Friday, August 17, 2007

Porch Sittin', 16 Floors Up

If you ever find yourself in Panama City Beach, Florida, with a little money in your pocket and want to enjoy a nice dinner, then you have really only one choice: send the family out to a restaurant, mix up a proper margarita, and relax on the 16th-floor balcony under the guise of "staying behind to watch the baby."

Somebody has to do it, after all, since the baby goes down to bed at 6:30 PM, and even if the teenage half-sister-in-law and her high-school friend could somehow manage to be ready to leave the condo within half an hour of the original planned time, Panama City is a vacation town, and there's no chance that you'll even be sitting in your seats at the restaurant before the baby's bedtime, much less finish eating before he melts down into a wailing monster.
And, in case you're thinking the restaurant in question might be a quaint old steakhouse with dry-aged beef, or a no-frills-but-nice seafood spot with lots of fresh fish on the menu, or maybe even a good local Mexican spot with real tacos--well, you'd be wrong. I'm not saying that such places don't exist in Panama City, but if they do, I'm certainly never going to find out about it since my vote counts the same as the Six-Year-Old's and the Teenage-Half-Sister-In-Law's and already you can see I'm outvoted before you even take into account The Wife and the Teenage-Half-Sister-In-Law's-High-School-Friend. You'll be glad to know, however, that there are plenty of restaurants constructed to look like pirate ships with all-you-can-eat specials and quite a few establishments that offer to let you "get a case of crabs" or "shuck 'em and suck 'em."

So, I bravely took one for the team. Everyone left, I played with the baby for a good ten minutes, then changed his diaper and tucked him away in the crib. His little internal clock is disciplined, and he went right to sleep without a peep. So, I was off to the kitchen to shake up a proper margarita and out onto the balcony to watch the sunset while the rest of my family was standing in line with a lousy beeper at some schlock-awful fried seafood dive.

The blue-green color of the Gulf at sunset is fantastic. I relaxed and enjoyed my beverage, read a bit of a Jeffrey Steingarten book, and in general just enjoyed the evening breeze. And when The Wife came back with a take-out steak in a little white styrofoam box and thanked me for the eighth time for being so generous as to stay behind with the baby, I tried to be modest.

"Really, honey," I said. "I didn't mind. Not a bit."


Full confession: I actually wrote the above post on my laptop while waiting for The Wife to come back with my takeout steak, so the past tense of the last two paragraphs was a bit dishonest--I mean, a bit of poetic license. Not long after I saved the text, in she came not only with a steak but with a styrofoam cup of truly delicious seafood gumbo--not the tomato-and-rice clogged stuff you usually get in seafood dives but real New Orleans style roux-based gumbo. It was good.

So I felt bad for unfairly maligning their dining spot without even giving it a chance. "Where'd you guys go?" I said. "Scampi's," my wife said. Oh. "Scampi"--Italian for shrimp, shrimp is seafood, we're at the beach--a little corny, but it makes sense. So, I figured I should maybe give it props for the good gumbo. Later, back in home in Charleston, I looked up Scampi's online so I could throw out the address, and it turns out the real name is "Scampy's" which for some reason strikes me as such a ludicrous name that I now feel no obligation to redact the slanderous post above.

Porch sittin' is still the way to go in Panama City.

1 comment:

The Wife said...

Happy you liked the gumbo. Consider yourself signed up in advance for babysitting during all of my future dinner dates.

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