My interest in SM led me to try a lot of new things. Among them, she introduced me to country music concerts and festivals. Here she is at the Chili Cook-off, having provided me with a spare ticket she had:
SM apparently likes chili -- I do not like chili (the beans don't agree with me). I have, however, developed a taste for country music. Here is the link to the Chili Cook-off, sponsored by a local radio station:
It was because of SM that I went to see Garth Brooks in concert in Miami -- and what a performer Garth is! SM and I could not get seats together, but I am fortunate enough to have seen this master Country Musician in action. SM and I saw several concerts together, including The Counting Crowes, with The Wallflowers as an opening act; Fleetwood Mac; and Eric Clapton. The first two of those concerts took place at the Coral Sky Amphitheatre. Here is the link:
I went to a concert at the Amphitheatre on my own. It is an outdoor affair, as the name implies. I saw Jimmy Buffet in late 1998, during the last full year of my drinking days. Of course, I had a frosty Margarita -- what else would you drink in Margaritaville? (I would give up drinking in August of 1999; not an addiction, but not an activity which brought me enough pleasure to continue).
SM is also an animal lover. She went to an animal show, and invited me along. Here I am with a crockodile or an alligatory, though I am embarassed to say I don't know which it is:
I would guess it's a Gator, given that we were in the State of Florida.
Point is, my friendship with SM allowed me to expand my horizons in several ways. I enjoy country music, and have a new hobby there. I have a new appreciation for animals, especially dogs, of which SM is very fond. We also enjoyed the nightlife of the area, with one particular venue of enjoyment being Howl at the Moon, with their dueling pianos. The venue is actually something of a chain -- I saw one in Louisville, Kentucky, and I will discuss my time there later. Here is a link:
We tended to go to the location at The Beach Place -- an outside mall of shops and nightlife near the beach in Fort Lauderdale -- which had just opened during my time in South Florida. Here is a link:
This summary doesn't even touch upon other parts of South Florida's charm, such as other beaches, or the nightlife in South Beach, where many take their talents (sorry Lebron, I just had to), or the charming Coconut Grove.
When I left South Florida for my internship in Wisconsin, SM left for hers by going North to the Deep South (had to say it). She currently resides in De Queen, Arkansas, where I visited her as a 240-pound person in the summer of 2006 -- that particular trip, a cross-country affair from Washington State to New York to assist my ailing parents, and seeing SM specifically, allowed me to cross off Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, as well as Arkansas on the list of 49 states I have seen. De Queen is famous for being the birthplace of Country Music singer Collin Raye. Other than more nondescript pictures of SM at her home, which do not offer much in terms of travel gems, this stop on my cross-country trip allowed me, at SM's suggestion, to stop in Hot Springs, for a much needed massage -- something I would highly recommend -- a very nice stop, indeed. Here is a link:
SM, thank you for everything you have added to my life since I met you in 1995. Have a blessed birthday and a blessed year to come, with many, many happy returns!