The Naughtiest One Of All
My road trip to Ft Lauderdale and back
It was time for me to start planning my next trip to Ft Lauderdale. I wanted to try some new things this time. One was driving rather than flying. I'd taken to Lauderdale enough that I was starting to think about Wintering there, which would require driving down and back so that I had my car while I was there. I had wanted to give it a whirl for some time, but it hadn't worked out yet. But this time I had a VW Phaeton, which, despite it's abysmal gas mileage, would make a fabulous road trip car.
I also wanted to stay a little longer this time. Especially with the effort to drive all the way, I wanted to make it worthwhile. The problem was that hotels are so damn expensive. I would be able to stay with my friends Gordon and Wayne, but I knew they would only want me around for a few days. I had learned about AirBNB.com, where I could stay in nice homes cheap, and Couchsurfing.org, where I could stay for free. The latter was a desirable option, but also rather problematic. With AirBNB, you're paying to stay there, so it's just a room. But with Couchsurfing it's supposed to be a way to connect socially. That's a tough way for me to make new friends. I had been a member of Couchsurfing for a couple years, but never even tried to pursue it. But then one day I realized that there was a gay nudist subgroup of Couchsurfing. This was something I could get on board with. No matter what the people were like, if they were gay and into nudism, then I knew we'd get along fine.
So it came time to try to make some specific plans. Gordon gave me the indication that he'd be into a visit, but he's really tough to pin down. It was enough just to know it was a possibility. If he couldn't see me then I would bag the whole plan. But he was, so I decided to proceed. I posted a note to the Couchsurfing gay nude group saying I was coming down. I got a note from a guy named Peter who said it was a possiblity, but that he needed to know dates because there was a potential conflict with his visiting parents. I said my dates were flexible and I could work around his dates. I didn't hear back from him.
I almost decided to bag the trip altogether, but Winter was hitting with full force that year, and I really wanted to go get warm somewhere. I decided to put together what would be my choice or an itinerary, and see how that worked with others. I chose the first weekend with Peter, and the last weekend with Gordon, and I'd find some AirBNB thing in between. Well the fates were smiling on me. Peter said that not only was that weekend open, but that he and his partner were hosting a nude Mardi Gras party that Saturday. Then Gordon wrote back saying that the following weekend was fine too. Knowing that there were direct flights from Ft Lauderdale to all kinds of places, I looked into the possibiloity of a side-trip to St John in the US Virgin Islands. I had been there twice, and totally fell in love with it. Well the air fare wasn't too bad, and the trashy little hotel where I'd stayed before had an economy single available, so I booked it for the beginning of the week. Then I found some single gay man on AirBNB who had a spare room in his Wilton Manner townhouse. So things went from possibly not coming together at all, to everything coming together very quickly. It would be two days down, two weekends there with the week between, and then two days back again.
The Night Before
But with everything set, the trip was almost over before it began. I wanted to get the car all prepped the night before I left, so I could expedite my departure the next morning. The first step was to putt some stuff in the trunk. I hit the trunk lid button on the driver's door, and nothing happened. Hmmm. I used the button on the key, and the lid opened fine. I knew this wasn't a show-stopper, but it still didn't give me a very good feeling. I couldn't find an old-fashioned keyhole in the trunk, so if the battery in the key died, or the electronic mechanism failed for any reason, I wouldn't be able to get to my stuff in the trunk. It wouldn't be the end of the world. Despite the fact that I'd totally over-packed because for once I didn't have to worry about overhead compartments and baggage carousels, as long as I had my credit card I could get anything I needed that might get trapped in the trunk.
The next thing I did was to go fill up with gas. I got to the gas station, hit the filler flap release button, right next to the inoperative trunk lid button, and the gas flap didn't open. This really pissed me off. I wouldn't get very far without being able to fill the tank. I did what I usually do in these situations, which is to overreact and panic. I thought I could hear the mechanism activating, unlike the trunk lid that was totally silent, but I couldn't be sure. I was at the little mini-mart in my tiny little hamlet, but now that I needed a little quiet, the place was busy like Grand Central Station. I kept thinking I heard the mechanism, but couldn't be sure because of background noise. Finally I drove around to the back of the store where it was quiet. Sure enough, I was hearing the mechanism. If only I had someone to hit the switch while I tried to lift the flap, then maybe all would be okay. I drove back around to the front of the store and parked at a gas pump. Now that I needed some help, the place was utterly deserted. Finally some old guy pulled up in a pickup truck. I asked him to hit the fuel door button for me and he agreed. He was a nice enough old man, but his nose looked like a muppet pin cushion with all the pins removed. He hit the button for me, and I was able to pry the door open. It had frozen shut. Suddenly I remembered having been to the car wash a couple days earlier. I had told myself there was no reason not to go to the car wash when it was below freezing. As usual, I was wrong.
So I filled up the tank, and all was well. But it gave me an uneasy feeling. I've always said that doubt is like herpes: you can get it in an instant, and you'll never totally be rid of it. This little incident was enough to give my confidence herpes for the rest of the trip. What if it did fail to open? Like when I was in South Carolina or something. That one tiny little failure would be an utter show-stopper.
I expected that I wouldn't be able to sleep the night before. To my surprise, I fell right asleep and slept like a rock. Until about 2AM. I was dreaming about Menonites, and it woke me up. Fortunately I fell right back asleep. Then at 4AM I was dreaming about Hutterites, and it woke me up. Again, I was lucky enough to fall back to sleep. But then I woke up at a little after 5AM, and I rolled around until I finally got my ass up. It was around 6:30. I didnt' want to get out of bed, first of all because it was fucking freezing. It had gotten down into the single digits that night. But I also didn't want to get up because that meant I would have to actually go through with this crazy road trip plan. As I got out of bed I thought that I should grab and pack my white noise machine and travel alarm right now before I forget. But I said no, I'd surely remember.
Everything went to routine as I got myself showered and fed. I was a little testy and short-tempered, but there was really nothing to freak out over. My cat could tell something was up, and I felt that his meows were to say, "Don't go!" But despite my feeling of guilt, I had the car loaded and was out the door just a few minutes after my planned 8AM departure time.
The plan was to drive until 8PM, at which time I'd find the nearest chain hotel and stop for the night. It all began with the drive over back roads to I-81 South. When I got to the on-ramp it was like, "Okay, 10 miles down, 1390 miles to go..." But I was still surprisingly unburdened by the daunting journey that lay ahead of me. Once on the interstate I just set it on cruize and sat back. I decided to listen to NPR Morning Edition. The weather was clear, which was good because we'd been having a lot of snow. Actually not a lot of accumulation, but consistent enough snowfall that the roads were in a perpetual state of semi-slipperiness. The Phaeton actually had all-wheel-drive, which was good in the snow, but it also had big, fat tires that were not good in the snow, and it was incredibly heavy. If it got sideways, even a little, there would be no stopping it. But I really lucked out this day. In fact, Boston and the rest of the Northeast was bracing for a major Winter storm, but I was sneaking out just ahead of it. If weather.com was to be believed, I-81 was going to be clear all the way from the St Lawrence River to Tennessee.
Before I knew it I was across the border into Pennsylvania. By this time Morning Edition had wrapped. I decided to listen to a WTF podcast. Marc Maron interviewing Mel Brooks. Sounded interesting. I had to listen to it on my iPod with my buds in my ears, because my super sophisticated Phaeton didn't have an MP3 jack. Scranton / Wilkes Barre came and went, and I was up into the mountains of central PA. Just days before, I had been reminiscing about how I used to take this route back and forth to Washington DC in my beat up old jalopies. Now I was in a high-end luxury car. And while I still had in the back of my mind the possibility of some little thing going wrong, I wasn't concerned about a breakdown.
Shortly past Wilkes Barre I started getting hungry. Knowing I would not want to stop, I put a loaf of rye bread and a pack of Oscar Meyer sliced ham on the passenger seat. I pulled out a slice of bread, placed two slices of ham on it, and folded it in half: instant ham sandwich. It tasted like ass, but it was convenient sustenance.
Before I knew it I was out the other side of the Pennsylvania mountains, and approaching the turn-off to I-83 and York PA. This was the way I had always gone to DC. And I had considered going this way on this trip to pick up I-95 in Baltimore and taking it the rest of the way to Ft Lauderdale. But someone at work had suggested that I stay on I-81 through Virginia and peel off towards Charlotte once I was in North Carolina. I researched it on Google Maps. It would be 30 miles longer, but I would miss all the drama of the Baltimore and DC beltways, and in the bigger scheme 30 miles wouldn't add up to much.
So the turn-off to York passed by, and I found myself on roads I'd never been on before; the first of many that lay ahead. I knew that Carlisle was in this direction. For years I had wanted to go there to the big car show every Spring, but had never wanted to make the trip. Thanks to the Phaeton's trip computer, I new knew exactly how many miles it was and how long it would take. Beyond it lay a brief jaunt through Maryland, and an equally brief jaunt through West Virgina.
While I was going through West Virginia I decided to pull over for gas. This always drove me nuts when I was in the jalopies. I never wanted to turn the engine off for fear that it wouldn't start again. I never really had any reason to have this fear. I just had it. And while I had no reason to have that fear this time, I was conditioned from those hard days of youth to never want to stop the car when I'm in the middle of a road trip. But my heart did skip a beat when I hit the fuel door release button, for fear that it wouldn't open and I'd be stuck in West Virginia with no gas. But it did open. I did fill up with gas. And everything was okay.
I parked the car off away from the pumps with plans to lounge in the back seat for a few minutes, chill out, and check the map to familiarize myself with where I'd be exiting off of I-81. By the time I got comfortable and pulled out the atlas, the car locked itself. I didn't really care for that feature. I don't like cars to do anything automatically. I'd prefer to do it myself. But whatever. I leafed through the atlas until I found the exit I would be taking, and as I was bookmarking it, the car alarm went off. I had just gone through drama with the car I traded in on the Phaeton where the alarm would go off on its own, and there was no turning it off. Now here I was in East Bumfuck West Virginia, with the car alarm going off. I was pissed. So much for relaxing. I couldn't get out of the back door because it was locked. I hit the unlock button and was finally able to get out. But now I didn't know how to turn the alarm off. I put the key in the driver's door lock and turned it. That was what I understood to be the proper technique. But first I didn't know which way to turn it to unlock it (i always used the remote button on the key), but besides, no matter which way I turned it the alarm wasn't stopping. Nor was the door unlocking. I used the button on the key. I got the car unlocked, got in, and started the engine. Finally the alarm shut off. But as I was sitting in the driver's seat with the engine running, I decided that relaxation time was a bust. I put it in gear and got back on the road.
As I drove along I figured out what had happened. I remembered reading that the Phaeton had a motion detector inside the car to prevent someone from hiding in wait to abduct you when you got in the car. I found that to be a pretty ridiculous feature. I remembered reading about it in the owner's manual, and the instructions on how to disable it in the event you left your dog in the car when you went in shopping. I had disabled it shortly after I got the car and was playing with buttons and features. But in an attempt to reset the trip computer long-term data, I had accidentally reset all the user preferences by mistake. This must have been one of those preferences that got reset. And when the car locked itself after a minute or two of inactivity, the motion sensor was activated, and I had set it off trying to relax. This was just another example of the boon of luxury cars. I love the comfort and the power and the amenities, but these endless gadgets and features just cause endless headaches.
As I continued driving through West Virginia and trying to put this drama behind me, what appeared to be an undercover cop car pulled onto the highway behind me. I kept an eye on him. Despite the fact that I'm now a grown man, am in a perfectly legal car, and not carrying any contraband, I still get nervy when there are cops around. Any cop can fuck with you at any time for any reason. And while he might just let you go, or at worst give you a bogus ticket you could fight, it's still a situation to be avoided. I had now crossed over into Red State territory in a luxury car with New York plates on it. I was a little paranoid. But as the car came up and went past me, I noticed that he had Georgia plates. Clearly it was some GDI driving what had once been a cop car.
As the miles piled up I calmed back down. Soon I was into Virginia, and driving deeper in all the while. I decided to put in another podcast. This one was Chris Hardwick interviewing Kevin Bacon on The Nerdist. After a bit I went past a Virginia State Trooper that had someone pulled over. Then a little while later another. Then another. I don't know that I'd ever seen so many cops with so many people pulled over on one stretch of road. Then I went past a plain black SUV that was coming off a U-Turn. It looked like another cop. Because I was listening to a podcast, I had my ear buds in again. I got paranoid because it's illegal to have ear buds in when you're driving. I figured this would be the cop's excuse to pull over the northerner white boy. I yanked out the ear buds, reduced my speed to just a little under the limit, and drove straight and true. My heart started beating as I checked my mirror and saw that he had indeed pulled onto the highway, and was in the left lane slowly passing traffic. I had the distinct feeling he was on a witch hunt. I did my best to play it cool. As he slowly moved past me in the passing lane, I kept both hands on the wheel and my eyes straight ahead. The last thing I was going to do was to look over to see if he was looking at me. To my relief, he kept going by me. But I kept looking at him. I was slightly more relaxed, but still on my toes. He continued up past several more cars, eyeing each one. Then he pulled over. He didn't pull anyone over. He just pulled onto the shoulder. I thought that was it, but after a number of cars went by, he pulled back on and started working his way up past them again. I figured he'd decided which of us he wanted to harass, and was coming back for the kill. It could easily be the white boy in the New York luxury car who'd been listening to his iPod when he should have had is ears clear. But then he made his move, and by the grace of God it wasn't on me. In fact it turned out to be the fake cop car with Georgia plates that I'd seen earlier. I felt really sorry for those boys. Whatever hassles the Virginia cop had in store for them, it couldn't be pleasant. A few miles later my heart beat finally went back to normal.
I continued seeing more cars pulled over the whole time I was in Virginia. As I was nearing the border with North Carolina some rain drops appeared on the windshield. Weather.com had failed to predict this. But it was only sprinkles. I figured it would let up quickly. Soon I had crossed into North Carolina, made my exit from I-81 onto I-77, and forged on. But as the sun was going down, the rain started picking up. And I was surprised that the traffic on I-77 was rather dense. There were an awful lot of big rigs, all spitting water up onto my windshield. And I was again vexed by the Phaeton's "automatic" features. The intermittent wipers didn't have different settings like in a normal car. There was a rain water sensor that determined how long or short the pauses should be. The driver had no direct control over it. So I had to just hope that the car got it right. Sometimes it did, but other times I was just begging to have control over the intermittent speed. I was coming to understand that "luxury" meant that control was taken away from the driver.
By now I was tired. It was early evening, and I had been driving all damn day. The farther I went, the worse the rain got, and the traffic was not letting up. But I was determined to forge ahead. At least I was still comfortable, except for a slightly sore back. The Phaeton had better lumbar support than any car I'd ever driven, and yet my back was still feeling it. It would have all been okay if I didn't have to deal with the rain. When I passed Winston/Salem the traffic let up slightly, but soon it was replaced with Charlotte traffic. Then I was approaching the greater Charlotte area. Then it was the automotive bullfighting that is urban interstate driving. At least it woke me back up again. And it wasn't all that bad. I just camped out in the left lane when things got dense. And perhaps my favorite feature of the Phaeton is its horsepower. If I needed to, I would goose the throttle, and lurch out ahead of whatever situation was bothering me.
Before I knew it I was past Charlotte, and then quickly into South Carolina. Miraculously the rain started letting up, and the traffic had thinned out dramatically. I was actually back to enjoying the drive again. But it was approaching the time I should start looking for a place to spend the night. Ironically after all the stress and drudgery, I was now kind of in the mood to keep going. The turn-off to I-26, which would take me to I-95, was at Columbia South Carolina. I didn't know how much farther it was, but I estimated about another hour or so. I thought maybe that would make a good milestone to achieve for the day. But soon I came across an exit that had multiple fast food shops, multiple gas stations, and multiple chain hotels. I checked the time. It was about twenty to eight. I had told myself to press on until 8:00, but this was exactly the kind of exit I had in mind for my overnight stay. When I got to the actual exit, I pulled off before I could change my mind.
So now I chose to put myself in the hands of internet technology. I pulled into the parking lot of the first hotel I saw. But I didn't go in. I fired up my iPad, launched Trip Advisor, and searched for the cheapest hotel near me. I brought up nearby hotels, then sorted by price, lowest-to-highest. Okay, so far so good. But when I changed the sort order, it seemed to forget that I was looking for hotels near me, or at the very least took a rather liberal view of what was "near." I went back to the map view, and could see all the hotels at this exit, but now I couldn't tell which one cost how much without clicking on each one of them individually. Ugh. Once again, the more conveniences I have, the more inconvenienced I feel.
Eventually I found some $35 special just the other side of the interchange. It wasn't a chain, but in the picture it looked like a proper travelers' motel. I booked it on Hotels.com, because that's the site in whose awards program I participate. No muss no fuss. I just hoped that it had registered in their computer by the time I got there. I drove directly there. There were like 3 cars in the whole parking lot. I went up to the door, and found a secured cubicle made of armored glass like it was some check-cashing joint. I stepped inside and could see into the office. No one was there. There was a hand-written sign on the door with a number to call for service. I immediately regretted my choice in hotel. I called the number and got someone on the other end, but he sounded surprised that anyone was actually wanting to stay there. "Hold on," he said. "I'll be right there." I minute later some black guy came running across the parking lot and let me into the lobby. I noticed he was wearing an Econo Lodge shirt, and realized that he'd come over from the Econo Lodege next door. He started looking through his computer but couldn't find my reservation. I checked my iPad, and suddenly realized that I hadn't booked it for that night, but for the following Monday. My wonderful hotels.com app for some reason defaulted the date to that day, and in my rush to book the room had never noticed. But the guy couldn't find that reservation either. I saw that I could cancel the reservation through the app with no penalty, so I said to the guy, "How about if I just stay over at the Econo Lodge." He said that was fine, and that he could even give me the same rate I had gotten for this sketchy hotel. A few minutes later I had my room key.
As soon as I got into the room and dropped off my overnight bag, I went right back out for a bite to eat. I'd been eating ham sandwiches all day, and I needed something else. I decided on Burger King for its value menu. One chicken crisp sandwich, a value onion rings, and $2.14 later, I had food in my stomach, and went back to the room. I watched just enough American Idol to remind myself why I don't watch that show anymore. By then it was 9:00. Nothing was on TV, so I decided to shut it off and take some art photos while in this exquisite cheap hotel room. I went out to the car to get my camera and tripod out of the trunk. My heart skipped a beat as I pushed the button on the key to open the trunk for the first time since I left. It opened okay. I got the camera out and took lots of shots. I had been abstaining from auto-erotic behavior for the days leading up to the trip in hopes of prompting some heightened erectile function. My dick was responding to stimuli to a degree, but it was difficult to get a full-on erection. Still, some of the shots actually turned out okay (view the one I published). By 10:00 I put it away and climbed in bed. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten my white noise machine. This was not good. This was the single most important piece of kit besides my iPhone and Garmin. It's not really all that effective in drowning out background noise, but my sleep brain had become conditioned to its sound. And I was now faced with 12 nights on the road without it. But I had to make due. I expected difficulty in getting to sleep even with it, but again to my surprise I conked out in minutes.
I woke up in the middle of the night. Usually when this happens either I fall right back to sleep, or I toss and turn for an hour or more. I didn't fall right back to sleep. My worry was that I wouldn't get back to sleep at all. I tried not to think about it as I lay there awake for some time. Beyond having an active mind, I was having difficulty finding a comfortable position in which to fall back asleep. After what was probably at least an hour, I was able to drift off. I repeated the cycle of waking up, not being able to find a comfortable position, but then drifting off again. What was odd this time was that on a few occasions I awoke to an apnea gasp. That was a first for me. With all my sleep issues, I had never had the slightest sign of apnea.
By the time the sun was coming up, I got out of bed for good. I knew that with two consecutive spotty nights of sleep that I would be groggy behind the wheel all day, so I decided to take a half of a Provigil. It's something I do only rarely, and only when I really needed to. I knew that today I really needed to. After a nasty continental breakfast of stale Cherios and a rapid checkout, I was at the gas station across the street. I held my breath as I hit the fuel filler flap button. It opened. I filled the tank and was on the road minutes later. Again it was almost exactly 8AM.
This morning I plugged in the Garmin. I didn't bother the day before, because I knew my route, and I had no specific destination. But this morning I punched in the street address of the gay nudists Couchsurfing house where I'd be spending the first three nights. Garmin said I'd be there by 6PM. That sounded like an easy day, until it dawned on me that it was still a full 10 hours away.
The morning went pretty quickly. I listened to Morning Edition again. Traffic was very light, and before I knew it I made the turn-off from I-77 to I-26 in Columbia, and then again just as quickly I was on I95. The Garmin said, "Proceed 228 miles." It made me laugh. My back started out achey like the day before, but it actually passed after a while. When Morning Edition wrapped, I called my host to let him know what time to expect me. He didn't pick up so I left a message. I decided to put in a podcast by Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew. It opened with this big, bold "Carolla Broadcasting Network" introduction with professional-sounding music. I didn't know if he was serious or poking fun at himself. Their guest was David Alan Grier. They were supposed to be taking calls, but they talked between themselves for a good half hour. The conversation was actually interesting. They wound up on the Mantai Teo catfish subject, and I must confess that they provided some insights I hadn't previously considered (not that I'd given the story much thought at all). Finally they took a call. I didn't even know what the theme of the calls was supposed to be. It was some guy who asked Dr. Drew about his hernia surgery. He had put it off for a number of years, and now that he'd had it done... He was going to go on and describe some manner of complication, presumably, but there's no way to know because the threesome started talking amongst themselves again. They in no way addressed, or even seemed to concern themselves with the caller's issue. Instead they talked about their own hernia operation experiences. After about 10-15 minutes of this, Adam finally remembered that there was someone on the line. "Yeah, don't put it off," he said. "Just go ahead and get it done. Next caller." He clearly hadn't listen ed to what the guy was wanting to ask about, because he had said that he did have it done, but the delay had caused an issue. The other calls went similarly. The show was clearly not about addressing callers' issues, but using the calls as a catalyst for their own conversation. Which is fine, I suppose. The conversation was spirited and interesting. And having heard Adam interviewed in the past, I knew that this was his approach to call-in shows. But you would think that if that were the case they'd just embrace it and have callers toss out topics rather than ask questions that the panel knew they had no intention of answering.
By the time that pocdast ended I was into Georgia. I thought about the fake cop car from the day before, and if they ever made it home. I listened to music. Before long I was into Florida. I felt like I was in the last leg of the journey, even though I knew that leg was going to be very, very long. The first thing I had to do was navigate Jacksonville. Not like there was any navigating to be done. I just had to keep on I-95. But there was a lot of in and out and up and down as it snaked around bypasses and viaducts. At one point my Garmin said, "Recalculating," which gave me a start, but the signs clearly indicated I was still on I-95. I put it on mute.
By the time I got past Jacksonville it was right around noon. I turned on the radio to see if I could pick up some lunchtime NPR programming. Instead I found myself on a religious station. It was some woman from Focus on the Family giving advice on how to maximize family time. I decided to compartmentalize my knowledge that FotF was rabidly anti-gay, and just listen to what the woman had to say. I thought her advice was actually pretty good. She had a lot of practical suggestions for methods and techniques to keep your kids engaged rather than stuck to their mobile devices, and finding ways to have family time when there are so many competing priorities coming from school activities and work. After that program concluded, some preacher lady came on and went off on a variety of topics. Again, I decided to listen to what she was saying, rather than just write her off as a religious extremist. She said that rather than praying for themselves, people should just pray for the strength to carry out God's will. She said that rather than focusing on yourself you should go out and help others, and that when you don't feel like helping others but do it anyway, that's when you get the most fulfillment. I found myself agreeing with her. She said something about giving thanks to God. She almost lost me, but when I took the word God out of the sentence, I thought about how important it is to keep gratitude in your life, which is something I strongly agree with. I was on a roll. But then she started cutting down "experts," mostly because they teach evolution. She said she doesn't have enough faith to be an atheist. Then she said that if we want to solve the problems of today's youth we should start by putting the 10 Commandments back into classrooms. That got a huge cheer from congregation. By now she had completely lost me.
By the time I was looking for a place to fill up with gas, a call-in show had come on the radio. Unlike Adam and Dr. Drew, these people were actually trying to address the callers' issues. I was very interested to hear what kind of advice they'd give. One woman was concerned that her son, who was now like 22, was showing no interest in girls. On the one hand she was proud because he was being chaste and virtuous, but she was concerned because he wasn't even showing any urges that he needed to try to control. She said he was attractive and fit, smart and creative. I started screaming at the radio, "Maybe he's GAY!!!!" The panel addressing her concerns had a lot of thoughts, but somehow that wasn't one of them. When I did fill up with gas, the filler flap opened fine, but I had a devil of a time getting back on the expressway.
Time marched on and the miles ticked away, but I was still tired, and my back was starting to ache again. I really just wanted to be there, but there were still a few hours left. Having had enough of the religious stuff I went back to NPR and listened to whatever I could find. An hour went by. Then another. Then it was time for All Things Considered. Another hour went by. Now I was almost there. When I hit West Palm Beach I knew I was in the final stretch. Then I got to Bocca Raton. It was just then 5PM. On a Friday. In South Florida. No surprise: traffic ground to a halt. I had nothing to do but sit and be patient. The good thing about the Garmin is that it lets you know exactly what time you'll arrive. The bad thing is that when traffic slows down it lets you know exactly how much time you're losing. I texted my host to let him know that traffic was going to delay my arrival. I had no compunction over texting behind the wheel because the traffic wasn't moving. He texted back saying this was typical, and to just be patient. It was ironic that after 1380 miles, the last 20 were going to be the worst.
Finally, finally, finally, my exit came. Garmin had me get off on Broward. When I got onto the exit ramp I could finally put my foot in it and go a decent speed for once. But when I got off the exit I was faced with bumper-to-bumper traffic on Broward. But I was okay because I knew I was almost there. The further inland I got from I-95, the more it thinned out, and was like normal Lauderdale driving. A few short miles later, and I was off Broward and on my host's side street. Then very quickly I was at his door. Before I got out of the car I took a moment to check the trip computer. 1432 miles in 22 hours and 6 minutes at an average of 22.9 MPG. What a trip. What a trip.
My hosts met me at the door wearing nothing but tropical sarongs around their waists. It was a slightly doughy white guy named Peter, and his lean and fit Mexican boyfriend named Esteban. Their house was typical Ft. Lauderdale gay home. Tidy, clean, and very nicely appointed. They had already started decorating for their Mardi Gras party the next night. They showed me to my room, which was quite nice. I even had a private bath. I dropped my bags and ripped off my clothes. They dropped their sarongs, and we got to know each other totally naked. It's funny how to the rest of the world this situation would be like something out of an anxiety nightmare. For most people, to meet strangers when you and they are wearing absolutely nothing at all would be the most stressful situation imaginable. But to those who embrace it, shared nudity instantly creates an atmosphere of relaxed comaraderie. I immediately felt like we were already good friends. I was tired of sitting for the previous 22 hours, so I stood and walked back and forth and stretched. I told them about my trip and they told me about previous Couchsurfing experiences. I wondered what the dinner situation would be. I was prepared to take them out in exchange for their generosity, but they had meat all ready for the grille. We had a nice dinner, watched a little TV, and then it was off to bed early. Once again I fell right asleep.
The next morning I woke up at like 5AM. I was starting to get really sick of this. No matter how much I needed to sleep, my body was still waking me up ridiculously early. I lay there until the sunlight started peeking through. When I heard my hosts up and about I got up too. After I showered and shaved we all went out for breakfast. They took me to a place that served South American food. I got a breakfast tortilla kind of thing. I picked up the tab. My hosts seemed to be surprised by this, but it was my understanding that this was how the Couchsurfing relationship was supposed to go. Once back home I took a nap.
When I was back up and about, I decided to head down to Sebastian Beach to see what was up. The weather was warm with sun and clouds. My first goal on these trips is to soak in the heat, but a close second is to come back with color. Nothing pleases me more than to strut through the Cornell locker room with speedo-shaped tan lines. I donned my Mark Spitz stars-and-bars suit, threw on a pair of shorts over it, hopped in my Phaeton, and found my way to the beach. It was a bit of a trick finding parking, but I eventually found a metered spot on the street. I was all set to empty my change purse into it when I saw they have a pay-by-phone option. I decided to give that a try. I called the 1-888 number. I created an account using my cell phone number as my ID. I then had to enter the credit card number. No problem. But it also required entering the license plate number. That was a little tricky entering an alpha-numeric license plate number using only a numeric keypad. It was an interesting exercise in user interface design. I couldn't imagine doing it any differently than how they did it, but it took FOREVER. Add to this the fact that there was a diesel truck right behind me with its engine running the whole time, making it very difficult to hear the options the automated operator was giving me. I had to go through the whole process like 4 times before I finally got it right. It must have taken like 20 minutes. Then I paid for the maximum 4 hours. Finally that was done. But I went and looked at the digital parking meeter, and the time did not appear. It still said "expired." I figured that it was expecting too much that all these meters be wired, and that a meter maid would use her own mobile device to confirm that the spot was paid for, but I was still paranoid. Before I could walk away from the car I got out some quarters and put 2 hours on the meter. I knew it was money wasted, but it was worth it for my peace of mind.
The beach was a couple blocks away from my parking spot. I toyed with the idea of throwing all my clothes in the trunk and walking there in nothing but the speedo, but I decided against it. I found my way to Sebastian Beach. You always know when you're there because of all the fat old men in skimpy bikini bathing suits. There may have been one or two hot guys there too. I stripped down to my speedo and lay in the sand. I didn't have a towel or anything. I just lay right out on the raw sand. Ordinarily I would have put on a podcast or something, but I was a little burnt out from all the listening I had done on the drive down. The book I had brought to read on the trip was The Annotated Picture of Dorian Gray. It was an interesting book, but not convenient for the beach. So I lay there quietly overhearing foreign conversations I couldn't understand. After maybe 20 minutes I flipped over to my back. Sand was embedded deeply into the skin on my face. After maybe another 20 minutes I'd had about enough. I got up and brushed the sand off myself. It dawned on me I could post a picture to Facebook and make everyone else back home eat shit. I wanted someone else to take the pic so I could get a nice head-to-toe shot in my speedo. But there wasn't anyone around who looked like someone I wanted to bother, so I just did it myself.
I tried to promenade up and down the beach in my speedo, but I always get hyper paranoid that someone's going to steal my stuff if I leave it unattended. I walked around a little bit, but had to rush right back to make sure my stuff was still there. I moved my stuff to the tall grass over by the wall and walked around a little more, but I was just as paranoid and went right back to it. I decided I'd sit on the wall and watch all the fancy cars going up and down Ocean Blvd. Ferrari. Porsche. Bentley. Yawn. I looked up to the far end of the beach and saw the twin towers of The Palms. I could see Gordon's penthouse even from this distance. What I really wanted to do was to be up there talking with him. I knew he'd be sitting around doing nothing. But I didn't want to seem overly eager. So I kept watching cars.
Then my phone rang. It was Gordon! I picked up.
"Are you huddled over your wood stove with three feet of snow outside?" he asked without saying hello, refering to the blizzard that hit Boston the day before.
"No," I replied. "Actually I'm sitting on the wall at Sebastian Beach wishing I was up there talking to you."
It took me a while to convince him I was serious. I wasn't staying with him and Wayne until the following weekend. Apparently he didn't realize I'd be in town all week long. He quickly agreed to let me come up and visit. I ran right back to my car and took off, not caring that I still had about 3 hours of meter left.
I went through the rigorous security procedures to gain entrance to the building, left my car with the valet, went through the rigorous procedures to gain entrance to the elevator, and ran over and pushed the button. When the doors finally opened, there was Gordon Locksley himself come down to greet me. He looked well, maybe a couple pounds lighter. My best guess was that it had been 2 years since I'd seen him last. We went back up to his penthouse and had a nice chat. I took a minute to take in the grandeur of his home. It really is one of the most magical places I've been. It's so simple, with a minimum of furnishings and museum white on every wall, and yet so sophisticated for the same reasons. It was set up from the start such that the art was the focal point. Everything else is for comfort, not for show. He's constantly rearranging the art on his walls and bringing in new pieces. I really wanted to look around and see what he had hanging, but he wanted me to sit near him and catch up. Wayne was napping, but after a while we could hear him in the shower. Gordon wanted me to go in and surprise him in the shower, but I didn't feel comfortable with that. I still didn't know what his attitude towards me was. In fact I was a little nervous about it. I wanted to see how he would greet me when he walked in, not see what kind of a reaction he had if I surprised him in the shower. Usually I don't like to decline Gordon's requests, and he was a little insistent, but I just said I wasn't comfortable with it, and Gordon let it go. After a while Wayne did come out, and he was perfectly fine with me just like back in the old days. He sat down the other side of me and we all chatted. Usually if Gordon and I were talking Wayne would just go do something else, but this time he joined in. I got a little whiplash looking from Gordon to Wayne and back to Gordon, but it was actually rather pleasant for all 3 of us to be interacting.
After a while I excused myself to go back to my Couchsurfing hosts who had their big naked Mardi Gras party that night. I didn't really need to help out with the preparations other than putting my car in just the right spot so they could maximize the space in their driveway. Esteban was walking around in a very fancy, feathered Mardi Gras mask. I had brought a couple masks with me, including one white one with pink feathers. I tried it on, but the white was smudged, the pink feathers were coming off, and it was way inferior to what Esteban was wearing. So I went with my alternative basic black mask. I had also brought a selection of beads, but Esteban had color-coordinated ones he was ready to hand out, so I went with one of those. People started arriving pretty much exactly on time. These moments were rather interesting to me, because on one hand I've been to lots of naked parties and they're all very much the same, but on the other hand these were people I had never met before. Usually I'd be very anxious at a party where everyone knows each other and I don't know any of them, but because we were all naked it made everything more relaxed. Initially the energy was a little low, but as more and more guys started showing up things got into the swing. I pretty quickly got tired of the mask I was wearing and took it off.
There was one thing that I was a little curious about as the party played out. In the other naked groups with which I'd participated, both in Syracuse NY and Palm Springs CA, there was a designated "discrete room" where people could go and hook up. I asked Peter about this, and he was a little perplexed by the whole concept. Apparently the convention in Ft Lauderdale was that people could hook up right out in the open if they wanted to, but it didn't sound like that happened all that much. I wasn't really in the mood for it just yet anyway. I was still mingling and meeting new people. Most of them were very friendly, but a fair number of them split off into their social circles. Peter had a brazier and tiki torches set up outside. It it was a little chilly, but some people were hanging out back there. I went in and out as I mingled. There were some guys towards whom I gravitated, mostly the more slender, talkative ones. One in particular was asking if anyone had any weed, which made me start craving weed. We sort of co-craved for a while, but there was not going to be any week to be smoked that night. There was another guy who caught my eye because he was very well built. He looked a lot like a younger, shorter, more muscular Art Garfunkle. But he was spending a lot of time with another guy. I rather assumed they were together, so I didn't try to intercede. I went through a couple iterations of putting on some attention-getting garb, like harness bits and colorful flashing gel cockrings. It worked a little, but I wasn't known by this group, and it felt a little odd. So I just took it all off and went back to 100% naked.
It was around then that I started fondling myself a little. I figured if no action was going to start then I'd get a little action going with myself. I gave myself a bit of a semi, but didn't feel like it was in the mood to get totally hard. It was enough to get me a little attention, but not a lot. Maybe a touch or a grab here and there, but nothing substantial. At one point I wound up in the back yard listening to some former Marine tell me all about how being the guy who did the paperwork got him out of a parking ticket on base. While he was telling me this story, someone finally started playing with my dick. I wanted to turn and reciprocate, but the former Marine's story was going on and on. When he finally took a break, I turned away from him and to whoever was playing with my junk. It turned out to be the Art Garfunkle guy. His name was Gregg. And he had a bit of an erection going on as well. So we fondled each other as people started to take notice. Finally I got down on my knees and started sucking him. This got more of a reaction out of the crowd. I didn't mind the audience, but I really wanted to get this guy on his back so I could give him a proper deepthroat. I invited him into my guest room, and he agreed. As we walked into the house I noticed that the windows into the guest room were right there on the edge of the patio.
When we stepped into the room, I walked over to the window and grabbed the cord to the blinds. Gregg was expecting me to shut them, but instead I raised them all the way so that everyone could get a good look. As I enveloped his dick with my throat, I could hear cat calls and commentary coming from the crowd that was starting to gather outside the window. I was in hog heaven. By this time my dick was now fully erect. Two things that will always get me hard is having another cock down my throat, and having people watching me. Both together was a solid combination. Gregg and I went back and forth, really getting it on while basically the whole party watched. It was totally hot. At one point I started stroking myself a little, and I started to hear people in the crowd calling out for a money shot. I was ready to carry this on a little longer, but the time was clearly right. I went from stroking to pounding, and within a minute or two I was squirting all over myself. The crowd cheered. After a little post-coital tenderness, I walked out into the kitchen looking for napkings to wipe myself down with. Interestingly I didn't get any reaction from the crowd that was now in the living room, but when Gregg walked into the living room he got a rousing round of applause. I later postulated that he got the attention because he was known to the group. If he had walked out first with me right behind him we would probably both have gotten the applause. I mingled just a little more and then went to bed.
The next morning I woke up crazy early again. I was starting to get used to it. I finally got out some of the oatmeal I'd been carrying in my trunk since before I left. After a little while my house guests got up as well. It turned out that Gregg had enough to drink the night before that he just stayed over. It gave us a chance to reconnect. The four of us hung out for a while, all naked, and relived the highlights of the night before. But Gregg got on his way pretty quickly.
My plan was to spend pretty much the whole day at the gay baths. Not only did I have nothing else to do, but they served a buffet on Sundays, and it was usually pretty well attended. This would fulfill my need for sex, sun, and food all in one. My hosts had initially expressed interest in joining me, but decided they should stay home and clean up after their party. After I took a mid-morning nap to try to catch up on some sleep, I decided to head out. But before I left I decided to take a Daddy's Little Helper. My erectile function the night before had been adequate for the activities at hand, but not stellar. It certainly would have been inadequate for any manner of ass pounding. I usually make it a point of pride to perform at the baths without any chemical assistance. Usually the simple fact of being in that environment is stimulus enough, but every year it gets a little more difficult to perform. So I decided I'm at the age where I'm not going to sweat it anymore. I checked my stash and found a Levitra. I washed it down before I could think twice about it, grabbed my car keys, a speedo, my swim goggles, and I was off.
I got there right around 11:00AM. The parking lot was already fairly full. I could feel the Levitra kicking in already as I walked to the door. The first thing on my mind whenever I go to this bath house is how long I'm going to have to wait to get in. I don't think I had ever just walked up to the window. I always had to wait for at least one other person. This time I walked in and found the lobby full of guys. Some of them had all their luggage with them. I had heard that there was a gay cruize returning to port that day. The theory was that after an entire gay cruize that no one would be interested in more sex at the bath house, but the evidence did not seem to support that. The process of waiting to get into the bath house was kind of like waiting at the DMV or the Post Office. I know what I need. I know how to order it. I can be in and out in minutes. But all the dick heads in front of me seem to take forever. I've found that the best antidote to this situation is to give myself something to do. So rather than freak out I just played solitaire on my iPhone and chilled. Finally, after forever, I got up to the window, got my membership and my locker key, and I was inside minutes later.
I made a bee line for my locker, stripped naked, locked up, and was off to play. Everyone I've ever seen at every bath house I've ever been to walks around in a towel. I've never understood that. Every time I've ever been in a bath house, any bath house, I run around stark naked. No one's ever told me to put on a towel, so I never have. This time, by the time I walked away from my locker I was already rock hard. I went directly to the video room. They had changed things around a little, installing a platform bed, separating out a couple glory hole stalls, and a sling room in the back. The only way a glory hole stall makes sense to me is if the sucker and suckee are totally separated from each other. That makes it exciting to not know who is sucking your dick, or whose dick you're sucking. But to just arbitrarily insert a holed wall between two people who would otherwise just be sucking dick out in the open makes no sense to me whatsoever. But it was a moot point at the moment because my plan was to just sit down, watch a little porn, and let guys have their way with me. Usually it takes quite a while either for people to saunter in, or for them to get the message that it's okay to be playing with my dick. But not this time. Guys dove right in the moment I sat down. It was nice go have guys going gonzo on my rod, but I always forget how rare it is to get a decent blow job at the Ft. Lauderdale bath house. I don't know why. I haven't had this problem in other cities. But in Ft. Lauderdale you can always count on a whole lot of bad blow jobs. Still, it's better than no blow job at all. So I made do.
Pretty soon a fat boy wanted me to fuck him. We stepped over to the platform bed, I put a condom on my still rock hard prick, he lubed himself up, and I proceded to fuck him long and hard. Part of the redesign of the video room included a lot of mirrors. It was hot watching my lean, muscular body pound this fat boy over and over and over. Ordinarily I would not have gotten bored with this pretty quickly, but I was still fresh, and my cock was like rock, so I pounded him for quite some time. But inevitably I got to the point I'd had enough, and pulled out. He walked away, but I stayed in the video room for a while, stroking my stiffy and looking at myself in the mirror. Some other fat guy got up on the platform bed. This guy wasn't just a little chubby. He was FAT. And he had a big fat ass. And he squated up on that platform bed and presented his big fat ass to the room. I think he assumed I'd just walk up to him and start pounding, but I need a little more romance than that. At the very least I need to be asked. So I walked off to explore other parts of the bath house.
I walked the labyrinth of bedrooms. My dick was still totaly hard. A couple guys had their doors open, but there wasn't anyone I felt like playing with. There was the sauna and steam room, but I wasn't in the mood to get sweaty and wet just yet. I wound up in the other video room, which is really just a short corridor with a TV down at the end and play stalls on either side. I wasn't in there long before someone started going gonzo on me. But we were right in the middle of the corridor and blocking everyone's way. So I stepped down and into the doorway of one of the stalls. The guy reacted as if I had rejected him, but I gestured down to my cock, as if saying, "Continue..." and the guy quickly and enthusiastically got back to business. Then he backed me all the way into the stall and closed the door. I'm really more about doing it out in the open, but I didn't mind. The guy slobbered my knob for a while, but then he had a condom on me before I really realized it. Next thing I know I'm fucking him. That went on for a while, but I got bored and left him there.
I walked around a little bit more. I was still rock hard. Eventually it dawned on me that I had been completely, utterly, unwaveringly rock hard since I had gotten there. It had not gotten soft, even a little bit, even for a moment. I was becoming a little paranoid that I was having an adverse reaction, and that I'd wind up in the Ft. Lauderdale emergency room with a persistent erection that they would have to go god-knows-what to to get it to go down. It made my start to wish I hadn't taken the pill, and the worry was making it a little difficult to enjoy my time there. I decided to cover up with my towel and watch TV for a while to see if it would soften up a little. If it got even a little bit soft, it would be enough to convince me that everything was okay. I pulled my towel from my locker and went to the TV lounge. They were watching "Walking Dead" (there was an all-new episode that night after a mid-season hiaitus). If anything takes your mind off of sex it should be gruesome zombies getting brutally dismembered. But as I sat there I was still utterly stiff. I didn't give it a lot of time, but despite the fact that I wasn't trying at all, my dick was fully, throbbingly hard. I walked away with growing worry that this situation was going to go horribly wrong. But then, almost in an instant, I got over it. I figured I had a 4-hour time budget (by now down to about 2.5 hours). Until then, I should just go with it. After all, this was what had been increasingly eluding me for years: a full-on, stiff erection that just won't quit. So I put my towel back and went to play. And I played and played and played.
I walked all over the place with my stiffy 6" out in front of me the whole time. When I decided it was time to get wet I went into the sauna for a bit, then into the steam room where several men had their way with me, then into the hot tub (way too hot!!!), and then took a dip in the pool. When I got out and was toweling off, some gregarious old men sitting on the sun deck started flirting with me. I happily indulged them. They remarked on my wonder-cock that stayed perpetually hard. I 'fessed up to the fact that I had a little help from big pharma. They thought it was funny. I basked in hog heaven for a bit. Whenever I have a group of people looking at, studying, and commenting on my big hard cock, I'm about as happy as I can be.
While I was on the pool deck, the staff were setting up a DJ table and some stands for the go-go boys who had apparently been hired for the day. One of the staff members made a remark to me that I belonged up there dancing more than some of the professional boys that came in. I took the compliment for what it was. I actually did jump up on one of the empty boxes and wiggled my boner around a bit, but I quickly got tired of that. I went back into the building to play more.
I was getting blow jobs wherever I went. Most of them were pretty bad. One Asian guy was actually sucking on me pretty good, but he had a tendency to focus too much on the knob, which can get ticklish and sensitive on me. I saw the fat guy again. This time he properly asked me back to his room, so I fucked him good for a while. I was invited into a couple other rooms and fucked a couple other guys. This one duo invited me into their room to eat out my ass. I enjoyed it. I like getting my ass eaten. The only thing I like penetrating my hole is a tongue. But then I noticed one of them putting on a condom. I wasn't sure if it was for me or not. I rolled over and said, "Y'know I don't get fucked." The guy was bitterly disappointed. The other guy started dry humping my crack. I really wasn't digging it, so I said, "Yeah, I've had enough of this," and walked out. I'm usually not that rude, but usually guys aren't that presumptuous with me.
So I kept making the rounds, and I kept getting bad blow jobs. I was in and out of the sauna, steam room, hot tub, and pool multiple times, checking in with the gregarious older guys each time I dried off. By now the buffet was in full swing, and the go-go boys were doing their thing. I could tell what the staff member meant earler. A couple of the guys were somewhat hot, but they were barely moving on their boxes. They were sort of just shifting their weight from one foot to the other. They certainly weren't dancing. A couple of the other guys were dancing better, and showing their dicks more, but weren't as hot. When the buffet line died down I decided it was time to get a bite to eat. As I sat there eating my KFS chicken breast and pasta salad, I finally felt my dick get a little soft. I was pretty well over it by now, but it was still reassuring to know that things were under control.
After I finished my food I went back into the steam room. Some guy wanted me to fuck him, but didn't have a condom. Well someone else ponied up with a condom and lube, so I started going at it. Amazingly, after all that erectile function, and having only just now started to soften up, I immediately began to experience the kind of dysfunction that prevents me from fucking. It was like the shaft was hard enough, but the base loosened up so that I couldn't insert it, or give a good pounding while it was inserted. The Levitra was clearly wearing off. There was still plenty of effect left, but I had to stroke myself more to keep it hard. A few more times in the steam room and pool, and a few more laps around the back labyrinth, and I was finally ready to blow my load. I was looking for the fat guy, only because I knew he had poppers. I don't like to use poppers as a matter of course. It's always really intense the first time, and then the whole rest of the day you're chasing that initial intensity. That's why I like to save it for when I'm ready to blow. In fact I'll often decide it's time to finish if there happens to be poppers available at the moment. But here I was, ready to blow, and no poppers at hand. The fat guy was nowhere to be found. I did, however, find the one guy who gave me a decent blow job that whole afternoon. He didn't have poppers, but he did have a room, and he was all too happy to take my load. He gave me a good sucking, and when I felt I was ready, I got up on my knees and squirted all over his face. It felt good. And as expected, I just kept coming and coming and coming.
When I was finally done and wiping up, he said to me, "Do any of the other boys need to get off?"
I thought I heard him, but I didn't know what I mean, so I said, "What?"
He more slowly and distinctly said, "Do any of the other boys need to get off?"
I looked back at him perplexed. "What does that MEAN?" I asked.
"I was wondering if I could finish off any of the other go-go boys," he said. Suddenly it made sense. He must have seen me up on the box and thought I was one of the professionals. And it was quite a compliment, considering I was twice their age. I smiled and thanked him and said I wasn't with the troupe. I made one more round of the pool deck as my dick slowly deflated, and shared the story with the gregarious old men. They laughed. But quickly I had my clohtes back on, turned in my key, and was on my way back to my hosts.
We all went out to dinner at another local latin food establishment. They ordered some faimly-style combo that came with lots of food. I picked up the tab again to help pay back for the free bed. While we were waiting for our order to come out, Peter started texting with someone. It shows how desensitized I've become, that I barely even noticed, let alone got miffed about it. It turned out to be someone who had been at the party the night before. He said he left around the time people started getting naughty. Peter asked him if there was anyone he was particularly into. He said he thought the "naughtiest one of all" was kind of hot. We wondered if maybe he meant me. Peter asked him for a description. He said the guy who was wearing the harness for a while. Yup, that was me. I liked being known as the naughtiest one of all.
After we were back from dinner I wanted to watch the long anticipated all-new episode of "Walking Dead," but my hosts gave no indication that they were interested in the program. They did however let me pick out a movie to watch from their extensive collection. I chose "Robo Cop" only because I'd never seen it, and I'd heard something about it mentioned on a recent Nerdist podcast. When the movie was over I climbed into bed.
I woke up ridiculously early again. By now I was getting good at lounging in bed for prolonged periods. I got up and had a little more of my oatmeal. Esteban went out to his yoga class. Peter got to work. He worked from home. Nude. Man, what a deal that is. If I had that lifestyle I'd only put on clothes to go out for supplies. The only thing on my agenda that day was to get to the airport and fly to the Virgin Islands. Since my flight wasn't until well after lunch, I had time to kill. I tried to lie in the sun, but there wasn't much sun to lie in. After about an hour, maybe 10 minutes of which I was in direct sunlight, I gave up on it.
I was still feeling a little horny from the day(s) before, so I got out my tablet device and trolled Tumblr. That really is the best porn-distribution utility in the history of the internet. At one point I had myself totally worked up and felt like I could blow a load. My first inclincation was to save myself, but I quickly realized I had nothing to save myself for. I would spend the next days in the Virgin Islands by myself, where there would be virtualy zero opportunities to hookup with anyone. So I went out into the back yard and squirted all over the grass.
I went back into the bedroom and lay down, napping as much as I could until it was time to go. I threw some stuff into my backpack for the trip, got the rest of my belongings into proper luggage, and got it all into my car. I said goodbye to Peter, and I was on my way. I knew I'd still be ridiculously early, but I'd rather be sitting at the gate with nothing to do than sitting somewhere else with nothing to do. The one difference this time was I would be parking my car at the Ft Lauderdale airport rather than returning my rental car. I wasn't very well acquainted with the parking garage setup there, so I figured I'd just try to park as close to my departing terminal as I could.
I was flying on Spirit. I knew that the Lauderdale airport had really good signage. After you're off the expressway and heading in, there's a huge sign for each terminal, listing all the airlines serviced by that terminal. I went past the sign for Terminal 1. It had a long list of carriers, none of which were Spirit. No surprise. Then the sign for Terminal 2. A shorter list, none of which was Spirit. Then Terminal 3. Again, a short list, none of which were Spirit. I was about to panic. Then finally I saw the sign for Terminal 4, which did list Sprit, along with other Caribbean specialists.
It turned out there was basically one centralized garage that was smack in the middle of terminals 2,3, and 4. It took quite a while to find an open spot, but I did. As I locked up my Phaeton I feared that the alarm might go off while I was gone, leaving me with a dead battery when I returned. There was nothing I could do about it. I just worried over nothing.
I did the kiosk check-in easily enough. But they had special procedures and prices for using the overhead compartment. I knew the norm had become to charge for checked baggage, but charging for the overhead compartment was new to me. Since I just had my backpack and my shoulder bag, I figured I didn't even need to use the overhead. But after I had completed everything and received my bording passes, I got paranoid that my bag might not fit under the seat in front of me. I worry a lot in the best of circumstances, but when I travel I worry about absolutely every possible detail. I decided to get in line to talk to someone at the counter. I still had crazy time before my flight. But as I was standing there, some lady was walking around saying "Last call for St Thomas!" I thought this was a little odd because the flight wouldn't even be bording for another hour. When I finally got her attention, she told me that you need to be checked in an hour before bording. I asked her about my backpack and she said it looked like it would be okay.
As I was going through security I found a hole in my game. When I was packing the car I didn't bring any of my standard air flight stuff because I was driving. But I totally forgot that I would be taking this interim flight as part of the trip. So I didn't have things like a little zip-lock bag for my liquids, or my crossword puzzle book for when we couldn't use electronic devices. They let me go through with my liquids jumbled loose in the gray bin.
I found the gate and sat down. Some joker sat down at the other end of my 4-seated unit. He started eating his airport food. Every time he leaned forward to take a bite, the unit would rock forward. Then he'd sit back to chew and the unit would rock back. This went on and on and on. I wondered how many bites it took to finish a Carls Jr burger. Apparently a whole hell of a lot. Then there was a black islander on the other side of me gabbing endlessly on his cell phone. I was trying to understand his island dialect, but it was basically impossible. So I focused on the fact that he was doing litterally all of the talking. I tried to imagine the guy on the other end of the line just sitting there listening. I then listened for and timed the pauses the guy was making. He didn't pause for more than 8 seconds at any one time. It's amazing how every little thing becomes a gigantic annoyance when I'm waiting for a flight, even if everything is going fine.
We borded on time. Some chick in the row behind me was chatting with some other black island dude. She was saying that she's from Boston, and when they predicted the bad weather (3 days earlier), she decided she didn't want to shovel snow, so she got on a plane. I always wonder who these people are and how they can travel wherever they want whenever they want with no apparent consequence or concern for expense. I found her very annoying. She acctually had a cute giggle, but even that became annoying when she over-used it to death. Finally we were up in the air, and I could watch the movie I downloaded onto my iPad and drown out the annoying girl behind me. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten the special Tweaked Audio ear phones I use on planes. I find their ear-plug design to be utterly worthless in real-world applications, because they're constantly falling out of my ear canals, but highly effective sitting still on a plane because they successfully plug out all ambient noise. The movie I had chosen was "Taken" starring Liam Neeson. It was a revenge story that had been recommended to me for when you're in a mood you want to just fuck the world. It was a good fit. Not the best movie, but pretty much just right for that flight. The movie took up almost the whole flight time.
We touched down in St Thomas to clowdy skies and rain. That did not make me happy. But at least it was warm and steamy. I quickly found my way to the shuttle to Red Hook (the departure point for the St John ferry at the opposite end of the island), and I was practically the last person on, so I didn't have to wait long before we left. But as soon as we got out of the parking lot, the lady next to me started stressing over whether we'd make the 5:00 ferry. Her stressing started to get me stressed out, until I remembered that I was in the islands, and I had to re-adjust to island time. There was no worry. There were no annoyances. You should just be where you are, doing what you're doing. It's amazing how quickly I can get into that mindset. It's a shame I can't bring that with me when I leave the islands. If only I could be like that all the time no matter where I am. I knew that if we missed the 5:00 shuttle that there would be another one a little later. There was no need to stress.
Sure enough we got there just a little bit too late to make the ferry, and that made absolutely no difference to me. I camped out and watched a South Park episode on my iPad. Before I knew it they were ready to start bording the next ferry. I got in line to get a ticket, remembering you need to pay extra for luggage. The black island girl at the counter asked me if I had any luggage. I spun around, showing my backpack, and asked if that counted as luggate. She said yes. I said, "Then one adult ticket and one luggage." She asked me if the backpack was the luggage, and I said yes. She then only charged me for the ticket, and not for the luggage. She didn't say anything. She just didn't charge me for the luggage, nor give me a luggage tag. It didn't make me annoyed. I just got on the boat and had a wet and windy ride over to St John.
Once off the boat it was a quick walk to my hotel. Having been there before I knew they'd leave my stuff in an envelope tacked up outside the office. It was right there. It wound up being the exact same room I had the previous time. I dropped my stuff off and went out, grabbed a slice, and hiked up to the Cruz Bay overlook. By now the rain had stopped and it looked like the clouds were parting. It was a beautiful view of the crecent moon over St Thomas across the bay.
Just about the time I went to leave, some car pulled up. It turned out to be a cop car. I thought it might look susupicious that I was leaving just when he got there, but that had been the plan, so I went through with it. He didn't follow me or anything. Back in town I went to grab another slice, this time at the pizza joint in the shopping complex by the beach. I was disappointed to learn that they don't sell slices anyomre. I would have had to order an entire personal pizza and wait for them to cook it. I decided instead to just get a waffle cone of soft-serve chocolate, but was again disappointed to learn that the ice cream parlor was no longer there. The island mood is effective for my anxiety and need to constantly be rushing, but seems ineffective to counter my ogre tendencies in the face of disappointment. Still a little hungry, I grabbed some snacks at the grocery store that was on the way back to my room. I watched a little TV and turned in.
Something miraculous happened that morning. I was actually able to sleep in. I was tossing and turning all morning, amid a mosaic of strange dreams, but it went on deep into the morning. I actually slept until like 9:30, which was huge. I wound up getting like 11 hours of sleep that night. It was the first morning that I actually woke up feeling like I could attack the day. But, as if that weren't enough, I opened the window to find a beautiful day with bright blue skies. It was what I had been wanting all trip long. I threw on shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed a banana and an apple at the grocery store, and gobbled them down in the town square. I went to take a selfie with the Cruz Bay beach in the background. The people in front of me thought I was taking a picture of them and waved. It made me smile.
The obvious course of action that day would be to rent a scooter and buzz all around the island. However the last time I did that I took a spill that gave me road rash, the scars of which could still be seen on my body. After a very brief moment of hesitation, I marched right over to the rental shack before I could change my mind. I mean, who was I kidding? It was get-back-on-the-horse or sit around Cruz Bay all day.
The guy was on duty at the kiosk. The checkout process went quickly. Within minutes I was buzzing back to my hotel room to get my shit together. I put on a speedo under my shorts, grabbed a tube of sun screen, grabbed my camera, realized I had left my mask and snorkel in Lauderdale, got over that, and went back to the scooter. Before I even got to it I realized that I didn't bring the scooter key with me. I went back to the room, and didn't immediately see it anywhere. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can misplace the single most important object I have. I do it again and again and again, usually when I'm a million miles from home. I figured the most likely explanation was that I dropped it somewhere on my initial walk in from the scooter. I walked out and back looking at the ground the whole way, but didn't see it. I then proceded to utterly tear my entire room apart looking for it. I cleared one little corner of the room, assuring myself that it wasn't there, and then pulled every last little item out of every pocket and compartment of every article of clothing and piece of luggage. Nothing. Now I was really starting to lose my cool. I knew I had it with me when I rode the scooter to the hotel, so it had to be here somewhere. Before I totally panicked, I did a slower and more thorough search out to the scooter. Sure enough it was lying in the gravel at the edge of the back parking lot. I was so giddy with relief that I didn't even beat myself up over the whole situation. I just threw my stuff in the luggage compartment of the scooter and took off.
I rode the central road out towards the other end of the island where I knew there was a beautiful overlook of Coral Bay. I took a couple pictures but the sun wasn't right, so I didn't post anything. Then I doubled back and took the road that goes along the north shore and all the beaches. I stopped first at Maho beach, because it's right up against the road, but it was like just a little strip of sand that was already too crowded, so I continued to Cinnamon Bay. This is the biggest beach on the island in terms both of water frontage and acreage of sand.
It, too, was fairly crowded, but I hiked to the east and found a spot in the sun. I stripped down to my speedo, put down a towel, and sacked out. This was what I had been waiting for. I didn't put on any music, or read, or do anything else. I just lay there in the sun and listened to the sound of the surf. It was glorious. I flipped and rotated a couple times over the course of a couple hours until I had gotten my entire body to just short of sunburnt. When I was convinced that I had just barely over-done it, I slathered my entire body with sun screen and then proceded to play in the surf and the sand for the rest of the day. I also made a point of pronenading up and down the entire length of the beach in my speedo. The beaches in Saint John are pretty much like the beaches anywhere else in the USA. Speedos are quietly tolerated with no one saying anything but everyone thinking, "Look at that fag!" I wanted someone to snap a picture of me, but wasn't sure whom to bother and/or trust. I saw a foursome of fat chicks, one of whom had a nice camera of her own. She took a couple of pics while her friends made remarks to the effect that I was better looking than the scenery. I could have stayed and flirted with them, but kept walking.
Eventually I got to the point where I had to take a dip. I was concerned that the water would be cold, but was surprised to find that it was quite tolerable. There were some big waves that day. It had been the same the previous time I was there a couple years earlier. Apparently it's a very calm beach, but whenever I've been there there's all kinds of surf. I had a grand old time splashing in the water like a 10 year old. I made a couple of little sand castles, but no matter how far from shore I was, a big wave would eventually come along and wash it all away.
All this time I was doing my best not to look at the clock, and to ignore the hunger that was steadily growing. I honestly didn't care what time it was, but I could see that the sun was now getting lower, not higher. Eventually I had to tear myself away and venture to other places. I made it a point to stay in my speedo the whole walk back to where my scooter was parked. I begrudgingly put my shorts and shoes back on, and headed back towards Coral Bay. I passed the overlook where I had stopped earlier, but continued on to the village for lunch at the Skinny Legs Cafe. It was pretty full, but I found an empty stool at the end of the bar. After looking over their menu I decided on a basic cheese burger. Knowing that they habitually overcook their beef on this island, I ordered it rare in the hopes that it would be on the rare side of medium. Well when they brought it out, it was pretty damn rare. But it was good. I wolfed it down, grabbed a $10 pair of Larimar earrings, and got back on the scooter. I had a liesurly ride back across the island, stopping to take pictures of ferrel donkeys and every scenic outlook I came across.
By the time I got back to the hotel, the sun was starting to get lower in the sky. I killed a little time in the room waiting for the sun to get just a little bit lower. In that time I managed to realize that my wallet had gone missing. I had left it in the room that day, and now I couldn't find it. I went through a mini repeat of that morning as I tore everything apart looking for it, but I quickly found it in the pocket adjacent to where it was supposed to be. I really need to get better at keeping track of my stuff when I travel. When it was pre-sunset, I grabbed my camera and headed out to hike up to the nearby overlook. I tried to shoot some pictures of the village in the late day sun. They looked okay, but the buildings that were really catching the sun were away from the shore, thus losing the Caribbean context. I was going to just head back, but I thought that Solomon beach below might be totally deserted at this time of day. I continued my hike down to the water, and sure enough there was no one there. I walked up and down the beach once just to make sure I was, in fact, the only one. Then I stripped bare and took an elicit skinny dip. I really didn't want to get wet again, but every other time I'd been there I did an elicit skinny dip, so I did it again at that time before I could talk myself out of it. It was just once in the water, once back out again strutting naked, then a quick back in, staying in just long enough to see the sun half way across the horizon, before getting back out again. The problem now was that I was dripping wet but had no towel. I put my speedo back on again, but proceded to walk along the rocky, uneven path in my bare feet while I held my clothes and shoes in my hands. It went better than I thought it would, but it wasn't long before I had to put my shoes on even at the risk of getting them soggy. I stayed in the speedo until I was almost all the way back to the trail head. By then I was pretty well dry anyway. Then it was back to my room to drop off my stuff, back into town for a quick bite of dinner, a quick walk up past Gallows Point, and then back to the room to chill and go to bed. It was a perfect day.
The only thing on my agenda that day was to fly back to Ft Lauderdale. My flight wasn't until like 5:00 that evening, although there was the matter of taking the ferry back to St Thomas, a shuttle across the island to the airport, and going through customs and security. Even with all that, I could have taken off quite some time after lunch and still had plenty of time, giving me another half-day to relax in paradise. The problem is that if I'm flying that day, really the only thing I can focus on the whole day is not missing the flight.
I waited until after 9:00 to return the scooter, and even then I had to call the guy to get him to show up at the kiosk. I took my time getting some substantial breakfast and getting my stuff together. Still I had like 7 hours before my flight even borded. The logical thing to do would have been to hike out to Solomon Bay, or Caneel bay that lay just beyond it, get some more sun, take another swim, and still be to the ferry in plenty of time. But at the very least that would have meant packing a wet towel and swim suit into my bag. So I just camped out on the front porch of my hotel and read. I had brought "The Picture of Dorian Gray" with me. It was a big, hardbound book that was totaly inappropriate for the beach, but it was the book I was reading at the time. At least lugging it all the way to the Caribbean and back was not for naught, as I sat there reading for a couple hours. But it wasn't long before I decided that if I were going to sit around and waste time it might as well be at the aiport gate than anywhere else.
I got my stuff together and hiked down to the ferry terminal. I got my ticket, knowing this time that I didn't need to declare my backpack as luggage, and after a long wait was on the boat heading across the bay. As I sat there I felt comfortable in the knowledge that I would be very early for my flight. I've come to learn that I should do the things that make me comfortable, not the things that I believe others would expect would make me happy.
We docked and I got on a shuttle back to the airport. As I was waiting for us to pull away I saw a young couple, the male of which was carrying a surf board zipped up inside a huge canvas carrying case. I'm not sure why that caught my attention. Soon we were off, and I sat patiently as we worked our way up and across the island. Towards the end of the ride, as we were entering the area where the big cruise suips dock, the traffic ground to a halt. That made me think a little more about the concept of island time. Careful planning and execution can create the same kind of relaxed, care-free peace. When I'm wicked early for a flight, not only does a traffic jam not bother me, I almost enjoy it a little because I know it won't impact me.
We inched a long until we finally got to the drop-off spot. I could see that the hold up was an active construction zone in an already over-congested choke point. Almost everyone in the van got out to get back on their cruise ship, leaving just me and a couple others to continue on to the airport. But before we got back on our way, the young couple with the surf board frantically switched from their shuttle van to ours. It turned out they were in dire risk of missing their flight, and for whatever reason they believed that our van would have a better chance of getting to the airport early. I could see the panic, desperation, and sheer helplessness in their eyes that was exactly the reason that I take such comfort in being ridiculously early. It turned out that was their plan as well, but a conflagration of circumstances set them further and further back, until now there were perilously late. It was still possible to make their flight, but only by the narrowest of margins. I told them that my flights out of St Thomas were always delayed, and they'd probably be fine. The guy said he could gaurantee that his luck wouldn't allow that happen for them. As we rode along I noticed that the woman had gotten a really bad lip job. Her upper lip looked like burn victim reconstruction. I never understand why anyone would get their lips done. They always wind up looking deformed.
Within minutes we were at the airport, and the young couple were the first to get off and pay the driver. I was content to let the few remaining other passengers go ahead of me to get their stuff and pay for the ride. The van driver drove away as I looked for the Spirit Air checkin desk. As I was looking I saw the surf board guy sprinting at top speed across the parking lot to catch the van that was quickly driving away. He must have left something on the van, which seemed a little odd because I was the last one off the van and I didn't see anything left behind. I kept looking for Spirit Air. It wasn't where I got dropped off. I walked back to the next entrance, and it wasn't there either. I kept walking, panicking like when I arrived at the Lauderdale Airport, and like that time, Spirit was at the very last slot. The first thing I noticed was that my flight was delayed. Oh well. I stepped up to a kiosk to check myself in, but an attendant rushed up to me, reached over and kept hitting all the buttons for me at top speed. When it got to the seat assignment she was about to click OK for me, but I had to stop her and say, "I can take it from here thank you very much." She went off to frantically assist another traveler while I calmly and carefully selected a window seat for myself. I could have chosen one in the back of the plane that had all three seats available, but instead I chose one closer to the front that had the middle seat next to it open.
Then I filled out a customs card to declare the $10 Larmiar earrings I bought, and I got in line. Who was there but the surf board couple. For all their rushing they were only a few people ahead of me in line. When we came up to each other in the zig-zag sheep corral, I asked them if their flight was delayed, knowing that mine had been, and wondering if that had ameliorated their rush. The woman glared back at me, her botched lip peeled across her tense face.
She pointed at her other half and said, "He left half our luggage on the other van," she said.
"Oh..." I said. "Is that why you were running after it?"
"Not this van, the other van," she said. "When we switched over to your van he left all our stuff; the digital camera with all our pictures, my laptop, all my clothes."
"I was running after the van to see if he could radio to the other one," the guy said. The woman dug into him about how horrible the situation was. He had a look on his face like he knew he didn't bear full responsibility, but it was a battle that he should not fight at that particular moment. Someone else in line suggested that they contact the dispatcher, who might be able to route the van back to the airport. They didn't know if they should chance it, or if they should keep trying to make their flight and hope they got their stuff shipped back to them later. I never did learn if their flight had been delayed or not, or even if they wound up making it.
When I got up to the desk, the customs officer asked me how long I'd been on the island. "Two nights," I said.
He looked back at me oddly. Apparently everyone else stays there longer. "Do you work for an airline or something?" he asked.
"No," I replied.
"Okay..." he said, still not sure what to make of it. "Purpose of your visit?" he asked.
"Spend a day on the beach," I replied.
He smiled. "Alright," he said. "Move along."
Security was a breeze, and the next thing I knew I was sitting at the gate with a full 2 hours before bording time. Plus the 15 minutes that the flight was delayed. The Spriti gates were down a long corridor and in their own waiting room away from everything else. I was the only one in there, but three cute young men from the mid-west quickly joined me. I wanted to get out my laptop and start writing this manuscript, but the battery would not hold a charge, and I needed to plug in. One of the cute boys pointed me to the only outlet in the whole room. I plugged in and started typing. Some old black island couple were the next to come in. With the whole entire waiting room available, except for the seats the cute boys were in, the black couple chose to sit down right next to me. I mean, they didn't even leave an empty courtesy seat between us. It was me and this old couple in this entire deserted waiting room sitting there like an inseperable threesome. But I didn't really care because I immersed myself in my writing. It was actually a good use of the time.
Slowly the room filled up with waiting passengers, and they were eventually ready to board despite the fact that the delay kept getting just a little bit longer. One interesting thing about getting on and off planes in St Thomas is that they don't use jetways. They use the old portable staircases that get wheeled right up to the plane. The upshot of this is that they can board from both the front and rear of the aircraft at the same time. We're allowed to go in the secret rear door that only gets mentioned during the pre-flight safety demonstration.
I was directed to the rear door. I found my seat and sat down, but very quickly another guy sat in the middle seat right next to me. After the plane gradually filled up, a flight attendant announced that everyone was on the plane. The guy next to me was about to move to the aisle seat, but I told him not to count his chickens. Sure enough, the very last person meandering up the aisle sat down in that last empty seat. Just as I was tiring of writing, the time was drawing near to board.
By this time we were about 20-30 minutes late for our scheduled departure time. They made an announcement, stating that everyone who had connections would be fine. I didn't care because I didn't have a connection. Having a direct flight is a rare and cherished luxury for me.
During the flight I watched "Pitch Perfect." I thought it was okay. At first I liked the tongue-in-cheek send-up of the Glee format, but honestly after a while it got a little boring. But with nothing better to do, I stuck with it until the end. The Lauderdale to St Thomas flight is just about perfect to watch one movie, and by the time it ends they're starting the final descent. Soon we were on the ground.
Despite the fact that they said no one would miss their connections, some people behind us were in real danger of just that. I think we landed even a little bit more behind schedule than we took off. To make matters worse, we couldn't get to the gate until another plane got out of our way. The people behind me were doing their best not to freak out. I had been in that position many times in the past. I really love direct flights. I wish there was a direct flight from home to Ft Lauderdale, but every time I've found one in the past they discontinue it after I've taken it the very first time.
I always deride the douches who whip out their phone the second they land to tell someone they just landed. But in my case I told my AirBNB host that I'd do just that. I had his street address for my Garmin, but he insisted on giving me verbal directions over the phone. He mentioned the Citgo gas station. "That's spelled C-I-T-G-O," he said, like there's not one of them on every street corner in every city in this country. I just sat there and waited until he was done.
Finally we were at the gate, and people started getting off the plane. Once outside the terminal it took me a second to find my way back to the long-term parking garage, but as soon as I did I went right to my car. It was nice to see my trusty Phaeton again. Despite my worry that everything that could go wrong with the car had gone wrong, it was just fine and started right up. I settled into the grand steed, and after I paid my parking fee we were off.
For whatever reason I decided to put the AirBNB address into both my Garmin and the on-board satnav system in the Phaeton. They both sent me the same way. When I got close I did notice the Citgo station, and it did make it a little easier to find the guy's place. I had to admit that the verbal directions he gave me were indeed helpful, but it was still a little odd that he had to spell Citgo for me. His condo complex was a nice set of rows of townhouses. He was all the way down at the end, which was good for quiet and the likelihood that no one would fuck with my car.
As I parked my car I saw him standing outside of his unit. He was wearing an ill-fitting white tank and smoking a cigarette. "My host is gay white trash," I thought to myself. It made me feel a little uncomfortable about the stay. I was going to be staying in this guy's home after all. But at the time I was too wiped out from my travels to freak out. Even when everything goes fine, travel still exhausts me.
As I stepped out of the car and saw him better in the lamp light, I saw that he wasn't white trash after all, just a little dorky and lacking taste. We said our hello's and he let me in. He was from Minneapolis, but he spoke with a mid-western accent like out of the movie Fargo. Despite him being pretty dorky, his place was actually very clean and nicely appointed.
I needed some chow bad, so I went right back out and found the nearest Subway. There were only two parties in front of me, but one was this huge black guy and all his rambunctous kids that not only were running around and making a horrible racket, but they weren't focusing on specifying their food preferences so the staff could make their sandwiches. Every time I step into a Subway I know it's going to be a long wait. This was one of the longer waits I've had, but it was mixed with a lot of noise and commotion. It was in stark contrast to the peaciful island calm from which I'd just come.
When I finally got my food I was going to just sit out by the street to watch the world go by, but I saw the flashing lights of a police car. Ft Lauderdale is about 1/3 holiday paradise, and 2/3 inner city trash bin. Not wanting to be further distressed by yet another commotion, I just sat in the Subway store and wolfed down my meal.
Soon it was back to my AirBNB townhouse. My host wanted to make conversation. He told me about his other AirBNB hosting experiences. He said some were into conversation. Others were just there to get laid and didn't interact with him much. The only real problem he had was with an older dyke who complained a lot. He tried to get me to talk about the computer biz, but I really just wanted to go to bed. Unlike the CouchSurfing dynamic, I felt no obligation to socialize. I asked that he just show me to my room. It was a little bedroom in the back of the townhouse upstairs. It looked nice enough, but the bed was twin-sized. The mattress was good quality, and the sheets were nice and clean. It was just a little small for me. There were also no window treatments of any kinds. No shades, no blinds, no curtains, no nothing. That worked okay with my exhibitionistic nature, but it wouldn't keep any light out. And there was a big obnoxious exterior light right on that corner of the building. I was afraid it would keep me up, but it didn't. Like every other night this whole trip, I was out like a light not long after I lay down.
Thursday 2/14/13My plan was to spend the whole day by the pool. It didn't look like there would be a lot of sun, but I was determined to be lying out if by chance it did poke out from behind the clouds. It was warm enough that I could lie on a chaise in my speedo. That's my basic minimum requirement. If I'm comfortable outside in just a bathing suit, then it's a good day. I did a little reading. I did a little napping. I listened to some potcasts. One of them was Chris Hardwick interviewing Mel Brooks. It stood in stark contrast to Marc Maron's interview I listened to on the first day of the trip. Dont' get me wrong, I love Chris Hardwick, but he was clearly out of his depth. Not that I'm judging. Marc Maron would be similarly out of hid depth interviewing someone like Wired Magazine's Chris Anderson, an interview that Chris Hardwick totally rocked.
A couple old ladies were in and out during part of the morning. Other than that I had the whole place to myself all day. The sun would come out for a short while, and then go back behind the clouds for a long while. Everyone says that you can burn just as easily on a clouday day, but I have to say that my experience that day did NOT support that claim.
Eventually I decided to go in the pool for a dip. The water temperature wasn't bad. But what I mostly liked about the pool was that the deep end was actually fairly deep. Signs everywhere said "No Diving" but I was diving in all over the place. I got out my GoPro camera and took some video. The problem with GoPros is that they don't have a viewfinder, so you're never really sure what you're taping, and you have no idea what it looks like until you connect it to a computer. I actually spent quite a bit of time swimming, but when I tired of it I went back to lounging.
For a brief period the sun actually came out and stayed out. Within minutes I could feel the effects on my skin, whereas an entire day in the clouds did nothing. I actually got enough sun that I'd decided I'd had enough. By this time I was also having trouble managing my hunger pangs, so I got my shit together, went back to the townhouse and got dressed, and ventured out for a bite to eat. I wound up at the Peter Pan Diner. The turkey sandwich was unremarkable, but the chocolate cake was stunning! When I came back out to the car I saw that it had rained while I was inside. Considering how lame my day had been, I had been in the right place at the right time in terms of weather.
That evening I was attending a cocktail party with my friend Gordon N. Originally he had told me that he was booked solid during my visit and wouldn't be able to see me, but he had hooked me an invitation to accompany him to this party based on my reputation for getting naked at local parties. As I was preparing to leave, I tried to put together an outfit. One reason I brought so much luggage with me as that so that I would have options in exactly this kind of situation. But nothing that I tried on looked good. I don't know what it was, but even my proven standbys were not giving the appearance I wanted. I eventually settled on faded blue jeans and a black cotton tank.
We arranged that I would park at Gordon N's condo and ride over with him and his houseguests. Coincidentally his condo was practically across the street from Gordon & Wayne's penthouse, and since there was still some time to kill, I went over to say hello to them. Gordon's first remark was, "THAT's what you're wearing to a fancy cocktail party???" He only served to reinforce my insecurities over the outfit, but I knew that the point was my naked body underneath, so I wasn't allowing myself to get hung up over it. I told Gordon the look I was going for was "Rough Trade."
While we were chatting it started raining. It looked like a downpour. Wayne told me not to worry, that these things blow through all the time, and the next thing you know it's fine. But it kept on raining. It did appear to let up considerably, but it did not clear by the time I had to go meet Gordon N. I was to begin my visit with Gordon and Wayne the next day. Gordon told me that 4:00 would be the approprate time to arrive. He expected that Wayne would be having a playmate over, and if I timed my arrival accordingly I should be able to join in. I made my goodbyes and went across the street to Gordon N's.
It was still drizzling fairly heavily as I walked across the parking lot, and it had cooled off considerably since I had left the townhouse. I had not brought anything warmer than my flimsy cotton tank, so I was going to have to deal. I went through the standar practice of checking in with the door person. I suppose that this level of security is an amenity for the residents, but it's always a big fat pain in the ass for a country boy like me. I was instructed to wait in the lobby, that Gordon N and his party would be coming down soon.
I had to wait a little longer than expected, but no big deal. Gordon N. appeared with his partner Dr. Boyfriend, whom I had heard a lot about but never met, and a couple youngsters. One was friendly enough. He was wearing a sweater shirt that unbottoned from the neck out to the shoulder. He had one half unbuttoned and hanging off that shoulder. I thought he looked a little like Molly Ringwald from some bad 80's teen movie, but I'm not exactly the best judge of fasion. The other youngster barely looked at me or spoke the entire ride over.
We arrived to a very nice home right on the intercoastal waterway. They were serving cocktails and hoursdouvers. I mingled around. It was an okay party, but I really just wanted to get naked. Gordon N. had checked with the host, who had requested my presence based on the expectation that I would get naked, but he was concerned about neighbors and boat traffic on the waterway. I was told that about 9:00 would be the time to disrobe. So I just pigged out on hoursdouvers (I hadn't had a proper dinner), and chatted with people. I'm not good in these situations, but interestingly I do better in a group of total strangers than when I'm in my general area around people I supposedly know.
There were people of all age groups, from 20-somethings right up to retirees. This is one thing I like about Ft Lauderdale. Groups are generally very open and accepting. It's not the youngsters excluding the old men, or wealthy people excluding common folk. It's just people hanging out with people. I made a couple connections. There was one young fellow who said he was from Syracuse, but I later realized he's from about 5 miles from where I live. He agreed to invite me to the big summer party he has when he's home visiting family. I met another guy, an older gentleman, who used to work for Leona Helmsley as her director of marketing. He didn't really need the job, and he wasn't all that keen on it, so he refused to bow to Leona Helmsley and kiss her feet. He just related to her like any other boss. And interestingly enough, because he was not obsequious to her, he was the only person she related to like an ordinary employee. Everyone who stooped to her got treated like dirt, but this guy who wouldn't take her bullshit got treated like a person.
Eventually it was time for me to do my naked thing. It was still drizzling out, but I had felt the pool water and knew it to be almost as warm as a hot tub. I snuck into the nearest bedroom and stripped to the bone. I then walked in my birthday suit slowly and deliberately across the full length of the pool as the party guests began to murmur gradually realized what was going on. I then stood at the far and of the pool, tall and proudly naked, as I fumbled with my goggles. Then I made the big splash into the pool. I swam back and forth a couple times. I saw that some people were coercing the guy with the Molly Ringwald sweater. I could see him saying, "No I couldn't possibly!" but I could tell by his body language that he was going to be in the pool within seconds. I was right. But he kept his sexy underwear on. However once he was safely under water the shorts came off too. He and I swam back and forth a little and posed for some pictures, but all too soon he was back out again.
Frankly I wanted to stay in the warm water, but I was getting a little bored, so I got back out too. My counterpart was immediately back in his street clothes, but I remained totally naked. I just milled around a party of clothed people without a stitch on. At that point basically no one would come up and talk to me. I think everyone wanted to, but no one had the nerve to. So I went back and talked to the Leona Helmsley guy. Some other people mingled in and out.
I was having a grand old time, but soon Gordon N. told me they were getting ready to go. I told him to let me know when they were actually ready to leave. I could get dressed in a snap, but I wanted to remain totally naked until that moment. By the time they were ready to go, it was socks pants shirt and I was right at the door with them. Some guys told me that they were going out to Alibi if I wanted to catch up with them.
Gordon N. took us all back to his condo. I got straight in my car and headed out. Alibi was right on the way back to my townhouse, so I swung by. The parking lot was packed. I was able to find street parking a couple blocks up. It was still raining out, a little harder by now, but I decided that I didn't want to just go back and go to sleep. I walked through the rain, getting pretty wet, and did a loop inside the bar. I didn't see a single soul from the party, and it was so overly air-conditioned inside that I was positively freezing in my wet cotton tank. So I walked right back out again. By the time I got back to my car I was significantly wet.
I went back to the townhouse and up to my room. I wasted maybe an hour on adam4adam looking for a hookup before I gave up and shut off the light.
Friday 2/15/13The next morning it was still raining. I had a feeling this was going to be a miserable day. I wanted to just head out to Gordon's right then, but he had specifically told me to arrive at 4:00. I got out of bed and made myself some oatmeal. My host asked me what time I would be leaving. I said that I wasn't sure, that I would just shove off when the mood struck me. He said I had to pick a specific time because he wanted to be there when I left. He didn't say why, but I assumed it was to be sure I didn't steal his towels or something. I told him 2:00. He had the morning weather on, which indicated that it was going to keep raining across South Florida for some time, and that when the rain stopped it would be cold. That did not improve my mood.
My host had a daily routine that he would get out of the house to go do whatever. I was impatiently waiting for this part of his day to commence. I was struck with a stong desire to walk around his house naked, and I didn't want to do it while he was still there. I waited and waited and waited and FINALLY he went out. I immediately got naked and walked around. It wasn't as hot as I thought it would be. After a couple minutes of that I decided to kill time by working on this manuscript. I got tired of that after a while. I wanted to take off, but I had to wait until 2:00. I was bored and tired, but with it still raining there was really nowhere to go.
Finally my host was back, and finally it was time to check out. He just walked upstairs, came back down, and said, "Okay, doesn't look like you left anything behind." I thanked him and got the fuck out of there.
I still had a couple hours to kill and nothing to do. I remembered that my Couchsurfing hosts mentioned some huge outlet mall that is supposedly the second biggest tourist draw in Florida after Disney. I found it on the map. It was the "Sawgrass Mill Outlet Mall." It was way inland, practically on the edge of the Everglades. I set out driving. It was a long, slow, tedious drive, made all the worse by a construction zone about a quarter of the way in that brought us to a grinding halt.
I finally got there and set out looking for a parking space. I was really hungry, so I aimed for the food court entrance. It didn't really matter, because the place was packed and I didn't see an available parking space anywhere. I did find the food court entrance, and as I was about to give up the whole notion as a really bad idea, I saw a family getting into their car. I sat and waited until they vacated their spot, and then I took it before anyone else could.
I walked into the food court to find an even bigger mess than was in the parking lot. It looked like every other shit-for-brains had the same idea I did. I took a quick look around the food court, but despite the fact I was starving, nothing looked good. Finally I found a Nathan's and noticed corn dogs on their menu. If anything would make me feel better, a corn dog would. While I waited and waited and waited in line, I decided to add some onion rings to my order. After I finally placed the order I proceded to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for the food. Based on the lofty price, I expected this to be the best damned corn dog I ever had. It wasn't. I've had better out of a box in the frozen foods department of the grocery store. The onion rings were charred, and just dripping with grease. There were absolutely no seats available anywhere, so I put my tray on top of a garbage can and ate right there. It was fitting.
Once I had choked down all the fat, callories and cholesterol, I went out walking the mall. That didn't improve my mood either. There wasn't a single goddam store I was interested in, and every goddam shopper was totally in my way. My mood just got worse and worse and worse. I decided to post a pic to Facebook stating how miserable I was. A couple minutes later I thought of a pithy postscript: "I feel like I'm in Dawn Of The Dead but I'm the only human left." Then a few minutes later I had another one: "The food court, restrooms, and corridors are all packed. The only place there's any room is inside the stores." It was actually making me feel a little better, but by then I was almost out of the store anyway. I made one more posting: "There's a dentist right by the exit. I'd pop in to see if he could give me a whiff of nitrous but I know they'll make me wait."
On the drive out I made one final posting: "Safely back in the car and escaping. What song comes up first in the shuffle? Pink Floyd Pigs. How appropriate."
The drive back to Ocean Blvd was every bit as long as the drive out, minus the construction slowdown, but I felt a little better. The Faccebook griping was indeed therapeutic.
Finally I was at Gordon's building and going through the extensive security screening process to gain admittance. I pulled half my luggage out of the trunk. It looked like a lot for one weekend, which it was, but I didn't give a fuck. As soon as I made it past the front desk I was in the elevator and headed to the skies.Gordon was sitting in his perch watching TV. It turned out that Wayne's stomach had been bothering him and had cancelled his play date. I didn't really care one way or the other. I was just glad to be out of that mall, away from traffic, and relaxing. Still, Gordon could sense all the pent up tension in me. But I was where I needed to be, and I relaxed more with every passing minute.
After a while Wayne was up and he joined us for a chat. No big whoop. Just some guys sitting around visiting. The rest of the evening followed that lead. Wayne and I went out and got some pizza to bring back to the penthouse. Since I went out with him, we could go directly in and out without having to deal with the valet parkers or the security screeners. The pizza actually wasn't that good. Neither was the movie they put in, "A Dangerous Method." It gave me an opportunity to brag that Viggo Mortensen was from my home town, and that his little brother Walter was in my Drivers Ed class way back in the day. But honestly I spent most of the movie diddling on my iPad.
After the movie was over we talked about plans for the next day. Wayne was going to reschedule the play date that didn't come together that day. I texted Gregg from the naked mardi gras party, and he said he was available to come over. So it looked like we'd have a nice sex party to look forward to. After a bit more visiting we all turned in. Having slept in crappy single beds the previous 4 nights, it was sure nice to get back into a luxurious queen-sized bed again. But the pillows were a little too luxurious for me. My head was propped up like on a sack of flour. And the ventillation system was making a loud whistling sound. I had actually gotten along pretty well without my white noise machine, but I really could have used it that night. It wasn't so much that the whistling was too loud, but that it would start and stop. Every time it started it would wake me up. I was pretty casual about it because I had nothing to do the next day except lounge around a luxury penthouse. But it didn't make for the best night's sleep.
I got out of bed and wandered out into the penthouse stark naked. There's something extra gratifying about being naked in a place of such grand elegance. After a bite to eat and a little morning visiting with Gordon and Wayne I went in to take a shower. Gordon said those three magic words I love to hear: "unlimited hot water." The bathroom in the guest suite was exquisite, even moreso than the master bath. It had all kinds of space, but most importantly an exposed shower that was open to the whole room.
I decided to get out my GoPro camera and shoot some video right inside the shower. It got me hard. I wound up taking a whole lot of footage from all angles of myself showering with a big fat boner for most of the time. When I got home and looked at it I was blown away with how well it turned out. It gave me material for that year's film festival submisstion. And on top of all that it got me squeaky clean.
When I was done, Gordon and Wayne were both doing their own things. Company wasn't expected until later, so I decided to get my camera out and take some art shots. I wanted to do a lot of double-exposures so that I would appear in the frame as multiple people. I went all over the penthouse and took all kind of shots. When I looked at them on the camera they all looked good, which was actually rather disconcerting because usually nothing I shoot looks any good at all, and I have to keep on shooting to get anything anywhere near decent.
After a time I decided I'd shot enough. But Gordon requested one more shot so that he could email a friend who had been on the phone that morning. Gordon wanted to make him eat shit over the hot house guest he had.
I got out my laptop to download and play with all the photos I'd shot. Sure enough, I had taken lots of great stuff. I started using Photoshop to combine the muliple exposures into one integrated image. It was easy. Too easy. Looking at it as a whole I could see a lot of thematic and compositional overlap. That meant that I would have to choose the best-of-breed, and toss out a lot of otherwise good photography. Still, I'd rather have that than nothing turning out at all.
While I was doing that, Wayne went out to lie in the sun. I decided to do the same thing. This was potentially my last opportunity to get any sun at all. It was a little chilly out, but the direct sunlight was warm enough. While I was lying out there Gregg texted me and we settled on a time for his arrival. He would be getting in shortly before Wayne's guests.
I took the opportunity to pop a Viagra. Gregg wanted me to fuck him long and hard, and despite the ample erectile function I was having in the shower, I knew that as soon as I put on a condom and tried to insert my dick in his ass that things would go limp.
I paced nervously around the apartment, still stark naked, waiting for things to start. Gregg arrived right on time. He stepped in to see me sitting on the living room sofa utterly naked. Usually in these situations the clothed person makes some droll remark to cover up the awkwardness of seeing a naked person out in the open. But contrast, Gregg said, "It looks like I'm over-dressed." How refreshing to be around someone who gets nudity.
I took him into the guest room where he disrobed and stashed his clothes, and then we were right back out into the living room where we started going at it on the sofa. By now Wayne was naked too, and came over to join in. I put his humongous dick in my mouth. It was the first time he and I had played sexually in a very, very long time.
But just as things were starting to develop, Wayne's guests arrived. I knew one of them was a street hustler, and I expected him to be rough around the edges, but he literally looked like he'd just come in off the street. He looked like the guys at the bus stop that you want to avoid. And the companion he brought with him was not what I was expecting. It was some chubby boy who, while clean, was not really appealing in any way sexually.
It didn't take a minute before Gregg looked at me and said, "I don't think I'm going to be able to go through with this."
"Don't worry," I said. "Let's just go in the guest room by ourselves. I led him in there and closed the door.
"Are you sure this is okay?" he asked.
"Sure," I said. "I told Wayne ahead of time that if we weren't feeling it that we'd go off on our own."
He was a little reluctant, but eventually he calmed down. We went into the bathroom where we could watch ourselves in the mirror. I gave him a pretty good fucking, but I wasn't feeling all that rigid. Certainly compared to the bath house earlier in the week, my erectile function was not exhibiting the kind of performance that I would have expected with the chemical help I had given it. In fact at one point when I pulled out to change positions, my dick had that plump but soft kind of consistency that I could have pretty much achieved without the pill. But rather than panic I just did the best I could. In fact once I was back inside him I started to get a little hot from the fucking, and my dick started to cooperate better.
At one point I ran back outside, still hard and in my condom, to ask Wayne if I could borrow a bottle of poppers. He and Gordon were over by the chubby guest, who had his pants around his knees with Gordon's hand on his dick. It was not anything I felt I needed to get involved in. Wayne hooked me up, and I was back in my guest room again.
I continued fucking Gregg for some time. We would change positions, change locations, fuck up, fuck down, fuck in, fuck out, and generally just fuck fuck fuck. I thought we were still warming up, but eventually Gregg said that he'd had enough. So we blew our loads and that was pretty much that. I thought it would go on longer, but if I've fucked a bottom so much he can't be fucked any more, then I consider that a success.
Gregg got dressed. I stayed naked. We emerged back out into the apartment. The street hustlers were gone. Wayne was nowhere to be seen. Gordon was sitting in his perch by the TV. I think Gregg kind of wanted to get on his way, but Gordon called us over to visit. He had a number of questions for Gregg. Nothing specific. He was just exercising the inquisitive side of small talk. I actually learned a lot about Gregg from just listening. While he and I had interacted a lot, we hadn't spoken all that much. And after a little while Gordon let him go and he took off.
The rest of the day was pretty quiet. That evening we just sat around watching TV. But the whole time I was keeping an eye on the weather report. I was scheduled to be around on Sunday, leave Monday morning to drive half-way home, and then drive the rest of the way to get back to my house on Tuesday. The weather Monday was looking beautiful, but Tuesday was not. After a little hemming and hawing we checked the TV weather. It confirmed what I was seeing online. The further north and the later into the day the worse it was looking. And the later in the day, the further north I'd be traveling. And to make matters worse, the weather in sunny Florida was going to be quite cold on Sunday and beyond.
I quickly made the executive decision to advance my schedule and leave the following morning. I would have loved to stay a little longer, but it was worth it to have a little peace of mind for the very long drive home. I ran out to get some provisions for the return trip, and got all my stuff packed up and by the door. And with that I could relax for the rest of the evening.
When I said good night, Gordon said he'd be up to see me off in the morning.
Sunday 2/17/13I was up bright and early as usual. Wayne was up but Gordon was not. I jumped in the shower to wake myself up. Despite the fact that all I had to do was drive myself North, I was still a little nervous as if there were a possibility I could miss my flight or something.
Once clean and dressed I went into the kitchen. Gordon was up by this time. Wayne chatted with me as I put a little food in my stomach. He mentioned, quite casually, that the Ft Lauderdale marathon was going on that morning. I went out to the balcony and looked over the edge. Sure enough, there were people running all up and down Ocean Blvd. There was a Porsche Cayenne in the driveway below us waiting to get out. I didn't think too much of it at the time.
I gathered what was left of my loose belongings, said my good-byes, and was on the elevator downstairs. I would have loved to just drive away, but I had to wait for the valet to fetch my car. While I waited, since it was a little cold out, I stayed in the lobby and chatted with the desk attendant. I griped about the marathon. He informed me that they would NOT stop the runners to let me out, that I would have to wait for a break in the action. Wonderful.
The valet arrived with my car, and when he saw my luggage he hit the button to open the trunk. Of course it wasn't working, so I had to shut off the engine to use the key to open it. I tossed my stuff in, gave him a couple bucks, and sat down in the driver's seat. This was where my ass would be for the next 12-14 hours.
I pulled out from under the car port, out the exit, and to the street. The same Porsche Cayenne was still sitting there waiting to get out. Considering how long it had taken me to get my stuff together and say goodbye, he had clearly been there for quite some time. One of the cops stationed at our driveway came up to tell me I was going to have to wait for a while. I decided I was going to be calm about the whole situation. I was polite to the cop, and I sat there playing on my iPad while I waited.
But it was difficult not to squirm. I knew that I would have to wait for a gap in the runners before the police would let us through. That was bad enough, but the route was an "up and back" situation, and runners were going in both directions. I didn't really see any gaps in either direction. Having two gaps pass each other just at the moment they passed in front of us was not very likely. Five minutes went by. Then ten. Then twenty. It wasn't so much the fact that this was delaying my departure as much as it was that I was sitting in the car the whole time. I couldn't get up and go anywhere in the unlikely event that the cops would let us out. It looked utterly hopeless.
At one point I practically gave up and went back upstairs. But then I saw the cop motion to the Cayenne driver to move forward. But the guy didn't see!!! He must have been so tired of waiting that he wasn't watching what was going on. I was screaming in my car, "No!!! No!!! We're gonna be here forever!!!"
At that point I practically did give up. But instead I sat there and waited a little longer. Just a few minutes later he motioned to the Cayenne driver again. This time he saw and he pulled out. I didn't know if I was authorized to pull out as well, but I didn't wait around to find out. I just barrelled through on the Porsche's bumper and didn't look back. It felt SO GOOD to be moving! A good 25 minutes had passed since I started waiting.
Before I knew it I was on Oakland Blvd heading to 95 North. Once on the highway I could relax. But it wasn't really until that point that the enormity of the journey ahead of me set in. But there wasn't much I could do. I sat back, put on Weekend Edition, and pressed on.
An hour passed. Then another hour. Then another. By that point there was only one more hour to go before I'd be out of Florida. I wasn't tired as much as I was bored. I tried the book-on-tape that Wayne lent me to listen to on the drive. I put in the first disk. As soon as I heard the narator's voice, and the sound of her feminine tone, I knew it was going nowhere. I didn't consider that the fact the author was a woman meant that the whole damn story would be told from the woman's perspective. I'm all for equal rights, and would never discriminate based on gender, but that doesn't mean I want to listen to some dame go on and on for hours and hours. I like manly stories about manly things with a manly attitude. I don't care about thoughts and feelings, and don't want to hear how your children are the most precious thing in the world.
But with nothing else to do I just kept on listening. It was intolerable. Not only did I not give a shit about what she was saying, I've never heard anyone use so many words to say so little. By the end of the third chapter, the kernel of the story was only just beginning to gel. I couldn't take any more and I pulled the plug. At least it had gotten me through Georgia and the better part of South Carolina. In fact I had passed the point where I had picked up 95 on the way down. I had already decided to stick to 95 the whole way to Baltimore rather than retrace the same route home. I'm not sure why. I guess I just wanted a little variety.
I kept driving along, mile after mile, hour after hour. I went past some gigantic tourist trap called "South of the Border" just before crossing into North Carolina. I would have stopped to check it out if I weren't so driven to make more progress. The fact that I didn't give a fuck about it also played into the decision to keep moving.
I had tentative plans to meet up with a young friend named Terry. I met him when he was a Freshman at Ithaca College. We hooked up once before Bin Laden was killed, and then once again after. Then he transferred out, but we stayed in touch. Now he was a Junior at a college outside of Richmond VA. I would have loved to see him, but I knew the odds were against it. He texted me to check in. I told him I wouldn't know how far I was going to get until I decided I was sick of driving, but that it was unlikely I'd be near enough to him that we'd be able to get together. He said okay, but sounded disappointed. I would have liked to see him too, but it was what it was.
So I kept driving. And driving. And driving. Unlike the layover on the way down, I decided to stay on the road a little longer and spend less time watching TV in the room. This meant that I could make more progress. And in fact I made so much progress that I started seeing signs for Richmond.
I had decided that I was going to give my brand loyalty to Econolodge, for reasons I still don't entirely understand. By the time I decided I could stop for the night, I kept my eye out for an Econolodge that was near gas stations and fast food joints. Not long after I got onto the 295 bypass, I found something that looked good. It was in the vicinity of Hopewell VA. And despite having a little difficulty finding my way to the nearest McDonalds and back, I checked in with no complications. I texted Terry. It turned out he was only about 30min away, and he was into coming to see me. Knowing that kids his age tend to routinely stay up very late, I told him not to waste any time, that I had to be to bed early to drive the whole next day again. He thought I was a little silly, but he complied. It took a little longer than 30 minutes, but he did arrive, and we did have a nice chat. It was nothing special, really. We didn't even hook up. But one last reconnection on my last night on the road was a special little added bonus to an already full and enjoyable trip. By about 11:00 I kicked him out so I could get some shut eye.
Monday 2/18/13I got up, took a quick shower, and was back on the road as expediciously as possible. My Garmin said I would be home by like 2PM. That was much earlier than I expected. I had originally toyed with and rejected the idea of driving into Washington DC on the way home just for fun. But now I was reconsidering the idea. For starters it turned out there was no rush to get home, but additionally it had turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous, bright, sunny day that would be perfect to take some glamour shots of the Phaeton in front of the monuments.
I decided that it would all come down to how easy it would be to get to the city center from the South. I knew that coming down from Baltimore there is no easy way directly into downtown. But I had never come up from this direction before. I glanced at the map, and immediately saw that 395 would take me straight in. It was decided.
I feared some rush hour traffic, but there was none. Either it was because I was a little after rush hour, or because it turned out to be Presidents' Day and half the town was closed. Either way I just breezed right into the heart of DC.
I wasn't really sure where to go, so I drew upon the limited knowledge I had from the brief time I lived there just out of college. I followed signs for "Memorial Bridge," knowing that would take me right up behind the Lincoln Memorial. It got a little dicey here and there as I felt my way around and made one or two abrupt lane changes and/or exits. I must say the Phaeton was performing quite nimbly. Ordinarily I'm strictly a by-the-book driver (except maybe for speed limits), but on this day I threw the book out the window. I felt perfectly comfortable cutting right in front of people without signalling, or whatever else I felt I needed to do. I tend to get like that in major cities. In NYC, for example, I have a very strong "when in Rome" attitude, and have no compunction driving like the rest of the riff raff. And I was already in rare form that day.
So before I knew it I was right there at the Lincoln Memorial. I immediately saw a spot where I could park in view of the monument, but couldn't see how to get there. I actually went around the block a couple times, but absolutely could not see the entrance to that lot. On my third time around I pulled over and backed in the exit. I never did find where the entrance was, but by then it was a moot point. It turned out to be the handicapped lot, but it was half empty, and I wasn't going to be leaving the car anyway. When I stepped out I found that it was a lot colder than it looked in the bright sunshine. In fact it was hovering right around freezing. I tweaked the position of the car, snapped a couple shots, and was off again.
Next was the Jefferson Memorial. I used to know how to get there, but had long forgotten, so I set my Garmin. On the way out I realized I would go right past a parking lot on this side of the basin, so I peeled off to take some shots from that perspective. Again, the parking lot was practically empty. And this on Presidents' Day! Either it was too cold, or no one cared. This time I was able to really move my car around and try different positions until I got just the right shot. I had all the time I wanted, really, but found myself moving absolutely as quickly as I could. It was probably because I knew I still had many hours of driving ahead of me.
Once I got the perfect shot there, I continued on to the site itself. I got there, and couldn't find an entrance to the parking lot. What I remembered as being tourist parking was marked for busses only. So basically I backed up the access road until I was exactly in front of the monument, parked illegally there, and snapped my pics. There was hardly anyone out anyway.
Next it was back into town to see if I could get a shot with the Capital Building in the background. I drove along Independence Ave and found the perfect parking spot, right on the corner, with the Capital in full view. But it was on the other side of the street, so I had to turn around. Mind you, there were DC cops all over the place, but that didn't stop me from driving like a douche. Either I was lucky, or cunning, but one way or another there never seemed to be a cop around whenever I needed to pull a shady maneuver. I was able to spin around and head back to the perfect parking spot, but just as I was getting up to it, some tourist family nabbed it right out from under me.
I tried parking illegally just behind them, but they ruined my shot. I got back in the car and started looking for other angles. I found some good views on the side streets that bisect the mall. A couple more illegal u-turns later, and another illegal parking job right smack in the middle of a cross walk, and I had my shot.
That was pretty much it for the monuments. I scoped out the Washington Monument, but there was just no way to get anywhere near it, so I gave up on that. But I did remember National Cathedral, which I thought might be fun. It was more or less on my way out of town, so I decided to make that my next destination. Now I was fully in road rally mode. I just wanted to get up to the cathedral, and I didn't want any delays. But now I was in proper downtown traffic (as opposed to tourist traffic). And things were really, really, sluggish. It was like I was there the one day that everyone on the street was a snow bird up from Florida. Even the taxi drivers were dawdling along. There was a time or two when I had been backed up for ages, and when I finally broke free just put my foot down and roared away with that magnificent Phaeton V8 laying down a thick blanket of decibels behind me. I must say that the harder I pushed that car, the more it stepped up to the challenge. I was positively astounded at how quick and nimble the big and heavy car was in dodgey traffic.
So finally I got to the cathedral. I was still entirely unencumbered by adherance to law or parking signs. I just put the car wherever I thought would make the best shot, irrespective of whether I and/or the car was allowed to be there. But I found it extremely challenging to get a decent shot. The building was so immense, and so impressive, that the most photogenic car in the world would simply look like a little spec parked out in front of it. But eventually I got what I could.
At this point I could have just hopped in the car and headed home, but I decided to grab my tripod and go inside to get some mood-lighting shots of the stained glass windows. Back when I used to live there you could just walk right in, but now there was an admission process. It was one of those "voluntary donation" situations. I gave them like 5 bucks and went in. I still felt very rushed as I tried to settle on an exposure that would look good. While shooting I noticed all these nets stretched up above the clerestory. It gave a nice surface for the stained glass light to fall upon, but was blocking the view of the beautiful groin vaults overhead. I decided to step up to the information desk to get some information about it. Turns out it was because of the earthquake that had happened a while back. Until they could inspect and repair all the masonry work, they needed to keep those nets up so that nothing would fall on anyone's head. She said it would be a couple years before they could take it down.
So I shot a couple more pics inside, then out back to take some pics of the flying buttresses, and then I threw all my stuff in the car and sat down. As I pulled away from the cathedral I thought to myself, "I'm almost home now." You know you've been doing a lot of driving when going from Washington DC to Ithaca NY feels like "almost home."
I used the Garmin to get me back to the beltway, and then I knew exactly how I wanted to go the rest of the way. While driving past Baltimore I heard a really interesting interview with Thomas E. Ricks about his latest book "The Generals." It was all about why ever since WWII we've been good at winning battles but losing wars. I was engrossed, but soon we were out of radio range and I had to leave the rest of it to mystery.
Once past York PA I put in a WTF podcast. Marc Maron was interviewing Seth Green. It was really interesting. Seth is someone who from early childhood decided he wanted to be in show business, and just walked right into it. I was most interested to hear him talk about "Party Monster." It came up while they were discussing Macaulay Culkin, but Marc Maron had never heard of it and didn't pursue the topic. It was the only time I can remember, after listening to countless hours of Marc Maron talk with people, that I'd wished he'd done something other than he did.
They wound up off-topic, talking about the notion that our smart phones essentially act as homing beacons, broadcasting our geo-location 24 hours a day. They had an interesting chat about privacy, and how we all voluntarily permit unthinkable tracking and monitoring, freakily without ever thinking much about it. They eventually shrugged it off, acknowledging that the "evil plot" that this is enabling is not much more than people trying to sell us stuff.
Then, out of nowhere, Maron got back to the Party Monster topic. I was shocked and delighted. It was as if he could sense I was out there, wanting to know more, knowing I was disappointed in how he had conducted the interview, and making it right. It was an amazing moment. If you listen to podcasts but haven't heard WTF, you should really check it out. Unfortunately, when they started talking about Party Monster again, they didn't get into the area I was really interested in. I wanted to hear Seth talk about developing the character of James St. James. When I first saw the film I interpreted his performance as a straight guy trying to act like what he thought gay guys acted like. His performance was good, in fact overall it was a really good film, but his portrayal bothered me. Then quite some time later I saw a documentary where they interviewed the real James St. James, and I was like, "Oh wow, that guy really sounds like that." The whole time I thought that Seth Green was doing a stereotypical, even trite portrayal, I realized he was portraying a stereotypically trite person.
One other interesting thing to note was how Seth described Macaulay as a really well-adjusted and grounded kind of guy, which is in stark contrast to popular perception of him as a tragic, broken child star. It turns out he has all the money he'll ever need, and he's having a fine time just strolling through life doing whatever he feels like doing.
By the time I got north of Harrisburg, I had to stop for gas. This tank would get me the rest of the way home, so it was the last time my heart would skip a beat as I prayed that the filler flap door would open. It did. I could relax now. I also stepped inside to take a leak before the final leg of the journey. The restroom was like way in the back behind the storage space. It was unheated and really sketchy. And it was probably touching the door knob when I contracted would would be a nasty gastro-intestinal bug that would severely sideline me after I got home (I would have the ass equivalent of dry heaves for days).
As I got ever closer to home, there was a notion that was increasingly consuming me. And that was how good it would feel to get high once I was home. After a long road trip there's nothing better to relax me than a little weed. The problem was that I had been abstinent for the previous month. That gave me pause about relapsing, but I was absolutely powerless. Truth be told I didn't even really try to quell the cravings.
However I still had to score a little something. I called the guys who usually hook me up, but one of them was at that very minute at the doctors awaiting some medical test results, and the other was stuck home freaking out about how devastating it would be if the tests came back positive. He didn't want visitors. I wanted to say, "Yeah, I don't want to visit, I just want to pop in and pinch a tiny little bud." But even my disease would not make me that insensitive and self-centered.
I had a couple other options. I called one and left a message. If I headed to his place I knew he probably wouldn't be getting back to me until I was just about arriving at his doorstep. But if he didn't call me back, that would be a long ways out of my way, and I would have preferred to avoid that. Despite my chronic urging for weed, my desire to get the fuck out of the car was just a little bit stronger.
So I fell back on my last resort. The only reason he was my last resort was because I went through a prolonged phase where I was pinching weed off him all the time, and I didn't want to re-open that old wound unless I had to. In truth he should have been my first choice, because he lives only a couple miles from me.
So I got to the point where I had to either peel off to the guy who hadn't called back, or continue on towards home. So I called the last resort guy. He was home, and he didn't mind giving me a little bud for old times sake. Just as I was pulling up to his house my other option called me back (almost exactly when I predicted he would), but I told him I was set. So I plucked a couple buds out of my friend's stash, told some stories about my trip, and then went the couple more miles back home.
It was a rather odd feeling pulling back into the driveway that I had left some 10 days prior. It was simultaneously familiar and a million miles away.
I didn't even unload the car. I just went inside, turned on the TV, and lit up. I got really stoned. Actually, because I hadn't smoked in a month, I got really really really really stoned. And it felt good. It felt really really really really good. The marijuana high lets you reflect on things in a way that you can't when you're straight.
I reflected on the whole trip. Honestly, I couldn't believe that I pulled it off. The car did fine, but any number of things could have gone wrong at any time at any point along the journey, and I could have been hung out to dry. But everything went fine, and I was really really really really glad to be home.
I still had the next day off because I had decided to drive home a day early. I smoked dope and relaxed all day.
So then a couple days after I get back, I get this automated email from Travel Advisor asking me to rate my recent vacation. I don't usually do much with these Travel Advisor emails unless they found a really good air fare bargain. I was about to routinely delete it, but then I noticed something.
Here's the deal. I don't remember telling Trip Advisor I was going to Ft. Lauderdale in the first place. I arranged my accommodations through hotels.com, couchsurfing, and airBNB. There's always the possibility I looked something up on Trip Advisor and forgot, but there's one thing that's unmistakeable. Right smack in the middle of the email was a picture of The Palms condo towers where I was staying in Gordon's penthouse. This isn't a hotel, it's a residence complex. And I didn't search the web at all for its address, because I know exactly where it is.
This could have been a gigantic coincidence. Or it could be that the Trip Advisor ap I have installed on my phone was tapping into my GPS to see where I was spending time, and when it found a match with a photo in its database it automatically included it in the email.
My first reaction, of course, was to be utterly creeped out. I mean can you imagine anything more disturbing than the thought of an organization tracking and recording information like the location where you're sleeping? Just a couple days before, I had heard Marc Maron and Seth Green discussing how remarkable the whole phenomenon is.
But then I had to take a moment and be honest with myself. I try to take an objective view when it comes to privacy issues. I had a dream once that I lived in a big brother society where everyone's every action was monitored and recorded, and no one cared or even noticed because no one had anything to hide. I've always prided myself in living my life like an open book. I've frequently boasted that I don't care who knows what about me or my life. In the early internet days when personal streaming webcams became trendy, I fantasized that I could have a little hovering cam follow me everywhere I went and broadcast to a worldwide audience every minute detail of my private life. In fact this very essay, which I went to great lengths to write, and voluntarily, enthusiastically published to a worldwide audience, specifically details the very fact that I was creeped out to learn that Trip Advisor already knew.
So I ask myself, what is it, really, that bothers me about the fact that Trip Advisor captured information about me that I always intended to publish to the world anyway? Is it the fact that they took the information rather than me giving it? Is it the shock of realizing that something was going on right under my nose? Is it resentment over a commercial enterprise using my own information in an attempt to subliminally coerce me into spending more money? Is this just a secretion of neurotransmitters in my amygdala that a higher being such as myself should be better at controlling?
It's an issue I continue to examine.