Orlando Vacation, Day 5: A Childhood Florida Fantasy


Wow, S.Hooligan actually looked pleasant for a brief second at Universal. I'm assuming it wasn't just because I wasn't there.

Wow, S.Hooligan actually looked pleasant for a brief second at Universal. I’m assuming it wasn’t just because I wasn’t there.

I got up to have breakfast with Diamondqueen and the Hooligans in the Bayline Diner, but afterward we parted ways, they to the shuttle stop, me back to the room.

I was discouraged to realize every muscle and joint in my body ached–nothing vacation related, just something that crops up every so often. I knew a cup of coffee might have helped, but it was just so damn hot for that. I take ibuprofen regularly through the day anyhow, so there wasn’t much else I could do with the discomfort but put up with it.

I didn’t want to upset the housekeeping routine again, so when I got to the room I put my glasses and purse on the breakfast bar and parked my sandals nearby, then took my pillow into the bedroom and lay down on the unused side of Josh’s bed. I dozed until I heard a knock and the familiar call “Housekeeping!”

I yelled “Just a minute,” grabbed my things, and opened the door, explaining I was on my way out and she could go right to work. I remembered as I scuttled down the hall that I should have spoken slower since many of the housekeepers didn’t seem to know a lot of English. My guess was that she was only too used to being babbled at by harried, rude resort guests.

I returned to my lounge chair under the palm tree; that section of the pool area was in the shadow of the other hotel tower. I kicked off my sandals and stretched out, gazing up at the palm fronds, which weren’t moving as much this morning. It was going to be another scorching day, but for then I had it made in the shade. I massaged various pressure points to try to relief some of the soreness and just relaxed.

Soon the speakers rasped awake with oldies from the ’60s and ’70s. I smiled when “Help me, Rhonda” came on. The Beach Boys, and any song from 1964 or 1965 for that matter, took me right back to childhood summers like a time machine. I remembered I had quite a thing for Florida back then, even though I’d never been there. Maybe it was because a neighbor vacationed there every year. Whenever anyone said “beach,” I immediately thought of Florida. I guess I’d seen snippets of “beach party” movies and soft drink commercials to fill in the visuals: sand, surf, collecting shells, tossing beach balls, sunbathing on enormous towels.

Sometimes I’d lie in three inches of cool water in our claw-foot bathtub and pretend I was floating in the ocean. I’d also spread a bath towel on our concrete driveway and stretch out in the sun, pretending I was surrounded by sand and surfers. Once I even scattered a few seashells–a gift from that same Florida-bound neighbor–around the blanket to heighten the effect. When I got too warm (I never did truly enjoy lying in the sun), I’d turn the garden hose on my feet and ankles and imagine I’d gone wading in the waves.

Now, although I was lying near a swimming pool, not on a beach, I wallowed in the classic Florida moment I was experiencing and waved at my young self sunbathing in the driveway. I actually had been to a Florida beach decades before–when I went to Clown College in Venice, our old-fashioned motel was right on the Gulf. That, though, had a different purpose and a different feel. With the oldies in the air and the retro setting of the resort all around me, I really did feel I’d entered some vintage Florida postcard.

When I’d lounged there long enough and felt sure the housekeeper had finished putting things in order, I returned to the room. I curled up on the sofa and dozed again–pain always wears me out, and I had a cumulative fatigue from the exertions of our week on the go.

I didn’t stay down long, though, eager to get back out to the pool, this time to swim. I was determined to get into that pool before we left Florida. After donning sunscreen, my suit, and the coverup I’d made by crocheting a wide edge around the bottom of an unwanted summer top, I checked my Kindle Fire for e-mail and Facebook updates. Diamondqueen had posted that J.Hooligan had already gotten enough sun for one day and had started back alone.

I was impressed. Diamondqueen didn’t trust J. to cross a parking lot safely. I also was impressed with J. himself, who didn’t do much on his own but volunteer at the library and take long walks around the neighborhood.

I scribbled out a note (“I’m at the pool. If you have any trouble with the door, come get me.”) and stuck it in the slot for the key card, then went on outside.

I wanted to try the whirlpool first since I thought it might help relieve all the muscle/joint pain I was having. The stated temperature of the whirlpool water was only about eight degrees hotter than the surface air, so I was wary of spending too much time in there, especially alone. The hot water was soothing, though, and the bubbling jets gave me a mini massage.

After about ten minutes I moved to the swimming pool. I expected the water to be freezing after the heated whirlpool, but it was simply refreshing. There weren’t many people in my end of the pool yet, so I glided back and forth easily and floated on my back without concern, staring up at the glare-whitened sky.

At one point I tried the whirlpool again, since I was still sore, then swam awhile longer. I’m a lazy, relaxed swimmer, gliding more than stroking, but I rarely stop when I’m in the water. It was delicious and rejuvenating, but eventually I was ready to go back inside.

J.Hooligan was there and had had no problems finding the shuttle stop. I congratulated him, then I took a shower and dozed or did hand quilting until Diamondqueen and S.Hooligan returned later in the afternoon.

At Pat O'Brien's. Sans alcohol, unfortunately.

At Pat O’Brien’s. Sans alcohol, unfortunately.

For our last evening, I suggested that before the other three returned to the Universal parks, we might find somewhere to eat in the Citywalk area. We debated one option or another as we roamed around, then I spotted a Pat O’Brien’s, which was supposed to be a recreation of the original in New Orleans. The posted menu appeared suitable for all four of us, so we went inside.

I’d thought about having another margarita, but they were expensive, plus I wasn’t sure how I’d react–the all-day muscle aches were resolving into a behind the jaw and across the face headache, which usually happens, and I didn’t want to make it worse with booze.

I’d always wanted to try a shrimp po’ boy, and I figured here the sandwich would be authentic. Maybe it was, but I didn’t find it that interesting. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the oyster po’ boys I get at the BrewRiver GastroPub in Cincinnati (I definitely missed the aioli and pickled ginger) .

There was only one piano player instead of two of them dueling it out, but he was playing a nice selection of Sinatra and Bennett classics. I pointed out to J.Hooligan that this just the kind of thing Billy Joel was describing in “Piano Man,” one of J.’s favorite songs. We urged him to request “Piano Man,” although I was a little afraid this was akin to asking a bluegrass band to play “Rocky Top.” J.Hooligan refused to do it anyhow. We did convince him to go up and put our tip money in the pianist’s glass. Of course, he wouldn’t do it until I said I’d come along. I walked him to the bottom of the stage steps, then J. sprinted up and jammed the money in the glass.

Outside, we prepared to go our separate ways. Apparently J. didn’t understand I wasn’t coming along. He said, “Well, maybe I’ll stay here and hang out with you.” I still don’t know if he felt sorry for me being by myself or was simply too tired for any more rides, but I said quickly, “Oh, it’s your last night. You don’t want to hang around with me.” I’d already noticed the look on Diamondqueen’s face when she cried, “J., you’re not coming with us?”

Part of Citywalk, looking toward the theme parks.

Part of Citywalk, looking toward the theme parks.

So they went on, and I drifted here and there, checking out shops and gazing down on the passing parade from the overhead walkways. At one point I thought maybe I could buy a ride on one of the boats I saw pulling in and out on a canal-like stretch of water, but then I realized they were shuttle boats taking guests back and forth from one of the other resort hotels.

I would have liked to stay until dusk and see everything lit up, but the heat was still unforgiving and I was nursing that jaw pain. Back in the room, I organized all my stuff, set out medications for the evening and morning, and generally prepared for our departure the next day. Not too much later J.Hooligan arrived, alone, then Diamondqueen and S.Hooligan even later. I was toggling between “West Side Story” on TCM and MSNBC. News of the Brexit vote had broken; alarms were ringing and pundits were revving up their dire predictions.

At one point J.Hooligan drifted in while “West Side Story” was on. I explained how it was based on “Romeo and Juliet,” and we spent some time discussing and debating similarities and differences between the musical and the play.

Since it was our last night, I decided to pull out the sofa bed. Also I thought it might help my headache to stretch out. Usually the only thing that kills that particular malaise is a dose of three ibuprofen. However, with having to be on the move the next day through the airports, I didn’t want to risk being doped up. I didn’t sleep well, though. The curse held true: I wanted a decent night’s sleep and had trouble sleeping at all.

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