Pilgrims and Palm Trees


The weekend has been long, a six day kind of weekend that only maybe Thanksgiving can typically provide but people like us seem to make simple work of, given our bartending or vandwelling lifestyles. Heinekens were passed around a large glass table in the beating mid day air before the affairs of turkey and footballs and pumpkin cheesecake and getting too stuffed and everyone drinking themselves sober could settle in. A long weekend could easily lead to paragraphs upon chapters upon entire stories of information but I will make an attempt here at being succinct, if not to test my ability to convey everything that this six pack weekend has been then at least to save space in your todaily reading.

He, her father, handed her the keys to his Cadillac and after she backed it into her brother’s sporty little Nissan of a ride she decided to let me drive us around for the weekend. Southern Florida, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, that warmest of the two American seas, is fond of Led Zeppelin and Guns n’ Roses filling it’s airwaves and so I would sing out a lung as we drove to the Everglades or toured up and down the coastal highway lanes that lead from Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood, Florida. The armrest found itself unwanted as we made the entire front bench of that silver stylish ride our playground and though we drank and drank–Bloody Mary meet Tangerine Mimosa mornings or Yuenglings on the Broadwalk or otherwise–we could never seem to get drunk.

Our boat tour through the Everglades, an air boat to be exact, the wide and flat kind with the giant fan on the back to send you spiraling and back end sliding around alligator stuffed watery turns, was packed. A pavilion where our fellow tourists all stuffed themselves into and under, waiting for the boat to arrive, all hoping, vying for the opportunity to get whatever type of seat they particularly felt was the best, sat on the edge of the water, fenced off to prevent a day of easy sightseeing from being a bloody disaster of alligator teeth and human limb loss. She and I sat on a bench just behind the pavilion, unconcerned about the immediacy of preplanning our boatride positioning, her wrapped in a blanket to stay warm and me content with the happiness on her face after I’d disappeared for a moment to buy it for her. When the tour guide called out “Do we have any parties of two?” we knew we were set. The thick crowd parted and her and I walked between them and their binoculars and khaki shorts and oversized suburban bellies and were given the front seat on the ship. After everyone boarded and the roar of the motor spun the fans, pushed us all forward, everyone behind us save the voice of the lady tour guide and her bad jokes disappeared. A few alligators sunned on the banks of the swamp, grackles and deerlike things that you’ve never seen in zoos or picture books displayed their stunning to us and pigs or boars or hogs or something shared a Thanksgiving weekend dinner with seagulls and pigeons and whatever other assortment of bird had come to live here in this spectacular Floridian paradise. When it was over, we got back into the Cadillac, lit cigarettes and drove off as though it was just another second in the minute of life and every tic on our toc more spectacular as the last.

Downtown Hollywood, a small and laid back area with maybe one or two streets of retail and restaurant, was as alive as I suppose it ever is as fancy clothes wore rich old couples into Italian cuisine to dos and twenty young somethings crawled into salsa bars and places where the women come clad in nothing but scant and tend to be swinging around poles or up on the bar. We walked passed a place, dark inside but more serene and easy charming than dive bar, and she asked if we should go in. We were looking for alcohol and so when we sat down at the bar, nearly packed but, as was near typically always the case, two adjacent seats remaining as though they were placed simply for us, and the man behind told us he’d fix us some tea we said thank you and looked at one another with a laugh. The place had a giant sort of sculpture of a tree all wound through it, from the bar to the mirrored area of the back wall, up around the ceiling where laserbeam stars moved so slowly you wondered if your eyes had taken up games of magic for the tricks they were playing. He sat the tea in front of us, it was in some type of small wooden cup and another wooden bowl full of pineapple slices accompanied.

“This is kava. You drink it like a shot and use the pineapple for a chaser,” he said. He was slow and deliberate in his speech and made no attempt at smiling or being overly hospitable.

“Use the pineapple as a chaser,” a woman called down to us from the end of the bar.

“I recommend,” the barman continued, “having three to five if it’s your first time. The flavor is difficult at best, it takes a little getting used to. The affect is something like taking a valium.”

“Like spicy dirt water,” the woman interjected. The bartender walked away and we looked at one another. Down the hatch. It tasted like nothing, lukewarm water, on the way down but when it was swallowed a bitter dirt flavor filled your mouth. We devoured the pineapple. I don’t think my lady companion was interested in trying another at first, but when I mentioned that I would be she joined me, and before we’d left, after more than one person chatted us up a bit and my limbs began to tingle, my mouth numbing and her not so much, we’d had three of them. Walking down the street, trying to find a bar where alcohol is served and quickly, my entire back and arms were feeling strange enough to make me wonder if I had actually just been drinking minithin water or better. We found our bar, drank our beers, laughed and played games and joked into the night and said how we’d go back and try again some day, which we never did. We made plans all weekend, things to do, places to eat, rollercoasters to ride, but every day was so packed with everything, three events by noon, five by dinnertime, seven before the day was over, but not a single one rushed and nothing at all similar to the hectic itinerary your parents might plan on a trip to Disneyland. More like watching dominos fall through water, slow, easy and neverending. It didn’t matter that we made plans that never happened, because wherever we went, whatever we do, the universe seems to unravel a little, opening doors and bringing around the most beautiful elements, combining atoms in as perfect a manner as possible.