just another day in paradise

Celebrity sighting! Saw Sarasota’s most famous resident, Jerry Springer, last night, in the flesh! He walked past our table at the Columbia on St. Armand’s Circle while we were having dinner. I had to be restrained from pumping my fist in the air and chanting “Jer-REE, Jer-REE, Jer-REE!” Seriously, a hostess, two waiters and three busboys had to hold me down. It was a bit embarrassing.

Dinner was light. My uncle, bless him, pointed out a blonde at the next table. I’m not really into blondes, unless they’re very hairy. It's left over from one horrible summer back in college. I had this roommate named Cecil, who was a rugby thug ("a rugger but not a bugger," as he was fond of saying), very philosophical off the pitch (an adherent of moral non-cognitivism and eliminitivism in the philosophy of mind), a big blond (not quite the type Dorothy Parker wrote about), with the most magnificent coarse, thick, curly blond hair on his forearms, the back of his hands, his chest, back, neck, just everywhere. Looking back, he was built a bit like a wild boar, but there was something about him. I know, there’s no accounting for taste.

My Unk's pretty funny. Love him to death, but he's about the hangdoggingest good ol' boy you'll ever meet. We've been having this very deep ongoing discussion about Jen and Brangelina all week. I'm like, Angelina Jolie. Exhibit A: was married to Billie Bob. Exhibit B: tattoo of Billie Bob. Exhibit C: obvious collagen abuser. I mean, come on. People's lips stop growing by the time they're in their thirties, don't they? Hers just keep getting bigger and bigger. Pretty soon she'll be all lips. She probably gives great head, but as every man knows, you don't marry the girl who gives you great head. She's just not a keeper.

Look at Jen on the cover of US Weekly this week. Now, that's a pretty woman. But she's a weeper. You know, when she was on Oprah with the cast of Friends, right before they did their last episode, she was openly weeping. You wanted to smack her and tell her "get ahold of yourself, for the love of God, woman!" I mean, it wasn't anything to weep about. I thought, she can't be serious.

Unk says Brad'll be sorry for adopting those kids, because Brangelina's not gonna last, and then he'll be stuck with the child support for the rest of his life. I told him I didn't think Brad was very bright to begin with, and he probably wasn't thinking too far ahead. My aunt said that he hadn't let Jen pick out any of the furniture in their Malibu Barbie mansion. And Jen said you couldn't sit on any of the furniture. It was like, you had to sit on the floor. Who can live like that?

And I'll tell you something else about Angelina. If Jen's way too earnest for her own good (she's gonna keep getting hurt, poor thing--I mean, Vince Vaughn? Po-leeeze.) Angelina is cynical to the core. All this adopting and these mercy missions? Come on.

And Unk just loves Isaac, which is Isaac Mizrahi’s inexplicable show on the Style Network. Why don’t I have a show yet? Everybody else's got one. Do you have yours? Anyway, of course, I hadn’t seen it until my aunt introduced me to it. They both love it. My aunt and I had watched it earlier in the day for a little while. I didn’t get it. He waved his hands around and had too much product in his hair. And he never stops talking, even--or especially--when his guests are, too.

They're also addicted to this Dancing with the Stars. I don't get that either. Desperate washed-up never-weres learn to dance? And? Thank God they're not into Wife-Swap is all I can say. Celebrity Wife-Swap's next. Mark my words. And the government wants to find out who's looking at porn on the internet? Who isn't? I mean with crap like this on the tube, who wouldn't be? If you're gonna waste your time, why not get a nut in the end?

My aunt and I dropped into Leona Helmsley’s Sand Castle Hotel on the beach for pina coladas earlier and she told me how a year or two ago a couple had scandalized St. Armand’s Island by sunbathing nude right there on the beach in front of the Sand Castle! My aunt, God love 'er, who claims to be a former hippie, says she used to smoke “wacky tobacky” and lived in the Castro, was apparently instrumental in forcing the naturists to cover up. It’s against the law, she told me.

Well, then along comes Unk, a good Christian (and I mean that without irony), who was never a hippie, and thinks it’s a silly law. At dinner he said there used to be a beach—way up north—you had to go through the woods to get there—and you used to be able to sunbathe nude there. He said, there were all kinds of people there. Sure, there were gays, too. He's got nothing against 'em. As long as everybody minds his own business and nobody bothers anybody else. A man after my own heart. “Then a few years back,” Unk says, “there was a black mayor.” He gave me a significant look. “And he passed a law saying you couldn’t go nude, or even wear a thong!”

I am, of course, of my uncle’s opinion that if you want to go nude on the beach, especially a nude beach, well, what the hell? Why not? Whatever ya got, just don't jiggle it in my face unless you ask me first, is all I ask. But while Unk made it a condition that children shouldn’t be present, again I say, what the hell? Why not? Nakedness is natural. It doesn’t have to be this big, scary deal. I think the theoretical sexiness of it is what scares people. But only those who have never been to a nude beach could possibly think there's anything sexy about them. Once you go to a nude beach, you see how unsexy it all really is. Is that what we’re protecting our children from? The knowledge that nudity ain’t all it’s cracked up to be? We wouldn't want them to know that being a flabby, out-of-shape adult with hair everywhere it shouldn't be isn't quite as fab as we make it look with our frock's on, would we?

We Americans like to brag that we live in the free-est nation in the world, but even the Communists can go naked without somebody reporting them to the authorities. It's kind of like my cyberstalker, who feels my very presence on the internet is an affront. Well, don't go to my website, bitch! If people want to go naked on a secluded beach designated for that purpose and you don't, then don't go there! And quit fantasizing about it, because it ain't all it's cracked up to be, and the only reason you want to ban it is because you think there's something more to it than there actually is. People get so exercised over things they know nothing about.

Anyway, my uncle goes out for his morning walk and comes back an hour or so later with the paper. No matter what. He's a good guy, with the patience of a saint, practically. I mean dealing with my aunt. Lovely as she is, she's a bundle of contradictions. This morning we had to drag her away from her computer. She was playing solitaire! I mean, here she's got the two of us. It's sunny and eighty-plus degrees, and the sea's right outside the door, and she’s playing computer-solitaire. Which she could be doing back home, where it’s forty degrees and raining cats and dogs.

That’s how it is here. Every morning you get up, and whether you feel like it or not you’ve got to go outside and frolic, because the weather here is marvelous and it sucks back home.

Still, we were in Sarasota this morning at the farmer’s market, and one of the guys who had a booth there was saying how awfully hot he was, and how if it got any hotter he was gonna move north. So the grass is always greener. It definitely helps you bear the weather anywhere you are knowing what’s going on back home is worse, though.

We went to a place called Yoder’s for lunch. When my uncle suggested it, and I asked what kind of place it was, my aunt was like, "guess." Like I should know. She gave me a hint. "What’s the name remind you of?" She asked. I was like, Hooters? Like is it Swedish for Hooters or something? She said, "no, it's Amish!" I was like, Amish for Hooters?? Can’t wait to see this. But, my luck, it was just Amish for Amish. There was no Amish-on-Amish action anywhere to be seen. I did notice that one of the skinny, buck-toothed Amish beauties bussing tables was wearing a blue dress you could, unfortunately, see right through. Are they the ones who wear the magic underwear? She had her granny-panties on and a bra it looked like you'd have to be Houdini to get out of. Was he Amish?

The food was "homestyle," I guess you’d call it. But if I want homestyle cooking, I stay home. Because somebody else's homestyle is never the same. Especially the potato salad. You're never gonna find potato salad like mom used to make. But check this out: my aunt got a whole plate of fried chicken livers and two potato pancakes! I was all excited because the vegetable of the day was beets. It’s not like I eat beets everyday, but when someone happens to mention they’ve got ‘em, I’m on it. So they bring me my beets slathered in some kind of synthetic polymer disguised as beet-slime. Beets don't have slime in a state of nature and there's a damn good reason for it. If I saw it dripping off something in the state of nature I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole, I can tell you that. It was about as natural as a maraschino cherry. I don't know why the Amish think they can mess with my beets. It was down home cooking from a can is what it was. I could barely down one. Utterly indigestible.

The thing about the Amish is, you always think of Witness when you think of them, don’t you? Living in an idyllic sort of setting outside of space and time. And the men are strong and handsome, and the women are pure, and the kids are cute in their silly little suits and hats. But it's not like that. Do they have a dental plan? No. And that's only the beginning. Basically, they seem to be jumped-up white trash in silly suits straight from the late seventies. What they need is Isaac!


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