On the plate today is a visit with my longtime buddy and Ole Miss college roommate Wayne. We rise late in Fairhope AL and immediately call Wayne to give him a heads up. No problem – they’re not even up yet.
We say goodbye to the Grand Hotel. Linda locates a local cafe in Fairhope called Bucks for breakfast. Our server is a native Fairhoper named Kelly and we enjoy talking with her. Great bacon and sausage here, too!
Wayne has a condo on Perdido Key, a coastal island that staddles the Alabama-Florida state line. We take the scenic coastal road for a while, backtracking east for about an hour. We pass through the town of Foley and eventually jump onto the nearly empty Foley Beach Expressway (empty because it is a toll road), which zips us to the coast.
We find the landmark Flora-Bama joint (more on this place later) located smack on the state line, and eventually find Wayne’s condo building 2 doors down. Up up we go to the top floor and find Wayne at the door of his condo. It is amazing to see him – it’s been at least a few years!!
For the next 6 hours, Linda and I caught up with Wayne and Cindy. We were (re-)introduced to Wayne’s two daughters, Laura Catherine and Alex. Wayne’s brother Mike and his wife Barb were also down for the weekend and we really enjoyed the time with them.
Linda and I attended Wayne and Cindy’s wedding in Oxford so many years ago, and both our kids are at (or nearing) the leaving-the-nest stage, so it was really fun to exchange notes. Wayne and I reminisced that we’d met each other 35 years ago this fall – time has flown so quickly.
Throughout the day, a primary topic of conversation was the growing fortunes of Wayne’s band: The Southbound Crescent Band. By way of background, Wayne is an EXCELLENT guitar player. He and friends founded this group out of Hattiesburg MS a few years ago and, as a rather intense hobby, starting honing its sound and playlist through small venue gigs. The band has grown steadily in every way, adding gear, adding a sound man, and most recently they added a terrific and versatile female singer named Lana plus a couple of horn players. These additions have brought great excitement to the band and its prospects – opening up the range of music they can perform and the quality of their sound.
Mike and Barb are key players in band management and promotion, thus the band has become a central family project. It was really fun to participate in the group conversations about the band.
Mike, Barb, Wayne and I went out for dinner groceries. Mike is an accomplished professional chef – particularly for work crews on oil rigs way out in the gulf – and is set to cook for us tonight. We picked up a huge haul – a few pounds of fresh shrimp, a couple pounds of crawfish tails, three pounds of asparagus, salad and dressings, a couple pounds of cleaned crab meat, spices, and a couple quarts of heavy cream. We also grabbed a two pounds of a special jumbo shrimp called “Royal Reds,” which were seasoned and steamed on order by the market, then put on ice. Mike was very selective about all the ingredients – we were already looking forward to his creations.
While we were gone, the rest of the girls took a stroll on the beach. The gulf beach here has its own beauty and character – tiny waves, white sands, expansive blue waters, dark patches of bait fish, and groups of dolphin hunting for them.
The girls sat out on the porch overlooking the gulf and sipped on chocolate wine (not a typo). The guys worked the kitchen, with Mike leading the charge. I think I peeled about 200 shrimp.
Dinner is served – a fabulous mixture of shrimp, crab, and crayfish in an out-of-this-world cream sauce, served over angelhair pasta, with sauteed aparagus. Bravo Mike! Dinner was capped with a birthday cake for Cindy, allegedly her 35th.
Next up – a not-to-be-missed visit to the infamous FloraBama bar. A short hike down the street ensured a safe trip home. The place is hard to describe, but picture a large cobbled-together complex of stages and bars on the dunes of the gulf. There are at least four stages, three of which are active tonight. Four or five separate bars. A big fenced-in beach area. The place is definitely band-centric, and they especially feature the best of local talent. Crowds almost any day or night are excellent and eager to hear some music. A really fun and unique place.
We watched the tail end of a set from Trunk Monkey, a very good Pensacola band. Linda and I then took a tour of the place, catching several tunes from two other bands. A friend of Wayne’s (one of the veteran sound guys) then set up for his own band to play, so we stayed to catch some of their 1st set, too. They were fun to watch but had some practicing to do.
It was a really good thing we stayed, though. Wayne has been trying to book The Southbound Crescent Band at FloraBama for a long time. After his friend’s first set, he met him backstage to bid farewell and ran into the booking manager. This time, his band was invited to play – tomorrow, next week, in the near future TBD. Another very exciting development for the band. Linda and I sure wish we could be here to see them play ?next week, but alas, the road home is calling out for us. The pillow, too.