My real life sample of Triangle of Sadness. Part 2

RECAP of the last blog: It’s late April, I know something is up. I know my friend is behaving strangely, and my subconscious knows chunks are about to fly. That’s why I don’t write, and that’s why I have to catch you up on the missing weeks. (Jesus H & M Christ, how is already June?)

So May 3rd has arrived. My mother picks me up from my home to start the two hour journey to the airport for our 1 PM flight. Our flight has been delayed 3 hours. I understand that the normal response is to be frustrated or nervous, but this news has the opposite effect on me. I think of the 3 hours as a gift from the universe. I’m easy-breezy all the way to the airport. I don’t care at all to stop and use the bathroom or walk around. Mom misses the exit to the airport. No big deal, momma, we’ll just catch the next exit and give it a good u-shape.

We arrive at the airport and make it through security with enough time to have theoretically caught our original boarding time. We find our gate, confirm a, now, 4 hour delay and decide to kill some time eating overpriced airport pizza and drink overpriced airport pop (hick for soda pop.) When we’ve run out of pizza and things to talk about, I use the airport wifi to brainlessly scroll social media. Bliss.

We are intermittently entertained at the gate by a child who loves to pretend she is mad at her mom. She dances in the open space and her mom yells “get back over here”. The child crosses her arms over her chest and pouts her lips and says, “I’m not speaking to you any more.” Then giggles and screams in delight, running to her mom for a hug. I love this. The mom is blissfully scrolling social media, probably enjoying her relaxed momming duty as we talk to the child. Ask her about her plans in Florida (a Disney cruise.) Her vocabulary is aided by her mother’s but it’s still sort of a one sided conversation. We’re all just biding time until we get on our way.

About an hour before our new confirmed departure time, my email dings with a $50 credit from the airline for our delay. How sweet. I love delayed flights.

Miami greets us with sunshine and heat that isn’t shy even after the sun goes down. We make it to our hotel on South Miami Beach. We find a Cuban Restaurant a block away and I begin my research for the Best Cuban Sandwich of the trip. (I don’t actually get a cuban, because their full menu stops serving after we get there, but I do get a tasty cuban sandwich inspired Empanada, that cost more than the sandwich, but is served with a drizzle of something that I want to cover my entire body in.)

It’s worth noting, that I chose this location and hotel because I wanted the old art deco feel. I wanted at least 2 dozen layers of paint on the walls, pastel accents and metal scroll work on the cast iron fencing. And I didn’t mind that the bathroom light didn’t work. Because they provided a floor lamp that I was able to place by the toilet so that I could pee with some light. I am still a happy camper.

Day two arrives. Mom and I are starting to feel the excitement. Our hotel offers a complimentary hot breakfast in the courtyard with swallows and wrens as company. When our bellies are full and I am caffeinated, we don on our bathing suits and head to the beach. It’s Thursday and we have the sand and waves practically to ourselves. A family watches their infant play in the sand. A man swings a metal detector back and forth. A handful of runners huff past with headphones. I find sea shells and sea beans. My mom finds a broken piece of coral that is still a sweet lavender hue.

Ocean Dr. is exactly what I hoped for. A pristine sidewalk takes us along old Art Deco hotels turned restaurants and galleries. The colors and the shapes and the humility give me joy. I want these places to exist, and I want them to exist forever just as they are. I want to be a South Beach Hotel when I grow old.

My mom and I embrace our tourism. We stop and take photos, videos, point fingers. Bicyclists and roller skaters zoom around us. We don’t care. We are high on day 1 of vacation (not counting airports and car rentals).

We walk so far we realize we don’t want to walk back. So I figure out how to rent the city bikes. Now we live our Hollywood vacation dreams. Salty wind blows our hair back as we cycle out to the southern tip of South Beach. My mother is 62 and bikes for fun, so this is all just pumping her heart with pride and accomplishment (AKA brag worthy material.) I know she can’t wait to go back home and tell her sister and brothers how her and her daughter road bikes along Ocean Drive.

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, her joy and personal content creation is what this trip is all about. We don’t do Christmas presents. We do trips. Last year, we managed to gift each other two trips. She took me to New Mexico, and I took her to New England. We both agreed that expense was a bit outside our range to repeat, so this year we decided to gift each other one collective trip. Mom picked Florida. I went along with it. At the end of the year, after the loss of my dad, I’ll literally go where ever she wants, do whatever she wants. I feel responsible for making sure this trip is a trip of her dreams. This is not a healthy way to take a trip.

Ergo, we are off to a fantastic start. My Gifted & Talented inner child feels like she’ll finally get the approval she survives off of. When Mom smiles as she gets off the bike, she does this thing where she retells what we just did to me, as if I wasn’t there. She punctuates it with a thank you. This is her practicing telling her friends how great her vacation was, and how great her daughter is. I slide into the role of tour guide, fed by little samples of how she will brag about me later.

Between one hotel and the next, we stop in Wynwood where we are promised murals. Oh my god of spray paint cans and aerosol. Forget the ozone later, we have walls to paint! There is an installation of artists. We pay our $15 a piece to get in. It doesn’t take that long to walk through it, but we do get to see 6 figure prices on work by Peter Tunney. It is pretty cool but it’s hot and I’m hungry but mom is not. I decide to eat a hot banana from the car (stolen from the breakfast bar.)

We still have a couple hours to kill before we can check into our next hotel, so Mom decides she wants to see Little Havana. All I can think about is a Cuban Sandwich to wash down my hot banana.

When we make it to a hole in the wall restaurant in Little Havana I pay for parking via an app. Before we can even cross the street I get a notification that I should lock my car and remove valuables. That is quite possibly the worst thing to tell me. I’d rather come back to a broken or missing vehicle then be told I have not parked in a safe place.

Anyways. The Cuban is good and cheap and I think I have a real contender for the best Cuban of the trip in my hands. We also manage to explore the area on foot with out any tragedies to our selves, our belongings or the rental car. We head to our swanky downtown hotel with a 14th floor view. (The light in the bathroom is operational and if anything excessive. I pee, missing my Art Deco floor lamp.) Mom and I spend the evening walking to the port and the Skyviews Miami Observation wheel. We are having so much fun and everything seems so easy and accommodating I get arrogant. I think I can figure out the public transportation.

I don’t. I never do. We ride at least 3 separate trains. I ask public officials if the train we are on, are in fact headed to the area of our hotel. They tell me yes, but then the train doesn’t stop. I give up and me and mom take our chances at the next stop and walk the rest of the way on foot. We are exhausted when we finally make it to our luxurious hotel bed.

Day 2 is devoted to the Everglades. We take our time getting there, even stopping by the Venetian Pool where it’s a little too early in the day, and a little too shaded by trees to have been properly warmed by the sun. We swim with goose bumps. I decide this is great for my nervous system. Plus, there are no chemicals in the pool, so my microbes are undisturbed. We have a second Cuban on the way out of town, and I leave a sticker for my husband’s music on a lamp post outside the restaurant. It is a good cuban sandwich.

We don’t make it to the entrance to Everglades until almost 3 pm. A handsome young teenage boy at the information desk tells us we are in good hands. If we want to see the eyes of crocodiles, we should wait until the sun goes down, and use our phone flashlights to look for their glowing eyes. He says all of this with a straight face. So my mother and I nod and pretend enthusiasm for night time crocodile hunting.

Armed with only a map of circled places that we may see a man-eating creature when the sun goes down, my mother and I pick our first nature walk. We see an Anhingas spearing a snake right away. We walk along a raised wood deck that takes us over water. We read plaques that tell us we are actually walking over the slowest moving river, a fresh water slough. We notice the cute little head of an alligator, and then we peak over the railing at another kid alligator that is sleeping in the tall vegetation. Then we see more Anhingas sun bathing in trees, wings spread, backs to the sun, like little crucified thieves. Finally, we see a big momma ‘gater. It is massive and I am so pleased with how I can peek over the wood railing at it and it doesn’t care about me one bit.

I feel like the rest of the trip can be a wash, and I’ll still be happy I saw this ol’ girl. The rest of the adventure into the everglades is mild and we are amused to drive through the world’s smallest mountain pass. We see white ibises in the marshes. We see crickets the size of our thumbs. We learn that we can’t stand still long or mosquitos will get us. So we flail and jiggle our appendages when we stop to read a plaque. Eventually, the flying, biting insects win and we desperately run back to our cars and completely abandon our mission to see all the ink-pen-circled locations on our map. We are however greeted with a beautiful sunset over the slough and never think twice about abandoning the advice to hunt crocodiles after dark.

Day 3 is devoted to getting to Key West. There is one highway all the way down, and google maps teases us with a 3 hour estimation and 15 hour estimation. We watch fishermen/women cast off the road side in the full sun. We point out abandoned bridges left to fall into the ocean. I tell my my mother, that portion of the old 7 mile bridge was used in True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron. They blew it up for Hollywood. She seems unimpressed and points out kitschy tourists traps flying past our car windows. It does not takes us 15 hours to get there.

Key West reminds me of New Orleans. I love it’s old, hurricane battered buildings, and dingy streets, except with well dressed tourists and country music themed gaggles of young adults. My mother tells me about her neighbor who had a photo at America’s Most Southern Point. So we decide to head that direction.

On the way, we step into the Butterfly sanctuary. The onslaught of butterflies to our persons is immediate and frightening, but then a Blue Morpho lands on my stomach and hitchhikes until the flamingos. Again, my mother is smiling and retelling me the story. Showing me her photos of me and my new friend.

The Southernmost point involves a long line in the full sun, for my mother and I to photograph each other at a thing that sort of looks like a giant nipple, painted with red, yellow, black and white lines and text. I put another of my husband’s sticker on the nearest stop sign.

We then wander Duval St. There are chickens everywhere. We eat Key Lime Pie. We peer up at a 3rd floor clothing option terrace bar. We have drinks and appetizers at the pier and watch the sunset. We run into a Duval street concert on the way home to our hotel. It is a local musician, Michael Ray. He sings country, one of his songs that all of Duval street knows goes “I wanna kiss you in the parking lot” and suddenly me and my mom are ready to go to bed.

Day 4 begins before sunrise, and with a 1 mile walk without food or coffee. It is the reason we are here. It is the one thing I am most excited and most nervous about. Our $200 tickets explain that there is no food, water, or shade where we are going. And if we miss the ferry, we don’t go, don’t get refunds.

We are going to Dry Tortugas National Park. An Island 120 miles from any other land, home to the now defunct Fort Jefferson. I have packed sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. The ferry ride provides coffee, bagels, fruit cups and water. My mother and I meet a sweet couple from the north (Minnesota area?). We plan our snorkling route on the Island. A man with the ferry company entertains us with information and a play by play of the schedule of events once we arrive. Mom and I spot two turtles outside the window of our air-conditioned booth. We watch a video on a small TV about the island. And suddenly, there it is it. A speck of land in the distance.

The first item on the itinerary, is a guided tour of the island and fort. I am honestly overwhelmed with fascinating and comedic history. Facts I recall: most stationed soldiers suffered lack of clean water, relentless mosquitos, and eventually died of yellow fever. The fort served as a prison, it’s most famous prisoner being Dr. Samuel Mudd, charged with complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Mudd went on to save most of the yellow fever stricken soldiers, earning himself an eventual pardon.

I learned that the fort was overbuilt, and excessive to the point that it never had to fire a single canon at a enemy ship, because no enemy was dumb enough to brave it’s 300 canons, with a 360 degree 3 mile range. In fact, the fort wasn’t even finished. It’s canons becoming outdated before the structure was complete.

And then there was Bush key, home to to the nesting grounds of 80,000 sooty terns and 40,000 brown noddies. Magnificent frigates hung in the sky over the fort like kites, their long arched wings and tiny bodies hovering in the ocean breeze.

Mom and I eat lunch and then dare to take our chances in the water with snorkling gear. When I say I nearly blacked out in fear, I do not exagerate. My goggles constantly fogged up. When I would look down at the ocean floor and hunt for coral, I would panic that I’d lose my mom. I’d raise my head, accidentally suck salty water through my snorkel, choke and flail with my fins thinking, omg don’t drown, but also, don’t touch any coral with your fins, don’t stand up, don’t drink salt water, omg where is mom, omg my goggles are fogged, omg salt water in my mouth, omg I’m gonna die.

Mom on the other hand, was disappointed we did not see brightly colored coral, or turtles, or fish at all.

Finally, our ferry ride sounds the call for our departure. Mom and I are not ready to leave and are the last on the ferry. This means we are left with seats on the second floor, in the middle of a row of seats next to a brother and sister, across the table from a trio of kids who’s parents supply them with sandwiches and sprites and then sit on the sun deck, and a women who uses up three seats to sleep on her bed. There is an announcement that our captain expects rough waters on the way back. They suggest remaining seated for the first hour of our ride back.

My view is 180 degrees of the ocean, horizon and the ferry as it rocks from side to side over “rough waters”. At first it is soothing, charming even–no, a novelty. Then the horizon jolts left and right, like a see-saw through the windows of the ferry cabin. It disappears on my left, and then on my right. Fellow passengers are jolted awake, or are clutching at their alcoholic drinks as the boat threatens to launch all items not tied down. The brother and sister laugh with me (my mom is attempting to sleep.) There is a moment when every passenger is levitating an inch above their seat. We all crash down simultaneously, both shocked and amused. Crew members with their expert sea legs, wait on passengers as if this is merely a fun house ride.

And finally, there is vomit. The sea has gotten to an older woman, who’s husband takes his chances and finds crew members to clean up the mess. It is Triangle of Sadness, in real life. Or rather, a sample in reverse. We have survived the deserted island, and now must sacrifice our expensive lunches on our expensive boat rides, phones capturing the whole thing for content creation.

I am overjoyed. I feel like I am on an amusement park ride and I am watching a movie. The day is stamped and sealed as a good day. I happily tip the crew and don’t mind at all that my mother and I walk a mile to a restaurant only to see their menu prices and turn around and walk back to a restaurant a half a block from our hotel. It is here that I have the best Cuban of the trip.

Before I get into novella territory, I’ll leave you, dear reader, with a sneak peak of what to expect when this saga continues.

My friend is home alone (her husband is traveling for music) and we are mutually bummed her week off fell during my week away.

Our Florida trip has less exciting but also less puke-filled moments to share.

My inbox chimes with a notification that the first thing I have ever self-published is approved and officially available on Amazon & Kindle.

And no one has visited a hospital yet.


Leave a Reply