Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Florida - Part Two

They might call it the Sunshine State, but it doesn't half rain. Each summery afternoon was met with a thunderstorm of biblical proportions, lightning bolts poised to deliver any number of hapless octogenarian golfers from their mortal coil during an ill-fated backswing in this, the flattest of states. Of course the whole place is a swamp and ill-suited to human life in general - with the exception of hardy natives and depraved Hemingwayesque fisherfolk - until the invention of air-conditioning, upon which it became economically viable to pave paradise and sell it off (Glengarry Glen Ross style), to wealthy New York retirees; draining the water into adjacent, go-nowhere canals that become havens for the large, frightening reptiles for whom this is a natural habitat.

The human geography of the Eastern shore follows a certain pattern; high-rise apartments and hotels along the ocean front occupied by a mostly white and latino population, flanked a mile back by the poorer, single-storey, largely black neighbourhoods which provide the staff for the resorts, restaurants and retail outlets, all along the arterial I-95. Then for a mile or two in Palm Beach the pattern is broken by the ocean-side mansions and private beaches of America's ruling class, the Kennedys, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts et al, x-generation robber-barons who winter here before returning to the Hamptons or Cape Cod, and, by unwritten rule, circulate the real estate only amongst themselves despite the hyperbolic sums allegedly offered for the properties by nouveau riche drug barons and hedge-fund managers.

Saturday was the big party itself, grandpa Jack's ninetieth, and a thoroughly good time was had by all. It was held at a country club – another first for me – and we were served with great politeness and efficiency by a host of starched and polished staff, the kind one reads about in all the best novels but which are an extinct species in the old empire. I for one would have taken even greater advantage of their services had I known in advance that the bar would be closing at 8 o'clock. Uncle Steve explained the arrangement to me thus, "Jews don't go out for a drink, they go out for dessert" - though I found this explanation unconvincing, having observed several thirsty looking jews and goys alike at the desert buffet. If ever there was a time for my mother's sherry trifle, it was this. In any case, the man of the hour clearly had a marvellous time and was absolutely on his best behaviour – a mild concern for many – indeed Lewesians may recall his theft of a serviette from the Dil Raj and his outrage that the Brewer's Arms refused to take his money (US dollars) in payment for a round, also his general annoyance at everything being "so old" when he visited the town for our wedding. He was also particularly delighted to be surrounded by the vast majority of his "great ones" or great-grandchildren, of whom Ethan was of course the youngest, though soon to be supplanted by Max come October when he is due to arrive courtesy of Jeanne. Jessica also made a big hit at the event with her range of novelty hats, previously touted to nerdish twenty-somethings but adopted with gusto by the children.

I then managed to put my foot in my mouth re Uncle Steve for the second time that evening when I bid him farewell and mentioned that I'd see him tomorrow.
"Great! Where?" he said.
"Your place. We're popping over for brunch?"
"Oh, you are?" he said. Apparently no-one had told him.



Rob and Amy's daughter Avi takes an important call.


Hannah wearing one of Jessica's hats. Get your own at www.madhattersproductions.com. Younger sister Lauren in the background.


Rachel's cousin Jessica and half of boyfriend Scott. In addition to teaching and hat making, Jessica has been engaged to illustrate future best-seller The Marmalade Shore.


Rachel's cousin Rob, her cousin Sandy in the foreground.


Rob's wife Amy is a professional photographer. Am hoping to become her apprentice one day.


Sarah with her father (and Rachel's cousin) John in foreground. Is everyone Rachel's cousin? More or less, yes.


Jack with a selection of his "great ones"; David, Hannah, Lauren and Sarah.


Nancy and Ethan.

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