You know, they tell me that once you've been staffed at Nielsen (living in a condo on ClearWater Beach, 8 hour days, sun and sand), it's all downhill from there. The dozen or so BSGers that have crashed here would probably agree. So why did I just embark on my third vacation since being assigned out here six months ago? I'm still trying to figure that out...
My last two vacations took place on tropical islands (Grand Cayman, Belize), so I opted for the Florida Keys. And why not? It's a $53 airfare, and I wouldn't be losing a day in air travel. I wish I could say the same for the others. Jaye Hsia and LouAnn Trojcak got the short (or maybe long) end of the stick, commuting from San Jose. But they've made the trip before, about a month prior. The rest of the BSG-Nielsen contingent (Keith Davey, Kathy Kaminski and John Spencer) opted for the 7 hour drive from Tampa. And the others came from the far reaches of per-diem land: St. Louis, Dallas, and Houston.
We spent the first part of the week in Key Largo. There wasn't alot there, but the diving and nightlife kept us busy. John "Please be gentle, it's my first dive" Spencer, ended up buddying with Doug "I won't be happy until I lose my buddy in a cave" Skiba. To make matters worse, John had tank #13 (Ohhh, ahhh). Luck was on his side and he surfaced, with a good two more breaths of air left in his tank. And then it was my turn to buddy with Doug. There were no caves, just a cool swim-thru. I thought I was pretty safe, but Doug "I'm not happy until my buddy runs out of air" Skiba refused to surface. And I had already used up half of my air laughing at a stunt that John had pulled off. Great. Instead of losing me in a cave, he was going to suffocate me. I'm outta here. Time to hit terra firma.
A safer excursion was snorkeling with Dolphins at a research center. Have you ever had a dolphin "taste" you? They come up, gently bite your leg, and touch their tongue against your skin. I guess it's like a dog sniffing you. But I wouldn't know. They prefer children and then women before men. John and I did our utmost to attract these six female dolphins, while Kathy Wollerman had to fight them off.
Most nights, after food and drinks, we'd end up lying on the pier, searching for the Big Dipper, and all identifying it in a different part of the sky, or elsewhere. I guess that's why we're computer geeks.
And then we discovered Woody's Bar and Saloon on our last night in Key Largo. A sign out front shouted "Do not enter if you are easily offended". It was right. The band was named "Big Dick and the Extenders". Their lead singer was a very raunchy stand up comic. Doug lost a close race in the dirty joke contest, and myself being the only Asian in the place, was brought up on stage and abused. But it was danceable music, until I caught an elbow from Jaye Hsia and lost a contact. Pretty soon the whole front row was looking for my contact. We all looked like some cool, new dance craze. And the lucky lady who found it got a round of drinks for her table. I'm such a nice guy.
For the second part, we headed to Key West for more diving, nightlife and incredible sunsets. Cool wrecks to dive. And I again played with death by buddying with Doug "I'm not happy until my buddy gets lost in a wreck with a broken light" Skiba. I lived through it, knowing that a beautiful sunset was waiting for me. Besides, the palm reader at Mulberry Square told me I'd be safe.
Anybody been to Key West? It's like a small Bourbon St. Lots of little stores, restaurants (great food) and a wide variety of live bands. One night we relaxed at the Hog's Breath Cafe, another night, we moved to reggae music (I don't think Dermot Grady remembers that night), and another night, we all got tattoos (heh, heh. Tattoos are cool. heh, heh, Too bad they're temporary) and slam-danced until LouAnn shoved me and Kathy W went flying into the speakers. Miraculously, I didn't lose a contact. And I didn't get injured.
And then it was time to drive back to Miami, and fly back to our respective project locations. Not as relaxing as I had planned, but then again, now I'm back on the beach (heh, heh). But it's time to put away the SCUBA gear and pull out my snowboard. Anybody up for shredding the slopes?