13 August 2007

These things have a way for making it even more memorable.

A few months back, my friend J and I decided to make a trip out to Tampa for a party that was going on that we both wanted to hit up. I called my other friend M in New York, and told her that she had to come down for it, and that we'd all have a blast. We would get together, and book a hotel in Tampa, then grab a quick bite to eat at Grass Root Organic Restaurant before coming back to get ready at the hotel room for the party. Then, after getting back to the room, we'd crash for a bit, and sleep off the long drive and long party. On Sunday, we would drive back to Ft. Lauderdale. We would have dinner at Sublime, and wrap up the weekend that way. On Monday, we'd drop M off at the airport, and get back in to work, business as usual.

If you ever want to hear the Gods laugh, tell them your plans.

At the last minute (aroundabouts of this past Monday), J had to cancel her part of the trip, because something came up that she couldn't anticipate. There went the idea of taking her car. Instead, we'd have to rent a car, and drive up with two, not three drivers. We'd also have one fewer person to rent the hotel room. Fortunately, it wasn't a problem, because everything was reasonably priced.

I met K on a vegan forum, and contacted him to let him know that me, Steve, and M would all be driving up to his neck of the woods. He gave me his phone number, and we made plans to meet at Grass Root. Apparently, I hadn't learned my lesson about making plans quite well enough the first time around! The sensible thing to do would have been to meet K in his town of St. Petersberg, and follow him in to Tampa to get to the hotel. We'd check in, and drop off our stuff. From the hotel, we'd take one car, and go to Grass Root together. Then, we'd figure out where to go from that point onwards.

Sensible wasn't my strong point this weekend.

I told K that we'd meet him at Grass Root, and that it should take us about four hours to get from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa. What I didn't count on was the rain. From the time we hit Naples (or thereabouts), sheets of rain began to slam down on the car, and reduce the visibility to nil. We were able to see the lights of the car directly in front of us, and nothing more. This meant that we were crawling along at close to twenty miles per hour, and making horrible time. Instead of the anticipated four hours, we ended up spending more like seven hours of time getting to Tampa.

Because of the rainy conditions, and our timings being wrecked, we decided to relax our attitudes on the way up. We pulled over at a rest area that looked interesting, and had a little picnic under one of the shelters. We took our time to look at the stunning rivers and lakes that we passed by. We stopped by a Target (to grab some shoe laces), and the three of us lingered over a cup of coffee, while the rain raged on outside. When it let up, we made a mad dash for the car to get back onto the highway!

We switched drivers whenever one would get tired. I burned CDs on the road, so that the music choices changed with each CD that my computer made. We sang along to the songs, and ate the bajji that I'd made that morning. We chattered on about nothing and everything, taking time to enjoy the stories we told each other. We reminisced about the music we listened to when we were younger. It was so nice to have a trip where we could kick back and take it easy.

All this time, poor K is wondering what's taking us so long. He ended up having to wait for us at Grass Root for about an hour. Lucky for him, the place has a cool reading section, where they have all sorts of interesting books. They also have a little gift shop set up against the left hand wall, with interesting pieces from all over the world. There was a beautiful Mayan calendar, made of what looked like aged copper, set on wood (if I recall correctly). Because of this, K was pretty relaxed when me, Steve and M showed up at the place. The three of us, however, looked like we'd been dragged through a few sets of rollers in a printing press, then shaken about in water. It wasn't a pleasant sight.

The restaurant, however, was a delight! We sat around talking for about two or three hours, while the food just kept coming. There are quite a few raw dishes, all of which make you feel so alive! The chef understands how to balance flavours, textures, and colours very well. It's a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

After eating, we planned (oh, what fools these mortals be!) to head back to the hotel, mooch around for a bit, grab a shower, and part ways with K while me, M, and Steve headed out to the party. Again, we were shown the folly of making plans! K had accidentally locked his keys in his car. Looks like we'd be here a bit longer. He called a locksmith, who said that it would take forty five minutes to arrive.

This meant that we had to chill at the restaurant until the locksmith arrived. I went to the car, and grabbed the three branches of curry leaves I'd brought with me. I was originally going to give them to K, but I decided on the spot that I'd rather give them to the chef who worked at Grass Root. He and his mother were such nice people, and I figured they'd appreciate trying something new and interesting. (K doesn't cook very much!) I signed a copy of my book for K. The chef saw the book, and the two of us had a long, rambling conversation about religion, and cooking, and family, and everything else under the sun. It was so nice to find such wonderful people so far from home! Although we tremendously enjoyed the food, I personally enjoyed the time I got to spend with the new friends I met there.

Finally, the locksmith came out and retrieved the keys from K's car. K made a split second decision that he was having too much fun with the first vegans he'd ever met in person, and that he'd prefer to join us to go to the party, rather than go home from the restaurant. I was only too happy to oblige, because we had the ticket already, and had space in the room, since J cancelled. K had to dash off and grab an outfit, so the three of us stayed behind at the hotel room, and got a chance to just relax for a bit after all our adventures. Steve caught a quick nap, and M and I chattered on at each other while we got dressed and primped.

K got back and the three of us headed out to the front desk to call a taxi. We'd be out late, and there's no sense in having someone drive in a strange new city when he's half asleep. Rather than risk it, we stuck with the cab. We got to the party, and had a good time dancing and wandering around the rooms for a few hours. Tampa shuts down at 3 AM. We headed back to the hotel room, and settled down for the night.

However, both M and I are used to going out much later than that, and Steve was running on quite a few cups of coffee by that point. K was excited to hang out with vegans, and was also wired. Rather than sleep, we stayed up for a few more hours, talking about everything from the profound to the mundane. We've definitely made fast friends with K. It was so much fun to be with vegans for a weekend.

It's like every kink that got thrown our way came with a new and interesting adventure for us to enjoy. It's almost as if something out there is letting me know that although I may think I know what I'll enjoy, I should really just keep myself open to new possibilities. Freaking out when things don't go just so is a short cut to the Emergency Room. Because we were willing to roll with the waves, we had a kick-behind weekend, and made new friends, and have memories to treasure forever.

It's kind of like when I'm cooking. I'll be standing there, watching the dish unfold, and reveal itself to me. I never know what I'm making until after it's made, because I like to let the ingredients guide me, rather than having a specific plan to start. By doing this, I don't feel disappointed when things don't turn out perfectly. Rather, I feel excited by finding out all the new ways I can serve something. People who have watched me in the kitchen can verify this. I'll start with a stack of ingredients in front of me, and think out loud when it comes to what I'll be making. Many times, about half way in, I'll change the course of things, and come out with something different. It doesn't matter if (for example) while I'm chopping vegetables, I end up making them larger than I expected. Rather than freaking out that it's not perfect, I'll make the dish into something different from what I'd originally planned.

Now that I've had this experience, I know that my attitude was just right. It was a fun weekend, and I look forward to more adventures in the future.