Monday, October 11, 2004

Florida weekend - Friday

This past weekend, Liz and I flew to Fort Myers, Florida, for the wedding of two of our college friends, James and Jess. We've known them almost as long as we've known each other, and they've been among our closest friends for many years. So it was with great joy and excitement that we traveled all the way to Florida for the festivities.

We left early Friday morning from JFK, on Song Airlines, which is Delta's low-cost/Southeast US carrier. It's similar to JetBlue, with leather seats and Dish Network in the seatbacks. The channel lineup was better on JetBlue, though I liked the MP3 music selections and the interactive music trivia game that lets you compete against other people on your flight. I won three rounds and had the highest score for the flight.

We got to Fort Myers about 11:30 AM, too early to check into our hotel. So we drove around for a while, locating the synagogue where the wedding was to take place, and getting lost a few times just to get that hassle out of the way. We eventually got a hotel room around 2:30 PM and took a good long nap before Shabbat services that night. This was Liz's first time at a Shabbat service, and she got to see more than she planned. James' parents and grandmother were there as well, and I don't think they'd ever seen a Shabbat service either. Not only was it the usual Friday night service, but it was also Simchat Torah, the annual celebration of reaching the end of the Torah and starting over at the beginning. It was also the night before a young man's bar mitzvah, and he performed about one third of the entire service. Before the service began, the rabbi called James and Jess to the bimah and gave them a blessing. For the Simchat Torah service, the rabbi and cantor took all the Torahs out of the ark and the congregation paraded around the sanctuary with them, accompanied by singing and dancing. Then the rabbi called on a member of the congregation to read from the Torah -- the last few verses of Deuteronomy and the first few verses of Genesis. I hadn't been to a Simchat Torah service in at least fifteen years, and the songs and prayers brought back warm memories of my childhood.

After the service, there was an oneg with cookies, brownies, and ice cream sundaes. Since we hadn't had dinner, we quickly went into sugar shock. I think I had three brownies and two or three scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream. James and Jess hadn't eaten much for dinner either, so we went from the synagogue to the Olive Garden for a late supper, along with our friend Renee from New York and Scott, one of Jess' childhood friends. I'd never been to the Olive Garden before, and I was dying to try the "neverending pasta bowl," but since I'd already eaten my fill of sweets, I had a bowl of pasta e fagiole and some fried calamari and zucchini. After all that eating, we went back to our hotel and slept for a good long while.

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