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West Virginia travels south

By Staff | Apr 4, 2014

The $29 fish tacos were seriously overpriced. But the view was priceless, so the cost was worth the expense.

The tacos were served to us at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Fla., with nothing between us and the Gulf of Mexico except sand. I was with mom and dad, who live there now. Every day they awake to a land of palm trees and exotic flowers, with fresh produce in the farm stands and fresh seafood at the market.

I, on the other hand, boarded a jet airplane just in time to avoid yet another snowstorm in this endless winter. I escaped a sky clotted with gray clouds and streets gritty with the crushed stone spread by municipal trucks for traction on slippery ground. I left a refrigerator stocked with heavy comfort foods for the husband who had to stay behind. Braised sausages and cabbage, chicken and rice, noodle casserole.

I told my folks I’d take them for lunch anywhere they wanted. Earlier, I had watched my dad deliver a history lecture to an interested crowd. At age 80, he’s a history rock star, in a second career that has taken him around the world and put him on television. If you ever tune into the History Channel to see the story of swindler Charles Ponzi, look for the old guy in the colorful shirt. That’s my dad.

Dad gave his lecture at a planned community that offers such amenities. Because he’s usually lecturing aboard a cruise ship many time zones from here, this was my first time seeing him do it. Mom and dad are at sea more than they’re here. They’ve circled the globe so many times that mom says she’s had enough of the other side of the world, and would really rather stay home.

I go to see them when I can. We take walks, float in the pool, do a little sightseeing and hit all the thrift stores. Thrifting is something that mom and I love to do. I love to hunt through racks of potential treasures. Both mom and I love a bargain. She found her best one not on this visit, but a couple of years ago.

It was a couch. A gorgeous couch. Upholstered in a print fabric in Floridian tones of aqua and peach. Many wealthy people live in Naples, and they furnish their spacious homes and condos stylishly. This couch, evidently, had been selected for a little-used room in the home of someone with the means to select a fine piece and then not sit on it. This couch, which originally must have cost thousands of dollars, was offered in a thrift store for a tenth of that.

Mom had to have it. She negotiated to have it delivered and her old couch taken away. But when the delivery men tried to remove her old couch, they couldn’t get it out of the door. The new couch came in, but the old one did not go out.

Now I will digress. Some time earlier, my son told me about a West Virginia University tradition that involves burning couches. He is a student at WVU, and called me the night that U.S. Navy Seals got Osama Bin Laden, to tell me that the student body was celebrating in the streets, with couches aflame. I understand that the university has since put a stop to the celebratory burning of upholstered furniture. However, an idea came to mind when mom and dad couldn’t get their old couch out of the living room.

We couldn’t burn it. Not in the living room. But I could apply some West Virginia ingenuity. We could cut it in half. It could leave the room in pieces.

Dad found an old, rusty circular saw that somehow survived relocation to Florida. He aimed it at the back of the couch, and off we went. But cutting a couch in half is harder than you think. There are all kinds of internal, stabilizing structures. Even with power tools, it’s a big, messy job. In lieu of dust masks, we tied bandannas around our faces. Mom and dad looked like a pair of senior-citizen banditos gone seriously wrong. And I, their middle-aged sidekick.

We got as far as dividing the couch into two pieces, still connected across the back by thick metal cabling. I had to jump on it a few times for enough torque to separate one side from the other. Under cover of darkness, Dad and I dragged it out the front door, down a flight of stairs and across a parking lot, then heaved it into a dumpster. By the time we returned, mom had vacuumed the evidence from the living room carpet.

This is not typical behavior for people who order $29 fish tacos at elegant gulfside restaurants. We also consumed two half-bottles of Prosecco and some lovely appetizers. We even ordered dessert. The Ritz makes an outstanding key lime pie.

It was swell. And there was nary a trace of couch-dust in my hair to identify me as a couch-busting Mountaineer mama.