Not everything about inhabiting a disintegrating body is terrible. Sometimes, when things fall off, a serendipitous meeting results. Let me be specific. Somewhere in Europe my front tooth fell apart. Literally. A chip disappeared, leaving behind a disturbingly uneven upper incisor. Well, it wasn’t all that disturbing, at least to me, but then I didn’t have to look at it. When Joy started refusing to sit across the table from me, and encouraged me not to smile, it was time to take action.
So after months of eagerly anticipating our new home in Key West, the first item of business was to find a competent dentist. This wasn’t a new experience. If you’ve been following lawsonsontheloose for awhile, you know that I lost a bridge on our first evening out, in Shelbyville KY. You might also recall a crown falling out in the Lake District, UK. The repair job there wasn’t entirely satisfactory, so in time I gave up and had the repair repaired in Richmond, Australia. And now in Key West I had to have a tooth-pock packed to restore my smile. Not on the original Key West agenda.
Here’s the deal about being on the loose: it’s probably best attempted with a sound body. (A sound mind would be helpful, also, but I’m afraid it’s a little late for that luxury.) A pocked tooth is a sure sign, especially when it follows a fallen bridge, a lost crown, and a botched repair job, that serious maintenance on the whole vehicle can’t be deferred much longer.
But on the other hand. (I can never say “on the other hand” without thinking of my philosopher friend Bob Wetzel, who has more other hands than anyone else I know.) On the other hand, without my damaged incisor I wouldn’t have met my new best dentist friend. Dr. George Lindner. His office is a short five-minute walk from our new home. He’s not only competent practitioner and the administrator of a delightfully congenial and helpful office team, but he’s a Methodist. After restoring my smile he turned on his own to gently encourage me to attend his church on Sunday. I went, along with Joy and friends Mark and Evelyn Taylor. Turns out the good man is the lay leader of his church and, to our surprise–he hadn’t mentioned this, probably not wanting to obligate us to bring a present–we attended on his birthday. The next Sunday the Taylors were back on the mainland but we were back on our new Methodist pew.
I mentioned Dr. Lindner’s office staff because of their helpfulness. I spent most of the first two weeks here on a most frustrating project, trying to obtain visas for our next stop, Brazil. I’ve been traveling for a lifetime. Hands down the Brazilian consulates in the United States offer the most American-visitor-unfriendly visa application process I’ve encountered. One of the many requirements: the application must be filled out on line with a secure internet connection. I’ve been all over town trying to find one. The Atlanta consulate’s website rejected all of them. Dr. Lindner’s assistants let me use theirs. It worked for awhile, then it, too, rejected me and I left with my project unfinished. But they tried! Who could ask for anything more?
In between attempts to secure visas we took in some sights. Fort Zachary Taylor, for example, is of one of Key West’s premier tourist attractions. Built to protect Key West Harbor in 1845, it stayed on the job until 1947. The fort, named for America’s twelfth president, served through four wars (War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II) it was finally decommissioned in 1947. At the outbreak of the Civil War (1861) Union troops claimed it. The rest of Florida joined the rebellious South, but the Confederacy never occupied Fort Taylor. Most noteworthy, according to the Fort’s pamphlet “close to 300 vessels were captured and detained by the squadron [stationed here], but because of the fort’s formidable defenses it never saw hostile action.” Now the area serves peace, not war, its beautiful beaches attracting sun worshipers and water rats and children of all ages.
On the day of our visit the parade ground flag was flying at half mast. There have been so many tragedies lately (hurricanes, forest fires, mass shootings, slaughter-by-rampaging truck, etc.) we didn’t know which deaths were being acknowledged.
We didn’t get to see the 37th Annual Key West World Championship races last week, but we did see the boats. They paraded through town and we were among the admirers. I’d love to show you a picture of these monsters, but it turns out no one in our group took any. “What a bunch of nerds!” exclaimed one of us nerds. So instead I’ll substitute this beautiful sailboat picture. More our speed!
Back to the visa saga. We can’t blame the Brazilian consulate entirely. In Europe a border policeman informed Joy that her passport was completely full. No place for another stamp. No problem, we thought. We’ll just send her passport in for supplemental pages. Nope. The law changed in January 2016. No more extra pages. A new passport is required. Period. No problem, we consoled ourselves. In Key West we’ll turn in her current one, pay the extra fee to get a new one expedited to her, then pay another extra fee to expedite the Brazilian visa application process. Do you remember Robert Burns’ famous lines, “The best laid plans ‘o mice and men…”? (It comes up often in our travels.) Let’s just say that not until yesterday were our visa applications on their way to the Brazilian consulate–which wants ten working days for a quick turnaround. We just made it. If, that is, we didn’t make any mistakes on the forms and the consulate likes our application. If not….
(I should add huge thanks to Donna Alexander and Debbie Palich of the CMF office in Indianapolis. Donna, especially, went way beyond the call of duty to pull this project off, assisted by Debbie. James, who runs the Key West Mail Room shop downstairs, allowed me to plug into his secure system with an ethernet cable and set me up at his counter, letting me interrupt his work repeatedly to ask for help. Between these old friends and this new one, the job got done! You’d have laughed, though, to see me holding up my iPhone with its Google Translate app to the computer screen to translate the consulate’s webpage from Portuguese to English.)
All along we’ve been haunted by a Catch-22. One visa requirement is documented proof we have tickets into and out of Brazil. When we discovered this requirement we already had tickets into. We hated to buy the tickets out of until we knew we could get into in the first place. So day before yesterday I bought our departure tickets out of so we could prove we would leave once we got into Brazil.
Traveling can be good for your prayer life. Or…. I guess I could take up smoking.
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS