The Speakeasy

This weekend held a fabulous surprise. It took a guide, a password, two secret doors, and two flights of stairs to discover it, but the result was complete transportation from convention.

Perhaps, I should pause to comment on how much I enjoy occasionally abandoning convention. You see, for the most part, I am incredibly conservative. I don’t like to gamble or take risks. I don’t make rash decisions. I’m one of those people who does fairly well with the day-to-day routines. I cook. I clean. I go to the grocery store. A lot. Yet, occasionally, these routines start to suffocate me, and I crave a bit of adventure. So that might explain my complete delight with finding myself in a speakeasy, more specifically a Prohibition Era-themed speakeasy in the middle of downtown Orlando.

Yes…a speakeasy…as in a hidden, password-protected bar offering sumptuous cocktails and a touch of rebellious transgression.

This form of transgression was right up my alley, for there were no DJs mixing electronica or sweaty masses of people grinding under neon lights. Instead, the glow of ornate chandeliers was just enough for me to make out the writing on the cocktail list. Everything sounded exotic and delicious, but not in a Caribbean island sort of way. No, these were historically-inspired libations that clearly required more than a shot of Jager and a mixer to bring them into existence.

Although I technically ordered off the menu, the bartender revealed his aptitude for mixology as he proceeded to ask me a series of questions in order to customize my cocktail to my personal inclinations—so he said. The experience definitely threw me off initially because I’ve never had a bartender ask me for much more than my order. This one wanted to make sure he had the correct balance between citrus and bourbon and effervescence. Despite being slightly disconcerting at first, I found myself enamored with his attention to detail and ended up giving him complete creative control over my beverage. He paid the same level of attention to my companions’ preferences, which gave me the opportunity to drink in the details of my surroundings.

We stood in a very small room with brick walls and dark wooden floors and accents. All of the frames for the artwork were elaborate, and the overall effect was intoxicating—sorry the pun wasn’t initially intended, but then I kind of liked it. In any case, it was like being in the middle of a secret or a dream. Part of my brain knew that I was only several walls away from seedy Orlando night clubs, but my eyes were convinced that somehow I had stepped back into 1922.

This feeling followed me out to the patio, where a wall of ornate mirrors reflected clouds and strings of lights. From my perspective, I could see an inky night sky, framed with the brick of surrounding buildings. Again, the effect was truly surreal.

After some time and a good deal of pleasant conversation, our drinks arrived. Clearly, this was not the type of place to grab a quick drink. No, this was about the experience, which to my pleasant surprise did include a delicious cocktail. Yes, his citrus-bourbon concoction left nothing to be desired. He had nailed it.

Between sips of my new favorite libation, I found myself considering what I can only describe as the oddities of such a business model.

The bar was designed as a speakeasy, so there’s very little advertising.

The password required effort from the patron.

The location was tiny.

There were only a handful of people there besides us.

And the drinks took a good deal of time to mix and serve.

Yet, all of these elements made the experience so much grander. It was as though the entrepreneurial vision included and cherished an attention to detail above all else.

It was this attention to detail that captivated me and drew me in. For the first time in weeks, I didn’t care how late it was, or that we had a long drive ahead of us, or that I had to get up early the next morning. All that mattered was being under a dreamy night sky with my husband and our good friends, the ebb and flow of our laughter, and the soft glow of incandescent bulbs on weathered brick.

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Seemingly insignificant details.

And yet, these are the details that really do matter.

So thank you, speakeasy, for giving me so much more than a tasty beverage.

Discovering a New Form of Love

Despite my distaste for the Hallmark-corrupted, consumer-driven holiday that Valentine’s Day has become, I spent last week contemplating a new form of love.

Well, new to me, at least.

This is not the love that is playfully mentioned in cards.

Nor the kind that you write in a poem and surround with heart-shaped doodles.

It isn’t the warm, fuzzy kind that exists wrapped in blankets near a fire.

It doesn’t emanate from classic novels where some Mr. Darcy ties up all of the loose ends.

No bouquet of roses or box of chocolates will ever remind you of it.

For this love is not pretty or sweet or joyful.

It is a deeper, darker kind of love. The kind that emerges with erratic, ominous hospital visits, that exists on tear-stained shoulders. It is harbored in my husband’s embrace…not the daily hug hello, but the more urgent form intended to protect me from harsh realities.

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It is present in moments that require patience and fortitude.

It’s him setting alarms for ungodly hours to give the dog his insulin, or walking them outside in the icy rain, or swapping the vehicles, so I can get out of the driveway in the morning on time.

It’s knowing that regardless of what life throws at us, he will be there for me, and I will be there for him. It’s the mutual, unceasing support that braces us against life’s storms. It’s this kind of love that makes me smile as I walk by the wall of Valentine’s Day cards, knowing that few, if any, of them can truly express all of the facets of the love I have for my husband. Sure, they can describe the romance, the joy, the trust, and all of the pretty qualities that serve as integral threads to the tapestry of our relationship, but they will never completely convey the kind of love that structures that tapestry and makes life’s hardest moments bearable.

Ugh. It was not my intention to sound like a complete romantic. I just wanted to take this Valentine’s weekend to acknowledge that love truly does come in many forms, and I couldn’t be more thankful for this fact.

A Momentary Escape

I apologize for the lateness of this post. The week just got away from me…which I guess is indicative of my life at the moment.

Lately, it’s been all about jumping from one task to another. There’s never really enough time for anything, and yet I still find myself dashing about, trying to accomplish it all.

Yet, there are occasional moments amidst the insanity where I force myself to pause. Admittedly, it’s usually when there’s a cup of coffee in my hand, and I have thirty minutes of winding roads between me and a classroom of hyper-active teenagers.

This morning the coffee was bold, the sun had yet to rise, and nostalgia found its way into the passenger seat. I complied and located the song on my playlist. It took only a few seconds, just the first few notes, and I was transported.

Chiffon floated around my ankles. Lace rested on my shoulder. Chills, prompted by a combination of nerves and excitement, rolled across my body in waves. An overwhelming onslaught of emotions threatened to carry me away had I not been safely anchored by the pressure of my new husband’s palm on mine. Warm and reassuring, his touch brought a sense of reality during a moment that I previously believed existed only in works of fiction.

We stood in a hotel hallway with our wedding party, waiting to be introduced. Separating us from our guests were two heavy, French doors which, when opened simultaneously by the hotel staff, released forth the bold, invigorating chords from Florence and The Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love.”

With each opening of the doors, we found ourselves increasingly alone in the hallway, until it was just the two of us. I cannot tell you how thankful I am to be able to say that we did pause, hand-in-hand, and take a moment to breathe in the anticipation of walking through those doors together.

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Yet, no amount of preparation could have equipped us for when those doors swung open for the last time, and upon entering, we were enveloped in a roar of applause from the very people we loved most in the world.

Imagine euphoria.

Imagine the beat of the music, the smiles of loved ones, the thunder of a standing ovation, the flicker of candlelight, the aroma of fondant icing, and the soft perfume of roses circling and lifting you up. Now, imagine the delight of experiencing all of this with the one person you love most in the world.

It was that amazing.

Months later, it still gives me chills to relive that moment. Occasionally, my husband and I will play that song and reminisce about how that experience alone made all of the pre-wedding frustration worth it.

You know, it’s funny…people warned us again and again that we wouldn’t remember much from the wedding, that it would all be a blur. Perhaps, it was this warning that prompted us to pause periodically throughout the day to drink it in.

I’m so thankful we did.

Our lives are the sum of these mountain top moments and the valleys in between. So, even though my current day-to-day feels like a continuous up-hill climb, it helps to escape into moments of bliss like this one.

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While I wish I could spend all of my time in that moment, it’s enough knowing that it’s there if I need it, as is the man who made it possible.

You know, suddenly this up-hill climb seems a little less daunting.