If you need to wear a wire for the feds on your next family vacation, keep Florida in mind. The official sunshine state offers white sandy beaches, water sports, immunity, and all-you-can-eat oranges for the kids.
In our case, it was the perfect place to host a complex drug deal with a cast of criminals while the federal government watched. All-American good times were ahead. It would have been a shame to leave a nine-year old at home (me). Other hoodlums brought their offspring on this adventure as well. Thanks to spending summers traveling with my dad, the drummer for Ringling Bros. and his showgirl wife, I was adept at making new friends quickly, and inventing games that could be played with children who didn’t speak English. On this vacation, with my mom and step-father, all the kids would know at least some English. I was psyched.
Once we arrived, the children were immediately banished from the premises for 18-hour stretches while shit went down. It was sold to us as a privilege we had earned by being such awesome kids. We bolted out the door with a sense of pride and purpose.
Technically it was due to the risk of open gunfire. Inside: large. Outside: Small. Ish.
Keeping children outside is responsible parenting. I respect it.
We didn’t know what was happening inside, and we couldn’t have cared less. I’ll tip my hat to the south on this one. Only southern women can make you believe you’re on a family vacation when they’re cooperating with the feds.
We climbed orange trees and played freeze tag until we vomited or declared war on someone for cheating. Proper nutrition and personal hygiene were abandoned with the authority of pirates. We ate the oranges we picked, peed on the ground, and slept where we collapsed. It was awesome! We lived every kid’s dream for two days: no rules except the ones we made up along the way.
Meanwhile, 100 yards away, an international crew of drug smugglers and dealers were negotiating with one another in pools of sweat and fear. I’m guessing hygiene was abandoned by this group as well. They probably could have used a candle or something.
We had no comprehension of how high the stakes were inside, or the preparations involved. I mean, someone has to get the cases of ammunition and unmarked bills, right? Nor did we have any idea members of our families would soon be in prison. Again.
In hindsight, even though we were on the same property, we were having totally contrasting experiences. Inside the building, there was chaos, jitters, and the hope of delivering the performance of a lifetime. Outside in the orange grove, there was deliverance from everyday life into a world of beauty and fantasy.
It was kind of like opening night for a Broadway musical. Choreographed by felons.