[photo post] – Thanks-Just-The-Same-Giving, 2016

If I remember correctly, it was about 7:00CST when we rolled into the Japanese steak house in Panama City Beach Florida on that Saturday, the first day of our vacation. PCB wasn’t exactly the halfway point of our trip, a few hours out of the way if anything, but we treated it as such. A short seven hour trip from Knoxville, Panama City Beach is a lovely, though touristy, town in the Florida panhandle and is home to one of the two Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoriums in the state we hadn’t visited before. The plan was to hit the museum on Sunday morning before finishing the trip to Largo — six more hours.

But tonight, it was this random Japanese steak house. I don’t remember the name and despite it being 7pm on a Saturday night, the parking lot was empty. Google showed it had 4-1/2 stars, so we figured it was worth a shot. We hadn’t had hibachi in quite a while so we got down on it and a glass of wine. We shared a table with an older couple, their daughter and son-in-law and their little girl. They were locals and the son-in-law was wanting a new job and was going back to school to help him get it. The older gentleman had just gotten a good deal on a used dishwasher it didn’t sound like he’d really needed. Our chef was impressive and did all the tricks you’d expect from such a place: the volcano, the choo-choo, the giant flame. When it was time to flip the ball of rice at the diners, I was relieved when he didn’t flip the rice my way. I’m always terrible at that, plus having a beard means you’re almost guaranteed to catch half of it in your chin.

And then it happened…

He shouted something incoherent that indicated rice was coming my way. I braced myself, opened my fat trap and caught it like I’d been doing it for years. First time ever. I was riding high.

I blamed the wine.

He finished grilling up all the food — the fried rice, the chicken, the steak, the veggies, the scallops and the shrimp. After he’d dished out all of the servings, there were four rogue shrimp left on the grill. He smashed them with his spatula and flung them all…toward me. One at a time, the shrimp flew through the air and one by one they all landed perfectly in my enormous pie hole. The table cheered and I looked over to the older guy to my right and said “This is the kind of thing you put on a résumé!” only half-jokingly.

“Yeah, maybe if you’re looking for a job in the circus…” came his snarky reply. He was an asshole.

And so began our annual Florida Thanksgiving vacation now lovingly referred to as Thanks-Just-the-Same-Giving. This is a photo post so I’m not going into detail about anything we got into, but know we did hit the Panama City Beach Ripley’s museum, hit the beach in Largo a couple of days, had some grilled octopus at Keegan’s Seafood Grille, some beautiful Chicago Oysters at Lulu’s Oyster Bar, hit a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, went to Target on Thanksgiving for some Black Friday Christmas tree Little Debbie cakes and a whole day of shopping in Tampa Bay on Black Friday.

I took photos. Here are some of them. You know how it works — see more photos in higher res on my Flickr account.

On the following Saturday, we packed up the car, had a quick breakfast at Waffle House and hit the road north to Knoxville. When we left at 8:30am, it was 70 degrees. When we got home at 8:30pm, it was 35 degrees. A week in the Florida sun had rendered me an absolute sissy in the cold. 35 suddenly hurt my bones. I needed a jacket. I needed a day to rest from the trip. I needed more vacation days. But we were back in Tennessee. Back in back-asswards, wildfire-smoke-laden Knoxville, TN.

And it’s damned beautiful.

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