Bent Words

Bent Words

December 23, 2021

Drop me off, let me go.

My knees were shaking so badly that I had to sit down. Up the escalator toward the concourses and onto the first cold bench I could find, trying to collect my thoughts. As I doffed my backpack and cursed my mask, I noticed a little sparrow hopping back and forth below me, looking at me occasionally as though expecting a sympathetic crumb. I stared at him stupidly. What are you doing here little fella? I went to take a video with my phone but in my excited haste, I damn near dropped the thing onto the bird so I quickly put it away and just watched him hop, hop, hop along his merry way.

Off to some new adventure. Sleek and solo. Out of place and yet right at home.

Free as a damn bird.


I went up to the counter and said rather loudly, as I do when I need the confidence boost most,

“I have no idea how to order a coffee here but I want a coffee with lots of candy in it.”

“Okay. What kind of candy, Ma’am? Like peppermint flavored?”

I’m not a Ma’am, first of all, but my age seems to think so.

“Vanilla please!” I answered.

After I paid and took a tentative sip, I came back to the counter.

“Uh, hi, sorry! It’s me again. Can you add more candy to this? I mean, vanilla? It tastes way too much like coffee.”

They added more and I offered to pay more but they said it was okay and so, I moved along. First Starbucks (I think) adventure! I went into the bathroom because nothing really tastes as good as coffee with a smoke so I fished around in my backpack for my vape thing. No vape thing. No vape thing case even! My cheeks flushed with fear (because, nicotine) and I emptied out the entire contents of my bag onto the bathroom counter. No vape thing. No case for said vape thing.

I must have left it back at security.

Back to the recombobulation area I went. Look it up, that’s what it’s called. There was a big, burly fellow with a uniform and a grimace who stood behind the recombobulation area with his huge arms folded over his chest and on top of his tummy.

“Excuse me. Sorry, I think I left my little black purse with ridiculous heart zippers in the security bin. Wondering if you still might have it.”

He looks at me without fully turning his body. Just his head looked down at me. As if I were a tiny sparrow hopping hopelessly about for a sympathetic crumb.

“What does it look like again?” he puffed.

“Uhhh, it’s a little black purse with ridiculous hearts for zippers” I repeated as I drew the shape of a heart with my hands as though it were a shape he wasn’t very familiar with. Probably not a great idea. He just looked at me for a second, blinking, with his head still cocked to one side.

“Hold on,” he replied. He swaggered off slowly, making the most of his time.

When he came back, he had my little black purse with the ridiculous heart zippers pinched between his fore finger and thumb!! Like a Godonlyknowswherethisthingshasbeen grasp. I was back in business with my little vape thing so I returned to the bathroom with my now cold coffee and puffed a few puffs Candy King puffs before planting myself into the deep, comfy seats by my flight.

I read for two hours. Uninterrupted. I regarded the crowd whose flight was delayed getting louder and louder by the Leinenkugel bar and thought, “Yep, that’s about to be me” with a smile.

Florida has a unique smell. It’s a mélange of their tap water, sunscreen and humidity with a dash of salt. The sand on the beach, the waves in the ocean, the seaweed left ashore. If you exit the airport and stand there on the sidewalk for just a minute, you will inhale all of this and immediately know you have arrived. And if you can hear a damn thing above the din of hurried travelers and shuttle buses inside the pavilion, you will note the palm tree leaves swaying in the breeze.

Well, I mean, if there’s wind. Otherwise, no swishing and swaying for you.

Mostly I just love that it’s the same at 42 (or 43?). It’s still magical to see the ocean. Still fun to point out palm trees. I’m still annoyingly in awe of the sun. I love the pools, the sweaty beers followed by more sweaty beer, the people and the sandals. I don’t mind the sticky sea salt residue or the bums that bombard you (that’s just a little joke because I just realized that I do hate those things). I bloody LOVE board shorts and tiki huts and rooftop drinks. I don’t love the price as it seems to escalate with each floor of the establishment but I do love looking down on the ocean and the people and feeling even closer to the sun.

I made it a little adventure to find ALL the rooftop bars and pretend that I was supposed to be there. It would be way too expensive to do this all day so we only had one drink at each stop but what they lack in presentation with plastic cups, they sure make up for in alcohol content. Two vodka presses and I was feeling alright. We rummaged through expensive hotels and found the back stairs and poked our noses into the ballrooms.

“Take wrong turns. Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors. And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing. Do things without always knowing how they’ll turn out.” -- Randall Munroe

Saturday morning, we went to the private beach area at Anna Maria island. Because there is no parking, you have to park your vehicle on someone’s lawn. It’s totally legal as long as you have all four tires on the lawn and not on the road. Luc’s of Hazard was well-equipped for this maneuver. We carried our chairs and a giant cooler to the nearly vacant beach and enjoyed the sun for a couple of hours. We built a sandman and I kind of swam/peed for a bit and did that thing you do when you’re young where you jump into every wave (save for the part where I got carried by the under toe) and it was freaking AWESOME!! When we were hungry, we packed up and drove out to the Palma Sola Causeway beach to grill up the beer soaked brats we purchased.

Well, I didn’t eat anything. I hopped into the water and found hermit crabs, conch and oysters! I played in the water for HOURS, finding more crabs, letting them go and finding new underwater animals to gawk at. It was just magical. I could have stayed there all day. As it grew dark, we headed back.

We re-loaded the giant cooler of beer and strolled down to the River Walk to watch a Christmas Boat parade on the water. We set up some beach chairs and a little speaker where we blasted island tunes and Sublime and 311 and Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel and whatever else and we watched the sailing ships float by. We sang songs for hours and many convivial passersby stopped to join us. The shitty excuse for a boat parade would have otherwise been disappointing but we turned it into something whimsical. I think it was my favorite part of the trip – just sitting by the river and singing loudly and dancing proudly without a single care in the world. We continued our little party of three back at their apartment patio, singing and drinking and trading stories.

Sunday morning me and my hangover found a COFFEE MACHINE in the lobby of the apartment building. It was like coffee on CRACK with double espressos and shots of highly caloric vanilla! I couldn’t find a big cup in the cabinets but there was a delicate teacup otherwise unoccupied so I used that. I held it under the tap as it spat out about a thimbleful of espresso. I did it one more time with the same result before attempting to hit the “coffee” button to see if I could get a bit more but as my little teacup began to overflow, I panicked. “HELP!” I screamed. There was no STOP button (there was a stop button but I didn’t have my damn glasses on) and my cup doth overflowed. I cleaned up the mess with some paper towel and as I tossed that into the garbage, I saw a giant container of CAKE just sitting there asking me to eat it. I cut off two huge pieces and brought it back to Sam.

HBL doesn’t like cake.

Mmmmm, breaky!

By 11am we were in search for more booze. We went to a beachside café in Sarasota for breakfast and found a couple of downtown bars to enjoy before venturing out to Siesta Key for a dolphin boat tour. EEEK! $40 per person on a large, fast and surprisingly stable pontoon boat which was fully stocked with alcohol (all you can drink) and a young tour guide (Mateo) and seasoned captain (Binkley?) with only two other guests to join us. Jo and her husband Curt were visiting from Canada and it took them SEVERAL drinks to loosen up. Doesn’t take much for me. Dude had more Coors Light in that cooler than I could drink in a week. I think, anyway!

We enjoyed the guided tour by the dolphin that stayed in our wake, riding the tide and playing with us while we sailed. It was amazing! I imparted my knowledge of dolphins, recounting how they sleep with one eye open using only half their brain and our tour guides seemed genuinely impressed. Blinkey said he has been doing tours for twenty years and never had someone as dolphin savvy as me in all that time. Probably not true but a good way to butter me up to garner extra tip money! Which I did. We drank the beer, enjoyed the tarped toilet experience (well, I did anyway!! It was so cool!) and I nearly cried while watching our little dolphin pal swim by the boat! FUCK I love dolphins.

Rightly sauced, we headed back and found tacos (delicious tacos of the best quality) and a few more bars. I do NOT recognize any of the people I had in the camera of my phone but they looked nice and we must of gotten along as I touched them for several photos ops. I don’t remember anything after this save for the Bridge Tender who made our drinking dreams come true while we watched the Packer game with all the other Wisconsinites on the island.

Sunday was a HORRIBLE day.

I met a giant sea turtle that I could have ridden on (well, in a few years, anyhow. He was only 20 years old and lives to like 150 so I’ll have to make a trip back out there to say HEY), I took photos of all the bums without hiding the fact too often which was most festive, I chased after giant cocks in St. Petersburg which seems to be what all the men are also doing and I have a bitchin’ photo of BOOBS from the bartender that she put on top of the Guinness she poured (her boobs!). We did other things too. But mostly we just… were.

Off to some new adventure. Sleek and solo. Out of place and yet right at home.

Free as a damn bird.

Written at 4:42 p.m.