We flew back late last night after a rough, fast and frigid trip to Michigan. It was mostly all business and it was bone-chilling cold, with the only warmth and fun in time spent with good friends. Lunching with them was like a straight shot of Miracle Gro.
This morning we dressed for church and bicycled downtown, stopping first at the Hilton to say good morning and Happy Easter to the Snarl. More on her later, but part of her story is that she is working endless hours, going into overtime, while finishing up a semester with 21 credit hours.
Each year at this time, the Hilton has two intense weeks of business that require her to be there constantly. Last week, while we were watching basketball in Atlanta, the Honda Grand Prix was here in St. Petersburg and the race course runs directly in front of the hotel. Abby spends the week working the barista part of her job, squiggling the Honda logo atop cappuccinos and lattes.
This week, the hotel is closed to the public as a very large group of Orthodox Jews gather to celebrate the week of Pesach and Passover. They rent the entire hotel. This means that even as race week is winding down, rabbis have flown from NYC and the process of kashering the kitchens begins. The entire hotel is kosher for the week, including the top floor club and Starbucks, both of the places where Abby works. All of the food in the hotel is removed and everything starts from scratch 24 hours after every surface, element, espresso machine and appliance is cleansed. Most of the usual foods and beverages served are not served and every aspect of Abby’s job changes. There are days when money cannot be handled so all transactions are room charges and this generally means no tips, especially in the club where tips are for free services rather than food sales. She also needs to be sensitive to the very literal aspect of "no work" for Orthodox Jews and she sometimes finds herself called upon to do things that aren’t otherwise part of her routine.
Last year she found it all quite mystical and strange; this year she knew better what to expect and she was happily chatting with guests when we found her there this morning. I gave her a kiss and whispered, "Happy Ham Day" in her ear. She laughed and grimaced; this is the first year she is such a hardcore vegetarian herself that she won’t be sitting down to her favorite meat, Easter ham. She will join us for another holiday favorite: creamed potatoes.
We quickly felt out of place standing there in the large hallway and we biked over to the church du jour. We are true seekers, wandering around in unfamiliar terrain both here and in Chicago. Until we finally find a place to settle, we’re trying on churches. Today we went to the large and lovely and older First Methodist Church and the service ended up being a feast for the eyes and ears, with literally hundreds of lilies, beautiful stained glass windows, a choir, brass, timpani, bells and pipe organ. Most of the service was music and familiar scripture and that was good because the sermon made no sense whatsoever. The sermon was called, "Why I believe in The Resurrection" and the answer was, "because my mom told me about it." Seriously, he said that. I thought he would go somewhere with that, but he only developed it enough to add that his favorite Sunday school teacher, who was also the bus driver, told him about it, too. I couldn’t help but wonder if his mother also told him about the Easter Bunny and I thought a little more depth was called for in explaining why he- and subsequently, we- should believe. Fortunately, I wasn’t counting on him for an answer. Also, I had already feasted at Babette’s repeatedly these past three days.
My garden here is overflowing with evidence of renewal and rebirth. The yard that was nothing more than scraped dirty sand three short months ago is now growing lush and wild. I’ll post some before and after pictures later this week. The bougainvillea that grows on the alley fence was here when we bought this place but it was mostly dead wood with a few gangly branches that bloomed. I cut it back hard on Easter Day the first year and then I pruned it heavily again last Easter, even though it was flowering better. This year it is so brilliant it sort of shell-shocked my camera when I tried to get a good photo.
My orchids are also happy here. While they are expensive and touchy in the Midwest, some, especially the vandas, do so well here in Florida they sort of mind themselves just hanging in pots on the fence. These are keeping me company on the porch while in bloom.