Okay, this post isn’t set in New Zealand. But it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

My parents recently moved to Florida after having their house in North Carolina demolished by a hurricane. They live in a place called Clearwater, which is about half an hour west of Tampa.

I’ve been here a couple of days, getting over my prodigious jet lag, reading a bunch of scripts for work, and enjoying hanging out with my family. It’s been more than two years since I’ve seen them and my brother David, so this reunion was long overdue.

Today was Dolphin Day for the Barr clan. We went to an aquarium that has the most famous dolphin since Flipper (mostly because she doesn’t have a flipper), then went out into the Gulf of Mexico to see if we could meet some of her Tursiops cousins.

This is my first trip to Florida since I found the Fountain of Youth in 1642. Things have changed a lot since then, but the one thing that stayed the same is that Florida is flat. Like, it could be the spokesstate for IHOP. It’s flatter than my 6th-grade girlfriend. It’s flatter than an Irishman’s face after a bare-knuckle brawl.

Not a lot of topographical elevation ’round these here parts.

I’m just sayin’ – when the waters rise, a lot of newlyweds, expat Cubans, and Jewish retirees are gonna need whole lotta really big ziplock baggies. And scuba gear. And Jules Verne as their architect. But since most of them think 95% of climate scientists are engaged in a vast pinko conspiracy, I’m sure their beliefs will keep them dry.

But I digress.

Here’s a picture from one of the least-flat things in this part of Florida – a bridge.

This bridge gets you from the beaches of Clearwater to the beaches of Clearwater Beach.

Our first stop was at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They’re a non-profit group that has been around since 1972, rescuing and rehabilitating marine life…

These guys always look like they belong in a Ridley Scott movie.

I hope they aren't the stinging type

This is Cocoa, the blind sea turtle

Cocoa getting a scrubbin'

Cocoa kept swimming away and then coming back, ready for the next round of shell-buffing.

His buddy was just next door:

Titus has a bubble butt.

Like Cocoa, he seemed to enjoy getting gently scrubbed down by his person.

You missed a little bit on the right

Comin' back around

…but the event that brought them fame recently was their rescue of a gimpy dolphin they named Winter.

Winter with her foster-mom Panama

Panama was a "beggar dolphin" who had gotten sick from eating people food

Winter lost her flukes and 2 vertebrae after being caught in the rope of a crab trap

The gift shop sells stuffed dolphins with their tails cut off.

A company called Hanger Prosthetics heard about Winter, and volunteered to develop a prosthetic tail for her. Earlier this year, a movie was made to tell the tale, called, appropriately enough, Dolphin Tale.

The production company donated the building improvements

If I was a pirate, I'd have this instead of a hook. Just because.

One cool side effect from the process of creating Winter’s tail system was the development of a very soft but very tough rubber-like material called “Winter’s Gel.” It cushions the skin from the prosthesis and makes it more comfortable to wear and much less likely to create painful friction spots.

This gel worked so well on Winter that the company started using it for their human clients, and it has greatly improved the comfort levels of the human users as well.  Yay for unnecessary scientific experimentation – it often comes around to help in ways we wouldn’t have anticipated.

Next we grabbed lunch at Crabby Bill’s restaurant. I haven’t had crabs in a long time; I wasn’t planning on starting now.

Then it was time for the sunset cruise with Little Toot. It’s an ex-tug boat, so its size and power can create really big wakes which the dolphins like to play in.

David and Mom

This big-ass party boat looks fun if you're in to that sort of thing. Or already drunk. Whichever.

Big wake. No dolphins.

Here's the bridge from the first pic

Obligatory sunset photo

We didn’t have much luck with dolphins; apparently they had a very young calf with them, so the mom didn’t want him playing with strangers. We saw a few from a distance, but unfortunately no wake-surfers.

So, here’s more sunsets.

Mom & Dad challenge the pirates to a fight.

The pirates run.

Enjoying their victory

This hotel looks very "Florida" to me.

Bye bye Mr Sun. See you tomorrow!

On the boat we met a doctor and nurse named Barb and Dawn, down in Florida from Michigan. After the ride, the six of us went back to Crabby Bill’s for one drink. Apparently, in Florida “one drink” means 5 pitchers of margaritas. Good times. Good times.

Tomorrow: Here, kitty kitty kitty!

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