Let's see... You can spend your Sundays watching mindless TV, laundering your undergarments, balancing your checkbook, or doing something equally and pathetically lame. Or you can slather on some suntan lotion and transport yourself to a tropical, drunken, decadent paradise during a five-hour minivacation at the poolside Hilton Hotel tiki bar, home of a weekly party called Rehab Sundays.
Look, it's up to you, pal. I've already got my bikini on.
Ambiance: On Sunday, the Hilton Palm Beach Airport Hotel pool gleamed brightly under the late-afternoon sun, and bronzed folk lay baking on reclining pool chairs. The poolside tiki bar — which had a Spanish-tiled roof, tiki-style Christmas lights, and a blond, pigtailed bartender — was surrounded by a deck that overlooked a glistening, picturesque body of water called Lake Cloud. Red umbrellas dotted the spacious wooden deck, and a big blue awning served as a makeshift DJ booth. Everywhere, palm trees, flower pots, and verdant greenery surrounded the deck chairs, and the towering Hilton Hotel provided a fine column of shade. Both a warm breeze and house music from the DJ booth permeated the humid air, and every so often, a blond lady seated under a poolside umbrella would offer up a peal of unbridled laughter. I grabbed a seat on the long, wooden bench that circled the perimeter of the deck, and my companion, Beard, pulled up a chair beside me. He was outfitted in blue-plaid swim trunks and was scanning the scene — over the rims of his large aviator sunglasses — for hot bods in teeny-weeny bikinis. At the time, the bar was busy, and most of the patrons were in some varying state of undress.
Next to us, three shirtless, husky men — all wearing copious gold chains, one with a Star of David tattoo on his arm — were discussing the trials and tribulations of strip-club management. A bleached-blond middle-aged woman, children in tow, had just shown up to the deck in a white lingerie corset top, tight jeans, and white high heels.
"I almost wore that exact same outfit to this pool party," Beard quipped.
The bar was lined with patrons: a pair of hot Latinas, a handful of tattooed young men in board shorts, and a few pairs of relaxing couples.
I pressed a $20 bill into Beard's hand and ordered him to procure me something fruity and tropical from the bar.
"I'm on vacation, starting now," I told him sternly before standing.
Also, I was pretty sure I'd managed to somehow get wood splinters in the backs of my thighs.
Private party: I walked over to a table by the pool where a young woman with long brown hair sat with a slightly older woman, a platinum blond wearing a blue bikini top and extremely tiny white Keds. By the way they'd been cackling, I could really only assume they were having a fantastic time. The brunet gave her name as JoJo; the blond, Shelly. Turns out, JoJo was a hotel waitress who happened to be off-duty; Shelly was her friend.
JoJo thanked me for venturing to check out the scene. She told me that these little Sunday pool parties are completely word-of-mouth and that they draw a lot of locals.
"People love it, it's so chill," she said.
"Is that why you're here?" I asked Shelly.
"She told me to come up here," Shelly said.
"I had to bribe her with drinks," corrected JoJo. Shelly waved off the accusation.
"You should have gotten here earlier," she told me. "All the hotties are gone now. We had some swimming earlier. Although—" At that moment, two broad-shouldered boys in board shorts entered the pool enclosure.
"Right there!" she hissed at me. "Those two will do. And they're looking at you! If you jumped in the pool, they'd definitely jump in after you!"
I raised an eyebrow. That wasn't happening.
The two young men slowly walked by. Shelly smiled and fluttered her fingertips at them. JoJo and I pretended not to notice them. They took a seat at the tiki bar but periodically threw glances back over at the three of us. Shelly shot back endless rounds of flirtatious smiles.
Patrons: A gentleman in long shorts and glasses walked from the bar, past our table, and pointed at JoJo.
"What are you doing here?" JoJo asked in a mock-scolding tone.
The guy smiled. "What are you doing here?"
"We're drinking, obviously," I said. "You staying in the hotel?"
He said he was; he came every so often to inspect planes at the nearby airport.
"Technically, I'm working," he said, lifting his beer.
"Looks a bit more like a vacation to me," I said. Shelly interrupted to vie ferociously for free drinks.
The appearance of the out-of-towner led to a discussion of everyone's hometown. Shelly was a native Floridian. "And I'll tell you," she said, "we kind of resent all the outsiders."
I told them I was from Dallas. "How is Texas different from here?" JoJo asked.
"Well, it's a little more conservative," I said. Understatement of the year.
"Oh, we native Floridians are conservative," Shelly said. "It's all the outsiders who aren't. I'll tell you, I don't have a problem with gays, but I don't think Americans should need to speak Spanish. I mean, I know Spanish, but I shouldn't have to speak it to get along in this country."
"I don't think — " I began.
"But — I'll tell you what," she said. "I wouldn't mind getting one of those dark, tanned hotties into bed."
"As long as she didn't have to talk to him," joked JoJo.
"You don't want to speak Spanish, but you have no problem taking a hot one to bed?" I asked.
"Ha," she said. "He doesn't even have to be hot."
We laughed. Oh, diversity is beautiful.
Drink specials: I scampered back to my table and found that Beard had learned of a Sunday drink special — a mixture of Panama Jack coconut rum and pineapple juice for only $5. One word — delicious. I guzzled it faster than you could say lush and couldn't feel one iota of the so-familiar sting that usually accompanies a good, stiff drink. When the drinks are so fruity you don't know you're getting drunk — that's how to tell you're on vacation.
"It's deceptively strong," Beard cautioned without looking up. He was flipping through a poolside dining menu (the Lakeside Grill served wings, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers).
"Like I can't handle it," I snapped.
Then I stood quickly, staggered slightly, and suddenly became acutely aware of the Justin Timberlake elevator-muzak remix pouring from the DJ booth. Also, the young son of the blond lady in the corset top seemed to have commandeered the entire booth; he was wearing the headphones and staring at the equipment thoughtfully. It was weird.
Seconds later, I was leaning over the marble-faced bar. I noted that Shelly was now talking to the guys in board shorts who had wandered in earlier.
"I need another one of those pineapple things," I told the bartender. "It's imperative. Meanwhile, what's going on here today?"
"We have a pool party every Sunday," Laurie said. "We get a lot of locals, and it's great to do it right here on the water so people can dock their boats. A lot of the people who come actually live around the lake."
I watched her slowly mix the Panama Jack pineapple concoction. Then she slid it my way. I had half of it down before I even made it back to my seat. Beard smiled but ignored me, so I looked for the next available hottie.
Swim: Chris had a long, lean face, chiseled shoulders, and tattoos covering most of his visible skin.
"This is my first Sunday here," he said. He'd been drinking at the bar with his buddies for quite some time now. "It's pretty kick-ass, I suppose."
"Well, I expected there'd be more..." He let his gaze drop slightly. "People our age."
"You mean babes in bikinis," I corrected with a grin.
"Well, that never hurts," he said.
"Got any other opinions?" I asked.
He hesitated. "Can you quote me saying 'kick-ass' in your little story?"
He pulled off his shirt. "Wanna swim with me?"
"OK," I shrugged. I had on a hot-pink bikini that was just dying to get wet.
Fact: No minivacation's ever complete without shirtless dudes, some girl talk, blatant flirting, a refreshing dip in a hotel pool, and enough rum to ensure that at some point, someone is going to have to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.