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, my new husband 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.”
We originally planned to spend our 24th anniversary at a beautiful lakeside hotel in Mount Dora, a quaint little town north of Orlando, but my husband 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. The parking lot is full of trucks but we arrived in my old Hyundai. We get the beach chairs out of the trunk and head into the gas station.
I am the only female on the property. The tacos have already sold out. We order taquitos, fried chicken, beans and rice, along with a six pack of Modelo to wash it all down, and join the festivities in the parking lot. The hard packed dirt is a mosaic of discarded beer bottle caps.
We are disappointed about the taco shortage and vow 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. 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 he was back at work this week, but his back is killing him.
We finished our meal and it was only seven o’clock. One mile 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 is putting on a show in front of an enormous multi-plex; a combo movie theater/bowling alley/grill. They are women in their forties and fifties and they really know how to move. Their husbands watch the performance, smiling and recording the show on their cell phones. I find this little vignette very romantic.
Rich is circling the parking lot looking for a space. He doesn’t succeed and complains that he’d rather not walk, his back is now killing him, so we continue 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 end 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 is full of older retirees, snowbirds wearing Red Sox caps and Patriots T-shirts.
Twenty-four years of marriage and this is what it comes down to.