Mother Nature in a panhandle where the sea is south and Floribama the north. In between there are slow, winding roads, trees for miles, lightening flashes, and strange yet wonderful establishments like Waffle Houses and Kristy's Hair Design, at which Cary gets his oh so complicated buzz cut due to his tufts of Asian hair.
Inside the barber shop, there are two hairdressers, unique in their own right--and one, Kristy, who chats up both a washed up marine and seemingly more successful in work and home aviator without pause. I look at the walls of Polaroids and nicknacks, wrapped in a white terrycloth towel because the recent downpour managed to soak me in a single jaunt from parking spot to salon door. The shop is similar to the inside of car washes, the store part that sells things ranging from greeting cards and wood carvings to vanilla trees and Big Hunks. I pick up the Pensacola New Journal, free of car washes but not strangeland interiors it turns out.
That night we go to Tijuana Flats on Bayou Boulevard, a street less cool than it sounds, but I threw it in there because some places here feel straight out of the Pirates of the Caribbean or French Quarter. There are dives and houses and fields with bars and balconies and eerie, long-haired trees that take you straight to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, or a scene from Forrest Gump or True Blood. But we head to Mexico for food instead that night with Tijuana Flats, which is a walk up and order kind of place with great service to boot and the beloved patio with colored lights and then 15 kinds of salsa including "Smack My Ass and Call Me Sally" and "BooDreaux's Cajun Rocket Fuel." I fall in love and decide to spend my birthday there.
Another spot tested is The Jellyfish sushi place on Perdido Key, where military get 50% off on Tuesdays. Sucky sticky rice and sub par service, but 50% off is 50% off. Sad because I thought I liked the name. One of Cary's fellow student pilots, who's from Alaska, was also disappointed in the salmon selection being from the Atlantic. Tsk. I accidentally make my chopstick fling toward one of the wives, sending soy sauce and wasabi sprinkling.
Flounders versus Crabs. Flounders is on one side of the Gulf Breeze strip of land with a small beach and a pier that extends into a shallow bay. It has plenty of seating, and beach volleyball and Diesel Fuel, which is basically a Long Island amount of alcohol in a Big Gulp size mason jar. Cary and I try a Bushwacker--essentially a rum-laced milkshake--since the Bushwacker and Music Festival is going on, but I can't seem to hear any music besides the Bob Marley playing at the restaurant. Crabs is on the other side, with a bigger gulf beach, high chair seating under red umbrellas, hermit crab races that involve shells painted like soccer balls, basketballs, or with superhero symbols, and honeybuns--buns you dip in honey. We also try fried okra and crab and spinach dip.
And then we roll home and it rains.
Images courtesy of Flickr's StevenM_61 and Trip Advisor.