Sunday Drive

Don CeSar Hotel opened in 1928

After Saturday night, I knew I needed to get out of the house. I needed to see the water, and people, and downtown. Isolation has been fine, except when I’m not reading a book. My recently retired husband is very good about my writing and reading habits. He has the same habits, in fact. I love how the two of us, each with our own writing and reading material, sit scribbling the mornings away. Yesterday he explained his writing and research to me. He’s forecasting financial trends which involves many numbers and those pesky stock market abbreviations. Henceforth, I will admire him with pen in hand from afar.

But we still have to eat. And cook. And wash the dishes, as we have no dishwasher here in St Pete. This is really where things started: me washing, Al drying. He dropped a large pan on the ceramic tile floor Floridians favor, and the clang it set up caused me to startle. When I startle, sometimes I scream. It depends on my anxiety level and with Covid, and Staying Home, and grocery shopping with a mask, I’m never really completely free from anxiety. So I screamed. Then I felt ashamed and ridiculous. I said sorry to Al, which he doesn’t require as he knows this part of me, he knows I don’t mean to do it. It’s my fight or flight response.

This time, for the first time, I could not calm myself down with deep breaths and my anxiety built into panic before I could swallow any medication. Then I sat breathing, apologizing, worrying a neighbor would call 911, until the pill did its magic. Al, wanting to help, asked “What were you thinking happened when you heard the sound of the pan falling?”

I explained again that the response comes before thought, involuntarily. In that moment I was a cave woman alerting her man of danger. Some of us have a bit more cave woman left in our reptile brain than others. But I did say “I need to get out. Let’s go for a drive tomorrow.” And then I went to bed with my book.

On Sunday I felt much better and we set out for Gulf Blvd to see what, if anything, was afoot. Our beaches and restaurants were still closed yesterday (they opened today) but except for the yellow tape blocking off parking and the large signs reading BEACHES CLOSED, you wouldn’t know it. It was a lovely day (as is most every day here) and people flocked to the beaches. The patio seating at the few restaurants that braved opening early were packed with people shoulder to shoulder hoisting beers.

We tut-tutted from the safety of our car. Further down the Gulf, we passed the elegant Don CeSar. The parking lot was almost full, so I suspect they were serving brunch out back where the water views are splendid. Don CeSar is a hotel, very old Florida, so hotel guests would be exempt from the beach closures. We were going to dine there on my birthday, but that didn’t happen. I’m sure Al is secretly pleased because they are the kind of place that don’t have prices on the menu.

By the time we got downtown, cruising Central Avenue, which is on Tampa Bay, not the Gulf, we saw people walking, enjoying the day, eyeing the yachts in the Bay. These people were social distancing in groups of two or three. But the one restaurant open downtown, off Central on the pier, was jammed. Yachts and other luxury boats bobbed on the Bay. And why not? No ordinance against that. Still, we were dismayed that every single shop on Central, and every restaurant, too, was closed. We knew it was for the best, we knew it was the rule, but we couldn’t help speculating how many of our beloved local businesses would never be able to open again and would be snapped up and turned into condos.

As we headed home, we decided to stop at Target for a few essentials. We slapped on our masks and filled a cart with lettuce, avocado, and chocolate. The chocolate was for me, as I deserved a treat after my odious evening before. Also, we purchased ice cream. Same reason. At home, Al helped me enjoy these treats and then he had a healthy salad. On a final note, about half the people in Target did not wear masks. And there was no hand sanitizer to be found. But there is a happy ending!

Old St Pete Distillery, on 31st Avenue, has turned many vats once used for liquor mixing into hand sanitizer cauldrons. They have distributed free sanitizer for weeks to medical and other needy institutions. And they sell it to consumers. With every bottle of booze, you get a free travel sized vial of hand sanitizer. This is all done through their website. I ordered a few bottles of my favorites and a large (1.75 liter) bottle of hand sanitizer. For when Covid returns because people are not abiding by the safety rules!

Luckily our order, we were informed by email, is ready for pick up. Coconut rum does wonders for my worries.