Conservation, Champagne, and Mahogany

October 23, 2014 – Bailey’s General Store is at the heart of Sanibel.  Literally, it is in the middle of the wide part of the island.  Functionally, Sanibelians go there often to acquire the basics for everyday life – namely, groceries and hardware.
Bailey’s is in a ground-level building that pre-dates hurricane code, and it has a long covered sidewalk in front, part of which is decked out with rocking chairs, a few small tables, and other chairs.  

The other part of the covered front walk is where all the doorways into the grocery and hardware store are located.  The center doorway is the most frequently used entrance, and that’s where the manager/owner Richard Johnson (married to Mead Bailey Johnson) often permits nonprofit organizations to set up a table from which raffle tickets are sold or information is dispensed.
Turtle on a log on Chowder Pond, in our back yard.

My friend David and I were scheduled to sit at a table there on Monday, for two hours at mid-day, to dispense information about Amendment 1 – an item on the ballot for November 4.  The amendment is about land conservation and water quality, and it has widespread support, according to the polls. 
But in FloriDUH, we can’t take anything for granted when it comes to elections; we must work hard for a good voter turnout to ensure that Amendment 1 receives the 60-percent super-majority it needs for implementation.
I thoroughly enjoy this kind of volunteer work, when I have the opportunity to greet and chat with islanders and others.  At mid-day, many guys who are working on construction or landscape crews come into Bailey’s to buy a sandwich at the deli counter for lunch.  They are younger, on the average, than islanders.  And like many younger people, they want to ignore older people like David and me.
But as soon as I’d say the words, “it is about land conservation and water quality,” these young guys would stop and listen.  Or maybe half of them would, anyway. I didn’t detain them for long; I just handed them the little flyer about Amendment 1 and urged them to please vote on November 4.  They seemed to be happy to receive the information.
Our friend, Pat, from Tennessee, adores turtles.
I loved the way their interest was sparked by those words: “land conservation and water quality.”  These guys appreciate Florida’s wonderful outdoors, and they like to fish.  They know how important water quality is, and yes, you bet they want to see more conservation land and to see existing conservation land maintained.
Amendment 1 is a fine issue, with bi-partisan support. 
When I returned to the house, Tom and I met with a builder to discuss our house plans.  This one was a woman, and we both liked her down-to-earth manner and practical advice.  Her company is very busy at the moment, doing a renovation project for a part of one of the east-end resorts on the island.  However, that work will be finishing up just about the time we may be able to start building.
In the evening, we had dinner with our good friends Pat and Stanley, from Tennessee.  They own a vacation home that’s just down the street from our house.  Stanley is a lawyer who’s been very involved in Tennessee politics; he once ran against a guy named Al Gore in a primary;  Stanley lost by only a very small amount of the votes cast.  More recently, he’s been on the Board of Regents for the Tennessee public university system.
We dined at Traders, a standard favorite among the locals, and the food was good.  Service, however, was unusually not-so-good.  I’m sure it was just an unusual blip.
The most important thing is that we were able to catch up with Stanley and Pat, and have a great time enjoying each others’ company.
The next night was again an evening of catching up with old friends.  We invited our friends from Germany, Arnold and Mareen, over to our house for appetizers and dessert – and a bottle of Dom Perignon! 
Alligator and turtle share the log.
You see, twelve years ago, we arranged to meet up with Arnold and Mareen one summer weekend in Champagne country.  We were staying in Paris, as usual, and they were driving over from Germany to buy a year’s supply of Champagne.  After visiting the basilica at L’Epine, we rode around in Arnold’s car, visiting one charming village after another until we reached Hautvilliers, where Dom Perignon once lived and worked.
Outside the church where this famous monk is buried, Arnold surprised us with a little picnic of snacks and – you guessed it – a bottle of Dom Perignon.
It was time to return the grand gesture.  I’d recently been given a bottle of Dom Perignon as a thank-you for rescuing and returning a forgotten skirt from  the Parisian Hotel d’Aubusson to our friend Deborah on Sanibel.  Deborah and John gave me this bottle, which had been a gift from someone else to them.
So Arnold, Mareen, Tom, and I (observed by Mareen’s two long-haired Chihuahuas) had a little picnic on our porch, replete with a bottle of Dom Perignon, on Tuesday evening.
We’re so happy that Arnold and Mareen are part-time Sanibelians, with a vacation house in the neighborhood next to ours.  The village where they live in Germany, Alzey, is utterly charming, but the winters there are long, cold and gray.  They need Sanibel for sunny R&R.
Somebody's shell mermaid on the beach.
Earlier that day, Tom had been on the mainland for a doctor’s appointment, and afterward he did what he often does over there: he visited a furniture consignment shop.  He spotted an incredibly good deal on a dining room table of the sort that I’ve always wanted.
We checked it out together the next day (yesterday), and bought it.  The table needs a small amount of work on its surface, but soon we’ll swap it out with our existing dining table.

Thanks to wealthy people in Gulf Harbor who redecorate on a whim, we’ll now have this lovely double-pedestal mahogany dining table for the rest of our lives.

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