The Vacation Notes - Before and After ( Originally separate - combined here )


OK, so I'm on vacation. And by vacation, I mean that I am not at work, but I still get phone calls all day, and the email does not stop. And by vacation I mean we have to clean the house and cut the yard before we go. Oh, and laundry. And then there is the ride down to Myrtle Beach ( North Myrtle Beach by the way - apparently there is some difference to where you address is in Myrtle Beach, I guess like living in 90210 or right next door in 90077 ( Bel Air btw ). Check in is at 3:00 - then you have to unpack, go buy provisions, and then rest for two days before packing it all back up and returning again. This is gonna be fun, if it kills me. ( LOL )

This is kind of nice, because it is a break in the absolute busiest time of our work schedule. Of course, that means I am getting hella calls, because I am not at work at the absolute busiest time of our work schedule.

OK, so if you know me, really know me, you know I am not, and have never been, a beach guy. I pretty much avoid the beach - the waves make me queasy, and besides an ice cream cone ( can buy them at home ) or a few cheap t-shirts ( internet ) there is not a lot that I personally enjoy doing there. I work on the coast, and never go. I recently actually drove to the beach, was close enough to feel the spray over the dunes, but went to eat at a certain restaurant, sat in the lot and typed a review, and left. Never saw any water I did not cross with a bridge.

What do I plan to do you ask?

What I always end up doing at the beach - drinking beer in the room while everyone does activities I can weasel out of, and showering and throwing on the ubiquitous "I'm a tourist button up shirt and jean shorts " for those I cannot escape.

I am trying to be positive this trip, as it is the first trip I have taken with my parents and sister ( and her entourage as well as mine ) since I left their home and got married. I want to have a good time. I want to have fun. I will make an effort.

But I know how I am, and almost deeply dread the all but guaranteed tense moment of " I just don't want to " do something. Mini Golf - blah. Wax Museum - blah. Shopping? How the hell can I afford shopping? - blah. I would like to go to the aquarium, but, again, I know I'm an asshole, you don't have to tell me, but I would like to go alone, or without the kids to say the least. I don't want to rush, or to chaperon, or walk through the gift shop - I want to meander, to look, to watch the fish and the people, at my pace, not in a I - want - to - gt - out - of - here - and - go 100 - other - places speed.

I had someone who does know me and know me well ask if I was going to write any food notes while I am there. Sadly, probably not. As a rule, I have written all of them out of dining experiences of solitude. I go alone, I eat lone, I watch, I write. That's it. Perfect example - Sal's Pizza in Durham. I LOVE THE PLACE - and have not done a note there. Why? It's a place that if I am there, it is with someone. We are there to eat, converse, gossip. I don't have the time to make notes, or the desire to be so rude as to tune out of the conversation long enough to do so. It's an almost personal Zen thing - you either get it or you don't.

I am excited about the chance to go and relax with my Mom and Dad, and I do want the kids to have a good time. I'm gonna have to keep them on a tight ass budget, and hate it, but hey, it's life these days. I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures ( some I'll post, some I will not ), both of me being silly, and of family, and that's all well and good.

Then Saturday, we return ( every one else on Sunday ) to get all gussied up and go to a QuinceaƱera. I am ambivalent about this as well. I mean, part of the deal is we have to attend a Mass, and , well, that's just not my cup of tea.I am kinda anti-church. I do not like church. I do not support churches. I don't go to church, I don't like going to weddings in church, and no one likes to go for a funeral, but to go to a church that 1 ) I do not know the custom of 2) Do not wish to pretend I am interested in when I am not , thus being as false to the church as I feel it is to me, or 3) have a good feeling the service is going to be almost entirely in 2 languages I do not understand - well, let's just say I am not looking forward to that.

Part of me is eager, because I want to learn about the culture of the family hosting the event, but I kind of gather already that this is not the same as the Latin culture of the folks I know and love. I feel almost like I am cheating on my friends, with their modest and scary tales of growing up in hard times, their backgrounds and stories of struggle and of the work it took them to get here, to go to a fancy party where formal attire is requested.

Plus - I'm going to be in a room full of strangers. Something that the older I get I like less and less. Hell, I don't like going to functions of more than 6 or so people that I know unless I am the host - I just kinda of like to control my surroundings. I honestly wish I had gone to the Doctor and gotten my Valium re-prescribed ( I took it for a while to ease social anxiety a few years back ) - my nerves will be that tightly wound, I assure you.

( And if you want the tri-fecta - all this takes place on Fort Bragg. SO... let's recap - Church - Strangers - Military. I know Chris Jefferies is laughing his ass off right now just picturing it )

Then Sunday will be the last day of my "vacation" before I go back to work on Monday. I have a feeling I'm going fishing. Yep, i think I'm gonna need good fishing trip.


SO, here I sit, on a Sunday morning, mildly sun burnt, with a hangover from being tired. ( Not from drink - more on that below ). I have had an adventure over the past few days. The events followed the order I mentioned in the earlier note, and here, my friends and stalkers, is how they unfolded.

Wednesday was the travel day. As I outlined before, I am not a beach person. I will tell you right now, and save you a lot of reading that nothing that happened on this trip changed that. I still, if given the choice of the beach or the mountains, will be seeing mountain laurels instead of sea oats, eagles and bears instead of seagulls and crabs, and shanty shacks on the hills instead of million dollar prize homes on the dunes. But ( I hope you're still reading, you know there is always a "but" ) , I did have a pretty good time.

Wednesday we got there, and I was pissy. D'uh. I'm always pissy the day we get there. Plan on it. I even KNOW I am pissy, try not to be pissy, but pissy I am none the less. It hits me all at once - the noise, the wind, the erratic light reflections of the water, the screaming kids, the cloying smell of suntan lotion - all of it sends me into pissy overload. I cannot help it - it is , in me, as natural a reaction as a dog barking at a shadow in the night. Sorry that it affects other folks, but thankfully Sweetums has learned the best thing to do on that first day is to LEAVE ME ALONE. Just get out. Let me vent, pout, drink a few beers - whatever - to get it out of my system. Sound childish? It is, I know. Real? Yep.

So Once I got in a nap ( see, I told you it was childish ) I went for a walk, and just blew of some steam. Then Sweetums and the curtain climbers and I all went out for our " BIG MEAL " of the vacation. It was and will remain in my memory as one of the best meals I have ever had. You know how I love food - I wish I had taken some pictures. It was a place called Bennett's Calabash Seafood Buffet. I saw two of these down there, so if you want to go to the one we went to it is the one down around the low 50 high 40 street numbers, not the one to the north. It was pretty freaking good. Buffet that was cooked in , to me, small batches, so it did not have time to set and degrade, good raw bar, and very nice ( and nice to look at ) wait staff. Price - um, wow. Adult's were market - which on this day was $26.45, plus $2 for your soft drink or tea. Phillip ( 9 yrs old ) $9.95 plus ( no crab legs - thats an additional $5 ) and Collin I was surprised was only $4.95 ( again, same crab leg rule). Now Collin can rip up some shrimp, so I felt he got his food costs. Phillip ate so-so. Mitchell and I tried our damnedest to put them out of business. Prime rib, t-bones, shrimp 20 different ways, oysters, clams, flounder, salmon, ribs, low county boils - they had it all. Good Stuff.

This was followed by my discovery that while South Carolina has a million fireworks stands, and more escort services listed in the phone book than any other place I have ever been, they are so puritan as to close their "Red Dot" ( ABC) stores at 7:00 PM. What the hell is that about? I ended up with a 12er of Red Strip ( Hooray Beer!) for a criminally low price of $11.99. That was fine. Went to room, drank half of them, went to sleep.

Thursday brought on a large family day of activity - My brood, plus that of my sister, were hosted by my Dad and Mom to a trip to Myrtle Waves water park, where we had all day passes, and my Dad rented one of the "Cabanas" for us. This was most excellent. I would lie if I did not say I had a wonderful time. The rides were fun, the water was refreshing in most places ( kinda tepid in the kiddie pools, either from lack of depth or kiddie pee - who knows ) but it was pretty damn fun. And the cabana was a godsend - about 12x12, it was shaded, with a table and chairs and a few chaise loungers. Made a nice place to take breaks. Probably the most fun I have had at the beach in my life. Seriously.

We followed that up with a few hour break and then a monster of a pizza buffet with all included again. It was a nice day. I cannot find a flaw in it anywhere. ( I did get my "bad knee" tweaked a little, but that happens from time to time, so I cannot deduct from the awesomeness of the place just for that)

This was the day I found the Newcastle mini keg. I was amazed to find it, squealed like a little school girl at a Jason Mraz show, and probably did a little joy dance as well.

Friday was "on the sand day". Mom rented some chairs and umbrellas and camped out a spot on the sand for everyone. I did go down early in the morning, but did not stay too long. The combined sun from the day before, and the pounding rays of sun sent me scurrying. I ended up taking a long nap , and then ate with the family and Allison's family. Micheal John made some excellent pepper popers. Then we all swam together, including Mom and Dad at the 10th floor "roof pool". Another good day.

And so begins Saturday. We had to pack, say goodbye, start off for home, stop for fireworks ( I LOVE fireworks ) ride a while, stop to pee, ride a while, stop for a book for the kids and to pee, ride a while stop to pee and get something to eat. ( I swear I think my boys were pregnant women all the times we stopped to pee). Then halfway home, the Mitchell informs us we have to have him at the Quincenara at 4:00, not 4:30. Rush rush rush. Home - unpack, water the chickens, put on a tux ( Mitchell ) put on a dress ( Sweetums ) put on a suit - then rush rush rush - and we finally got there at 4:10. We were almost the first folks there, LOL.

The Quincenara started off for the night with a Catholic Mass to celebrate this young lady's 15 years and her devotion to her Family and Church. It was interesting to me, most of the time. I admitted earlier my ambivalence to religious affairs, butt his was not too bad, if a little lengthy. It lasted an hour and a half. I found the Priest's manner of speech and his earnestness to be inviting, and he seemed not only to enjoy the service, but it seemed to radiate out from him the honor he felt in doing it.

The young lady was beautiful. Disney has never made a princess that could compare to her on that night. From her tight bodice and then fully flared dress, to her hair and makeup, she looked every bit the part of a young princess on the cusp of becoming a queen. She was beautiful.

I will not go through the whole ceremony, bu I will tell you for the very most, it followed the progression as I had read about it earlier on Wikipedia. I was proud as a parent that my son had been asked to "stand up" and participate, and I am sure it is a night he will long remember.

The reception and traditional dance that followed was very nice. We met some family of the young lady from Texas, from Illinois, even a friend who came all the way from Japan. Everyone I saw seemed to be smiling, or laughing. It was very fun, very special.

Then, about 11:30, back at home, I finally tapped the Newcastle mini keg, but that, my friends and stalkers, will be a whole different note.

Lots of love to my Dad and Mom, My Sweetums, and the kids, and Allison and Michael and their girls for a wonderful time. Many thanks to the Hernandez family for allowing our son to be in the quincenara of your lovely daughter.


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