Florida Day 1

Morning came quickly, and while I was not entirely ready for it, I didn’t let my fatigue bother me because I was on my way to Florida — my home state! There really is nothing like knowing you will be in Florida when you go to sleep. I popped a bag of popcorn, grabbed my suitcase and squeezed myself into the car with Jessica and Shadow.

We had to take a backroad to get to Sandy’s house, the woman who watches Shadow while we are away, and the road was covered with ruts. It was ridiculous, almost like you were on a safari, only I don’t approve of hunting and there was no big game — and unfortunately, we were not in Africa. After bumping our way to Minburn, we dropped Shadow off, who was excited to see Sandy, and set off for the airport.

Father suggested that Jessica grab some breakfast at McDonald’s instead of wasting time in the airport. She agreed to this much to my dissatisfaction. I sometimes think that my family eats crappy food just to spite me. So, we pulled into the parking lot so that Ma and Jess could run in. Pa and I were amused by a man who looked exactly like Tiger Woods searching through the Redbox movies — the resemblance was uncanny. I was delighted when he rented My Life in Ruins. 

Once we were on Fleur Drive, Pa claimed he saw a snowflake. My heart was in my throat, my skin crawling, a thrill of terror coursed through my veins at the thought of the demon ice. Ma immediately disbelieved him and asked what he had been smoking. Then, I began to see them, then Jessica, then so much was falling that Ma could no longer doubt the fact that it was indeed snowing — she never did apologize.

After we unloaded, took the shuttle across the road, and checked our luggage, it was time to go through security. I carry a lot of gadgets, so the TSA folks immediately thought I was a terrorist. They looked at my iPad and Kindle as if they were nuclear warheads from a far-distant planet, then informed me that they were going to rescan them. I shrugged, wondering why, I had checked the government’s website and neither needs to go through alone. Oh well, I made it to the other side eventually.

In front of me was the world’s stupidest traveler. I can hardly believe he knows how to breathe. He wouldn’t take his laptop out of his bag for the longest time. Then, when he did, he put the bag on top of it, followed by his shoes and coat. Then when they got that sorted out, he wouldn’t take off his stocking cap. He looked wild eyed all around and I was sure that he was going to whip out a knife. When we were both through, I finally just grabbed my things and shoved past him, it was ridiculous!

We had about an hour to wait to board the plane, so I bought an espresso from Friedrichs Coffee. This easily ranks up amongst the worst I have ever had, and I have tried a multitude of mediocre brews. It tasted burnt and of styrofoam. I gulped it down for the caffeine and threw away the cup. Then, I felt guilty about how disposable everything was — it was going to sit in a landfill for a good many years and damage the planet just so that I could have a shot of caffeine that I did not really need. I sat in my worn faux-leather lounge seat for a good long while thinking of solutions to this inconvenient truth. I finally settled on universal ceramic coffee mugs that would be sold for low prices. I don’t know if it will ever catch on. If I ever do start a coffee shop/bakery like I would like to I will certainly have some kind of eco-program to reduce waste.

Then, when in the restroom, I wondered whether paper towels or electric hand dryers were more green. Electric ones use energy but create no waste — aside from the carbon in the atmosphere. Paper towels aren’t recycled after they are used, just trashed, and they have to go through a long, laborious transformation from pulp to paper. Turns out electric dryers are much more efficient, but still troublesome. As time moves forward, they are becoming more energy efficient and some, like the Dyson Airblade are almost carbon neutral. (If you haven’t tried one of these yet, they are amazing!)

Pa got grumpy, then Ma got grumpy. Jessica wasn’t grumpy, yet.

All the songs on the radio were songs that I loved from Madonna to Florence + the Machine. I wondered if this had any kind of significance. I sat and pondered, but could come to nothing that made sense. Either way, I enjoyed singing along to the songs.

There was a guy my age waiting to board the plane who had a huge badass watch. I wanted one — I will get one.

About a half hour before we were due to depart, we were allowed to start boarding. Jessica and I acted like idiots and every time our row wasn’t called we made loud, rude, scoffing sounds. So what? Who cares?

We were finally in our seats, and still acting like idiots. It’s hard to explain now, but it involved lighting the engines up with a large lighter and flipping off small children. Sounds stupid now, but at the time, it was the epitome of humor. Jessica openly mocked the flight attendants. One of them looked amazingly like Rebecca from the second cycle of Canada’s Next Top Model. I was almost convinced it was her when she was in profile, but straight on her nose was nothing like Rebecca’s.

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While we were in the air, I read the first digital issue of Martha Stewart Living and was blown away. This is truly a revolution in what was once called print media. There is simply no going back to paper when the regular features are studded with videos, scrollable images, pictures that you can zoom in on for greater detail, before/after images, audio, social connectivity, and more. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface on why I think this is how magazines will be within the coming years. If they all have the creativity of Living, I think this sector will explode! I need to start a magazine.

One of the articles was about a room decorating contest where you could vote on who did a better job. Both of the designers did a great job, but I was smitten with the room Kevin Sharkey did, even if he did go a little overboard with the floral scheme. Out of everything he did, what inspired and delighted me the most was putting a loud floral print wallpaper on the ceiling and framing it with wide moulding. At first glance, it was rather ugly, but as you studied the room, it transformed before your eyes (in your mind) and the wallpaper ceiling was really what did it. I have a house to redesign and I am so going to do this when I start that massive project.

When the ground suddenly become studded with lakes, we knew we were close to landing, and then when my ears began to pop with the pressure changes, I knew for sure we were approaching our final destination. I watched with delight as we descended further and further, each second coming closer to the ground. I loved seeing the palm trees, the pools, the green and warmth! Every time I come here I am amazed that there are people who actually live here! I have lived in a place with harsh winters all my life and I hate it — almost everybody hates it, and here is this magical place where that yearly issue is nonexistent. I cannot understand why I don’t live here, and even as I type this, I wonder why I don’t work harder to relocate. When I said that I wasn’t coming back in my last blog post, I was only kidding, but now that feeling is much more serious. I may stay if any opportunity presents itself.

Then with a bump we landed and Jessica flipped her bitch switch. Oh my god, it was like she was suddenly possessed by one of Hell’s more irritating and repetitive demons. She wanted to go the Waffle House. Earlier, we had decided that we would go to the Rose & Crown Pub in EPCOT at Disney, and then go to Waffle House later in the evening for a guilty snack. But no, she wanted hashbrowns NOW! It was frightening to watch her devolve into a four-year-old, but I should be used to it now, and should not have been surprised when she got her way just to get her to shut up.

Before we went to the Waffle House, though, we had to get a rental car and pick up our luggage. We stood around that rotating belt for what felt like hours. I felt the strong urge to act out a scene from Absolutely Fabulous were Patsy and Eddie run along the conveyer belt, looking for their bag of drugs. Hilarious! Of course, I didn’t, but someday I want to.

Ma got sick of waiting so she went to get the rental car. Pa and I stood around for a long time — singing. This surely annoyed the others around us, but it was fun. We did a rendition of Walkin’ After Midnight that was all about waiting for luggage and then started doing a terrible cover of I’m the Only One. It really was awful, we got more than a few weird looks for that one. Whatever, though. The luggage came and we ran to get away from there.

The weather was gorgeous! Warm, not too hot, a nice touch of humidity, sunshine, and a pleasant breeze. I could have stood there that first moment forever. We were off to get our rental car, and I was disappointed by it. It is just an ugly little car that I barely fit into. We were supposed to get a badass Hummer, but Jessica claims that she is “scared” of them, so we got this nasty common thing. I suppose it doesn’t really matter that much though, it gets us from one place to the other.

It wasn’t long until we pulled up to the gates of Old Key West and after we were told “Welcome home,” by the exceedingly corpulent gatekeeper, we made our way to the front office to check in. Pa and I walked to the pool while Ma got the keys and felt the wonderfully warm water then sat in the sizzlingly hot sauna for a few minutes. It was all wonderful. I love Florida!

Once inside the room, we tried to hook up the Internet. It always amazes me that the more you spend per night for a room, the more likely it is that you will pay outrageous sums of money for Internet access. Here it costs ten dollars per day (PER DAY!) for Ethernet access! At the Microtel, it’s free for wireless internet (FREE)! I hooked it up to my laptop, and then used a clever new trick I discovered to turn Mac laptops into a router, so we can use all of our gadgets wirelessly without having them plugged in for service.

By this time, Jessica was physically throwing herself across the room, screaming about how hungry she was and how upset she was. It was ridiculous, and I didn’t make the situation any better by throwing fuel on the flames — but she was just out of her mind.

So, we went to the Waffle House. There is no way that place is acceptable for vegetarians, but I understand that every once in a while a hint of meat is inevitable, especially when there is only a communal griddle. I had a big portion of hashbrowns that were very good and a waffle, which wasn’t.

The waiter was a young man from Boston who wasn’t all there…up there, if you know what I mean. This was simultaneously charming and sad. It took him a lot of rambling to get his point across, but he did manage it. He was very friendly. My father even called him a “good kid” which is something he never does — he hates everybody!

Now that Jessica’s hunger was vanquished — temporarily, at least — we could now head to my favorite park, EPCOT! I love everything about it there, all the cultures, all the music, all the technology, it’s like my brain exploded and EPCOT grew out of it. We were lucky enough to be there on the last day of the Food & Wine Festival and were able to get a peek at all the vendors. Ma and I tried a little dessert sampler which was incredibly disappointing. The Dark Chocolate Delight was nothing more than a mini chocolate cupcake that was dry. There was a strawberry shortcake and a little pear cake also. The pear cake was decent.

We looked in at the Mexican restaurant. There was nothing there that anybody was particularly enthused about, so they decided not to go there this week. I wanted to thank the sweet Lord Jesus as there was nothing there I would have eaten. Bean burritos aren’t that thrilling. One of the shops sells ceramic skulls for Día de los Muertos, my favorite holiday that I have never celebrated, and I am going to buy one of those before we leave. They are wonderfully macabre.

We poked our noses into the bakery at Norway, and were underwhelmed by what we saw. Very plain. There was a vegetable tart that I want to pick up for lunch one day, it looks quite nice. We went on the boat ride here. I never understand the point of this ride, there are woodland spirits that try to destroy you for some reason and then you end up in a Norwegian port? It doesn’t make any sense.

I was rapturously happy looking around all these places, but Jessica was pissed again because she wanted fish and chips NOW. I couldn’t look around as much as I would have liked because we had to rush to keep her happy. I had time to look inside the new Karmel Kuche in Germany while she was having a tantrum. I didn’t like this place at all — I really don’t like caramel. (I’ve noticed that I write a lot about what I don’t like, and that may make me sound snobbish or as if I didn’t enjoy myself, but I definitely did!) I swear to the sweet baby Jesus that I saw Michael Moore in there. Whoever it was looked exactly like him!

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There is a restaurant at the Italian pavilion that I never noticed before that looks like it would be good. There is too much food to try for one trip! I posed for a few pictures before hurrying along to the United Kingdom for some fish and chips.

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I, of course, abstained from this and had a few fries as Jessica growled while she chewed. She can be a caveperson sometimes.

Ma and I went into the Twining’s tea shop. I enjoyed looking at all the china cups and tea varieties. I have never been a fan of tea, but the vast assortment is always fun to see.

We finished our loop around the lagoon where Jessica bought a bit of cheese soup from the Canadians and I bought some spanakopita from the Greeks. It was exceedingly good!

Then, we abandoned Jessica and hurried onto the monorail to spend some time in the Magic Kingdom as they were open a few hours later for guests of the Disney resorts.

Pa enjoyed riding the Haunted Mansion in the dark — he finds it gives the ride a more authentic feel. I was intrigued by the improvements I notice every time I go there, or a detail I’ve never before noticed. I love the storyline of the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris, so, I was glad to see that there is a much more developed story in the room with the bride. I used to be terrified of her unearthly blue flesh, but now she looks very real and very intriguing.

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We were stunned by the beautiful lights that were on the Castle. It was coated in light and was amazing. We studied the mosaics inside in detail on the inside of the castle. I have always wanted to create a mosaic, but it looks incredibly detailed and exhausting. I’ll stick to my colored pencils and watercolors for now!

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Then, we bought some snacks at the bakery. Pa had a slice of chocolate cake that he ate before I had a chance to get a sample, and I had a chocolate muffin that was decent. Their croissants are odd looking, and I want to try them to see what they taste like. The clerk was also not all there…up there. She looked at me and said, “What’s you name?” Thinking she was just friendly, I answered. She slowly blinked, pivoted on her heels to my father and said, “What’s your name?” He answered cautiously. She slowly blinked and then pivoted on her heels to my mother, only to ask, “What’s you name?” She answered. Then the clerk said. “Have a good night, Ben….Gale…………..Missy.” Slow, creepy smile.

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After we got back to the resort, Ma and I went to Walmart to pick up some supplies that we needed. I love grocery shopping and looking for weird or new ingredients. I was delighted to come across a section devoted entirely to food for English tourists. It was neat to see all the candies and drinks that I hadn’t seen since my last trip to London. They even had Plugra butter! Couldn’t find any peanuts in the entire place, though, for some reason. Maybe Floridians don’t eat them? I doubt that.

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After leaving Walmart we stopped at the gas station to find a cold Diet Pepsi Caffeine Free for Pa. There was a crazy woman in pajamas who kept screaming at the door — creepy!

And that’s that. I’m exhausted. I’m going to try and go for a swim in the morning.

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