Monday, August 16, 2010

Big Dick and The Extenders

Sorry Cowboy fans. 

Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill

This blog is not about Jimmy Johnson dressing up in NASCAR garb promoting some male sexual enhancement product in order to subsidize his bayside resort in Key Largo...Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill.

It is however, about a famous three piece band that had performed at Woody's Saloon & Restaurant in Islamorada, Florida for God knows how many years.

Big Dick and The Extenders reminds me of ZZ Top...unplugged. A little ol' band from Islamorada Florida. "Every Place Else Sucks," says Big Dick and I whole-heartedly agree.

Last Saturday night in Port Salerno, at the Manatee Island Bar and Grill we got to see Big Dick and The Extenders rock out at the Tiki Bar. The lead guitarist, playing a vintage Fender Stratocaster, was so hot that he caught their main speaker on fire. No Shit! Right in front of me...

Manatee Island Tiki Bar

Our original destination was the Pirate's Cove Resort on the Manatee Pocket, to grab a few fish tacos and a cold beer or two. The outside bar has an outstanding view of The Pocket and Marina as well as the Hinckley Yacht Yard and Docks.

On Sunday afternoons they host one of the best Reggae Pool Parties this side of the Bahamas, from 2-6PM.

Pirates Cove Marina Resort

Big Dick told us afterwards that he had not performed at Woody's in over two years and that he had been asked to play at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. 

Stranger things have happened I guess...if you know what I mean?

He has also been performing over on the Florida Gulf Coast at the Undertow Beach Bar.

Two Buck Coronas at The Undertow Beach Bar

It is a place where Big Dick says, "You can get sucked offshore" and "the Coronas are only two bucks!"

See you there next Saturday, 8-21-10. No tar balls allowed.


Margarita Steve

PS. Click here to see Big Dick

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Put Me In Coach...I'm Ready to Play Today

There used to be a day, as the legend begins, that I could throw the seed for fire...but those memories are as faded now as my favorite pair of Levi 501's.

Nowadays, those memories are re-lived at the neighborhood ballpark here in Jupiter,Florida otherwise known as Roger Dean Stadium. Roger Dean is the Spring Training Home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins; two major league franchises that have won a World Series in the last decade.

The ball park is tucked away in the neighborhood village of Abacoa, adjacent to Florida Atlantic University and Scripps Research Institute, just a hop, skip and a jump from our ocean-side home in the Bluffs.

In any event, unless you have actually attended a spring training game at such a venue and taken in the early spring "buzz" of "getting tuned up" for another turn at America's Game then the sensation will be hard for you to imagine, even for the truest of baseball bloods. It is kind of like being at the starting line of the Indy 500 when the call rings out, "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines."

The only other experience that I can compare it to was when I rode the "L" down to Wrigley Field, back on a beautiful Spring Day in the Windy City in 1993. I stopped outside the famous stadium, slammed a couple Chicago Dogs and downed an Old Style beer or two before bounding across street from the Cubby Bear and into the arena for the very first time like a baseball virgin...WOW what a rush!

On this special occasion it was Bud Light, (my wife's favorite) and a couple of Nathan's Famous Dogs with yellow mustard, onions, relish and kraut.

We had great seats, just a few rows back from the Cardinal's dugout on the first base side. The weather was sunny and 75 with a slight breeze blowing out from right to left.

Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was getting loose down the first base line and 2005 Cy Young Award winning pitcher Chris Carpenter was breaking off a few major league curve balls in the bullpen to our right.

Before I knew it we were standing at attention for the National Anthem and then the home plate umpire yelled out "Play Ball." I felt like we were on a mission from GOD riding along side of John Belushi and Dan Akyrod.

Carpenter trotted out to the mound and Pujols took first base. Each of them tossing warm ups to the catcher and the infielders respectively. The time was 1:05PM but in reality time was actually standing still as it does at the beginning of every baseball game regardless of Day Light Savings time or not. As far as I was concerned we had already sprung forward.

The Cardinals fans appear ready for another knockout season. They come every year like geese flying south for the winter to watch this year's version of the old 1934 Gas House Gang, led by 30 Game Winner Dizzy Dean. They faithfully drink their Budweiser Beer and hope for another World Series Championship.

In fact, as it turns out, the Cardinals have good reason to have hope in their souls each Spring since they have won more World Series (10) than any team in the National League and are second only to the Yankees (27)  in World Series Championships in Major League Baseball history.

Their future Hall of Fame Slugger Albert Pujols, gives them the main reason in my opinion to flock south for Spring Training and then back to Busch Stadium for the 162 game trek. The big first baseman could be one of the finest hitters to ever lace up the spikes and take the field. He takes a wide stance at the plate, hands high and back, head down tucked under the closed left shoulder.

A couple of years ago I stepped into Roger Dean one afternoon and quickly took a seat down the left field line just in time to see him hit a line drive home run. I could hear the hum of the leather clad, red stitched orb rising through the tropical air in front of me as it left the yard on the back of a rocket launcher from NASA, so it seemed. If you wanted to see where that home run landed under the royal palms, I'd recommend packing a sack lunch...


On this day, he had a single, RBI double, and a walk before leaving in the fifth. After Albert exited the game, we hung around for a couple of more innings and then decided to head over to the ArtFest by the Sea.

I commented to my lovely wife as we were leaving, "used to be I knew a few guys that I had played with or against, now I'm so old I don't know anybody but a few of the coaches and managers." On the field today as such were Tony LaRussa, Lou Brock and Dave Duncan.

In the stadiums across South Florida today were the keepers of America's Greatest Pastime sitting alongside those with a field of dreams still beating in their hearts, waiting for their turn to take the stage.

Please put me in coach, 
I'm ready to play just one more day...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"When You Say Nothing at All" performed by Bruce Isaacson-Hogs Breath-Key West

One of the best singer-songwriters that you have never heard of plays this one to a T at Hogs Breath in Key West...Mr. Bruce Isaacson. Some of you may also be old enough to remember Keith Whitley?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cabbage Key-I'm Just a Cheeseburger in Paradise

Dateline: September 7, 2009 Cabbage Key, FL

"I like mine with lettuce and tomato...Heinz 57 and french fried potato, Big Kosher pickle and a cold draft beer, Good God Almighty which way do I steer....Jimmy Buffett 1978.

We met up with our host at The Tarpon Lodge just after sunset. We had driven west over the Florida peninsula from our home in Jupiter on the Atlantic Ocean to Pine Island, Florida about 40 Miles northwest of Ft. Myers on the Gulf Coast.

Adjacent to The Tarpon Lodge was the Pineland Marina where, by boat, the islands of Cabbage Key, Useppa, Boca Grande, Sanibel, Captiva, and the spectacular beaches on Cayo Costa lie like pearls on the turquoise water just a "stone's throw" away from the mainland.

By the way, for you fishermen, Pineland Marina is the gateway to the Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World, where you can literally walk across the backs of the colossal "Silver Kings" during the month of June. That is a story for an upcoming edition of my series "Tropical Trails and Fish Tales." Please stay tuned...

Our destination for the Labor Day Weekend was the tropical island of Cabbage Key. Some people claim that Cabbage Key is the destination that Jimmy Buffett wrote about in his famous song, "Cheeseburger in Paradise," and the only way to get there is by plane, helicopter or boat.

But before we get to all of that, I must tell you about The Tarpon Lodge & Restaurant. Tucked inside of a historic 1926 "Old Florida" fishing lodge is a fabulous Four Star restaurant that will take you back in time. In fact, this is my favorite way to "Time Travel" these days and I affectionately refer to these special destinations as the "New Old Florida."

There is a strong character that exudes from the old Florida pine floors and shiplap siding that has withstood the harsh salt water environment for almost 90 years and as recently as 2004 took one hell of a beating by category three Hurricane Charley.

That being said, I was hungry after the four hour drive and couldn't wait to get started with the house specialty Blue Crab and Roasted Corn Chowder. I was also a little thirsty so I washed it down with a lot of Crown Royal, straight up, like the Florida Straits. For an entree I had the "Fresh Catch" blackened, which was a delightful fillet of Triple Tail Snapper accompanied by a generous side of asparagus.

In any event, a dinner and in fact a stay at the Tarpon Lodge and Restaurant would have been just fine with me but we had a boat waiting to take us to Cabbage Key and it was well past dark by now. Our provisions had been loaded on the boat by the friendly concierge and we tipped him accordingly.

You need to know that there is nothing on Cabbage Key other than a few Conch Style Cottages & Cabins, a restaurant and bar and a marina dock and t-shirt shop that doubles as the Ship's Store.

Hell, there is not even a paved road nor a car to drive on it if there was, so we had picked up a few bags of provisions for our salt water adventures to Cayo Costa, Boca Grande and Captiva Island. Beer, chips, dip, cheese, wine, fruit, ice, sodas, water and the like...

We climbed aboard our Captain's 29' Mako Walkaround without trippin' over all of the supplies and were immediately astonished at the fluorescent glow of the water in the prop churn from the twin Yamahas. It was a phenomenon that I had never seen before and under the light of a full moon it was almost narcotic. Our trip into the bay on that balmy night quickly became a magical mystery tour as we slowly navigated our way to Cabbage Key like floating through stardust in the wake of the big Mako. I guess the official name of the magical light show is bioluminescence?

As I had previously mentioned, I had too many Crown Royals to worry much about the navigation and worryin' aint much my my style anyway. Someone once said that worrying was interest paid in advance on deposits that were never made in the first place and I for one could not have agreed more. "No Worries Mate" is my Motto and I am sticking to it, especially since our Captian had been there before. Don't try this at home for you home gamers.

The next morning we rose early, ate breakfast at the restaurant and geared up for a day on the gin clear waters of Cabbage Key Sound and the Florida Gulf Coast.

We stopped for a swim at Cayo Costa State Park and went a shore for a little beach combing and crabbin' and we also tossed the cast net in the tidal pools for a few mullets to use as live bait.

We even managed to catch a baby sea horse if you can believe it and we saw all kinds of wildlife from birds to babes.

We eventually made our way over to Boca Grande and docked at Whidden's Marina. Historic Whidden’s Marina, located south of channel marker #7 on Boca Bayou, has the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the way Florida used to be and neither my words nor the words of any famed author could possibly do it justice. In my honest opinion, only pictures can capture that lost moment in deja vu, all over again.

After tying up at Whidden's Marina, we walked into town and had lunch at The Temptation, which is another place that has the "Olde Florida Charm" just drippin like cold condensation from the air conditioner vents. The Temptation serves fresh local seafood and prime aged steaks and has done so since the beginning of time, as far as I am concerned!

While waiting for my meal, I stumbled into the "Package Room/Bar" area, "aka" The Carribbean Room and found another one of my memories hangin' on the wall...again words can't describe a young boys first temptation.

Back at Cabbage Key the following evening after a day trip to Captiva Island, we had dinner at the famous restaurant known as the Old House.

We were sat in the back room of the Old House, where the walls are draped with dollar bills and here on Cabbage Key they are not "soggy dollars" like in Jost Van Dyke, in the Caribbean.

The Old House Restaurant has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to boaters on this island, which is mainly the remnants of an old Indian shell mound for over 60 years and if you come at lunch time you'll see what I mean and I don't mean maybe!

Tried to amend my carnivorous habits
Made it nearly seventy days
Losin' weight without speed, eatin' sunflower seeds
Drinkin' lots of carrot juice and soakin' up rays

But at night I'd had these wonderful dreams
Some kind of sensuous treat
Not zuchinni, fettucini or bulghar wheat
But a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat

Cheeseburger in paradise
Heaven on earth with an onion slice
Not too particular not too precise
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise

Heard about the old time sailor men
They eat the same thing again and again
Warm beer and bread they said could raise the dead
Well it reminds me of the menu at a holiday inn

Times have changed for sailors these days
When I'm in port I get what I need
Not just havanas or bananas or daiquiris
But that american creation on which I feed

Cheeseburger in paradise
Medium rare with mustard 'be nice
Heaven on earth with an onion slice
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise

I like mine with lettuce and tomato
Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer
Well good god almighty which way do I steer for my

Cheeseburger in paradise
Makin' the best of every virtue and vice
Worth every damn bit of sacrifice To get a cheeseburger in paradise
To be a cheeseburger in paradise
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Gardens Hotel Key West-A Room with a View

Dateline: July 23, 2009 Key West, Florida

Sometimes I feel that if were not for bad luck, I would have no luck at all. But lately, it seems like I have been traveling with a lucky leprachan perched on my shoulder and a green three leaf clover tucked into my shirt pocket as I climb over the rainbow in search off my next pot o gold.

I had made reservations at the Gardens Hotel Key West for the 29th Annual Hemingway Days Celebration in Key West, Florida and my lovely wife's birthday. The Gardens Hotel Key West is located just a block off of Duval Street on Angela Street and is one of the most storied locations in Old Town.

We were also participating in the Hemingway Days Caribbean Street Fair on Saturday the 25th of July with our first MargaritaShack.Com exhibition in almost five years. I had been a little over whelmed with all of the prior week's preparations & provisioning so I was eagerly anticipating a little rest and relaxation at this famous Hotel that I had heard so much about.

Needless to say, it was all for a very good cause because the proceeds from the Caribbean Street Fair benefit HELPLINE, which is a nonprofit organization that provides crisis intervention, information, referral services, caregiver training and telephone reassurance to the elderly residents of Monroe County.

That being said, we rolled into Key West at a little past ten o'clock on Thursday night and our keys were out front taped to one of the columns supporting the massive front porch which ran the full length of the main house.

There was a note inside the little white shiny envelope saying that there had been some changes to our itinerary and that if we didn't mind, we could stay in the Master Suite for a few days.

My wife looked at me with those all to familiar words of "what have you been up to," and I said "Happy Birthday Baby! The Master Suite is awaiting our arrival." So without further adieu, we opened the front door of the stately mansion and marched up the steps to the Master Suite.

I quickly unlocked the door and stepped aside as my wife rushed in to see what I had been up to because she knows better. As she entered the Master Suite there was the fully appointed living room to her left with a flat screen TV, sofa bed, armoire, full bath, mini fridge and refreshments.

Further ahead down the wide, wood floor, entry hall was the bank of french doors leading to an expansive veranda overlooking the gin clear pool and an enormous king size bedroom suite with her favorite ceiling fan perched above the end of the bedposts. At the foot of the bed, across the room, was a professionally appointed desk/writing table with a Bose stereo perched on the corner. Nice touch.

The massive Master Bath was solidly appointed with white marble floors, matching marble counter tops, his and her marble vanities, a private bath with toilet and bidet and a huge shower with a man sized jacuzzi tub in the far corner.

And then, there was my favorite. Right there in front of my eyes, I had to look twice to believe it, was the first dry sauna that I had ever seen in a hotel room. WOW! I could not wait to unload our assorted sundries, take a dip in the moon-lit pool and then hit the jacuzzi, sauna and shower, not necessarily in that order.

After the Midnight Spa Treatment, whatever weariness that was lingering in my old bones after the road trip from Jupiter was vanquished from my soul like the remnants of a summer rain quickly evaporating on a white hot Texas sidewalk.

Hell, I felt like a young, vibrant high school track star as I raced up and down the steep wooden stairs in my bathing suit and flip flops in the middle of the night trying not to disturb the other guests.

The next morning we awoke early and were treated to an awesome Continental breakfast on the brick porch out back of the main mansion next to the pool. The aroma from the coffee was as sensuous as the morning dew perched on the purple orchids hanging from a statuesque Spanish lime tree standing next to us. It must have been there for over 200 years. I couldn't begin to imagine the stories it could tell...

Furthermore, since real men don't eat quiche, and fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed they say, I had to be a "they say" rule breaker again, and have some quiche. In fact, I love good quiche and I could tell that this one was warm, fresh and moist. The English muffins were crispy and hot with melted butter and strawberry jelly and the fresh fruit was succulent. I could get very used to this I thought to myself as I downed the last drop of my freeze squeezed Florida orange juice.

A short while later, as I finished my second cup of coffee, the grounds of this infamous island oasis that sits on over an acre of prime Key West real estate in the middle of Old Town began her beckon call. It was as if I was being led out of my chair by the hand of the creator of the Gardens, Mrs. Peggy Mills.

In the 1930's, Peggy Mills purchased The Gardens Mansion with a vision of creating a botanical garden that could one day be shared with the public. From that point of decision, with a clear goal in her mind, she began acquiring adjacent parcels of land and demolishing the existing structures.

She succeeded in assembling one quarter of a city block, then mostly barren after the demolition, except for the Mansion and Gate House. Her first seedlings were subsequently planted, rumored to be six coconuts, planted upside down.

From this inauspicious beginning until 1968 when The Gardens were first opened to the public she worked on her vision without exception. She imported plants from all over the world as well as over 87,000 century old bricks from Cuba, Honduras and England to line the shaded pathways of her dream.

Mrs. Mills became known locally as "The Lady of the Orchids" for her rare collection of Japanese and Hawaiian orchids that still flourish in the trees even after her passing in 1979.

From that point on, until 1992, the keys to the Gardens Mansion was passed on to a litany of owners until Bill and Corrina Hettinger had the idea of turning her into a Key West Luxury Hotel. With an ambitious renovation of the main house and the addition of two additional Bahamian style buildings that now serve as the Garden and Courtyard accommodations, seventeen rooms, suites and cottages now make up the grounds of Key West's most famous Gardens Hotel.

Kate Miano is now the proud owner and proprietor of this island oasis that sits within the Historic Key West estate of the Peggy Mills Botanical Gardens and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places for good reason.

If you appreciate history, beauty, architecture and fine living then a stay at Kate's place will be, as they say, "In a class by itself."