M. SCOTT MORRIS: Jaybird’s still got it going on

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

“The Jaybird Express” hit the ground hard on Sunday, my last full day visiting my good friend in “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida.”
“It usually takes me three months to do everything we’ve done in four days, Morris,” Jay Bell said, nursing a well-earned hangover and a troubled stomach.
Several months ago, I wrote about Jay’s maturation process and how he didn’t think the nickname Jaybird fit any more because it was a holdover from his wilder, crazier and – let’s face it – younger days.
After spending some time with him in his natural habitat, I can say the Jaybird is very much alive and what passes for well.
“You’re still here?” he said from the couch on Sunday. “I can’t take much more of you.”
The visit was a make-up excursion because Jay had to cancel a fall camping trip. My wife found a great price on a flight from Birmingham to Tampa. An amazingly perceptive woman, she named the itinerary “The Jaybird Express.”
“Once she comes to her senses, she’s going to dump you and marry me,” Jay Bell said.
“If she ever leaves me, you’ll break land speed records to avoid holy matrimony,” I said.
“Good point,” he said.
We were all smiles and high fives when he picked me up at the curb of the Tampa airport on Thursday. I can’t tell you everything about the events that followed, but rest assured there are no pending legal issues.
Bell isn’t the biggest fan of seafood, but the grilled tuna sandwich at Gator’s in Treasure Island was a fantastic first taste of Florida. Later, we stopped by Skinny’s Place on Anna Maria Island for one of the best burgers you’ll find in this life or the next.
We walked four different beaches and drank at a baker’s dozen of beach bars. We also had breakfast at Caddy’s, a spot by the Gulf of Mexico.
As we ate our eggs, a guy placed lounge chairs on the beach for tourists. I suggested that as a possible career choice for Jay.
“That’s music to my skin cancer’s ears,” he said.
I didn’t try to keep up as the Jaybird went full speed Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Surprisingly, he was still going on Sunday morning, when he got up at 7:30, went to the grocery store and fixed omelets. It was the Jaybird’s last gasp. A switch flipped, and Jay Bell entered recovery mode.
But the fun continued. We took a two-hour sail on the “Kathleen D” with Jay’s friends, Paula, Mark and Kathy. I’d never gone that fast solely on wind power. I think Jay was impressed, too, though he was distracted by trying not to throw up
“We’ll do this again,” he said at the airport on Monday. “Come back next weekend.”
“Economic realities,” I said.
“Six months, then,” he said.
“We’ll work something out,” I said. “I can’t believe I survived being your next door neighbor 20 years ago.”
“Yeah, the Jaybird’s got it going on,” he said, “just not so much today.”
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.