That Time We Went On Spring Break With Tom Cruise

We’re home this year for spring break because I had a couple of shows and my husband has some work stuff he needs to be local for, which puts me in a nostalgic mood for Spring Breaks Past. Like the one where we spent a week with Tom Cruise. No, really. We did.

I had stumbled on a tiny island I had never heard of, off the coast of Florida and found a beach house that had it all: fancy enough for Fancy Uncle Matt and Aunt Kelli, who were vacationing with us; bedrooms for all eight of us; a private pool and right near the beach. It even had an elevator! Plus, since it was last-minute, I got it for a discount. All beach houses have goofy names, like boats, so I barley paid attention to the name of this one: Top Gun.

I did, however, read the reviews and was immediately struck by a very picky one, a renter who was complaining about the décor: “I think it was weird to have pictures of the movie Top Gun on the shelves.” Wow, I thought. You just really can’t please everyone, I guess. Whatever. I paid more attention to the reviews about how huge the house was, how grand, how amazing the beach was.

Because we drove there, Matt and Kelli and their pampered poodle, Reagan, got there before us, having flown. They called after they checked in and were getting settled. “Wow. The house is huge! And…interesting,” Kelli said to me. What do you mean? I asked.

“Oh, you’ll see. Drive safely, we’ll have drinks waiting for you!”

It was dark when we arrived and we were just so damn happy to get out of the car and start vacation, I didn’t really pay much attention to the house, other than I kept getting lost. Seriously, it was that big. I have a terrible sense of direction as it is, but I honestly kept getting turned around trying to find the staircase amongst the three floors of living spaces. Major “wow” factor.

And then, I noticed the wall murals.

Yes, plural. There were a few wall murals, very large, of the Top Gun insignia. Well…okay, I guess. I get it, it’s the name of the house. We had drinks, unpacked and went to bed.

In the morning, we explored further. It was like starring in a Scooby Doo episode: “Yay! We’re in a mansion! Isn’t it great?? Wait…are the eyes of that painting…following me?”

Except instead of oil paintings of dead relatives, it was pictures of Tom Cruise. Everywhere.

I’d see a framed picture and lean in closer at what I expected would be a family picture of the owners. Instead, it was a framed picture of Tom Cruise, in a still from the movie, Top Gun. Huh.

Then, I’d look closer at the framed art on the walls. They were all stills from the movie. Tom Cruise in his aviator glasses. Tom Cruise playing beach volleyball. Tom Cruise in the cockpit of a fighter jet. Wow.

“Why the hell is Tom Cruise in every room of this house?” my husband asked later that day, after a couple of coronas. “I feel like he’s watching me. This is creepy.”

Matt noticed memorabilia from the movie set, including signed pictures. Every picture, every autographed tchotchke, every book…all had to do with Tom Cruise. Every single thing.

By now, I found this hilarious. I started taking pictures and sending them to friends because no one believed me from text alone. They would then share the pics with whomever they were on spring break with and soon, I was getting requests for more pictures, because otherwise the family they were visiting wouldn’t believe them. I had everyone in my social circle marveling at the Tom Cruiseness of it all.

Eventually, the children started asking questions.

“Mommy, who is this guy and why is he everywhere? Does he own this house? Does he live here?”

“Don’t worry, honey. Just smile and wave when you see him and say, ‘Praise Xenu!’”

Because of course, now I was thinking this was some sort of Scientology outpost, with a direct line to headquarters in Clearwater.

“Who’s Xenu, Mommy?”

“Oh, just a friend of the owner. Let’s all say hi to him this week!” And with that, we waved cheerfully at the murals and pictures, wishing Xenu a good morning or a good night.

Of course, they had the actual DVD of the movie, Top Gun, available to watch so one night, after getting the kids to bed, we put it on to watch it. Now, I haven’t actually seen gay porn, but I’m not sure how it could possibly more homoerotic than Top Gun. In our incredulousness, we did a google search and found a totally bizarre Quentin Tarantino analysis of this movie which fit our thesis: watch at your own risk of falling down a weird rabbit hole.

And let’s talk about the dialogue from that movie. I highly suggest watching Top Gun with your loved ones and a pitcher of margaritas, as we did. The dialogue basically became the only form of communication we used for the rest of the trip:

“Let’s go get some oysters,” my husband would suggest.

“Your ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash!” I would yell back at him.

“I feel like I need some more sunscreen,” my son would say.

“Well, I feel the need…THE NEED FOR SPEED!” we would all say. And on and on.

This was also the vacation where I found out my husband is a Puzzler. I didn’t even know that was a word. Top Gun had a couple of non-Tom Cruise things in it, one of which was a 1000-piece puzzle of candy wrappers. One night, my husband pulled it off the shelf, sat down at the huge dining room table and opened the box. And that was that.

He worked on that puzzle every day. If we were in the house, he was Puzzling. It was very disconcerting because he is never still, unless he is watching a game on TV. But wow, was he ever still now. He sat there, staring, quietly, shifting through hundreds of tiny puzzle pieces, working. He fell in love. I lost him that week to that puzzle. Kelli also fell prey to the siren song of the candy wrapper puzzle.

Well, they lost Matt and I to Tom Cruise, so there. Because it was at about this same point that the towels really started to get to us.

In all the many, many bathrooms, there were these extremely plush, soft and fancy hand and bath towels embroidered with (what else) the Top Gun insignia. And alongside every towel and on each bath counter were laminated signs saying, “Dear Top Gun Guests: Please do not use these towels. They are for display only and have great sentimental value.”

So every single time I stepped out of the shower, I would reach for the Top Gun towels on the rack within arm’s reach…and have to stop myself. Instead, I’d have to run across the bathroom dripping wet and naked over to the towel rack on the other side of the room and use the thin and scratchy plain towels.

And every single time I washed my hands, I would turn to the Top Gun hand towels set lovingly right next to the sink and instead….shuffle over, hands dripping, to the tiny, rough generic towels a few paces away.

Every night, after the kids were in bed and the Maragaritas were flowing, we’d start to talk about the towels.

“Damn those towels. What makes them so special? If they didn’t want us to use them, why’d they put them out? It’s like they’re mocking us,” Matt and I would say.

“Mmm hmmm,” said The Puzzler and Kelli, as they worked together, bent over the dining room table.

Thank God Matt is also like a thirteen-year old trapped in an adult body, so I always had a partner in crime. We egged each other on: “Who do they think they are anyway? What’s their weird obsession with Tom Cruise? So what would happen if we did touch these precious towels of theirs,” Matt would fume.

“We can just say our Thetans made us do it and they can’t argue. Hook me up to an E-Meter, I’m guilty and Thetan-filled!” I cried.

Matt made me another margarita.

And then I had a terrific idea. I grabbed my camera and said, “come one, let’s leave these weirdos and their damn puzzle and get to work.”

We went into the Master Bathroom first. I held up the camera as Matt dramatically draped the biggest Top Gun towel we could find around his bare shoulders and sank to the floor in front of the toilet. We had to adjust the towel to get the embroidered logo juuuuust right and to just cover his shorts and then, the fake vomiting began. In the pictures, he looks like he is naked and barfing up his kidneys into the toilet with TOP GUN screaming all around him.

Some of the pictures are blurry because I was shaking with laughter. And then I had to pee. All those margaritas. And the toilet was sort of occupied. “hurry up, Matt, I’m going to pee in my pants,” I cried.

“Just a few more shots, some with me wiping my mouth and brow with the towel, hurry up,” he said.

“As a urologist, I really think you should be more concerned that your sister-in-law is going to wet herself. Do you have any catheters here?”

“’It’s classified,'” he quoted. “‘I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.'”

On and on we went, making such a racket, that my husband came into the bathroom. He saw his wife and younger brother in various stages of fits, turned without a word and walked away. Back to his puzzle with Kelli. We were not to be deterred.

We left the bathroom and got the dogs in on the action. We draped them with the towels and took artful photographs, rivaling William Wegman and his Weimaraners. Blue and Reagan really got into it, especially since treats were involved.

We moved on to Kelli and Mike. We forced proper Kelli to stop doing the puzzle long enough to pretend pick-her-nose with a hand towel. It is beautiful. My husband was not as poseable, but we managed to get him to take his shirt off and pose like a beach volleyball player.

By now, we had also made a Top Gun ascot for Matt and also, did some tasteful nudes (with artfully hidden bathing suits underneath). All of this was done in Xenu’s name, so we felt okay about it. My towels were highlighting my…décolletage nicely. Oh, and also, my butt. I am nothing if not classy.

No towels were harmed in the process of photographing our spectacular visionary series. However, I still cringe when an ad for the latest Tom Cruise movie pops up on TV; it turns out, a little bit of Tom Cruise goes a long, long way.

“Sorry, Goose, but it’s time to buzz a tower.”

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