“Hope you had fun,” the Air Mexicana pilot said. “Now it’s back to reality.”
It had been fun: sun, sand, surfing, sex, tequila, Argentinian beef super-seared over four-foot high flames, hammocks, friends, horseback riding, snorkeling– a friendly Canadian guy even let me feed the pet alligator he had behind his house (I tossed it hunks of raw chicken from a pail, which it snatched at with it’s three-foot-long, prehistoric jaws– my heart pounding the whole time).
It had been wonderful, a fantasy time, a second honeymoon with no kids. Now, as the pilot pointed out: we were heading back to the snowed-in, stressed-out, hyperborean hinterland we called home…
Was it all a dream? We stayed in a lovely house with a pool. Me, I spent my day reading in a hammock. Did I feel guilty? No. I work hard: and I kept telling myself: “Reading is an accomplishment too.” As any parent knows.
It felt great. I read three books in a week– something I probably haven’t done since college (great books too: “Conversations with Woody Allen,” by Robert Lax, “Born Standing Up,” by Steve Martin, and a dryly hilarious thriller called “Headlong,” by the playwright Michael Frayn), we relaxed poolside, ate great Mexican food all the time, and I swore to my wife Pam I would never (again) write about our sex life but perhaps I can just say that everyone is at their best when relaxed.
Basically Pam and I and our two flatmates Scott and Liz unwound like a busted old alarm clock.
And trust me: you don’t realize how tightly wound you were until you unwind.
Back here for two days in the hyperborean hinterlands, everyone seems so stressed.
Of course, there’s a place for that too. The friendly Canadian guy with the pet alligator, Mitch– at first we thought he worked for the restaurant down the beach where we ate all our meals (and b/t/w if you like meat and you ever get a chance to try Argentinian beef, snatch at it like a croc at a drumstick, because they raise it a whole different way, it’s delish): he came over to our table, gave us tips on what was good, cleared our plates.
Turned out he didn’t even work there! He was a guy who came down on vacation 9 years ago and never left. He didn’t even have a job and after we fed the croc asked me if I wouldn’t mind “chipping in” for the chicken, which cost eight bucks. “That crocodile eats better than I do,” he kept muttering.
That’s too mellow. His mother had come down to join him on semi-permanent vacation, and she kept saying “I have nothing in my head! My brain is empty” as if that were some sort of positive accomplishment.
“There’s a joke about that, you know,” my mother said. “This banker is in a tropical paradise and he tells another guy ‘I love it here, I’ve got it all worked out, I work really hard and I get to spend a whole month here in paradise.’ The other guy says: ‘I live here.’”
“What’s the point of that joke?” I asked my mother.
“Well, that the second guy has it made without all the stress of being a banker.”
The thing is: I sympathize with the banker. You don’t want to take your vacation too seriously. That’s called retirement and I’m never gonna be ready for that. After a week I was ready to fly back, duke it out, mix it up, roll up my sleeves, go back on the attack on all fronts with renewed vigor.
“Back to reality?” Bring it on.