What the freak was I freakin' thinking?!?
I don't mean the Turks and Caicos vacation part. That decision was pure gold. Some of the best beaches, water, restaurants and hot women in bikinis* on the planet.
* - In the miniscule chance she reads this, I am clearly referring only to my lovely wife in her assortment of bikinis. (I think I counted nine. She packs for every trip like she's expecting a Tom Hanksish four-year marooning on a deserted island.)
No, I'm referring to the legally binding Family Vacation Agreement (FVA) I made years ago with said wife and kids to:
1. Not bring laptop or iPad on vacation.
2. Limit blackberry use to five minutes, once a day during vacation.
3. Not watch sports on TV during vacation.
I know. I am weak and submissive.
And I'm usually okay with it. I can handle an occasional break from sports (as long as I'm on a Jet-Ski, or in an infinity pool with a swim-up bar).
But this time I messed up. Usually we take our annual trips in slow season - summer, or during the January-February dog days of the NHL campaign. This time we booked last minute after I realized this hockey season would bleed into the Summer Olympics, which would bleed into next hockey season. So we had to get away now, or I would be the one bleeding (Must thank Turks my travel guru @TamaraAscent for saving my bacon/marriage by booking everything for me).
Problem is, I didn't fully grasp the time slot of this trip. Yes, I knew it was the last week of the NHL season. But our TSN schedule was light and I figured I could mass-PVR everything and catch up later. What I'd forgotten was The Masters - my single favourite TV viewing event of the year (narrowly edging out "The Bachelor: The Women Tell All," which should really be called "Psychotic Hot Girls in Cocktail Dresses Cannibalize Each Other").
No TV for Masters week? I mean, there is trying to be an available/attentive father/husband, and then there's pure turn-in-man-card stupidity. I believe this crossed me over.
Anyway, here's my annual family vacation diary…one man's slow descent into madness (okay not really, but I had to drum up some drama for this thing).
-No sign of Paparazzi on arrival at hotel. Miraculously, I've been able to dodge them on every single vacation I've ever had. I know, so lucky!
-Our resort, the Somerset (beautiful), has a croquet lawn, which captivates my kids so much they go there before the beach. Croquet may have the most unique demographic in sport (wait, sport is a stretch: lawn...gaming?). It is loved by those under 10 and over 70. I'm thinking no one else. Anyway, my son keeps hammering my daughter's ball into the flower beds. She cries. He forfeits. The whole family tournament is a letdown - much like March Madness this year.
-Within 15 minutes of arriving poolside, the kids have ordered something called a Cookie Monster Milkshake, which has real Oreos floating in it. This will become their vacation crack. By Day 3, they are begging for it at every meal. On Day 5, they steal their mother's wedding ring and pawn it to buy another round. Well not really, but I bet they considered it.
-My phone is acting up so can't get any scores before bed. Handle the absence any sporting information whatsoever remarkably well. Of course it's been 10 hours. Will likely snap by dawn.
-Snorkeling. Love snorkeling! Snorkeling's motto should be: "Snorkeling, it's like Scuba, but with far fewer horrific accidental deaths!" Just a few minutes in, I get embarrassingly excited after finding a remarkable round flat shell with perfectly symmetrical holes. I present it to my daughter like I'd found the Lost Ark of the Covenant. She says: "Ahh, Dad, that's a sand dollar."
I have some issues with...knowledge.
-The munchkins are at the Somerset's Kid's Club making wind chimes. (My initial male instinct is to chirp my 12-year old son over this, but his chimes turn out to be a beautiful medley of shells, string, and popsicle sticks, and in the right breeze, they sound like the Vienna Boys Choir, bringing me to close to tears. So I elect not to taunt him.) I decide to do laps in the hotel's very cool reverse-current lap pool. Set out to do 50. On lap 7, order beer from passing waitress while doing backstroke. At 10, in our hot tub with beer. Her fault. Service too prompt.
-By mid-afternoon, the sport blackout thing is getting to me. I pass a guy in a Capitals hat on the beach, and ask if he knows the scores from last night. He says something in Spanish and shrugs. Like every idiotic North American trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak English, I act like I'm playing pre-school charades, pointing at his hat and pretending to take a slapshot. He smiles awkwardly, grabs his child by the hand, and walks away briskly. I later come to the conclusion I may have mistakenly mimed, "Give me your money or I will beat you over the head with a stick."
-Briefly sneak on NCAA title game after the family falls asleep early. It's 16-4 Kentucky. Over. Croquet has more drama.
-Charter a speedboat from a great guy named Doug Camozzi, who runs a Water-Ski and Wakeboard School/Island Tour company called Nautique out of his oceanfront backyard. (If the United Nations had an International Livin' The Dream Scale—which it really should—"Whipping people around the turquoise waters and ridiculous beaches of Turks and Caicos on your speedboat all day" is about a 9.8, just behind "Being George Clooney.")
This is confirmed when our boat captain, an amiable Englishman named Sam Small (I don't believe I've ever used "amiable" before…ever--in blog or speech--I actually giggled a little when I wrote it) tells me he drove Victoria's Secret models to a Turks beach shoot a while back. I'd be amiable too.
Sam tells me he also taught Mary Kate Olsen how to wakeboard. I try for a solid minute to come up with a funny comeback to this tidbit. The best I could do was, "The wind didn't pick her up like a kite?" Skinny Olsen twin joke: circa 2007. Beyond weak.
Sam had Mario Lopez out on the boat once, too. Upon hearing this, I lift up my t-shirt and say, "These abs remind you of him at all?" That one was mildly funnier, if you add in the visual that went with it.
As Sam gives us the full tour (Iguana Island - more lizards than Wall Street, a shipwreck, amazing snorkeling at the third largest barrier reef in the world) a family of dolphins swims up alongside the boat.
Turns out this is the island's one resident dolphin, Jojo, and his current family. Jojo spent the early years of his life in captivity. When he was released, he just hung around Grace Bay, staying friendly with locals and tourists. He's now something like 35 - ancient - but still goes out into the ocean every year and brings back a new wife.
They call him Jojo. I call him Larry King.
- While swimming later at another perfect beach, a manta ray starts to circle me, staying just out of reach. Sam says he probably smells the conch we found on the beach. My son believes he said "gonch" and laughs like Sam is Louis C.K.
-We end the day by tubing around the calm waters of an inlet. I tube with my youngest daughter, who screams at the top of her lungs for the entire ride. I head home with a headache, feeling sudden empathy for Justin Bieber.
-Okay, this is getting silly. I need me some hockey. So with the girls gone early, my son and I break the FVA and sneak about 25 minutes of the morning ESPN SportsCenter. We catch Derek Roy's overtime goal against the Leafs, and that's it. Though we do get a 12-minute analysis of Baylor's NCAA women's basketball title. My boy is perplexed.
"Dad, why doesn't this SportsCenter like hockey?"
Simple, yet so profound. I don't dare trouble his uncluttered mind with an answer.
-It's a windy day and the waves are up, so I teach the kids to bodysurf. They are too young to understand that this is like getting acting lessons from Streep. For I am one with the waves, once nicknamed The White Dolphin by bodysurfers in Barbados http://www.tsn.ca/story/print/?id=127452 (Yeah, they didn't buy it either.)
-My youngest daughter draws an animal in the sand and asks me to guess what it is. I will soon learn this is akin to your wife asking, "Do I look fat in these pants?" You must tread carefully. I guess rat. It's a donkey. She doesn't talk to me all afternoon.
-We rent a car and drive to Chalk Sound on the other side of the island, where you can walk out a half-kilometre and the water is barely waist-high.*
*Warning to Dan O'toole: still over your head.
Turks has the confusing English drive on the wrong side of the road thing happening, and our car is driver's side right, so I'm doubly messed up. It goes okay until I make a right into the wrong lane of an oncoming truck, swerving out of the way with about a nanosecond to spare (That would have been an solid diary entry: "Day 5: Played beach volleyball. Had lobster for lunch. Killed family in fiery crash.").
-Perhaps still in shock about their near-death experience, family ignores the fact that I blatantly violate the FVA and watch the last 90 minutes of the first round of the Masters. Kate Upton could have been sunbathing naked on our balcony and I would not have looked up. Though I may have tried to move the TV out to the balcony.
-My boy and I play an early morning round at the Provo Golf Club. Sean Wilson, a London Ontario boy, is the amiable (twice in one column!) assistant pro. I only have one sleeve of balls so I ask Sean if that should get me through on this track. He hands me a dozen, on the house. Sean apparently knows my game well.
The course is terrific. I am not. Though I do stiff my tee-shot on one Par-3, do the Tiger-twirl, and strut off the tee-box admiring the shot while it is still in the air. Problem is, the tee-markers at Provo are conches, and I walk my big toe right into the sharp point of one, causing me to scream like...my daughter on a tube ride. My son laughs like I am Louis C.K.
-We hurry back from the course to participate in an Easter Friday "Seaster Hunt" This was the brainchild of the guy who runs the Somerset, the extremely amiable (sorry, getting annoying now) Ulrich Krauer. Ulrich had all the kids paint rocks all week, then had them hidden in the ocean for their parents to find. He even had a trophy built for the family who collects the most rocks, with bonus points if you find the ones your own kids painted. Excellent family fun, except for the pressure.
You try having your eight-year-old daughter look at you with her big eyes and say, "Win that trophy Daddy. Don't. Let. Me. Down."
So about a dozen Dads and Moms of various shapes and sizes sprint into the ocean with flippers on, looking like some FunnyOrDie parody of the Hawaii Ironman start.
I come out of the ocean 10 minutes later with one painted "egg". The winning family, I don't know their names so let's call them, say…The Big Fat Cheaters… somehow bring out seven. My kids stare at me the way Tortorella looks at his players after they take a stupid penalty.
Fortunately, Ulrick has chocolate eggs for everyone. And I quickly order a round of Cookie Monsters just to be safe. Because as any good parenting book will tell you, bribing children is the best way to make them forget your failures.
-My 10 year-old daughter asks if we can have the free "Confidential Breakfast" again. You know, the one with just the pastries and the fruit. This amuses me more than you'll ever know.
"Waiter, what's on the menu for today."
"Can't tell you."
Minutes later, my son randomly asks if a guy who makes fondue is called "a fondler."
We need to consider extra tutoring.
-Make the mistake of giving the Banana Boat guy an extra $20 for an "extra-good ride." For the next 35 minutes, He spins us in circles until the waves are bouncing us like the "Best of Wipeout" videos my kids watch on YouTube. Kids' reaction: "Awesome!" My reaction: "I think my ass is broken!"
-It is the Saturday of the Masters, and the last day of the NHL season, with almost every seed up for grabs. It's also the last day of our vacation, so the family wants to squeeze in more of…everything. I have no shot. But then, mid-afternoon, my youngest doesn't feel well. My wife is worried about sunstroke and figures we better get her inside.
"That's aweso…awful, I mean awful, really bad," I say. "I better stay with her."
Boo-Yah! (Or whatever people say these days that is more current than Boo-Yah...I don't even try anymore.) I catch the third period of the Wings-Hawks game on NBC, and almost three hours of moving day at the Masters. I am whole again.
-One last morning body surf (my ten-year old shows a lot of potential - strong genetics) and we head home. Kids and wife all had an amazing time, and decide not to pursue supplementary discipline for my blatant FVA violations.
-Arrive home in time for all of the Masters dramatics. Then watch about a dozen hockey games in three hours on PVR to catch up. Amazing what you can do when you fast-forward those silly intermissions and pre-games. Wait. Forget I said that.