out of town, out of mind

While I am arguably always the latter, for the last week-and-a-half I have been both. If you noticed that I haven’t added any new content over that period, now you know why. (If you’re like most people, and neither noticed nor cared, now you at least know why the last 10 or 11 days seemed strangely brighter and less depressing.)

Yep, it was vacation time in our household, though I can’t say I was all that happy about it. Yes, I was looking forward to time away from work (and my colleagues were no doubt thrilled about it). Yes, I was eagerly anticipating a break from the drudgery of daily domestic life, with its innumerable petty tasks and dreary, monotonous obligations. Also I really, really needed a break from our endlessly barking, endlessly shedding, horrible little monster of a dog. (It’s safe to say I have issues with that… oh, never have I so wanted to deploy the official technical term for a female dog. But this is a family blog, and I digress.) Anyway, so yeah… vacation. Lots of good stuff surrounds the idea of vacation, but the execution of this year’s trip had its potential downsides. To wit, these few things had me a little worried:

It was to be spent with extended family. This vacation was to be spent with my wife’s family. All of them. Seriously, all of them. Her mother, and father, and brother, and sister, and their significant others, and all their kids. Look, I love these people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have legally and contractually bound myself to one of them for the rest of my life. But that’s a lot of humans, in near-constant contact with me. As I have mentioned before, being around other members of my species for extended periods is weirdly difficult for me (and being around me can’t be a picnic for them, either).

It was early. I don’t know about you, but I want my summers to mean something. No, I don’t get three months off like my kids (or like I myself used to when I was an “educator”), but I like to at least have something to look forward to, and so in the past we have typically scheduled our vacations toward the end of the season: late July, maybe even early August. It’s a stupid hang-up, I know, but that’s the only kind I have, and for whatever reason these Memorial Day-ish vacations make me feel like I’m getting all the good stuff out of the way early so I can suffer for the rest of the miserable Midwestern summer. Make no mistake, I’m going to suffer either way, but I want to at least be able to pretend that I’m suffering for something. (My family’s me-fueled suffering is of course meaningless, regardless of season.)

Florida. Yep. We were goin’ to Florida. Look, I don’t want to disparage the residents of an entire state and/or the people who actually spend hard-earned funds to visit that state, but everyone in Florida is one meth binge away from robbing a liquor store and losing a limb to a gator. The only people who live there by choice are drug dealers who can’t afford plane fare to Bogotá and old people who just want a warm place to die that’s still within driving distance of their ungrateful children. That’s not supposition, friends, that’s science. There’s a reason “Florida Man” is a thing on the Internet. “The Sunshine State”? Pfft. They should change their license plates to read “The Bad Decision State.” Okay, the beaches are nice, and Walt Disney decided that its murderously hot and humid swampland would be the ideal home for the happiest most wallet-emptying place on earth… but Florida is basically the illegitimate love child of the Caribbean and Alabama: clear water and beautiful white sand beaches that you can only access by fighting your way through armies of backwoods-bred extras from Deliverance.

The deck was stacked against this vacation, is what I’m saying, so while I was anxious to get away, I can’t say that I was anxious to get there. But you know what? It was fine. No, it was actually good. Yes, once you got more than 50 yards away from the shoreline all there was to see was cut-rate nudie bars, sketchy tattoo parlors, cheap souvenir emporiums, and vaping stores. If you don’t like your food deep-fried, the Redneck Riviera may not be your best choice. Culture? If you call an evening watching heavily made-up middle-aged women swaying soulfully to a Fleetwood Mac cover band “culture,” then brother, the Emerald Coast is lousy with culture. Hey, that’s Florida. You gotta adjust your expectations.

My hideous feet. Not pictured: meth, alligators, dignity.
My hideous feet. Not pictured: meth, alligators, dignity.

Still… kicking back on the deck of your condo, watching the sun go down and drinking a cold beer? Eating fresh-caught fish? Touring a battleship? Sleeping late? Laughing with family? Those were good. Awesome, even.

I’ll admit, I’m a mountain guy, not a beach guy. Give me the choice between the Gulf and the Rockies, and the Colorado Tourism Board wins every time. But lying back on the beach, reading a book and catching a wee nap… feet stuck in the sand, waves crashing, breeze blowing, not a cloud in the perfect blue sky? There is not much better in this world, and I’d give anything to be back there right now.

That’s right. I miss Florida.

(Of course, it’s possible I might have inadvertently absorbed a non-trivial amount of meth while I was there. Don’t judge me; there’s a microscopic coating of it on every surface in the state. Florida: There’s a Little Meth in All of Us™)