Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Longest Day

June 21st is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. I was sound asleep at sunrise, but I did witness the early dawn on Monday the 20th. I had to do my bi-weekly airport run, sending my husband off to Chicago. He leaves early on Monday morning and flies back right after work on Friday night so he can get back to Celebration as soon as possible.

As usual, we set off around 5 a.m.; the time could have just as easily passed for midnight, based on the darkness and gloom. But by the time I pulled into the driveway an hour later, the sun had taken over and the birds were welcoming the new day in a raucous harmony. Quite a change from my winter drives, when I left and returned under a pitch-black sky.

After an airport drive, I always crawl back into bed for another two or three hours. I'm just not meant to be on an early-bird schedule; I'll always be more of a night owl. True, I drag my carcass off the mattress at 7 a.m. most mornings for my walk, but I trudge along in a zombie-like state that is only relieved by liberal administration of coffee. When I have nothing to rise and shine for, I hibernate like a bear.

It was harder to fall asleep with the sunshine streaming in the window, but eventually I managed to return to dreamland. I awoke a couple of hours later, refreshed and ready to face the world.

It was a typically busy Monday. I had plenty of work to do for both of my jobs, plus I had to run downtown to do chores. I slipped out to do that at lunchtime, combining it with a run to Chick-Fil-A. If you're not familiar with that chain, they serve all manner of chicken-based items: sandwiches, nuggets, tenders, etc. They have the strangest ads, which feature cows urging people to eat more chicken. I supposed that bovines might be glad to see humans focusing on a different farm-based food source, but somehow I just can't buy the notion that they'd sell the poultry down the river to save their own skins. Wouldn't all the farm animals band together to promote vegetarianism? And where do the pigs fit in, since Chick-Fil-A sells sausage for breakfast? Do they have a pact with the cows not to mention them?

Regardless of the silly ads, Chick-Fil-A is conveniently located in Water Tower Place, so I often visit it just because it's easy to get to. It's very rare that an ad or commercial disgruntles me so much that I'll boycott a product. I only have two personal ad-based boycotts currently going on: Charmin toilet paper and Quiznos Subs.

Surely you've seen the Charmin ads with cartoon bears dancing in the woods while wiping their behinds, having apparently just taken big dumps behind their tree "bathrooms." Going "number two" must be a family affair with bears, since Mom, Dad, and the kids are always doing it side-by-side in those obnoxious commercials.

I can just imagine some ad executive sharing his big idea: "Hey, let's base our next campaign on the old saying that bears shit in the woods! Surely shitting bears are synomonous with the idea of ultra-soft bathroom tissue." It's frightening to think that the company heads must have agreed and actually paid for that drivel and put it on the air. The whole concept repulses me and has driven me to buy an alternate brand.

I was one of the few people who liked to Quiznos sponge monkey ads, in which those mutated gerbil-looking creatures with the Clutch Cargo mouthes sang the praises of toasted subs and pepper bars in shrill, out-of-tune voices. I also enjoyed the "raised by wolves" spots. But now they've put Baby Bob in their ads...CGI babies with unsynced Japanese movie mouths are bad enough in general, but when they spout horny blather with the voice of a 40 year old man, it's time to patronize Subway or make the drive to Earl of Sandwich.

Compared with bear feces and freaky mutant infants, the Chick-Fil-A cow looks pretty good. Besides, I am addicted to the honey mustard and Polynesian sauces that go with the chicken nuggets (the cole slaw and carrot salad are pretty good, too). There are other fast food places lining every available inch of space on 192, but I don't usually venture too far beyond Celebration. I don't like either of the two closest offerings: Wendy's and Checkers.

Actually, I should explain: I do like Wendy's, but the one directly across 192 must have the busiest drive-thru in the United States. Never do I go there without getting stuck behind nearly a dozen cars. If I pull up at lunchtime, I don't receive my order until it's time for dinner. They crank the cars through pretty fast, but the sheer volume is overwhelming.

I'm not overly thrilled with Checker's food; they're located adjacent to Old Town, so their convenience might win them some brownie points, but for me that's totally overshadowed by the murder that happened there a few months back. A gunman robbed them through the drive-thru window and then murdered the manager in cold blood. They got him on videotape, but I don't think they ever caught him.

The crime scene tape is long gone, and the restaurant is always packed with oblivious tourists who have no idea that they're eating at the site of a brutal slaying. But when a combination of hunger and laziness led me there one day, I couldn't help but get goosebumps as I sat in the drive-thru lane, right where the murderer had stood. By the time I got my burger, I had lost my appetite; no big loss, since their food is mediocre anyway. That was my first and last visit to Checker's.

On this day, I was quite content with my chicken nuggets, and the cats seemed to approve of my choice, as they surrounded me to beg the moment I walked in the door. Stitch is much too cool to solicit handouts, but Farquaad and Tooncinator have no such scruples. They meow piteously as though they are both starving, even though they each tip the scales at 15 pounds plus.

After work, I had a pedicure appointment at Magic Nails. In Chicago, I didn't have to worry about my toe nails, since they were usually hidden in socks and gym shoes. In Florida, I live in sandals, so I try to keep them at least moderately presentable. The nails on my small toes are so tiny that it takes a microscope to see them, so I get them done professionally whenever possible. Otherwise, I end up with red, pink, or purple-painted toes, since I managed to slap more nail polish onto my skin than on the nail.

Magic Nails has wonderful massage chairs that knead and thump your back while your tootsies are pampered in the foot bath. I went one level up from the standard pedicure, so I got an exfoliation and "foot mask." By the time I was done, my poor, long-suffering feet felt utterly rejuvinated. My only error was picking too light of a polish color. I thought it would hide any chips and wear, but it's so light that you can barely tell it's there. Next time, I'll opt for my usual gaudy purple hue.

While my nails were being done, I noticed that the light of the second-longest day was being overtaken by dark storm clouds. I thought I might get caught in a downpour, based on the threatening rumbles and flashes of lightening, but it was all an idle threat. The sky emitted a few brief spits of water, and then the storm moved off to impose its wrath on another part of the state.

Now, the longest day of the year is over; it's all downhill from here. As the weeks wear on, the sun's dominance will weaken, and I'll be doing both legs of my airport run in total darkness again. In Chicago, shortening days used to mean that summer was fading into fall, soon to be followed by months of miserable winter weather. In Florida, the increasing darkness is not a harbinger of doom and depression. Short days pave the way to a break in the heat, and hopefully to many weeks of gorgeous open-window weather. By the time the Winter Solstice brings the shortest day of the year, I'll be feeling sorry for my snowed-in friends and family in Chicago and remembering why I moved to the Sunshine State.

Learn more about Celebration on my website: www.celebrationinfo.com

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