For the past year you may have regretted taking a few simple things for granted: hugs, smiling faces, hustle and bustle, and a good old fashioned date. Life in Florida resembles a more normal life, but face masks still hide the smiles we crave. However, date night is possible! So off we went… it was exciting to plan and fun to execute, too.
We spend our winters (this is our third) in central Florida. It’s an area dotted with fresh water lakes (Chain of Lakes) and lots of green spaces. While we are about 40 min to Orlando, the closest (and by far our regular go to) is Lakeland. It’s about 100k in population and, as the name would imply, has tons of lakes. They embrace the lakes and have created interesting vignettes around them such as walking paths, bird sanctuary, art installations and historical tours. Frank Lloyd Wright is a very prominent figure in the landscape and enthusiasts can enjoy his works throughout. Detroit Tigers play their spring ball in Lakeland; the stadium is ideal. The more we do there the more we find to do. So date night featured Lakeland.
Timing is a major consideration for us. Lakeland is about a 30 min drive (we can take a few minutes longer if we choose the back road instead of the Hwy). The timing revolves around Molly. She walks twice a day (for a poop … she won’t go in the yard) and her schedule is fairly rigid: when she gets up in the morning and again at around 4 pm). You can practically set your watch by her routines. The other consideration is our own bedtime; we are not late nighters anymore with the odd exception (guests or special occasion). So our target zone for events is limited. Date night would be 5 pm to 11 pm fitting our parameters.
We started with dinner. Reservations at 5:45 pm at the https://mojobbq.com/locations/mojo-federal/ Mojo Federal Swine and Spirits. As I mentioned, downtown Lakeland is historic and the resto was in a repurposed building featuring exposed bricks and open ceilings. As soon as you walked in there was a tantalizing aroma of smoke. The place was lively and busy with tables and a huge bar ( where we both agreed we would return to again … we like sitting at the bar and absorb the vibe). We’ve been getting used to eating our main meal midday so we don’t like to pig out at supper time, but watching the plates of food roll out it was tempting to go hog wild. (My pig puns are intended)
We started with a beer and fried dill pickle chips. They were served with a tangy dip that was yummy! For our mains I ordered the Mojo pulled pork salad and Rudy had the shrimp. Most entrees come with side dishes and Rudy chose coleslaw and beans. When a nearby table got their onion rings I was envious …. huge thick rings battered and piled high on the plate. My mouth is watering as I type. The pork on my salad was perfect; just the right amount of fat and smoke. I enjoyed every bite.
After dinner we walked over to the https://www.polktheatre.org/ Polk Theatre. We’ve been here before. It’s a historic theatre built almost 100 years ago. There’s mezzanine and balcony seating. They screen classic old movies and have themes each month. This months theme was under the sea. Our feature film was “Dead Calm” with Nicole Kidman and Sam Neal. We hadn’t seen it in years; it’s a nail biter. The theatre seats several hundred; there were 7 tickets sold for our show. It was like a private screening! The theatre is manned by volunteers; there’s a box office at the front, a live organist who entertains you pre-show and a concession stand. Tickets were $5 each.
At the end of the show we walked back over to Tennessee Ave for a nightcap at http://lakelandloft.com/ Lakeland Loft. This is a second floor space decked out with chandeliers and tin ceilings and ornate furniture. Like you’ve gone back in time to a wealthy southern establishment with stuffy red leather chairs and private rooms with Juliette balconies. A huge marble bar is the central feature aside from the walk-in cigar humidor and glass enclosed wine room. This is where smoking inside while sipping a libation and listening to live jazz (weekends) is the norm. We love it here!
We take our seats at the bar and order (Campari soda for me and scotch for Rudy). Then Rudy heads over to the humidor where he chooses a stogie. The attendant cuts and lights it for him. each place at the bar has a giant crystal ashtray. As we drink, smoke and enjoy the music it occurs to me that we could not be doing this anywhere else. And I’m suddenly grateful for the opportunity knowing that we can’t take it for granted.
Date night ends as we drive home under a full moon. Molly greets us at the door with a concerned bark: where the heck have you been?? I take her out for a bedtime pee and marvel at the clear warm night and celestial showcase.
As we drift off to sleep we are thankful for simple pleasures.