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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Perfect Storm (I Mean Vacation)

Yes. I know that she is way too pretty to be with me. Shhhh.
Look at the deceptively happy couple in the picture. That is Lorri and I on our first real vacation together outside of the Midwest. She had never seen the ocean before. I decided to take her to the Florida Keys last year. I swore I would never speak of it. She said that it is time. It's the only way that we can ever really begin to heal.

It all started before we ever got to the airport. We were dropping her car off at her uncle's house to have it worked on while we were away. Then her dad and brother would drive us the forty miles or so to the airport and drop us off. I rode with her dad. She and her brother had stopped somewhere and she tossed her wallet into her purse in the seat behind her. Trouble was, it had landed on the floorboard in the backseat of her car. You know, the one that she left forty miles from the airport.
Lorri's dad driving her to the airport (not really Lorri's dad, or Lorri, pictured above).
Our flight was scheduled to leave in about half an hour. Her wallet was forty miles away. Her dad drives like...well... you know, he's getting up there in the years and...I digress. Let's just say that there was ZERO chance in making the flight with the wallet.  I had suggested that we go anyways, as I had enough cash to cover the trip without her cards. Then she reminded me (through teary eyes) that her identification (required to get on the plane) was ALSO in her wallet.
On the phone, her brother (being the romantic type) suggested that I leave her at the airport, fly to Florida, and hope that she could catch a later flight (yes, ladies, he IS available and looking!). I opted to wait it out. I'd said that the ocean was overrated anyhow and that we had cash and a week off, so why not go to Southern Missouri or something in the car? 
This is a photo of THE wallet, taken moments after boarding the flight.
Fortunately, Lorri's aunt had found the wallet and drove at what we can only assume was a very dangerous speed to meet her brother and dad just outside of the city with her wallet. Her aunt and dad were heroes. We made the flight. Her brother, for having offered such helpful advice in a time of crisis, would be dealt with later by Lorri. The doctors say that he has every chance of partially recovering and living an almost normal life someday.
That evening, Lorri got to see the ocean and the entire vacation ended happily ever after, THE END. Okay, not quite the end. Damn it. But, she did get to see the ocean that night and we started eating fresh seafood.
Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
The next morning, we drove the rest of the way to the Florida Keys and stayed in Islamorada. It was stunning and perfect. We sat in a Tiki bar sipping pina coladas. After several drinks, she suggested that we should jump into the ocean off the dock. I (having lived near the ocean in my youth and remembering the sticky salt water and the countless things that can eat you swimming about) suggested that we try the pool instead. She wanted to face her dire fear of sharks by jumping in the ocean. I relented. I jumped in first.
This photo was taken just beneath the dock, mere inches from Lorri's feet as she got out of the water.
 She followed me in, and remained in the water for all of about two and a half seconds before scampering back to land with the soundtrack from the movie JAWS playing in her head. We returned to the room and changed and showered. She hung her swimsuit on the bathroom doorknob, where it would remain for future generations of tourists to discover at some later date.
The next day, we drove (without the swimsuit) to Key West, where she had inadvertently booked us for several nights at one of the historic inns that also happened to be notoriously haunted (a highlighted stop on the Haunted Key West Tour), with the husband of a former owner buried somewhere beneath the front porch. Taken in by the Bohemian lifestyle of the islands, we found a local bar (there are about a hundred of them on Duval Street) and started drinking tropical spirits.
Sometime that evening, she thought it would be a great idea if we went to one of the burlesque shows, where large men with breasts dance and sing and embarrass the hell out of any straight males foolish enough to attend. Being comfortable in my sexuality and in the company of a gorgeous blonde, I agreed. We had a blast, too, with me stuffing dollar bills in the dancers bras and her happily taking pictures of it all (can't seem to find any of them now).
Behind us, the table full of gay men from Texas began to buy us beers and thanked us for being so supportive of their community. I, being comfortable in my sexuality, informed them that I was supportive of any community that readily purchased us alcohol, and we all joined forces. When the show was over, they wanted to go to another bar. I thought we had probably had enough, but she was enamored with our new friends and wanted to go to the next bar with them. We went.
I should probably mention that Key West is a cultural hub and has a rather large (and very active) gay and alternative lifestyle community. I am comfortable in my sexuality, and therefore am not bothered by this fact. So, we went across the street to what turned out to be a gay bar, with our Texas friends. As it turns out, there are gay bars, and then there are really gay bars. We had stumbled into the latter.
Me in the bar in Key West (not really me, but the facial expression is pretty close).
Inside, there were nude men dancing atop the bar. Other nude men danced through the crowds. There was a lot of very inappropriate touching going on. Within half a beer, a small (completely dressed) Hispanic man was hanging on my arm and pronouncing my name, "Booze". Lorri was oblivious and happy and chatting away with one of our friends. I, being comfortable in my sexuality...completely panicked. I told one of our Texas friends that it was a bit much for me. He agreed and said it was all a bit much for him too. I asked Lorri to leave. She gave me this look as if to say that I always ruin everything, and why can't I just relax and have fun. I told her I had to go to our room for some cigarettes. She told me to go on ahead.
I ran into the street and toward the hotel. A block away I turned back around. I knew that a good soldier never leaves a man (or a girl in this case) behind, and I was imagining the look on her father's face when I explained to him that I had left his daughter at a gay bar in Key West, and it was the last time that anyone had ever saw her.
War is Hell.
I had to go back in for her. I took a deep breath, squinted my eyes so I couldn't see very much, and went back in. Under the threat of a panicked fat man (me) willing to cause a scene (I have no idea what I could have done to actually cause a scene that anyone would have noticed in there), she relented and left.
Back at the hotel, she considered sleeping on the patio to avoid being in the same room with such an insensitive, fun hating, homophobe. I offered to sleep on the patio instead (for her safety), since it was a shared patio with another room, if she would only go inside and go to bed. I should tell you here that there was a one foot step down leading into our room from the deck. And...when my little rum-filled angel hit it, she managed to take flight across the room like a superhero, defying gravity and physics to land on the other side, but only after hitting her hip on a corner bed post.

The next morning (or possibly early afternoon) we woke up with bad hangovers. She had a bruised hip, feet that had been shredded to hamburger by new sandals, and an inexplicable rash developing wherever her skin had been exposed. We walked on very sore feet down Duval Street again, wincing our eyes at the bar we'd been to the night before and swearing to never speak of it again.

Are those hives on her right arm??? Wait. Let's take a closer look...
Yikes! Yep. Definitely hives...or some sort of leprosy.

Since there is no better time than a hangover to try fresh, raw oysters for the first time, I ordered some and encouraged her to try one. It was the last one she ate. I ate the rest and struggled to keep them all down. At first, we weren't sure about the rash. Was it all of the shellfish or the tropical sun? It was the sun. As it turns out, many northerners experience a sort of allergic reaction to the intense rays of the tropical sun.
Earnest Hemingway's House.
Over the course of the next few days, we avoided Duval Street because the crowd that had at first seemed so appealing, began to seem like a pain in the ass to navigate. We bought her some very expensive new sandals because her blisters were forming blisters. We bought an extremely expensive bathing suit to replace the one that was hanging on the bathroom door in Islamorada. She left her credit card at a gift shop by the ocean where we bought a couple of two dollar trinkets and realized it when we had walked halfway across the island. We got the card back. We paid $30 to have a bicycle rickshaw take us back to the other side again because neither of us could walk another step, and we visited Earnest Hemingway's house.
Toward the end, she could barely walk. Her rash was getting worse and I secretly suspected it might be some island form of Leprosy. I spent most of my time going back and forth between our haunted inn and the drug store across the street for her. When I finally got her outside the room, beside the backyard pool, she saw some teenagers throwing cocoanuts on the cars in the parking lot.
She tried to run barefooted around the bushes to chase them away and ran her toes into a concrete parking barrier. Then, she had an injured, bloodied toe, a badly bruised hip, a full body rash resembling leprosy, feet resembling ground beef, a migraine, and a sunburn. Did I mention that she got seasick on the glass bottom boat ride? Probably not.
We went para sailing before we left. It was beautiful. In the wind, high above the water, we were almost able to forget about all of the pain and suffering going on in the world beneath us. Of course, that also might be due to the fact that there was a lot less pain and suffering down there, while we were up in the clouds.
But, it was finally over. There was only the beautiful, scenic drive north, back through the Keys, and across two hundred miles of islands and bridges (she is deathly afraid of bridges, I should probably add).
Will we ever go back? Absolutely. Because in life, it is never the perfect days that you remember and cherish and laugh about. It is all of the imperfect ones. It was the vacation of our lives, and through it all, it remains (in our memories, at least), just as she is to me, absolutely perfect and beautiful.

Thanks for Reading.


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