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Thursday, June 3, 2004 10:27 am

Grace about town 6-3-04

Champion freestyler

Last week (which feels like approximately 100 years ago), I wrote that "Grace Talk #2" would take place on July 9-10. This was grossly erroneous and wildly premature.

This is because I've decided to do an encore performance of "Grace Talk #1." One night only, your final chance to see it, at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at Stella Blue. Tickets are on sale at the Cardologist and Engel's on Edwards -- and they're going fast. Faster than the speediest of hotcakes (have you ever seen a hotcake run?).

"Grace Talk #2" is now tentatively scheduled for July 30-31.

An even more important announcement: SUMMER HAS ARRIVED! Vacation, anybody? I realize I've already taken so many vacations in 2004 that I probably won't be going anywhere this summer.

I retract that, too, as a matter of fact. Of course, I'm going somewhere! Even if it's someplace close by. Girard. Or Waggoner. Mattoon? Someplace with a Dairy Queen -- they've got a fantastic one in Taylorville.

Vacations are very important to your mental health. You need to go to help you think about things in a new way. Or at least to get away from that which is here.

We always went somewhere when I was a kid, because my dad was an art teacher and had three glorious months of freedom each year. My most vivid recollection of vacation is when we went to Florida when I was 10. We drove (no air conditioning in the car), and delighted in staying at motels along the way. I loved swimming. I must confess I flunked swimming lessons. In order to pass, we had to swim the width of the pool, and I guess I couldn't do it. I don't remember not accomplishing the task, but I definitely remember flunking. I believe that's the only thing I've ever flunked in my life. I got a "C" in college one time, in Astronomy, but that's because the professor was speaking in an entirely foreign language, I believe. I actually completed my final exam by randomly filling in the answer circles. And I still got a C, which tells you how hard that class was.

But swimming -- I was able to stay afloat even though I flunked. I had my own method of swimming, which involved much vigorous thrashing about and kicking and splashing.

When we stopped for the evening at a motel somewhere in Georgia, and I was happily swimming my chubby little heart out, a woman lounging by the pool suddenly leapt up, anxious to jump in and save me. She thought I was drowning. "Oh no," said my ever-unflappable mom, "that's the way she swims."

We stayed on Sanibel Island for a while, and I remember the vibrant sunsets. My brother, David, and I got so sunburned we had to stay inside for at least a day. I also remember this restaurant we went to, which seemed very fancy, with lots of nautical stuff strewn about and hanging from the ceiling.

We visited lots of tropical gardens, including Wakula Springs near Tallahassee, which had glass-bottom boats, and Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven. I loved Cypress Gardens the most; the gardens were full of bright flowers, plus women in equally bright antebellum dresses sashaying around the place. I'm not sure why they were there; I guess it was just a photo opportunity. And the best part was this terrific water skiing show, with people who did all kinds of tricks, and stuff like people skiing on top of other people's shoulders. Cypress Gardens closed, but it's supposedly going to re-open as Cypress Gardens "Adventure Park," with the addition of a roller coaster and water park, which sounds somewhat frightening to me. But with the mega-parks like Busch Gardens and the omnipresent Disney World, what do you expect? We'll see what happens.

Water skiing, that's a sport I actually mastered. My parents had an old ski boat for a while, and one summer my sister, Amy, and I loved cruising all around the lake in it. The only problem was that it broke down constantly, and we always had to jimmy stuff around to get it started. This almost always worked, until one time it stopped and would not start. We had no paddle, so we used a ski to paddle to somebody's house. The woman was very gracious, letting us use her phone to call for help.

Actually, I sort of already took a summer vacation a few weeks ago. I visited friends in Austin (I hadn't been there in 10 years, since I moved away from there), and had a great time listening to music, hiking, and eating Mexican food every single day, sometimes twice a day. My best friend, Christine, joined me there, and I'm quite chagrined to admit that she slaughtered me in Boggle. When I'm forced to play it now, all the fun has gone out of it. Yeah, I can beat people I play here, but I'll never beat Christine.

I'm trying to move past that, though, and focus on the positive. SUMMER HAS ARRIVED! So get out of that office, take a walk around the park, go to the drive-in, drive out into the country, pack up all your cares and woes, and enjoy every warm and glorious moment you can.

To see Grace's latest video click here.

Unable to view the video? Download Quicktime now!

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