I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to take me away. Away from blue crystal water, away from white sugar sand, away from palms blowing in the breeze and alligators waiting for a mistake. My body is exactly as I believe it was born to be…bronze…golden…thin, beautiful and wind-worn. The product of many hours wandering beaches and back country mangrove swamps. Of swimming first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. The view of a sunset in the tropics is best seen while immersed in water; pool or otherwise. I wonder which way to go but ultimately I don’t care. There is a tremendous beauty in having one’s feet in the sand, sunglasses on, body to the earth and heart to the sun that can make a person smile and feel healthy and free.
I’ve spent half a month down in the Keys and splashing in the Gulf of Mexico. I have sailed, snorkeled, kayaked and swam my way through this beauty. It’s difficult for me to leave. A land of Hemingway, Buffett, Williams, Hunter S. Thompson and many others with the constitution to wade out beyond the breakers. The Keys have been the transitional tropical buddha that I knew they would be. A gorgeous flash of absolute brilliance and truth thrown right in my smiling face. I mean can you really imagine a place where the sun is always shining, the moon is always full, pirates have claimed as their own, salvage crews drag the ocean for all our lost hearts. Can you imagine spending every day, wandering beaches and listening to waves; wearing only a pair of shorts or swim trunks? And loving it? Feeling perfectly at ease on the road. Wandering and changing locations multiple times. Chasing the sunset and never stopping. That’s the key…some can take a vacation and say “oh honey, that was lovely but I’m happy to be home.” To do what? Take out the garbage, change the cat box, watch the news and tell stories of what it was like then…if you did anything at all back then….back then. Back then. Some people love to unpack, check their 5 days worth of mail and turn on Wheel of Fortune. I hate to unpack and often I will not do it for 4-5 days following travel.
Days ago, I wrote this in the black of night while the palms were blowing and the moon was full. Last night, I spent the evening swimming in my pool and drinking Budweiser while listening to the Doors’ song “The End”. Which can be a fine way to prepare for another round of travel….movement….onward…into grand oblivion. Come sunrise I shall be in search of another beach to see if the waves sound any different than the ones I’ve been listening to over the last week. I will also be back on the ocean. Once again, sailing towards the third largest living reef in the world. This is poetry in its purest form. Clean. Honest. Unforgiving. Dangerous. Uncontrollable. It is where I am comfortable and alive and I have been completely alive since I put my sandals on and removed my shirt and hit the road. I am at home here in the Keys as much as I am in the sand of any island. I am at heart an island person. My heart was made for this climate and this way of being. I am one of the locals and they recognize this and treat me as such. I get discounts and asked by tourists for directions. I am now part of the sea and sand. The beer is cheap, the cematary is above ground and at any moment you can find a shipwrecked Spanish galleon on the reef filled with gold, silver and emeralds and retire immeadiately to sip drinks that you did not make. Or in an instant while floating in the saltwater, you can get eaten alive by a shark. That’s if you feel the need for a swim but for those feeling safe walking on land minding your own, one sandal in front of the other, can find themselves in a gator’s death roll before you even knew what happened. This is the way to live. A land of pirates and serious penalties.
Earlier I sat in an open air bar called Schooners Wharf and listened to a band sing about Benadryl and Hard-Ons. I drank staring at the dark water with the Moray Eels, Man O’ Wars, Jellyfish, Sharks and other deadly beasties and smiled because I’ve earned this. I am, after all, a man of the sea. I have always been completely comfortable on the water. I was born in water, lived upon the water and shall probably die on the sea. I look at the dark water, the Tarpon swimming towards the light, and wonder, of the years of wickedness occurring on top of the water and underneath. I wondered about hurricanes and heartbreaks. So to listen to a mediocre band sing a bad song about cheap whiskey and worse women is fitting because no place is lonelier than the waters edge.
And so the sun came up and I began to think, as much as I’d tried tried to stop it. It’s funny the way this world works now…all the demands and priorities that people place upon you. The power trips and punked out assholes who swore undying friendship while back-dooring your woman. When I experienced something much different. Much more colorful and musical. Eating in shacks that were painted vibrant blues, oranges, pinks and greens with roosters walking around dirt floors and music always playing. Like in New Orleans. The most NON-American American city there is. Instead of “do this for us” it is “become part of this.” which is so twisted and exquisitely separate from the United States that I say “why not?”. Everyone in New Orleans calls you “baby”; men, women, everyone. Can you comprehend that? How can that NOT make your day? These two locals have more in common than not. I suppose that is why I am forever drawn to both.
When I sit on the beach, I am happy and comfortable staring at the sea. Becoming part of it. Becoming one with it. and accepting my fate within it. Some days I think the only smart thing to do is to just listen to Neil Young and wade into the sea. Forever smooth and clear like a patch of ice upon a mountain lake. Or perhaps now that I reread my screed, I should just have fun and laugh it all off…yes indeed I believe that would be the prudent and correct path to travel. Hell, it could be worse, I could be deprived of Otis Redding songs or Julie Valin poems. In an hour or so, I shall be a man on the move again…further up the Keys, stopping where ever I feel it, as long as I make my boat on time.
Now I board the plane to seat 24F, window seat. I drink a Vodka & Seven with a side of Ativan in an effort to remain under the palms; feet in the sand, ocean singing hello. As we rise from the beach to the Gulf, I see the torquoise blue below fade into emerald green which eventually turns black. I feel my tan beginning to fade. I watch the ice in my glass melt and I swear to god Neil Young comes on my IPod! “Expecting to Fly” no shit….I double check the life vest under my seat and pay attention to where the inflatable rafts are stored and estimate how many of the mini bottles of rum I can throw into my backpack. There may be a chance I’ll be swimming again very soon.
–Your island guide