The first trip that Jester and I took over the holidays was down to the Ft. Lauderdale area. Jessie's mom and stepdad have a timeshare down there, and this year, instead of getting everyone presents for Christmas, they bought us plane tickets to Florida. I gladly accepted.
A full, blow-by-blow recap is probably unnecessary, since much of the time was spent laughing our asses off at how warm we were. Jester, Ari, and I flew down from Chicago on 12/22, with an hour-long layover in Atlanta. Just enough time to get crunk.
The weather in south Florida was ridiculous. Low 80s during the day, and upper 60s at night. Thus, shorts and flip flops were worn at all times, even in the shower.
On our second day there (Christmas Eve Eve, for those playing along at home), Jester and I decided to rent a car, since there were a total of 8 people in our crew, none of whom are circus clowns, thus making it difficult to travel in one car. After a hideously long Avis line gave us time to contemplate, we upgraded from the Ford Focus to the Mustang convertible. The deciding factor was summed up perfectly by Jessie while screaming at the woman behind the counter: "That's how we fuckin' roll!" Convertibles are pretty cool.
At some point, it came to our attention that the Seminole Hard Rock casino was about 20 minutes away via motorcar or light rail, were there one. After dinner on Christmas Eve, Jester, Ari, Lizzie, Will, and I piled into Silvustang. The only other time I have mixed gambling with Christmas, the result was my largest gambling loss of all-time. Terrifying visions of the Hollywood Casino in Aurora on Christmas night in 2004 danced in my head. The only thing that prevented me from losing more than $500 that night was my daily limit on ATM withdrawals. Undaunted, I was determined to exorcise those demons by taking from the Seminole tribe a fraction of the money they have so mercilessly taken from the white man. Little did I know that this casino would suck balls. I knew something was awry when I saw no vertical roulette scoreboards that some people believe actually makes a difference in the next number that hits. People, even if red has hit 12 times in a row, it's the same odds every spin. Black is not due. Zero is not due. Double zero is not due.
Anyway, this "casino" only had a poker room and slots. That's right. No table games. No blackjack. No craps. No roulette. No casino war. Thus, I was relegated to lose a surprising amount of money playing video poker, a game about which I apparently know very little. I asked to speak to Osceola, but all I got were strange looks, but that might have been because my feet were bleeding and I was carrying a half-full bottle of bleach. My money was not returned to me.
One of the many advantages to our timeshare complex was that it was right next to some very nice public tennis courts. Tennis in December?! ¡Que rico! Jessie, Pat, and I hit the courts for what I assumed would be a round robin tourney. Rather than go with the more pedestrian hard courts, we played on the clay courts. I glided effortlessly across the clay, hitting backhanded winners like I had been personally groomed by Nick Bollettieri. My serve-and-volley was reminiscent of a young Laver, or so I've been told by myself. After Jessie retired from our match up 6-5 (she has personal issues with the tiebreaker system), I went on to beat Pat 6-3. Guys, I was beaming with unjustified confidence. This must have been what unseeded Lawson Duncan felt like months before his improbable run to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros in 1989. Be warned, Nadal. I'm coming for you.
We left sunny Florida the day after Christmas, and I haven't played tennis or gambled since, aside from my annual December 27 Bet-On-Yourself-to-Win-. . .-and-Live Tennis Tournament, a fundraiser where the participants bet a certain dollar amount on themselves, which benefits children under five who are both terminally ill and addicted to gambling. To date, we have raised more than $78 for these children, most of which has been pilfered away in cancer ward dice games and makeshift sports books. But if you could see the smiles on these kids' sometimes-deformed faces when they roll a 7, or when East Tennessee State beats the spread against Lipscomb, or when the kid across the hall that they bet on in the intra-ward death pool finally succumbs to Hodgkin's, then you would know exactly why we do it: the will to live is a hell of a lot stronger when you've got Washingtons on the line. By the way, if anyone is looking for me, I'll be in hell.