Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Other Sunset

It is said the playwright Tennessee Williams, in a moment of inebriated jubilation toasted the setting sun on the waterfront in Key West, and with that simple act of honoring the best show in town set off the carnival that sunset has become at Mallory Square.
Residents of the Keys have an ambiguous relationship with the visitors who keep the economy going in the islands. They argue over the noise of Navy jets training from Boca Chica Naval Air Station, a huge source of local income. They make fun of civilian tourists who flock to the town year round, wide eyed with wonder at this tropical paradise. Residents have a long history of nibbling the hand that feeds them and it is normal to tell various jokes about the gullibility of visitors. "Do they schedule a second sunset?" we are told they frequently ask. "Can the sunset be delayed till after I finish my dinner?" Then the locals hang out in the bars, cadge free drinks and tell tall stories for their liquid supper. Me? I head north to watch the sun set. I don't get to watch the sun set that often. I am usually at work at the magic hour but one evening when I was home and my wife was working late I decided to go for an evening swim at Veterans Park, a turn out 13 miles from my house at the southern end of the Seven Mile Bridge. My wife's Vespa ET4 has been at home since she injured her shoulder so I decided it was a relaxing ride I wanted and the 150cc scooter would be the ideal tool for the job. There was no traffic heading north so I stopped on the new Bahia Honda bridge, with two empty lanes all to myself and played with the camera.
I ambled along at 50mph (80km/h) enjoying the road, the warm air, the sun dropping rapidly out of sight and taking all prospects of a sunlit swim with it... I didn't care, I was here in the spirit (if not the inebriation) of the playwright. The trailer park at Ohio Key looked good as I floated by. I saw a group of residents, their golf cart parked on the old Flagler bridge watching their own private sunset in the shadow of the massive flag, a splash of color against the gray thunderheads of summer. Veterans Park is a narrow beach fronting shallow water, equipped with a few ramadas and palm trees to give the necessary sub tropical ambiance.
People who insist on wearing all the gear all the time miss out sometimes on the subtle pleasures of just jumping on and going. You never know what happens when you submit to spontaneity. Perhaps a palm tree will sprout out of your head.To the north, at the other end of the bridge seven miles away, the thunder clouds were piling up, over the first twinkling lights in the city of Marathon.
To the west the sun was putting the finishing touches to it's act. It was the start of bike week and Harley Davidsons by the thousand were starting to invade the islands. The road may be straight but it does offer out of towners a different experience, that of riding over water.
The Vespa is a relaxing ride, surprisingly fast especially for car drivers who think mopeds can't go faster than a snail's pace. The little Vespa 150 can run 60 mph (100 kmh) all day on these level roads:In Big Pine I stopped off to check in on a friend......and home to dinner with my wife. All that or I could have watched jugglers at Mallory Square. Luckily I live here so I get to take more than one bite at the sunset apple. Maybe next time I'll jostle with the crowds and leave a large tip.