Vacation: All I Ever Wanted… and Also Cancer


I know, I know. Cancer isn’t funny (despite my college friend’s hilarious and totally unexpected joke one day: “You know what’s funny?” – blank, expectant stares – “Cancer.”  – peals of hysterical laughter at the inappropriateness). And honestly, I’m not laughing this time. But I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.

So, my fight with the universe has at least led me to victory in the effort to get here to my Happy Place. I’ve now been here for 36 hours, having arrived late Sunday night after a daylong traveling adventure.

First there was the rich experience of people-watching at the airport, about which I could not resist writing an entry on the first flight. I say “first flight” because technically there were three to get me here. I flew from home to Milwaukee (because who doesn’t fly to Milwaukee on their way to Miami Beach?), had a three-hour layover, and then flew to Tampa, where we stopped to deboard/pick up about 100 passengers in what appeared to have been an even exchange. One of the flight attendants did an excellent job briefing the people in the emergency exit row, two rows ahead of me, about their duties. She was very thorough. She also told them how many people and babies were on the plane.

She told them three times.

That shouldn’t make me nervous, right?

My people-watching continued thanks to the family of the most stereotypically accurate New York Jews I’ve ever encountered. Now – don’t get me wrong – I have zero problem with where they’re from or what faith they practice. Zero. But people who unknowingly play directly into stereotypes crack me up, and this could have been a Seinfeld episode. Naturally, they sat right behind me, with the woman on the phone before takeoff with her apparently addle-minded mother (“Mom, did you have an awltuhcation with someone today? Did you have an awltuhcation? Did you have a disagreement with someone? I was told you had an awltuhcation.” and then “Okay, Mom, heah’s what weah gonna do” followed by the plan, and then, “Don’t you tell me no, Mommy! Don’t you deah tell me no, Mommy!” Mommy? You’re like 53 years old, you’re calling her “Mommy?”)  Meanwhile, her husband was next to her, lamenting repeatedly, “Oh, my Gawd. Shhhhhhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhh.” You know how some people actually shush louder than most people talk? Fascinating.

But they were very nice.

Incidentally, here’s what I don’t understand about airlines. Part of the reason for what can only be described as ridiculous ticket prices these days is the fuel, right? So why is it that a silly circuitous fuel-burning route from the east coast to Milwaukee to Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale costs less than any other flight on any other airline? Aside from the mind-numbing hours of travel which, I realized, totalled nearly what it would have taken me to just drive to My Happy Place, already.

Anyway. Once I got to Ft. Lauderdale I had to get my pre-paid shuttle to Miami Beach. I’ve done this more than once and I like the company I use, because they’re cheap and prepaid and it includes the tip. Sure, you share the ride with other people most of the time, but how bad is that? You’re on vacation. There’s no schedule and no need to be annoyed.

The people on my shuttle did not see it that way.

I dunno, it was late, they were travel-weary, I get that. They were good-humored, but with a bite. And I don’t think they understood our driver.

Our driver was a mildly deranged Russian guy whose name I never got, but who looked not a little like Telly Savalas. I wound up in the front passenger seat, which had been moved far forward to accomodate the gentleman seated behind me. No problem, I like sitting on the dashboard. Now, Telly was refreshingly unencumbered by the social pressures of driving within legal parameters. I thought it was a kick, but then, I was on the dashboard and could see better than the 25 people we seemed to have behind me, who were vocally concerned for their collective well-being. Telly, in what I believe was an effort to assuage their fears and convince them that he was more than capable, launched into a story about how his papa wuz chief of eh, somesing like troopers, same ting, in his hometown on Black Sea Coast. Telly drive since 12 years old. Wiss pillows under. Papa wuz very good friend wiss district attorney, there, very good friend, 50-some years. They like drink, and they like play card. In backseat. So, when they start drinking and playing card in backseat, Telly drive. And even though only 12, everyone know not pull over ziss car. Everyone know who car is ziss.

I was delighted by this story. The others were apparently only more concerned. They didn’t really get why he was telling it. Plus they kept alerting him to the pedestrians that kept wandering into the path of the van while he enthusiastically told his tale.

At one point, while most of the people behind me were chatting amongst themselves, Telly turned on the radio. Light rock. Chicago, “Will  You Still Love Me?” Interrupting everyone’s conversations, Telly bellowed: “A little muzik, eh? Not too much. Just little. Why not, right? EVERYBODY OKAY WITH AIR CONDITION?”

 I love this guy!

Very happy with the hotel, too. My trips to My Happy Place have been sort of like Goldilocks’ visit to the three bears, out of order. First hotel: fabulous, at a discount rate we’d never get again. Second hotel: tragic and horrible. Won’t make that mistake twice. The walls were paper thin, the doors were two inches off the floor, every word of every person’s conversation was clear from four rooms over, and not one member of the staff spoke English. I’m not a hater, but if you’re in the service industry and most of your visitors are Americans, you should probably speak some English. But this hotel is great: friendly staff, very helpful, lovely accomodations, lots of perks and extras, and the walls are the appropriate thickness. Except, I discovered, the bathroom wall. This morning I heard a man sneezing and thought he was actually in my bathroom.

The first full day of vacation dawned. Here’s what I love about the way I do vacation: no schedule. Do what you want, when you want. Eat what you want, when you want. It’s so great. Given the horrific sunburn I got last year, and the fact that my natural shade is surprisingly similar to the shade of Florida sand…

I match the beach!

…I slathered on the Coppertone Water Babies waterproof, oil free, unscented SPF 50 with zinc oxide and headed out. Yummy overpriced food: check. A walk to the drug store to fetch some bottled water, as well as deodorant and toothpaste, which I had forgotten to pack: check. Beach chair and towel from the hotel: check. Now. Beach.

This doesn't suck.

Ahhhhhhh. Yes. Toes in the sand, book at the ready, trashy magazines in the beach bag (I only read these on beach vacations), water bottle handy, sparkling, blue-green water in front of me, amusing people-watching… excellent.

Two and a half hours later:


How does this happen with Coppertone Water Babies waterproof, oil free, unscented SPF Freaking 50 with Freaking Zinc Freaking Oxide?!  Dammit!

Now I’m definitely getting cancer. After last May’s sun poisoning and now this, I’m definitely set. Crap.

So, then I was worried. I got a little anxious between coming back from the beach and dinner. I was starting to go a little downhill, mood-wise. The very real possibility of cancer will do that to you. I was already thinking about the conversation I would have to have with Jack about the diagnosis and how I would need him to be there for me, and how his emotional unavailability would be a problem. The awesome dress I was wearing to dinner  now matched my right arm and left shoulder. My friends were kind enough to pretend not to notice this.

Then we had sangria and authentic Peruvian food and that made it all better. Did you know sangria and authentic Peruvian food cures the possibility of cancer? Yup. It’s true.

But I only had one glass of sangria, because I was worried about dehydration in the wake of the fresh sunburn and last year’s sun poisoning.

Still, a good night.

Today, the debate is over whether to make it a shopping day so I can stay out of the sun. I do have a long-sleeved cover-up, but I’m pretty sure I would pass out from heat stroke if I wore it. And walking around from shop to shop won’t necessarily keep me shaded.

Maybe I should have Telly drive me…


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