The Key Lime Cove Chronicles: Part One

At Crossroads Of The Crossroad’s Crossroads

We are lost under layers of winter wear. We scurry headlong into oncoming squalls churned up in a dark, frigid place so lonely and terrifying that the wind itself had to flee it, screaming. We look directly at a counterfeit sun, coin-sized, washed-out, and utterly worthless.  It is summarily dragged down like the token at the end of a cosmic window shade. We make our way home into a premature darkness and we know we’re on our own. We exhale clouds of warm, damp life—so quickly dissipated in this climate of unrelenting mortality. In the outlying fields, where the suburbs and the jolly Christmas lights end, the furrowed rows of plowed-over cornfields are braided with wisps of snow and sinister black soil. Even the barren trees seem given over to dark thoughts:   the grasping neuron-like branches wave helplessly in the wind, clutching shreds of  dappled winter sky. It is winter in the Midwest, and make no mistake: it is a bitch.

Because I’m especially sensitive to the whole bundled-up, sun-forsaken death trip that is winter in the Midwest, measures must be taken. Almost every light in my house must be on, for example. Every sweater in my family’s wardrobe belongs to me by ad hoc right of eminent domain. (Even my daughter’s, whose tiny cardigans make righteous ski caps in a pinch.) Funk music– which pulses, grunts, and somehow even reeks like a living creature– must be played, and clumsy, rigor-mortisy dancing must ensue.

Anything connoting warmth, sun, and life will do: even a weekend trip to a cheesy-ass indoor water park. To my four-year-old daughter Mabel, our visit to Key Lime Cove in Gurnee, Illinois is a surprise Christmas present. To me, it was a chance to run around in my swimsuit and pretend December never happened: a delusional indulgence made possible by my partner Kate, who brilliantly scored a deal online, thus killing two proverbial birds with one budget-conscious stone.

Our Hotel Room

“Our ultimate tropics-inspired décor features bright colors, fun lamp fixtures, distressed whitewashed Chinese birch furniture, and exotic accent pieces so that you feel as if you are staying in the Florida Keyswithout ever having to leave the Midwest!”—KLC Glossy Propaganda

Unintentionally Erotic KLC Glossy Propaganda with Unsolicited Reader Response

A Hemingway bungalow aesthetic loosely guided the interior design of our room.  And by this I mean Papa, tanked on rum and disgust, wandered away from the drawing board at some point between the occurrence of the window-shutter-replicant bathroom door and the installation of the big screen tv.  The table lamps are modeled after pineapples.  A framed print on the wall depicts a boldly colored shore side shack accompanied by a solitary palm tree, which seems to be the suggestion of what our room might look like from the outside, except there seems to be no corresponding visual image that would account for the cry of “Which one of you kids shit yourself?” on the other side of our door.

Mabel extracts the Gideon’s Bible from the nightstand and pronounces it “The Book of This Apartment.”  She pretends to read aloud from its pages.  It’s some pretty grim stuff.

The Lost Paradise aka ParadiseLostWaterPark

 “The fun-shine starts here — at our 65,000 square foot indoor Lost Paradise Waterpark.”—KLC Glossy Propaganda

Aside from the wince-worthy wordsmithery of “funshine”, the real stand out element of this sentence, cribbed directly from KLC’s “Passport to Paradise” brochure, is the figure sixty-five thousand square feet.  Just for the hell of it, I Googled that figure, and came up with a list of results that included a website for a Bellagio spa in Vegas, a press release touting a “footprint increase” for a M Massachusetts marketing firm , a list of “Superstores” , and a web page devoted to a Canadian “Megamansion” .  It just so happens I find all of these enormous, carnivorously commercial megalithic things loathsome to the max.

The KLC Lost Paradise Waterpark is every bit as loathsome as its titanic brothers, only worse somehow because within its gigantic confines is encrypted the very matrix of my daughter’s fondest dreams.  We took her here last year as a part of a Rainbow Families outing, (ostensibly to expose her to other families like ours) and we’ve heard of nothing but waterslides and swimming pools and “apartments” with “tiny refrigerators” ever since.  On December 17, 2011, we returned to the scene of our well-intentioned crime against the basic foundations of child psychology, hat in hand, and penitent.

The Gastric Technicolor Spew of Dishonor

Presented in patented Gaytheist bullet point format: my observations of said Lost Paradise—which I’ve nicknamed Paradise Lost because Milton would have wanted it that way.

  • Fencing In The Fantasy The walls of Paradise Lost are painted to evoke the vacation dreamscape of our collective working class consciousness: the blue sky hosting a gentle white cumulous stampede, the placid Pacific upon which awaits a distant island—the geological contours of which are etched with cool indigo shadows.  A rickety picket fence stands between us and this duo-dimensional Escape Horizon: an honest-to-fudge barrier that has been hammered into the wall and white-washed and festooned with corny signs designed to aid and abet the psychological scam we’ve all decided pull on ourselves.  “NO DIVING cannonballs always welcome” and the inevitable “Surf’s up!”  The fence separating fantasy from reality is located within spitting distance of the Tiki Bar, just in case anyone gets carried away.
  • Nice Guy Sky God  A teenaged lifeguard attempts to clean a trail of vomit off the floor by the cabana tables.  He gingerly lifts each of the towels covering this gastric disaster, and sprays the area before sweeping it up.  Settled into my “Chair of Delight” (glossy propagandaspeak), I sip my plastic cup of Blue Moon and watch.  His rubber gloves are a dreamy, mile-high shade of blue; they look like they were cast from the atmosphere just a few feet away from the 30 foot tall “HMS Parrot-dise” cruise ship, painted on the north wall.  He flails his empyreal hands at passersby, waving them away from potential pedestrian catastrophe.  After a few more sips, I feel a physical and emotional warmth bubble up from my stomach, and I see him as something more than a scrawny kid with a shitty job.   He’s a nice guy sky god come down to the Isle of Good Times to eradicate all evidence of unpleasant reality.  Upon his protruding scapulas rests a massive responsibility.  Under those towels festers a poison that would taint and destroy the illusion that sustains KLC and all its jolly castaways.  To stumble on this Slip and Slide of sick would invariably mean to land on our asses on the fact that we are not glamorous good-timers in paradise, but rather aging suburbanites wearing the physical evidence of a lifetime of bad dietary decisions gussied up in unflattering swimsuits.   If it were not for this kid, this is beautiful tropical vacation getaway would revert to a massive and cheaply-built box of tubes on a windswept Midwestern tundra.  The lifeguard’s heavenly hands sweep the dangerously slippery  Cheezits of our corporeal limitations

    Trip # 10

    and fragile dreams into a garbage bag and I want to weep with beery gratitude.  I see him shaking open yet another garbage bag and casting a weary glance to the teal rafters, and appealing in an “I shall be released” kind of way.  Who is the God of the Nice Guy Sky Gods at KLC, I wonder.

  • Number of Trips Made By Mabel On The Little Limers’ Purple Slide In The First Hour: 17.
  • Toukie*’s Big Deluge From my “Chair of Delight”, I marvel at the engineering achievement that is the massive contraption known as Toukie*’s Big Deluge.  A Rube Goldberg journey into the outer limits of arcane cause and effect grown gargantuan on Cap’n Crunch and countless viewings of The Goonies, Toukie’s Big Deluge is a house of hydro-horrors.  It bullies its willing victims with water: water flung centrifugally from spinning discs big enough to seat a family of four for a cozy pizza dinner, water dumped unceremoniously from rope-tugged buckets, water showering down in abruptly drawn curtains, water riotously hosing out of mini cannons.  Presiding over this nautical naughtiness is a 250 gallon bucket gussied up to resemble a pineapple-cupped tropical mixed drink, paper umbrella and all. The pineapple cup teeters with the tremors created by the concentration of such unhinged mischief and tips over, drenching its each and every denizen with foaming white chlorinated judgment from on high.  After its scrambling denizens are sufficiently punished, Toukie’s Big Deluge dispatches them, screaming like torpedoes, out of its three curling colorful colons, I mean waterslides.   It is a horrifying thing, like something Hieronymus Bosch would dream up, if he were reincarnated as a dull-eyed suburban twelve year old.
  •  Enter The Voice A dark, phlegmy voice inside me suggests I take a closer look at this insane tower of showers.  “Do it!” The Voice bubbles with the soft suggestiveness of a delicious bong hit.  It’s not a proposition as much as it is a dare.  Because The Voice, being a denizen of the subterranean regions of my psyche, knows damn good and well I’m scared of Toukie’s Big Deluge.  The Voice specializes in putting me up to doing things that are dangerous/destructive/just plain dumb.  The Voice has cheered me on to former victories such as my first cigarette, and that time I hugged Vanilla Ice in the nineties.  To its credit, The Voice has never urged me to do needle drugs or take up with a stripper; it’s not as interested in destroying its host as much as humiliating it with its own ridiculous flaws, fears, and predilections.  Most recently, it told me to douse an entire Healthy Choice meal– cherry “crisp” and all– with Frank’s Hot Sauce.  And now, to climb Toukie’s Big Deluge.  The Voice knows I’ve never ridden a waterslide before, because it is well aware that to do so would mean confronting a litany of fears I would prefer not to go into at this time.  “Chicken!” roars The Voice.   My attempts to ignore it are met with a disconcerting chunky rumble of arrogant, nicotine-stained laughter.  “This isn’t over, Four Eyes!” it taunts.  Incidentally, The Voice sounds exactly like that belonging to the late actress Suzanne Pleschette.

*A hateful toucan tribute to the shades-and-Hawaiian-shirt oevre of the wretched Jimmy Buffet: The Official Mascot of Key Lime Cove


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2 Responses to “The Key Lime Cove Chronicles: Part One”

  1. Jack Says:

    This is so deep, multi-layered, dark at times and steadied by a thread of humor throughout. I’m looking forward to Part 2.

    • Hellraisin Says:

      Thank you, Jack! Part Two is in the works right now; I’m hoping to have it ready for publication before the new year.

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