I just got back a few days ago from an amazing week in Florida. The trip combined beaches, good music, fun with friends, and new and exciting possibilities in an extremely good mix.
The Sauce Boss, mixing blues and gumbo
The main attraction was a trop rock event called Music on the Bay (MOTB). No, I wasn’t playing at it, but that didn’t make it any less fun. I got to enjoy music by some of the best of my fellow trop rockers, including Sunny Jim White, the Trop Rock Junkies, Jimmy Parrish, Jack Mosley, Michael J Weiss, and the Sauce Boss, some of whom I hadn’t seen play before. If you weren’t there, you could have heard most of it broadcast live on Songwriter’s Island Radio – well worth checking out anyway! (They play my stuff too.)
The Beach at Whiskey Joe’s
The event was held at an amazingly beautiful place called Whiskey Joe’s, on the shores of Tampa Bay, site of the previous two MOTB’s, and of a memorable show of my own last year. They put up a new, bigger stage this year at the other end of the beach from the regular tiki stage. The main acts were at the new stage; they had songwriters playing shorter sets at the original stage. It was a good idea that worked very well for the bigger acts and the folks who watched them, not so well for the songwriters and the vendors who’d set up by the smaller stage. It was their first time doing this, and I guess they’ll make adjustments for next year.
They’ve got about ten palapa tables scattered around the beach near the tiki bar, which were auctioned off for charity. I got to park myself at one of those for the weekend by pitching in with a friend. Having that “home base” was very helpful to me, since I’d flown in from out of town and had none of the usual beach accessories with me. (I could have borrowed from friends, with some advance planning.) Thanks to my friend Diane Rutledge for sharing her space and company with me. Diane is a friend, a lover and supporter of this music we all do, and masterful behind the wheel of her Mustang.
Yes, you *can* see the Gulf from here!
Gateway to the beach!
To save money, I stayed about an hour away, at the home of a couple of friends (Pablo & Diana) in Holmes Beach. To local lovers of trop rock music, it’s also known as the Sandbox, where I’ve also had the joy and honor of playing, a time or two. Tucked away half a block from the Gulf on Anna Maria Island, it’s a delightful oasis complete with pool, stage, beach chairs, dogs, and cats. When we weren’t up in Tampa, we all had a delightful and comfortable time. And you won’t find two nicer or more kindly and giving people than Pablo and Diana.
My view every morning
Walking the beach…
…I found some interesting shells and such!
The best part of staying down there was that I could (and did) walk the beach every morning before heading up to Tampa. While I sing and write songs about beach life, I don’t get to live it half as often as I’d like. And there’s something about the sound of the surf that just releases all of my tension and calms my soul.
If more people started their day with a walk on the beach, I think this would be a much nicer world to walk around in.
The wildlife there was pretty active. I saw a couple of rays pop up out of the water, and dolphins swimming out beyond the surf break. I also saw pelicans aplenty, parrots, and even an osprey or two.
Sunset at the Beach
Watching the sun go down.
Best of all were the sunsets. I caught several of them up at Whiskey Joe’s, but also managed to watch one down on the island. Even without supporting clouds, it was spectacular.
In my “Copious Free Time,” as Tom Lehrer would say, I did some exploring, down through Sarasota to Englewood, including stops at a couple of beach bars, and wrote a silly new pirate song. Because I *could*. And I grew my knowledge of what’s what and where in that part of the world. I even found the local Trader Joe’s!
It was an amazing trip, during which I spent time with some equally amazing and wonderful people, whom I am truly privileged to have as friends. Thanks to each of my friends who enriched my week in some way, small or large – Diane, James, Victor, Gary, Cathy, Heather, Sue, Bryan, Effie, Michael, Millie, Koz, Terry, Batman & Jill, Rho, Gabrielle, and the rest of the waitstaff at Whiskey Joe’s, LaDonna, and of course Pablo & Diana! And to the many others whose names may be slipping my mind right now, but who are no less important to how beautifully it all turned out.
Part of what helped make it so much fun was that I treated it as an adventure, even the occasional setbacks and snafus. It’s magical, the way that my choices in the moment can help me either enjoy another beautiful day in Paradise or plunge me back into the world of traffic jams, inconsiderate people, and disturbing headlines. Yes, I still have to deal with the day-to-day world…but if I’m “in Paradise” in my head, it goes a lot more easily and I have a lot more fun at it. And sometimes, keeping my smile and “Paradise state of mind” when some narrow-visioned SOB is trying to piss me off is the sweetest kind of victory.
I won’t get back to Florida until May, but I’ve got pictures and memories to help me keep that “island state of mind” back here in the Bay Area. Not that I have a whole lot of trouble doing that most days, as we’ve got some pretty darned amazing scenery and people here too.
Sunset by the Bay – beautiful sunsets are everywhere!
Cheers, and thanks for listening!
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