The last three days sort of flew by. That’s how delirium works.
We were out late and completely exhausted Friday night, so of course everyone was up bright and early Saturday morning. Jill and I were fresh out of shits to give so I made a donut run to BoSa.
I bought a dozen and we threw them at the kids. Here, eat these, you little beasties and become the monsters you know you are. You see how you’re monsters! They ate and watched some Garfield movie while Jill and I packed. We had to check out because we rented a condo for our last two nights.
By noon, everything was packed in the car and we were on our way to watch Chrissy’s son play in a baseball game. Chrissy who, you ask? Why, Chrissy—Jill’s childhood friend! The very person we were coming to Arizona to visit! Remember? I mentioned her in the very first post. It’s okay if you forgot. We sort of forgot too.
It was a bit of a drive. The whole way, my nose was running. I woke up with this burning in the back of my throat and a leaky right nostril. I ignored it like I ignored my headache earlier in the week with the same outcome—I felt like shit.
We met Chrissy and her Husband Brett in the middle of a treeless field. Like being on open water in a boat, there is just no goddamn shade anywhere in Arizona. And it’s always high noon. Buildings don’t even give cover. The sun comes straight down and beats your ass. All day.
I kept swallowing fire and leaking pestilence from my face in the blinding heat. I tried to perk up for Jill’s friends. Thankfully they were engrossed in the game and didn’t notice that I was dying right in from of them.
What a douche he is = what I know they were thinking.
I don’t remember much of the game. Afterwards, we went to Chrissy’s house and saw what real square footage looks like. We didn’t stay long because they had another baseball game to go to for their other son. And we had to check into the condo.
It was a one-bedroom condo with a few air mattresses. We did nothing that night after we settled in. Ian was getting sick and I was still oozing. But for the first time all week I slept without an air conditioner blowing me full in the face.
The morning was cold. Ian was sicker. But the new pool called. The kids hopped in while Jill did the BoSa run. I made sure no one inhaled water.
Then we headed over to Chrissy’s for a BBQ. I sat on the back patio with Brett and Chrissy’s dad, smoking cigars and drinking Blue Moon. The kids were in the house not killing each other. Jill sat with Chrissy and her mom at the dining room table talking about our unexpected life of homeschooling, the joys of parenthood, and their shared childhood memories. I felt pretty damn good. It was a little window of peace where we weren’t worried about finding a room or food or a thing to see that we can’t see back home. How a vacation should be, in my opinion. Running and coordinating was work.
Brett rolled out an inflatable slide for the kids. They would take turns jumping on it and making Ben cry.
The sun decided: ENOUGH! I helped Brett roll up the bouncy house. We said goodbye and made plans to come back the next day before we left for Chicago. As a bonus, Chrissy promised Elsa that they would find scorpions with a black light after the sun went down. We had to tear Elsa away.
And that was Sunday.
It was going to be a long day. We packed our world up one last time and headed to the Phoenix Zoo.
Ben was very patient. He waited until we were just inside the gate—after we bought our non-refundable tickets—before completely melting down for some mac and cheese.
“Hey look it’s a giraffe!”
“Do you want to see the monkeys?”
“Daddy’s gonna feed himself to the lion where’s the lion I hope they have a lion.”
And of course everyone was looking at us like they were beginning to suspect they might be witnessing an abduction.
He dropped his protest before the smartphones were pointed at me. But he started up again as we reached the first exhibit. So I found a concession stand and I told him I was going to definitely for sure buy him some mac and cheese as I desperately hoped against hope that they had mac and cheese. And they did. I nailed it. I made a promise, I went for the long shot, and I owned a victory. I walked right up and told the very nice lady behind the window, “I am a hero-father and as such I would like your very finest mac and cheese.”
She said, “My good man, that will be $4.89.”
Ben, just beneath the window and out of sight of this purveyor of processed bliss, bellowed: “I DON’T WANT MACANCHEESE!!!”
I looked at the woman, unable to say anything.
“You want me to cancel that?” She said, looking past me to the people waiting behind me.
“You said you wanted mac and cheese,” I pleaded with Ben, “Now you don’t want mac and cheese? What do you want?”
“I WANT BLUE! WITH STRAW!!”
Blue with straw, what the hell was he talking about? I looked at the menu. I looked at the woman. I looked into my soul and I saw no blue with straw anywhere I looked.
“Do you want me to cancel the order?” The woman was looking through me. She had already written me off. She had zero respect for me and was just trying to get me gone.
“No, I still want the mac and cheese! Give me the mac and cheese! Definitely give me the mac and cheese.” I looked down to gather my thoughts and then I saw it—a decal of an ICEE. A blue ICEE. With a straw. “And an ICEE! With a straw.”
“I can’t give you the straw.”
“People throw the straw into the enclosures. But I can give you a spoon. Just like the spoons that people throw into the enclosures.”
I took it. I took it all back to the other two kids who immediately wondered where the f@<k their blue ICEEs were.
I walked past this thing.
The rest of the visit was awesome. I mean that. The Phoenix Zoo makes Brookfield Zoo look like a redneck’s backyard. The animals seemed to be closer. We were immersed in a fantastic animal world. We were soaking in animals. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but here are some for you to rub your eyeballs upon:
Highlights that aren’t pictured:
I saw an orangutan piss all over a blanket and then wrap himself in the blanket.
We got dive-bombed by some tropical birds.
I almost caught a lizard—so that remains on my bucket list.
One mom pointed at me and said, “Look kids! It’s a disheveled jackass!!”
We defeated the magnetism of the over-priced junk in the gift shop.
We left the zoo with lots of time before our flight. It was just after 5pm and our plane was departing from Sky Harbor Airport at 12:35am Tuesday morning.
Jill found one final awesome tiny-as-hell place to grab a quick meal: The Stand. THEY. HAD. AN. INSANELY. TASTY. CHEESEBURGER. AND. TACOS. AND. SHAKES. HOLY. SHIT. Also, The Stand is the title of my absolute favorite Stephen King book.
The plan after the meal was to chill at Chrissy’s house and print the boarding passes before returning the rental car, struggling through security, and dodging the insane Spirit Airline fees that they had somehow forgotten to charge us last time.
A simple plan. So Jill had to throw a curveball:
“Let’s make a quick detour to see my holistic medicine friend in Gilbert. It will be real quick. Like 15 minutes. You and the kids won’t even have to leave the car. I just really want to say hi and we’ll probably never be out here again and JUST DRIVE THERE!”
We stopped off at her house and an hour later we were back on the road to Chrissy’s house—the buffer of time we had after leaving the zoo was almost gone.
We had a few minutes to find the scorpions that Elsa needed to see.
Then, Chrissy’s kids went to bed. Instead of a nice leisurely visit, we only had time to print the passes. Then we were off. We left the quiet house, the dark streets, and the scorpions.
The kids were crashing. It took a mighty effort to parade their exhausted bodies through the airport. But we made it. The plane taxied away from the gate at 12:45am. It was a 3 hour flight with a two hour time difference. We were scheduled to land at ORD at 6am. It was going to be a long night.
I had enough time to realize that Jill had planned the vacation brilliantly. I hinted at this in the very first post. Turns out, Jill’s strategy was to plummet the entire family into the very depths of depression, only to slowly draw us out and up from the nadir of despair day by day. We started at Extended Stay—a filthy murder pit. Then after much confusion, we moved on to La Quinta—clean with nice people, but pretty small. After that, 3 Palms—much more like a resort and the tension of the previous days lifted. Finally the condo—space and peace and time to visit Chrissy, enjoy baseball and a BBQ and the zoo and scorpion hunting right up until the very end. The vacation ended so much better than it started. I was flying home satisfied. Part of me will always remain at the Hole in the Rock, or in the 3 Palms swimming pool watching Elsa make friends, or smiling through cigar smoke with new friends of my own. It was a damn fine vacation.
When we were approaching O’Hare, the pilot announced that local time was 5:56am and the local temperature was 28 degrees. You really are a bitch, mother nature.
P.S. Jill just learned that the Grand Canyon is only 3 hours from Phoenix—not 8 like she thought. And is she pissed. She’s already planning her return trip with her second husband in 2 years.