During the HPFF trip to Florida I learned something important about myself: I can not stay “on” for days on end. It’s imperative to me to find some quiet downtime. Being almost 10,000 words behind in NaNoWriMo, I had some dire catching up to do as well. So I disappeared from the group. I actually did it a couple of times and had to be hunted down via twitter when no one could locate me and I was labeled AWOL. But it kept me sane and made me enjoy the weekend a hell of lot more than if I’d tried to push through my people limit. Thankfully, everyone was quite forgiving. Well, until it came time to eat and I think everyone probably got a bit testy with me at that point!
I disappeared before our scheduled dinner and by the time I was found it was pouring down rain. We gathered in the hotel lobby over at the Hotel Rex to head to dinner at Capp’s. Flagging a cab was next to impossible so when one finally appeared but it was too small to fit us all, the assy but feigning gentleman-ness Brit insisted we girls take it. Grateful, we clambered inside with Jessi finally in tow, and headed out. The drive was a short one and when we arrived, the cab driver asked for his fare. Dead silence followed as all of us realized the man with the cash had been left standing on the street corner. We amused the poor driver who waited patiently as we all started digging in hopes of finding cash in the bottom of our purses. We kept apologizing, he kept laughing. Finally getting it sorted, we went into the restaurant which didn’t even have room to stand in the entry way. It was crazy packed.
Stepping up to the owner, we mentioned our reservations and he squeezes my shoulder and says “Ah, yes, Jay’s group. Saw him earlier today when he stopped by. Party of five.” Like they had been buddies their entire lives or something. He quickly cleared a spot at the bar for us and we took our seats while they readied our tables, expecting to be waiting for an hour for either Jay to catch a cab or for a table to be ready. Down at the end of the bar, locals and the bartender were playing dice, a wad of cash laying out for the winner to take. Where your name is known, the gambling is in full force and the alcohol is flowing?? It was already a damn good start to the evening.
Jay arrived only one drink in and he’d just ordered his own when the owner came over to tell us he had the table ready for the “Jay pack”. We moved to take over half the windowed wall and proceeded to share one of the largest bottles of wine I’d ever seen. Mind you, we had tried to order the smaller bottle but the waiter apparently knew us better than that and convinced us to get the larger one. While we sipped and chatted, gifts began appearing. Meg had brought the most adorable little plot bunnies and we each got one. Well, Jessi got two but we were only jealous for a little while.
And Shanon handed out these long, slender boxes that held the most gorgeous handmade fountain pens I’ve had the pleasure to use. With a fine grained wood and accented with gold trim, they were just stunning pieces of art.
Wine (and pretty pink sparkly drinks for Jessi) flowed and I swear, it was like you’d dropped yourself into some Italian family reunion. Dozens of conversations were going on at once and everyone was dropping in and out of them with the ease of friends who’d been together for a decade. Which, I know we are an online family, but to see it translate so seamlessly into the real world was just wonderful. I didn’t stop laughing the entire time. The guys at the table next to us were trying to flirt with Meg, I was assuring them that yes, they were boobs and real so stop staring. Jessi, bless her, had to have been so tired but she jumped into the fray as we launched into parenting horror stories, bad site memories, writing tragedies, and personal histories that wouldn’t have been shared without the wine. Okay they probably would have but let’s blame it on the alcohol. Shanon kept everything lively with her lessons on cajun/creole foodstuffs with graphic descriptions that may or may not have turned Jay green at several points. Poor Jay was barely able to get a word in edgewise for the first half of dinner until we finally told him just start talking and we really would hear and comprehend what he was saying.
Speaking of comprehending, the restaurant had emptied out except for a single table (and the gamblers) but absolutely no one seemed in a hurry to make us leave. When the check finally came all sorts of amusement ensued as the waiter tried to explain things to the Brit. He finally turned a pleading look my direction and asked me to explain. I tried, it didn’t work as well as normal and when he brought the slip back, the waiter begged me again. He was terrified, I think, that Jay couldn’t understand the whole “if you put a tip on a credit slip I’m screwed” thing. I wanted to tell the guy that Jay speaks better English that every one of us at the table but I don’t think it likely would have helped so this time, I just took the slip, grabbed some cash from my wallet and handed them to him both. Finally happy, I think the waiter was ready to hug me as he dipped his head down and kept repeating “thank you, thank you, thank you” as he backed away from the table.
After finishing off the last of our drinks and Jay joining his “old friend” the owner for a chat, we headed off to find a bar to top off the evening.