Tuesday, November 27, 2007

how I spent my Thanksgiving vacation

Well, I’m back, and work was just as sucktacular as I’d feared. But goddamn it, I needed a break, so throughout the day, I alternated spurts of productivity with furtive blogging.

Frankly, I don’t get paid enough to give a shit anymore.

TUESDAY, 11/20/07

At the ungodly hour of 4AM, my blissful slumber was interrupted by the alarm clock.

“Nooooo…” I whimpered, snuggling closer to G. “Make the bad noise stop.”

He groaned and sat up, stretching. “I know, I’m sorry, but we’d better get up.” Reluctantly, we staggered into the bathroom, showered, scarfed down a quick breakfast, and headed to the Van Nuys flyaway.

Despite leaving several hours ahead of time, traffic and a mile-long security line meant that we got to our terminal with only a half-hour to spare. The flight was uneventful, and we were picked up at the curb of Miami International Airport (side note: those are some disturbing initials when you think about it) by G’s father (hereafter referred to as Padre), and brother-in-law J. From there, we drove to J's home, where we were met at the door by Madre, G’s sister A, and his nephews, 10-year-old D and 13-year-old I. After hugs were exchanged, G and I gratefully sat down for homemade pizza. We were worn out from our obscenely early start and long flight, so after a nice chat with everyone, we retreated to I’s room and crashed.

WEDNESDAY, 11/21/07

Although we gladly would have slept until noon, G and I were unceremoniously awakened at 8AM by Padre. The ritzy private school that the boys attend was having a “Grandparents and Special Others Day”, and our attendance was requested.

Did I say the school was ritzy? I meant RITZY, as in I saw not one but three Ferraris in the parking lot. Wafer-thin blondes in Chanel sunglasses and ruddy men wearing Rolexes and Bluetooth earpieces strolled the grounds with their impeccably clad children. I had on a green Target t-shirt and faded jeans, and I felt self-conscious for precisely two minutes before cheerfully deciding not to give a shit.

Anyway, the event was surprisingly fun. We got to sit in on a couple of classes, and there was a short concert in which D played the violin. We had lunch in the cafeteria, and although you’d think such a fancy school would serve veal in a red wine reduction or something like that, it was just your basic (though tasty) burgers and chips.

When school let out, we returned to J and A’s house and spent the rest of the day talking and playing games.

THURSDAY, 11/22/07

All I can remember is vast amounts of food being crammed down my slavering maw.

FRIDAY, 11/23/07

Now came the part of the trip that I was most looking forward to: Key West! Although everyone was going, J and A were leaving the kids in our care and spending a romantic weekend by themselves, so they hugged everyone goodbye and took off. We loaded up the back of the truck with suitcases, snacks, books, and games, and then we squeezed in.

Six adults + two children + one vehicle = one very tight fit.

About 90 minutes into the trip, we stopped at John Pennekamp State Park because several members of our party wanted to go snorkeling. “What about you, C?” Padre asked. “Want to join us?”

“It sounds really cool, but…uh…I can’t swim very well,” I admitted.

“Really?” he said. “You might not need to be a good swimmer, but let’s ask at the desk.”

So we stood in line, and when we got to the front, we asked if a doggy paddler like me would be okay snorkeling. She said if I wore an inflated life vest, I should be okay, although I might not be able to see the “really cool” stuff. Considering that you also had to buy or rent snorkels, flippers, and masks, I figured it was too expensive for me to just bob on the water like shark bait, so I decided to stay on dry land with Madre and D. We walked around for a while, visited the tiny aquarium, and then got lunch at the concession stand before heading back to the pier to await the boat’s return. When it docked, I. immediately ran over, glowing with excitement.

“That was so cool!” he yelled. “We saw barracuda and a bunch of really neat fish, and somebody got stung by jellyfish!”

“Yikes,” I said.

“It really was cool, but I think you may have had some trouble,” G said. “The currents were a little strong.”

“Well, it sounds great, but between the jellyfish and the currents, I’m thinking it was wise for me to stay behind!”

After the guys rinsed off, changed, and had a quick bite to eat, we got back on the road and arrived in Key West a little after 6PM. We’d heard about a bar that held turtle races, so we stopped there first, but we missed the races by literally minutes. Mildly disappointed, we drove to our hotel and checked in. G and I had our own room (thank you, Padre!), so we went upstairs to freshen up. I went into the bathroom and squealed with delight. The shampoo and body lotion smelled like ginger and white tea, and there was even a small bottle of lavender linen spray.

We had dinner at Mangia Mangia, a cozy Italian restaurant, where I feasted on fettucini alfredo and delicious bread slathered with rich creamery butter and amused the kids with my imitation of a farting moth. Then we walked back to the hotel and G went over to the other room to play poker while I soaked in the gloriously deep bathtub and read a trashy novel.


SATURDAY, 11/24/07

After G and I showered, we met up with everyone else in the lobby of our hotel. We walked to the Flamingo Café for a mediocre breakfast, and from there, we walked to the Key West Cemetery. To our surprise, we ran into J and A there---small island indeed! We chatted with them briefly, and then they left for their next adventure. We walked around, looking at the gravestones, including this classic:

Unfortunately, G was so tired that he could barely stand upright, and the kids weren’t too jazzed about our next planned stop, the Hemingway House. Tempers began to flare up, and Padre and I decided to keep going while the rest of our party returned to the hotel.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway, but his house was really cool. He loved cats, and he owned a six-toed cat whose descendants still roam the grounds to this day. I managed to get pictures of two of the polydactyl cats:

I loved watching them walk; they looked like they had on mittens!

The outside of the house:

Hemingway’s study:

We returned to the hotel, and fortunately everyone was in much better spirits, so we decided to continue with our day. We drove to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and had lunch first. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which may sound boring as hell, but thanks to Cuban bread, it was really delicious. The view didn’t hurt either.

After we finished eating, we headed over to the fort. It was actually Zachary Taylor’s birthday, so several volunteers wandered around in period costume. One woman, who was sweating profusely in her heavy dress, was kind enough to give us a tour. Most of my pictures didn’t come out, but this one is kind of cool in an artsy-fartsy kind of way:

Next up, we went to the Key West Martello Museum, which is the home of Robert the Doll. This creepy little fellow is supposed to be haunted, and legend has it that if you don’t properly introduce yourself to him and ask permission to take his photograph, he’ll pay you a very unwelcome visit.

True confession time: even though I wanted to see this doll, I was also unnerved by the prospect. If there’s such a thing as a supernatural agnostic, then that’s me in a nutshell, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. When I told G about my misgivings, he stared at me in disbelief.

“You CANNOT be serious,” he said. “You’re going to introduce yourself to some little tourist trap doll so he doesn’t haunt you?”

“I know, it’s silly, but why take the risk?”

“Because there IS no risk! I’m going to flip him off and grab my junk and steal his peppermints.”

“No,” I said nervously. “Seriously, G, don’t.”

When we got to Robert’s display case, I stood in front of it and said, “Hello, Robert. My name is C. It’s a pleasure to meet you! I hope you’ll let me take your picture.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah; I know you’re reading this and laughing your ass off. But would YOU take your chances with something that looks like this?

The museum had lots of other interesting things, too, including freaky scrap metal sculptures like this one:

From there, we went to Mallory Square, where we had a surprisingly good dinner at the Hog’s Breath Saloon, looked in all the little shops, and watched a fire juggler and an acrobat on the pier. Then we returned to our hotel for the ghost tour, which Madre and D decided to skip. A guide, dressed in Victorian attire and holding a lantern, took us to various places in the area that are supposedly haunted. We didn’t see any ghosts, of course, but it was still mildly creepy and enormously entertaining. Our tour ended on the steps of a museum which had this beautiful Renoir-inspired statue in front of it:

When we got back to our hotel, we said goodnight to Padre and then we went up to the seventh floor to look at the view. Afterwards, we walked down the street so I could buy a Hello Kitty Key West shirt, and then we retired to our room to crash for the night.

Fortunately, I did not dream about Robert.

SUNDAY, 11/26/07-MONDAY 11/27/07

As for the rest of our trip, it was pretty uneventful. I started watching the Giants/Vikings game with the guys, but when it became obvious that we were going to get slaughtered, I retreated to our bedroom to play Cooking Mama 2 on my DS. (After the game, Padre said, “See, G, you should never have insulted Robert!”) We hung out, played cards and Taiko Drum Master, talked, ate, and enjoyed each other’s company. I know I’ve said it before, but one of the best things about dating G is that I feel like I’ve inherited a second set of family and friends.

Something to be thankful for indeed.