Treasure Island

You ever wonder why you choose to connect with a particular person? A chance conversation, initiation of future plans? This is how one of my childhood best friends and I ended up taking a 24 hour adventure with a semi-stranger to St Petersburg.

The lead-up to this adventure was a loose plan to collect seashells on a certain distant beach, then a boat ride that got rescheduled (and then never materialized), and the exchange of a business card regarding a shop of a spiritual nature. These forces collided into a fully formed plan that started and ended in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Fort Myers, Florida. This plan led us first to St Pete’s, and then resulted in a troubled night on Treasure Island.

My childhood friend ( who I will call Peggy) was tagging along on a business trip of mine to this area on this weekend. A few months prior, I had formed a friendship with a woman I briefly worked with who lived somewhat nearby, who I will refer to as Mickey. Her spiritually has drawn me to her, and we had spent some time together bonding over our connection to the natural world over the past couple of months. Her niche was rocks, gems and nature-based crafts and jewelry. Mine was outdoor adventures, nature and logistics. Sometimes those interests, along with the spiritual aspects of those activities overlapped. We inspired each other through our conversations.

A couple months ago on a trip to this area, I had booked a sunset boat cruise in St Petersburg as an activity to do with my mother and my brother’s girlfriend. We had been compelled to cancel those plans due to discovery that great hordes of people would be mingling in that exact area during the time of our booking. I had rebooked the boat tour for the next time I had scheduled to return, and now that weekend had arrived. I had three tickets for the boat ride, so I had invited Mickey to join us on this overnight to St Pete’s.

We started the journey with a drawing of one tarot card each, to set the intention of the trip. Mine spoke about accessing one’s creative side as a way to nurture spirituality, which seemed rather fitting, and tied into our next stop.

We had been compelled to come into St Pete’s early due to the allure of a business card handed to Peggy a month before with the address of a particular shop in this town and random advice to go check this place out. We had arrived at the specified address, and made our first in a series of arguably poor decisions in deciding to get a latte at a coffee shop first. At the time, it seemed like a great idea, but potentially it lead to some consequences later that derailed our plans, for better or worse.

After this pit stop, we happily entered the store on the address of that card, which seemed to fit the description of our destination if one wasn’t reading too carefully. There was magic and temptation in there. Also, Mickey began telling me of a spiritual festival the following month where she would be selling her wares that would happen to coincide with my next work trip. A half-baked plan began to form in my head to spend time with her at this festival. We also quickly realized that we were not in the right place (or were we?) and that our actual destination was around the corner. Once in the right shop, I was drawn to a book of poetry, while Peggy was being tempted heavily by singing bowls, and dealing with the ramifications of singing bowels, likely the result of the latte.

As Peggy was running back and forth between the bathroom and weighing purchasing decisions, Mickey and I began a discussion of the spiritual significance of the number 14. Some synchronicities had recently aligned in my life that connected to that number. She told me this number represents going on a spiritual journey, a journey of which a psychic just revealed to me last month that I was at the beginning of, but that was going to get more intense as time went on. I believe now that Mickey is somehow a part of this spiritual journey, although I haven’t yet figured out her role….unless it is simply what I illustrated prior in this story.

After this, we made the second in a series of arguably poor decisions by deciding to check into our hotel next. This hotel had not been our first, or even our second choice, but ultimately had been decided on by Peggy due to cost and availability. It was also almost a half hour away.We spent valuable time on getting to and considerable money on booking what turned out to be a somewhat sketchy hotel room. Our third bad decision was taking way too long to tear ourselves away from an emotional story that Mickey was telling us to get ourselves to the boat slip at the appointed time.

If we all had been a little bit more cautious and controlled, we would have easily made it on time, as we had rolled into town a good 2.5 hours before the boat left harbor. But what can I say, the three of us were valuing emotional energy over physical energy at these critical moments.I realized too late that we needed to leave, and then another poor decision was made. Or, poor timing of a gastric situation that slowed our exit (no names will be mentioned here).

And then ultimately a parking situation derailed the whole damn plan. We had no idea that our destination was in an area that everyone else in town decided they wanted to be on a Saturday night. Any available parking spots were light years away from the boat with the blue banners at Pier 23 that we were desperately trying to reach. I dropped the other two off and made a valiant effort to find a place for the car before our ship sailed, but alas, we failed in this quest and the Tampa Bay Discovery Eco-Tour left the harbor without us.

No dolphins would be seen by us, and also neither the mystical mysterious Aurora Borealis that everyone on our social media seemed to be seeing in our absence.

We did see some incredible banyan trees draped in twinkling lights in the nearby park, though, where a harpist played a tune heard only perhaps by the man laying on a blanket in front of her – an audience of one for likely the loveliest melody that couldn’t be heard. A “tacos and tequila” festival raged on at another nearby park. Boats rocked in gentle waves in the marina.Patrons flocked to nearby bars and dined at outdoor tables at swanky restaurants. Pretty girls walked by, maybe on first dates or with friends, a night out on the town. On the way back to our sketchy hotel room, Mickey filled our heads with tales of catching fairies on camera in the woods, of seeing shapes in the clouds, of potentially other-worldly energy sending her messages of peace and goodwill.

We got back to our place in Treasure Island, and set off on foot for the highest rated restaurant in town, where we dined on shrimp, fish, pizza, drank a little and listened to some live music while we watched the people around us. Bellies full, we wobbled like penguins back to our shit-show hotel, where a toilet issue plagued us into the night. We ended up calling the manager late, late into the evening to come help us. He was a bit lippy about it and made a comment that sent us all into “fierce mode”, but finally showed up with a young man who deftly fixed the problem while the older manager putzed around playing the hero.

Our feet were nearly black with grim from walking barefoot on the disgusting floors. I had to wash my feet and then scoot along with my clean feet on a hand towel to get to my bed without getting my feet dirty again. There was some kind of moisture retention bag in the closet that was filled past the appropriate level, which had us all feeling a bit icky about the air quality.

We all wanted to crash at this point, but began imagining issues in the room beyond the obvious. Peggy went down a rabbit hole of mold research and slept with a hand towel over her face, scratching at imaginary bedbugs. I slept next to her in a full bed (not a queen as we expected), closer than we have ever been before, on low-budget low thread count sheets for a full five hours with my CPAP humming quietly. Mickey laid awake for hours, silently freaking out with I think excitement and anxiety about the condition of the room. By the time she finally went to sleep, I was waking up with gastric issues and worried of waking up my dear Peggy with snoring in our abnormally close bed positions.

I watched the sun come up slowly over the marina behind us, until it’s rays shined so brightly through the window that we all woke up with a start, thinking someone had turned on a light switch.

With great effort and sudden readiness, we left the room in pursuit of this hyped-up seashell situation. We listened to the anthem I chose for this trip, “Florida” by Taylor Swift, from her brand new album The Tortured Poet’s Department that I had been listening to steadily the entire week of my work trip here, as we drove south along the beach resort town to Pass-A-Grille Beach. I had read on the Internet that the best shells could be found here, even better than legendary Sanibel.

It turns out that either the Internet had false ideas, or we had been beaten out by close locals or over-eager tourists. Or maybe it was not a lucky day for shells, much like Peggy and I’s experience yesterday on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Peggy sat quietly on the beach, looking at her phone while Mickey and I combed the surf and picked through the layers of cockleshells looking for a real gem, like a welk or some other beautiful spiral shaped things. All we picked up were a few specimens of a regular variety with perhaps a nice touch here and there, nothing terribly spectacular.

It reminded me of interviewing and hiring staff members at my workplace this past week, so many casts, reel in only to throw back out again, looking for that special something.We tried again at some other beach on the way back, with less luck but a slightly more enjoyable feel. After this, we returned to our room to wash up, eat cold pizza leftovers and pack. There was a situation involving a two dollar gip and a display of fierceness from Mickey, some tension with the hotel management that Peggy had to smooth over during our exit. The two dollars and good faith was restored, and Peggy gave us lessons in diplomacy as we drove away shower-less from our rat-trap motel on Treasure Island, vowing in our hearts to never return there again.

We returned to the Cracker Barrel and briefly waded through the huge after-church Mother’s Day crowd to take a quick opportunity at a restroom. We briefly took one last short drive together to check out some nature at a nearby preserve before Peggy and I needed to make our way to the airport. We made one quick stop at Raceway to share the sweet experience of gas station fro-yo. We then ate club sandwiches at the airport, making it to boarding just in the nick of time.

As we wrapped up this journey, we discussed the reasons why Mickey had become a part of my life, and what lessons she brought to both Peggy and I during this trip. All of us walked away feeling like we had a great adventure, despite not achieving any of our specific missions. This trip was not in vain, despite the fact that we missed our on the boat ride, the good shells, and on discovering the reason why our road led us to that particular shop. It might be months or even years for us to see how this part of our journey affected the way we think and perceive the world, but somehow this was meant to be a part of our path.

We are thrown around in this life by the winds of Chaos, ever so often hitting up against each other to polish our edges and bring out our inner shine. This night on Treasure Island was somehow a part of this shaping. Our paths will continue to collide and the end result we can only ponder as we make our way to our next grand adventures, treasuring the memory and the lessons we gave each other along the way.