Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Va-cayman-tion 2012: The Cruisening: Epilogue

After the time that I spent "abroad" this week, and I use that term loosely because I am fully aware that the shrink wrapped experience of a cruise excursion is hardly comparable traveling to the country and spending two weeks wandering through its cities and experiencing the culture, I have decided that I don't ever need to go to Jamaica again. I am starting here because it was the most recent of our stops and the one for which I feel the most conviction. I'm not entirely against a cruise-like excursion at some point, but a pretty significant change will have to occur for me to want to ever travel there as a destination and spend time walking around. There is only so much time one can be there before the mask of congenial attitude and jerk chicken drops and all the short-comings surface.

And it seems of the people I have spoken to since returning who have also been to Jamaica, all have a story, which either involves being almost kidnapped or being kidnapped.

I am not against spending more time in Grand Cayman. It seemed that there were many more intriguing things to do there, aside from the turtles (but rest assured, turtles would be one of the stops), and given  it seems less depressed, it would be a more enjoyable destination for a period of time.

If I ever need to go to Key West again, I'll drive. It's an interesting place, but it doesn't exactly scream out, "let's shell out a thousand bucks to see polydactyl cats and have mashed potatoes!"

As for Florida, I know we will return again at very least to visit Nana. And there are plenty of things to do here. For example, I'm sure we will return to Orlando at some point and have the Disney world experience again. There are lovely beaches and a million restaurants, good ones, all along the Atlantic coast.

But I do not picture myself moving here, for another 80 years, or until they solve that pesky hurricane problem.

This morning, we ate breakfast at a restaurant so boring I don't remember the name. It was the most boring eggs, grits and hash I have ever had. After that we had to liven things up. So having a few hours before our flight, we basked for a few hours on Haulover Beach, which is a clothing-optional beach, and the only official one in Florida.

Signs line the walk ways cautioning, "you may encounter nude bathers beyond this point." The thing that surprised me most about this place is there were a LOT of people. This was quite possibly the busiest beach-going experience I have ever had The official parking lot was completely full, and we parked at the second lot, which was huge and also quickly filling up. As we swam about in the amazingly clear water, we noted the beaches on either side of the clothing optional area were comparatively vacant. There were both men and women, and the unofficial gay area was on the north section of beach, so we went there, but even that was mixed. Being a state-sanctioned locale, there is no funny business allowed, beach goers are there to enjoy the sun and the ocean. The instructions state clearly to bring lots of sunblock and keep your hands to yourself.

To satiate your curiosity, reader, I did not exercise the option, and kept my swim trunks on. However in the future, who knows? There were all body types, and I mean ALL. All types, all ages. I would venture from early 20's to 70's, though most were in their 40's and 50's. It was an interesting experience and I can see myself returning there, but mostly because the beach is REALLY nice. Very clean, and the water was very clear, and now that we know the deal with parking, very easy parking for $6.

Interestingly, the water felt a little colder than when we visited the beaches near Del Ray last week, possibly due to the storm while we were gone. It wasn't dramatically colder, only a little. And I'm not sure if it was the 90-degree heat on our skin, or what. You could still walk right in and in a second, you would be used to it.

We saw a big school of very tiny fish and a few small barracuda, clearly smelling our blood. I guess today wasn't the day to be eaten by a school of tiny fish, as they avoided us when we swam near.

As for the cruise experience, I just don't think I could do a cruise again that wasn't a gay cruise. I'm going to try to explain what I mean. We are very discerning people, so we know when it is appropriate to hold hands, or steal a kiss, or pretend "partner" means "as in a law firm." I feel like if we had walked around the ship holding hands, that we would have been in some kind of danger of a certain kind of reproach, and that is not acceptable to me. Here's the thing, there would not even be a second look if a straight couple were holding hands on a gay cruise, other than, "did they book the wrong ship?"

And I'm too exhausted to evangelize. After spending most of my life 15 minutes late for everything, fuck it, I'm on vacation. I just want to relax and have fun. It's not a teachable moment, and it shouldn't be. The only reason I feel it is worth mentioning is I didn't see another gay couple displaying any affection toward each other publicly either, probably for the same reason. There were other gay couples on the ship, at least four that I saw, and they probably felt the same way we did. It seemed most of the people on the ship were from Georgia and Alabama. And at a time when people are so needlessly divided about gay rights, it's hard to do what is natural for the sake of what is safe. Does that make it right? And if so, for whom? I love my husband, and I don't understand what is so controversial about that. Love is as simple to understand as anything, yet I feel relegated to constant self censorship.

I guess I'm getting to the age where I'm not as willing to do that anymore unless it is a really good reason. Which is why I prefer to simply avoid situations where people might kill me with sticks. The word to describe my takeaway: illuminating.

So one vacation/adventure/experience down for the year, and I'm predicting two--maybe three--more to go. I look forward to each in their time. Until then, I will happily reflect on time spent with Nana, and the rest of the family, eating too much food, among them key lime pie, playing with turtles and then eating them, going to hell while in paradise, flying through a rainforest in a myriad of ways, surviving unbearable heat and humidity, and falling asleep to a lightning storm at sea, and best of all, getting to experience it with Jill and Gregory. I wish Ron could have been there too, but according to Jill he would have hated every minute.

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