Absinthe-minded

We'll do anything to get the green stuff. Even go to Boca.

In the meantime, I discovered Richard, who remarked of the remodeling: "This is how they spent $6 million. That's what it cost."

Looking around, I couldn't see where they'd spent it. Earlier, someone had described the Marriott's previous restaurant as "a 1980s geezerteria with a cheap buffet." Like many people in town, the place had undergone a radical face-lift to make it more appealing, but this didn't look like $6 million worth of reconstruction.

When I pressed him, he said, "Let's just say I know. I'm in the investment business."

Good for him. But were the suits going to leave me any absinthe? I began to doubt it.

That's when I was reunited with Arthur and Victoria, who revealed that she was a gifted palm reader. I held out my hand.

"Hey, any chance there's some freakin' absinthe in my future?" I wondered silently.

Examining the creases in my palm, the Ukrainian beauty predicted the outlook was not good for this Night Rider: "You live not too long a life. You die young."

Before kicking the bucket, I was determined I'd get my hands on that bottle. Steve finally arrived with the much-awaited libation. The bartender delivered the ritualistic setup: a glass with a slotted spoon holding two sugar cubes balanced on its rim. After he poured a half-inch of the verdant, 150-proof beverage over the cubes and set them aflame, he dumped the flaming cubes into the drink, igniting the whole thing. Quickly, he added some water to douse the flames and dilute the drink's bitter potency.

Twenty minutes after I finished the absinthe, I still didn't feel any different. The mostly empty bottle sat on the bar with three inches of botanical sediment at the bottom.

"I say we dry this out and smoke the leavings," I suggested to Steve.

"That would be like Four-Twenty-One," he quipped.

After a full half-hour, I asked for another shot. Perhaps Dracula's claim in the 1992 film was true. Maybe the green fairy who lives in absinthe did want my soul. I was willing to risk it. I did hate to be greedy, but I hated the thought of missing out on an absinthe-inspired experience even more. Sadly, the ultimate effect wasn't much different from any other 150-proof hooch.

The bartender was dousing the cubes of another cocktail for me when Uzma arrived. The Pakistani-American told us that people repeatedly asked her whether the terrorists were planning another attack.

"Like I would know," she said. "I had this friend, and the same thing happened with him, and he wasn't even from another country. He was born in Long Island, so he's from America."

I wanted to tell her that here in South Florida, things weren't that simple. You could think you were in America and suddenly discover yourself in another country. You know, like Boca.

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