Saturday. Meet Ed and Cindy at the airport in Oranjestad, holding signs that read “Happy Birthday, Cindy!” Succeed in surprising her. Take her directly to airport bar to dull the effects of shock. Collect darling Daryl from his incoming flight and drive to house. House locked. Ed calls owner, who breaks news that there is serious plumbing leak and staying there is out of the question. Ed’s face falls briefly, until owner says the magic words. Contrary to popular belief, the three sweetest words ever spoken are not “I love you.” They are these: “You’ve been upgraded.” Beautiful, perfect house has four bedrooms, three full baths, enormous kitchen, dining room, living room, pool, raised hot tub with barstools around the edge, grill, shady outdoor dining table and hammock. Paradise. Celebrate good fortune with trip to Asian market down the street, where we purchase case of Aruba’s finest (and only) beer, Balashi. Consume entire case while frolicking in pool. Have lovely dinner at Gasparito, which is highly recommended if you are ever in Aruba.
Sunday. Trip to market to replenish Balashi supply. Drink beer on beach found with help of Ed’s expert off-road driving abilities. Johann nearly dive-bombed by pelican. Soak up lots of sun. Discussion of merits of fave film The Big Lebowski disintegrates into quote-fest. F-bombs flying everywhere. Go to grocery superstore for pina colada fixins’ and gourmet dinner ingredients. Ed teaches us how to play Euchre, which results in still more smart-talk and bad language.
Monday. Despite consumption of heroic quantities of alcohol the previous evening, most of group gets up early and goes running. Go to beach that can be reached by real road and features beachfront bar serving blender drinks. Grudgingly fork over 15 dollars to beach chair Nazi. More card-playing and spouting lines from aforementioned movie. Wander through shops in Oranjestad and stop at bar for “Oktoberfest” Balashi, which turns out to be regular Balashi, but in a really big glass. Dinner at Cuba’s Cookin’ followed by Cuban cigars and rum in the zebra room. Upon return to house, break down and finally watch The Big Lebowski, which Ed presciently brought along.
Tuesday. Visit national park, where we encounter all manner of wildlife, including donkeys, little sand crabs, iguanas and, in the caves, lots and lots of bats. Visit Frenchman’s Pass, Lourdes Grotto and the bird sanctuary. Weather out sudden rainstorm in covered beer garden at Balashi brewery. Back to superstore for chicken, plantains, black beans and rice. Watch scary movie titled 1408, which stars John Cusak and reinforces my dislike of staying in hotel rooms alone. Make mental note to ask for hotel’s least evil room next time making a reservation.
Wednesday. Cindy uses leftover grilled chicken to make delicious chicken salad for lunch. Back to beach, then off to afternoon boat cruise featuring snorkeling and rope swing. Daryl gets chatted up by girls under influence of his good looks and boat’s open bar. I briefly lose track of Johann and, fearing him drowned, behave like character from bad Lifetime TV movie. Back to land, where guys get recruited to play pick-up game of soccer on the beach. Finding themselves one man down, they enlist Cindy. Other team balks at playing against girl, but soon repent when they see that she plays like Mia Hamm and subsequently leads her team to victory. Dinner at tapas restaurant serving barracuda, followed by drinks at the Hyatt’s lush outdoor bar.
Thursday. Spend morning at pool. Ed, Cindy and Daryl go golfing in afternoon and return with stories and pictures of golf course containing more goats and burros than grass. Golf cart only indication that area not actually petting zoo. More gourmet grilling on the terrace. More card playing. More trash talking. More Balashi.
Friday. Back to beach, where we thwart chair Nazi extortion by bringing own chairs. Sudden downpour looks to cut day’s fun short, until Ed suggests the inevitable: bowling. We register as Dude, Walter, Donny, Maude and Fawn (Bunny Lebowski’s real name) and drink white Russians, thereby cementing The Big Lebowski’s strangle-hold on theme of vacation. Final evening is spent dining at Le Petit Café and shooting darts at Café Chaos. Bit of dancing, which Ed identifies as moment when evening started to go “very wrong.”
Saturday. Brunch consisting of leftovers and remaining bottle of champagne. Wistful goodbyes. Plans for next trip together begin.