m wood pen

illustrator of books, cocktails, travel + more

i’ve never been to joe’s stone crab in miami, but i have a terrific story about it.

yesterday was deco day…i spent a lot of time drawing some really cool south beach hotels, then got into such a beach themed funk, i whipped up some more fun patterns!  with my head swimming in miami beach imagery, joe’s stone crab took over my brain.

nine years ago, i was lucky enough to design a rehearsal dinner invitation for kyle maclachlan & his fiancee, desiree gruber.  how much fun was that?  as i waited to get details about the venue (i love that word), i did a little kyle reminiscing.  orson!  trey!  special agent dale cooper!   what a totally kookie way to spend time: seeing how much of this cool thespian’s history i could remember without googling imdb!  (if that was even an option in 2002…)

the next day, the rehearsal dinner information had arrived.  april, ok, plenty of time to design, print and ship.  name of fiancee, great, got it.  need a map drawn to show hotel, airport, miami activities, easy.  quantity, no problem.  location, joe’s stone crab.

wait.  oh geez, not that place again.

so, my kyle maclachlan story becomes inexorably linked to the hellish trip to florida where my parents ditched half of their children to stay at a lavish resort for a few days…with my brothers!

now, i’m raising three children.  a couple of them are in college, and the little one is nearly a junior in high school.  i am no stranger to being emotionally tortured with precision aim by my children.  this, then, is what i call that old black magic, kharma, a-knocking at my door.  for you see, i have tortured my parents for decades over a little something that involved joe’s stone crab, and i’m not sure i’m ready to let go!

gosh, bathing caps were required, so let’s say this story takes me back to 1973.  i can pull out one of my dusty old diaries to verify the date, but in the interest of time and my getting back to work, i’ll stick with that.  spring break, a drive straight through the night, two parents and five kids jammed (talk about sardines!) into a diesel mercedes sedan.  i think we stopped three times from chicago to pompano beach, all at foul filthy scary truck stops…diesel!  my dad believed in getting there.  forget that life’s journey is the destination, the destination was the journey.  and the road snacks were warm, gushy tomato sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and radishes.

but, we were thrilled, as always, to spend a week in florida, and were so used to the travel arrangements, it really wasn’t an issue. it just adds to the story, for sure!  we enjoyed our typical vacation accommodations: a cheap motel a few blocks from the beach.  again, didn’t care, standard stuff.  we were just glad to escape the icky end of winter for beach, fun and the sun!  my parents are big fans of what my dad would call a ‘beanery’, i have no idea where this name came from, but it meant: cheap diner.  so what if we were feasting on pot roast & meatloaf casseroles while on a florida getaway, right?  again, didn’t care.

so, i’ve interviewed the parties involved, and the facts keep changing.  god love my parents, but at 82, they honestly can’t remember the steps that lead them to what happened next on this “family” vacation.  just while the lazy tempo of beach fun was underway, we were told that there was going to be a little bit of a switch.

it appeared that my dad had some unexpected business in miami.  they made it sound like this was a very long, long, long distance away…(you don’t need to be jacques cousteau to know that the distance between miami and pompano beach is about 20 minutes, and that’s during rush hour!)  the plan was quickly explained:  my parents and my brothers would make the trip, for a few days, to the boring business meeting, and the girls, so lucky!  the girls would spend three lovely days as special guests of my grandparents in their lavish condominium, complete with shuffleboard and a heated swimming pool.

talk about gullible.

i won’t go into the whole thing, but here’s the basic bone of the story: we gals had a nightmarish time, were forced to wear flower-adorned old lady bathing caps, fed over-cooked peas, forced to leave the beach after only one hour because my grandmother thought it was ‘too sandy’, weren’t allowed to play shuffleboard for fear of disturbing the other residents…and our “big night out” at a cafeteria ended in tears as my little sister inadvertently ordered something expensive that she wasn’t able to finish.

and how did things go in miami?  omg!  they were mum when they came back to pick us up to return home to chicago, mentioning something about a visit to some shack for seafood…but the proof was in the pudding when my mom called us all in to the living room to watch the super 8 home movies a few weeks after getting back home.

splashed across the screen?  hours of footage of my brothers playing tennis, serve after serve, then dashing off to dive and relax in a pool at a very posh resort (their hair was longer than ours in those days, yet, no bathing caps required!), and, yes, shots of the four of them all dressed up for a lavish feast at the ‘shack’…. joe’s stone crab.  looked pretty indulgent to us, the poor little match girls!

the project for kyle & desiree went swimmingly, what great folks!  i drew a detailed crab, colored it a bright aqua blue, designed some great invitations, and shipped it all off ahead of schedule.  and how sweet a surprise was this: i got a postcard from portofino a few weeks later: a thank you note written to me by the newlyweds!

as the clock ticks, and my kids get older, i’m running out of time to keep things equal.  i’ve tried, i really have.  but, as my poor parents will admit, sometimes grownups just lose their heads!  from here, i think:  my poor parents probably needed a moment of luxury and time away from their bratty kids…my grandparents probably refused to watch all five, so a split decision was made…for all i know, somebody flipped a coin to decide which kids would stay at sea haven with the overcooked peas.  how simple it looks from way over here, nearly 40 years later.

might be time to let this grudge go, you think?

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