Christmas Eve at 83°

Yes, you read that right.  This is the day before Christmas Day, and here in Merritt Island, Florida, the mercury stands at 83 degrees Fahrenheit, per The Weather Channel.  Susie and I have, despite the pea-soup relative humidity, had a good walk this morning, walking the 2.2 miles from her house to Barnes and Noble (where I am currently blogging), by way of lunch at Steak ‘n Shake.  (I had their three-way chili.  It was tasty, but years of Cincinnati chili–Gold Star and Skyline–have made me more particular.)

The only bad thing about this Christmas is that I can’t lord the 80+ degrees I am experiencing over my friends back in Columbus.  The temperature right now is in the upper 50s in Columbus.  We are supposed to have rain here tonight, and Columbus and the southern part of Ohio are bracing for 50-mph winds.

Steph, Susie, and Mike have acquired a little Jack Russell terrier, Rex, since my last visit.  Susie and I walked Rex last night and this morning.  Even though Susie has pretty much written organized religion out of her life, she was respectful enough to prevent Rex from urinating on a statue of the Virgin Mary that one of her neighbors has in the yard.  (When we lived in Franklinton, one of our neighbors had a stone statue of St. Francis of Assisi in the yard.  St. Francis was nobly standing with three or four birds perched on his shoulders and arms.  Susie, who was about seven at the time, asked me, “What’s that man saying, Daddy?”  The best I could think of at the time was, “He’s saying, ‘Get off me, birdies!  I’m not a statue!'”)

One neighbor’s yard displayed a sign about how this was a Christian household and that they celebrated Christmas.  My only reaction was a popular Yiddish phrase: “Nu?”   (Whenever anyone bloviates about a “war on Christmas,” I want to invite them to spend a year in Iraq or Syria as the guests of ISIS, to see what real persecution of Christians involves.)

I am glad the bus trip is behind me.  I won’t claim that this is the last time I will ever travel by bus, because I still prefer it to flying, but I have had my fill for awhile.  I was about 15 or 20 minutes late arriving in Orlando, due primarily to an accident on Florida 417 South that slowed traffic in all directions to a virtual crawl.  Susie had texted me: The last text says you’re in Jacksonville.  Where are you now?  I was quite precise when I replied: I-4 West near DeLand.  Mile marker 121.2.  (The mile markers in Florida are broken down into tenth-of-a-mile increments.)  If you read the entry I posted in October, when I came here to surprise Susie as a belated birthday gift, you’ll see why it was so heartbreaking for me to pass by DeLand and not be able to stop!

Once I did arrive at the Orlando Megabus stop, I began to wonder if or when we would ever leave it.  The stop is located at the corner of N. Semoran Blvd. and E. Colonial Dr.  I am no traffic engineer, but the entrance and exits to and from this lot are clogged by the traffic moving (or not!) on both streets, so the wait for an opening in which to jump into the traffic flow is interminable.

It was truly miraculous that my last entry ever saw the light of day.  I don’t mean to be posting a litany of complaints about Megabus (I truly appreciate paying $1 to get from Columbus to Atlanta!), but the Wi-Fi service on the Atlanta-to-Orlando leg of the journey was erratic, so I was booted offline several times, and I have to relearn each time how to retrieve drafts from WordPress when this happens.  I was afraid I would have to rewrite the entry from scratch, but I was able to save it.

The walk from Susie’s house (she’s not even 18 yet, and she can boast of having houses in Ohio and Florida!) to this shopping plaza was quite pedestrian-friendly, and this surprised me, since this is a very car-dependent (can’t resist this: auto-erotic) area.  Sykes Creek Parkway features a wide bike lane, and a runners’ trail, so we were able to avoid near misses with cars.  The bike lanes were much better than the narrow walkways on bridges, so I did not get the jitters as we were walking over Sykes Creek itself.

The bicyclists we did encounter were quite pleasant, unlike some of the ones I’ve encountered in Columbus, who think pedestrians are like bowling pins they can hit.  And Susie and I did give the cyclists a wide berth when they did come.  When I am on the bike trail in Columbus riding the trike, the runners and walkers I encounter are inevitably wearing earbuds, so I have made a mental note to buy an air horn for the trike once I start riding it again in the spring.  My little bell seems to be ineffective.

I am not sure whether we are opening Christmas gifts tonight or tomorrow morning.  My parents started the Christmas Eve gift-opening tradition after my eighth Christmas in 1971, when I was unable to restrain my enthusiasm and we opened gifts at 4:30 a.m.  (That Christmas memorable because it was when I received my first tape recorder.)  I am proud of this year’s gift selection, but if I wrote about it today, I would learn that this is the one time that Steph and Susie would read my blog.

Monday’s gift exchange at work was a fun experience.  I contributed two bags of Hawaiian rolls to the small meal we shared, and I bought a good gift for my supervisor’s supervisor.  She’s an R.N., so I bought her a children’s toy doctor’s kit, which was in a big pink box.  (Thank God for Goodwill!  I was afraid I would have to go to a toy store or–shudder–Walmart to find her a suitable present.)  My gift was a black T-shirt with white lettering.  It says, The only good Eugene left.

This originated with my direct supervisor, whose term of endearment for me is “Paul Eugene,” the name of her favorite cousin.  (My middle name is Thomas, but it came very close to being Eric.  In one of the few things my parents did correctly in raising me, they had the foresight to see the initials Paul Eric Evans would produce!)

I called all my co-workers Eugenes, and when the 7 a.m.-3:30 people leave, I proclaimed that I was the only good Eugene left.

I proofread and edited Susie’s essay for the AFSCME Family Scholarship, another perk of belonging to the union.  (AFSCME is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.)  It has to be postmarked by New Year’s Eve, so Susie is under the gun to finish it.  My goal is to mail it Friday from the post office in Merritt Island, before we go back to Columbus on Saturday morning.

I will probably post tomorrow night, but, if not, I wish all those who follow this blog (the “14 readers in the dark,” to borrow a catchphrase of Fritz the Nite Owl) a blessed holiday.

Howard Thurman's immortal words.  (He was dean of chapel at Howard University and Boston University, and a major influence on Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Howard Thurman’s immortal words. (He was dean of chapel at Howard University and Boston University, and a major influence on Martin Luther King, Jr.)


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