I finally found the answer to all my problems. As I might have mentioned previously, my wife retired and decided she wanted to be a beach girl. So, we sold our house in southern Virginia and moved to a condo in St. Augustine, Florida. This started me on the path that has led to the answer to life the universe, and everything (see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the British answer to this question), the answer to all my problems.
It all started exactly one month after we were settled in our cute little condo near the beach. I turned on the TV (my first mistake), and there were what the Floridians fondly refer to as the ‘weather terrorists’. According to them, a category five hurricane was headed straight for Jacksonville/St. Augustine. Death and destruction were imminent. I may have wet myself a little, or perhaps I hallucinated that part due to the small stroke I experienced from this highly accurate prediction.
I calmly called out for my wife, and when she didn’t respond I went looking for her. I was concerned that she had already been carried away by the high winds. I found her, grabbed her, and calmly began to shake her, explaining our situation. Then, I calmly dragged her in front of the TV, so that she could confirm what I thought I’d heard. She told me to calm down. The storm wasn’t supposed to arrive for several days, and we had plenty of time to prepare.
Having never been in Florida during a hurricane, I wasn’t exactly sure how to prepare for a direct hit from a cat five, even one named Dorian. I don’t personally know a lot of Dorians, so I had no one to compare it to.
I went online to search on how to prepare for a cat five. As I read through the list, my mind was working something like this. The list started with ‘board up the windows’. My mind, Run Away. The list; Put together an emergency kit. My mind, Run Away. The list; Buy lots of batteries. My mind, Run Away. The list; Make sure you have seven days of non-perishable food and water. My mind, Run Away Faster. The list; Listen for evacuation orders. My mind, RUN AWAY, NOW!
I calmly discussed the situation with my wife. “WE HAVE TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE, RIGHT NOW. GRAB A CHANGE OF CLEAN UNDERWEAR, THROW THE CAT IN THE CAR, AND LET’S ROLL!”
Her response was reasonable, and infuriating. “John, the storm isn’t supposed to be here for another seven or eight days. Right now the storm cone of uncertainty includes the entire coast of Florida. In fact, the entire eastern seaboard all the way up to Nova Scotia.”
I calmly responded, “BUT IT’S A CAT FIVE. ONE-HUNDRED-AND-SIXTY-PLUS MILE PER HOUR WINDS. I KNOW I WEIGH TWO-HUNDRED-FIFTY POUNDS, BUT IT’S JUST NOT ENOUGH. WE NEED TO RUN AWAY, NOW!”
My wife walked over to me and began rubbing my arm. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
I calmly said, “LIAR. WE’RE GONNA DIE. THROW THE CAT IN THE CAR, AND WE’RE OUT OF HERE.”
I’m usually the calm one in our family. But, I saw the Wizard of Oz, and that was only a tornado. All those people, and animals, and houses, and barns flying around in circles. I’m not much of a traveler, and I’ve never wanted to visit Oz. Those munchkins always scared hell out of me.
My wife kept rubbing my arm, and I finally started to believe that death wasn’t imminent. Over the next twenty-four hours of watching the weather terrorist network, the hurricane’s path changed. It went from a direct hit on Miami, to moving over Miami and into the Gulf, to Melbourne, to Jacksonville, to the Carolinas. Hurricanes sure are indecisive things. Kind of fickle if you ask me. I know I haven’t gotten to the part about how I found the answer to all my problems yet, but stay with me. This was traumatic.
Our twenty-five-year-old daughter got involved at one point. She lives in Manhattan, and she texted me an article from the NY Times stating that Jacksonville was the hurricane’s target. Her text read “Run away from Florida”. Like father like daughter. We planned to run to North Carolina. About four hours later, I got a second text from her, with a pic of the late edition of the NY Times and an article indicating Dorian was going to hit the Carolinas. Her text read, “Run back to Florida.”
Eventually, our fears came true, and they evacuated St. Augustine. The local authorities said we had to be out in three days. I then heard that they were evacuating Miami the next morning, and realized that I-95 was about to become a parking lot. So, we actually did grab a change of underwear, throw the cat in the car, and headed for North Carolina. We were fortunate to rent a house in Asheville for the month of September, which would hopefully get us through peak hurricane season.
At that point, I calmly told my wife, “OUR CUTE LITTLE CONDO IS GOING TO GO FLYING OUT OVER THE ATLANTIC. WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO DO? WE’LL HAVE TO LIVE IN OUR CAR ONCE THE RENTAL ON THE HOUSE RUNS OUT!”
My wife reached out, began rubbing my arm and said, “Everything will be okay.”
We arrived at our rental house in Asheville. Actually, we ended up about fifteen miles north of Asheville, way on top of a hill. When I pulled our Subaru Outback off onto a very steep gravel road, complete with switchbacks, my Garmin GPS (fondly called Myrtle) showed us flying freely in the air.
“Oh, look, Honey. Myrtle thinks we’re flying. Maybe Dorian got us, and we just don’t know it.”
She reached out, rubbed my arm and said, “Everything will be okay. Myrtle’s just a little confused. I think the house is on top of this mountain. Should have some nice views.”
My wife’s ever positive attitude can be irritating at times.
We finally found the top of the hill, and a very nice house with lots of large windows and spectacular views. However, the trauma was not over yet. The house also came with its own ant farm, and the large black ants were quite friendly. Then, there was the large black bears, a half-dozen of them grazing in a field on the side of the next mountain over, not nearly far-away enough for my taste.
I started rubbing my own arm, and telling myself “Everything will be okay.” I’m not as convincing as my wife, but it did help some. After a couple of visits from an exterminator, and my own application of two cans of Raid Ant & Roach, the ants were kept at bay. The bears seem to really like that pasture, and stayed over there, with no action on my part. They say you shouldn’t run away from bears, but I’m a fond believer in running away from all natural disasters. That includes hurricanes, bears, tornados, snakes, alligators. I’m scaring myself. I need to rub my arm some more.
So, if you’re still with me, I’m finally at the good part, where I learned the answer to all my problems. After two weeks of running from Dorian, watching black bears off in the distance, battling all-too-friendly black ants and waking up every morning wondering where the hell I am, I was feeling stressed. My wife, always the adventurer, suggested that we should explore Asheville since we were there. She also suggested that we might want to purchase a second condo there, so we have a place to go when the one in St. Augustine finally blows out to sea, but that’s a story for another time.
We got into our Outback, put in in X-drive to let it slowly motorvate us down the cliff that they called a road, and headed out for Asheville, about fifteen miles to the south. We were driving aimlessly around the beautiful city, spectacular mountain views everywhere, when my wife saw a German Restaurant. She likes to try new things; I do not. So, we went there for dinner. The food was bland, bizarre and generally not good. In an unusual turn of events, my wife agreed.
We got back into the Outback, and drove around aimlessly some more. We found ourselves in this cute little neighborhood, with lots of condos, apartments and a shopping area with several small restaurants. That’s when it happened. That’s when I found the answer to all my problems. I saw a sign on one of the stores that read “BAKED PIE COMPANY.” I was still feeling stressed, and I had a bad taste in my mouth from my wife’s experiment with German food. So, I suggested that we might want to try a piece of pie to remedy that situation.
This is where my world turned completely upside down. We entered this small restaurant, more of a bakery really. A cash register was flanked on both sides by display cases filled with pies; coconut cream, honey pecan, key lime, chocolate, apple, something called grasshopper, strawberry rhubarb. You name it, they had it. The wonderful aromas wafting through the air were indescribable. I literally felt my stress level decrease and my blood pressure go down several points. After all the chaos of the past couple of weeks, I became disoriented; but strangely, for the first time in a while, I began to believe that everything might just be okay.
I ordered a slice of coconut cream pie, and my wife got strawberry rhubarb. We both ordered coffees, and sat down to wait for our pie. A delightful young woman brought the pie to our table, a generously large slice for each of us.
I sunk my fork into that wonderfully thick and moist pile of coconut, filling, cream and delicate crust and took my first bite. There are no words to describe the wonderful flavor sensations that titillated my taste buds. I was dizzy with pleasure. This pie was so good that it had the potential to replace sex. And suddenly, I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything was going to be okay. If something this exceptional could exist in a small, magical restaurant/bakery in Asheville, NC, then all was well with the world. I had found the answer to all my problems.
We spent the month of September in Asheville, where I found the answer to all my problems. I am happy to report that, despite the dreadful predictions, our cute little condo is still standing, and just fine. Once I had my first taste of that pie, none of the trauma mattered. The ants abated, the bears stayed on the adjacent mountain, our condo in Florida was still there.
Whenever I began to feel the least bit stressful, I hopped in the Outback, skidded down the mountain, and headed for pie heaven. My wife has even gotten a respite from rubbing my arm and telling me that everything will be okay. I know that’s the case, because the pie is always there; the coconut cream, honey pecan, key lime. They all have the same calming effect on me. I may never return to St. Augustine, not because of hurricanes, but because of the pie. Oh, the pie. Finally, the answer to all my problems.
Only one problem remained, and that one was easy to handle. I just threw away our bathroom scale. “Everything will be okay.”
by John J. Jessop, Author, PLEASURIA: Take as Directed, Guardian Angel: Unforgiven, Guardian Angel: Indoctrination
Get PLEASURIA: Take as Directed on Amazon at http://bit.ly/pleasuria and at bookstores everywhere.