Tuesday, February 14, 2012


We got eaten alive by no-see-ums. But we also went to the Everglades. We slept in a cold, wet puddle Thursday night. But we also saw manatees. The shells were bright and plentiful. So were the blisters.

There were giddy highs and pathetic lows. Isn't that every camping trip, though? The manatees, the Everglades, the shells, the music and the sun and the beaches were unspeakable in their beauty and perfection. The blisters and bugs and wind and incredible rain, the broken tent and the traffic jams were unspeakable for other reasons. 

For the purpose of illustrating this paradox, let me present two short stories of our time in Florida. First, the story of great misery and woe.

We were setting up our up-until-now-stalwart Eureka tent in the sun on Tuesday, and a pole just snapped. We'd used it maybe half-a-dozen times, we were baffled, but also distracted by the beach twenty feet away and the clear sunny skies and the palm trees swaying. We shrugged and went to find beers. 

Thursday evening, we get back from a bucolic day in the Everglades and it's like a low-grade hurricane at camp. Driving rain and the kind of wind that blasts you full in the face as soon as you step out of the car. It was the first night of the festival, though, so we swayed with the masses under cover of a big dance tent. Upon entering our tent and pulling back the sleeping bag, I found everything was soaked from my edge closest the window to the middle of the mattress. I could've walked all the way back to the festival in the rain, or...

I managed to fall asleep for a few hours, then went to sleep in our rental car at a quarter to six. I cranked the heat, and methodically shucked off three layers of cold, wet cotton and salvaged the only dry clothes I had from the trunk of the car. A cotton dress, socks, and one of Patrick's white undershirts. The tent only got worse, so we slept in the car the remaining three nights of our stay. I am just going to say one thing: our actual bed is WAY AWESOMER than I'd ever before appreciated. One nine hour night of log-like slumber, and I'm A NEW WOMAN.

Now for the good story.

We traveled to South Florida for the celebrated purpose of attending a music festival. Many of our friends did, too. Our Binghamton friends and Owego friends, fans of Patrick's band and members of the band. The mayor was there. Our favorite local Binghamton band was there. On the fair-weather days we combed the beach together and wandered the festival together and rummaged through coolers together. We discovered a bayside bar on the other side of the island, where locals hung out and ate conch fritters and drank cans of Bud and sat on the dock and watched folks trawling around in their boats in the bay. We made many meandering trips from our side of the island to said bar, and stood in the palm shade and scanned for manatees and tried befriending feral cats. I developed a taste for cold chelada and smoked mahi-mahi. 

That was the weirdest, and best, thing. Being surrounded by familiar people in a wild and unfamiliar place, dancing to a band we can see most nights of the week fifty miles from home, dancing next to the mayor, waking up the next morning and walking the beach one last time with Patrick, hopping a car/train/escalator/train/plane/car, and being home. Was it even real?

I think the bad story is better, story-wise, than the good. That's the good thing about bad things. They make good stories.

My camera is currently en route from Miami in a big container truck driven by a friend-- we shipped most of our gear down with him so we only had to fly with the bare essentials-- hence no pictures yet. I can't wait to show them-- they tell parts of the story I can't communicate with words.

We had a great time, and now it is good to be home.

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