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Here & Now

It’s October, and you know what that means. Only three more months of summer. Let me explain.

Our calendar here on the Gulfshore is divided into two parts, meteorologically speaking: Season (January through May) and Summer (everything else). The third trimester of summer—October, November and December—falls into the category of Dear God, Please Don’t Let the Rest of the World Find Out About This.

By the end of this month, those unfortunates who live permanently Up North will be selling their firstborns into servitude to cover the winter heating bills. Meanwhile, our nights will be just cool enough to preview our new Season sweater ensembles. By day, we’re basking in gentle sunshine and—gasp!—low humidity. The beaches remain deliciously empty except for growing flocks of migrating shorebirds. Even the last sea turtle hatchlings are flopping their way, by moonlight, into the Gulf of Mexico.

October traditionally brings a spike in summer vacationers. Many are first-timers to our pristine shores. Although most of our visitors speak perfect English, it sometimes takes more than one time here to master the idioms and nuances of GulfshoreSpeak.

I know from experience that you can’t depend on those tourist phrasebooks, either. Before a recent trip to Italy, I popped into Barnes & Noble to pick up a handy purse-size model. It’s a no-brainer that you get more respect (and bigger scoops) if you can say, in perfect Italian, "a triple dark chocolate gelato, please."

To choose between two similar phrasebooks, I flipped to a random page in each and touched a point in the middle. Book One gave me the Italian for, "Are you seeing someone else?" Book Two offered the translation for, "My toilet is leaking."

Not too helpful. So, dear first-time visitors to our little paradise, I’m compiling an exclusive GulfshoreSpeak phrasebook just for you, translated into 17 foreign languages and 12 U.S. dialects. An excerpt appears on this page. And at the risk of sounding snobby, I’ll definitely leave the leaking toilet thing out. We have ordinances against such things.

So, while the Unfortunates charge back into a hectic pace and bundle against a phenomenon called "winter," October visitors and locals own the sidewalk cafés, golf courses and sunsets. Stone crab season opens Oct. 15, so we’re privileged to taste the first catch of the year. We get to troll the shops and boutiques for outrageously alluring end-of-summer summer sales. And we have our annual outdoor celebrations. My picks for this month:

Summerset Regatta

For 44 years, the Caloosahatchee Marching and Chowder Society’s Summerset Regatta has heralded summer’s end on Fort Myers Beach. The Oct. 3–4 weekend competition draws sailors from Tampa Bay to Marco Island to benefit youth sailing. CMCS claims its unorthodox name helps set its sailing club apart from the rest. CMCS has a point there. Anyway, for photo-perfect vistas of 50 sailboats flitting along the shoreline, the place to be is the Pink Shell Resort. Details:

Ding Darling Days

October also marks National Wildlife Refuge Week. Sanibel Island’s J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge hosts its 20th annual Ding Darling Days birding and eco-festival Oct. 18-25. Besides birding tours and wildlife encounters, events include lectures and lessons, a free family festival, kayak tours and sunset paddles. www.dingdarlingdays.com. (239) 472-1100.

Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival

For more paddling action, head for the fourth annual, 10-day Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival starting Oct. 23. Challenging and easy paddles, clinics, food, music and a costume ball celebrate the 190 gorgeous miles of marked paddling trails from Bonita to Pine Island Sound. www.calusabluewaypaddlingfestival.com. (239) 433-3855.

All too soon will come the glamour of the 2010 Season. But for now, here’s to the last trimester of summer along the Gulfshore. Be sure to savor every moment.

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