Returns, Happy and Otherwise


At this time last night, I was laying in bed at an Orlando airport hotel.  A Big Bang Theory marathon occupied the television screen while a million thoughts occupied my mind.  The visit to Florida relieved pent-up stress, created a little more, and ended way too soon.  Tuesday afternoon, I made one last trip up to St Aug (up, from Palm Coast, where I spent the previous four nights) then headed back to hang with Boud, Martha and the girls.  I played two games of Trouble with their seven-year-old.  She kicked my ass.  Twice.  I know what you’re thinking: That Rob sure is great with kids; letting the little one win and what not.  Bullshit.  Her pop-o-matic skillz are off da hook.  The older girl let me read a story she was working on.  They were both fascinated with the notion that I am a writer.  Maybe when they’re 18, we’ll let them read some of my stuff.  I can work a little blue sometimes.

As the time of my departure grew near, the little one made her way to my side on the couch.  Well, we were joined by the Jack Russell.  He knew as well I was readying to leave.  Dogs are so smart.  They just know.  Anyway, we were on the couch and the little one worked her way into position where she had both arms securely around me and her head nuzzled in my chest.  I knew it was coming.

“I don’t want you to leave,” she whimpered.

The noise you just heard was my heart, wrenching in response to the girl’s sincerity.

“I know.  But I’ll be back,” I reassured her.

“When?”

“Soon.”

“OK.”  And just like that, she sprung up.

We all said our good-byes and Boud drove me to the hotel.  See, I booked my flight for 8 am.  Problem with that is, normal people work on Wednesday mornings.  My plan lacked planning, so I elected to stay at a hotel and catch a shuttle rather than ask someone to wake at an ungodly hour.  The other option would have been to change my flight.  $150.  No thanks.  The hotel cost me $50.  No brainer there.

The cell phone alarm stirred me from my cocoon at 5:42 this morning.  No, I hadn’t set it for today; that’s what time I get up everyday.  The early word gets the burm.  Um, huh?  Anyway, I slept ok.  Can anyone tell me why hotel rooms must be frigid to the point that testicles retreat like the French at some battlefield I know nothing about?

I woke up, ironed my flight gear, and showered.  I tried brewing a cup of complimentary hotel coffee, but holy shit, it was fucking nasty.  Brown water.  That’s all it was.  Think if I complain they’ll comp me a room?  Probably not.  They’ll send me a packet of coffee and a note that reads “Fuck off, traveller.”  That’s just poor customer service.

Squeezing my way onto an earlier shuttle, I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to enjoy a real cup of coffee.  Guess where I went?  Yup.  I downed a grande before the whole pre-, post-, de- business.  The nice lady on the microphone called Zone 3 and I stood to take my place in line.  There were two gentlemen in front of me.  One turned to the other and noted,

“The only difference between us and the Sky Priority is that little rug.”

“I was perplexed by that myself last week!” I admitted.

Not impressed, the two just turned to me and sneered.  I could practically read their thoughts:

‘Ew, stranger.  Maybe that’s why you were perplexed yourself.’

I should just make a point to never talk to anyone.  Some people just don’t appreciate my humor and/or timing.  Fuck.

Them.

As with the flight to Orlando last week, today’s return to Cincinatti was not sold out.  A good thing, since there was a family seated behind me; the kid was watching one of the latest installments of Shrek on some tiny device, the volume cranked to sufficiently drown out the kid’s whining to the parents.  All well-and-good, but I wasn’t in the mood to listen to Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers crack obvious jokes while making lame medieval references.  The guy across the row, I noticed, was watching Steve Zissou.  He kindly wore headphones, it having dawned on him that not everyone wants to be subjected to his viewing preferences.  Fortunately, one of the stewardesses announced that plenty of seats were empty up front, so the family hauled their shit away and I was spared the rage that I would have surely felt at a total stranger…  I had been considering what might happen if I countered the SNL alums’ banter by reading my Carl Hiassen novel aloud.  In a redneck accent.

I sunk into seat C, row 22, and continued what was an engrossing read.  Star Island is about a pop tart named Cherry Pie who has an affinity for drugged out musicians and actors.  It highlights the hypocrisy of celebrity and the bloodlust of paparazzi.  It’s a damn good read.  Anyway, I was enjoying my book when I couldn’t help but notice that the couple in front of me was up to something.  Well, honestly, the girl just kept giving the guy a series of affectionate pecks.  Look, I’m glad someone is happy and in love and all that shit.  But I don’t need it in my face at this point.  I’m healing!  Hahaha…

Anyway, she settled in a position of comfortable rest upon his right arm, inside the crook of his elbow.  All the while, however, the shower of love seemed to not register with the kool kat.  For, he was wearing a robin hood-looking hat—black, affixed with a fleur-de-lis and purple and yellow feathers.  This guy is a good time.  He likely drinks dark microbrews, smokes cohibas, and plays “poker with the boys.”  Thursday nights in some fat dude’s garage while the girls mix Margaritas in the kitchen.

I present to you: The Common American Stain.  His douchiness is preceded only by his affinity for aged whiskey and tee shirts bearing the names of cartoons he’s too young to remember.

“I’ve seen every episode of Mighty Mouse on YouTube.”

Yes, folks, this man is to be taken seriously; he wears sandals in the winter and corduroys in the summer.  He plans to follow in his father’s footsteps as an environmental lawyer and intends to sue ExxonMobil for crimes against nature…

The flight attendant was a total doll.  I asked for a coffee and she instinctively offered water to accompany the hot beverage.  I hadn’t even been aware that I wanted water until she asked.  She placed the drinks on the tray table at seat B, along with a bag of miniature pretzels, a creamer, and an elongated yellow tube of sweetener.  In a genuine offer of kindness, she asked

“Would you like any assistance opening anything?”

“No, thank you” I replied.  But that simple gesture shook me from my cynical take on the seeping stain in row 21.

I went back to my reading and soon I was landing in Philadelphia.  I had become so involved in Hiassen’s tale that I pretty much coasted through the landing, layover, and take off in Cincy.  Once at Philly, I summoned the shuttle from the parking lot and retrieved my car.

Driving up 476, it hit me.  I was home.  Pennsylvania.  I was also grateful to be here.  Despite the queries from many in Florida, I still have unfinished business to which I intend to attend in PA.  My writing career is gathering momentum and it would be premature to assume I can just pick up and continue elsewhere.  In youth, that same decision would have been made in haste.  From where I sit now, I can see clearly the road ahead and it does not include Florida.  Yet.  I’m taking classes, making connections, and finding opportunities.

Shit, I’m single now, too.  For real single.  I’ve been “involved” pretty much since I moved into my apartment.  And you know how that goes.  My apartment could easily be converted into a legit bachelor pad.  I could bust out the blacklights and lava lamps, beaded curtains, take a cooking class…  Oh, shit.  I forgot.  I did that whole thing before.  In Florida.  Didn’t work then either.  Oh well.  But I think you get what I’m saying.  I have a lot going on.  A move at this juncture wouldn’t be prudent…  Besides, the EFSA minor league Phillies are 10-0.  We gots a Chip to win, y’all.  Oops, youse guys.

When I got home, I walked into my very bitching pad.  Contentment washed over me.  I quickly inspected the joint to be sure there had been no intruders and put all my shit away.  All of it.  I know, right?  I entered my bathroom to evacuate all that friggin’ coffee and there it was again:  I’m home.  Nice.  The next few hours, I kicked around the apartment, opened some mail, put a liner in the garbage can, and plopped onto the couch, my couch, and dozed for a spell.

I woke up and rushed to get dressed.  Softball season has begun and we had a game at 8.  I cruised down to McDevitt’s and sat on the bench.  Since I was early, I rested by myself, listening to the sound of traffic zoom up and down Roosevelt Boulevard.  It was nice to be in such a mindless state for a bit.  We played the game and I’m pleased to report that I lost none of my skills over the winter.  Well, if I had, it was barely noticeable.  I went 3-for-3 with a triple and scored two runs.  I also hustled to third from first on a base hit to left-center.  The journey to third involved a textbook, feet-first slide to avoid a tag that was late in arriving anyway.  The slide opened what will most-assuredly be a summerlong raspberry on my left calf, in precisely the same spot it appears each year around this time.  Perhaps it’s time to invest in a nice, long sock to protect my leg…

We lost the game by a couple runs, but it was still nice to be back out there, running around and sweating and clutching my chest like the fat little fuck that I am.  I still feel like a champ.  Life is good at the moment.  I feel light.  Speaking of which, I lost two pounds while on vacation, despite the fact that I did not buy a single meal.  I felt like the friggin’ mayor.  Everywhere I went, people who were glad to see me made certain I had food in my belly.  Now tell me this, if I were to move there, you think they’ll keep me fed forever?  Not likely.  Well, Boud and Martha would.  They have in the past.  But my money would be green everywhere else.

Green.  That’s a good way to put it, this past week.  New, like spring.  Fresh.  Full of promise.  Good fucking shit!!!  I like it.

Thank you for following along with my insanity, my shit, my journey.

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