It’s night. I’m outside looking at the stars. Tonight, my wife and I decided that we wouldn’t go on our annual vacation since COVID-19 is running rampant in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just that now isn’t a good time for vacation.
So my wife and I sit on the porch, retelling our best vacations to one another.
Like the times we went to the Grand Canyon. I’ll never forget camping at the Canyon. The way it looks in the early morning can change a man’s life. We hiked, ate canned food, I made coffee over the campfire and burnt the roof off my mouth so bad I required a priest. It was great.
At night, we would look at the stars from the the canyon and marvel at them. Stars are funny things. You look at them every night, but sometimes you don’t actually see them.
And the Suwannee River. Now there was another great vacation. You don’t hear many people sing the praises of the Suwannee anymore, but it’s a truly magnificent piece of black water.
We went for my wife’s birthday once. We rented a canoe and trickled down the slow-moving river with our box lunches and sunhats.
A friend of mine had given me a cigar as a gift. I’d been saving it. I’d never officially smoked a cigar before, so I thought I’d give it a try on the Suwannee.
I lit the cigar while paddling and almost puked. I hated it. The lit stub fell into the water only a few feet from a large, scaly, reptilian head floating beneath the surface.
It was an alligator about the size of a Plymouth. My wife and I froze and tried not to breathe. We watched the gator swim through the water like a Biblical leviathan, and I immediately realized that I was wrong about this gator. He was no Plymouth. He was a Dodge Coronet Woody Wagon.
Cedar Key was also a great place. My wife and I camped in our old 16-foot camper, right on the water. Each night, she cooked meals on our tiny kitchenette. She chopped fresh herbs, exotic shallots, and fileted fish.
Before supper I would walk down the road to buy fresh clams from a guy who sold them out of a pickup truck. The smell was godawful.
That was a good vacation. My wife and I ate on a fold-up table while listening to the World Series on the radio. The mosquitoes were committing immoral acts upon our bodies. Detroit lost to San Francisco. The clams were exquisite.
Seattle. Oh, boy. Now there was another great trip. We went to the Northwest for my friend’s wedding. It cost an arm and a liver to get there.
As soon we I arrived, I was thrilled to find that Washington had actual rednecks. I’d always thought rednecks were an expressly Southern item.
I come from a long line of rednecks who spend the weekends working on Camaros parked beside their above-ground swimming pools while listening to Duane and Gregg sing about Melissa.
But these Pacific Northwest rednecks looked like MY PEOPLE. The only difference was they all talked like Bing Crosby.
One morning in Seattle, my wife and I woke up very early and went to the Pike Place Market. We’d heard about how great the outdoor farmer’s market was, but I was not prepared for just how great. We walked through the street arm-in-arm, like we were strolling through Paris. It was the farthest I’d ever been from home.
For lunch, we bought fresh-made goat cheese from the market, a steaming loaf of French bread, and ripe tomatoes. We sat on a park bench watching the guys in the fish market toss fish to each other. My wife tore hunks of bread from the baguette; I ate tomatoes like apples.
On our walk back to the car, there was an Asian man on the street corner with a strange musical instrument that looked like a fiddle, played with a horsehair bow. Only this instrument was made from a tuna can and a broomstick. I asked about it. He said it was a homemade erhu.
He told me that he had arrived in America recently and could not afford a real erhu. Then he played “When You’re Smiling.”
On a freaking tuna can.
His music bounced off the downtown walls. A young hipster couple started dancing. And then it started raining. It was romantic.
I would have asked my wife to dance, but we were both raised Southern Baptist and we don’t want to burn in Hell.
Cape San Blas, Florida, is another favorite place of ours. My wife I have spent every summer vacation there since the year we met. In fact, we’d be there right now if it hadn’t been for this COVID-19 business.
I spent a weekend at the Cape with my wife’s family about 18 years ago. It was only weeks after I met her. They rented a huge house, grilled a lot of food, baked a lot of oysters, and told a lot of stories.
I knew I loved her that weekend. There was no doubt about it. We walked on a beach after dark, listening to water beat the shore. We looked at the stars and made promises to each other. Because stars are funny things. You look them every night, but sometimes you forget to see them.
Well. I see them now.