It took me less than five minutes to pack for an eight day excursion to Florida. I condensed everything into my small backpack which is the size of a traditional book bag. Last November, Nicky and I spent a week or so in Amsterdam and all I brought was the small bag. I know that any trip under four days can be accomplished with the smaller bag. I proved that I could do up to six weeks with just the bigger backpack.
I went with a third option, a medium bag for this trip. It fits in the overhead compartment on any plane so it really wasn't a problem to take with me. I had some beachy materials I wanted to bring to Florida along with a book for Jerry and something for AlCantHang. I also realized that if I acquired any items on my journey... I'd have no space for them with the small bag. I upgraded and had plenty of room in there.
The cab picked me up in front of my brother's apartment. I was already there when I went downstairs five minutes early. The streets were empty and we got to the airport in record time. JetBlue flights to various destinations in Florida out of LaGuardia. So I didn't have to trek all the way out to JFK, which is like $20 more and up to forty-five minutes to an hour longer depending on traffic.
The flight to Ft. Lauderdale was on time and half-empty. Or half-full. I had only two people behind me on the plane and I was about 2/3 down in seat 20. I watched the History of Rock & Roll on VH1 Classics before I shut it off to listen to the Yankees game on XM radio, while I thumbed through a Tom Robbins book that I brought with me.
The rental car was super cheap and it took longer to walk from the gate to the rental car building than it took to check-in and get out of the airport.
AlCantHang assigned me a special mission. He sent me an email that went something like this:
2 handles of SocoHe wanted me to load up on supplies before his arrival to Florida. I didn't ask if that batch would be just for the ride from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West or if that was just the first day of provisions. I just followed orders. I looked up liquor stores via Google and found one.
2 handles of Stoli
1 fifth of Jack Daniels
1 fifth of Cuervo
1 fifth of Bacardi Rum
big honkin bottle(s) of whatever you want
I didn't realize that I had driven into a sketchy part of north Miami. If I had been paying attention to the desperation on the street or all of the random folks milling around, I would have spotted that I was on the wrong side of the tracks.
I was too busy finding the proper address. I pulled into a gravel parking lot with a small store. It was pink with big black letters that read, LIQUOR, except that the Q was worn down and it looked more like LICUOR. Unless that's was the artist's original intention and the joke was on me.
As soon as I left the car, three young ruffians approached me. I had about two seconds to size up the situation. I stopped and they sped up. I whirled around and briskly returned to my car. I one swift motion, I opened the door, slid into the seat and started the ignition before I could even close the door. The rental car had automatic locks and as soon as I heard that click, I slammed on the gas and headed for the parking lot exit. Disaster averted.
I drove back towards Jerry's house and decided to go buy a few hundred dollars worth of booze in a safer neighborhood. Luckily I found one about three minutes from his house. The staff was friendly and wore the same t-shirt. One big dude about the size of an NFL lineman quickly found the bottles for me and packed them in a box. He even offered to walk me out to the parking lot. The roving band of ruffians often jump people walking back to their cars. I had an security escort, with a big can of mace dangling from his side.
He placed the bottles in the trunk and I offered him a $10 tip for the assistance.
"Whoa man!" he said as he put his arms up in horror. "Don't flash money like that here. We can both get shot."
He backpedaled and quickly walked back inside the liquor store, glancing over his shoulders twice.
I sent AlCantHang a text message telling him that the mission was accomplished and how avoided a potential flare up with enemy combatants.
Jerry and his family were celebrating the high holidays outside of Miami and wouldn't be home until the early evening. He told me to make myself at home, which I quickly did. I fired up college football on his TV and played online poker. I went out to grab a bite to eat. I drove around and found a Denny's. The service was atrocious, but that's par for the course at Denny's. But even the worst food service you get in America is better than the best service you get in Europe. I had become super patient after eating out a lot during my six-week trip and wasn't expecting constant attention from my server.
I went back and hung out with Jerry and Sara while we watched the end of the Alabama/Georgia game. I eventually fell asleep and woke up around 5am. I sat at the dinning room table while everyone was still asleep. I logged onto PokerStars to play Pot Limit Omaha. Jerry's cats scurried around looking for attention. I spotted a tiny grey lizard and pointed it out to the cat. With one swift move, the cat pounced and tore the lizard's tail off. The lizard limped off and ran towards the wall. The chase ensued with the cat trapping the lizard in the corner.
I looked down at my feet and say a tiny piece of tail flopping around. It was trippy. I went to pick it up when another cat came over and swallowed it whole. Cats eating lizard tails. Just another Sunday morning in Miami.
When the twins woke up, we went to a local dinner. Amazing omelete with bacon and sausage and cheese. Back at home, I read Curious George books to the twins. I didn't bother to explain to them the horrible racial undertones and the subdued homosexuality of the man with the yellow hat.
I eventually packed up my gear and went to the airport to meet AlCantHang's posse. I dropped off my rental car and joined Al's van that would safely guide us to Key West.
He rented a house and I opted for a hotel room. I wanted to have some space to write without any distractions and could hang out at the house for the other 90% of the time I didn't want to be alone. The hotel was located in the heart of Key West. It was perfect because I could frequent the bars then stumble home shitfaced and it would only be a block or two away instead of a fifteen walk to Al's pad.
I checked into my room, jumped in the shower, and headed back to the AlCantHang Compound to watch the end of the football games and to... party. Hard. Like rock stars. The first day of a seven day bender commenced.