Vacationing in Venice



Cousin Craig is back to share how he spent his summer vacation! 


Growing up in our house included the obligatory summer vacation. My parents hoped our vacation time would bring us closer together, like the television Walton family. But John Boy and Mary Ellen were not my siblings, and Ma and Pa were not my parents.

One of my favorite vacation memories is the year my parents announced that we were going to Venice. After years of long car trips, with my siblings almost killing each other over who saw the Alabama license plate first and my Mom threatening not only to “come back there” but also “to rip off our arms and beat us to death with them,” I was beyond excited to escape the car for the friendly skies. My family unit would spend the summer in an exotic land! Oh, Venice! We’d float down canals, find romance, and eat pizza!

When the big day arrived, my parents packed our bags into the car, and we headed southwest towards the airport. However, disappointment and dismay set in when they didn’t merge towards airport departures. We were not on our way to the jewel of Italy; we were on our way to Venice, the retirement community south of Tampa, Florida. Oh, Venice. Residents average age, 63. “Oh well, maybe a piece of pizza is still in my future,” I thought, ever the optimist.

No family car trip is complete without singing. Our family favorites included a song about a man named Johnny Verbeck, who turns all the neighbors’ cats and dogs into sausages. Ultimately, his wife kills him. Another favorite was a song about a cat that wouldn’t die, no matter how many time the owner tried to kill him. And of course, we never missed singing about the goat tied to the railroad track. Along with not being the Walton family, we were not the Von Trapp family either. Nevertheless, we put our hearts and voices into every verse. I can still hear us belting out, “She gave the thing a heck of a crank, and Johnny Verbeck was meat!”

Our final destination was the Venice La Quinta Inn, which is listed as a must stay. Looking back, I’m certain that, when the 5 of us arrived, Venice lost the last tiny scrap of culture and refinement it was hanging on to.

I love a digression, so here’s a good one. My family unit consisted of five people: my mother, who has since transitioned into a grandmother and is now known as Granny; my father, who has passed away and has since transitioned into not being here at all; my brother, the first born and favorite son; and my sister, the first-born daughter and mom’s baby girl; and me. I was born a few years after my sister, no doubt a happy surprise and blessing.

Back to Venice—Venice, Florida. All five of us settled into our room at the La Quinta (family vacations are all about spending time together). We decided we would go fishing while on vacation so I made sure to visit and get some new fishing gear that we needed. The next morning was beautiful; the sun came out to greet us, like it does 365 days a year. In Florida, a day without sunshine seldom happens, and when it does, it’s called a hurricane. Then my sister and family head to Disneyworld . . . wait, I’m digressing again. Anyway, the day before us was vacation perfect. If I had known better, I would have taken this as an ominous sign. Instead, happy-go-lucky me grabbed my beach towel and followed my family to the beach to search for shark’s teeth and shells.

Shark tooth hunting is hard work.  I began to get thirsty (keep in mind that this was in the day before parents followed their kids around with water bottles). This meant that I would have to trudge uphill (both ways) to and from the hotel room for a drink. Then, I came up with a better idea! Always thinking, I began to satisfy my thirst with great gulps of water from the Gulf of Mexico. Mmm, warm, salty water—what could be better? I had a great time, for about another forty-five minutes. Then, I started to feel a bit queasy. I will protect you from the details here, Odd reader. Suffice to say that the sheer volume I ejected and the distance I sent it were both prodigious.

As my luck would have it, pizza was on the menu that night for dinner. It was a rare treat, and my mouth watered for some, but my stomach was firm in its resolve to stay empty for at least 12 more hours. Left-over pizza the next morning would have to be good enough. That night, I feel asleep dreaming of my morning pizza and how great it would be to not have to taste it twice (once going down . . .. Well, you know what I mean).

The next day, the sun again rose, but I did not. I slept in and rested up, all the while my mouth watering as the faint smell of pizza lingered in our room. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and jumped out of bed to grab my slice of pepperoni heaven. The pizza was gone! I immediately let out a blood curdling “MOM!,” found her on the beach, and rushed to tell her that someone had stolen my pizza. Calmly, she replied, “We ate it this morning while you slept.” I tried not to cry, but after all, I’m only human. I wanted my pizza.

My mom was a master at inventing water games for us to play at the beach. One favorite was a game she played with my sister called Nemo, which was named after the Disney classic about the submariner who rammed his victims with a ship. Can you see where this is going? My mom and sister would ride their raft across the waves looking for any unsuspecting old farts that dared to invade the gulf shore that day. Once a senior fart was in sight, they would position themselves behind the target and wait for the waves to push them into a collision. Just before impact, they would scream out “NEMO!” and then take out their prey. My dad kept score, and my brother and I were the cheering section. “If an Old Person Can’t Stay on Their Floaty, They Should Stay off the Beach” was our family vacation motto.

We celebrated our last night of vacation by once again going out to dinner (not pizza). While we waited for our dinner, my brother (somewhat of a shit disturber) pointed out that my sister never ate what she ordered and that she always left food on her plate. A wager followed—if my sister ate everything on her plate, my brother would make the beds in the morning; if not, my sister would do it. The food arrived, and my sister dug in. She ate and ate, until even the picture on her plate was half scraped off. Looking up triumphantly, she cried out, “Done!,” but my brother pointed out that the garnish still remained. Was that food or not? My mother said that it was edible, and for my sister to complete the meal and win the bet, she had to eat the garnish. My sister is not a quitter. Filled with determination, she grabbed the garnish and shoved it in her mouth. Chewing furiously, she swallowed the last bit of greenery and shouted, “Hah! I beat you! I win!”

“You’re an idiot,” my brother said. “We’re staying at a motel. The maid makes the bed!”

On the car ride home, I reflected on what each of us had learned during our family time together. I was wise for my years. I learned that salt water is not for drinking and that you should never trust your family when it comes to food. My sister learned that garnishes are edible and that maids made the beds in motels. My brother learned that he could still outsmart both of us (at least on that trip). My parents learned that we are not the Walton Family. But then again, there was always next year’s vacation.


This post is mostly true. I am certain of it.  Cousin Craig forgot to share that Venice, Florida is the shark tooth capital of the world! I wonder if he found one? Wait, wouldn’t the shark have to be pretty close to shore to lose a tooth in order for you to find it???

Stay tune–next post is about our new set of wheels and then Craig will be back!

Odd Loves Company,

18 thoughts on “Vacationing in Venice

  1. So exciting to see myself “in print”! Thank God my cousin is there to edit and help correct my horrible typing. Several parts of this tale actually are true, but some things have been lost in additions and editing. Here are a few details I wanted to go more in depth on.

    1. My mother never threatened to “come back there” to the back seat, but she did threaten to “rip our arms of and beat us to death with them.” She was also a big fan of “knocking us into next week”, and sometimes she would be more specific and say, “I’ll knock you into next Tuesday.”

    2. I do not remember looking for Alabama license plates or any other ones. I remember a game trying to find signs with words from every letter of the alphabet. Suffice it to say, we didn’t have individual movie screens or I-Pads.

    3. When my mother and sister rammed people, they weren’t necessarily old, just unsuspecting. I was never done before that or again after that trip to my knowledge. There was no score or cheering section, all of that was strictly off the books.

    4. Our family motto would be more along the lines of “So, … I guess that just happened.” We never targeted old people, that’s ageism! When we were jerks we were jerks to anybody that presented themselves, regardless of race, color, creed, age, gender, or fashion. Why did we knock those people over? Because they were there.

    5. There is no Johnny Verbeck song, cousin! It’s Jonapper Peck, and I’m surprised you weren’t taught better. Were you raised by wolves? Most of the songs my mother sang to us were about people dying, or at least it seems that way now. The one about the cat that the owner kept trying to kill “but the cat came back” was always fun. We never sang a goat song, and now I feel cheated, Who killed the goat? Did the train hit it?

    Thanks Oddites!

    I DID find many shark’s teeth, shells, and the like. I made a necklace out of a shoe string and a sharks tooth, both items were found on that beach. Is that weird?

    • I may have taken a bit of creative leeway with my edits—bringing in some information I learned from other members of your family unit.
      It was a shock to me too but the Dutch Man’s name really was Johnny Verbeck according to Google. And well Google…. Perhaps there are two? I had a long talk with my Mom about why she had me singing the wrong name all these years. Your Mom can sing you the goat song and I find it hard to believe it wasn’t a part of your childhood—we did sing it during your Houston trip. The goat coughed up 3 red shirts and lived.
      Old Farts—well, what can I say. And I imagined a score keeper and cheering section—Maybe even a snow cone stand.
      Your sibs were a tad competitive and let’s face it one car game is pretty much like any other.
      Thank you for allowing me add just a bit to your mostly true story. ♥~

  2. Family vacations I have been on a few. We usually stayed a Motel 6. Some were better than others. I remember a lot of stops at souvenir stands. A favorite vacation story is where I managed to get poison ivy after warning everyone else about it. Kids never forgot those things.
    Your family’s selection of car songs is impressive. We sung found a peanut and 100 bottles of beer on the wall.
    I bet with all the gadgets these days – kids miss out on a lot of this fun.

    • I would say they “miss” them … What would we have given to have 100 or so movies available at any given time to watch?

  3. Very funny. I missed out on car trips. My trips were mostly about flying back and forth between parents and grandparents. We had fun but I would have liked having some of these memories. Knocking old farts off rafts and such.

    • Yes, this is a true work of fiction. My family actually never traveled by car except in the city when being driven by a chauffeur. His name was Bigglesworth or Smitherington or something. I can never remember his face but he had a mole on the back of his neck I can see vividly in my mind’s eye. Mother preferred that we not speak to the help. When the need arose we took our helicopter to our private jet and flew where ever we wished. Father insisted that we go barefoot and would install brand new pink rabbit’s fur carpet before every trip. How many bunnies had to die for my comfort?

      Just kidding . . . we were middle class at best. Did I have you going?

      • Craig??? Stop torturing your readers. And enough already with the pink rabbit or I’ll send you those teeth!

  4. That is awful about the pizza. I hope you had some help recovering from the trauma. I am sure your family made it up to you but still.
    I’ve been to Venice, Florida the beaches were great and the shark tooth hunts were fun and kept us pretty close to shore.

    • I made up for it. My doctor tells me a I have high blood pressure. Apparently I have swallowed to much aggression, … and too much pizza.

    • Oh Auntie, I’m sure you cooked up some mischief on occasion. I heard that someone left a relative of mine in an open grave when they were young . . . so I guess we were just following one of our family traditions. BTW who has the teeth?

  5. My parents decided to take all 6 of us to the grand canyon one summer. The baby was about 11 months and the oldest was 14. We drove our station wagon 1600 miles each way. It was insane. My dad was a fireman so he had the time off (about 3 weeks) and we did see the country but being with family that long was a long time. The best part wasn’t the Grand Canyon but swimming in hotel pools along the way. We sang a lot of songs. And played a lot of car games. And I made my way through most of the Nancy Drew books.
    Hopefully you’ve had more than enough pizza over the years to make up for the piece you didn’t eat in Venice. And shark teeth sound very cool.

    • I bet your dad is the bravest man in the world, and on top of that he’s a fireman. Does he tame lions to relax? Jump out of planes without the parachute? Wrestle alligators?

  6. When you live in Florida it is like being on vacation all the time. I’ve been to Venice for a conference and we had a great time. But you are right it isn’t a place to vacation for the young. I didn’t find a shark tooth but I did buy one as a souvenir for my then boyfriend (now husband) and told him I found it. He still has it.
    Sounds like your family had fun despite a few hardships
    along the way. The Waltons are way overrated.

    • I wouldn’t say that “every day is a vacation in Florida” because it is currently hotter than a snake’s behind in a wagon rut. The humidity is hovering somewhere around 95%, and for some reason I have the band Hansons song “mmm bop” stuck on a loop in my head. I may have died and gone to hell. Venice is lovely and we did manage to have some fun. Thanks for reading!

  7. Brings back oh-so-many car trips when I was a kid. My sister always got car-sick, and only riding up front with Mom and Dad appeased her. Part of me resented riding by myself in back, but the advantage was, I got the ENTIRE back seat to myself! The one time we all decided she was faking sick, she threw up…right into the dog’s bowls!

  8. Thanks for another funny read. Now I wonder what your impressions would be if ever you were to visit Venice, Italy. I’ve been there, and I never want to go back.

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