Friday, December 23, 2005

upended days and nights

detroit - jacksonville - palm coast

The flight to Jacksonville was spent slumbering by all three Alfars. Depending on the type of person that you are, travel does one one of two things: it either broadens your horizons, expanding the limited sphere of your personal experiences by exposing you to a variety of new stimuli, triggering lovely thoughts in your head about the nature of things and how much there is yet to be discovered; or it it does nothing. Normally, I'm firmly in the first column, savoring the new and thrilled at the activity of electricity and unknown biological chemicals in my head, seeing a story or two in almost everything. However, when I am zonked out and dead to the world, I'm like one of the barbaric travelers, for whom everything just whizzes by at quicksilver pace, failing to make the slightest impression on my primitive brain.

When we finally arrived in Florida, we were elated to see Nikki's mom and Jack, who was undergoing treatment for cancer. After secring our luggage, we ate at Longhorn, where I greeted my return to the land of the impossibly huge servings with a 12 oz. steak, medium rare (pinkish center). Sage tried to stay awake but failed.

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Outside smoking, I cursed my gullibility. I thought that Florida in winter was very warm. As in slightly-cooler-than-Manila warm. After all, EVERYBODY says how hot it is in Florida, even in Winter. Well, while it certainly is warmer than the New York ski lodge we holidayed at a couple of years ago, 6 degrees Celcius is by NO MEANS warm, not by my definition. I packed short-sleeved shirts, not even bothering to bring a jacket (well, okay, just one: my stylishly black Dockers jacket that, really, just looks good but offers the protective warmth of tissue paper - on that thought, I'm glad I didn't bring my special Minus 5 Dockers top, which keeps the temperature next to my skin at 5 degrees lower than the outside, which would have just been too too cruel), plus linen pants, thin cotton t-shirts and shorts. To everyone who still thinks Florida in winter is hot: do not believe the lies. Remember that our Filipino blood thinks Baguio is cool. During the daytime, it's not bad, more like HongKong, but really, it is not "nippy". Gah.

Sage suffered bad jet-lag, unable to realign her body clock, which meant her parents couldn't also. So we had many midnight escapades, watching TV, cooking, eating, puttering around and trying to conserve energy for the daytime activies. We've done a lot of looking around, but really, my big goal, as usual, are the bookstores.

We attacked a Barnes & Noble (I'm happy because of the 10% discount card) and stocked up on new things to read plus gifts for the friends we're missing badly. I was not terribly impressed by the selections this year (Nikki, on the other hand, found a lot of things on her list of books), ending up favoring non-fiction. None of the spec fic books leaped out and I wasn't in the mood to buy older titles. We also found a comic book store cleverly named "Comics" and I couldn't resist buying Infinite Crisis #3 (wow!) and a couple of trades.

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But the most fun we had was over at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, where they had a stunning variety of crocs, alligators, gaurials, caimans, plus galapagos turtles, birds and other primates and reptiles. Sage was awed by the sheer size of these creatures (Maximo, a croc, was over 15 feet long and weighted 1250 lbs.) while I was stunned by the sheer variety, with over 300 specimen to look at, scattered in multiple ponds, enclosures, aquaria and pens.

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Maximo, the big guy

I've never been this up close to members of the croc family and it triggered some sort of primordial thing in me: I wanted to run away, throw things at them or meekly submit to the power of their impossibly large jaws. There is something in their reptilian gaze, almost as if they're saying "It's only a matter of time."

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Dozens of crocs waiting for me to jump in

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Of course I found the smoking area, with a lovely arrangement of red chairs


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