Friday, October 20, 2017

Oktoberfest at Ocean Villas

Not hours after our arrival from Canada on Monday, October 16th at Ocean Villas condominium on Daytona Beach Shores we were being exhorted to attend the upcoming Oktoberfest in the lounge. Our initial reaction was to ignore the invitation.  Historic involvement with condominium boards has taught us that these seemingly innocuous collaborations can imperceptibly transform into a net before one's feet.  Plus as mere tenants we feel somewhat as intruders in these close-knit congregations. When however several days later I encountered the concierge in the garage parking lot she reiterated the extension and was obviously not about to accept anything but acquiescence.  If it is one thing I have learned about living in a well-managed community property it is that one should never contradict the putative monarch. Accordingly I sheepishly succumbed to her dilation upon the event and as instructed subscribed to the list of items posted on the bulletin board.  It was settled that our contribution was beer and cheese dip which I thought was a lucky break considering neither item required à la carte preparation and no one else had yet expropriated the privilege.

Upon returning to the apartment I was hesitant to inform my partner that I had committed us to attend the event.  He had previously roundly denounced such alliances and I therefore anticipated some push-back.  To my surprise his reception of the news was biddable. After a brief discussion of the circumstances surrounding the collaboration we agreed we would purchase the German beer and cheese dip the following day.  Later it came as a further unexpected surprise to discover that my partner had embraced the provocation with gusto.  He was searching on the internet for German beer brands as well as nearby German bakeries and even recipes for the production of cheese dips!  In an instant we were fully engaged in the transaction.

As intended the shopping expedition was underway promptly at ten o'clock this morning.  Based upon our recent outings we had a fairly good idea where we were going.  The German store which we were in search of was hidden within a large mall on West International Speedway Boulevard (the main thoroughfare leading into Daytona Beach from Interstate 95).  Parenthetically while we were exploring the mall we noticed there was a Dillards outlet which to me is good news as I have the fondest memories of my retail experience at Dillards in Fort Lauderdale.  Revisting Dillards will however have to await another day (more likely a solo venture).  When we dipped into the German store we were given a hand by the staff in the fulfillment of our mission and soon afterwards returned to the car laden with our merchandise.

After a subsequent detour to Publix for personal groceries and household items we returned to the condominium.  We first proposed to deposit the beer and cheese dip in the refrigerator in the lounge. Upon arriving at the lounge the room was already bustling with activity by the President of the condominium board and others, obviously preparing for the evening festivity.  As we entered with our shopping carts the President pointedly enquired whether we were planning a party.  Recognizing her thinly disguised concern I assured her that we proposed to deposit beer for the scheduled Oktoberfest.  To this she replied that it was inappropriate to leave alcohol in the refrigerator in case young people importunely took advantage of the opportunity.  We therefore agreed to return later with the beer.

That preliminary duty performed I immediately changed into my cycling togs and headed north along S. Atlantic Avenue, glowing in the bliss of the balmy weather and brilliant sunshine.  Not far from the condominium I spied what was clearly an access pathway to the Ocean alongside an apartment building. This took me immediately to the beach where I continued my leisurely tour northward. The tide was out and the beach was highly passable.  There were not many people on the beach.  It was primarily at the front of resorts where small groups had congregated.  During the entire time of my cycling I doubt I passed more than three other cyclists.

In my continuing enlargement of knowledge about my neighbourhood I learned that there was a very convenient access from the beach to our building. This is important to facilitate my modest physical activity which I propose to re-enact regularly. Given the proximity and accessibility of the beach I doubt I'll ever prefer the sidewalks or any other inland bikeways. It is also less humiliating to remove my shirt when bicycling on the beach since I am in the good company of many other overweight old fogeys.

In the remaining hours before the evening's gathering I went to the pool and swam a few lengths.  I also enjoyed a brief submersion in the hot tub. And of course I gazed admiringly at the adjoining beach and Ocean. It's a view I never tire of.

Now it's time to prepare for the social event.  The wardrobe is hardly an issue because we have intentionally avoided bringing anything but very casual clothing. I do at least have a Tommy Bahama shirt to replace the stock Polo shirt. I confess I am looking forward to meeting other residents.


At about 5:25 pm we collected our three 6-packs of German beer from the laundry room 'fridge, plucked two bottles of Perrier from the collection on the kitchen counter and toted the lot with the two packages of cheese dip to the party room on the second floor.  We used the most remote of the three elevators at the east side of the building and entered the pantry of the lounge immediately upon exiting the lift. There were many people milling about the lounge.  A gentleman was behind the bar, drinking something.  We deposited the cases of beer in the refrigerator and put the cheese dip out on one of several food tables which were already laden with veal, sausage, vegetables, bread, cookies and cakes.

Because I knew no one in the room, when I saw a woman sitting alone at the far end of the bar I approached her and introduced myself.  Over the next few moments I got to know about her, including her new home in central Florida and her residential history in Daytona Beach Shores.  We were then joined by my acquaintance's friend, a woman whom I found to have her head screwed on properly and who reminded me of Liza Minnelli (basically a pleasing mixture of candour and fun).  The new arrival ("Judi with an i") was widowed about two years ago, sold her inland house and small beachside rental condo and bought a 3-bedroom apartment in this condominium.  Her son (whose 38th birthday is tomorrow) lives in a cabin on 11½ acres in northern California. Judi bought the land for her son.  I suggested a copy of "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau may make an ideal house-warming gift. Judi is very proud of her son who is a former chef, 6'2" and bearded.  Judi has never seen her son's land or cabin because she has had health issues relating to her lungs for the past 12 years and plane travel apparently aggravates the condition.  She speculated she might one day take a train ride to see her son, a venture she oddly estimated would take three weeks. I am not convinced the journey will ever transpire.

Somewhere during the reverie of this conversation we were interrupted by Cathy, a stout and ebullient woman who was carrying a large cocktail glass containing a pomegranate martini. When I explained to her that I quit drinking after realizing one evening while sitting by a roaring fire that I had read the same paragraph of a Jane Austen novel repeatedly, she instantly dismissed the grounds for objection as misguided and blamed instead Jane Austen who she added was best replaced by more salacious literature. Cathy received her doctorate in education from a university in Miami.

Subsequently I asked the athletic looking middle-aged man behind the bar (Tony) what was meant by the subscription on his name tag ("The Light Enforcer").  I speculated that there was a Mafioso dynamic though he laughingly assured me the reference was rather to his attempt to encourage residents to turn on their balcony lights in the evening to give the building a more occupied look.  Coincidentally I had previously learned from Judi that in the winter months there is usually only a 40% occupancy rate; and in the summer it declines to 30%.  Cathy suggested most of the owners are "northerners" who winter or sporadically vacation here for varying periods of time.  She confirmed that apart from the owners, tenants must occupy for a minimum period of two months which we both agreed successfully curbs ephemeral interlopers and preserves the residential character of the property which might otherwise be at risk of being contaminated with the less desirable tourist feature not uncommon to many beachside properties.

Just when we were being encouraged to browse the food tables and eat we knowingly eyed one another and made our retreat to the apartment where we began preparation of our evening meal.  During the predictable recapitulation of the event we agreed it was good to have gone though we equally acknowledged our preference for our own nourishment.  Speaking for myself I find I can express myself best with strangers through the medium of music. When I haven't that opportunity it is less than assured that my social talents are sufficient to sustain me in these sometimes synthetic situations. If nothing else I am at least convinced that my preference is for more intimate alliances though that of course is hardly singular. I am also bound to confess that I appreciate the chance to have met some of the other residents.  Friendship of any degree requires time to develop.

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