I stumbed out of the house just as Blake was pulling into the driveway. Having been back in Guelph for his Grandfather's funeral, there was no way he would be able to join us in Florida because he couldn't afford to miss any more time at work. There was little doubting that it wouldn't be the same without him, but we assured him we'd see him on our way back through Nashville the following Saturday. We gave him a big hug goodbye and set out for the 14-hour drive to Cape Coral, FL.
Let me just tell you a little something about The Cadillac of Minivans: the discrepancy in comfort levels between sitting in the diver's seat while in control of the radio and the air conditioning and sitting as the 6th man in the back corner, completely buried in garbage and gear whilst hungover and wanting to kill yourself is absolutely apalling. Ronnie was driving on this morning, and about an hour in I told him that, in all likelihood, I was going to puke. Everyone just laughed and we kept driving. I have a great family. I held a plastic bag in my lap for the better part of an hour, just in case. It was awful.
Not much to tell about the drive other than the fact that it was excessively long and that in the state of Georgia, there are more "massage parlours" for truckers than I ever imagined possible. And not that I would ever question the legitimacy of these highly reputable institutions, but if you're going for a legitimate massage, does it matter whether or not that particular medicare-endorsed facility has "AMERICAN GIRLS-LATINO GIRLS-ASIAN GIRLS!!!"? I'm just saying.
To tell you the truth, I don't even know where I took over driving. The entire day is kind of a blur. That's what a night spent throwing back Velvet Elvis's will do to you. All I know is that my parents were following behind us in the VW, and I was about 85% certain that they would be getting a divorce as soon as the vacation ended. We took 20 minute detour in search of a Starbucks (I am officially a coffee snob - I now know that for a fact), and instead had to settle for a Dunkin' Donuts, which more than sufficed.
Again, the details of this particular drive are clouded in a DT infused haze, but I'm pretty sure that as soon as I took the wheel, the rest of the passengers in the Cadillac of Minivans began drinking heavily. A bottle of Grey Goose was prominently involved, as were some coolers and Diet Buds. At one point, while stuck in an inexplicable midnight traffic jam on a lonely stretch of Florida highway, the need for a "rest room" arose in a hurry, prompting a poor man's makeshift two-girls-one-cup reenactment in the back seat of the van. Believe me when I say that this was not the high point of my life.
In any event, we eventually pulled into Cape Coral around 2:00 am. Ronnie had rented a beautiful house backing onto a fantastic lagoon in a gated community, and we were miraculously allowed inside the gates of said community. After the hellacious 14-hour drive, we had finally arrived. There was nothing I wanted more than to crack an ice cold beer in our beautiful vacation property, to be engulfed in all of the comforts of home, and to then go to sleep in my very own bed...
But when we pulled up to the house, something was awry. To begin with, there was a van in the driveway with Ontario plates... Maybe just to scare off any potential intruders, we told ourselves; you know, with the bad economy and all... But when Ronnie went to find the key in the agreed upon hiding place, there was no key to be found. So the logical means to handle such a situation, obviously, was to begin pounding on the door so as to find out exactly what the fuck was going on... Did I mention that it was 2 o'clock in the morning, that we had been driving for 14 hours, and that we were in a gated community?
When the poor people occupying their/our house refused to answer the door, Ronnie began calling the home phone, resulting in what one can only assume was one of the 10 most awkward conversations of all-time, recreated in a fictional account here for your enjoyment:
Squatters: "Ummm... What the fuck?"
Ronnie: "Yeah... Ahhhh.... We're like... right outside the house right now?"
Squatters: "No shit. My kids are screaming right now becuase they're terrified of the crazy dysfunctional family on the front lawn. What the fuck do you want?"
Ronnie: "I think we're supposed to be staying here this week..."
Squatters: "Well, we're leaving at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning... Why don't you try coming back after the maid leaves at noon..."
Ronnie: "Ummm.... Ohhhhh-Kaaayyyy... I guess I'll get things straightened out with the owner..."
Squatters: "Do whatever the hell you want... The police are on their way..."
And so it went. The next thing we knew, we were exiting the gated community with a cop car riding my bumper, in search of the appropriate play. My parents were less than thrilled. As we drove through the deserted Florida night past endless Walmart, Target, and Publix parking lots, my dad eventually pulled up beside us and announced that he and my mom were, under no circumstances, paying for a hotel. Instead, they would be pulling into one of the deserted parking lots and spending the night in the car. Again, how this family vacation did not end in my parents' getting a divorce is beyond explanation.
Ronnie somehow convinced them that sleeping in the car was not the best course of action, and they eventually followed us to the Days Inn where Ronnie was gracious enough to pay for the rooms. As my dad elucidates in the following video, if forced to describe the situation in two words, he would have to go with: FUCK UP.
Poor Ronnie. He just wanted for us all to enjoy some good old fashioned Griswold-style family fun, and it wound up resulting in one of the all-time clusterfucks, proving once again the old adage that no good deed goes un-punished.
But I have to say, no family deals with adversity quite like my family. Where others might turn on one another, we simply turn to the bottle. And instead of bitching and moaning about the fact that some of us had to share a bed with my vader-machine-sporting and three-quarters naked father (I was also three-quarters naked, for the record; and you could have landed a 747 in the space between us on that double bed), we just laughed hysterically about the fact that it wouldn't be a family vacation without some kind of boderline-foreseeable disaster. The Fort Myers Days Inn is clearly a locale that will go down in family lore along with such distinguished vacation hot spots as Lincoln Park, Michigan, and Birdsnest, Virginia.
We awoke in the blazing heat of a South Florida Monday morning and proceeded to hit up the local Denny's like a poor man's Phillip Banks. It was probaby one of the 5 dirtiest restaurants I've ever been in, but what do you really want for $4 a pop? After breakfast, we loaded up on groceries at the local Publix (wine, vodka, tequilla, Diet Buds, Yeungling... and some food as well) and then attempted, for the second time in 12 hours, to garner access to our vacation rental. No problems whatsoever this time... Funny the difference in reception you'll get arriving somewhere at 2:00 am as opposed to 2:00 pm...
But I have to say that the place was well worth the wait. A fantastic house with beds for everyone except me (Lisa and I were the only ones sans date, and the twin beds in the "Unicorn Room" just weren't working for us - I think it may have had something to do with my propensity for snoring like a locomotive after a night of throwing back cans of Yeungling); a ridiculously glorious screened in pool; and a backyard overlooking a wildlife-filled lagoon. It really was the perfect homebase for a week's worth of dysfunctional family fun... Which we proceeded to take advantage of with gusto.
The first few days were spent pleasuring... errr... pleasing ourselves. Ronnie and Little Buddy went fishing, the girls went on shopping expeditions, my dad stayed home and complained... It was what each and everyone of us had envisioned when we signed up three months earlier. I was actually working for the week, which meant that I was essentially tethered to the place for four days, but believe me when I say that I wasn't complaining. If I could work poolside every day in nothing but trunks and a Bosh jersey, cranking the tunes in the sunshine all day and partaking in happy hour at four o'clock every afternoon, there'd be no need for weekends. It really was the Life of Reilly.
Our evenings went a long way in substantiating a suspicion I've long had: that my family, when we get together, essentially revert to a state of functioning alcoholism. Seriously. Every single afternoon, it was an endless stream of Diet Buds, Margaritas, Red Wine, good bourbon inexplicably mixed with Diet Dr. Pepper... We'd eventually find time to eat something, and then we'd stumble down the street to the local Starbucks for a second wind. As darkness set, we'd usually slip into some kind of a family (drinking) game. One night it was Euchre. The next it was 1980s Trivial Pursuit. The girls put together a little cheerleading routine one night and Little Buddy taught the toddlers next door how to say the work "FUCK" in a variety of different contexts. There was even a riff on charades one night (with my dad thowing out obscure movie titles from the 1940s as a means of stumping us), something that I'd never seen my family partake in. Eventually, people would start to fade off, I'd make a couple of ill-advised drunken phone calls, and then I'd wind up passing out on the couch only to be awoken a few hours later to my dad and Little Buddy watching John Wayne movies at full volume at 7 in the morning.
And so the days and nights passed... Until Wednesday. On this particular day, with most of the family long gone, Lisa, my dad and I (well, Lisa mostly) decided we would spend the better part of the afternoon doing a shot every half-hour. 3:30 was Tequila. 4:00 was Bourbon. 4:30 was straight Vodka... You get the idea. By the time the rest of the family returned, we were three-quarters in the bag. How Ronnie and I managed to make dinner that night is beyond me, but I believe it's more a testament to how foolproof BBQing hamburgers is than any indicator of our culinary proficiency. And if there were ever any doubt as to how drunk the two chefs on this night actually were, at one point we found ourselves in the bathroom completing the killer-crossover like a couple of 7-year olds at summer camp while the burgers were grilling... Sorry family.
So it should come as little surprise, then, that by about 10:30 that night, the entire household was completely green. Some were passed out on the couch. Others were watching YouTube clips on their laptops in their respective rooms... It was a pretty sad sight to behold. It was at about that time that I decided to deal with a minor emergency by getting on the phone out front of the house. There I was pacing back and forth, talking away, not really paying attention to anything. I'd probably been out there for a solid half hour when a large and rather imposing figure came walking down the street. I had no idea that it was Blake until he was about 5 feet away from me.
Imagine running out of Grey Goose at an Italian wedding, and multiply that level of surprise by 1,000. In the words of Rob Goldenburg: I was shocked. I could barely muster anything beyond a cursory "what the fuck are YOU doing here?". Blake was giggling like a schoolgirl and he asked me to go inside to get Lisa, but not to tell anyone because he wanted to surprise her. Fair enough, I thought, and went into the palace of green to see if I could track down my sister. I don't even know how I managed to coerce her outside without raising suspicion. I just said that I needed to talk to her about something, she assumed it was girl trouble, so she followed me without thinking twice. We walked outside the house, and I assumed that Blake was on the other side of the garage. I said to Lisa, "Hey, do you know who's dog that is around the corner?" It was the best I could do under the circumstances. I she walked around the corner and I walked back into the house, not wanting to stand in the way of romance.