Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Someone else's words that work for us

There is an author I really like, among quite a few, because he writes about places where I grew up. Parents and geography form us early on, for good or bad, and then we get to be adults and take on or shed the good or the bad and continue on with our lives. Or stay in the mental cradle. I followed the yellow sand road, myself.

My life was the east coast of Florida and then, late in the game, right before I moved to the islands, what we Floridians called the Left Coast, even though Californians think they own that title. On the east coast, I learned from my father to swim and fish and crab and shrimp (I've said some or most of this before in this blog, I know, and if you've been following along, sorry - but hey, it's my story and we 'scritch scritch' old people love to repeat ourselves and you know where the *next* button is if you choose to bail, but if you're new....this is for you, and me too). I dug oysters and clams and teased horseshoe crabs and rode sea turtles (sorry to say, but I did...after the laying, when she'd get to the place in the water where she was still touching sand but almost ready to swim, four of us would hold each other and get steady on her back...she'd start to swim...and one by one we fell off into inky black sea, laughing and cheering her on to the depths where we couldn't follow). It was sort of like this but add 4 giggling children:

Of course, I'd never do this now and my Dad would have been mad, but to young teens who jumped out of our windows to join up in the night, heading to the beach to watch turtles and moonlight...it seemed a thing we had to do.

We fed dolphin from Mather's bridge with the bridgetender laughing, learned to water ski, learned to sail, had clam and oyster bakes on sand by the sea and grass by the river, tromped through woods where avocados and oranges and grapefruit grew and were sold with a piece of cardboard and prices, and an old cigar box, once known as the honor system, by the side of the road. And not very many cheated either. I know because I knew the people who lived far off the road near the river side. And then as it does, life goes by and I was grown up with kids and life shifts again, and then I was single, I moved to the Left coast. Moved onto boats borrowed and then onto boat mine. A 13 foot alligator named Harry (with a secret name Eduordo because he loved opera), manatees and their babies, and great blue herons were my better neighbors.

So that is why I love and cherish sacred places on the planet that I'm lucky enough to have found, and that found me. That is why I terrifically enjoy Carl Hiaasen and Randy Wayne White and James. W. Hall, but starting it all (from my father's hand to mine) with John D. MacDonald, one of the foremost Florida writers from After The Fall of Florida (oh Travis McGee!! where are you now), for before the fall, A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith will fill you in on what it was like before the fall was in full gear.

And one of MacDonald's best, and most fitting books for this train of thought, Condominium...the last book my father read. Some reviews are worth a look. If you live in America, you can probably pick up Condominium or the whole colorful Travis McGee series for a few bucks. There are a bunch of them.

I actually blame most of my love of the natural world and my willingness to be pissy about saving it (or making a lot of noise about saving it) on my father, who thought taking his four children to the beach in the middle of the night to watch turtles lay eggs was a fine thing to do, and we thought it was normal. Who would tell us, with only Listerine and Vick's VaporORub in the bathroom cabinet, that if those, and going to the sea, didn't cure us of whatever ailed us, we must need the hospital (I still keep Vick's & Listerine around, and I know my brother does too, whether we use it or not - we do still use the sea for healing and we don't often get sick. Our father might not be on this plane anymore, but I know he's still watching...so we'd better not get sick).

This is from James W. Hall's book Hell's Bay. It resonates because what happened in Florida is what happened to so many islands after Florida got filled and ruined. The developer's keep going south, and east and west and farther south again, doing to the beautiful places what they've always done. Slash and burn, take the money, and oh, sorry, little people! Save what's left...catchy or irritating, if there is anything left to save, it is a worthy mantra.

In this section he is speaking of mangroves:

"Those simple trees, with salt-filtering roots and salt-excreting leaves, were a crucial resource, buffering the land from storms, year by year setting out new roots and expanding the boundaries of the islands and coastlines they protected. To the untrained eye they seemed humble, barely more than weeds, no bright flowers, no towering branches. Simply a dense tangle of slick brown limbs, and shiny green leaves. Mangroves were the forests of my youth. They were my sequoias and my hemlocks and my giant sugar maples. Scrubby vegetation, unlovely, nothing awe-inspiring about them, mangrove forest were frequently thought to be dismal wasteland, mosquito-breeding habitats with no useful purpose. As with much of the Everglades, a sensitive eye was required. Any fool could stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon and experience awe. But the majesty of theose low-lying, unvarying mangrove-lined esturies and bay was far quieter and harder to grasp, which was one of the many reasons why the ever-growing legions of newcomers to the state were so dangerous. To have an unobstructed view of blue waters, those idiots were eager to raze the lowly mangroves, to call in the bulldozers and dreges and hack them away. Though it was illegal to destroy those crucial tress, in the rare instnaces a developer was actually caught and fined a few thousand dollars, most of them considered the penalty simply part of the cost of providing their clients a million-dollar vista."

This particular book, though a novel, contains much that is revelant to Culebra and probably to 1000 other beautiful places where money is more important than nature and its amazing ability to keep beautiful and strong for hundreds of years what a few months' time of careless building can destroy for generations. The hurricanes and the floods and the many swift ways of nature come in and owners who bought what was built on shifting sands, who haven't researched what they have bought cry foul...to developers who have, in the the small print, made sure they have no responsibility for.

It's just a thought...after reading a good read. Thanks, Mr. Hall. Hope I'm not in trouble for copying this without your permission. If I am...I'll serve my sentence on the Left Coast, Nav-a-gator dock, please.


Last minute addition! I just got this email from my brother (who, of course, still lives in Fla). Since the above is pretty serious and I never stay serious long, it seemed like the perfect ending for a Florida laced post. Hey, I laughed.

Getting Old in Florida

Two elderly ladies are sitting on the front porch in Bonita Springs , doing nothing.
One lady turns and asks, 'Do you still get horny?'
The other replies, 'Oh sure I do.'
The first old lady asks, 'What do you do about it?'
The second old lady replies, 'I suck a lifesaver.'
After a few moments, the first old lady asks, 'Who drives you to the beach?'

Three old ladies were sitting side by side in their retirement home in Ft. Lauderdale reminiscing.
The first lady recalled shopping at the green grocers and demonstrated with her hands, the length and thickness of a cucumber she could buy for a penny.
The second old lady nodded, adding that onions used to be much bigger and cheaper also, and demonstrated the size of two big onions she could buy for a penny a piece.
The third old lady remarked, 'I can't hear a word you're saying, but I remember the guy you're talking about.
A little old lady was sitting on a park bench in The Villages, a Florida community.
A man walked over and sits down on the other end of the bench. After a few moments, the woman asks, 'Are you a stranger here?'
He replies, 'I lived here years ago..'
'So, where were you all these years?'
'In prison,' he says.
'Why did they put you in prison?'
He looked at her, and very quietly said, 'I killed my wife.'
'Oh!' said the woman. 'So you're single...?!'

A man was telling his neighbor in Miami , 'I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it's state of the art It's perfect.'
'Really,' answered the neighbor. 'What kind is it?'
'Twelve thirty.'
Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor in Estero to get a physical. A few days later the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm.
A couple of days later the doctor spoke to Morris and said, 'You're really doing great, aren't you?'
'Just doing what you said, Doc: 'Get a hot mamma' and 'be cheerful,'' Morris replied.
To which the doctor replied, 'I didn't say that, Morris. I said, 'You've got a heart murmur, be careful!'
A little old man shuffled slowly into the 'Orange Dipper', an ice cream parlor in Naples , and pulled himself slowly, painfully, up onto a stool.
After catching his breath he ordered a banana split.
The waitress asked kindly, 'Crushed nuts?'
'No,' he replied, 'hemorrhoids...'


  1. your piece is a beautiful one with the words circling around the air.....well done lady....

  2. There's an image...

    and thank you.

  3. Nice article on the Blog, I get all weepy when I see those books, (I can SMELL them even) and the Rolls Royce pickup, thats still floating around Delray someplace, and when I pass by the Busted Flush's old slip in Bahia Mar, I am sad for the myriad of wonderful things we have lost in time, it sucks, cuz I loved em too Hon, but fuck it, Im building NEW old stuff to remember, its the only way to keep from dissapearring completely , to drive a stick in the sand, and say " I was HERE" not to obliterate the entire Horizon, just a stick, I'll be happy to leave a stick, these meglamaniac fuckers now are able to wipe out every single special spot within 100 miles in a single weekend, to build nightmarish empty condo monolith towers but we can keep Mathers walk-around in our head, I still wanna live on the Busted Flush, to hide some beehived babe from the Mob, (again) but, for now, I gotta fix my truck and keep building the A-Frame, its all I can do for now. I still have time for a bunch more adventures, maybe these days with a few less skinned and bloody knees and elbows, but theres time...and band-aids luv ya sis...

  4. It's so interesting what forms us. MJ and Caribe had a wonderful family background to instill in them this essential love of their nourishing mother earth. Others of us grew up with either no such compass, or a push in the opposite moral direction. Thank you to early friends who patiently prodded us to aspire to better and to MJ for eloquently creating a gentle feedback loop to remind and reinforce the goodness of that path.

  5. Well, actually it was a fairly crazy family background, but in idyllic settings our pretty amazing father chose, over and over again. We were weirdly lucky, and it seems to have not stopped yet, the weird or the lucky!

    Pretty eloquent yourself, there, flyover boy! I was ready to re-invent my whole life!