Monday, November 22, 2010

Nothing Like the Beach in the Fall

Most people prefer the beach in late spring or summer when the sun is hot and the ocean is warm as bath water. But Jilda and I love the beach in the fall and winter.

We drove down this past weekend and took the rain with us. The temperature was warm so we opened the patio of the condo as we unpacked, and listened to the pounding surf. Before dark, we stepped down to the water and leaned into a stiff wind coming off the gulf. There was not another soul on the beach in either direction for as far as we could see.

As we stood there we could smell the rain mixed with the salty ocean air. When the first drops began to pepper our skin, we headed back to the condo and whipped up some hot tea. We backed the patio chairs up close to the wall and sat for a while listening to the rain ticking on palm fronds out by the pool. It felt good to be alive.

I got up early on Monday to work on some stories I'd been writing, and I let Jilda sleep in. That's a luxury she rarely gets to enjoy.

At lunch, we drove from Orange Beach toward Gulf Shores looking for a good place to eat. We decided on a beachside cafe called Bahama Bob's. By the time we were seated on the patio, the rain was coming down in sheets and the red surf warning flags were blowing so hard it looked like they'd been starched and ironed.

We ordered oyster po' boys with home fries for lunch, and sweet tea. While waiting for our orders to arrive, we listened to the wind and rain play the metal roof like a steel drum. I heard Jilda chuckling and when I looked to see what was causing the mirth, I saw a sign on the café wall that said, "All unattended children will be used as crab bait." I smiled too as I read the sign.

The main reason for our trip to the beach this time was that organizers fore the Frank Brown International Songwriter's Festival invited us to perform at this year's festival. Hundreds of songwriters and thousands of music lovers from all over the world converge each November on Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores, Alabama as well as Pensacola, Florida to celebrate music and songwriters. 

This was the 26th annual festival and we had the opportunity to play the Flora-Bama -- which is where the festival began.

The Flora-Bama is a bar that sits on Perdido Key in Pensacola, Florida but its western wall is only six feet from the Alabama state line, thus the name Flora-Bama.

Hurricane Ivan scored a direct hit on the cultural landmark, but the owners cobbled it back together and it remains a popular area hotspot.

Playing on the stage of the Flora-Bama was on our Bucket List (the list of things we wanted to do before we die). We've been to the Flora-Bama in the past and sometimes the crowd can be quite rowdy. The songs we write are definitely not loud and it would never be considered dance music, so we weren't sure how we'd be received.

As it turns out, we held our own, and for the most part, the audience listened while we sang our songs. 

We didn't go on stage until after 10 p.m. so it was after midnight by the time we got back to the condo. Since Jilda had to work on Wednesday, we were up at the crack of dawn packing the car for the return trip home.

I stepped to the beach just before we left and though the sun had not come up, the horizon to the east went from a thousand shades of orange to the deep indigo blue of the night sky. It looked like it would be another beautiful day.

As vacations go, it was short on time, but long on quality, and the memories we made are already golden.

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