Friday, March 10, 2006

The Mommas Crash the Clubhouse

Within Celebration, there is an exclusive enclave that is off-limits to the common folk. Artisan Park is the newest area in town (that is, if you don't count the condos being constructed on the former parking lots downtown), and it's the only "village" that has its own private pool and clubhouse. The pools in North, Main, South, and East Villages are open for use by any Celebration resident. In Artisan Park, their pool and clubhouse is open to "members only." They pay extra dues for the privilege of having private facilities that cannot be invaded by the hoi polloi.

But on Friday night, the intrepid Mickey Mommas had the honor of being invited guests. One of the Mommas is an Artisan Park resident, so she invited the whole gang to Happy Hour at the clubhouse. Actually, it ran much longer than an hour...from 5:30 to 8 p.m., to be exact.

At the appointed time, my next door neighbor stopped over. She was wearing her blue diddly boppers on her head (a legacy of last year's Davy Jones concert), so I dug out my green ones. Weird headgear is a trademark of the Mommas, so we figured we'd be right in style. We piled into Crush (my green-shelled NEV) to pick up another Momma who lives a little further down the street. Then, we headed to the hallowed halls of Artisan Park to experience the inner sanctum for ourselves.

Artisan Park abuts East Village, so we didn't have too far of a drive. I parked Crush outside the clubhouse and our trio approached cautiously, wondering whether we dared to venture inside without our host. Finally we worked up the guts to cross the threshhold and slip into the Promised Land. I'm sure that my neighbor and I looked quite inconspicuous with the neon colored diddly boppers bouncing and swaying merrily on our heads.

Apparently we were the first to arrive. We glanced around nervously, wondering if we would be asked to leave. But no bouncer approached us, so we sat down in a nice little area furnished with couches and chairs. The clubhouse was very inviting; it still had that "new building" smell, and the decor and ambiance was reminiscent of a Disney hotel lobby. Before long, familiar faces started showing up, and we breathed a little easier.

I had been hoping for a margarita, but it turns out that Happy Hour consists strictly of beer and wine. An array of appetizers is also available, but I'd eaten a late lunch so the food didn't appeal to me. I bring a bottle of water virtually everywhere I go, so I skipped the alcoholic beverages in favor of my portable H20.

We all sat around an kibitzed as the sky grew darker outside and the clubhouse filled with other revelers. It appeared that Happy Hour attracts quite a respectable crowd. Besides the Mommas, there was at least one other large group, plus scattered knots of people. Several people had ordered appetizers, and they looked quite tasty. I tasted a tortilla chip with salsa, which was quite good; the spring rolls looked yummy, too, but I skipped over those.

Before we knew it, it was almost 8 p.m. I was due to pick up my husband at the airport at 10, but by this time my stomach was rumbling. We had spent the last half hour chatting about Buca Di Beppo, a wonderful Italian restaurant, and the idea of food had firmly implanted itself into our consciousness. Several of the other Mommas were hungry, too, so we decided to head off in search of food.

Due to the conversation, our first choice was Italian. Unfortunately, it was prime dinnertime on a Saturday night, so our chance of getting into a place like Olive Garden before we died of hunger was slim to none. Enter the coveted "Out of My Way, Mere Mortals" card, which I described in my last blog entry. For those who may not have read it, it gives you front-of-the-line access at Joe's Crab Shack, which has a convenient location on the outskirts of Celebration.

I had just eaten at Joe's the week before, but it's hard to get tired of their coconut shrimp. Five of us had decided to head off in search of food, so we caravaned to Water Tower Place, the shopping center where Joe's is located.

The wait was well over an hour, but a quick flash of the coveted card and we were whisked to our booth immediately. Ah, the privileges of membership! We might not be able to buy spring rolls at the Artisan Park club whenever we want, but we can order crab legs on demand, even on the busiest nights.

Soon, we were all tucking into salad and rolls, awaiting our main courses. My neighbor and I also started off steaming bowls of lobster bisque, piled high in the center with lobster meat. I'm quite boring when it comes to my Joe's order; I almost invariably order the combo of snow crab legs and coconut shrimp. I stayed true to form, although I must admit that my tablemates' dishes were quite tempting. On my left was the 33 shrimp special, and on my right was a lovely shrimp pasta with garlic bread.

Joe's has nice little mini-margaritas, but I resisted the temptation. After all, I would soon be driving to the airport. I doubt that one micro-sized alcoholic beverage would have impaired my driving ability, but I prefer to err on the side of caution. After all, Pontiac stopped making Azteks in 2006, so it would be hard to replace Canyonero if I destroy it in a drunken demolition derby.

My husband's plane was slated to land around 10 p.m., so I dug out my cell phone and placed it where I could hear it ring. The plane had taken off late, so I was counting on a late arrival. But they'd managed to make up some time in the air, so he actually arrived earlier than expected. When he called to say he had landed, I was just paying my bill at Joe's; the airport is a good half an hour away, and I still needed to drop off Crush and pick up Canyonero (my Aztek).

Fortunately, hubby is understanding of my wander ways. I zipped home with my neighbor, dropped her off, and switched vehicles. I had to pause in the house to feed the pitifully crying cats. They acted as though it had been days since their last can of food; in reality, it was a mere 24 hours ago, and they're never without dry cat chow, but they're spoiled rotton drama kings.

On the way to the airport, I gaped at the long line snaking from the toll booth back a good half mile. I stayed to the left, which is the Sun Pass lane, but it seemed to be stopped, too. Soon I figured out why...some rocket scientist had decided that either a) he didn't have money for the toll; or b) he was hopelessly lost. Thus, he was just sitting there, blocking the Sun Pass booth. Suddenly and abruptly, he screeched his van around and plowed across the median to the other side of the tollway. A moronic move on his part, but at least he was out of the way.

The rest of the trip to the airport was non-eventful, and soon I was rolling up to Departures (Arrivals is too darned crowded, so I've learned to do my pick-ups on the upper level). Poor hubby had cooled his heels for half an hour or so, but he forgave me. He knows that the power of a Mommas outing is strong and a meal at Joe's is irresistable. The important thing was that he was on his way home to Celebration after a week of winter redux...he didn't mind the wait, so long as it was in the Florida mug and not the Chicago chill.

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