|A Summer of Regrets|
|Written by Jen Karetnick -- BT Contributor|
A house that’s falling down, no mangoes on the trees, and a favorite haunt gone into the bay -- and it’s only July
Summer in the Shores. I wait all year for it. And not just because I’m a full-time educator, full-time writer, and full-time mom who is overcommitted the rest of the time.
Sure, these are my “days off,” when I only have one job, with the school kids out and my own kids in camp, at work, or at sports activities. But this is also when I get stuff done in this dozy little village of ours. This is when I become an errands machine.
In fact, much as I despise doing errands, summer is when I truly appreciate the sleepy charm of the Shores. No one is on the roads, so it’s a quick trip to take vintage finds to be altered and repaired at Miami Shores Cleaners, which has a tailor on premises, before hopping across U.S 1 to actually shop for food to cook, instead of picking up a half-gallon of milk and a can of soup at CVS on the way home.
And of course, I only have to walk out to my yard for mangoes I hand off to neighbors like Kris Wessel, Doug Rodriguez, Andrea Curto-Randazzo, and Dewey LoSasso, all well-known chefs I otherwise rarely get to see.
In truth, my plan in summer usually is to leave the village only to nosh on wings and sip wine with friends that I’ve unintentionally blown off during the school year. In the same way many people consider spring a time of renewal, or New Year’s a time to reassess, I use summer in the Shores as a reason to gut-check everything about my home, my family, and myself. And I stay as near as possible to the house, as decrepit as it’s becoming, to do it.
Indeed, the house needs work. For one: my closet. The main problem is that all the racks fell off the wall sometime during the winter. It’s chaos in there. My clothes are hanging in my office. I’m currently typing through a veil of shirtsleeves.
Then there’s the floor, ruined by the dogs; the walls, eaten by termites; and the ceiling, with a leak in the breakfast room that no one can seem to fix. But the flip side is a double-whammy: hammers pounding and dogs barking. I already have the latter. Do I really want the former?
My body also needs a bit of improvement. Ideally, that would be an eye job, but I’m too afraid to do anything drastic. After some nasty complications that accompanied kidney surgery last fall, I’d rather not go under the knife. I’d much rather go under the sun, and get even more wrinkles and age spots. At least I’ll be relaxed. And hey, I’m covered. I’ve prepaid for laser abrasion facials to even out my skin and refresh my face.
This summer, however, has been shaping up differently than I imagined, and not only because I’d rather be writing poetry than overseeing the installation of floorboards. This year, forces have been conspiring against me, and everyone else in the Shores who loves mangoes, wings, and faux-surgical interventions.
For one thing, there aren’t many mangoes. A super-early, triple-blooming season had the Hadens come down mostly in April. The midseason mangoes look to be yielding a very small crop. The late-season mangoes -- those huge, green Indian footballs -- aren’t coming in at all.
I can’t say that I mind not spending hours each day in the yard, but I was looking forward to doing the final photo shoots for my cookbook this summer. Suffice to say, it’s hard to take pictures of chefs grabbing mangoes from the trees when there’s very little fruit to pick.
For another, the place that I rely on to catch up with girlfriends and grab some grilled wings and televised sports has fallen into the bay. Like many folks from Miami Shores, I hung out at Shuckers frequently, and was completely shocked when, on a very busy night at the restaurant, the dock collapsed and fell into the water. I’m thankful no one died, and grateful that my friends -- Tab, who practically lives there, and Michaela, who was supposed to be watching the Heat game there that night -- were out of the country and had gotten held up at work, respectively.
But, oh, Shuckers, how I loved you. The summer isn’t the same without your plastic chairs sticking to the backs of my thighs and bits of charred wings caught between my teeth.
Then there’s my med-spa, Pure, which, after changing my last appointment three times, shut down completely. I’ll miss the polite staff and the spa’s proximity to my house. Another facility, 911 Urgent Care and Laser, is taking Pure customers on good faith, supplying the treatments that have been paid for in hopes of securing the clients as regulars. Strategic move for this Hollywood-based med-spa, except for the fact that the receptionists and assistants have been yelled at by irked Pure patrons so many times that I suspect they’re beginning to regret their decision.
I’ve actually spent more time worrying about my cat’s body than my own. An elderly Turkish Angora, she suffered what seems like two strokes. The second one left her so off-balance, weak, and disoriented that she hung like a wet mop from my hands. Even so, I didn’t have to go far from the Shores for her treatment; veterinarian Dr. Yao’s office is just a few blocks south of 79th Street.
Not that there was much he or anyone could do. “Good nursing care” is what he prescribed, so I’ve been doing feline physical therapy and breaking every two hours from writing to plop my kitty in the litter box. What Dr. Yao’s office could offer me, I didn’t take: an adorable black, longhaired kitten the staff has up for adoption. Divorcing my husband isn’t in my plans for the summer.
The real reason this summer isn’t the peaceful oasis I wanted it to be is I’ve wound up doing some teaching, after all: My daughter received her driver’s permit. Now it’s no longer a simple matter of picking up one kid and dropping off another. It’s scoping out empty parking lots and stopping on every out-of-the way, little-trafficked street so she can practice. And the Shores has a lot of those streets.
So I’m already looking ahead -- to next summer. The house might still be crumbling, but my daughter will be driving without me in the passenger seat. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s taking over the pickup-and-delivery service. And she can also give me a ride home from that eye job.
Volume 12, Issue 8. October 2014
The Smithsonian honors a local documentary photographer
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