It is snowing as we pull into the Land of Love. Driving past the big red heart Cove Haven sign, my boyfriend Mike and I see their tantalizing pitch spelled out in all caps: “Recharge Your Romance, Liven Up Your Love!” The “E” in love is about to fall off.
Established in 1958, Cove Haven couples resort sits on 150 acres in the Poconos. The architecture reflects the era of its birth. The rows of one-story hotel rooms with big picture windows are straight out of a suburban 50’s dream. Couples who honeymooned here back then probably returned to cul-de-sac homes that looked very much the same.
Actually, this resort is a lesson in the history of love, where you can see the changing trends of romance across the decades: the heart-shaped whirlpool tubs that were introduced in 1963 would fit right in blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield’s Hollywood mansion.
The Garden of Eden indoor pool, with its fake plants, faux-stone hot tubs and copious wood paneling is a horny 70’s playground.
The 7-foot-tall champagne glass hot tubs, first offered in 1984, epitomize Dynasty-era glamour. Cove Haven isn’t just a honeymoon resort. It’s a sex-fueled time trip.
After parking the car, we head to the guest services lobby to check in. Stepping over some smeared dog shit on the sidewalk, we walk in to find some vinyl chairs, a pink plastic replica of the champagne glass hot tub and a vending machine. Mike whispers,
“They weren’t lying. This place is pure romance. I’m at half-mast already.”
The woman at the front desk takes a phone call before checking us in. “Sorry about that,” she says after hanging up. “My daughter. She’s pregnant with another one.” She rolls her eyes.
“Sounds like you’re sick of it,” says Mike.
I smack his arm, housewife sitcom style. “Don’t be silly. She’s not sick of it.”
She looks up from her computer. “Hell yes I am!” she says. “I got two kids. 18 and 24. And I got four grandkids already. They’re starting too young. You know, I gave ‘em the sex talk. They just didn’t listen.”
She hands us our keys, a map of the resort and a contest entry form. “Fill this out and enter to win a free night’s stay for the next time you visit us!” As we head off to our room, Mike says, “I really hope we don’t win that contest.”
Our room is not one of the ultra-deluxe Champagne Tower Suites, but it’s one of the better, split-level ones. We open the door, immediately enveloped in the stench of industrial cleanser. It smells like a truck stop bathroom. Or that one relative’s house that no one wants to visit. The floor is wall-to-wall raspberry carpet, with matching heavy drapes. There is a fireplace and a sign next to it that says, “Got Wood?” which encourages you to hit the gift shop to pick up a Duraflame log, the only kind they allow.
Next to the fireplace is an old TV with built in VCR on a stand, a nod to ‘90s romance. There are mirrors everywhere, except the ceiling, which is a shiny black sea of adjustable star lights. I can only imagine the amount of “Big Dipper” quips that have been made in this place.
I head down the steps to what is presumably The Love Zone, where I find white stains one of the chairs and on the floor. I let out a shriek. “Holy shit! What is that? Is that cum? Mike, get over here. Look! Is this cum?”
Mike sets down the luggage and sighs. This trip was not his idea. He has the same look on his face as he had when I dragged him to Weeki Wachee mermaid park in Florida, pushed him to get our Tarot cards read by a prison warden in Ohio, and begged him to take me to a Furry convention. I am his cross to bear. He studies the suspicious stains carefully and announces,
“Unless they allow bulls in here, that’s not cum.”
I’m not convinced. “Maybe it’s multiple cum shots! Years of cum shots! Vintage cum shots!”
Mike grabs the Cove Haven brochure. “Were you not listening to Reluctant Granny when she told us how we could get a special bonus package of strawberries and whipped cream for an extra 45 bucks? If I had to guess, someone enjoyed a Vagina Sundae on that chair…and the action spilled out onto the floor.”
I look down, following the trail of whipped cream, which heads to the bathroom. It’s like Billy’s footprints in a Family Circus cartoon.
Mike has lost interest in the stains, and glares at the round bed, complete with multiple mirrored headboard.
He leaps on it, and the panels of mirrors create 8 heads. He flips me off as I take his photo.
I walk over to give him a kiss and notice a 5-fingered palm print on one of the mirror panels.
Mike leans in. “If I had to guess, someone was steadying themselves while being mounted from behind.”
His detection skills are stellar, but I’d really like some Windex.
I study the Hot Spot Daily Dose of Fun pamphlet. Supposedly, there is a Chief Excitement Officer to guide us through all of the fun activities. We can also dial up the Fun Phone to hear more.
“Wouldn’t it be great to write that down as your profession on your tax return?” I ask. “Chief Excitement Officer.” Mike stares up at the fake star-lit ceiling glumly. The Chief Excitement Officer has his work cut out for him.
It turns out we’ve missed Bingo and the Adult Match Game. The only thing we haven’t missed out on today is the Deer Feeding, in which our Chief Excitement Officer will be feeding the deer at the Blizzard Chalet. We are encouraged to take photos. Seems to me this is a very broad interpretation of “excitement”. We can also guess how many heart-shaped candies are in the jar at the Gift Shop. They don’t say what the prize is.
“No!” shouts Mike. “What if we win another night’s stay? Fuck that. Let’s get a drink. I need one.”
We head off to Spooner’s Sports Bar and Grill. Outside, some couples are attempting to snow tube down the hill. But it is slushy and this is unsatisfying. I expect they’ll be joining us at the bar soon.
Despite its amorous name and flirty cartoon spoon couple logo, Spooner’s is most definitely not romantic. It’s all florescent lights, and the mingling scents of old French fry grease and mop bucket water. The bar overlooks a basketball court behind glass. There are pool tables upstairs, along with a stuffed animal grab claw machine, and a games room downstairs. Among the video games, there is a vestige of what this place used to be: an abandoned coat check encased fancy brass trim. At least, I think it was a coat check. I’m no archeologist. But it’s used for storage now. Somehow it makes me sad to see it collecting dust. I imagine perfume-scented brocade opera coats and felt fedoras in there, once upon a time.
The only romantic touch in here now is the music, which I find out is the same all over the resort: Lionel Richie, Elton John, Marvin Gaye. Love-makin’ standards. Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” comes on and I’m reminded of my dad’s rant whenever he’d hear it:
“This guy is such a prick. ‘I don’t want clever conversation, I never want to work that hard?’ So he just wants to bang some dumb bimbo? I hate this song.”
No one here seems to agree with my dad. The various couples all seem very mellow and happy. They are all different age groups, different shapes and sizes, wearing assorted styles of clothing. I look around and think,
“Wow. All these people are going to have sex with each other tonight. There truly is a lid for every pot.”
Looking out at the basketball court, Mike must be thinking something similar because he says,
“Yep. Get your hoops on and get your box pounded later on.”
When the bartender finds out we came here from New York, he tells us he hears there are several Cove Haven signs right before you enter the Lincoln tunnel. I wonder aloud if this is a sly reference to the old movie technique of implying sexual activity by showing a train go through a tunnel. He makes a fist and rams it through an “O” he makes with his hand, howling “Aw yeah!”
When he walks away Mike mutters, “A regular Casanova.”
Pretty soon it’s time for our 8pm dinner seating, and we head over to the Colosseum Restaurant. It seems there’s no reason to take the “Love Machine” van they offer, as everything is within walking distance. As we pass it, I feel slightly cheated.
Waiting in line to be seated, I see a mailbox and some stationary. You can write love letters and leave them in the mailbox, to be posted on the Cove Haven website. I grab a couple sheets and toss them in my purse for later. As we get closer to the hostess stand, I notice that a mouse has decided to join us. I step back and let out a little shriek, but not as loud as when I thought I saw cum on the carpet. I look around to see if anyone else noticed. The couple behind us says, “Yeah, we saw him too. Isn’t he cute? You can’t blame him for coming inside. It’s cold out there.”
I’m starting to think Mike and I are the only ones not wrapped up in the passionate joys of Cove Haven. Love does crazy things to people, I guess. I quietly tell the hostess that there is a mouse sniffing around. She grins and says, “Well, we’ll put him on the menu as an appetizer!”
I do not think this is the first mouse she’s seen here in the Land of Love.
After we eat, wondering if the mouse had also enjoyed the breadcrumbs on my stuffed chicken, I hand Mike a pen for his love letter. On mine I write,
“Mike, Thank you for always making me smile, Love Saara”.
Mike scribbles something on his paper and folds it. On the way out I sneak a peek before putting it in the mailbox. It is both unsigned and not addressed to anyone. It says,
“Please send help. I am stuck at Cove Haven.”
Next up, it’s the Champagne Palace nightclub. It is half-empty, but the band is actually pretty good, jumping around in the dry ice haze. The lead singer shouts out, “Everybody get up and dance!” When no one obeys, she says, “Aw shit. Well, if you can’t get up, drink up!” Somehow this convinces a few couples to dance. Even Mike seems somewhat happy. Of course, this could be because he’s on his 5th glass of whiskey.
But then the band finishes and introduces the comic and it all goes to shit.
Bad stand up comedy is something I just cannot stomach. I will sit through sleazy horror movies, crappy concerts, and read trashy novels. But if you force me to listen to bad stand up comedy I will lose my damn mind. There is something about the audacity of an unfunny person expecting me to laugh, to give them instant gratification for their lousy jokes that really pisses me off. It actually offends me.
And this guy is unbelievably bad.
To make matters worse, this is such a polite crowd that nobody heckles him. I mean, all these people want is to laugh and dance a bit before going back to their smelly, whipped cream stained rooms to get their boxes pounded. You don’t get a friendlier crowd than this. But this asshole comes out doing a Kramer from Seinfeld imitation, followed up by lame weather and driving jokes. Then he slides into his imitation of John Travolta in Grease. There is some weak laughter and at the wrong moment, when the crowd and the comic go silent I bang my fist on the table and bellow,
“This is appalling!” It echoes throughout the Champagne Palace.
A few people turn to look at me and I smile sheepishly. I feel bad now. These people are just trying to enjoy a romantic evening. So I say, “Well, maybe Coven Haven stipulates that the comics have to ‘work clean’.”
Mike frowns. “So weather jokes and John Travolta imitations would be funny if he just tossed a few “motherfuckers” into the mix? What’s wrong with this guy? It’s like he wrote his act in 1993 and never changed it.”
Mercifully, the comic finishes up and leaves the stage. The band comes back out after a costume change, but I think they’ve even had it for the evening. Before launching into their second set, they tell us there’s an after party at Spooner’s going on.
At this point, a return trip to Spooner’s seems like a good idea. We hightail it over there to find that the joint is jumpin’. They’re playing loud mix of salsa music, hip hop and classic 70’s rock and they’ve turned on some flashing colored lights. The same bartender is still on duty. He greets us by doing a repeat performance of his “train through the tunnel” hand gesture. Couples are dancing, playing pool, and a woman in high heeled boots and a mini dress is dancing while playing pool, doing high kicks, using her pool cue as a prop for her one woman chorus line.
A guy in pleated slacks his pumping his pelvis all over the place. He’s humping chairs, his wife, his wife’s friends, and the bar stools. He’s humping the pool tables and the jukebox. No one and nothing is safe from his pleated, pumping pelvis.
The song “Sweet Caroline” comes on and the woman in the mini dress and boots has forsaken her pool cue. She dances over to me, kicking up her heels, grabbing my hand, pulling me out of my seat, forcing me to chant, “So Good! So Good! So Good!” against my will. Much like when someone puts up their palm for a high five, or asks you to sign a birthday card for some dickhead at work, I have never found a polite escape from this situation.
We finally disentangle ourselves from the pelvis pumping, high kicking Spooner’s crew and head back to the room, where I decide to test out the heart-shaped whirlpool hot tub. For fear of catching crabs, I wear my bathing suit. I know that crabs are pretty much non-existent these days, but I suspect if they exist anywhere, it’s in the heart-shaped whirlpool hot tubs at Cove Haven. I dump in a bunch of body wash. The bubbles nearly overflow as I hop in. It’s actually rather pleasant. Mike dons his trunks and gets in too.
Our faces turning pink from the hot water, Mike looks at me and smiles. Could it be that he’s actually having a good time? I smile back. “Saara,” he says. “I…I…don’t ever want to come back here again. But if I have to be here, I’m glad it’s with you.”
And that night as we fall asleep, fully clothed in our round bed, under the adjustable star-lit ceiling and the palm print from an unknown sex act on the mirror above our heads, next to whipped cream stains on the chair, with the Duraflame of passion glowing in the fireplace, I figure romance is wherever you find it.