Winter and I don’t get along. Perhaps it’s the years I spent living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then Green Bay. Or, conversely, maybe it’s the 3 years I spent living in Miami. Either way, it is best for my mental state if I am in a warm state.
Several years ago, my mom and I went to Perdido Key in the Florida panhandle to snowbird. We had a delightful time but learned that’s not far enough south to find Josie-level warmth in the winter. This year, we decided on southern Florida. I used the Southwest low fare calendar and literally typed in “St. Louis to Tampa,” “St. Louis to Orlando,” “St. Louis to Fort Lauderdale,” until I found the cheapest fare — St. Louis to Palm Beach. Next, we compared a few vacation rentals and settled on an adorable cottage in a community called Lake Worth, just south of Palm Beach. Brilliant.
And it has been brilliant.
Lake Worth is an artist’s haven and known for their cottages. They speckle the neighborhoods with their charming front porches, bright Florida hues, and consuming tropical gardens. A coffee table book provides an inside look and details the history of the local gems. I couldn’t help myself but look up a few on Zillow and seriously question if, maybe, I should be a cottage owner. I haven’t definitively decided against it.
While here, family and friends at home faced the worst snowstorm in years. My parent’s house had over 14 inches, keeping my dad barricaded (thankfully, with heat, power, and food) for multiple days. We’d swap selfies of us in front of palm trees with snowmen and overburdened tree branches. As I write this now, I am aware that another arctic blast is supposed to hit right after we return. The high on Sunday will be 12 degrees. The high! Sunday is also the Chiefs playoff game against the Patriots. Here’s hoping for some good football to keep us warm.
Mom and I had been scouting bars to watch the Chiefs – Colts matchup (last week) from the moment we arrived in town. Rhum Shack had cheap food (40% off on Saturday, dang!) but the wrong sports vibe. The raw bar had decent-looking food but smelled too much like seafood. Igot’s martiki bar didn’t serve food (but wins for cute name). At last, we found Lilo’s Street Food and Bar. Happy hour two-for-one drink specials and killer food deals. Yes, I am bargain crazy.
Beforehand, mom had asked me, “What do you do at a bar for 3 hours?” Don’t mistake the question, she is the more fervent Chiefs fan and absolutely planned to be in front of a TV for the whole game. But she’s accustomed to the comforts of watching a game from her armchair. When we first arrived at the bar, we were the only ones watching TV. The accommodating bartender changed the station for us and even turned up the volume for us to hear the commentary. Three hours later we’d become affectionately known as part of the “Miller Lite Girls Corner” with several of our new acquaintances high-fiving us over the Chiefs’ Divisional win. THAT is what you do at a bar for 3 hours.
While we had been at Lilo’s watching the game, I realized the TV ratio was misadjusted. The bartender tried, I tried, the manager tried, I tried again but none of us could get the picture to display properly. The slight pixelation didn’t seem to bother anyone else and we reasoned that we were winning with it blurry so perhaps should leave well enough alone. Well. A couple days later, mom and I were sitting at a bar across the street from Lilo’s. FedEx pulled up and carried out a 55” TV in a box, apparently being shipped back. Now, I can’t imagine this had anything to do with us but I like to think I helped alert the manager to a defective television and should consider a future career as a caped consumer advocate. I guess the cape part is negotiable.
The bar we were sitting at (across from Lilo’s) had two bar stools that faced out the open window to the street. Hence the FedEx view. We felt like VIP ladies looking out at Lake Worth downtown. While I was at the bar ordering our drinks, a man asked where we were from. He mentioned he used to live in Northern Michigan and I told him we had lived in Marquette. He had gone to college there around the same years. Small world. A little while later the bartender came up to us and said, “the gentleman at the bar wants to buy your next round.” What he really did was buy the opportunity to come sit with us at the VIP perch. He told us that we had actually taken some regulars’ seats and he was getting a kick out of watching them fumble for where to sit, instead. He said they’re two old guys that resemble the cranky muppets sitting in their balcony seats commenting on the world. It made me think of mass when the ‘non-regulars’ take a pew that all the ‘regulars’ recognize as so-and-so’s pew. Side note, I actually love when that happens to me at mass because it gives me a new perspective. Anyway, we enjoyed our second beer, thanked the local for the hospitality, and gave up our perch to the muppets.
Midway through the trip, we rented a car. It was lovely to explore Lake Worth on foot and my step count got a nice boost. But with a car, we were able to venture north and visit Palm Beach. On the Lyft ride to pick up the car we asked what sights the driver recommended. He mentioned Mar-a-Lago (yes, President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago). The driver said, “I’m not sure if he’s still here though, I didn’t notice Air Force One when I drove by the airport.” My mom responded, “No, I think based on his tweets he’s back in the White House.” I thought to myself it’s a weird day for national security when a random guy in Florida and my mom can figure out the president’s whereabouts. Strange. But we did drive by Mar-a-Lago and all its opulence. We walked along Worth Avenue and window shopped at Ferragamo, Gucci, Saks, etc. The only store we stopped in was called the Mouse’s Cupboard. It was a charitable resell-it shop. Perhaps it’s a sign of the Palm Beach times but it was hopping.
We ate breakfast at a charming diner that also felt out of place for Palm Beach. The woman next to us looked like an ad for Lilly Pulitzer sporting the designer’s visor, top, skirt, handbag, and tennis bag. That’s a lot of bright flowers. We overheard her on the phone inviting someone to an event. She told them, “I just have to give a quick 20-minute speech and then we can enjoy the evening. Let me know if you want the mahi-mahi or the steak.” I desperately wanted to ask her the topic of the speech but decided to let her enjoy her non-fat decaf latte in peace.
On our last day, I decided to make the most of soaking up the sun by going for a run in Bryant Park by the water and then doing a slow flow yoga class. It was absolutely magical to twist and see the water, to go upside down and see palm trees, to have my feet feel the slightest bump from the uneven earth. It was heavenly, which is a fitting description because while I was at the park my mom learned that my cousin had passed away the night before. The loss is heartwrenching (especially because she was not even 50, their family lost her father only 4 months prior, and it was so sudden). I was grateful we had happened to see her only a few weeks earlier. She had a verve for life and a strong spirit so we decided Suzanne would want us to celebrate her life and we toasted her at our favorite restaurant recalling fun memories.
Today, we are heading home as planned. The weather forecast is still harrowing but I have a new perspective about what’s worth complaining about and what’s not. It has been a terrific trip punctuated with a somber reminder to embrace life, to be kind, and to appreciate what we’re given.