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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Square Grouper




The Square Grouper, rounds them up! So it’s true, there is the perfect bar. The Square Grouper, situated on the Castaways Marina in South Florida, puts paradise on the map.

All you country fans or Jimmy Buffet fans may recognize the name. Yes, this is the spot where Alan Jackson's, “Its' Five O'Clock Somewhere” video with Jimmy Buffet was filmed. Music keeps this place jamming, live music here six days a week! And you always secretly hope J.B. will make a surprise appearance, and sing out “Margaritaville.” Heck, I’ll look for that lost shaker of salt all night, if it means I get to kick it at the Grouper!

My experience was made by the splashing colors. And we are not just talking about the blues of the ocean, greens of the forest, or yellows of the Coronas…the tables at the bar are all painted a different pastel color. LOVING IT! J.B. might not recommend the bar for this reason…but we would surely agree that it is enticing when there is sand sourrounding your table, and the ocean is a quick two feet way. I am a groupie of the square grouper, no doubt.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Amish Country, Bird-In-Hand




Upon entering Bird-in-Hand (the real name of the town, no joke) I wanted the full effect. Cell phone off. And it would remain off for the full day. No email, Rockies twitter updates or browsing the internet. We were in Amish country now. Pennsylvania has the second largest population in the nation at about 51,000 people, right behind Ohio.
A Mennonite guide, Minoh, took my family on a buggy ride through the pristine land. Seeing the Amish plow their yards, ride smaller than usual bicycles and walk down the street in no hurry with baked goods in hand made me want to take our horse off track, hitch up a plow and work along with them. I just had so many questions!
I noticed facial hair is a hit here! When married, a man grows out his beard. When I asked our guide if that was there way of saying “Taken,” he looked shocked. There I was in Bird-in-Hand and felt like I had my foot in my mouth. It’s more of a tradition 
You will notice plain clothing because the Amish believe in humility and do not want to stand out. Aprons are common for women and felt hats for men in the winter and straw hats in the summer. Staying separated from the world is part of their belief system, which also trickles to their beliefs on electricity. They do use bottled for water heaters, modern stoves and refrigerators. The Amish do not necessarily believe electricity is evil, but it could lead to the determination of the church, family and lead into temptations. The only temptation I was feeling that day was shoo fly pie.
Have you ever heard of shoo fly pie? The name threw me off, eating a pie with the word fly attached to it was not on my wish list. But after reading the ingredients I found nothing out of the ordinary. Molasses is the main ingredient, which attracts flies, so when put on the table the flies come swarming and are shooed away. But the pie itself, no need to shoo that away!
The one room school houses intrigued me. Old fashioned in a good way. But Looks like you can’t use the excuse of getting lost in the maze of halls from going from classroom to classroom here.
The Amish are very self sufficient. But there is debate about the modern world entering their lifestyle. Our guide, Minoh, told us they don’t own cars, but are not opposed to taking rides from anyone with a car. You will find Amish people at Wal-Mart buying clothes or food, which are of course produced with electricity. Some say this is hypocritical.
The modern world could be seeping in, but the faith is strong. There is something special about the simple life. Less stress, no competition, or comparisons. There is something admirable about choosing self-denial over comfort. I do however believe in originality and not sticking to a mold. If there was a way to abolish judgmental people and stick to your own character, that’s where you would find me, alongside a piece of shoo fly pie of course!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Philly: More than just cheese steaks!




Philly is about more than world class cheese steaks. Ask a Philadelphian if he would move to New York, you will find the look is as painful as the one on someone’s face who orders a cheese steak and finds out they are fresh out of cheese whiz. I ordered a cheese steak and thought the guy was kidding when he asked if I wanted cheese whiz on my steak. Maybe he could tell I was from out of town and wanted to see if he could also get me add sprinkles on top.
My perplexed look was taking me back to the days when the magic cheese whiz out of a can always turned up a notch on the party, especially with triscuits. I shouldn’t have questioned him because I was told, “Ya, Cheese whiz, you either want it or you don’t, there’s no in between.” Well I should hope not. So I instead asked for provolone. No response and white cheese slapped on top of the steak, wrapped and slapped on the counter. Do I leave a tip? Some people may say yes, tell the guy to smile, and also offer organic dairy free Swiss cheese on the menu.
But I must say I love the Philadelphia attitude. No small talk, they are down to business. If you are ever there, smile and wave at someone, anyone. You will know if they are from Philly if they nod back aggressively, or respond with a cold “How you doin' ” or just look the other way…they must get tired of all us tourists coming in, especially if you are on the duck tour and quacking loud and proud with the duck whistle. I would request to live in a NO quack zone.
But get used to it. Philly is a city full of attitude and they mean nothing by it. And how could you not miss this city? Truth be told by loyal Philadelphians: Philly is THE CITY. Not New York, and they keep their big apple, Philly also has big time cream cheese and cheesecake. And oh ya, the real history.
I am not discrediting anything about New York, that city is slick. But let’s get this straight. The real American History covers not only Philly but Pennsylvania. New York is not “THE CITY.” It’s one of the cites. The real city is the one where the United States of America was established, the Declaration of Independence was formed and signed and the Liberty Bell once rang as loud as the duck whistles preaching freedom.
Diversity, history and a long list of sights to see never fall short in the city that founded the U.S.A.