Going on vacation with friends is fraught with the peril of clashing personalities and divergent interests. But it can also be magic.
The coffee was harsh, bitter, and thick as an East Texas accent. Before I could spit it out and holler, "Who made this swill?" the husband of one of my oldest friends sauntered out from the kitchen, his face practically aglow with contentment. "Ahhhhh," he said, swallowing. "That's a great cup o' joe. Turbo-charged, baby. Just like I like it."

I gazed at him in disbelief.

It's not like I don't enjoy a good cup of mud. But this, this was beyond strong. This was swamp dredge.

"Like the coffee, Jimbo?"

Jimbo? Jimbo?

No, Jimbo didn't like the coffee. Nobody with a palate would like the coffee.

But Jimbo held his tongue.

It was the first morning of a weeklong vacation with friends. Traveling with friends should be easy. You like them at home. You should love them on vacation. But like water-skiing and on-time bill paying, it's much harder than it seems.

In fact, so perilous is it, given the differences in personalities and interests, my motto is, friends don't let friends travel with them.
But here I was, drinking bad coffee and being called Jimbo.

Months earlier, I had asked my friend if she would like us to take her two sons with us on vacation. She had moved out of state when she remarried, and I thought the trip would give her boys a chance to reconnect with my son, allow her and her husband a break from a couple of their kids, and let me control where we went and what we did, which primarily would be to flit here and there as the whim moved us.

She loved the idea so much, she instantly replied, "How 'bout if we all come?"