December 28, 2009

Post-festive


The week between Christmas and New Year feels like a hiatus. Business as usual is touched with an air of suspension.

I went to the local beach with a couple of neighbors, to the bistro for a beer. A musical duo was doing covers of Earth Wind & Fire, Jimmy Buffet, The Drifters, Sunday-afternoon-at-the-beach fare. It was crowded and content, post festive, filled with buff young dads, going just a tad soft... in other words in their prime. Fit young mothers, the most beautiful women in the world. Gangly children, abstract and tanned. "Children are Egyptian," artist Andrew Wyeth once said of their austerity, not at all like Renoir's sugary confections. A couple of boomers were dancing.


Ruth told a story about persuading her son to be a medic in Vietnam to keep him safe from mortal combat. In his first month there, his company was ambushed and a Vietcong insurgent broke Alec's rifle over his femur, breaking that too, bit him on his shoulder, and made off with all the penicillin and morphine. He returned home, albeit in two pieces, but alive. Safety, in war, is relative. Her grandson was in Afghanistan for Christmas. We lamented the intransigence of war in human history, and the principal of scarcity that motivates it. I remembered watching a bunch of gulls on the shore. The big alpha male seemed relegated to spend every moment of its privileged existence, between preening, defending its ascendancy, fending off the feints of lesser gulls, who took turns making incursions at his territory, at their leisure, between socializing with one another. What’s so great about being a superpower? I wondered.

The conversation lightened and became general. I watched an alpha dad waiting in line for drinks and a tray of assorted fries for his brood. He was wearing fabulous alpha dad sunglasses, framed in sporty basketball jersey yellow. But he was waiting in line like everybody else. The only feint in his direction came from the counter girl, who leaned forward to take his order, showing her fabulous cleavage. He returned, laden with batter-fried bounty and frosty drinks, to a table of smiling faces and excited kids. "Now December found the love..." sang Not Earth Wind & Fire "...that we shared in September. Only blue talk and love, remember the true love we share today..."





December 23, 2009

December 18, 2009

Glover Bight

I’ve been spending time on the water, paddling the Great Caloosa Blueway, a random piece at a time. Civilization shrinks, out there, to the size of my boat, and whatever I’ve brought along... a carton of chili, a coke, some shortbread, first aid, a towel, tea, and a camera. With the weather expected to turn rainy and cool late in the week, it looked like my last shot at a sunny outing for a while, so I thought I’d explore the coast of Glover Bight preserve, a six mile round-trip to the southwest. 



After putting in at Bimini Basin, a leisurely paddle down several connecting canals brought me after an hour or so to open water, where a pair of looping dolphins escorted me out to Redfish Cove. The wind picked up there and a bit of a chop shifted my focus from taking in the scenery to negotiating the deep water. Mother nature, like most of her sex has a way, at times, of returning your attention to where it belongs. “Hey, mister... I’m down here.” Yes, m’am. 



My little Old Town Vapor, though only a 10 ft recreational kayak, and not made for speed or distance, is game for slicing through a bit of rough water. I haven’t taken her out on the ocean yet, but now I’m looking forward to trying out her mettle on some surf. By the time I’d reached the preserve, the only water in the kayak was a little drip from the paddles.

As I approached the Bight, which now seemed ominously named, I saw an ominous two-foot fin poking out of the water twenty yards off starboard. And what’s worse, it was cruising along in a straight line. It’s remarkable how quickly one’s notions about such things as universal connectedness can evaporate in the proximity of a formidable predator. Suddenly the idea of having a weapon stowed in the bow didn’t seem so absurd. In fact it seemed quite present, palpable, and obvious. Could I kill? I’d hunted small game as a boy. I doubt I could take a human life under any circumstances, but I hope that’s not just wishful thinking. I back paddled slowly into a tangle of mangrove roots near the shore to watch. The fin made several turns, swift and deft, as it patrolled the area. If nothing else, I thought, I’d found a promising fishing spot. Then it was joined by another, and the pair began diving in the graceful surface-breaking loops that revealed their pedigree - they were dolphins after all. 


The scare had given me an appetite. I found a little sandy clearing along the shore and dragged in for some R & R.







If I'd had a tent and a book, I'd have been tempted to spend the night. 

Mangroves striding to the shore


There's a trace of a path back into the island, but any serious exploring would be for another day.

I have no idea what this is but it struck me as vaguely psychedelic.

It bears fruit and flowers simultaneously; I suspect it blooms periodically all year.

Most bracket mushrooms, if I recall correctly, are edible, despite their appearance. I didn't test the fidelity of my memory on the subject. 

I hung the camera from a nearby tree branch to get this shot, and shortly thereafter took a nap. That's my real passion... finding interesting secluded places to nap.

The tide was against me on the return, as was a steady breeze. The one-hour outbound turned into a two-hour back leg. By the time I’d clawed my way back to the basin, my strength was as thin as a thread in a current. In this somewhat disoriented state, drained of extraneous concerns, the civilized world around me on my drive back home seemed peripheral but amiable. Civilization as novelty. What has no claim on you doesn’t trouble you.


December 16, 2009

December 15, 2009

December 11, 2009

December 9, 2009

December 7, 2009

December 4, 2009

Code bro



I thought I’d surprise my brother, who usually takes the shuttle from the airport,
and pick him up at the gate. Southwest Regional is a newish airport, whose
spaciousness puts me in a spacey frame of mind. Its service roads are freeways,
with exit ramps with multiple choices. I wasn't able to access the right path to
the parking garage until I had first chosen wrongly, twice, and had to drive the
big loop back to the main entrance only to return to the enigmatic trident of
forking ramps once again. Finally I managed to take the one as yet not taken,
which proved fruitful.

Once inside, there was time to get a cappuccino at Starbucks. And there was
still time to check my hair. So I set the coffee down on an enigmatic service
box outside the men’s room and went in for an evaluation and a ruffle. Back
outside, no sooner had I lifted my coffee off the enigmatic service box, than a
public address announcement informed everybody that the alert code was
“orange” and to report any suspicious looking activity. An elderly couple sitting
on a bench looked at me suspiciously.

I went to the news stand, where I was pleased to see that the new issue of GQ on
display was the one that had already arrived in my mailbox and now lay splayed
in my bathroom at home. I'm a pushover for cheap trial subscriptions which I
never renew.

Back outside, I spotted my brother from afar who, it occurred to me, bears a
striking resemblance to Denny Crane, walking up the corridor. I watched him
stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, where he stood gazing intently at the menu as I
approached. “I’ll have a cinnamon, plain, and a latte,” I announced. He looked
at me, deferred his surprise, in customary sibling fashion, and returned his gaze
briefly, wryly, to the menu. The flood of conversation then began and we made
for the car. “I just heard over the airport p.a. that the code is orange,” I said.
“It’s always orange,” he said. My spirits gladdened. There's another loop I don't
mind being out of.




December 1, 2009

November 28, 2009

November 26, 2009

November 22, 2009

Leaf on water



Sunday morning. With a couple of hours to myself, I rented a kayak and took the short trail into the Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve along the Caloosahatchee River. It's a tidal creek dominated by mangroves, black rush, and ferns. You see heron perched on the shore, odd-looking fish slipping through the water's dappled dream, flitting things.

I like kayaking these gulf coast backwaters, streams, and lagoons, sliding silently along. The pace is a focused drift. A bit of subtle paddling keeps you viscerally connected, relaxed but alert, to an invisible thread through the water, a meditation. There's a primordial stillness back here, a sense of enclosure. You're in their world.



November 21, 2009

Say what?

Some euphemisms are dodgier than others. But one of the squirreliest is the one that television has adopted to warn viewers of certain kinds of content. I heard it last night before the broadcast of Frontline. You’d think PBS, at least, would be more plain-spoken: “This program contains graphic imagery. Viewer discretion is advised.” Graphic imagery? As opposed to musical imagery? Upholstered imagery? Isn’t graphic imagery the only kind there is? Why don’t they just say what they mean: “This program contains explicit sex,” which I’d be inclined to watch. Or “This program contains graphic violence,” which I’d be inclined to decline. As it is you don’t know what you’re in for until you're on top of it.



November 18, 2009

November 16, 2009

November 14, 2009

November 12, 2009

Anyhue


Blogger extraordinaire, and lifestyle consultant, Gillian, posted a series on color all week, starting here. I
was going to comment, but my comment grew into a full-spectrum post. It's happened before. Thanks for
the inspiration, mon Bleux.

My awareness of colors and the emotional response they evoked began in my early childhood, staring,
transfixed, at the lights on the Christmas tree. Here, at their purest and most intense, I found for the first
time their essential vibes. Reiterated in fireworks, their midsummer exploded and sky-borne cousins. I
could not have articulated, that young, what I found, but the memory is intact...

Blue was mystical. Deeply, achingly mystical. In some profound way blue felt like home, yet made me
homesick.

Red was the life force. Blatant, merry, carnal, glorious. My best friend.

Green was friendly and nurturing. Elemental, unassailable, worldly. I felt safe with green.

Pink: sweet girly joy, radiant and tickled.

Orange: this one cross-referenced Halloween, brightly lurking in the Christmas string.

I was ambivalent about yellow. It seemed aloof and ambiguous.

White, at least as a member of the Christmas string, left me indifferent and almost resentful. And yet I
was mad for white objects. Sneakers, convertible tops, horses. I once hounded my brother to trade me his
plastic white ball point pen for some mundane object of mine that I no longer remember. He eventually
relented, probably because I offered him something expensive and useful, and gave me the pen. I was, at
last, a member of the ultracool white object league.

I had a profound attraction, early in life, to the elegance and power of black. I remember once in first
grade, surprising and delighting my teacher when I was asked what color star I wanted to stick to my
forehead for having passed a test - as had the entire class. "Black," I said. Beaming, she gently explained
that there were no black stars in her little box - although “there should be, it’s one of my favorite colors
too.” But silver was a little like black, would I like a silver one? Knowing instantly, as children always
do, that I was being asked to accept a lame-ass substitute, I opted for red instead. She understood and
smiled again. I think she saw me in a new light after that.

Brown. Ugh. Redolent of furniture, wingtips, all things adult and odious. I remember how heartbroken I
was when my mother gave my brother and me our own cowboy mugs. Mine, “Tex at the roundup” was
in dull, ugly brown (which my mother thought handsome). My brother’s, “Tex at the rodeo” was in
glorious fiery red. Even my scene, the pedestrian roundup, made me feel defeated in the shadow of
Jack's exciting and romantic-sounding Rodeo. I’ve never quite recovered. And yet, if they both were to
turn up in some dusty old box some day, I'm certain I'd want my bark-colored roundup back. It was
mine.

An adolescent fling with purple was provoked by the purple shirt and black tie that George Chakiris
wore in a scene in West Side Story. Black light soon haunted my bedroom. Purple ink stained my
fingers. I even wore a replica purple shirt and black tie to a school function once. I don’t remember what
my function at the function was that night but I remember my favorite teacher congratulating me on the
job I’d done. “But get rid of the purple shirt and black tie,” he said. That was that.

As I grew, many subtle tints and shades, acquired tastes, joined in my affection with the primal primaries,
so beloved by the young. Even brown, and its many permutations: fawn, sand, coffee, taupe, found their
way into the ever-broadening palette I now enjoy. I made peace with yellow. More than that, I love the
sumptuous rich yellow of a yolk. The subtle honey of sliced ginger. The sporty energy of a highway
stripe. I love sea foam. Brick. Tea. Scarlet and tan. Purple and rust. Oxidized bronze. Dappled things.
Jewels and mud. And I still rejoice in the sight of a crisp white sail. The sleek black of a baby grand.
And Christmas lights forever.





November 11, 2009

November 10, 2009

November 8, 2009

November 7, 2009

November 3, 2009

November 2, 2009

October 30, 2009

October 28, 2009

October 25, 2009

October 24, 2009

Black Island and beyond


My friend Robert, from Washington, was here for a few days to visit his mother. We were planning to
go kayaking but the launch at his mother’s enclave was under construction. Undaunted, and still in the 
mood for an outing, we decided to bike the Black Island trail at Lovers Key.


The island was named after Black Augustus, a pirate who was captured but later escaped, making Black
Island his home. All along the trail we heard the mournful bellowing of an alligator deep in the swamp. 
Black Augustus' ghost. Local legend has it that his treasure is still buried there. We didn’t find it.


So we went to the beach, to practice living well on next to nothing...






October 18, 2009

Traffic


I was on my way into the city today when I began to notice a line of congestion on the opposite
side of the median, heading back the other way. I congratulated myself for driving in the
direction I was going. But what appeared to be a routine slow-down started to look more ominous as
I neared US 41. Cars were still bumper-to-bumper, and had been inching along, for the entire four
mile stretch.

As I neared the intersection, I could see a traffic cop at the crossroads ahead stopping cars from
turning right, south, in the direction of Coconut Point mall, my destination. He was forcing them
north, or else into a U-turn and back down the road they had just come up. So that was what the
congestion was all about. Still a couple of blocks from the intersection, and thinking I’d
outsmart the traffic, I made a right turn down a side street. I thought I could catch a right-hand
turn on 41 a block or two farther south. Delusion, especially when associated with self-
congratulation, can be comforting.

After a block or two, traffic moving in the opposite direction on the two-lane side street began
to thicken. Then it slowed down in my lane too. As I drew close to the 41 intersection, there was
another traffic cop there. She was turning cars back too.

I pulled into the gas station on the corner, got out of the car, walked to the highway, and looked
south. What I saw was a half-mile of empty interstate and a small city of flashing squad cars
clustered in the distance, their lights shimmering in the wet pavement. A drizzle had begun. I
turned around and joined the conga line back the way I’d already come. I pondered having dawdled
over the camera gear that delayed my departure, and for which I had chastised myself, just an
hour ago.

When I eventually reached US 41 again, I was directed to turn left and a few blocks later pulled
in at a McDonald’s. I noticed a state trooper in his car. I went over and asked him what the mess
on 41 was all about. He told me that there was a pile up. A lot of people got hurt, he said, “a
lot of people.” We chatted a bit. The accident was caused, it seemed, by the usual mix of self-
absorption, impatience, entitlement, and speeding. “I’m not supposed to tell you any of this,”
he said.

I like my truck. It’s given me a license to be pokey. That was unthinkable with my Mustang.
Mustangs aren't allowed to be pokey. It's a state law. But now the pressure is off. People just
drive around me. On the freeway I get in the slow lane, set the cruise to 65, and watch the rat
race burn by while I ease on down, ease on down the road. Which reminds me of a joke my brother
was fond of telling in his youth. Two bulls, a youngster and an oldster, are standing on top of a
hill. They look down to the valley and see a few cows grazing below. The young bull, excited, says
to the old bull “Hey, man, let’s run down there and make love to one of those young heifers. The
old bull looks at him with disdain. “Why don’t we walk down, and make love to all of them.”
Which are my sentiments, if not exactly, appreciably.



October 12, 2009

What could be nicer

Only a few thousand things. Is there anything more over-hyped and overrated than sex? I think it’s mass Pavlovian conditioning, promulgated by the advertising industry. Can't live with it, can't live without it. Sigh. But I can think of hundreds of things more enjoyable, less messy, and less of a letdown, with scarcely even trying...

a Mozart piano concerto
a kiss
an acid trip
Pad Thai
a dip in the ocean at Lido Key beach
lying around all day at Lido Key beach
first night in a great metropolis
a bottle of 1980 Bordeau Blanc
The Cyclone at Coney Island
swaying in a hammock under a frangipani in bloom
friendship
foreplay

feel free to jump in any time...

October 9, 2009

Whether the weather


We’re having a late-season warm spell. Which gives me a few more days, or maybe a little longer,
to ride around on my scooter with my shirt off. I was out today and a couple out of some romantic
comedy pulled over to put the top down on their Mustang. They honked as I rode by. My scooter-beep
brought a wave and a shriek from Amanda and a fist up from Channing. A last hurrah.

Autumn around here is a slow drift into a Canadian summer. My only joy is that we still have a
couple more months before the snowbirds descend, with their noise, their road rage, beach-busting,
and viruses. And money to spend. Me, I’d like to head further south come Christmas, with a couple
of playmates, til spring. Crooked Island, maybe. Never heard of it? Exactly.

I awoke this morning from a disturbing dream. I was in a boat at the marina when a huge storm,
dreadful forty-foot waves, began rolling in. Much chaos, battening down, scrambling, ensued. And
getting packed up to move to higher ground. This was a foreshadowing, it was obvious by morning
light, of the coming seasonal influx. But I fell back asleep pondering the things I would take
with me, not all of it sensible. Camera, laptop, a few old letters, the bottle of Chanel, the
baseball, the Cocteau... the rod and reel... the bottle of shirazzzzzz....


October 6, 2009

October 3, 2009

The driver's seat

My brother was here with his girlfriend for a time. He has his own condo in the building and shows
up for a week, a month, when the spirit moves him, when his airline has a deal he can’t pass up.
He regularly flies down and back for as little as fifteen dollars, round trip. I don’t know how he
does it. I passed it off as idle boasting until he showed me the printout. There it was: DTW to
RSF and back again. Fifteen dollars.

We watch a lot of movies when he’s here, and go out for Chinese, for ribs, for breakfast. For a
while we stopped exchanging DVDs after I got miffed at his taking umbrage with my lending a movie
to my neighbor Fran that he’d to lent me, even though he had just finished watching one that she'd
lent to me that I'd lent to him. Siblings have complex resentments and rules of engagement.

Movie night is at Chez Jeaux since I acquired the big flat-screen TV. Generally accompanied by
snacks by Jack. We had pizza for Palmetto and Adaptation, fried chicken for What About Bob? Beer
abounds. Neither of us quite trusts anybody who won’t drink with one or the other.

He keeps an Explorer at the condo, and insures it with some kind of discount policy that provides
ad hoc coverage when he’s here and uses the car. On the day they left I drove him and Linda to the
airport in the Explorer since my truck is, for all practical purposes, a two-seater. On the way
out he mentioned that the insurance on the car expired at midnight. So I kidded, “So I have until
midnight, huh? Maybe I’ll drive out to Miami after I drop you off.” He looked at me fake-askance.
“Yeah, Miami, or Naples... Fort Myers...” each city progressively closer to home. “Or Fort
Lauderdale,” I said. “I haven’t been there in a while.” Ironic laughter. But no sooner had I
returned to the condo, straight from the airport, and walked in the door, than my cell phone rang.
“So you got home alright...? What took you so long?”

“I stopped at Hess to fill up the car. I wanted a full tank before heading out.”

Ironic laughter. On both ends. I had no interest in driving to Ft. Lauderdale and back before
midnight, but since he'd had to check on me I couldn’t help letting him think I might. I was, for
this hand at least, in the driver's seat. Siblings have complex rules of engagement.

October 1, 2009

September 29, 2009

September 26, 2009

September 24, 2009

slice / 17





 A pair of Quaker parakeets at their beachfront penthouse condo at the Sago Palm. They got it for cheep.



September 21, 2009

First light

Some children are still friendly to adults, at least with their parents nearby. That’s a good
thing. I give those parents credit for striking the right balance between caution and
socialization, not an easy thing to do these days. As I was leaving McD a few mornings ago, a
little voice pipes up with “Bye!” I turn and it’s a little girl, sitting with her mother in a booth.

I say “See ya later, alligator.”

Giggles. “I’m NOT an alligator,” says she.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” I lift up my sunglasses. “Oh yes, I can see now that you’re a cheeseburger.”

Funniest thing she’s ever heard. “No I’m NOT!”

“Well, you’re in MacDonald’s. How do I know you’re not a cheeseburger?”

Another storm of giggles. “I’m a girl!”

“Oh, thank you for clearing that up. I wouldn’t want you to go through life thinking you’re a
cheeseburger.”

Amid more hilarity, and a glimpse at her smiling mother, I make my escape.

“Bye-e”, she calls out again, waving. I walk out into the morning sun, wondering if I look as much
like a Happy Meal as I feel.





September 18, 2009

September 15, 2009

September 12, 2009

September 10, 2009

September 7, 2009

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