Florida! Florida! Florida!

February 15--Back on the Road

by Lenny Hughes

I'm back, babies!

For the five or six people who were wondering where I was, I have to confess I skipped the West Coast romp to spend a few months with my kitties.

Chloe and Luci
Chloe and Luci

Not to worry: Chloe and Luci are fine. Their alleged owner Zina was hospitalized with a foot injury, and has been convalescing in my living room since December. I drive her around like Morgan Freeman, but what really keeps me working are the elaborate fetch games the cats force me to play day and night.

So I needed a break.

Lew and the boys had continued without me in Oregon, Washington and California in January. They wound things up in Arizona in February. I missed the guys, and the Left Coast ambiance, but my services as a home-care professional were needed. I'm not a real doctor, but I played one on TV ("The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth" on the History Channel).

Getting back on the road has been less-stressful than I could've imagined. We spent several days at a nice resort in Clearwater. Lewis played golf with Ben between shows at the intimate Capitol Theatre.

Capitol Theatre
Capitol Theatre

During the show, he conducted the audience in a "Happy Birthday" chorus for his dad Sam, who turned 101 this week. On my time off, I was invited to spend time with the parents and their friend Betty at the Blacks' condo near Baltimore.

Lew conducts Happy Birthday
Lew conducts Happy Birthday
Chez les Blacks
Chez les Blacks

At one point, Mrs. Black asked why Lew still works, and he told her how much he enjoyed working and entertaining faithful fans.

She paused meditatively, then responded, "That's bull shit."

While Lew hit the links this week and pursued fruitful activities, I spent time in my room with an "NCIS" marathon, as well as a fine show called "My Cat From Hell," and—saddest of all—a rerun of the Saints victory over the Falcons in Week Three, when hopes were still high. Stayed up til 3 a.m. to see Drew Brees leap over the goal line for the overtime win.

We pulled out of Clearwater this morning and headed up the Gulf Coast Highway: miles and hours of strip malls, stocked with fast-food eateries and beer joints, tattoo parlors, injury lawyers' billboards—and absolutely nothing to distinguish one monotonous stretch from another.

Except for the bizarre Weeki Wachee Park, where you can watch live women dressed as mermaids splashing around in an aquarium (my favorite TV show "Route 66" did an episode about the place back in the '60s). Unfortunately the place was temporarily closed.

Weeki Wachee
Weeki Wachee

We finally left Strip-Mall-palooza and we're rolling along the I-75, featuring natural scenery among the billboards—bristly pine trees, oaks festooned with Spanish moss, wetlands with stalking white egrets and tourist attractions like the Museum of Drag Racing.

Tree Among Billboards
Tree Among Billboards
Dragseum
Dragseum

Never been a huge fan of Florida, you may have guessed. I do like the birds, though (a pigeon visited me at the Belleview Inn). And the proximity to New Orleans.

Florida Fauna
Florida Fauna
Belleview
Belleview

Things are a bit less-animated on the bus, by the way, now that John Bowman has taken a temporary leave of absence. We hope he gets back soon; it just isn't the same to sail through the country without his unique commentary.

Just as I was regretting the monotony, a white Cadillac outside of Silver Springs started smoking: the driver pulled off, and got out just as the thing exploded into flame and spewed black smoke into what's left of the ozone layer. What's crazier than that scene was the 10-mile back-up on the other side of the perfectly clear highway.

Hot Car
Hot Car

So now we're on our way to Jacksonville, on the other side of the state. We'll see our old Springbrook buddy Dave Peace, which is always one of the perks for coming down here. Last night, we saw the hilarious Rick Redcay.

Maybe Florida ain't so bad afterall.

We'll complete the weekend in Stuart, Florida, the birthplace of none other than the sorely missed John Bowman.

After that, it's another weekend off. Wuhooo. Then we're marching to Peoria.

A belated Happy Valentine's Day!

--Lenny