Friday, June 19, 2009

Except for Scorpions, Florida Is Fun

APL and I just returned from a family vacation with my dad’s side of the family. My uncle has a house on St. George Island, which is off the panhandle of Florida, and my family gathers there for vacation/family reunion every couple of years. This year we got to see my dad, my uncle (obviously, as it is his house), two aunts (my dad’s two sisters), my sister, my brother, and my brother’s girlfriend.

Before we went down to the island we went to a show at this tiny blues club near Tallahassee. It was down a dark dirt road under a huge tree with Spanish moss all over it. It was a Deep South cultural experience, especially when the old black man with one tooth on the bottom who worked at the bar outside by the bonfire asked me to dance. Obviously I danced with him. The whole family had a lot of fun.

After we got down to the island we had another Deep South cultural experience: the annual St. George Island Mullet Toss. While a mullet is an attractive hairstyle (of which we certainly saw a few) it is also a fish. A “mullet toss” is a competition in which the participants literally attempt to throw a fish as far as possible. We saw two categories of competition. One was regular burly beefcakes literally hurling fish as far as they could. The other was the “mechanical” category, in which teams created huge cannons out of pvc pipe, propelled by aquanet hairspray, to launch the mullets as far as possible. It was pretty epic.

After our southern excitement, we spent the rest of the vacation relaxing. We sat in plastic chairs in the surf, swam in the Gulf, played with my uncle’s adorable dog Jake, paddled on the sea kayak, flew a kite, and drank beer. Ok, obviously I didn’t drink beer because clearly there’s no such thing as sorghum beer in the South. I drank rum. And sangria. Actually, the whole family drank a lot of sangria. In the evenings we would sit on the porch, watch movies, play poker, fruitlessly attempt to beat my uncle at scrabble, eat home-cooked meals, and drink.

After four paragraphs of description of my vacation with no mention of scorpions, you are probably wondering about the title of this post and the picture. Turns out I have really bad luck with wildlife on St. George Island. Last time we were there I got stung by a jellyfish. It left a huge red gash across my belly that took months to fade and my little brother peed on me. Ok, technically he peed in a bottle and poured it on me since we’ve all heard that pee helps with jellyfish stings. And everyone always asks me: did it help? Honestly? I have no idea. That sting really hurt. Who knows if it would have hurt more sans pee?

But back to the scorpion. Aside from my uncle’s bedroom, there is only one other bedroom in his house. That bedroom has a queen bed in it. Otherwise there is a bunkroom under the house with four bunks, a pull out couch, and a lot of air mattresses. This time my dad insisted that APL and I take the bedroom and that he would sleep on the couch. He wanted to make sure I got a good night sleep. Since I got diagnosed, my dad sometimes treats me a bit like an invalid. Though I know his actions are out of love and concern, it can sometimes be frustrating. But, in some instances, I really appreciate it (a) because sometimes I wish more people recognized how much I am struggling and (b) because I actually really do need to get a good night sleep to feel better.

However, our first night on the island I got anything but a good nights sleep. We all went to bed late. Then I was reading in bed. APL had fallen asleep. I turned out the light and was trying to get comfortable when I felt a sharp pain in one of my legs. I turned the light back on, thinking I would find some kind of sticker or burr in the bed. I found nothing. I thought maybe I had scratched at my mosquito bites too hard and that’s why my leg stung. But as soon as I turned the light back out and lay down I felt the same sharp pain on the side of my arm. At that point I jumped out of bed, woke APL up, and we got a glimpse a scorpion scurrying across the bed!

While APL tried to find something to kill or trap the scorpion (he figured we might need to know what kind it was when we took me to the hospital) I ran to wake up my dad. He was sound asleep, so I shook him gently and said: “Daddy, there’s a scorpion in our bed and it stung me twice.” To which he replied “WHAAAT?” and leaped directly from sleep into a standing position. After getting me ice to hold on my wounds, my dad and APL hunted the scorpion. It was 3am but they tore the bedroom apart, flipping the mattress, pulling books of the bottom shelf, dragging stuff out of closets. They never found that scorpion.

Luckily for everyone involved, we didn’t end up having to go to the hospital. APL consulted his trusty iPhone and discovered that scorpions in Florida didn’t have life threatening stings. And I didn’t end up swelling or feeling gross or having much of a reaction. But man did those stings hurt!!! With my track record, next time we go down there I better watch out for stingrays and snakes!

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