Sometimes Bear has to make quick trips out of town for work. Often time the work only lasts about an hour, and so we usually make a weekend out of it if we are baby-free. This past weekend we went to Tampa for a little getaway so Bear could finish up a job. It’s about a three-hour drive, and because he travels so much, he knows an juicy secret: if you book your hotel on the WAY to your hotel, you’re bound to get a crazy awesome deal ‘cuz the hotels are looking to fill up those last few rooms.
Driving down I opened up Hotels.com and searched for hotels in the downtown Tampa area. I found a beautiful Hilton for only $89 and immediately booked. I’m NOT a hotel snob, but I am a deal snob. And let me tell you what…we walked into this hotel a few hours later and I about cried. The valets treated us like we were very special, and the concierge helped us choose a place for dinner (calling us “sir” and “ma’am”). We walked into the room and…COME ON! It was beautiful. Crisp, clean, cold (why are hotel rooms always so much colder than my house?!). The bathroom was stocked with some kind of fancy soaps and shampoos I’d never heard of and the towels were actually big enough to fit all the way around my body.
I was in HEAVEN.
It took Bear some convincing to get me off of the bed and downstairs to catch our cab for dinner (the bed was like clouds and soap bubbles and marshmallows, all having a party with some feathers). He had chosen a lovely place just up the road on the water for a light dinner and some adult beverages. I wobbled to our table feeling so special.
An acoustic musician warmed up his guitar on the other side of some tables outside of view. He began to play covers of popular songs, and man was he killing it. He gave everything this edge, this funky beat that was just fun enough to eat dinner to but not SO fun that you wanted to ask him if he knew any Aaron Neville just to quiet him down.
“This guy is awesome. He sounds so much like Chris McCarty,” Bear said.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“That’s the guy who sings the first song I played for you. Remember? ‘You’re so beautiful, do-do-do-do-do!'”
“Oh yeah! He does sound like him. I love it.”
“Me, too. I’ve seen that guy so many times back in Atlanta. I wish he would tour again. I’d take you to see him.”
Our waiter, who mildly reminded me of the blonde server in Office Space who wears too much flair, brought us another round of drinks.
“Who is this guy?” Bear asked him.
“I’m not sure!” he responded. “This is his first night playing here and people are already requesting him back.”
“He’s awesome,” I smiled.
We ate our meals (Bear had the scallops and I had some monstrosity of a sushi roll) and drank our drinks (Bear had a Cigar City Jai Alai and I had a dirty martini) and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the water, not to mention our normal witty conversation (because we’re witty). And we bobbed our heads to the end of one of the songs until we heard the musician say, “Thanks, guys. I’m Chris McCarty and I’m taking your requests tonight, so let me know if…”
I thought Bear was going to fly. Literally sprout wings and fly. His eyes grew like sunflowers in a time-lapse video and he grabbed the arms of his chair.
“That’s Chris effing McCarty,” he murmured. “That’s actually him.”
“Holy. Crap,” I looked at him. “Why is he in TAMPA? At a RESTAURANT?!”
“I have no idea,” Bear continued, stunned.
“WHAT ARE THE ODDS?” I asked.
It was one of those moments so shocking that it took 3 or 4 minutes to start laughing at how crazy it was to be sitting and listening to a little-known singer who happens to be Bear’s favorite, and who happens to sing the first song Bear ever played for me. But laugh we did, eventually. We giggled between gasping, again and again. Until Bear stood up and walked over to him, said a few words, and within minutes, Chris McCarty began to sing “So Beautiful.”
I don’t even remember the last time I smiled that hard.
We got up and danced together in front of Chris and occasionally Bear sang along (mostly the do-do-do part). Another couple also stood up and danced along side us. I wanted to poke them and say, “Hey. Guys. Our moment. OUR moment.” But I didn’t. They were terrible dancers so I figured no one was looking at them anyway.
It’s been a minute since I’ve felt like the universe lined up specifically for my personal joy. An easy drive, a gorgeous and cheap hotel room, a wonderful dinner, a huge surprise romantic moment, an amazing man who makes me feel like a queen, and did I mention Tropical Smoothie was directly across the street from our hotel? Hello, breakfast!!! It’s these moments that remind me what true happiness feels like, and that I have a shot at a few more of those as more time passes. The pain in my gut from the past year is still very real, very BIG. But this past weekend took a teeny, tiny bite out of the side of the pain.
It’s small. But it’s a start.