I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

STORM OF ANOTHER KIND

Jake’s watching the news again as we eat dinner. There is a story about Mike Tyson’s daughter dying accidentally. Jake turns and is incensed that Tyson would put his daughter on a treadmill. I hear the newscaster say that Tyson wasn’t in Phoenix at the time of the accident but had flown in after. So I say that Tyson wasn’t involved. Jake says "What?" So I explain that I just heard he wasn’t in Phoenix. Jake gets angry and says that yes he was, that it meant he wasn’t available for questions. I can see that he is really angry so I apologize and say "My mistake. I misunderstood the newscaster." He turns and grabs some papers off of the counter and thrusts them at me. "Here is something else you misunderstood." I take them and see that it is a print of the Q&A page about the Federal Reserve. It is from their own website.

A few days ago I was explaining to him what I had learned in the past year about the Federal Reserve; namely that it is not government owned but rather a private corporation owned by shareholders and the largest shareholders are those who own some of the largest banks in the world. People like the Morgans and the Rockefeller’s etc. I had tried to explain the system of printing money and lending it to the government at interest and how it was not constitutional. Now he is telling me I am wrong by way of this Q & A sheet. I start to read through it and he is yelling at me telling me it says ‘right there’ that it IS government owned and it IS audited and it IS legitimate. As I read through the three sheets I immediately can see that it is very craftily and carefully worded to give that impression but in actual fact, it does not state that the Federal Reserve is government owned. I try to explain this to Jake but he is in no mood to hear it. He is really angry and after a few more attempts to explain, I drop it. He tells me I am ignorant and stupid. Nancy is telling him to stop shouting and just forget it. He doesn’t pay her any heed. She gives up and goes to lie down. I get up and put my dishes in the sink and go sit outside on the back deck. I need some space between us so that he can cool down.

The back door is closed as the air conditioning is running so I can’t hear anything going on inside but after about 10 minutes I get up and go in. Nancy is no longer lying down. I can hear raised voices coming from the living area. I go to my room. They are having a full-blown argument and it’s not pretty. I can hear Nancy telling him that he is a miserable SOB and everyone hates him. He is furious and yelling and swearing at her. I am very upset to hear this and I feel it is my fault but I don’t dare go out there and say anything so I stay in my room and feel sick to my stomach. I can hear him saying stuff about me from time to time so that just cements the feeling that this is because of me.

As it progresses I decide that I have to leave. Not this minute like, but as in - go home. I can’t handle being responsible for Nancy getting more abuse from this guy than she normally has to put up with and, obviously, I haven’t got the skill set to handle him right. I deal with a lot of temperaments and attitudes on a film set, and in the position I hold it is crucial that I possess good people skills. I do very well and in over 52 productions I have only one director I won’t work with due to his impossible temperament. But I haven’t had to deal with outright abuse since a child. I didn't handle it well then, and I don’t now.

I start to organize my stuff. I can’t pack my bags as they are in a cabin downstairs and there is no way I am leaving my room while Jake is still awake tonight. But I get a head start with putting my toiletries in baggies, taking a few things off the wall that I had put up, and packing all my books into my backpack. The arguing escalates and there is lots of swearing and at one point I hear Jake hit Nancy. She hits him back. This is far too reminiscent of my childhood and it is scaring me.

Suddenly it all stops; Nancy goes to bed and Jake goes back to his TV. I don’t change into my PJ’s and I don’t go to the bathroom. I turn off the light and lie down on top of the covers. I am way too upset to sleep. I have $300 to my name and I have no idea if it will be enough to get me home. Last time I looked at flights home they were running about $280 plus $40 to check my bags. Also I have to get from here to Miami airport and I have no idea how I am going to find transportation or pay for it. I am frustrated with my financial situation. I don’t even have a credit card to book a flight so that means I will have to ask my son, Christopher, to do it and hope he will. He did it for my ticket here and I gave him the cash straight away, but I hate asking.

I lie there thinking about my situation and what I can do. Finally I hear the TV go off and Jake goes to bed. I must fall into a fitful sleep because I wake dying to go to the bathroom at about 11:30. I stand at my door and I can hear Jake snoring so I very carefully slide the door open. It doesn’t make a sound. Katie the dachshund doesn’t even hear it - every other night she does and comes running for me to pet her - and I slip across the corridor into the loo and slide that door carefully shut. I make it back to my room without disturbing anyone and lie back down on the bed. It is lightening outside again and I watch it for a bit before falling back to sleep. I awake hearing Jake up and going to the loo. I hold my breath as he goes back to bed. I don’t want him knowing I am not asleep. Later I wake having to go to the toilet again. Dang this old age, weak bladder crap. I stand at the door and listen again but there is no snoring. I slide the door open a crack and I hear Jake tossing and making some noise so I close the door back up and lie down, trying to ignore my aching bladder. That works for about half an hour then I can’t stand it any longer. I slide the door open, hear his heavy breathing, and go for it.

I wake hearing the TV go on. It’s about 6 am. I get up and start clearing out my closet. I open the door as I do it. I am going to have to face everyone sooner than later. Nancy comes in and asks me what I am doing. I tell her. She says she doesn’t want me to go. I tell her I don’t have a choice, I have to leave. I can’t be responsible for them fighting. She tells me it wasn’t my fault; it was hers because she went in and yelled at him for being an ass. That set him off. We talk for a bit, keeping our voices low. She asks me if I want to come to work with her now or if I want to stay here and what will I do if I stay. I tell her I will keep packing. She sighs a deep sigh. She really doesn’t want me to leave. Jake is in the truck waiting which means if I go with her, I am going to have to face him now. If I don’t go with her, he will be back in an hour and then I will have to face him alone. I decide to go with her. I grab my stuff, and swipe at my hair with a brush. I look horrible but that is the least of my worries at the moment.

I get into the back seat of the truck. Jake doesn’t say a word to me. Nancy starts it up and backs out. I take a big breath. "Jake?" He says, "What?" "Can you hear me ok?" "Yes, I can hear you fine." I take another deep breath, "I just want to apologize for last night, for letting things get out of hand. I should have just agreed to disagree and let it go at that." "Letting what get out of hand?" He asks and I don’t get it. "Our conversation. Last night. I am sorry that it caused you and Nancy to argue." "Last night had nothing to do with that. Do you want to know what it had to do with?" He asks. "Only if it has something to do with me. If not, then no." I say. "Of course it has to do with you." He replies. OK then. He then goes on to say that I am not doing what was expected of me at the Pet Resort, namely relieving Nancy in the afternoon so she can get away. Thing is, I have just started to get the hang of what all I need to know - it’s only been a week and yesterday was the first day I felt like I knew what I was doing. And then he goes on to say it isn’t my fault really, it’s all Nancy’s fault because she won’t let people help her. She would just rather do it all herself. He goes on a huge diatribe and basically gives Nancy crap again. I start to cry; I can’t handle that I have caused her more grief. No one knows I am crying as I don't make a sound. He then gets after me for being concerned about some friends at home who are going through a hard time right now. He thinks that is a waste of my time and energy as there isn't anything I can do about it, in his opinion. He also berates me for saying I would like to have taken the truck to Sharkey's last night to call Shonah on my computer (she is down about work stuff and I wanted to talk to her about it). I had, wrongly apparently, assumed that because I have been using the truck since day one it would be all right for me to just say I would like to take it to make this call. He is angry about my presumption and then informs me that I have been driving around without insurance coverage. This is news to me as I am used to the insurance going with the vehicle. Again he blames Nancy for not telling me this earlier.

We arrive at the shop and I get busy with filing and answering the phone. When I have a moment, I go online and find a couple of websites that explain the Federal Reserve better than I can. I find one that is a transcript of an interview with Ron Supinski of the Public Information Department that is very revealing. I print them out and set them aside.

Jake drops by a bit later and he seems to be in fine spirits. He has some pictures of the property barriers that the county installed that he needs to send to the state. He can’t figure out how to get them into one file and then how to email them so I help him out. As he is leaving, I say, “I went online and printed off some stuff about the Federal Reserve, if you’re interested.” “Yes, I am interested,” he turns back to me, “ I am always interested in learning. I am an uneducated man, I quit school when I was 15 and couldn’t wait to get out. So anything I know, I learn from reading.” He takes the papers and leaves. That went better than I expected. In fact, I am quite amazed by the turn around in his whole mood and say as much to Nancy later. ‘Well, that’s Jake for you,” she says, “he blows off steam about whatever is on his mind and then he’s the sweetest guy after.” I wouldn’t exactly call him sweet, but hey, anything is better than last night.

Also, while I was online, I saw the story about Mike Tyson’s daughter and he WAS out of state when the accident happened and he DID travel to Phoenix after the fact. I don’t think I will be mentioning this to Jake.

He calls me about two hours later. “Hey, that stuff you gave me. That is some scary shit.” He exclaims. “I know.” I reply. “I have already talked to some of my friends about it and they don’t care, they say ‘so? That’s the way it’s always been’. Incredible.” he says. No apology for yelling at me last night, for calling me stupid and ignorant. Whatever. At least he isn’t angry anymore.

I look online during lulls in the day to find prices for flights home. If I wait two weeks I can save about $100 on a ticket. So I decide, given the turn of attitude, I will hold out for the two weeks. I check on prices for flights to Tortola, as there is nothing I would love more than to spend some time in that paradise. I need some serenity at the moment. It’s not too bad to fly there, but flying back to Vancouver is too much, over $400 and I don’t have it. Even if I work for two weeks more, it would take every penny and that just isn’t going to work, I wouldn’t have any money for food and I would be going home completely broke. I’d give almost anything to be able to go to the BVI for a bit but it just isn’t going to happen.

I call Shonah on the phone to talk about her work issues and while we are talking I mention that I will come home in a couple of weeks. I tell her I looked into taking the Greyhound but it is a 5-day trip and only $60 cheaper than flying and, as much as it might be nice to see some of the eastern states and then all across Canada, I think it would be a long ordeal. She agrees. I tell her, though, that it would drop me in Kelowna, which would save me some money because then I wouldn’t have to pay to get there from Vancouver. She reminds me that she is coming down to Vancouver for ColdPlay and so I can go back with her. That sounds great to me so I write to my friend, Donna, asking her if the invitation to stay with them for a while is still open. She writes back right away and says “Funny thing. I was praying for you this morning and felt I should call you and encourage you to come home and stay with us.” Well then, that just confirms it. I am going home. But I would still love to stop in the BVI on the way. One day I WILL get back there. I am not sure how as it is so expensive, but I just have to. I almost wish I had never gone in the first place. I fell hard for those islands and I just want to get back. You can’t miss what you don’t know. But, it’s too late. I do know it and I miss it. A lot.

I go to my blog site and someone, who I don’t know, has written that I need to go home, make some serious money, and try again at the sailing dream but be better prepared. I laugh out loud. I don’t think so. I won’t ever answer a sailing ad again. What I might do, though, is sign up for some sailing lessons in Vancouver, once I am working again. If I make it as a screenwriter (and Ron the director seems to think I am going to hit it big with this story and the story of a destination wedding) then I will buy my own catamaran, live aboard in the BVI, write and do day-sail charters. Sounds like paradise to me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A GOAT, SOME CHICKEN AND NOT A HURRICANE

I knew that goat was trouble.

Nancy and I go to the property to meet Jake on Saturday after we close up shop. Jake is sitting on the pontoon boat and the puppies are all on board as well, running around and making mischief. Once we get aboard I notice that Jake has rivulets of dried blood down his arms and then I see a scab on his forehead above his right eye. "Jeepers. What war did you fight today?" I ask him. Turns out the puppies sharp claws are responsible for the arms. The goat for his head. He was bent over washing the puppies tarp or dishes or something and the puppies spooked the goat. He ran towards Jake, who was bent over intent on his work, and head butted him so hard it knocked him off his feet. Blood and sweat were pouring down his face as he dazedly tried to get to his feet, and the goat was freaking out, the puppies yapping... All I can say is I am glad Nancy wasn't there or it would have been her fault, somehow. And I have decided that I hate the goat.

When we get back to the houseboat I cook up some of the chicken breasts I bought, two packages for the price of one, and make curried coconut chicken with rice. It makes a lot and it is a delicious meal. I am happy that there is more than enough for another meal or two; I put it into rubbermaid containers and into the fridge.

Sunday there isn't much to do at the shop so I stay home in the morning and read out on the back deck for a while. Even though it's a boat yard, it's a pretty view and nice and breezy back here. Nancy calls me at around 10 and asks me to come get her so I get in the truck and head over to the Pet Resort. The road is full of Memorial Day weekenders and it seems that NO ONE signals before changing lanes here. Twice someone makes a last minute decision to cross in front of me and over the median without signaling and I have to slam on my brakes. Wouldn't want to miss the '3 t-shirts for $10' store, I guess.

We stop at the grocery store on the way home for some things. I can't get over the prices here. Nothing is cheaper than at home other than booze. The only thing I buy is some of my fizzy mineral water. I bought the last batch of groceries so Nancy won't let me pay anything for these.

When we get back to the houseboat and get the groceries away we're hot and decide to go to the Holiday Inn pool. Because it is the long weekend we don't expect that we will find any free deck chairs but we find two, mine is broken and won't go into a sitting position but at least we don't have to sit on the concrete. I am happy. There are lots of people at the pool today, some are locals and Nancy points them out to me. There is a guy under a grass roof playing guitar and singing. It's fun to people watch down here. Americans fascinate me. They really are very different from us Canadians. I go for a nice long swim, the water is the perfect temperature, and do lots of laps. Got to get that 6 lbs off!

After a couple of hours, Nancy leaves me there to go back to the shop and then to meet Jake at the property and take care of the animals. I move to her chair and read. I am there a couple of hours more and start watching the cell phone Nancy left as she is going to call when she is 5 minutes away. It has started beeping for low battery and I am worried it will die before she calls. As I am watching a couple in the pool, I notice the guy they are talking to is pointing to the sky in the north and gesticulating that something is coming right at us. I get up and take a look and can't believe the big black line of cloud just peeking over the palm trees. I know enough now to realize there is some sort of storm heading this way and it will be here in about 10 minutes. I start to gather my things.

I walk towards the parking lot and as I do the cell phone rings. It's Nancy. I tell her that, "I am waiting for you under the cover at the parking lot, there's a big black cloud headed this way." "I know," she says, "I am leaving now and trying to stay ahead of it." I go back to the pool and take a picture because it is that ominous. I go back to the parking lot and wait, killing as many ants as I can with my flip flops. Ever since I got bit with all of those fire ants, I have a vendetta.

Nancy arrives just as the first drops of rain start to fall. We stay just ahead of the storm as we drive to the boat yard. We talk about what to have for dinner and I remind Nancy of the curried chicken I made last night. I have been looking forward to it all afternoon. We pull up to the houseboat and it is starting to rain harder. As I get out I see Jake headed towards his car, which is parked at the end of the dock by the water, and he is holding a rubbermaid box aloft. Hmmm. Must be going out somewhere and taking his dinner. I run to the ladder and climb up onto the houseboat. I turn around and Jake is right behind me. In his hand is the open rubbermaid and I can see yellow saucy remnants inside. "Was that the container that had the curried chicken in it?" I ask. "I dunno. I guess so." "Where is it?" I ask but I have a growing horror as I know what he is about to say. "I tossed it into the water." "YOU WHAT?!?" I say. Nancy is right behind him and hears. "That was our dinner." she says quietly to Jake. She seems to be afraid to say more but I am not. "I was looking forward to that all afternoon." I say, "What possessed you to throw it away? I just made it last night. It hadn't gone off." He doesn't answer me, just pushes past and goes inside. I am furious. What the heck is the point of buying chicken two for one if you are just going to throw half of it into the sea? And that meal was delicious, far too good for the fish. I go into my room to drop stuff off and I hear Jake going at Nancy. "That fridge is full of crap. There are so many containers of crap in there. It needed cleaning out." "Well why didn't you throw out some of your stuff then?" She asks. He has a reply but I can't make it out. I just can't believe he would do that. I am used to the kitchen and all that is in it being the domain of the woman of the house. The only time my ex would have thrown something in the fridge away was if it was growing green fur. Later, when I go look in the fridge, all Jake's rubbermaided leftovers are still there. Some have been there since I arrived. I am just seething and can't be in the same room as him or I will just go off so I go stand at the back door and watch the weather.

That kinda takes my mind off stuff.

The wind is howling and the rain is coming down in horizontal sheets. Where, this morning, I could look out over the water to the sailboats tied up in mid distance and the mangroves in the far distance, now all I can see is blowing water and grey socked in. This looks like a hurricane to me. I run to my room and grab my camera and video a few minutes of the storm. It's frightening. If this isn't a hurricane, then I don't want to be here when it is. Stuff starts blowing off the houseboat. I hear something on the roof deck blow from one end to the other. I look up, expecting to see it fly off and out to sea but nothing comes down. Suddenly there is a big crash on the front deck. The water cooler and bottle have gone flying. This is seriously scary. The boat is rocking on it's stands again and I run to my room and put things I don't want to lose in my new big fat purse. Just in case we go over and it's all a big mess I won't have to dig through stuff, just grab my purse. If I'm not dead, that is.

Water is pouring off the roof of the boat. I look down to the ground and there is at least a foot of water where all was just packed dirt not 10 minutes ago, and it is blowing out to sea. A plastic bag floats by and then a white silk flower lei. There is a dustpan on the roof of the truck. Stuff is blowing off the house boat all over the place. Jake and Nancy don't seem to care. I ask them if this is a hurricane and they say no. That's it. I am going home before hurricane season hits for real.

video

Friday, May 22, 2009

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ME

Life has settled into a sort of routine. I get up at 8, Nancy has already left for the shop - Jake drives her in the truck and then brings his car back. He is making breakfast for himself while I get dressed. At 8:45 he drives me to the Pet Resort and leaves for whatever it is he does until 1:00 when he heads to Sharkey's for the afternoon.

I fight my way into the office without letting any of the small dogs out and then spend three hours trying to find something to do. I spend time on the computer, getting my emails and seeing what's up on Facebook. When Nancy remembers to leave the handset in the office, I answer the phone and take bookings for boardings. If it is a grooming request, I pass the phone through the half door to Nancy after yelling for her over the noise of the bigger dogs barking, now that they see me, and the dryer blowing some poor dog dry.

At 1 or 2 I leave to go back to the houseboat and clean up the place. I try going to the library one day to use the internet there but it is so slow, it takes 3 minutes to load a page. I won't be doing that again. So I head over to Sharkey's to use their internet. I plonk down on a barstool at the little outdoor bar that they never seem to use, plug into AC and write my blog, download photos and upload them onto the blog, and then sometimes have a bite to eat.

Speaking of which; I have gained 6 lbs while here. No wonder most American's are so fat. Almost everything is fried. I look over the menu at the appetizers, as I prefer to have one of those than an entire meal, and not one thing escapes the deep fryer. It's OK now and again, but I can't handle eating that way very often. Especially after the past four or five months of eating carefully. I am discouraged and vow no more fried food will pass my lips. I need to exercise and get these 6 lbs off as well as keep going down as I have more I want to lose. It is far too hot to go for a brisk walk, I wouldn't last five minutes. I decide that I will use the pool at the Holiday Inn as much as I can and will swim laps. Lots of laps. And Jake has a set of small dumbbells on the houseboat so I will get back to lifting weights. I miss that, oddly enough.

I take the truck back to the shop just before 4 and we load in the three dogs that Nancy owns. We drive over to the property where Jake is waiting and Nancy goes straight to feeding the cats, goat and now the puppies. I try to help but she prefers to do most of it by herself. She gets them out of the bus, takes the pen out of the bus and puts them inside, then drags the tarp she covers the floor of the bus with to the canal and washes off all the poop. She then gives the puppies their medicine, feeds and waters them, and then sets the bus up with the clean tarp, the pen, fresh water and then the puppies go back. It has been very hot in there so I have gone to the dollar store and bought a big fan to cool them down. We run a cord to the shed where the goat lives and there is power and, hopefully, this will make the puppies more comfortable.

The puppies are doing well and full of beans. I am sitting on the pontoon boat with Nancy and Jake, trying to cool down with a frosty Pepsi when I look up and see the goat running full tilt, doing little jumps in the air every now and then. Wondering what is after it, I then notice that all 5 puppies (the one with the cast has gone to a foster home) are chasing the goat, yapping and scampering after it. The goat is totally freaked out. "The puppies are out!" I exclaim. Jake is exasperated. He built a pen outside so that Nancy would have an easier time of keeping track of them while she cleans out the bus every day and then gives them their medication. Somehow they have found a way out. We are about to go scoop them all up and put them back when we realize that they are having a fabulous time just running about. So Nancy goes and rescues the goat and then leaves the puppies to frolic. One of the dogs, Sheera, looks a lot like a grown up version of the puppies. They see her and run to her, jumping all around her legs and biting at her. She stands there with ears pricked forward, quite amused I think, and just lets them have their fun. Nancy and I comment on how she is behaving as if she is their mom. She seems to be loving it as it goes on. It's very cute to watch.

At 5:30 we head back to the shop. Sometimes Jake and I go straight to the houseboat in his car while Nancy goes to the shop for about an hour to feed her dogs and to let the late pick-up daycare dogs go. Sometimes we all go to the shop I wait outside with Jake until Nancy is done then we all head back in her truck and leave Jake's car behind. I think which way we do it is dictated by how much Jake has had to drink at the pub that afternoon. He had one DUI and doesn't want another.

In the evening we cobble together a dinner or, if it is Thursday or Friday evening, we head out for dinner. Always Sharkey's on Friday night for the fish fry, although last night neither Nancy nor I ordered it. Like I said, I can't eat one more fried thing.



Last night was the grand opening of The Big Chill. We went there last Friday. This Friday it is packed. We have to park on the grass strip median that divides the Overseas Highway. Running across the two lanes of holiday traffic heading south and in the dark freaks me out. It's dark out and the cars are coming fast and furious. But I make it across and we walk through the parking lot (that has about 5 free spaces and Jake points every one out telling Nancy she should have listened to him and turned into the lot) into a huge crowd of people pressing around the bar. There is no rain tonight and so the couches on the dock are dry and I am looking forward to sinking into one but they are all taken. Over a low iron fence there is a huge swimming pool with palm roofed huts all along one side that have sheer white curtains tied back to the posts that are wrapped with strands of small white lights. The effect is magical. I want to go over there but there are two bouncers at the gate to the pool area and apparently this is a private party. The dude who bought the club is some football team owner and the party is, apparently, full of sports celebrities. Whatever. I just wanted to sit under one of those pretty palm huts and enjoy the music. Instead I go over to the rail where the lights are under the water and watch for the fish but there aren't any Tarpon or Stingrays tonight. The music is too loud and scaring them away I think.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ABANDONED PUPPIES AND A MINI HURRICANE

Friday night we go out for dinner again, all you can eat Fish Fry at Sharkey's. We sit at the bar upstairs and when our food comes the fish is delicious. I am almost done eating when Nancy casually mentions that the fish is Mahi Mahi. Dolphin. I love dolphins and never wanted to eat Mahi Mahi because of that and the look of dismay on my face conveys what I am thinking. Nancy tries to reassure me that it is a different kind of dolphin than you can swim with. I am not really reassured.

After dinner we head over to a local hang out called The Big Chill. Loud rock and roll oldies blare from speakers and the place is packed with people heading into mid-life or already well into it. It is mostly singles, from the look of it, and it is fascinating to watch women, who have had too much to drink, throw themselves at the bemused and willing guys. I feel like a fish out of water and am glad we don't stay too long. It is raining so everyone is crowded under the covered bar area. It's a shame because out on the dock there are rattan couches with big fat cushions but they are soaked through. The rain lets up a bit and I walk over to the rail that overlooks the water which is flood lit with lights down on the seabed about 5 feet down. There are Tarpon and even a Stingray swimming circles around the lights, as well as lots of other smaller fish and I spend quite a bit of time watching them with Nancy.

Saturday morning dawns and Nancy and Jake are nowhere in sight. They have left for the day already but have left me the truck and so I go out and get some groceries and then I get stuck into cleaning the kitchen. As Nancy is working seven days a week, things just aren't getting done around the houseboat and I told her I will do some cleaning. I start with the fridge because I don't want to put the groceries away until it's clean so I take everything out and throw away a lot of stuff that is well past its expiry date. Then I get onto the stove, counter tops and cabinets. It takes the better part of 5 hours and with the heat and humidity I am too exhausted to do any more cleaning once I am satisfied with the kitchen. I plop down on the couch with a drink and Katie crawls over from her place on the opposite end onto my lap.

I decide it is far too warm inside and go sit out on the back deck, Katie following close behind. This dog is the sweetest dog I think I have ever known. She jumps up on the chair I have my feet propped up on because I don't want the heat of her on my knee, and promptly falls asleep. I just sit there enjoying the view of the water and the mangroves. There are at least twenty sailboats moored out in the bay and as I look them over I see that there is one turned over on it`s side. Two more have their masts laying down and sticking out over the bow. I realize that those boats are abandoned. I have read about this on the internet; how, due to the recession, people can no longer afford to pay to keep their boats at a marina or even moored so they disable them, grind off the registration numbers and then abandon them either at the side of the road or out on the water. Later I mention this to Jake and he tells me that not long ago there were dozens of them and the county came and removed them all. How sad. I can think of several people who would love to have a boat and can't afford to buy one. Me included. And here, perfectly good boats are left to the elements.

When Jake and Nancy return for the day, I have made curried chicken breasts, roasted potatoes, corn on the cob and a salad. Jake doesn't eat very much but Nancy and I enjoy the food. Once we clean up from dinner, I hook my computer up to their TV and we watch 'Taken'. Good movie but it is the third time I have seen it and I am so worn out I can't keep my eyes open for most of it.

The next afternoon we head to Sharkey's because Jake told me this morning that they have wireless internet there. So he goes inside to the bar and I sit outside in the outdoor bar that isn't staffed so is empty at the moment, and get on the internet. I update my blog and check my emails and facebook; that takes about two hours. Then, while my computer downloads the episodes of Lost, The Tudors, and Survivor that I have missed, I go sit in the outdoor patio and order a late lunch. I take my time over the meal and read my book. The sun is out and so are the boaters. The deck is on a canal and boaters go back and forth all day at a slow pace either coming or going on a day out on the water. It feels like I am on vacation and I am really loving it. About two hours later, Jake comes out of the bar and asks me if I am ready to go. I am and we head off to pick up Nancy and go for our regular afternoon visit to the property to feed the animals, let the dogs run, and have a drink on the pontoon boat.

Nancy is more tired and hot than usual and I suggest that when we get home we change into swim suits and head over to the Holiday Inn pool for a swim. They had both mentioned earlier that the hotel's management allow the locals to come and use the pool. She thinks that is a great idea.

Once at the pool, Jake heads straight to the Tiki bar at poolside and we get into the warm water. We swim lazy laps while talking and the water works it's magic on our overheated, tired bodies. After an hour or so, we drive back to the houseboat and Nancy makes a meal of stuff from the freezer. Onion rings, potato skins, spring rolls. I am not very hungry so just pick at a couple of things. We head off to bed early as the heat has really taken its toll on us today. It was mid 90's all day. No idea what the humidity was but it had to be significant.

Monday I start working at the Pet Resort. The plan is for Nancy to leave to be there at 8 as usual and then I will go in at 9, stay till noon or 1 and then come back at 4. I arrive at 9 and set about tidying the office a bit. Nancy shows me the appointment books; one for grooming, one for boarding, and a sheet for day care. I learn how to work the till, and then sit and go through the price list. The phone rings and I start for real.

Nancy keeps the little dogs in for boarding or day care in the office area so I have 4 or 5 dogs at my feet, including Katie. Any time I pet one of the other dogs she comes waddling over, annoyed that anyone but she is getting my attention.

A couple visiting from Europe arrive with 6 puppies they found in a plastic bag at the side of the road, just across the bridge. Nancy goes out to look at them and then calls a rescue society here in Key Largo. She brings the puppies inside and puts them in a crate. When Elliot, the hired yard help, finds out he goes ballistic. He berates Nancy for bringing them into the facility when the health of the puppies is unknown. He has a valid point but the way he goes about making it shocks me. He is yelling at her and repeating himself over and over. It goes on for at least 20 minutes. I can't believe that an employee thinks it is OK to talk to his employer this way. I want to step in and tell him he has made his point and now he needs to shut up. But I can't do that on my first day here so I just sit there and feel sorry for Nancy.

Someone from the society comes and takes the puppies to the vet. Turns out one of the puppies has a fractured leg, and they all have some sort of communicable disease. They are brought back to Nancy while I am gone to the store, and apparently Elliot goes ballistic again to both Nancy and the society volunteer. They quarantine the dogs in a crate but Elliot is not satisfied and won't be until the dogs are off the property. He spends the rest of the day stomping about the yard barely doing his job and won`t talk to anyone.

I stay until 2, leaving for an hour at one point to go buy some water and something for lunch. I forgot I need to pack my own lunch... the movie industry has spoiled me. At 2 I go back to the houseboat and relax, watch some of Survivor on my laptop and then head back to the Pet Resort to get Nancy and go to the property. I arrive at 4:30 on the dot and Nancy is at the gate outside. I hop out of the truck to help her with the dogs and food etc. and she tells me I was supposed to be there at 4. I thought it was 4:30 and now Jake is on his way from the property to pick her up. I feel terrible. Jake arrives and I walk over to his car to apologize. He laughs and says he just knew I would be there when he drove up. He turns around and heads back to the property.

We take Nancy's three dogs in the cab of the truck and put the puppies in the back (there is a canopy) and when we get to the property we set up a fence that we brought from the Pet Resort and put the puppies inside. The one with the purple cast on it's leg goes straight into the crate and lies down. It is still dopey from anesthetic. The other 5 are medicated, one by one and then fed and watered. Once everyone is fed and happy, including the goat, we head over to the pontoon boat and collapse into chairs. This is hard work!

Earlier, at the shop, I had been on my computer and checked a website that a woman on Tortola has that tracks weather as well as she blogs about life there. In her blog she mentions that there is a weather system moving to Cuba and then lower Florida that will have high winds and about 6 inches of rain by Friday. I mentioned it to Nancy and so she had Elliot prepare the yard for rain by bringing in some things and tarping others. Jake scoffs at the idea of it raining today as it is hot and sunny. As we are sitting on the pontoon boat we see clouds moving in fast and suddenly it starts to POUR... literally a deluge. Nancy and I run to get the puppies and dogs out of the rain. Jake runs to his car and sits inside. We each grab two puppies and take them to a camperized bus that is on the property. It's a heap but it is dry inside and we set up the fence in there and plop the puppies two by two inside. Just one trip and I am soaked to the skin and my hair is plastered to my head. I look like I just stepped out of the shower. Water is running off my arms. I can hardly believe it. Once the puppies are inside we turn our attention to the dogs. Suddenly I feel stinging all over my feet. I look down and there are tiny ants all over my feet and lower legs. I yelp out and Nancy takes one look and says, "Those are fire ants! Go hose your feet off right now." I run over to the hose and start hosing as fast as I can but not before I get bitten, or stung, about 20 times. It hurts like heck and I learn why they are called FIRE ants. I jump into the cab of the truck and rub my legs with a paper towel and make sure there aren't any left on my feet or that one hasn't gone up the hem of my capris. I am moaning about how it hurts when Nancy gets in the cab and she calls me a baby. It HURTS!!!

We get back to the houseboat, we have brought the puppy in the cast with us. Nancy goes about getting it settled in the shower stall for the night. I go change out of my sopping wet clothes and start dinner. I make a chicken stir fry, and when Nancy comes in to help I ask her to get the rice started. She opens the rubbermaid container and the rice is full of weevils. Same with the bag of rice. Jake pulls out a jar of sushi rice and this is bug free. We cook it up and, despite not having all the usual ingredients I use to make stir fry, it tastes delicious.

While we are cleaning up from dinner, the wind really starts to howl and there is lightening on the horizon on three sides of us. The rain is coming down like you only see in movies. As the wind gets stronger I tell Jake that if the houseboat was in the water, this wouldn't bother me but as we are up on stilts, I ask if he is worried it might get blown over. He says he would love that if it happened because then he could collect the insurance for it and build his house. Great. I don't want to wake in the night being tossed out of bed with the boat flying around. I tell him this and he laughs at me. Nancy looks out the window and says this is a lesser version of when they have a hurricane. That is what the website said that I had read earlier... that it was a small hurricane. Jeepers. I wasn`t expecting to experience this just yet. Hurricane season isn't supposed to start until June.

I head off to bed and watch the rest of Survivor and then The Tudors to take my mind of the weather. Once I don't have anything else to watch I switch off my light and watch the lightening show through my open window until I drop off to sleep. The wind dies down at some point in the night, although the lightening never stopped, and the boat stays put. Thankfully.

Friday, May 15, 2009

DOGS AND CATS AND A GOAT, OH MY!

It's Thursday night, my first night here and Nancy doesn't feel like cooking. We go to a lovely little restaurant called The Mandalay that has tables set up on a big square dock over the water and a guy is playing music. We order and when our meals come, the lime chicken over rice I ordered is out-of-this-world delicious. We take our time over the meal and some drinks and watch both the sun go down and two 60 something women make fools of themselves on the dance floor. I could get used to this life.

It is HOT through the night and I open my window and turn on the small fan angled at me from the ceiling. Ahhhhh. Much better.

I wake early and no one is up yet, it is just dawn outside. I turn on the little light built into the headboard and pick up my current book. I read and then doze. I jump when Nancy says "Sandra." I roll over and her head is poked through my door. She laughs. "Sorry, I didn`t mean to make you jump. We need to get going in about 20 minutes." I get up and get dressed. When I walk into the kitchen, Jake has made me a cup of tea using the blackcurrant tea bags I put in the kitchen last night. I gratefully take a sip.

We talk about how the day will go. I am going to drive them back to the shop where Nancy will open up and start her day. Jake will lead me to Thrifty's in his car. We set off and about half an hour later, we arrive at the car rental. They aren't open yet so I park the car and drop the keys through the slot. We drive to one of Jake`s favourite hang outs, Sharkey's, and order breakfast. We sit at the bar because Jake is very social and he keeps up a running banter with the waitress and the kitchen staff throughout the meal. I just sit there, eat, and take it all in.

We leave there and head back to the Pet Resort. We go inside and there is a guy there talking to Nancy. He is from England. His accent is just like Michael Cain's and I love it. He just arrived yesterday and his 5 month old pure white Malamute has run away. He has posters in his hands and so does Nancy. He and Jake get talking and eventually start swapping stories about meeting people from England, particularly police, on their travels and how it has gotten them out of some serious scrapes. It becomes a 'can you top this' contest and I am thoroughly entertained. These two could write a book!! Over the next few days, Jake regales me with stories of his and Nancy`s travels across Australia, the states, Canada, Belize, Mexico and I am realizing there is a blockbuster best seller here. I need to start writing this stuff down.

Eventually, the guy concedes to Jake and gets going to plaster more posters around town. Jake wants me to get a library card. He loves the library and talks about having a card like it's having gold. He drives me over there and introduces me to the librarian. There isn't anyone in this town who doesn't know Jake and Nancy. He tells her I need a card and after I hand over my BC Drivers License, and Jake tells her to use his address, I am all fixed up with a card.

We head back to the Pet Resort and Jake takes off for his local watering hole and I take Nancy's truck to get some things I need to make the room organized. I have no idea where I am going but thankfully, everything is on one street. I do a lot of doubling back and forth before I get everything on my list. When I am done, I can't go back to the houseboat as they are sandblasting the bottom all day so I go to the Pet Resort and chat with Nancy as she grooms the dogs. The place is chaos with dogs running all over. Her little dachshund, Katie, recognizes me from spending most of last evening on my lap and won't leave me alone until I pick her up and let her cuddle.














I get on Nancy's computer and check my emails. There is one from David. He tells me that 'as far as being honest, the pictures you sent me of you.... one doesn't look anything like the other two.' No kidding, nitwit. I sent two where I am all dressed up to go out and then thought, that isn't a very honest representation of me, so I sent one from my trip to Tortola where I had just walked in scalding heat for about 2 miles and my hair was limp and I am at Pussers attempting to cool down by drinking a painkiller. Definitely not my best look. As far as I am concerned, I was being more honest than I needed to be. Then he goes on to tell me that he paid me for my work on the brochure by driving to get me from the airport and for the (bit of) food I have eaten. As a parting shot he tells me that he can use the files after all and will make the brochures. I fire an email back telling him why I sent the one picture that 'doesn't look anything like the other two' and then tell him I kept the car a second day and didn't fill it up. (Put that in your pipe and smoke it). I tell him he owes me $150 minus the extra charges for the car. Later Jake tells me that he talked to the woman who runs the Thrifty's we dropped the car at, they are friends of course - like I said, he knows everyone around here - and she says the bill is almost $400. Apparently at the airport they forgot to include a $150 drop off charge. Now that is Karma. Not that I believe in it, although I do believe that you reap what you sow so I guess that is the same thing.

At 4:00 we close up shop and head over to the property they own on the Gulf of Mexico side and meet Jake there. It's a fabulous place surrounded on three sides by water and is where most of the Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love-Hewett, Gene Hackman and Ray Liotta movie 'Heartbreakers' was filmed in 2001. Back then there was a restaurant on the property. It wasn't in operation anymore and once filming ended, the county made Jake bulldoze it down. He has plans to build a house there one day soon. Meanwhile, he bought the houseboat and keeps it tied to the dock on the canal side. Apparently, he has been fighting with the county because they don't want a houseboat in the canal. They don't want it connected to the property at all. So when it comes back from the boatyard, he plans to tie it to a small cement dock that is currently tied up under some mangroves. He will move the cement dock to the bay side, tie it up to the wooden dock there, then with the houseboat anchored bow facing out to the water and stern tied to the small dock, he figures the county won't have a leg to stand on because, technically, it won't be tied to the land. I hope it works. It's a shame that the land has been let go some; weeds are growing all over the trucked-in white sand, and one end of the land is full of junk - an old bus, a couple of rusted out trailers, a small front-end loader, fencing piled up, a run-down shed, an old vinyl swimming pool - leaning to one side and the bottom full of dried algae.

Nancy loves animals and she owns not only Katie, but two other dogs, four cats and a goat. The cats and the goat are on the property. The other two dogs stay at the kennel while the boat is in dry dock as they are too big and need to be able to run around. The goat freaks me out. It comes right up to me and rears up on it's hind legs. I quickly step back with a strangled cry. Jake tells me it thinks the can of Pepsi in my hand is beer and it wants some. He then proceeds to tip the can of beer he holds down the goats throat and it guzzles it down. I shake my head. Unreal. Later I will feel the thing chewing on the hem of my dress. For some reason I can't seem to get away from it; it seems to know I am afraid of him and so taunts me by following me everywhere. Nancy sets about letting the two big dogs out of the back of the truck for a run and then goes off to feed the cats. Katie is thrilled to see her friends and they all three set of chasing each other around the property and when they tire out, they flop down in the sand that Jake had trucked in to make a beach of sorts. One of the bigger dogs picks up a coconut that has dropped from one of the many palm trees scattered about the property and proceeds to tear it apart, strip by stringy strip.

Climbing aboard the pontoon boat that Jake owns, it's tied up to the bay side dock, we sit there sipping our respective cans of beverages, talking about the history of the property. I am just thinking about how nice it will be when the houseboat is back here and I can go for a swim when Nancy tells me that, every so often, they see a crocodile swim by. Scratch that idea.

It starts to rain heavily and the goat, who hates to get wet, jumps aboard the boat. Of course it comes straight over to where I am. I jump out of my chair and sit up on a high ledge at the back of the boat, feet up on the ledge and out of chewing range.

After about an hour we head back to the Pet Resort where Nancy spends the next hour checking out the day care doggies back to their respective owners and Jake and I hang about and he tells me more stories. Once Nancy is done, we drive back to the boat yard and get ready to go out for dinner. Friday night is All-You-Can-Eat Fish Fry at Sharkey's and a weekly ritual for Jake and Nancy. I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TRUST ISSUES, MIAMI BEACH, AND THE KEYS

I looked outside the bedroom window with a flashlight to see what was making the noises but couldn't see anything but greenery. I went to the front door and tried looking out of the windows that run down each side of it but they are leaded and cut glass and it's black as pitch outside so can't make anything out and there is NO WAY I am opening the door for a better look. So I never know what made the noise ALL NIGHT right through until the sun came up.

I get up at 7 to be ready to leave by 8. I pack up the rest of my stuff and go in the kitchen to make some tea. David is there and we exchange a pleasant 'good morning'. I am not going to leave this on a sour note, if I can help it. Then he drops the bomb. "How much is the bill for the car rental?" I think for a moment... "One hundred and eighteen and change, if I recall." "I want you to pay that to me before you leave." My blood turns to ice. "I am going to pay it cash when I return the car, " I say, "that was what we talked about yesterday." "No," he says, "you said you would pay me as soon as I put it on the card" "You have a very selective memory," I say. " that was for the plane ticket home. I asked if you could put the plane ticket on your card and I would just give you the cash right away." "So what's the difference?" he says, "I want the money now." "The difference is, what if I get there and they won't put it on your card?" "Why would that happen?" he scoffs at me, "They have approved $250 on the card, there won't be a problem." "There better not be." I say, then "You don't trust me, do you?" I ask. He starts to say no and then half way through he switches. "N....I have been burned before." "Well what about the money you promised to pay me for putting together the pamphlet for the boat for you? You said you would pay me and you have no intentions of paying, do you?" "I can't even use it!" He yells at me. When I was finished working on it, I printed it off and the settings on the printer wouldn't allow printing to the edge and so some of the graphics and text was missing. I told him that a proper print shop would not have an issue with it so be sure to take it to one. "Yes," I respond, "that's because you took it to Office Depot and they aren't a proper print shop. If you take it to a proper place, it won't be an issue." "And pay an extra $50?!?" He is horrified. I roll my eyes. "If you are too cheap to take it to a proper place, that is not my problem." I say, "I did exactly what you asked of me and you need to pay me." "I took you out to dinner twice." He says. I am incredulous. "Are you kidding me? First of all, you paid for dinner one time BEFORE you asked me to do the pamphlet and the second time I tried to pay and you told me it was your idea to eat out so you were paying. Second of all, two meals don't add up to what you owe me for my time. Thirdly, if that was how you were planning to pay me then why did you say that you were trying to give me a way to make some money?" He doesn't have an answer for that. "You are not an honorable person." I say. "I want you to pay me the money for the car rental." He responds. I go get my wallet and am about to take out $118 and then pause. "I am going to get the bill out of the car to make sure. " I drop my wallet back in my purse and then grab it back out and take it with me. I am pretty sure he wouldn't go into my wallet but it makes a nice point. You don't trust me, well guess what buddy? I don't trust you either. I go out to the car and I am shocked again. He has moved his truck to block the driveway so I can't get out and that makes me see red. I am angrier than I can remember being in years. Swear words I don't ever let out of my mouth fill my head. I grab the bill, see that it is indeed for $118, and march back into the house. He isn't in the kitchen. The way I am feeling at the moment, it's a good thing for him. I grab the money out of my wallet and slap it onto the counter. I put my wallet back in my purse and am about to go get my luggage when I stop. Sometimes I just know things. I go back and pick up the money and fan it out. I have put down $218 by mistake. Thank you GOD for prompting me. I put the extra hundred dollar bill back in my wallet and start piling my bags in the garage. He comes out as I am carting my backpack to the car and points to my bags. "Are these ready to go?" he asks. "Yes and don't touch them." I say. The adrenaline from my wrath would allow me to pick up the car right now if I had to. Fifty pound suitcases feel like ten.

I get the car loaded and am about to tell him to move his truck but before I can he gets in and does it. I squeal out of there without a backwards glance. I drive up the road to the shopping center and park. I need a few minutes to calm down before I set off on the road or I will be driving with my foot down all the way and that won't do. I go into K Mart and buy a blow dryer and some shampoo & conditioner, stuff he said he had on the boat and so I wouldn't need. I will need it now.

By the time I get back out to the car, I am no longer livid but I am still upset and for the first 20 miles all I can think about is how to get back at him. They warned me at the car rental desk that if I returned the car any way but full of gas, they would charge $5 a gallon to fill it up. Gas is $2.20. "If you think I am returning this car full of gas, think again." I yell to no one. It helps a bit but I have to force myself to let it all go so that the whole trip isn't ruined. I plug my iPod into the stereo and blast out my favourite road trip play-list. That's better. Much better.

I get my camera ready to take some pictures. I want to get one of that long bridge we were on the other day. It won't look the same not lit. But when I get there, it's still pretty impressive and I take several shots as I drive along it.


It's a long trip and somehow I never get on Alligator Alley. I am following the GPS instructions. According to the map, Hwy 75 makes a left onto A.A. just as it ends and it is the only road that crosses Florida down this far but every time I think maybe it is about to come up, it doesn't. I finally see the skyline of Miami on the horizon before I realize it isn't ever coming up. I can't figure out how I got here.

I had set the GPS to Miami beach as I want to see it now I am in control of where I am going. On the way I pass a canal and across it are some houses with boats tied up outside that blow my mind. One of the boats is HUGE. Almost a small cruise ship. It has to be a hundred million dollar boat. These must be the homes of the celebrities that live here. Coming back later, I drive on the other side and see that it is an island called 'Star Island'. If I had time I would have driven around it and had a good look but I don't have a minute to spare after wandering around Miami Beach for an hour looking at the cool buildings and then a quick walk down to the water.


Apparently, I find out later, it is South Beach or somewhere a bit more north that has most of the Art Deco buildings but I am happy looking at these. I wish I could go inside some and have a really good snoop. One of the buildings has a sign saying 'Versace Mansion - Tours'. Is this where he was shot? How awful.


I continue on my way and soon realize that there is no way I am going to have this car back on time. That means there is going to be a second day rental charge. Well I can't say I'm concerned. Between the gas and this, I might just get my $150 out of the miser after all.

I see a sign saying Key Largo is just over a bridge coming up and I get really excited. I am expecting coral pink houses, sand roads, palm trees, azure water and brilliant white sand. Instead it looks like driving along any old commercial district. Hmmm. Well, this is just the highway that connects all the islands. I am betting that if I drive down one of the many little side streets, paradise awaits.

The GPS announces "Destination ahead." and I soon see the yellow building with the 'Pet Resort' sign on the blue tin roof. I pull in and there is a guy cleaning out the inside of the only other car in the small lot. He stands up straight as I get out of the car and smiles. "Hi." we both say. He tells me that he is Elliot, and he works for Nancy. His clothes are filthy from all the dust the dogs kick up running around the open yard. There has to be 20 dogs in there. He tells me that Nancy is always gone from 4 to 5:30. I look at my watch and it is 5:15. I thank him and decide to wait in the car with the air running and he goes back to cleaning out his car.

In no time at all, a grey truck pulls up and Nancy gets out of the drivers seat. I get out and we meet. We hug. It is SO good to see her after all these years. She looks older, for sure, but she still looks great. Jake gets out of the passenger side. He spends about three or four hours every afternoon in the bar with his mates, drinking beer and shooting pool, so thus he isn't driving. As he walks up to me I am shocked. I would have walked past him on the street. He looks nothing like he used to. The years have not been kind and I can't even picture what he looked like back then now that I see him. Later, at the houseboat, I see a picture of him with his daughters that, judging by their ages, is about 20 years old and there I see the Jake I knew. What a difference. He welcomes me with open arms and then tells me that HE would have walked right past ME on the street. Such irony. I laugh. He says now that I have laughed and he has had a minute or two with me he is starting to recognize the old me. Last time I saw him I was 18 and weighed 130lbs, so I highly doubt it but it's nice to hear.

We talk about the logistics of getting to the houseboat. It is too late to take back my car as Thrifty's is another 10 miles down the road and is closing right now. As it is full of luggage, we decide to leave the truck and Jake's car here and pile into my car. They direct me to the boat yard on the Caribbean Sea side of the island where their houseboat is out of the water getting the bottom refinished. We pull in and the thing is HUGE. 85 feet. When we get inside, it is bigger than most apartments. This is going to be nice.

They show me to my room, it has a queen sized bed up at about waist-high. There is a built-in dresser and small closet, with a lit mirror above and a small TV and DVD player. This is luxury. I am going to have no problem getting myself organized in here. A quick trip to the local dollar store the next day helps accomplish that and before I know it, I am completely at home. As I plonk down the last of my bags on the bed, Nancy comes in and says, "I am so glad you didn't go back to Canada."

Family is a wonderful thing. Here I haven't seen these guys in 16 years, over 30 years in Jake's case, and yet they have opened their home to me and are genuinely thrilled that I am here. I am quite overwhelmed and so thankful, and I am really looking forward to getting reacquainted and becoming more than just family to Nancy. The age difference fades away the older one gets. I have a picture from about 1961; I know I am three years old because my sister is a baby in my Aunty Mary's arms. My mom, uncle, dad and Nancy are in the photo as well. I vividly remember her driving away after the photo was taken on a small scooter with a red 'L' on the back for 'Learner'. She was about 17. So much older and sophisticated than I ever thought I would be. Now, still the same years apart in age but friends.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

RETAIL THERAPY

OK, first just let me say that I am hearing the strangest noise outside my bedroom window right now. Do alligators make noises? Whatever is out there, it's like nothing I have heard before but it is definitely something alive.

After several calls to Enterprise car rental last night it became obvious that I'm not going to be able to rent a car from them. Nancy said they were cheap and that there was a drop off near her place but the customer service guy is telling me that you can only go airport to airport if you want to travel just one way. The nearest airport to her is an hour away. So this morning I get on the phone right away and call Thrifty's and they tell me that I can drop off at any of their locations, and there is one about a 5 minute drive from Nancy. I have to reserve it on-line so I sign in and reserve it for tomorrow at 10 am. I tell David and he tells me that won't work for him. Huh? The last I heard, his schedule for Thursday was R&R. I remind him of this and he replies that he has a lot of errands to do tomorrow and he is leaving the house at 8. He tells me to reserve the car for 3 today. I tell him I don't want to leave today, that Nancy isn't expecting me until tomorrow. (OK, that noise outside is getting louder. It's a sort of grunting sound. What on earth is it?) He tells me I can leave at 8 when he leaves. So I cancel the reservation I just made and re-reserve the car for 3:00 today. Then I read the fine print. The car has to be reserved in David's name as he is using his credit card to secure it as I don't have one since I declared bankruptcy. So I cancel it again and re-reserve it in his name. I try to get David to let me reserve it for after dinner but he just says "Reserve it for 4 o'clock please." So I do.

After some time on the computer I decide to catch some sunshine and use the pool one last time. I tell David that I didn't sleep much last night so I might fall asleep outside and would he mind coming out and giving me a half hour's warning before we have to leave to get the car. He looks up from his game of solitaire on the computer and says, "Why? You're an adult." Touche. "Fine, I'll use my phone as an alarm." I reply and walk off. "I'll do it. Jesus Christ." he says to my back. I am so relieved that spending the next several months of my life on the boat with him isn't going to happen.

We drive to Tampa airport and he follows the signs that say 'Rental Car Returns'. I suggest that perhaps that isn't the way to go as all the cars going there are rental cars and there won't be anywhere to park. He ignores me. Sure enough. He stops in a row meant for returning cars - the whole parking garage is painted off in long rows the width of a car and people are pulling into the ones marked for the rental agency they used, just like lining up for the ferry, in rows. We get out and he asks an attendant if he can leave his car there. I am expecting the guy to tell him there is no way but he says 'sure' and points the way to the Thrifty desk. This is one of the big differences I see between the states and Canada. You would never get that response at the Vancouver airport.

Apparently, in all the canceling and re-booking, I reserved the car for tomorrow. The lady makes it sound like this is going to be a huge problem, and then says she can just book it as a walk-in. When David hands over his credit card, he starts asking questions about his liability. I have already explained to him that I will buy the insurance that has no risk to the renter. She explains to him what I have already said and THEN he is fine with it. She tells me that I can just pay cash for the charges when I return the car and I tell her that would be good. David pipes up "Can you include that on the contract?" I turn and look at him but he won't look at me. I shouldn't be surprised, I have heard enough from him to know that money is all he cares about, but I am anyway. In conversation a day or so ago I had said how I had wasted precious money coming down here and he had replied that he was out the ticket money to Guatemala. I said that my ticket here cost more than that and he brushed me off with, "We have both had losses." or words to that effect. He asked me to put together his pamphlet saying he was trying to find a way to help me out and that he would pay me and I worked on it for six hours, yet I have yet to see a penny - and I am fully sure I won't. I have assumed most of the risk and the loss coming down here to crew with him and now he has the nerve to voice that he doesn't trust me to pay the car rental. I am seething. I feel like telling him that even if I didn't pay the tab at the other end, it wouldn't cover my time for the pamphlet.

I am so relieved to get away from him and his driving habits and drive myself around for a change. I start up the GPS unit I had them include and set off. I told David I would be stopping for something to eat (it is now 4:30 pm and I haven't eaten today). I stop at a Panda Express and have some of the best sweet and sour chicken I have ever had. As I get underway I keep my eyes peeled for a Ross. Back home, my friends Carol and Cary's stories about shopping at every Ross they could find while in Phoenix has me wanting to take a look for myself. I see one but miss the turn off. I turn as soon as I can get over and then make my way back. I spend about an hour inside and marvel at the prices. It's like Winners but at half the price. I buy a huge white purse and a top, hand over a 10 and a 20 and get change. So great.

I get home fine, thanks to the GPS, and after an hour of puttering about I decide to go out again. I love having a car. I go up to the shops at the end of the road and buy a cord to plug my iPod into the car stereo for the trip tomorrow. I also buy a card reader for my computer as I can't find the cord to my camera anywhere. I head back and spend the next hour or so downloading photos.

I turn on Skype and see that my new son-in-law, Rob, is on and so ring him up and we have a lovely chat. It was SO GOOD to see him. Ashleigh comes home as we are about to wrap it up so I chat with her for about 20 min. She wants to see the house so I take my laptop around on a tour and turn on some lights so she can see.

I give Shonah a call and we talk for a few minutes but she is at a friends for dinner so we keep it short. She finds out tomorrow if she gets the promotion at Club Penguin. I really hope and pray she does.

I watch my downloaded episodes of The Tudors and the UK Apprentice and then repack my bags ready for the morning.

I can't wait to get on the road. And I plan to stop at Miami Beach this time.

OK that grunting noise is getting louder and now there are two of whatever they are. I am off to find out what it is.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ALLIGATOR ALLEY

I wonder how many times I had to tell David to turn off his indicator today?

Up at 0 dark 30, as my friend Fran says. Actually up about half an hour before the alarm goes of at 3:30. I went to bed sobbing my eyes out last night over an email I received from one of my kids that was very hurtful, and this morning they are puffy. I hate that look. I splash cold water on my face but it doesn't help. Some dark eye shadow makes the puffiness look less puffy.

I put water on for tea and hear David's alarm go off down the hall. It stops after a minute or so but I don’t hear him moving around. I am not about to go see if he's up. He might be the type who hits the snooze until the last possible moment and I don't want to risk him getting snappy with me for treating him like a child. Ever since it's been decided that we aren't going to be sailing together, the nice guy has vanished and has been replaced with a sullen, quiet, and - when he does speak - snappy old man. While the water comes to a boil I go finish getting stuff together to leave for the day. I hide my laptop under the pillows of my bed... the maintenance guy comes almost every day and he seems nice enough but I don’t know him and others might come and go for all I know. David said that the kids come home from college unannounced frequently. I hope if the guy whose room this is comes home today he doesn't sit on the pillow.

I go back in the kitchen to make my tea in my insulated mug and I hear David's alarm again. Still no sound of him up. As I putter in the kitchen he suddenly appears, hair wild and pulling on a shirt. "My alarm didn't go off." he says. "Yes it did, I heard it." I say and he mumbles something as he dashes back out.

He comes back in a few seconds later and says that he doesn't have time to make himself tea. I tell him I have boiled enough for both of us and I was going to make him some but I don't know what tea he wants. He grabs a teabag that is near his travel mug and says he had put it out last night. I make his tea.

He gathers up all of his stuff. Last night he was packing all of his shirts into his backpack and I asked him why. He said he likes to take everything with him when he goes far for the day. I asked if I should be taking all my stuff as well and he says no. I ask why he takes his then. "I just like to." he literally snaps back at me. Whoa. "Hey," I say, "I am asking because if there is a reason why you don’t feel it’s safe to leave your stuff here all day while we're gone then I’d like to know that so I can pack up as well." He doesn't look up from what he's doing. "It’s safe here. I just like to do this ok?" he snaps at me again. I am annoyed and walk away.

So now he is gathering his backpack and briefcase, pillow and even some clippers he bought the other day. "You are even taking your clippers?" I ask. He puts them back down, "No." and walks past me. I am starting to see things about this guy that really rub me the wrong way but, ever the peacekeeper, I shrug it off and gather my purse and the bag containing my bathing suit and towel (he told me to pack it for the beach later) and my tea and follow him out.

We aren't long in the car and he asks me if I planned on waking him up when I heard his alarm go but he didn't get up. I say "No." He asked how long I would have let him lay in; 4, 4:30, 5? Annoyed with the attitude behind the question, I tell him that if I still hadn't heard movement by 4 then I would have knocked on his door. He asks why I didn't sooner. I tell him that I don't know if he is the type who likes to hit the snooze, and besides he is an adult. If he needs to be up then he can get himself up, that I don't even wake my kids up unless they ask me to. He asks if I would let them sleep past needing to be up and I say yes I would. They are grown ups and are responsible for themselves. He dismisses me with a wave of his hand and that makes me see red. So incredibly rude. We drive on in silence and I fall asleep as it is pitch dark out and I only had 4 hours sleep last night. I wake every now and then but don't feel any compunction to be sociable at this stage of the day as well as the fact that his grumpy old man routine has really put me off. I am starting to think that it’s a good thing we aren't going to be on a boat together for months on end.

I wake as he pulls into a gas station. We have been on the road over an hour and I get out to stretch my legs. It’s so warm out and it is still dark. I love this weather! We pull across the road to a McDonald's and he goes in for a 'sausage biscuit'. I don't want anything this early, not that he asked.

Next time I wake, the sky has lightened to a pink tinged blue and we are on a long bridge that seems to go for miles. It does go for miles. Up ahead it rises from where it is now level with the water, to really high up. There are suspension cables in the center of the bridge, just one set rising twice instead of the usual twin set. It is floodlit and the cables are yellow. It is a very eerie effect.

A few hours later we stop for gas again and I get out and stretch. When I get back in, David tells me we are about to drive Alligator Alley. Huh?? He explains that it is a long stretch of road joining the east coast to the west coast and that there are alligators living in the ditches along side the road and the everglades beyond. I am excited that I get to drive through the everglades and that I might see a real alligator in the wild. I scan the sides of the road as we speed along but don't see any. David tells me to let him know if I see a log on the road, because that will be a 'gator that someone ran over. Ewww.

David is back to being nice and affable again so now I am much more inclined to socialize. We chat about his life in these parts and he points out places of interest along the way. At one point we pass a white wooden building about the size of a large outhouse. It has a US flag flying and a sign that says US Post Office. Hmmm. David tells me that it's the smallest post office in the entire U.S. of A. Pity the poor person who has to work there. There is nothing around for miles but swamp and, presumably, alligators and that has to be the most confining place to spend one's 9 to 5.

Up ahead there is a building that houses the Alligators Appreciation Society Museum, or something like that, and they have a long observation walkway over the slough-like ditch where a whole bunch of them (alligators not society members) are usually hanging out. We pull into the parking lot and get out for a look. There are a whole bunch of them hanging out. And the ditch is full of fish that look like Pike. Poor, poor fish. They must live in sheer terror, waiting their turn to be eaten by all the 'gators floating around. I pull out the camera and take a bunch of pictures. There is one big guy in the dirt and as I walk over that way, he gets up and starts to walk. I quickly flip the camera over to video and manage to get most of his waddle over to the water.

We get back underway and, hours later, arrive in Miami. David tells me to keep my eye out for a certain road and I do, wondering why the GPS's directions aren't good enough to follow. Apparently it's confused. I call out street names and soon we pull into a parking lot. David pays the guy at the entrance the $12 flat rate for all day even though we are only going to be there an hour or so. We just passed a lot that was $2.75 for half an hour. I don't get this guy. He's loaded yet pinches pennies like no one I know; he orders a Whopper Jr. instead of a regular Whopper because it's a dollar cheaper, yet he just paid way more to park than he needed to. Go figure.

I tell him I am going to find a coffee shop that has outdoor seating on the street behind the Government building he has to go to and he can come find me when he's done. He tells me to come and check the truck every half hour instead. I say no, I will be just around the corner on the street and won't be hard to find. I really don't want to leave a coffee shop earlier than I need to, go to the truck to find he isn't there, and then what? Go back to the same coffee shop? Find another? No, he can come find me. He gives me a set of keys to the truck and again tells me to check every half hour. I give them back and say no. He strides off in a huff and heads away from the Gov't building towards the cafes. He comes to a little alley that is all set up with tables and chairs and points to them and tells me to sit there. It's a restaurant not a coffee shop and I am annoyed again. I am finding his attitude towards me really offensive today... either ordering me around or snapping at me. I want to tell him where to get off but bite my tongue and say instead that I'll see him there. He leaves and I keep walking past the alley. I don't want to sit just yet; I have been sitting for five hours and need to walk. Besides, now I am in a rebellious mood and the last thing I want to do is sit where he just ordered me to sit.

I walk around the block, stopping at a little discount store run by Cubans. A quick look through and then I keep going and come across a Macys. Ooooooo! I go in and stroll through the purse department. I need a bigger one to put all my crap in for the flight back. The one I have just isn't big enough. All the purses here are really expensive though. Then I see some by that designer I saw at the discount store yesterday, Kathy Van Zeeland. So that bag really WAS worth $99 usually. Hmmm. I really liked it so I might have to go back and get it. No. I won't. I can’t afford it. Oh well.

I make my way back to the cafe alley and ask the waiter there if I can just take a seat. He nods. I sit and look at the menu. I haven't eaten yet and it’s after 11. I order the hummus and an iced tea and pull out my book. It’s 'Sail' by James Patterson. It’s actually David's book and he just finished it and now I am into it. My iced tea and hummus appear and I eat as I read. The hummus is light and is the best I have ever had. The iced tea, however, is the typical US stuff that tastes literally like plain tea poured over ice. UGH. I stir a couple of packs of sugar into it but it doesn't improve much. When I am done, and the waiter comes to clear the plates, I tell the him that the hummus is the best I have ever had and he beams. He then, I think, tells the chef in Spanish. The chef is right beside me in the outdoor kitchen that’s behind a low wall. I smile at him and go back to my book. Suddenly another bowl of hummus is put down in front of me with more pita. I tell the smiling waiter that I am full and couldn't possibly eat any more. He tells me this hummus is much better. I dip my finger in and taste it and, OH WOW, it is fabulous. Nutty, smooth, light... amazing. My eyes widen and he grins. I ask why? How? He tells me what I had first was made yesterday but this was just made. I tell him I can't believe how good it is. He asks if now I will eat it? I tell him I can't, I am just too full so he packs it up for me to take away and tells me there is no charge for it. I thank him and tell him this is my first time in Miami, that I am from Vancouver, Canada. He tells me he almost went to Canada once. He was in Buffalo, New York to see Niagara Falls and he wanted to cross the border but his friends didn't have papers so he couldn't go. He says he will go some day.

David arrives just as I am paying my bill. He is frustrated. The computers are down in the Gov't office and so they can't give him back his passport with the additional pages today. They will have to mail it to him. But he still had to pay the $60 for expediting the process even though now it’s not expedited. He is fried about that. I can see why. It makes no sense at all.

I had told him that I wanted to see the part of Miami that has the Art Deco buildings near the beach. Now we are in the car, driving, and I thought we were headed that way but suddenly we are on the freeway headed out of the city. He says we will go to the beach in Fort Lauderdale. I am quiet, not wanting to cause a problem by speaking my mind. Oh to heck with it.... "I wanted to see Miami Beach." I say. He is exasperated. Apparently he didn't hear me say that... THREE TIMES over the past two days. He doesn't hear a lot of what I say and I am constantly having repeat myself louder. Anyway I tell him it's fine, I will see Miami Beach some other time. I know I won't but, whatever. I am sick of the bickering with this guy.

Parking at the beach in Ft. Lauderdale isn't free and between us we have enough change for an hour. I go to the restrooms on the beach and change into my bathing suit. The surf is really pounding the wide beach. The water is a pretty shade of blue, green. Not the color of the water in the BVI, but it's nice. And it’s just a few degrees shy of warm. I wade in up to my waist and am about to swim when I see a piece of poop floating an arms length away. GROSS!!!! I run back out and don't go back in. David says he is going to sit in the car and read and gives me his watch so that I can be back before our parking is up. I sit on my towel and watch the waves and eat the hummus and pita. It’s so delicious. I wish I had asked for the recipe. Keeping my eye on the time, I finish up the book and then head back to the truck. David is sleeping and jolts awake when I open my door.

I sleep most of the way back. At some point he starts talking about Louise, again. She is a woman who was on the boat with him for an extended time and they ended up in a relationship for about 18 months. He says they broke up because he didn't want her dog on the boat and she said, "if the dog goes then I go". He gave me her number to call for a reference back before I left home, which I did and she told me she broke it off because of the age difference. She is late 40's. She still calls him every day and he talks about her incessantly. He tells me now that he thinks he will ask her to marry him. Then he says he won't because she might say no. I tell him that I can't stand it when people make up my mind for me, like not asking me to an event because they think I won't want to drive that far. I tell him he should ask and let her decide. He asks me if he should have a ring when he asks or ask then get a ring together. I tell him it's always nice to have the ring when you ask. He gets the idea of trading his dead wife's ring in where he bought it because if you get another they will give you what you paid for it. He tells me he did that with his second wife's ring after she died, and bought this ring with the credit. He then says "That's awful. Is that awful?" I say that "Yes it is awful." He then turns on me "Why is that awful? What was I supposed to do with the ring?" he snaps. I tell him why I think it is awful and he starts to get snarky with me. "Would it have been better if I hawked it and then took the thousand dollars across the street and bought the ring?" I have had about enough of this. "Look," I say, "You asked me what I thought and I am telling you." "I didn't ask,” he says. "Oh yes you did. You said that’s awful, is that awful? And I am telling you, it’s awful." He does the dismissive hand wave thing at me for the second time that day and I lose it. "If you don't want to know, then don't ask. I think it’s awful that you would buy your new wife's ring with money from your ex wife's ring." "She's not my ex-wife, she's dead." "WHATEVER. Same thing. She's not your wife anymore." If he waves that hand at me one more time I will want to deck him, so I look out the window and say no more.

When we get back to the house I notice right away that my bathroom has been cleaned. The trashcans are empty as well. I ask David if someone comes to clean the house and he says yes, on Mondays and he meant to tell me. Glad I hid my laptop. I should have hid my jewelry as well. I just KNEW someone was going to be in the house while we were gone.

I throw two small frozen pizzas in the oven and go check my emails. My cousin Nancy, who lives in Key Largo with her husband Jake and has a dog grooming shop there, has finally answered my emails. She has given me her cell number and as soon as I have eaten my pizza I give her a call on Skype. We have a great chat we get caught up on what our kids are doing. She can’t believe the ages of mine. I can't believe she is a grandma to four and that she just turned 65 last week. I remember her as my glamorous older cousin when I was little and I wonder what she looks like now. I haven't seen her for about 16 years and she still looked glamorous then. She tells me how run off her feet she is at her shop. Apparently, after running the place for several years, she sold it and retired. She held the mortgage on it and when the guy who bought it wasn't successful and couldn't keep the business, she took it back. So now she works 7 days a week 10 - 12 hours a day and is exhausted. We talk about my situation and how it sucks that I am not going to be able to see her before I go back home. I tell her I was in Miami today and she tells me that was just an hour away from her and we are both fed up that we didn't manage to talk before today so that I could have gone down there to see her. Now I am 6 hours away.

When she talks again about how busy she is, I suddenly see an opportunity to salvage this trip. I ask her if she could use my help. She could. She asks if I mind dogs and I tell her I don’t as long as they don't bite me. I tell her that I have office experience so perhaps I could do that end of it and then she could just concentrate on the grooming. She gets very excited at the idea. She tells me to rent a car and come down as soon as I can and that I can stay with them on their houseboat [!!!]. She says that they know everyone down there and that they will take me out with them on Friday nights and I can get to know their friends. And maybe someone will know someone who is looking for a crew member.

I feel like someone drowning who was just thrown a lifeline.


video.
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.



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