in the spirit of no one else cares...
after missing an entire night of winks, i allowed myself to sleep in sunday morning, but only because i forgot to pull my swimsuit out from the bedroom (i was sleeping on the couch and brian and oliver were in the bedroom). we have a tradition in our family. when you are in florida, you rise at the crack of dawn, pull on your swimsuit, and bathe in a stream of sunscreen. then you walk down the beach on the eglin AFB side until you think you might collapse and be set on fire by the rising sun and then you turn around and realize you're nearly two miles away from the el matador (those are dad-estimated miles). it sits there looking tiny in the oceanspray haze and taunts you, refusing to get bigger at an acceptable pace. you swear you've learned your lesson. you do it again the next day. in previous non-child-rearing years, i have also engaged in a moderate afternoon walk. this does wonders for getting the dead skin off your feet. and it's not bad exercise either.
by the time i returned from the morning walk, brian and oliver were up. brian was non-functioning. the coffee he thought he had packed was sitting in our kitchen cabinet at home all pissed off that it had missed being vacation coffee. rather than send him off on his own to get lost in a beachside hamlet, i elected to drive him to the starbucks we had passed by the night before. it was quite the to-do to order a sack of coffee from the drive-thru window. i had no idea. i'm sure the people behind us cursed us for being schlubs.
we finally got back. we finally made coffee. we finally drank coffee. we finally got to the beach. we did our napping (well, i didn't nap, of course) and our wading and our lunching, etc.
that evening, we got fancy and ate in. i had made and frozen some seitan stew to bring with us, but it had suffered in the process. so, i subjected only myself to it. i reckon this was the night my parents were kind enough to watch oliver while brian and i took a short walk on the beach in the waning sunlight. we later tried meeting my parents at fort walton beach's iconic beach supply store, alvin's island. our arrival time coincided with oliver's cranky time and all hell broke loose quickly. he lasted long enough for us to get some tshirts and a ponies-in-the-surf beach towel for brian. then we fell asleep early like a bunch of 82 year olds.
monday morning, at the crack of dawn, i was up with the best of them. that would be dad. my suit was ready. my sunscreen was ready. my legs were ready. we didn't make it all the way to the space station because the breeze was dead and it had been killed by the steadily warming rays of the sun. we were whipped.
my dad told me about how he had assembled all this beach garbage washed up from the ocean into a little piece of street art. he made a car. it had four tires. maybe even a spare. it was a two-seater beach chair number with a stickshift. he wanted me to see it. i said that was okay, you go ahead, because he had also told me that someone had added to the affair by topping off the stickshift with the severed head of a sea bird. that's a little too fast for my tastes.
i think this was the day we crawled off the beach early so we could have a family dinner at the crab trap down the beach. we were going to go to destin for the required trip to the back porch, but the requirements changed when we considered oliver's grumpy time would be reached if we layered a 15 minute drive on top of our plans and the playground on the beach had been reported as no longer representative of its former glory. the crab trap had plenty of vegetable sides and lemonade daqiris and two sets of playground equipment. there was also a sunset that wouldn't quit. i didn't have my camera. brian and i bickered through it over a miscommunication.
tuesday morning, at the crack of dawn, i was up with the best of them. that would be dad. my suit was ready. my sunscreen was ready. my legs were ready. we made it all the way to the space station because there was cloud cover thwarting the steadily warming rays of the sun. we spent much time spinning our heads in circles to keep watch on the many storms circling the beach on both the ocean and bay sides. we decided not to dally at our victory destination. things weren't looking good. minutes later, we could see it was raining at the el matador. it disappeared behind a curtain of raindrops. a curtain of raindrops sounds enchanting and we were preparing to greet it with statements like "oh well... at least we're wearing our swimsuits." and then the curtain of raindrops met us face on and reminded me why people come in out of the rain.
the wind was kind enough to blow the sheets of heavy, thick drops right into our faces and bodies. ceaseless pelting of liquid pebbles. it stung. remind me never to get one of those raindrop showerheads. dad offered his tshirt. i reminded him he would then be without a tshirt and at least i had on my onepiece, thank god. he gave me his shirt anyway. i couldn't fight him while enshrouded in the rain hysteria. i draped it across my chest.
i couldn't see where i was going because of the water going directly into my eyes. i tried using my sunglasses, but it just rained down the inside of them. i tried shielding the top of them with my hands, but it only got me so far. i threw in the towel (if only i'd really had one!) and just hung my head low and squeezed my eyelids and trudged like a robot. it finally started to let up once we got close to the boardwalk. we had seen the blinds of one of our room's windows go up. aha! they're worried about us! then they were back down. aha! they're not all that worried about us!
we arrived looking like drowned rats. brian told me later that we had smelled like puppy dogs. i suppose bathing in rainwater isn't all it's cracked up to be. however, it was a fabulous day for rainbows. it was like one big lisa frank sticker out there. i was enamoured. i was in the fifth grade all over again and wanting to wear that purple headband i had gotten for my birthday, with which i had never had the balls to leave my bedroom.
since it was still threatening to rain, brian, oliver, and i hopped in the car and tried out round 2 at alvin's island. we also trotted over to the Miracle Strip and parked behind the shops on this fancy, hidden street that looked out over the bay. there was the most fabulous, shaded playground ever back there. i promised we would come back. and then i broke my promise.
in addition to rainbows, it was also a fabulous day for mossy water. oh, well. it started out clear enough that i was able to coax myself out into it to surfride. i'm creeped out by seaweed and beside myself with willies when i think about being in the same bathwater as every creature in the ocean. i don't tolerate being touched by fish or stung by jellyfish tentacles (there were a lot of them) or eaten by sharks very well. and yes, there were sharks swimming a couple of feet off shore. they were sandsharks, but still.
since my nephew was busy getting stung by all the jellyfish over and over again, i thought i might be safe if i could just stay far enough away from him. then, i started getting that high you get when you catch a good wave, but it's just not long enough and you need more of that feeling and you go back again and again and you remember you forgot to reapply sunscreen after lunch, but you just can't break away long enough and then your back is beet red and your chloasma is having a track and field day on your face and beating you at the three-legged race and your hair is stuck down to your head with a combination of saltwater and sweat and ugly and you feel like you need a paper bag for your head. but, it was a lot of fun. and i didn't get eaten by anything.
at some point that day, the family from louisiana that was vacationing under the tarp next to our umbrellas invited oliver over for a playdate with their youngest daughter. they had a big time. i was nervous this would mean i would be trapped hanging out with strangers for the remainder of my beachtime, but it was only for that little bit and then fate would render our beach schedules out of sync.
we stayed in again that evening and had spaghetti. we took oliver to the courtyard to play ball, but he tried to lead us to the beach instead. while walking down the boardwalk, we spotted some youngsters who had pulled a couch down to the sand. i said “oh no... tell me they didn’t take a couch from their room.” the middle school-aged boy walking in front of us turned around and said “WHAT!” and i said “what” and he turned without responding and the 12 year old in me came out and said “WHAT WHAT”. he was a junior member of the sandy couch crew.
we passed the security guard heading down there as we were going back up and we gave him supportive looks and rumblings. we spent the next hour delighting from our excellent view from the condo of the couch scene down below. it didn’t take us long to ascertain they were rednecks. it turned out the couch had come from a dumpster or, at least, that’s where it later ended up.
the guard seemed to be asking them to move the couch. when he came back later and they were still in the same spot watching their ocean water sitcom, they scurried to their feet and began ROLLING the couch several yards over to the AFB side of the fence. i prayed some uptight looking people in berets and carrying rifles would show up next. there was a tremendous amount of gesticulating and the guard left. the gesticulations continued and various people would approach the hooligans. one of them wore shiny pink things. they seemed to be giving the teens grief, but then would look like best friends. one couple even had their photo taken while they posed on the couch. ugh! they’re nothing but urchins! don’t encourage them!
one of the guys had paid careful attention to what was probably his daddy’s posturing. he wore these knee-length denim shorts with an unbuttoned shirt and a red louisiana ball cap. he would throw a hand on one hip and wave his sports drink around with the other. a redneck-in-training!
anyhow, their justice was never served and we watched them fade into the darkness.
wednesday morning, my father left at some crazy hour like 5:30am to take my mother to the fort walton beach airport for her flight home. he was back by normal getting up time.
rain clouds threatened again and this time, dad and i heeded their warnings and watched the gorgeous view from our balcony.
it sprinkled off and on. leon sat on the beach, determined to enjoy his last morning, alternating between snoozing, reading, and watching the water. my sister watched him.
as i’ve already written, the sun finally came out and we made it down to the beach for a short spell before lunchtime and for the tragic event that we would watch transpire before we could make it up to our macaroni.
for awhile after returning from the trip, i kept finding ghosts in my photos.
we did get back down to the beach that afternoon. it was also my brother-in-law’s birthday and we all went to panda’s for chinese. brian and i navigated some rocky language waters with our waitress and eventually received some awesome tofu and vegetables. the waitress would stop to coo in broken english over oliver and his puzzle-working abilities.
after dinner, we popped into my sister's condo, which looked like where the bombay company went to die, for presents and conversation.
and he still turned into lobster boy.
jeff and his transformers birthday card.