"The Village Idiots"
I would like to acknowledge from the get-go, that this story is from my point of view and any other version is questionable. I'm writing it so I'm right!!
Around the first part of December 2007, I got a call from Michael (my son) asking if I would be interested in taking a short vacation to Florida. The details were: He, Ryan and Matt (2 nephews) were going to fly to St. Petersburg to visit a friend (Brad Gibson) and then drive down to Key West and party for a couple days. I was suspicious of their reasons for asking an old (but good looking) man like me to go with them. They said that I was fun to party with, but I was thinking that they needed a chauffer and tour guide, since I had spent 2 weeks in Key West and knew my way around. Whatever the reason, I was ready for a road trip.
Matt had to back out, because of work and other obligations; I think that he was afraid that he couldn't party with the big dogs. He would be missed, but we where on a quest and could not be stopped.
Our plane left at 6:05 am Thursday so I spent the night at mom's, picked up Ryan at 4:15, and met Michael at his house at 4:30. At 5:00 am we were at the airport and ready to go. Our flight was to lay over in Detroit and then arrive in Tampa at 12:30 pm. After getting through security we stopped at a coffee stand and got some caffeine in our systems (Ryan got some type of sissy-assed Latte). As we approached the terminal, we were stunned to see a "delayed" sign on the board. They told us that the flight crew had got in late the night before and had not had the required amount of sleep so the flight would not leave until 8:30. Although disappointed, we took it in stride and laughed that we did not want the pilot to fall asleep at the wheel. At 8:10 they changed the take-off time to 10:30 because they could not find a flight attendant. OK, so now we're pissed. Not having a pilot is one thing, but a stewardess. Ryan and I both volunteered to pass out pretzels but no one would listen. At 10:15 they changed it to 11:45 and then to 12:30.
At 12:15 we told North West Airlines to kiss our ass, and caught an American flight to Chicago and then United to Tampa, which got us in at 7:30 pm. Needless to say, we were 'bummed", our short vacation was already 7 hours behind schedule. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that our luggage never made it. Instead of going to Brad's as planned, we stayed at the Hilton in St. Petersburg hoping that our luggage would catch up; that didn't happen. We did have a little humor that night, as the temperature dropped to 45. It was funny to see the people of St. Petersburg with hooded sweat shirts and jackets while we were in shirt sleeves.
Friday morning came and still no luggage, so we took off, determined to wear the same clothes for a week if need be. We drove down to North Port, which is where Brad lived, in a rental car that Brad had lined up for us. At this point I was concerned with the outcome of this vacation. Nothing had gone right, we had wasted a day and a half of our vacation, had no luggage and it was unseasonably cold. Now we were going to Brad's house. I barely knew Brad, and had never met his wife. With all that had happened so far, my thoughts were that things would not go good here either. I had visions of Brad's wife not appreciating 3 strangers invading her home, probably getting her husband drunk, and being a nuisance (I wouldn't blame her).
When I walked through the door, the first thing that I noticed were the items on the kitchen table (toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair brushes), and then the 2 piles of clothes. Marla (Brad's wife) had went to Wal-Mart and bought the toiletries and Brad had went through some of his clothes, so that we would not be completely homeless. When I said that we would find a motel for the night, I was told by Marla that the plan was: she would sleep on the couch, Brad on the floor, Ryan in the guest room and Michael and I in her bed. I tried to argue that I would take the couch so that she could have her own bed, but she would not even discuss it. He had better keep a hold of that women, she's awesome!!
The third member of their family is 9 month old Braydon (did I spell it right?), who proves the saying: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree". Just like mom and dad, he made us feel at home right off the bat. He smiled ear to ear as he was passed from one stranger to another like he had known us all of his life.
After unloading the car, which didn't take long because all that we had was our carry-on luggage and a bottle of tequila, we headed for the beach. Brad took the long route to the beach in order to give us a tour of the area. Finally, I felt like I was on vacation. We chilled on the beach, drank some beer, looked for shells and got to know each other. Braydon was right at home lounging in his private tent and playing in the sand. Marla returned to the blanket, after a short walk down the shore, with a fistful of sharks' teeth. She said that sharks loose like 10,000 teeth in their live time and knew what kind of sharks the teeth belonged to.
As we four men were walking to the bathroom to get rid of some recycled beer, Brad tried to catch one of the many lizards that ran across our path. As expected, the lizard twisted around until its' tail was all that was left in Brad's hand. He held it up to Ryan (it was still moving), and asked if he wanted a bite!! Ryan turned down the offer and the next thing that I knew; Michael took it from Brads' hand and tossed it in his mouth. Brad and Ryan both had looks of disbelief; I on the other hand was not at all surprised. I had the same idea, but was not as fast acting as Michael.
On the way to a beach front restaurant that Brad and Marla recommended, we passed the flight school that the 911 terrorists trained at. It was, surprisingly, still in business. After eating, drinking, taking pictures, and visiting we headed home. I wrote that we "headed home" and that's how it felt; after only spending an afternoon with our hosts, I felt completely relaxed around them.
That evening we ate some tacos, played a lively game of Texas Hold-em using sharks' teeth for chips, drank more than we should and tried to watch a movie. Our luggage arrived at 1:00 am, I heard anyway; I was asleep by then. We had to be at the dock (90 miles) at 9:00 am to catch the ferry to Key West, so we were up early. After brushing my teeth and changing into some fresh clothes I was ready for the day. When I came out of the bedroom I saw that Marla had prepared some breakfast for us, Brad was giving some last minute directions to Michael and Braydon was in Ryan's arms getting tickled; this is truly an awesome family.
We made it to the ferry with time to spare. The ferry had 3 levels; the main level had a bar and a snack stand, the 2nd level was also enclosed with seating and TV's, the top level had seating and was open. We spent most of our 3 hour trip on the top level, checking out the ocean and enjoying the breeze in our faces. We were like little kids as we looked over the literature of Key West and discussed our plans. We changed our mind of what we were going to do so often that we finally decided to plan not to have a plan, just do what we wanted to at the time. We arrived in Key West at 12:30 pm on schedule, rented an electric car with a mural of a rooster on it and christened it the "Big Cock-mobile".
I need to take a moment to explain the reason behind the rooster painted on the car. In Key West, it is illegal to kill roosters (a voo-doo thing), and therefore there are hundreds of roosters running loose on the streets. You can be eating at an outside restaurant while there is a rooster under your table pecking at your scraps. It is not unusual to be lying on the beach and have a rooster stroll by.
We went directly to our hotel which was right in the center of Duvall St. (which is a 24/7 party). We dropped our luggage, changed clothes and hit the streets in search of adventure. Our first stop was Jimmy Buffets' Margarittaville Bar for some lunch and see if Jimmy was around. We were told that, yes, he was in town and we had just missed him by an hour. He had been there to invite one of the barmaids to go to a party with him on her birthday. We decided to stop back later to see if he returned to sing a song or two.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the key, and admiring the scenery at the beach. Key West is an international party place so there are people from all over the world that are there on vacation and don't seem to mind at all that they barely have clothes on. The attire for Key West is definitely "layed back", whether you are on the beach, in a bar, or eating dinner in a nice restaurant; a pair of shorts, sandals and a loose fitting Caribbean style shirt is the uniform of the day.
As evening approached we headed for Mallory Square to watch the sunset. Every day, thousands gather to watch the sun disappear over the ocean, be entertained by the street artists (sword swallowers, jugglers, etc.), and browse the small shops for souvenirs. We decided that the only way to see all the bars on Duvall with out passing out after a couple hours was to have 1 drink per pub and then move on. This worked for the first few: Uncle Tony's, Hogs Breath, The Bull, Sloppy Joes', and several that I don't recall the names. We spent more time at Kevin's Irish Pub (good band), Fat Tuesday (sexy barmaid), and Margarittaville Bar (looking for Jimmy). The only place that we did not spend time at was a "clothing optional" bar that was on the 2nd floor above The Bull. I don't recall the name but when we entered we were greeted by a middle aged (topless) woman who gravity had not been kind to. The only other skin that we saw belonged to a couple of men who were competing for the attention of the naked woman by dancing naked on the stage. We did a 180 and headed for the street.
As the night progressed and our senses were dulled, we decided that a ride in the "Big Cock-mobile" was in order. I need to set the stage for this adventure: Duvall Street is like Bourbon St. in New Orleans during Marti Gra, the street is used by all; elec. cars, bicycles, people on foot, motorcycles and automobiles. Everyone is on vacation, smiles on their faces and a drink in their hands. Needless to say, if I had a dollar for every time a woman pointed to our ride, swooned in humor and said "Look at the Big Cock", I could retire. It was at this time that we decided that we should buy 3 of these cars, have large roosters molded into the body and spend the rest of our days running a taxi service from one end of Duvall to the other. We knew that there was a market for drunk women who would pay to be transported from bar to bar riding on the "Big Cock"
As midnight approached we were well "into our cups" as the Irish say. We knew this because of our conversation with two "stuck-up" ladies from Ireland that we sat next to in Kevin's Irish Pub. Ryan was looking for someone to dance with, yes he was loaded, and I suggested that he ask the two Irish women as they were sitting by themselves. They informed him that Irish women did not dance with strangers and that he should look for an American woman. This did not set well with us of Irish decent. After Michael informed them that Ryan didn't dance with "snobbish Irish bitches" anyway, we all three removed our shirts and displayed our Irish tattoos so that everyone in the pub would know that not all Irish are stuck-up. (We sure showed them!!) This all made perfect sense at the time. Actually, they did apologize for being rude after our little fit, so we moved on to the next bar to see what was next.
Next, we decided to take the "Big Cock-mobile" for a spin around town. As we were cruising down some side streets, Ryan blurted out, "I want to drive this "son-of-a-bitch". We weighed the facts; Ryan had never drove a car, we were all "drunk", the streets were crowded and he had no auto insurance, it all fit together, I traded places and Ryan took control of the "Big Cock-mobile". We made sure that he had all the safety rules down before he took off; don't be nervous, don't let anything distract you from your driving, and above all keep your eyes on the road. Ryan, as serious as a heart attack, put it in gear and we were off. With his hands at 2 and 10 with a death grip on the steering wheel he approached the first stop sign with extreme caution. About 15' from the sign, Michael jumped at Ryan while screaming "Watch Out" at the top of his voice; this of course caused Ryan to slam on the brakes and almost launch the three of us out the front of the car. We then spent 10 minutes directing Ryan how to drive once we got on Duvall St. and were involved in the crowds of people. As we merged onto Duvall St., I thought that Ryan would break the steering wheel with his grip, he was completely involved in doing a good job and not getting in a wreck, especially since we had told him that if he got in a wreck, we would abandon him to take the blame and go to jail while we continued to party so that the vacation would not be completely ruined. After a couple of blocks, he started to relax and was doing fine. He was doing so well that Michael and I decided that he needed a reward, so while Michael put his foot on top of Ryan's and pushed the gas pedal to the floor, I put my hands over his eyes and then we both started yelling "Look Out, Look Out". As I said, everyone there was on vacation and it didn't seem to bother any of the pedestrians that we were barely missing them and that their lives could be in danger. Next, we cruised to the beach to lie in the sand and discuss whether we should return to the hotel or sleep on the beach. Surprisingly, we decided to sleep in the hotel.
Sunday morning was surprisingly head-ache free. After some strong coffee and a seafood omelet, we were good to go. The "Big-Cock mobile" was in the parking lot and fired right up, so we were set. After checking out of the hotel and transporting our luggage to the ferry dock, we went in search of souvenirs. We, of course made a final trip past the beach, in case there were some thong bikinis that we had missed the day before. It was decided that on our next trip to Key West, we would allot more time so that we could do some deep-sea fishing and snorkeling if the weather was a bit warmer.
It was almost dark by the time we left the dock on our way back to the mainland, so the trip was uneventful. We played cards, ate a snack, had a drink or two and laughed about all that we had done in the short time we had been in Key West.
We landed in Ft. Meyers Beach about 9:30 pm, grabbed a motel, ate supper and decided to take a swim in the motel pool before getting to bed so that we could get an early start. The girl at the motel counter assured us that, "Yes, the pool was heated", so we threw on the trunks and headed to the pool area. Michael and I arranged a table and chairs so that we could play some cards after our swim while Ryan headed for the pool. When I heard a loud "Holy Shit!!!" from Ryan I knew that the girl at the counter was full of it. The pool water was like ice, even colder than the ocean had been. Ryan had stuck one foot in and said that there was no way that we could swim. After Michael and I dipped our feet in, it was decided that we should play cards and just look at the pool. It wasn't long before Michael and Ryan were going back and forth saying, "If you had any balls you'd jump in the pool" then the other would say, "I will if you do first". As I listened I knew what would be next; one of them would jump in and then the other would be shamed into following and that would mean that I would have to jump in that frigid water. So, rather than listen to the abuse that they would pile on me for being the last one in, I did the only sensible thing I could; I stood up while they were flinging jabs at each other, took off my shirt, walked to the edge of the pool and dove in.
As the cold water sucked the air out of my lungs, the only thought on my mind was that now I could do the name calling and bragging about being the only ones with balls (although after being in that water I wasn't to sure about it). It was worth the shock to see the look on those boys' faces when I came to the surface, they knew that they had no choice, in they went.
Monday morning we drove along the coastline until we found a cottage at Sarasota that was on the beach, had a heated pool and was within walking distance of the main strip of shops, restaurants and bars. We called Brad and him and Braydon came down for a couple of hours. Marla had to work, so she couldn't make it. Brad had things to do, so after lunch, a pitcher of beer and a nice visit, he and Braydon said their goodbyes and we headed for the beach. Again, I'd like to thank Brad, Marla and Braydon for turning our vacation around, they are good people.
OK, so where was I, oh yea. It's around 2:00 pm Monday afternoon; we're on the beach, throwing a Frisbee, wading in the numbing cold water. Ryan gets brave and ventures out till the water is neck high. Being the mature one of our group, I start yelling "Shark", just to see how fast that big boy could move. It was not near as funny when I looked at the area he had just left and saw 2 fins breaking the water. Not big "Jaws" type fins, but big enough to be considered "Scare the Shit out of Uncle Mike" type fins. Ryan still had 100 feet to go to land. Next thing that I know, Michael is in the water, headed towards Ryan, yelling frantically to hurry up. The whole time, Ryan thinks we're still giving him hell, as usual, so he's smiling ear to ear, while he's only 50 foot from the Killer Sharks.
About the time that I was expecting my heart to give out, the fins jump out of the water and they were attached to dolphins not sharks, four in all. By now, Ryan has turned to see what we were looking at, and heads back out to sea. The dolphins wouldn't let Ryan get to close, but they were definitely not afraid of him. They circled around him for a little bit and then moved down the beach a couple hundred feet where they played, throwing a fish in the air from one to another. It was awesome to watch them; it was like they knew we were watching and they were showing off.
Last night in Florida, plane leaves at 2:00 pm, we need to be up and on the road no later than 10:00 am. Our plan was to walk up to a bar/restaurant that we had spotted earlier, with a deck out in front and a small band stand. After eating some supper and buying a 12-pack, head back to the pool to chill. All plans change; we hit it off with a guy that was playing an acoustic guitar and singing a great variety of old and new rock-n-roll, blues, country. Needless to say, we spent the evening "Party'n with the band". As we were looking over the menu for our 4th or 5th appetizer, Ryan spotted a drink called "The Village Idiot"; there was a disclaimer on the menu saying that they would not serve it to less than 3 people. The waiter explained it as having 10 different liquors it (he didn't know what ones), it was served in a plastic bucket, like the ones that kids use to build sand castles on the beach, and it would knock you on your ass. There was no choice, we had to have one. It was huge, had fruit, umbrellas and about 12 straws, we only needed 3.
The guitarist hung out with us between songs, everyone on the outside patio was laughing and singing along, it was a good "last night". When we got back to the cottage, we decided to take a swim in the pool before we called it a night. By this time the "Village Idiot" had kicked in full bore; when those two boys started singing Rap I thought that I would hurt myself from laughing. I wasn't laughing because I was watching two drunk, white boys trying to Rap as you would think; I was laughing because they were actually good and I was amazed. I believe that it was about this time that we decided that, not only should we drive the "Big Cock-mobile" in Key West, but we should strap a gallon of "The Village Idiot" on Ryan's' back and he could sing Rap to the tourists.
Bottom line is; we had a great time. Being with people who have your back no matter what, makes it easy to relax and have fun.