Yesterday I was flipping through my photos and came across the one you see here. It was taken on a typical day in my career as a Gulf Coast visitor, which starts on the beach and ends at Crabby Bill’s in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.
Some of my earliest memories are of waiting for a table while my extended family laughed, slurped shellfish and emptied pitchers of beer at the bar. Eventually we’d get seated at the long, communal picnic tables, and I’d always get stuck next to some stranger asking me questions about what grade I was in and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t get it.
I got older, moved from the nest and stopped attending the Florida family vacation. When my parents retired to the “Sunshine State” I started spending my major holidays there. Returning to the crab shack of my youth, I finally got it.
Lately I’ve been starting with the above – a Bloody Mary with the secret crab seasoning along the rim and a dozen oysters. Then I move to the stone crab claws, which you can get straight from the steamer with a side of drawn butter or chilled with mustard dipping sauce. After that I’ll order a grouper sandwich with a side of corn on the cob and rice.
It all gets walked off on the powder white beach across the street, where I’ll watch pelicans flop themselves into the Gulf as the sun sets on the horizon.
In a few months I’ll be heading back to Florida, and I wonder what I’ll find. If you look at the animated long-range forecast, it shows the oil staying just off the west coast of southern Florida, but unfortunately has it coming up the southeast Atlantic coast and out towards Europe. Either way, I’ll still make my pilgrimage to Crabby Bill’s, even if it’s just for the secretly-seasoned Bloody Mary.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Loder family and all their employees at Crabby Bill’s. I know a lot of “snow birds” who are pulling for you.