The beaches of the Florida panhandle – around Destin and Panama City – have sand as blindingly white as anywhere on earth. Except for times when the seaweed mysteriously appears, the water is as blue as anywhere in the Caribbean. But for the fact that it gets a little too hot in the summer and little too cold in the winter, these beautiful beaches might well be the most popular in America. The area is sometimes disparaged as the “Redneck Riviera,” but as a native-born Redneck myself, I’m happy to claim it.
My sister has forged the wonderful tradition of taking her family to the Panama City Beach area every summer for the last decade or so, and most years I get to go join them. It’s right next to Seaside, the notoriously-quaint town where they filmed The Truman Show.
Tyler is 23 now and lives in Chicago; Caitlin is 20 and in college at OBU; Grace still has most of high school ahead of her (she’s 15 but would think it important that I say “almost 16”). Shockingly, the girls weren’t willing to get up with me before sunrise (on their vacation) for a sure-enough-genuine photo shoot, leaving me wandering the swamps by myself (camera in hand, of course) at 5:30a.m. They did, however, agree to stand up and stand still long enough to take some fairly-glamorous-looking portraits on our condo balcony. Those are all on separate pages.
That’s me in the black shirt. That’s my sister, of course, in the turquoise top, and in the orangish gingham. Her husband, Bill, is in the light blue. The dark-haired young man is Caitlin’s boyfriend, Caleb. Poor Caleb has been around the Parkers long enough he’s no longer afforded “guest” treatment, but he’s low-man-on-the-totem-pole in the Parker family vacation ranks. This left him sleeping in a windowless closet/cell and schlepping the ice cooler to the beach each morning (‘til he faked a pinky-toe injury). He was a good sport. The dark-haired girl is Grace’s (shy) friend and basketball teammate/sharpshooter, Allie Glover. Yes, Tyler has a beard – allegedly only as a temporary demonstration of his loyalty to the OKC Thunder during the NBA playoffs. The sunglasses are because it’s very bright and sunny in Florida — not (just) because he’s gone all showbiz on us.