Yet another blog that begins at a gas station.
This weekend was my wedding anniversary. February 7th. Twenty four years ago my husband and I eloped to Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. How did we choose this destination? After dating for nine years and living together for three of those years, I was thirty-four and finally ready to get married, and he was thirty-three and liked to ski.
I tried to find our wedding photos but after selling our house and moving to Florida, I can’t seem to locate them.
I did find this:
The picture was taken at the restaurant in The Post Hotel after we had exchanged vows beneath the head of an elk above a fireplace in the cozy, rustic lounge. After dinner, Rich and I got up to leave and accidentally went through the door to the kitchen where a man in a very tall chef’s hat escorted us back to the dining room with a stern reprimand.
“You went through the wrong door.”
For 24 years now we have passed through many wrong doors but we’re still together.
We originally planned to spend our 24th anniversary at a beautiful lakeside hotel in Mount Dora, a quaint little town north of Orlando, but Rich aggravated his two herniated discs while golfing and lost a week of work. Like most independent contractors, he has no workmen’s comp or disability insurance, so we canceled the trip. I am not sure either one of those plans would cover a golf injury as he is not Tiger Woods.
I often say I married fun. Years later, I would sometimes add the caveat, fun doesn’t pay the bills. However, your best friend will help you through the bad times. And there will be bad times. Marriage is a long and winding road.
We were home for the anniversary weekend. We share a common wanderlust, a constant need for adventure and new things. So we chose to start the weekend at a gas station a friend had told us about. He said they have the best tacos he’s ever eaten. This is the kind of thing Rich and I love. We are on it, like ten year olds planning a trip to Disney World.
It’s way out west, close to where civilization ends and the Everglades begin. The land opens up out here. The concrete gives way to tree farms; acres and acres of palm trees in neat, uniform rows that flash before your eyes as you drive by, like one of those flip books you’d get in a gum ball machine when you were a kid.
The place is frequented by masons, stone layers, and landscapers. Lots of landscapers. You see them everywhere in South Florida.
It takes a lot of manpower to tame the relentless jungle. They come from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and other Spanish speaking countries. I see them working on the 4th of July, Sundays, Father’s Day, rain or shine, on ninety-eight degree days in the summer. And this is where they come on Friday for tacos and beer. Pay Day.
They also might pick up a few of those hats they always wear to protect themselves from the relentless sun. I am always amazed at them toiling in the summer heat, wearing long sleeves and pants while I am soaked halfway through my walk, wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and shorts, slathered in sunscreen that is dripping into my eyes and making them sting.
There aren’t many tables at the gas station. Everyone tailgates off the back of their trucks. We arrived in my old Hyundai and took the beach chairs out of the trunk then headed into the gas station.
I am the only female on the property. The tacos have already sold out. We ordered taquitos, fried chicken, beans and rice, along with a six pack of Modelo to wash it all down, and joined the festivities in the parking lot. The hard packed dirt was a mosaic of discarded beer bottle caps.
We were disappointed about the taco shortage and vowed to return earlier next time, around 4:30. The patrons at Peanuts Country Store and Gas Station start their days early, around six or seven in the morning. They drive from as far away as Lake Worth, Hialeah, and Dania Beach to the mansions along the shore or the gated communities not far from here. Without these immigrants Florida would still be a jungle.
On the drive home, Rich pointed out the neighborhood where he is painting ceilings in a nine million dollar home. Yes, I said nine million. That is not a typo.
And yes, Rich is back at work this week, despite the fact his back still hurts. We need the paycheck. I see something wrong with this picture. – the hardworking immigrants, the nine million dollar home, my husband returning to work before he should. Others do not. We all have a different idea of America but if most of you think you’re going to be the guy in the nine million dollar home, you’re being sold a bill of goods.
We finished our meal and it was only seven o’clock. Not far from the gas station is a beautiful new outdoor mall where restaurants line a lovely promenade and high end stores cater to the wealthy communities that continue to multiply like rabbits. Where is all this money coming from and how can I get some?
A dance troupe was putting on a show in front of an enormous multi-plex; a combo movie theater/bowling alley/grill. The dance troupe was a group of Black women in their forties and fifties and they really knew how to dance. Their husbands watched the performance, smiling and recording the show on their cell phones. I found this little vignette very romantic and hoped Rich might want to join in but he was circling the parking lot looking for a space. He didn’t succeed, parked in a handicapped space for a minute and walked over to tell me he’d rather not walk around the mall, or dance, his back was now killing him, so we continued on through the Florida night, passing through the ever-changing diaspora. Traveling just one mile brings you to a different world. Different languages, religions, bank accounts.
Somehow we ended up at Friendly’s because Rich asked “Ice Cream?” and I replied, “Yes.” I never say no to ice cream. Friendly’s is a bit of nostalgia from our homeland. The Northeast, where people eat more ice cream than anywhere else in the country despite the four feet of snow and the impending snowstorm on the way.
The place was full of older retirees and snowbirds wearing Red Sox caps and Patriots T-shirts.
Twenty-four years of marriage and this is what it comes down to.