The TV was bigger. The beds were bigger. But the only thing that the 3 Palms served for breakfast was a big heaping pile of GFY.

That was just fine. Jill still had her iPhone. There’s no stopping a Jill with an iPhone. She had that Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives shit bookmarked, yo.*

She found a place called Matt’s Big Breakfast. Which raised all kinds of concerns for me. Where was Jeff’s big breakfast? Would I have to fight Matt to get his big breakfast away from him? Was Jill seeing someone named Matt on the side? Was his breakfast bigger than mine? And who was determining big? When I have a big breakfast, I wipe out a farm. This better not be a packet of oatmeal and an eternal muffin in shrink-wrap like they threw at us as part of our “continental breakfast” at Extended Stay America.

“Oh. And so how was your 3 Palms breakfast??”

Touche, Extended Stay.

Turns out, I didn’t have to confront Jill’s lover. It was just a name of an awesome place with awesome food. Everything would have been awesome if the jerk and his wife sitting at my table didn’t bring their three kids with them. To be clear, I was the jerk I just referred to.

This is actually the calm before the storm.

This is actually the calm before the storm.

Ben ended up crawling under the table and biting Ian—that was part of Ben’s Big Breakfast. Of course Ian then did a face-kick move to Ben’s face. While all of this was happening, I was shoveling in Jeff’s Hasty Tasty Breakfast because I knew it was the only way I was going to eat.

After my plate was clean,  I scooted the warring parties outside to let Jill finish Jill’s Despondently Delicious Breakfast and I took this picture.

Look how happy!!

Look how happy!!

We piled back in the happy wagon and sped on over to Papago Park. Our plan was to step all over Arizona’s face and maybe catch a few lizards. It was a good plan. It was a fool-proof plan. We found a trail that circled a restroom. I got out and explored in the shade-less heat. This was the only time the entire trip where I felt the heat was a little on the much side. I walked completely around the restroom while the kids pounded nature. Then I saw the Hannibal Lecter of vending machines.

It knows what it did. It also smells your insecurities.

It knows what it did. It also smells your insecurities.

We found a pond with ducks and this dickhead goose and pigeons and these weird screamy birds that just screamed at each other from the tops of palm trees.

“Heeeeeeeeeeyyy, it’s a bunch of assholes!!!!”
“Heeeeeeeeeeyyy, they from Chicago? Heeeeeeeeeeeyyyy!!!!”

“Probably! Heeeeeeeeeeyyyy!!!”


“Heeeeeeeyyyy! You got that right!”

Just a rough translation.

The kids tossed some leftover french fries at them. Fries that we got from In-n-Out burger the day before. Are you repulsed that we still had fries in our car from the day before? Or are you horrified that we didn’t prevent our children from feeding this processed filth to wild animals? I’m giving you choices here.


The goose was so full of hate.

We stayed as long as the goose allowed. Elsa splashed into the water because wet socks the rest of the goddamned day are cool as shit among girls in her age range. Eventually, we left. Ben was getting that look in his eye and we had plans to have an early dinner with Jill’s uncle Gary and his wife Linda who wintered in Arizona in a condo not far from where we were staying.

They invited us out to Organ Stop Pizza. I was a little worried. What organ did this pizza stop? The heart? The kidneys? I had no idea why this place wanted to promote organ failure. Was it like a dare? Like Fear Factor? “Here, eat this pizza that will cause your liver to erupt!” Are liver eruptions a thing? Unless they were saying that the pizza is so good you’ll eat it until you die. But then they wouldn’t have returning customers. That couldn’t be a good business model. None of this made any sense. I just wanted the pizza.

We arrived slightly before 4pm. There was a long line waiting to get into this place. We didn’t see her uncle, so we got a place in line. I stood in the sun thinking Organ Stop Pizza was the place to be. I felt lucky to wait in line. There were a lot of people behind us. We were better than those people. We were closer. We would get into the place they wanted to go sooner. Because we were the shit. Then the line started to move and I had to get my mind ready to be blown. What pizza place could be so awesome that people lined up to get in as soon as the place opened? I braced myself.

As soon as we entered, I saw that the people ahead of us had broken into two groups: one group was waiting in another line to order and the other had branched off to secure tables in the huge dining area. This caught me completely off-guard! Do I order or get seats? I needed a plan! And quick! Every nanosecond that ticked by meant I was squandering our primo position in the line outside. Shit! Where was her uncle? Why didn’t he tell us? This whole outing was a wash! A jumble and a wash! DAMN IT ALL!

I went with Jill and the kids and grabbed a table on the upper level. We didn’t know if the table was in a good spot or not. People were looking at us. Thinking things. We waited for her uncle. He’d know what to do. So many minutes later he showed up. Relief washed over me. Panic receded. I asked him:

“So is this a good table? Should I order? What do people do here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Haven’t you been here before?”


Then he went downstairs and ordered.

Jill’s uncle is a man of few words. I’ve always wanted to be a man of few words.

Organ Stop was HOME OF THE MIGHTY WURLITZER, we would soon learn. This BEAST was connected to pipes and trumpets and lights everywhere throughout the cavernous room. It even had these dancing puppet cats for future nightmares. A platform in the middle of the nearly empty main dining area (it seems that everyone that was in line when we got there was everyone that was coming to eat) was where the organ raised up and rotated while everyone’s drunk uncle played Chattanooga Choo Choo and Stardust.

Drunk uncle doesn't want you to rotate too fast.

Drunk uncle doesn’t want you to rotate too fast.

Apparently, he took requests. Elsa asked me to request Let it go. When I grabbed the request form, it asked for the first choice and second choice. I didn’t know what else I’d ask for, so I wrote Sweet Caroline. He didn’t play either.

Ben was absolutely mesmerized by everything once that organ began to play. He loved it. He grabbed my chin and pointed my face to every light and trumpet and dead-eyed cat puppet that came to life. He didn’t want to miss a thing. And he wanted to share every bit of it with me. That alone was worth the entire trip.

The pizza was pretty good.

And it was a good visit with Jill’s uncle Gary and Linda. We talked about family and Arizona and kids. I was really glad we were there.

We headed back to the room and changed into our swim suits. The kids had been dying to get back into the water. We let them swim for hours.

Pool of tranquility.

Pool of tranquility.

Elsa found a group of girls her age and they played all kinds of mermaid games. The sun was long gone and Jill had taken Ian and Ben back up to the room, but Elsa kept splashing. I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to tear her away. I just watched. Everything was so simple and calm. No sibling wars. No one feeling left out. I was sure that Ben was asleep back in the room and Ian was winding down. For the time being, all I had to do was enjoy Elsa enjoying herself. And why would I want to interfere with that?

I stood waist deep in water with nowhere I needed to be, and nowhere I’d rather be right that moment.


Part four will happen soon, then closure. For all of us. But mostly me.

*I promise to never do that again.


  1. Another successful chapter. I will now proceed to chapter 4, after wiping tears from my eyes.

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