The S.S. Car Bomb
Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this story out, but it’s taken me a while to recover from the Annual Labor Day Week Caribbean Extravaganza. I’m getting too old for this!
First off, I did things right by making sure I’d be arriving first to plan my revenge from last year’s trip. Unfortunately, my luggage was lost, so there was no chance for an attack. Y’all lucked out. But at least they gave me $100 for clothing. Nothing like spending the first day as a walking billboard for Club Med! As I settled in, I managed to run into Lisa and Melanie for dinner, and three GOs who actually remembered me from Club Med Sonora Bay back in 1995! Small world!
Well, the first day wasn’t too bad. No injuries anyway. Well, I did almost kill myself trying to get into the shallow end of the pool. Not quite like water-skiing on sand, but still worth a laugh, right Perry? And Chris and Brenda made the mistake of arriving late, and got nailed in a water attack. Welcome! But we did stake claim to the shallow end of the pool pretty quickly with the S.S. Car Bomb and a floating palm tree. But eventually, Mr. Smiley took over when he unknowingly became a volleyball, followed by a four-limbed tug-of-war rope, amazingly, smiling the whole time. (Who would’ve thought that a $1 toy could be the source of sooooo much fun!)
As we tired out, dinner called. We sure didn’t show a lack enthusiasm, as we polished off 62 beers, 2 bottles of wine playing Viking, (Erika’s favorite game). And what a better way to burn it off then dancing in the disco until 2am. It was a fun time for all, even Val, who may not remember dancing on stage and running up a stairway that lead into a wall! And this, was of course, the very reason Val missed her first morning dive in 10 years…
On Labor Day, after diving, the guns came out. The beach war (Jan and Mike vs Perry and Scott) eventually lead to savage street fighting, resulting in flooded rooms. Okay, from now on, that’s out of bounds, especially after having to deal with Laura's wrath! Exhausted, the troops headed for, what else? The Alcohol!!! And there I was, getting my first car bomb. Tasty! That evening was somewhat quiet. Pigs came out at dinner and then we retired to a lame show on stage.
Tuesday was diving at West Caicos Island. Scott did an amazing job spotting all types of eels, but it was the under water game of paper, rock, scissors that ended up getting the most attention. Hey Laura, boys will be boys! Upon returning, we spotted Brenda, trying to hide in a cubby whole, covertly barking signals through her talk-a-bout. It wasn’t long before the ambush was foiled, Brenda taken prisoner and Jan labeled a traitor. But what a better way to end a battle than slammers and margaritas at the pool. Par-tay!
For a change of pace, we did dinner at the club. For the most part, we were well behaved, that is until we decided to steal all the soft drinks! It’s amazing how valuable soft drinks can be on a remote island. That night, things did pick up as we entered the Group of 8 contest as Mango’s team. He really lucked out as EVERY GO wanted us as their team, and come to think of it, Mango gave us the least attention. Well, in any case, we had a blast. The women got into the bribing of the judges, Dave was too drunk to score a hockey goal, but Laura made up for it kicking soccer balls with fins, Scott impressed the crowds by naming all the mystery alcohol samples, and Mike and Val managed to beat at least one couple in the dance contest (It was a moral victory at least!). But you know, in my opinion, I thought we were zee best ones!
With no diving scheduled for Wednesday, a competitive tennis math took place with Mike, Erika, Dave and Brenda. Well, it was pretty hot, so we didn't really last that long. But now we were all ready for the famous (but toned-down) beach picnic! Well, at least it was fine for killing the afternoon, but THEY RAN OUT OF BEER!!! (So, this portion of the story now ends…) And back at the pool, the S.S. Car Bomb kicked up a notch, with slammers and AfterShock. Woo hoo! By the time the foam party started up, we were all well in the mood! And the guns came out blazing! Hopefully, we'll all be in the next Club Med brochure. Can't wait!
Thursday was a great "play-day" for everyone. Erika, Dave and Chris went fishing, Val and Mike went windsurfing, Jan snorkeled (but was attacked by Perry, Scott and Chris), Scott and Laura waterskiied, Perry, Val, Laura, Scott, Brenda and Chris went sailing, Mike played volleyball. Oh, and Dave and Erika slept (How could I forget that?) So, by late afternoon, we were ready for happy hour (as always). And tonight's specialty was the "Dorkel". Sure got us all in the mood for a ton of dancing to salsa music. Go Val!
Nice and early Friday morning, Scott, Laura, Perry, Val and Mike were off for our final dive. Lots of crabs, a puffer fish, you name it, Scott spotted it. Our paranoia about being super soaked on our return got the best of us and we covertly sneaked up to the third floor to get back to our rooms. No probs, man. Erika and Dave were probably sleeping anyway…
That afternoon, the activities flared up again. More beach time, hanging out by the pool (Hey! That's an activity, right?), and an intense game of hockey. And what a better way to cool off than playing "Pigs" in the pool. After dinner, the activities continued into the wee hours of the night. It was, after all, our last night. Sure there were side events, like Erika throwing me (fully clothed) into the pool, target practice with Perry and glow in the dark football, but Scott takes the prize for making sure someone got injured on this trip. It's just that no one expected this to happen by simply going to the bathroom. (I'll let Scott get himself out of this himself)
So, Saturday came around and it was time to pack up and leave. Like Cozumel, I spent my last few hours trying to dry out my clothes with a hair dryer (Thanks, Erika). I jumped on the bus to the airport, thinking about the tennis instructor, Ross, getting ready to hit you all with my Super Soaker later that day. And wondering why I keep setting myself up for revenge!
Well, it was a fun week. Now I’m going to need the next 51 weeks to recover and get ready to the next one. Do you think I’ll ever learn???
Well, after a rash of pre-cursory (and, to my defense, forged) e-mails, and my past experience with this gang, I was on guard long before I arrived. However, upon cautiously arriving at the resort, a calm and relaxed Laura and Val in the lobby soon convinced me otherwise. Little did I know that they were positioned in the lobby on purpose, and radioed ahead to the ambush that I was walking down the hall. Five Super Soakers greeted me as I opened my door. So much water was shot in my direction that maintenance had to come in with mops to clean up the reservoir. We even tipped them! Hey Laura, that’s the last time I send you flowers.
After a calm Saturday night of checking out the resort, some of us got up bright and early Sunday for our morning dive. It was Val’s first dive (Yeah, Val!) and Scott’s first Bahamian taste of food poisoning. Gotta love that conch salad! Other than that, nothing exciting to report. Back to the gang.
Already bored with the resort (and the multiple power outages), we headed up the beach to the Crystal Palace Casino. Jan was quickly (and rudely) introduced to gambling, especially roulette. So much money, so little time. But y’all missed it when the power went out. When it came back on, I could’ve sworn that the slot machines were ringing like crazy!
That night, back at the resort, life at Hurricane’s disco picked up. It was our first intro to Sumo wrestling. What a blast! I felt like the Pillsbury doughboy in that huge outfit! And if it wasn’t for the refs knocking me down and catapulting Melody on top of me, I would’ve had a straight-set victory!
Our Monday dive had more action than we anticipated. It’s pretty scary putting on your scuba gear, glancing over the side of the boat and seeing five sharks circling the ladder. Okay, Peggy, uh, Perry, you go first! But once they scattered and we got in the water, we calmed down. Except for Lisa and Val, who used Perry and myself as human shields when nine sharks came back. Without even trying to swim, I had a continuous eye-to-eye view with a circling shark, and fingernails in the back of my forearms.
But the most memorable event was the water skiing competition. Denise laughed as Bill lasted all of two minutes in his three attempts to get it up (uh, on water-skis). Then Scott set the stage as he let go of the rope and skied in towards Melody, who did a cool back and forth dance in waist deep water in her attempt to avoid getting a water-ski implanted in her belly button. And then it was Perry’s turn. Once Perry took off, we armed ourselves with Super Soakers for his return. As he skied in (rather fast, I might add), he was staring down the barrels of 4 guns. In his attempt to avoid us, he veered left, where the water quickly ran out, and skied onto the beach. So with the ski firmly planted in the sand, Perry kept going (at about 30 mph) in a manner similar to Scott’s superman leap at Steamboat. WHAM! Sand everywhere! Body pieces flying all over (Just kidding). Everyone was laughing so hard we didn’t even get a shot off! Well, things calmed down and Perry decided to check with a nurse. Turns out he broke his collar bone. Ouch!
With Perry’s return, we all headed to the disco for lots of dancing and the Christening of our new dance: The Perry! Well we finished that day with my Karaoke performance of “Twist and Shout”, followed by water volleyball until 1am.
Due to losing Perry and Val for diving, we were forced to dive with a larger group on Tuesday. Bummer. It’s amazing how spoiled we had been, having our own boat and crew (Nick and Robert) the last two days. So we couldn’t wait to get back and do some sea kayaking, uh, everyone except for Perry…
But Tuesday was also the start of our pool side happy hour, with our own music (which ended up entertaining the whole resort) and playing asshole with pigs. Forget snake eyes, we were makin’ bacon!!! And by the way, what have I ever done to deserve being made asshole, over 10 times? Rumor has it that while I was providing asshole services by getting hot dogs, I got out of asshole, then became asshole, got out of it, and then became it again. This must be that New Yawker hospitality I always hear about…
So, it was a welcome relief when we headed out to The Zoo Nightclub for some relaxation, and I didn’t have to run around getting drinks for everyone. Still, not much was happening that night anywhere around Nassau, so we headed back to the resort.
Wednesday was our trip to Atlantis. I bit overwhelming and over priced, but worth a look. Soon, it was back to the resort for some quality sunbathing, and another round of Asshole With Pigs, with another few turns at my anointed seat as asshole. And my little cheating escapade (which I almost pulled off) sent me into the pool, with chair, towel and drink included. So why again do I bother to play?
So making up for a lame prior night at The Zoo, we had our own beach party, where we befriended Joseph, head of security. Little did we know that we’d end up being his slaves, smuggling him drink after drink to keep him toasted through his 16 hour shift, day after day. I could just picture him being drunker than the guy he was arresting. In any case, he let the music blare, the shots flowed, and asshole Mike kept bringing the snacks.
By Thursday, we were ready for the Booze and Cruise. A huge party boat that cruises to a snorkeling stop, and an isolated island beach, with non-stop alcohol and music on a five hour tour. A five hour tour. Yuck, yuck. Melody and myself did pretty well in the limbo contest, but ended up 2nd and 3rd. And some snorkelers decided to put life jackets on as diapers and float around with a drink in one hand. Sounds like a good idea to me!
Later, back at the resort, the water balloon launcher made its appearance. Joseph, head of security, was cool enough (or drunk enough) to quell the complainers. And we couldn’t just let the partying stop, so we covered ourselves in bed sheets and headed for the Toga Party. Perry won the “Most Original Toga” contest with his One Arm Bandit design, and Melody won “Sexiest Female”. Okay, now I’m not saying that Perry is not creative, and Melody is not sexy, but with a group of 12 yelling behind them, I think our group had a slight edge in the judging! Actually, I take part of that back. Perry is not creative.
Friday was our last full day. So Lisa, Laura, Scott and myself did a final shark-feeding dive. Shark feeding, you say? Yeah, maybe it was a little stupid jumping into the water with 30 hungry sharks. Not to mention, the dive leaders were wearing chain mail armor. Still, it was awesome! Just sitting still and watching sharks (5-7 feet long) chowing on chump, about 5 feet away. More so, having them swim right by, with their pectoral fins bumping you. At one point, a shark decided to bump me pretty hard on the side of my head, which filled my mask with water and knocked the regulator out of my mouth. Two days later, the doctor said the shark had also ruptured my eardrum. Tack another injury to the list!
Back at the resort, it rained most of the day, so drying out all our wet clothes for the trip home was impossible. So we donned our last set of clean clothes for dinner at Pastafari and headed to the disco. It was time to show the locals how to do The Perry! But first, a last round of Sumo Wrestling. In summary, Scott gracefully let Laura win, Steve and MaryLou bounced around like weebles, and Bill crushed Jan. And what a better way to end the evening than a 3am drink in the hot tub. Oh, and of course, 4 more beers for the head of security.
Before packing up to leave, we were up early for one last day on the beach. Although no one really wanted to go, it really was time to go. Hurricane Floyd was about to smack the Bahamas, and a group of 77 guys from Philly had just arrived. That would probably ruin the guy-girl ratio at the resort. And who would want to hang out with 77 guys? Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing Lisa actually get on a plane…
Well, I knew I was in for a heck of a vacation when Lisa called less than 24 hours prior to departure and told me to arm myself with the largest Super Soaker I could find. And I thought this was supposed to be a relaxing vacation!
But before everyone else arrived, Lisa and I had time to check out the resort, grab a bite, relax by the pool, take a dip in the ocean and haggle through three room changes (You guessed it. The haggling was all Lisa’s doing!). Little did I know that this was as close as I got to the only peace and quiet I was going to get all week…
Moments after the rest of the gang arrived, you guessed it, the CPS2000 Super Soakers came out. Wow. And there I stood with my XP105 pump action, double air reserve Super Soaker, which could’ve easily been replaced with a Windex spray bottle. And with all these aquatic weapons running rampant all over the resort, I was constantly on edge. Lying on the beach, vegging in a hammock, or playing shuffleboard, you never knew when you were going to get nailed. And you call this a vacation?
Okay, there were a ton of other activities around that made up for the constant barrage. Take Fast Eddie’s Sports Bar for instance. On that first night, there was lots of dancing (on the foosball table), lots of drinking (including an upside down margarita), and a little mingling, with foreigners (if you consider Canada foreign). And then there was the late night snack bar to stuff down a last minute, greasy hamburger. Mmm. Stop farting, Scott.
The diving kicked in early, and to summarize: What a blast! Talk about swim-thrus! And drifting so far that you’d surface ½ mile from where you started. Even better, Lisa, George, Perry and myself went cavern diving in Akumel. I’ll never forget those salt water pockets. Eerie. And then there was the night dive, where creatures practically jumped out at us once we hit the water. Crabs, lobsters, stingray and octopi (Sorry, I’m guessing at the plural.)
But back to the resort, and the rest of the gang.
We never really ventured anywhere for dinner, and rightly so, since it was paid for and not that bad. There were always themes, like Chink night (Yeah, only I can say that and get away with it) with all those “pumpkins” wandering around. I guess they made up for the failed whoopie cushion, oh, and the friendly wait staff, right Scott?
By Wednesday, we all needed a break from the resort so off we went to Carlos and Charlies. I don’t remember too much from that night except for a volleyball court, a bunch of blow jobs (No, not me, unfortunately. And they were drinks. Perverts.) and Perry forgetting how to say all but one word: “Kato!”. My ears are still ringing.
The boat trip on Friday was a great getaway. There were a lot of lessons to be learned. Such as 1) don’t chug a bottle of Sprite when you’re thirsty since they generally seem to contain at least 50% vodka, 2) don’t sit downwind from Pam when she’s about to spit and 3) Perry can’t steer a Banana boat to save his life. Well, none of us probably could so who cares? And other than trying to get on and off the boat in swells, it was a great time, including the fishing (Hats off to Scott’s Mahi-mahi) and lunch on the beach (Mmm that Mahi-mahi). Uh, I won’t mention the water cannons.
Of course, once we were off the boat, a few of us (myself, Pam, George, Perry) kept our sea legs for a bit. Lots of fun. Even more fun was the group game of asshole, where my co-asshole in crime, Jan, and I couldn’t get out of being assholes until we cheated. Yeah, we cheated. Guess I’m going to have to pay for that at Bar Golf.
But before the night was over, our energy building, it was off for another wild night at Fast Eddies. Forget the lame casino. We were too busy dancing on the bar and later slam-dancing. But the highlight of the evening had to be the discovery of … another Scott and Laura!!! Geez. Just when I was thinking I could barely handle one pair…kidding. What a perfect reason to have a Kamikaze toast: To Scott and Laura! And another one: To Scott and Laura! And another one…you get the idea.
But alas, we had one more day to recover, or so I thought. Things started rocking early as the water cannons came out firing. It wasn’t long before Scott and Perry, traversed a jungle, donned snorkel gear and covertly assaulted the beach, entertaining the curious onlookers, while dousing the unsuspecting victims (i.e Andrew and Jan). And returning from a dive trip, Lisa and I received the same in kind. Thanks guys. Wait until Bar Golf.
In a final attempt to relax, a croquet game was organized. Maybe if Perry wasn’t there it would’ve been relaxing. Anyway, after breaking 4 hoops, polishing off most of the firewater, suffocating through a mosquito repellent fog cloud attack and watching a wedding, we were pretty much blitzed. Who’s idea was it anyway to do (alcohol) shots for (croquet) shots? To add insult to injury, Scott was required to polish off the vodka thanks to Andrew. And I guess you can use that excuse for breaking the pool railing???
Well, at least we were all in the mood for a final wild night at Fast Eddie’s. More Kamikazes, more dancing on the bar and, of course, Scott and Laura (now married) who even joined us at the late night food bar. But my personal highlight was waxing Pam 10-0 in foosball. Yiha!
And before the vacation ended, there was one last, late night water fight where Scott lost both contacts. And you know, it’s not a vacation til someone loses a contact.
Well, I guess there was one more brief encounter, the final morning, where I sought revenge, attacking with Lisa’s pea shooter, accidentally dowsing a serene Mexican couple. Oops! Scott managed to empty his water cannon on my pants just before departure. I’ve always wanted to spend a few hours with a hair dryer down my only pair of clean pants.
And then we were all off to our respective home cities. Besides, I think we all need a break. So now I wait for Bar Golf. I should recover by then.
As y’all know, I do my utmost to uphold BSG’s 10th treasured value: Vacation. But I guess my string of good luck had to run out at some point. Funny how it happened when I was on leave of absence from BSG. Hmmm.
My original plans to go to St. Thomas were axed when Continental canceled my flight due to a hurricane. I had an awful urge to blow some bubbles, and wrestle a few small sharks, so no hurricane was going to ruin my diving plans. So I made revised plans to go to Cozumel.
The trip started out normally. We got in some great diving, explored the island and reserved spots for a Mayan Ruins hike and deep sea fishing. All was fine, until Roxanne decided to swing by for happy hour. Time to buckle down.
Hours before it was scheduled to hit the island, the hotel called an emergency meeting in the lobby. Our instructions were to pack all our stuff, place it in our bathrooms, and carry our passports with us at all times. You know, so when they found our washed up bodies on a distant shore, they’d be able to identify us (Just kidding! Chill out!). So we hurried off into our assigned hurricane shelters to ride out the storm.
At first, things weren’t that bad. Okay, so we were crowded into small rooms with some candles, a few chairs, cold sandwiches and bottled water. No power, no running water, no caviar, but a couple of cases of lukewarm Dos Equis I’d bought hours earlier for an emergency such as this. I would’ve brought more, but that’s all that fit on the back of my moped (which, incidentally, had moved itself to the other side of the parking lot during the hurricane.). Our shelter also had a small CD player with battery powered speakers. Unfortunately, only one CD, Gloria Estefan was good enough to satisfy both the Americans and the Mexicans. Not a bad CD, but 10 times in a row? I’ll take my chances with Roxanne!
Then Roxanne really hit.
Water was pouring in all around the main door, and it looked like 3-4 people were pushing against it. Scary. We took turns leaning against the door and mopping up the mess as the room slowly flooded. Someone apparently scoffed warnings and stayed in his room. When he opened the door, the a/c unit was ripped out of the wall and nailed his legs (Hmm. Wasn’t Ben Mayberry limping the other day?). Some others were cut by shattering glass, a few people went into shock but nothing major. Still, we kept our spirits. I even called one of the other shelters on the radio and asked them if anyone had ordered Domino’s. I was told I was a dead man if I didn’t deliver. Oops!
After twelve hours in the shelter, it was over. The aftermath was pretty dismal. The outdoor cabana/restaurant was half in the trees and half in the pool. Our rooms were flooded with water, grass and leaves. The island wouldn’t have power, water or phone lines for a couple of days. The airport was closed. Cold drinks were now a delicacy. Even the underwater reef showed major signs of being torn up. An octupus showed his disinterest by inking me. But the real tragedy was that although we, as tourists, suffered what amounted to an inconvenience, the locals had lost their homes. Kind of sad.
So, we aimlessly wandered around the island for a few days, getting in a dive here and there, and touring the damage. Not much else to do. And just like that, it was time to go. Darn! Just when I was getting used to a thin film of salt covering me. Well, I think I’ll switch to mountains for the winter. Anyone want to be in a story about avalanches?
Afterall, it is that time of the year for my diving vacation story. But for a change of pace, I decided to dump the 12 BSGers from my last vacation (or more realistically, they dumped me), and head out on my own for some calm serenity in the tropics. Destination: Club Med Turkoise, British West Indies.
The charter flight from NY was completely full. I was surrounded by New Yawkers, the very essence I was trying so desperately to escape. So there I was spending all this $$$ to be with them on a tiny island. I guess I should've brought my switchblade. At least we weren't going to be fighting over cabs. On top of that, our flight was delayed while they tried to load extra musical equipment. Hmmm. Club Med doesn't normally book bands. Something was up. Upon arriving, we were informed that it was a special Seventies Week at Club Med. The planned events included shows by Barry Williams ("Greg" from The Brady Bunch), The Village People (hence the flight delay), Ron Pallilo ("Arnold Horshack" from Welcome Back, Kotter), and more 70s music than you wanted to hear. Too late, now there was no escape.
The diving was pretty good. Sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, large crabs, all the basics. I won't bore you, but I did lose part of a leg to a black tip (no, just kidding). And the night dive was more like bumper cars. And interestingly enough, Barry "Greg Brady" Williams was one of my dive buddies. My own brush with greatness. It has always been my dream to hang out with one of the Brady kids (The Fonz is a close second, and there's always Lenny and Squiggy. Still kidding).
At one point, Barry Williams and I were playing tennis, and a crowd had gathered to watch... I assumed him. Afterwards, I was informed that they were watching me, believing I was a famous tennis player. Let's analyze this: Okay, I look like Michael Chang, but I'm not as good (tennis-wise) as him, I'm left-handed, and he was currently playing at the US Open. These people were desperate! In any case, rumors quickly circulated at Club Med that Barry Williams and some famous tennis player were hanging out. And would you believe half of the curious were inquiring at the front desk about a tennis player named "Michael Bang"? Not, Chang? Even Barry's agent wanted my number since he did work with lookalikes in Hollywood. Stardom vs BluePrint. Tough choice. Maybe I should ask for a raise. Actually, after hearing about my vacations and consulting lifestyle, Barry offered to switch careers with me. Hey, are we still hiring?
I didn't know what to expect at first, but dancing all night to The Village People turned out to be a highlight. It was like being catapulted back into the 70s again. It was just slightly a better performance than the one at Dave Rocknic's 70s party last year. Sorry, Dave. Philippe (the Indian) was later throwing people into the pool for not mastering the "YMCA" dance routine. At least I beat him out at the beach party limbo contest.
Of course I didn't socialize only with Barry Williams. There were others around. Like the sports teams, dinner/wine parties, the GOs (Club Med Activity Organizers) and the bevy of topless bathers who threw me into the ocean one night. One day, a group of us rented mopeds and toured the island. Barry wanted to find his friend Dick Clark's vacation home. With the help of some locals, we found it, went in and quietly tried out the jacuzzi. Later, most of us lost big at the local casino. Even later, someone convinced me to drive a moped into the pool. To our dismay, it stalled on take off, and our helmets were confiscated.
On the last night, my new friends and I danced/swam until we couldn't move and then plopped down on the beach to watch the sun come up. Most of us made plans for happy hours in NY. Barry Williams is even going to drop in from LA. I'll have to take him to Polyester's (a 70s club in NYC) where they've got a Brady Bunch mural. And it looks like I've got a place to stay in Beverly Hills.
Whew! What a vacation. Constant activities and at most, 4 hours sleep each night. It's nice to be back at work, to recover before hiking El Capitan in Yosemite in a week. Did I say calm serenity? I guess it's all relative.
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?
The alarm sounds at 9:00 am. I reach across the bed and open the mini-blinds. In pours the rising sun along with a reflection off the Intercoastal Harborway. I can make out about 4 sailboats on the mile wide channel. One of them looks like John Morse's sailboat. Yep, I can just hear his beagle. Ooooowwww! Ooooowwww! On the other side of the channel I see downtown ClearWater awakening. I get up, put on a bathrobe, and Kathy Kaminski is making me breakfast as I stroll out to my eighth floor balcony, which faces west over the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 feet away. "Here you go Mike" says Leeanne White as she hands me the morning paper. I peruse the morning paper as I listen to the sound of gentle waves trickling up the beach, and fading away mere inches from the sand volleyball court. Next to the volleyball court, the jacuzzi is empty, but someone is out for an early swim in the pool. This morning, I'm going rollerblading down the Pinellas Trail, and then maybe I'll take a drive along the beach in my Miata (top down of course). This afternoon, Doug Callahan and I have a volleyball match against Karch and Kent at the Holiday Inn Surf Side (we usually blow them away). If I've got the energy, I may get in a set of tennis with Chip Sherwood at the Harborage. Hit it over the fence and it's in the Harborway (or in a passing boat). And tonight, it's dinner at Rockaway's and then dancing at Jamminz'. And then I wake up...
and I live the dream. Okay, well, with a couple of differences. First, Kathy and Leeanne are replaced by Keith Davey, who wouldn't lift a finger to cook breakfast. Second, Doug and I play volleyball against two high school locals, and we go down in flames.
But my story is not about Tampa at all. I just wanted to start off by rubbing in my current project location. It's good to be king. Oh yes, and I go to work every now and then too.
Let me tell y'all about the short vacation I went on while I was on my long vacation: Diving in Belize, Central America.
BSGers from all corners of the country (New York, Tampa, San Jose, Houston) conglomerated at The Ale House in Houston the night before our memorable trip. In all, there were seven BSGers, a former BSGer, and 2 outside acquaintances. Five guys, five gals. Not a bad mix. There we met to plan our trip antics. People straggled in anywhere between 8:00pm and midnight, depending on when their flights arrived. But by the next morning we were off and running to the airport.
The first leg of the flight down to Belize City, Belize, was pretty smooth. Big plane, smooth ride. And then it was onto the creaking puddle hopper to get to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. It really wasn't that bad, unless you happened to be sitting next to Amy Force whose fingernails (and probably fingerprints) are now permanently engrained in someone's forearms. In San Pedro, we hopped into pickup trucks and golf carts to get driven the dusty 1/4 mile or so to our resort. Okay, time to pick up the story a bit.
The diving was great! Lots of sharks, rays, barracuda and pirahna (just kidding). About half of us had our fingers snapped and bruised trying to feed some snappers (appropriately named). Eric Ellington couldn't shake off a particular grouper. Lots of fun. The toughest part of the diving turned out to be leaving and entering the boat in 6-8 foot swells. One memorable wave caught us all by surprise when we were getting back on the dive boat. Dermot Grady (the only diver currently up on the boat) was launched off the boat in a perfect swan dive, a couple of us unintentionally drank a few gallons of salt water, and I was thrown into the back of the boat and swallowed my regulator. Tasty.
But alot of the action occurred on land, where we didn't need hand signals to communicate. The diving company that sponsored the trip threw a July 4th Party out on the Pier. Good food (fish, of course) and good music. All seemed pretty normal until Dermot wandered off into the darkness and decided to go for a swim fully clothed. Upon surfacing, the look in his eyes said "run". We all ran, except for an oblivious LouAnn Trojcak, who was hoisted up kicking and screaming. Well, Dermot let her go before tossing her in. Big mistake. As he turned away, she poured her drink on his head and took off running. The ensuing chase along the pier ended with Dermot wrapped around a couple of mooring posts. I'd give him a 9.5 for the wipeout. His elbow, hip, knee, and ankle will probably won't be the same for a while.
The next night, we ran into a troop of British soldiers on leave for a day or so. With Kathy Wollerman and Marie Witsell throwing them kisses, they serenaded our girls with something like "yer parents must have been real thieves to steal the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes". And as always, the evening ended at Elvi's Restaurant, for a late bite and some Red Stripe Ale.
Elvi's was a classic place. Great food (fish, of course) and an interesting decor. Among other things, there was a large tree growing in the middle of the restaurant, and the floor was covered with sand. Drop a fork on the floor, and just cover it up. The sand was better than the sand on the beaches, and nicer than the gravel streets. The only thing exciting to do on the streets were gymnastics tumbling exercises, right LouAnn? We spent our last night there, after polishing off one too many bottles of Belizean rum (which were strategically placed in each room). You'll have to ask someone else for details on that last night.
Our only major daytime non-diving excursion was a search for the Mayan Ruins. Since the Hotel only had one golf cart to rent (the primary means of transportation), we headed out in small groups to the other end of the island. We were told that the last mile or so would be unreachable by cart, so we'd have to hike it. Unfortunately, none of us ever found the unmarked trail (go figure) and the last mile was through thick brush. Most of us turned back covered with insect bites. Jaye Hsia never had a chance, wearing a little outfit that would've looked better at The Crush Bar on a Saturday night. Alas, such fond memories.
And just like that, it was time to head home. We all flew together to Houston, and then off to our exotic project sites in New York, San Jose, Tampa and Compaq. Miraculously enough, there were no major injuries (myself included). It's going to be time to do it again real soon. But for now, it's back to the beach front condo on ClearWater Beach...Life's great, ain't it?