December 28, 2009


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