My fall, 2017 tour ended and I flew home to California on Thanksgiving Day. With 235 shows under my belt in Florida alone, I keep thinking that the well will run dry, but we’re already getting booked up starting in February and ending in March.
Here are a few highlights from this past journey:
First things first – one of my hobbies is playing the guitar. It helps me relax and gets my mind off business. I didn’t have a guitar in Florida so I started looking on Craigslist and found this beautiful Regal Resophonic Guitar. My obsession is playing Delta Blues, the early acoustic blues from the 1920s and 1930s, and this fit the bill perfectly. I couldn’t bear to leave it in my storage unit in Florida and brought it home with me. Guess I’ll have to find another guitar for the next tour. Right, honey?
We stayed in a very cute little cottage on Nokomis Beach. Kim tried to re-heat some tortilla chips in the oven and started a fire. The nosy neighbors across the road must have enjoyed watching us fan the smoke out the front door.
Many schools in Florida use A Land Remembered to teach literature and Florida History. I was amazed at a show in Okeechobee when over 1,000 students showed up. They were bussed in from schools all around the area. That set a new record for me for audience size. I have to say that it was a very polite, attentive audience, especially since so many were sitting on hard bleachers. I don’t know how the people in back could see the screen.
I was also presented with a proclamation from the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners making it Patrick Smith’s Florida, A Land Remembered Day. I always feel like royalty when I’m in Okeechobee.
Cocoa Beach is usually our “home base” and when possible we enjoy catching a show from our friend Sybil Gage. We lucked out this time and brought some friends along for a great evening of good old New Orleans style jazz.
We spent two days participating in the Frank Thomas Florida Music and Heritage Festival. This is a great annual reunion with some very talented musicians from all over the state. I feel honored to be part of this.
Then we headed down to the Florida Keys. Have you ever tasted Hogfish? Me either, until we ate at Hobo’s Cafe in Key Largo. Hogfish is a type of wrasse and I’m a convert. Despite the name, this was one of the best fish I’ve ever tasted (I had it fried and loved their batter, too).
I presented my show at the Keys History & Discovery Center. They put us up for two nights in a fabulous townhouse type apartment. It was so comfortable, I could have stayed there a month. In fact, I’d like to do that sometime. Islamorada has a lot of restaurants and nice hotels but doesn’t have the throngs of tourists and the last night buzz of Key West. I like that. I want to go back, sooner than later.
On to Key West, I had the pleasure of presenting my show in a regular movie theater, the classic Tropic Cinema. I love Key West, but we had only one evening there. We enjoyed meeting some friends after the show at Louie’s Backyard, a wonderful restaurant and bar right on the water. It one of our favorite stops in Key West.
I have to say, they Keys were really walloped by Hurricane Irma. Key West was pretty well cleaned up, but throughout most of the islands, especially Pine Key, there were huge piles of debris along the highway. I think a lot of people were taking advantage of the situation to dump old furniture, mattresses, junk, and appliances, and cut down unwanted trees foliage to basically get free hauling. Many businesses were closed and may not re-open. It will take years to get everything put back together. I feel for the people there.
Then we headed to Everglades City. I did an evening show and an arts festival the next day. We saw the “Skunk Ape” while in the area, along with a lot of alligators. We went to the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center. They had A Land Remembered displayed with a small collection of books for sale. I told the ranger that my father was the author and you would have thought Tom Hanks walked in. Everyone behind the counter wanted to shake my hand. The ranger said he used to teach and used my DVD, Patrick Smith’s Florida, A Sense of Place. He knew it very well, along with most of Dad’s books. It was gratifying to hear how much that book and my video were appreciated.
Just a couple of miles south of Everglades City is Chokoloskee, where you’ll find the Havana Cafe of The Everglades. If you are ever in the area, do not pass up the opportunity to eat here. It was fabulous, and the outdoor seating is divine.
We were thrilled to see that the historic old Rod and Gun Club had just re-opened the very day we were in Everglades City. This classic old hotel and restaurant is a throwback to earlier, slower times when people with money came here. It took a bad hit in the hurricane and was just barely open. I wish them well because this is really a unique establishment and I hope it survives for a long time. When I was shooting the video about Dad, he told me specifically that if we were in Everglades City, we had to visit the Rod and Gun Club.
I should also mention that Everglades City is ground zero for the stone crab industry. Of course, I had to have some. They were delicious.
Over the course of a month I did 16 shows, stayed in 17 different hotels, drove over 2,500 miles, ate about 80 restaurant meals each, spoke before thousands of people, made a bunch of new friends, visited with old friends, both of us caught colds, overall had really great weather, missed our kitty, lost things along the way … and are gearing up to do it again beginning in February. You can see that evolving schedule here.
As always, our biggest selling item was hardbound and paperback copies of A Land Remembered. A lot of people were buying them for Christmas gifts and wanted me to dedicate them to someone specific in the autograph. I am happy to do that for you as well.
With Best Wishes,
Rick (Patrick D. Smith, Jr.)