Way back in the 80s, back when Adidas was popular the first time, I would go to Clearwater, FL every spring. As you probably know, this is the Spring Training home of the Philadelphia Phillies. As it happens, many of my memories from this time actually do not center on baseball. I have vague memories of the sparsely attended Jack Russell stadium, of the Phillies green pinstriped uniforms, and of never getting a foul ball (how did I never get one?), but for me in those days, Clearwater was a vacation. It was about the beach right out our back door, and trips to Busch Gardens. Something else I have clear memories of is our dining experiences. I guess even at a young age, eating was very important to me.
I’m sure much like a gourmand hitting up France or Italy, a trip to Clearwater brought some new and magical experiences for me. There was The Dugout. An Italian restaurant/Pizza Place that we went to all the time. I think I liked this place so much a) because it was called The Dugout, and b) because sitting down in a restaurant to eat pizza felt like fine dining at that point in my life. The raised metal tray they bring to the table? I probably thought it was made out of sterling silver. There was also a place where we got take-out BBQ chicken and apple pie (which I didn’t eat). I can’t remember the name of that one. There was also Steak N’ Shake. Steak N’ Shake is amazing. When I saw Steak N’ Shake again in my twenties after a decade long hiatus it was powerfully nostalgic. All those places were great, but the one I remember the most is Crabby Bill’s. Not because of the food, but because there is an anecdote.
Crabby Bill’s was right down the street from where we stayed in Clearwater. The way it sits in my memory now it was within walking distance, but that may be my romanticized version. Crabby Bill’s, even when Clearwater was a much more sleepy hamlet (before Tom Cruise and the Hogans discovered it), was always packed. It was wall-to-wall people. I guess it was a small place, but we’re talking lines out the door. People happily waiting a long time for a table and a chance to eat some crabs. Crabby Bill’s was so popular that one year we showed up, and there were two of them. The same restaurant, right together, closer than a couple of Starbucks.
The second location did nothing to temper the demand or shorten the lines. Now instead of one place with a line, there was two. We still went though, standing in line for this famous seafood (which I guess was worth the wait). One night we had some people visiting us in Florida and we had an unusually large party. Both Crabby Bill’s locations had unusually long lines. In a stroke of genius (not sure who takes credit for the idea historically), someone decided that we should split up, wait in both lines, and then whoever got in first would reel in the other group. I know what you are thinking. How can you pull off a plan like that if you can’t text each other?
Well, a cellular phone device would have come in handy, believe that. But, luckily for my parents and the people who were visiting us they had the next closest thing….idiot kids. We were more than happy to run back and forth between the two lines updating the other portion of our party with an unnecessary frequency. I find it hard to believe at this point in my life that I was ever that hyperactive, but I was, and my parents had no problem letting me run back and forth. I suppose it would end up making me less annoying at dinner.
The kicker, the unexpected variable of the evening, was that we didn’t have a pristine Florida night. It wasn’t torrential rain or anything like that, but just an annoying level of precipitation. It hardly deterred me, though. I had a job. Look at me, I’m important, running back and forth like a moron. Oh, you’ve moved 4 feet closer to the door? Let me hurry up and report that back. Outside at least one of the restaurants was a boardwalk style sidewalk. Wooden planks raised off the sandy soil, now slightly dampened by the weather. Well, on one of my trips back and forth while I am weaving between people waiting in line, I hit a damp portion of the boardwalk, slip, fall, and catch my knee precisely on the edge of the wooden planks. Opened up a nice wound. I, of course, began to wail like a baby.
To make matters slightly worse, I was between the two parts of our party so I’m bleeding and surrounded by strangers. My sister, who was making the trips with me, had to go and retrieve my parents while I caused the majority of people in line to lose their appetites. My dad must have drawn the short straw, because he ended up being the one to take me to get stitched up. I don’t remember if the rest of the group stayed and ate dinner at Crabby Bill’s. Hopefully they did, and my dad got a to-go plate or something out of the deal.
All I got out of the injury was a prison sentence. My physical activity had to be curbed. I was banned from the Gulf of Mexico, pretty much your worst nightmare when you are on vacation at the beach. Such is life, though, I guess when you are a young fella high on heart, but low on common sense. The moral of this anecdote I’m sure you could see coming from a mile away. The lesson learned that day? Why run, when you can walk? And, there it is.