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Three score and ten or more

Friday, June 02, 2006

Panama City Beach
May 28, 2006

This won’t be posted till next week, the post on Mormon Missionaries that would have come next was posted last fall as A NOVICE IS FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE FINNISH SAUNA, and I felt an urge to keep up some conversation, if only with myself. As I noted in my last post, we are now using one of the time-shares that I have written about. The time share at Ocean Towers at Panama City beach in Florida was the second one that we purchased. The first was one on Hilton Head Island which we bought because it was cheap, and because some friends had purchased one, and if we would go with them to spend time (free) and listen to a sales pitch, they received a year of condo payment free. We did it, bought a unit (for the same week in the year they had one) and we went to Hilton Head as two families at the same time for a number of years. It was fun.

I mentioned in my previous post on time shares, that once you buy one, you join one of the worlds most active sucker lists, and you will hear from someone relating to time-share at least once a month for the most of the rest of your life. I suppose there is a way to get your self off this list but I haven’t found it.

The sucker list was a lot more fun a few years ago. It was common to receive a phone call offering two or three days at a vacation spot if you would agree to listen to a sales pitch. (Nowadays they offer the same thing for 199.00 and a sales pitch). This was not always profitable for the sellers. On one occasion we took a trip from Georgia to the west (California, I think) stopping on the way four times for two or three days in places like Branson, Missouri etc. We didn’t buy a thing, but had a nice trip.

This time, we were offered a trip to Panama City Beach, in Florida, four days and three nights for nothing but a sales pitch. At the time, we had been married for twenty five or so years, and most of our six children had some kind of commitment, so we went by ourselves almost for the first time since our first child was born. We stayed in a big Holiday Inn Suite overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in the world on the crystal clear bright blue and green Gulf of Mexico. We had the most romantic holiday you could imagine. We walked on the beach, played in the surf, made love, splashed in the pool, wandered through the ticky tacky shops on the lee side of Front Beach Drive and fell in love all over again. By the time we got around to watching the sales pitch, I was so mellow that I would have bought a green cheese franchise on the moon.

Fortunately the item for sale was a one bedroom two bath (actually would sleep six) unit with a wonderful Jacuzzi, on the sixth floor overlooking the Gulf and the Beach with no green cheese anywhere to be seen. To the frustration of the sales company I bought the thing with my corporate “Green Card”, which saved me from the interest charged by Time Share Developers (at that time anywhere from thirteen to twenty one percent). I was half surprised when American Express approved it, and would have had a heck of a time explaining that expenditure to the University if I hadn’t been able to quickly get other financing to pay the bill on time. Our time included Memorial Day weekend, so it was an easy unit to exchange or rent, and we didn’t get to use it often for awhile since we were both teachers and Georgia Schools were still in session for Memorial Day.

Panama City Beach was both beautiful and sleazy at that time. The main beach roads are Front Beach Road and Thomas Drive. Both, at that time, had gorgeous elaborate resorts on the beach side of these roads with, what I would call Myrtle Beach operations on the lee or non beach side. There were hundreds of small shops and medium restaurants with tee shirts, air brushing, sharks in aquariums, the odd alligator, sharks teeth, seashells and almost ANYTHING else you could imagine The most prominent National Restaurant chains that were available were fast food joints. With all this, there was a “small” tourist trap feel to it that was nice.

Fun and relatively nice Restaurants were the one at Anderson’s Marina and a big one built as an old ship (called, strangely enough, The Treasure Ship.) Since we have been able to come down here every year (retirement) we have assiduously shopped for restaurants. (It is not hard to guess from looking at me that restaurants are a priority.)
When we travel, we usually try to avoid the national chains (Applebee’s, Sonny’s BarBQ,
Po Folks, Shoneys, Golden Corral,Olive Garden, etc.) and try to eat in places where we find something new and unique to love. Probably the only thing we haven’t been able to find in Panama City Beach is a restaurant that we really love. (probably the closest is one in down-town Panama City called, I think, The Captains Table.) As we went through Panama City coming to the beach this week we passed a “Black Angus” restaurant. Although it seems to be a chain, we hadn’t eaten there before so we determined to cross the bridge coming back to try Black Angus. We did it last night. Big mistake!!!. I ordered a prime rib, Janet some garlic grilled shrimp. The salads were fine, a variety of greens and lettuce, good dressing, and there were a few tasty little dinner rolls. The entrees were a real disappointment. My “prime rib” was an inch thick piece of boneless deli-roast- beef. I could still see the “rind” from the deli packaging around the edge. It had been warmed up nicely, apparently in a microwave, for there was no sign that it had been placed near real fire. Really the best thing I can say about it was that it was tender and it had a nice horseradish sauce. I had eaten a piece of beef in a Ruth’s Crisp Steak House a couple of weeks ago, and probably shouldn’t have eaten something that might compare to it so soon, but deli style roast beef was too far beyond the pale, that afternoon, I walked through the Publix supermarket, and there, in their deli, was the exact cut of meat that I received as Prime Rib at the Black Angus.

I tasted some of Janet’s shrimp, and, probably because I was disgusted with the prime rib, her shrimp tasted “frozen”. I hope it was my imagination, but serving shrimp that isn’t fresh in a restaurant beside the Gulf of Mexico is just too much. At least we succeeded in striking Black Angus from our list of possibles for the future..

More about our Panama City Beach experience tomorrow. (or whenever)

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