Saturday morning surprises

I arrived at Mr. and Mrs. Buck's Seminole Heights home around 6:30 p.m. Friday for an excellent, low-key, opening Memorial Day Weekend cookout. Mrs. Buck makes better burgers than most chefs. She adds grated parmesan cheese, an egg and milk, among other things, to the meat before shaping the patties and having Buck slap 'em on the grill, where the corn has already been cooking. (The key to cooking corn on the grill is to leave the husks on and soak 'em in water for a while before placing over the flame. It's a Southern thing, Buck explains.)

Our good friends Lauren G., who is due to give birth in like 10 days, and her boyfriend/baby's daddy Al stopped by around 9 p.m. My parents happened to be in downtown Tampa using the Fly gift certificate I got mom for Mother's day, so after eating they also stopped by the Mr. and Mrs. Buck residence before returning to their home in St. Pete. "Oh my, look at that beautiful stomach," my mom said as Lauren lifted her shirt. Lauren's known my folks forever and actually worked for my mom back when she was in college. It was nice for my mom and her to be able to catch up before Lauren's big day.

Around 10:45 p.m., shortly after my folks, Lauren and Al split, all the food, wine and beer knocked me out, much to Buck's chagrin. Typically, when I visit, the two of us stay up late into the early morning, downing beers while trying to figure out how we can realize the American Dream. I enjoy those talks, but it was nice to be well-rested when my wake-up call came.

"Uncle Wade!" screamed the adorable duo as they scooted down the stairs at 6:30 a.m. to find me curled up on the family sofa. After seeing signs of life, the children promptly pounced on me, just like their father had instructed. That's the price I pay when I crash at Buck's house — but it's worth it. I love spending time with Mrs. and Mr. Buck's children. The kids are at the age when every time I see 'em their size, vocabularies and athletic abilities have noticeably increased. This morning, Buck's daughter showed me how their train set operated. Later, Buck Junior showed me that he can fire a fast ball right through my groggy hands and hit my groggy face, which prompted much laughter from his sister. Good times.

But when the Buck clan left for Junior's soccer game, which would be immediately followed by a trip to the family farm/soon-to-be-winery in North Florida, it was 8:20 a.m. and I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. I started driving home, considered eating a bagel and going back to bed. But construction on North Boulevard made me take a detour and by the time I got to Howard Avenue, WMNF was playing a Robert Earl Keen song, which I like, but don't own, titled "Jesse with the Long Hair." I drove past the turn to my apartment and made a left on Bayshore. The song ended and I put in the freshly minted Sonny Landreth disc, From the Reach, which might be my favorite new release of recent months. While Landreth worked his slide guitar magic I drove down Davis Boulevard, past the joggers, business district and then turned around at the airport. I couldn't pass the Grecian twice without stopping in.

I grazed at my food while reading until I finished every last crumb about an hour after first sitting down. I dropped a $10 on a $7.44 check. It was well worth it. So was rising early for once on a Saturday. Now, do I take a nap before attending this afternoon's pool party/drink-a-thon? Or trot down Bayshore and try and walk off the greasy spoon goodness? Decisions, decisions. I'm not used to having all this morning time on a Saturday.

I'm at the Grecian restaurant on Davis Islands gnoshing on smoked sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and white toast lathered with real butter and grape jelly. I peruse the several newspapers spread out on my table, soak up the still-tolerable sunshine and listen to the latest Bob Dylan hits collection, which is being played in its entirety on the sound system of the java shop next door. For me, this about as good as it gets. Who knew being awake at 9 a.m. on a Saturday could be so rewarding?

I run into my old pal, local music hero Ronny Elliott (the person who first introduced me to the Grecian years ago), and we discuss the upcoming Homemade music symposium, in which we'll both be participating. He walks back to his Davis Islands home and I eavesdrop as a father at a nearby table explains the greatness of Bob Dylan to his two sons, who can't be older than 9 or 10. The waitress refills my water glass the moment it empties. Everyone on Davis Boulevard appears to be in good spirits. Maybe I need to alter my lifestyle a bit and start making this a weekly ritual.

The last time I greeted a Saturday or Sunday before 10 a.m. was probably when I helped my parents move in October, unless you count pulling an all-nighter and facing the dawn during my latest New Orleans holiday. I usually don't rise on the weekends until about noon. I owe this morning's pleasure to Buck's 3-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

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