Yup! That Just Happened

One thing about southeast Florida, it’s never boring!  Predictable only in its unpredictability, I’d say “I’ve seen it all” but when one’s encounters include a lingerie wearing male regularly jogging in place on the same corner, a pick-up truck carrying a male & female skeleton on a Harley in the back (not at Halloween, mind you – this is Florida!), a jogger running daily holding a cocktail tray (including drinks) with attached colorful streamers flapping in his wake, and a sunrise beach stroll that provided a good morning “Santeria Surprise” in the form of three dead chickens carefully lined up in front of the tide, well, it’s why it’s the first place I’ve ever lived that I didn’t want to leave.  You see, the reason I always moved from other places was because I got bored.  ‘Nuf said.  23 years now as a Floridian tucked into the waistband of my shorts and counting.

There’s a reason why there’s a show on the I.D. (Investigative Discovery) Channel called “Truth is Weirder Than Florida”.  Were someone to ask me to draw a picture of S.E. Florida I’d use a busted up, brightly colored, paper peeled, crayon.  If Florida were a writing utensil….THAT.  Palm trees, playful geckos, wild parrots, and ocean breeze thrown in for free.

The most memorable and cooperatively timed example of the beloved & borderline alternate universe that I call home was shared with a long term, dear friend and her husband visiting from out of town.  Though neither are “bar people” they are creatively dedicated photographers and videographers always on the lookout for new & interesting subject matter.  With this in mind, I told them to trust the process as we piled into my car for the short drive to the longest operating and most notorious bar on the Fort Lauderdale beachfront, the Elbo Room.  Always rowdy, loud, and abuzz with mischievous, positive energy, that day was no exception.  As we headed into the fray on a sunshine laden day I assured them that:

1.  We wouldn’t have to stay long.
2.  They wouldn’t be sorry they came.
3.  They would have photo/video worthy material.

I, and the Elbo Room, did not disappoint.

Keeping in mind that the Elbo Room is never a bore, that day proved to be extra cooperative regarding my assurances.  Minutes into our lucky claim on an outdoor table by the stairs, a group of what is best described and understood as “Bros” initiated their own, self-appointed, judging panel directed towards randomly selected pedestrians as they walked, strutted, stumbled, or drove by, much to the delight of the tipsy and ample patrons sharing the establishment.  How “The Bros” got their large “scorecards” will forever remain a mystery though there is a drugstore a few blocks down where poster board, scissors, and  markers can be easily acquired by one who is so inclined.  Fortunately for all involved, it was playful fun as they were not cruel or unkind, average scorecards held up in unison running 6’s, 7’s, & 8’s.  An occasional 9 and a singular, unanimous, 10 were met by the bar with vocal enthusiasm.

As our unsuspecting out of towners looked at us with wide eyed amusement, surprised laughter, and confirmation of my promised delivery we were all to find this was just the appetizer.  The main course, the “Piece de resistance”, was to be revealed shortly. Having brought them to this spot for their cameras to capture the “Picture worth a thousand words”, even their cameras were struck speechless as we all watched “real life” that spoke not a thousand but a million words, all silently yelled in delightfully demented triumph. Keep in mind that this is now maybe 20 minutes, tops, into our arrival.

Yup.  It’s the middle of the afternoon.
Yup.  It’s the most major intersection on the beach.
Yup.  That’s a stunning, statuesque girl on the corner in front of the Elbo Room and, really, who *doesn’t* wear high heels with their bikini at the beach?

The sliver of sarong wrapped around the waist of the long haired, doe like, sexpot was somewhat mystifying considering her additional (and minor) wardrobe selections.  Whether it served as a carefully selected accessory or a whisper of modesty one thing was certain:

It’s not everywhere that you randomly encounter a tall, high heeled, bikini & sarong wearin’, genetically blessed female on the beach.  Well, okay, in S.E. Florida you do but not one walking a baby goat on a leash.

Did I say “Yup”?  That happened.

**bleaaaat**
goat

U.F.O.’s, WTF?

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“U.F.O.’s, and aliens, and alternate universes, oh my!”

The first time I explored “Alien Territory”, both literally as a region of the U.S. I’d not previously been to and figuratively as the area of North America best known for  U.F.O. intrigue, a’la Roswell and Area 51, my senses and “alien radar” were abuzz!  Though I’m skeptical regarding abductions I don’t rule them out completely and I’m just happy to say I can’t speak from personal experience (and I’d like to keep it that way).  End of the day, I’m a believer, and have even made the mecca to the U.F.O. museum in Roswell, New Mexico from S.E. Florida twice, a destination only reached through purposeful intent due to its remote location.

On an extended road-trip through the southwestern United States, my friend & I knew we had officially entered X-Files domain when we passed an electrical box on a busy street corner that was currently doubling as a canvas for an amateurish but passionate painting of a large alien head and U.F.O. that dominated a background of night sky.  Accompanying this imagery were the brush-stroked and thought provoking words, “Do you believe?”.  This random but clear welcome to “Alienville” demanded a brief filming & photo op that we obliged by pulling over in the bustling intersection, unashamed & unapologetic, giggling, tourists.

Many miles to go to that days destination, the sunlight slowly disappeared until it winked goodbye on the western horizon.  With its departure there was no civilization present as far as the eye could see to offer even the faintest glow to cut the pitch black, desert, darkness as we navigated our rental car onward.  Traveling the dark and barren landscape, vehicles passed us and visa-versa only at noticeably extended intervals.  Fortunately, as good friends do, we had no trouble amusing ourselves as the hours and the miles ticked by, aliens naturally being a discussed and revisited topic of conversation along the way.  Until……suddenly……

”WHAT WAS THAT?”, I yelled out in alarm and excitement, leaning over her to get a better look out her driver’s side window.  “What?  WHAT?”, she loudly responded, uncertain whether to be alarmed or intrigued.

Me:  (Stammering and exclaiming) “I SWEAR, I just saw a light going across the sky and it just DISAPPEARED!”

Her (again):  “Where?  WHERE?”

Me:  “It was right out your window……”

(nervous giggles while she drove and I continued gazing intently)

Me:  “THERE IT IS AGAIN but IN A DIFFERENT PART OF THE SKY!”

Her:  “Where?  WHERE?  Oh my god! Where?”  (obviously working with limited dialogue under the circumstances)

Me:  “I swear, I’m not kidding you! I just saw it again but in a different part of the sky!”

No other cars in sight, it was just us, the desert, and the aliens.

I rapidly began fumbling in the darkness of our car for the video camera we had brought along to film our journey for future Memory Lane viewing.  This *obviously* deserved inclusion as part of our vacation experience and, more importantly, documentation for official, scientific review!  Despite my amateur filming skills and our mutually distracting squeals of excitement, disbelief, and shock, I managed to get the video camera out and the lens into focus.  I directed the camera towards, and recorded, out the front of the windshield into the void of the empty sky as we waited for our next Visitor From Beyond to make their presence known….and we were not disappointed!  This time BOTH of us saw it – “Oh my god!  Oh my god!  Oh my god!”

Her:  “I saw it!  I saw it!  Ohmygod!”

Me:  “I told you!  Ohmygod!  Pull over!  PULL OVER!”

(Insert ear piercing, extended, exclamations, merged together in a non-sensical, audio train-wreck.)

Then…..silence.

Too entranced to pull over, to do anything other than gaze with hypnotized wonder into the ebony infinity above, we saw yet another, this time clearly a different light that was much closer though which disappeared just as quickly as its companions.  Then, just a moment later, it played its role in this extraterrestrial game of “Simon Says” as it too reappeared.  A little bit longer and….AGAIN!  Same thing, different place in vast sky.  They…were…EVERYWHERE!  We were absolutely beside ourselves and it truly was one of the most exciting and intriguing moments of my life until…….

Her:  “Oh my god.  They’re PLANES!”

Me:  “Noooooo.”

Her:  “Yes!  Look!  You can barely see them because it’s so dark but there are clouds in the sky!  Every time we see a light it’s a plane and when it disappears it is going behind a cloud and then comes out the other side!”

Me:  (Gazing intently, the car loud with silence)

****There it is AGAIN!****

…..and now I see the damn cloud around it’s lights.

(Insert sound of deflating balloon *here*)

And so the road trip, us, and life moved on with one new item, a helluva’ entertaining vacation video segment, and one remaining item:

I still believe!

mork

The Trucker & the Damsel in Distress

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Filing under “Strange but True” facts, I went to Quaker boarding school my senior year of high school.  No, my family was not Quaker nor affiliated in any way and I chalk my parent’s selection to send me to that particular education location based on a combination of relative affordability and its incredibly remote location in B.F.E. Ohio.   Despite my bucking bronco arrival & drop off at the school it ultimately resulted in cherished life-long friends and memories

Fast forward to one year later and the commencement/graduation of the class below mine.  Let it be noted that when you live in an isolated environment for an entire school year with only 50 peers you get to know one another pretty well, for good or for bad (though mostly good).  Living just one state away at the time of the following year’s commencement, it was an obvious choice to make the journey to attend this production starring a cast of many friends.

I set off on the approximate seven-hour road-trip dressed, excited, and ready for a happy reunion and a weekend of celebration.  Wearing a full length, white, fitted skirt, a thoughtfully accessorized upper half, and white dress flats on my feet, I settled into my dad’s orange, Datsun B-210 for the solo road trip, my permed 80’s hair standing at attention through a cloud of suffocating hair spray that occupied the remainder of the vehicle.

I don’t recall how far along into the trip I was when an emotional recipe made from ingredients of alarm and concern began baking but I do recall that, when it happened, I was, literally, in the middle of nowhere.  With several hours ahead to my final destination, my tiny, orange vessel began making it clear that it was not happy as it went from a comfortable cruise to coughs, sputters, and jolts increasing in frequency the further I went.  Desperate for an exit there was none to be had while I hoped for the best until…….

D is for Datsun

AND

D is for DEAD

The car coming to a violent, dismissal regarding any further road travel as it came to a complete & uncooperative halt.  I managed to veer it off to the side of the road just as mysterious and unfriendly smoke began billowing out from under the hood.  Seeming the logical next step, I exited the vehicle in this No Man’s Land, pulling the hood lever as it responded with an audible and noticeable “pop” to allow me to look under the hood.  Upon hoisting it I was welcomed with heat and more smoke as I gazed upon a maze of mechanics to which I had no compass. I had arrived at the Deli of the Road, served up one very large & sour pickle.

I scanned my surroundings, a long and empty road with miles of equally empty landscape.  No cell phones back then, there were absolutely zero alternatives to simply beginning to walk.  With the lone beacon of civilization being a farmhouse on a far away hill, a good 3-4 miles ahead of where I stood and a significant way off of the main road, my brutally coifed 80’s hair, ankle length skirt, and dress flats, began the long trek in that direction.  As I fought tears and fears I had only clocked about half a mile on foot towards the Fateful Farmhouse when a large, tractor trailer rumbled by, one of the only vehicles I had seen since greeted with my major dilemma.  Striking my heart with relief that was overpowered by ice cold fear, I watched as the monster truck hit its breaks and purposefully pulled over to my side of the road.  So this is how it ends!  A crazy, substance addled, trucker, dragging me into his cab or, alternatively, the endless field that lay all around, 50/50 odds on the table regarding where I would meet the Grim Reaper, equally unpleasant and unpredicted, distinct possibilities

I froze in my tracks, a spiral permed, blonde deer in the brake lights, as the side door opened and the driver hopped down to the asphalt and walked towards me.  But wait…..he wasn’t just walking towards me….there was a bit of a lurch and deliberation to his stride.  Still frozen as I rode the teeter-totter of gratitude and concern, I came to the sudden realization that the trucker only had one leg, his unique gait the product of a prosthetic leg.  Though clearly not “politically correct”, my survival instincts assessed the situation for themselves, breathing a tentative but audible sigh of relieve with the realization that, should he offer a ride and I needed to bail to salvage my life, my odds of outrunning him were very, very, high, despite my ankle length, albatross skirt that I had come to curse more & more with each step.

Very aware and sensitive to my damsel in distress predicament, the trucker stopped with a bit of distance remaining between us, asking the obvious – did I need help?  Rapidly scanning the landscape once again it was clear that taking my chances with a one-legged, hopefully well-intentioned trucker trumped walking an additional 3+ miles to a remote farmhouse with unknown occupants, assuming that it was occupied at all.  So with pounding heart, I grabbed on to the handles to hoist myself up into the cab of this “King of the Road”, intimidating, steel beast.

He climbed back in on his side and eased into the driver’s seat as he asked me my name and inquired about how I found myself in this unfortunate situation.  As he shifted into drive and we began picking up steam in the vibrating cab, I began sharing my plight as I snuggled against my passenger door, hand firmly rested on the handle in a manner I hoped was not obvious, ready to throw myself out the door and onto the mercy of the asphalt should it be necessary.

The trucker confirmed that I was, indeed, in the middle of nowhere while sincerely sympathizing with both my situation and understood concern.  With a slow moving but large tidal wave of relief, he convincingly told me that I was safe as pictures of his two small children, a boy & a girl, smiled with reassurance from the dashboard, a dangling & swaying crucifix nodding in agreement.  In proper, stereo-typical, trucker fashion, he clicked the button to bring his C.B. to life, networking with his fellow 18-wheelers to find out where the nearest garage was, ultimately leading us to a small one about 20 miles down the road.

We slipped into casual and friendly conversation until our exit arrived and he delivered me to a One Horse Town with a mechanic and tow truck.  After I placed a collect phone call to my father I found myself being the one to reassure my Knight in Shining Steel that I would be fine, expressing my immeasurable gratitude to the extent that words would allow. I settled into an uncomfortable, plastic chair for the long wait ahead as his truck rumbled away in one direction, the tow truck in the other.

My orange carcass of a car rolled into the front of the garage some time later, riding bitch to the hulking tow truck.  Upon untangling the chains and locks of the mechanical beast, the mechanic disappeared to take an (educated) look under the hood, returning wearing an expression that did not indicate good news.  Apparently – and pay attention here – it’s a good idea to check and add oil before setting out on an extended road trip.  Who knew?  Well, apparently not me as I had “thrown a rod” due to an empty oil tank and the car, based on it’s current value, was officially pronounced dead.  A rental car was eventually delivered to the doorstep of the garage where I transferred my belongings from one vehicle to another before continuing my onward journey with an additional item packed, a lifelong memory and appreciation for prosthetic wearing truckers with hearts of gold.

The Love Burn (Part 2 – Phillip the Flamingo)

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The packing list was wide open for my first “Burner” event, minor in necessities, major in creative possibilities.  Suffice it to say that I didn’t pack lightly.  Among the many, random items I loaded into my pick-up truck (aka: Godzilla) for the weekend was my giant, inflatable, flamingo named “Phillip”.  While Phillip’s natural habitat is the ocean or a pool he seemed to clearly demand a presence at our campsite, serving as a welcome & comfortable lounging alternative to the collection of collapsible beach chairs.

On our second and final night at The Love Burn I was the first one back to our campsite and I spontaneously decided to sleep on Phillip, forgoing our considerably more confining tent for inflatable, pink flamingo, freedom on such a beautiful night. Under the star filled sky, Phillip & I rested together at the edge of the territory my adventure seeking posse had claimed as our own.  Comfy and liberated in the fresh air and breeze, I bathed & reveled in the glow of the constellations and bright moon as I reclined contentedly on his pink PVC.  Slowly I drifted off to sleep with a perma-grin, the delicate, long, strings of white feathers that decorated our campsite canopy dancing gently in the wind as quirky, happy folks passed by in ever decreasing numbers, bedtime beckoning even the most dedicated.

At some point after I drifted off Angel (refer to Part 1) arrived back to the campsite and laid down next to me on Phillip. Angel was there that weekend with his boyfriend so I received his arrival onto Phillip’s pink flamingo shaped bedding with platonic, comfortable, welcoming warmth.  With heavy eyelids I lifted my arm as he snuggled into its nook, telling him that my “boobie” made for a great pillow, to which he responded with gratitude as he burrowed in.

We slept for hours as I alternated between my arm being wrapped securely around him and holding his head in the palm of my hand.

After a sufficient, comfortable, cozy night of snuggled sleep, we slowly and simultaneously awoke for the day, all peace & contentment until he turned around….and it wasn’t Angel!  Like, not just “not Angel”, this was a complete stranger!  As I tried to collect my thoughts and reacclimate myself to my weekend surroundings I exclaimed, “Who are you?” to which, mirroring my own surprise and confusion, he said “How did I get here?”.  With that, my posse that was tucked into the tent came alive in mutual, unapologetic laughter, collectively serving up a breakfast burrito of unbridled amusement wrapped in a canvas tortilla.

For those that are curious, the guy’s name was Eddie.

GOOD MORNING from The Love Burn!  It’s time to go home.

SACAGAWEA (A Gemini Shout Out)

sacagawea
Sidestepping from humor to wonder for a moment.  Messages of love & support from “The Great Beyond” the subject of the day, for today is my O.G.’s birthday.  O.G. stands for “Other Gemini”, one of those nicknames that presents itself without thought and that sticks like glue to the degree that you no longer address one another by your real names.  My best-friend and I’s “glue” was the unintentional but funny & permanent result of his “post bitter break up phase” with his partner of 15 years.  Shortly after their break up a mutual friend was regaling his ex with a story of whatever Eric (aka: My O.G.) & I’s latest escapade was.  His ex failed to find the amusement in the shared story (though I’d bet that it was, indeed, amusing!  Heh, heh!) and sarcastically responded to this mutual friend, “Ugh!  They’re just like each other!  It’s like the other Gemini!”.
Other.
Gemini.

Really?

Ohhhhh, how we laughed!
And so “O.G.” was born.

My O.G. was only 48 years old when he passed away, an age I will be surpassing just a few days from now.  It’s a long, drawn out, sad story of terminal illness that there’s no fun in sharing but suffice it to say that it ended with him passing away on July 23rd, 2014.  Almost three years later I am grateful to now be in a place where I remember him mostly with a warm heart and triggered smirks, if not flat out laughter, ever thankful for the undeniable bond and multiple, undeniable, messages he has sent me from that “Great Beyond” previously mentioned.  This is the tale of one of those messages.

If you paid attention in U.S. history class (I plead the fifth) then Sacagawea is familiar to you, the Indian princess that assisted Lewis & Clark on their expedition.  Despite the fact that I’m sure I was “taught” this in school, I knew nothing of Sacagawea until the day that my O.G. showed me some rare coins that his grandmother had given him that featured this historical & strong female.  As best friends do, we somehow morphed this into a good luck mantra where any time we wanted something good to happen we used it as a manifesting chant: “Sacagawea!”
Fast forward to about a year later after he showed me the patinaed coins.  In ailing health but not yet aware of the true severity of it, Eric decided it was time for a change.  He was ready to head back to the western part of the U.S. where his roots were and start a new & fresh life, power washing off the bad juju, memories, & struggles of his past few years in Florida.  With a heavy but supportive heart, I bid him adieu as he loaded up his U-Haul, only to have my breath taken away when I saw the image displayed on the side of his rental truck:

Sacagawea.

There she was!  A huge profile, proud & braided, ready to accompany him as his prominent, lucky charm on the road to his new beginning.  WOW!  Never before had either of us seen this U-Haul image and, after he pulled out of the driveway, neither of us encountered it again in the years to follow.

I received the dreaded but not unexpected phone call from his brother in California mid-morning on July 23rd, roughly three years after Eric had moved away.  I knew when I talked to my O.G. last that it would be just that…the last.  He literally told me that as I cried.  I told him that wasn’t okay and he had to wait for us to get together one last time yet he firmly but gently let me know that I needed to understand that wasn’t going to happen.  With tired, peaceful, matter of fact, he made it clear that his death was imminent and that I needed to accept it.  I remember sitting on the edge of my patio crying while I talked to him that last time, pleading and telling him how much I loved him, tucking myself in under a blanket of tears and sorrow that night after our conversation ended.

The very few following days involved him being admitted, once again, to the hospital, a place that he had become all too familiar with.  Naturally, I called to speak with him there but the nurse that greeted me on the other end of the line told me that he was not taking calls.  I implored her to let him know it was *me*, which she kindly accommodated as she put me on hold to relay that information.  When she returned with the shockingly same message, “he was not taking calls”, I knew that this was, indeed, “it”, and that our last phone call was, as I had felt but tried to deny, his official “goodbye” as he embraced his fate.

I called my mother that night, distraught and devastated, and, as wonderful & wise mother’s do, she told me that the best gift I could give him was to let him go.  Upon hanging up I laid on my couch and cried & cried, speaking out loud through sobs in my living room to Eric despite the fact that it’s only occupants were my two dogs.  Urgently I hoped, and even believe(d), that he could somehow hear me – feel me – as I took my mother’s words to heart, letting him know that I understood and it was okay to “go”.

And so, the very next day, it was.
And so I crumbled.
And so he was gone.

I got the phone call that he had passed away in mid to late morning and immediately collapsed on another one of my best friend’s doorsteps, gratefully located just two doors down from my own.  What transpired from there is a blur but I know that, through the hotline, she & a small collection of other friends created a shared mission to transport me for us to gather at one of their swimming pools to lay in the sun, soak in the water, and just “be”.  No pressure to talk yet not permitting me to be alone as reality set in.  The mutual friend’s place was not far, less than a mile away, though I remember nothing of the drive.  Our arrival, however, is a crystal clear and vivid, cherished memory, now & forever.

I have a foggy recollection of the car I was riding in pulling into a parking space in the private lot.  I remember just sitting in my shotgun space, my friend telling me we were there and “let’s get out”.  Through a molasses fog I managed to open the car door, looking up as I was ready to exit…..and there was my U-Haul, O.G., angel!  As I mentioned previously, though he had been gone for three years I had never again encountered a Sacagawea U-Haul until that moment yet there it was at the end of the parking lot directly in my line of vision, this Indian princess that I firmly believe did not greet me by coincidence that day.

A finger inserted into a spiritual, emotional, light socket, I instantly snapped alert.  Liken it to having smelling salts shoved under my nose & spirit, suddenly and brought back to life, emotional & aware.  Instantaeously, I became a bubbling brew of tears and laughter, as this incredulous sight shone on my face and my sorrow with the sun.  No, this wasn’t coincidence.  This was my friend!  My O.G.  Letting me know he was still with me, always.

When we had his memorial a month & a half later I gave the eulogy and shared our background & meaning of Sacagawea, punctuated with this “day of departure” U-haul encounter.  “Sacagawea” then became the battle cry of honor & tribute, glasses clinking together, shouted at random during this farewell gathering of friends.  He would have loved it!

After his passing I contacted his brother and requested those coins, which he sent and which I am deeply grateful to have now & forever.  One is attached to the urn that I keep outdoors in my “hang out” space where I spend the majority of my free time so that he is with me most often.  Another is in my vehicle so he travels with me wherever I go.  A third Sacagawea, not made of metal but of ink, is with me every moment of every day.

As a side note, only very recently (within the past month) did I notice that the font that I selected for my scripted “Sacagawea” tattoo actually creates an unintentional “O.G.”.

Unintentional on my part.
Universally intended flair.

Happy birthday to my O.G!  Forever young.

“SACAGAWEA!”

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