ladies give up their seats to older ladies and even older men. Having never really been anywhere with this kind of social situation, they had never heard of such a thing. The only hierarchy they knew was “dibs” on everything. They know now.
Soon after we were called and led to our table. I think we had cooled our heels for well over an hour. Our heels were the only things cool, but the breeze off the water mitigated our suffering somewhat.
“I hope this food is worth the wait,” I said to our seating hostess.
“It is,” she said emphatically.
And it was. I ordered a bucket of crab legs with potatoes and whatever else came with it. I don’t remember any of the other food because I went into a frenzy of crab leg snapping, crunching crab legs with tongs, and bathing the tender meat in drawn butter, picking out every last tender morsel. I cleaned those suckers so well even Montana was hard put to it to go behind me and harvest the gleanings. And this is after she put away oysters, a full shrimp entre, and most of her mother’s chicken alfredo.
My daughter Michelle also had oyster appetizers and so did Heather. Since oysters look disgusting, I let them have at it. But the girls insisted I try one. I finally did. Oyster on cracker with hot sauce. It was not just disgusting. It was totally nasty. Make a note. I do NOT do oysters.
Michelle went outside and discovered the fishing boats drawn up to the pier while Mike waited as I savaged the last of my crab legs. I only took a bite of my potatoes, but since the potatoes tasted nothing like crab, I let them be. I was crab leg hungry.
Michelle kept wanting company to look at the fishing boats. I told Mike I would be fine while he explored the dock with Michelle and girls, but he refused to leave my side. He said he was enjoying watching me enjoy eating. What a man.
Finally, I finished. Not because I was through, but because there were no more crab legs. Once, when we lived on Folly Beach in South Carolina, Mike and I went out to eat with another couple. The other lady and I put away two pounds each of the succulent stuff. Mmmm-Mmmm.
It was a wonderful, relaxing evening. And was the food worth the wait? You betcha!