Friday, May 20, 2011

The One About the Ritz-Carlton

This is proving to be the longest post of my life.  I was about 70% done with this super-gigante when Blogger decided it was terrible and long and overwrought and deleted it all.  I'm not sure whether to be irritated or relieved.  Here's hoping the few scraps left in my head are workable.

First, a brief disclaimer.  This post is not an attempt to bigtime you.  There's just no other way to convey the ridiculousness of the past week without sharing some detail.  There's a place for a vicious rant on serial namedroppers and $30,000 millionaires, but it ain't here.

Do you know the origin of the term "ritzy?"  Me neither.  But I think I'm beginning to get the idea.

They let people like me out of their shoebox punched full of holes about twice a year.  For conferences and stuff.  It's necessarily a rare thing, because everyone you meet suddenly realizes that with you here, there's absolutely zero getting done back at the office.  For all they know, at that very moment there's an Ecstasy-fueled rave going on in the big conference room.

So a week ago I emerged, wild-eyed and pasty, for a work boondoggle.  I know, big deal.  Work wonks talking in 25 cent acronyms about scary "proposed legislation" and the "current regulatory environment."  Boooooriiiing.  I get that.

But this one was in Florida.  In south Florida.  On the beach.  At the Ritz-Carlton.  White sand, coconut palms, carved travertine fountains, Bentleys, people calling you Mister, you name it.  And deep sea fishing.  DEEP SEA FISHING.  DEEPSEAFISHING.  My hair almost fell out.

And I miiiiiight have been trying to keep this quiet.  But then Majesty found out about it.  The beach?  The BEACH?  There was no way she was missing the beach, she said.

Okay, so that's one extra person.  No sweat.  We'll just keep it our little secr...

Then The Named Storm found out about it.

Suddenly, I'm taking my 2.5 year old to the Ritz.  Not that I'm afraid of traveling with Jack, he's unnaturally well behaved and tolerant of stuffy planes and turbulence and creepy TSA agents and bad airport food.

Anyway, let's just say that you should be glad the hotel is still there for you to enjoy.  You should, in fact, be glad the entire state is still there.

Ladies and gentlemen, the other half lives very, very well.

First full day, I'm trying desperately to stay awake hard at work at the morning conference.  The rest of the family is at the little terrace café thing to grab some quick breakfast before they hit the beach.  While she's fixing up their plates, Majesty looks behind her to check on Jack.  Somehow, he had gotten the spoon from the brown sugar bowl and was just chowing sugar like he was at the Super 8.  She told me her instinct was to scream, "Jack!  You can't do that at the Ritz-Carlton!"  She instead grabs the spoon from him... and pretends nothing ever happened.  That chick is the consummate professional.

And I can't believe the hotel snipers didn't get them first.  I was under the impression that proper manners were enforced by lethal means.  Hmmm.

Mr. "Yes, I Just Rocked Your Brown Sugar, What of It?" then shows up on the magnificently pristine beach.  He - no kidding here - looks around, immediately bear hugs Majesty's leg, all the while making these squealing, happy sounds.

Those two end up eating dinner at the restaurant right on the beach.  I heard afterward that they had a perfect view of the sunset... and the rainstorm that washed out my beachside dinner.  Pretty funny, though - about 50 well dressed fundies, i-bankers and yours truly crammed under three beach umbrellas in the rain.  LOTS of personal space was violated, let me just say.  I had enough Britons cuddled around me to elect a member of Parliament.

But no complaints - I stayed dry.  One half-soaked English girl next to me found out I had my wife and Baby Monster with me (she had left her husband and kiddo back home).  We talked about the concept of marital capital.  "Oh," she said, "you're doing quite well."  She didn't know the half of it.  Heh.

Anyway, nature was taking a long while to dry itself out, and one of the umbrellas mysteriously started to move, with 15 or so people still crammed under it.  Their umbrella ended up right beside H.M. and Jack's table.  Dinner for us moved indoors, and they trucked in more lobsters than I have ever seen in my entire life into our packed dining room.  Think in 55 gallon drum terms.  I plopped down by the Afghan-born New Yorker and the San Franciscan.  The slightly damp North-easterners were puzzled.  Evidently it's customary to serve Florida stone crab here, not Maine lobster.  I guess it was like the time I showed up in Boston and was served...  quesadillas.  In Southie.  I guess they had a point.  The uncouth Texan had more lobster.

So in spite of the acronyms, the conference was pretty great on my end.  I mean, when do you get to have dinner and hear a Medal of Honor recipient speak, or get to meet a U.S. Senator you saw on TV all the time when you were growing up, or haul up a reef shark?

Oh, one story.  Senators, as you'd imagine, can tell some stories.  Now, Bill Clinton anecdotes are probably my second favorite genre, right behind Reagan stories.  This (very Republican) senator met with Clinton after he'd just been elected, but before he took office.

Clinton meets him with a huge smile, wraps his arm around him, and says, "Senator, you know, no two people in Washington more alike than we are."  The lawmaker's ah, skeptical.  "Our mothers were both practical nurses, we each came from poor backgrounds, we've both done a lot with ourselves, and we both care deeply about policy."  Just laying it on as thick as you please.

The Senator eventually staggers out of the meeting, and is slapping himself on the face a few times to snap himself out of all the charm.  He goes directly to a large Republican congressional meeting and loudly exclaims, "[Insert name of Christian deity here]!!!!!  Fellas, we've never seen anything like this guy before!  I mean, it's unbelievable!"

I did play just a leeeeetle bit of hooky when the conference topics got too nerdy even for me.  I hit the beach with the family, but not before we got gelato at the little shop in the lobby.  You're catching a theme.  We didn't even want to leave the grounds.  Miss Julie, about the nicest person in the universe, hooked Jack up with JEH-WATO, specifically some DOO-CHAY DUH WEH-CHAY.  She even put sprinkles on it for The Dude.  I had the dulce de leche too, but restrained myself from asking for sprinkles.  Barely.

On Friday morning, Jack and H.M. spent probably an hour and a half just sitting in the water and jumping the waves.   Jack was obsessed with the clear jellyfish that he found all along the beach and couldn't resist touching and patting them. Majesty said she buried about 2 dozen but finally gave up since they didn't seem to hurt him.  His Super-skin is probably immune.

After I got back from disturbing the delicate marine ecosystem myself, we went down to the little aquarium at the hotel.   This was genius.  Sheer genius.  Wasn't huge, wasn't the most spectacular thing ever, but a perfect diversion for kids.  Jack's favorite part was the little turtles, which were in a big open tank so that you could touch their shells and pet them.  Or in The Named Storm's case, frighten them with your enormous, waving, oar-length toddler arms.

That night, I was absolutely destroyed from sitting on a boat in the sun all afternoon (somebody's gotta do it), so we end up crushing room service burgers while watching the Toy Story DVD we brought.  Jack sat on the little couch at the end of the bed, covered with a beach towel.  And ketchup.  I think it's one of my favorite family meal memories.  I was as locked-in on the movie as Jack was.  My oozy, medium rare, bleu cheese burger didn't last 45 seconds, people.

Oh, you want a hotel review?  Well, alright, here you go.

The Pros:
If it's free
Excellent brown sugar
Room service
The beach
Room service
The beach
Room service
The beach
The aquarium
Room service
The beach

The Cons:
If it's not free
Skunky towels.  I kid you not.
Noisy - do rich folks pay someone to sleep for them?
Travel time - takes nearly an entire day to get there
Are there any people actually left back in New Jersey?  No, seriously, are there?

Even though we took what essentially became separate trips, everyone still had a blast in what has to be the best vacation in memory.  I had forgotten how much fun it is to wander around, mouth hanging open, pointing, finally blurting out, "Gah-LEE!  Lookuh THAT!"  Majesty says she can't wait for next year.  Ditto.  When we got back home to Texas, we listed all our favorite things about the trip.

Jack's favorite?  "Going back to the room with Mommy and Daddy!"  Majesty's reaction:  "What an awesome kid!"


1 comment:

Donna said...

This looks AMAZING- how wonderful- you should definitely ALL go year after year! This is our first year not to go to our annual beach conference and I am devastated, but we have to stay here and sit on the nest 'til our baby hatches!