Thursday, June 22, 2017
The Sunshine State [Day 4 and Outro]
I had once again awoken before my roommate, and once again posted up on the couch in the living room with River Monsters. Why fix what ain’t broken?
And I wasn’t broken—not quite. Close, but not quite. Tall pina coladas, seven or eight margaritas, two cigars, and an untold number of beers had given it their best shot. There was even a swig or two of Hypnotiq in there somewhere. But other than the cigar residue in my mouth and mild thumping in my head, I’d survived.
I wasn’t entirely sure my homie had until I got a text at 11:15.
Dupa: “There’s food in the fridge, playboy.”
Me: “The hell you say”
Dupa: “Yeah, you’re welcome.”
I opened the refrigerator to find most of an extra-large pizza and a calzone. There are worse ways to get the taste of cigars and hangover out of your mouth.
We strolled down the street to the newlyweds’ apartment, stopping to buy bottles of Gatorade that we had each drained into our depleted bodies by the time we knocked on their door a few minutes later. Inside we found our disheveled crew, each looking like they’d been beat about the head by alcohol (Tide even looked a little shorter). Ton, to his credit, was fighting back, taking swigs of vodka and Sprite out of a large wine glass.
The updates about the prior night were many. Tiger Blood had outlasted Shafe in their battle for the alone time that Tide’s sister wasn’t offering; he walked her back to her hotel, but didn’t quite get the hint until she literally pushed him back onto the elevator. Tide recounted a story about Grunts, and in doing so dropped a flawless impression of him, noting that he rarely seemed to string together more than a few intelligible words. Shafe had nearly vomited in the bed of a random pickup truck in the Daq Shak parking lot, long before he'd pursued his love jones.
Ton’s postscript, however, topped them all. He had come back from the bathroom at the bar to find that everyone—even his wife—had left to go to the strip club. His phone had died, which made ordering an Uber impossible. Reminiscent of his days in Shadyside, he then walked two miles back to his hotel. Along the way he took a wrong turn at a fork in the road; he then “accidentally” kicked open a hole in the fence separating him from the stretch of highway that led back to his hotel, and crawled through it.
We hit the beach (minus Ton and Mrs. Ton, who had to get on the road), enjoying cold Coronas and the warm Gulf waters. Standing on a sandbar about 200 yards out, drinking a beer and staring out into the endless expanse of water, I found peace. At least until I remembered all the episodes of River Monsters that I had watched in the previous 48 hours.
A relaxing day of sun, friends, and laughter, our Sunday Funday tied a perfect bow on the weekend. I didn’t get drunk—really, I don’t think it would’ve been possible by that point in time; I was drinking beers for much the same reason Greenpeace pours buckets of water on a beached whale. But recuperating with ocean air and stories (and the pizzas TK’s mom brought down to the apartment after we’d packed up and moved back inside at sunset) was what the soul needed, after three straight days of celebration. Three straight days of indulging in food, drink, and fun without repercussion. Three straight days of Florida.
I needed a day to run a diagnostic check on my sanity. I had to make sure I hadn’t gone full Florida. I had breathed the air for three days. I needed a measured day of calm to reassure myself that I hadn’t succumbed to the contagion, that I wasn’t walking nude through a liquor store or chewing on someone’s face.
Of course, if I did either of those things within the first 24 hours of returning to Pittsburgh, I’d have an excuse.
Weeks before the wedding, Tide and I were talking about the planning, and I noted that she didn’t seem to be suffering the stresses that normally come with the task. She replied, “I honestly am more concerned about everyone being like ‘that was fuckin fun/ awesome’.” It’s safe to say she surpassed that goal.
Most weddings are fun. The good ones are awesome. This one sits in the upper echelon of legendary.
Tide and TK treated their friends and family to 72 hours of blissful mayhem. Lots of us hadn’t seen each other in years, even some among those who still lived in Pittsburgh. The simple act of getting everyone together in one room was, itself, worthy of praise. Making sure we were drunk, fed, and happy while it happened was just the whipped cream on top.
Strip clubs, beer, Hooters girls, the beach, cigars at sunset, tequila, dancing fools, grouper sandwiches, bachelorette parties, and calculated hits using Smirnoff Ice. Life comes at you fast. But it slows down for brief stretches. When you pack the present full of laughter and freedom of spirit, every second resonates. And those stretches of time, saturated with joy, become a part of you, something that you carry forever.
It’s customary at a wedding to wish a lifetime of happiness to the bride and groom. In a small way, the bride and groom had bestowed a lifetime of happiness upon the rest of us.
They even got me to blog again. Florida's air is no joke.