Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lunch At The Beach

To sit on a beach on November, to watch the waves roll in and admire one's tougher neighbors out taking a tan under gray skies and strong east winds; that's autumnal sport in Key West.
I had expected to line up for a while to get my swine flu vaccine at the High School but I was in and out so fast I had time left over for a leisurely lunch. Not too leisurely because we have so many people out sick there is overtime going begging. It was an enormous pleasure to sit out at a picnic table and feel the warm, muggy wind blow in my face. I was so tired I didn't bother to indulge myself in my preferred activity, reading, I just sat and stared out at the water. Key West in winter is a different season. It brings with it spells of cold dry sunshine mixed with short bursts of overcast weather, a little rain and a return to the bright cold crisp sunshine. People make fun of a cold day slightly above 60 degrees (15C), but when one is used to temperatures closer to 90 degrees, (30C) it feels cold enough. I haven't yet pulled my sweatshirt out of the closet but I know it's coming, and I know we will be flooded with people, people who apparently have jobs and are determined to enjoy a vacation in "America's Caribbean" (Key West, that is, not the real one in the US Virgin Islands). So an empty picnic table and a bespoke burrito from Badboy (porkchilicabbagejalapenocheesericeandbeans) is just the job to celebrate a spare hour:
As my work was my next stop I was wearing motorcycle boots, Kevlar lined pants and my uniform polo shirt. The nurses at the vaccination station asked if I was riding a motorcycle. "Oh no." I said,"I just feel safer overdressing." The student nurse was very sweet to me and failed entirely to jab me as hard as I deserved for being smart with them. Visitors to Key West, even as winter progresses pretend it is summer and throw their clothes away with a ferocity that tells you they are determined to enjoy their winter break:
It's never out of fashion to build a sandcastle with your Dad:
The winds have produced white lumpy conditions in the Straits of Florida that, as long as winds were out of the east, were coming ashore with a ferocity not usually seen inside the reef. When my wife and I were out cruising we used to check the ocean conditions by looking at the horizon from the comfort of our anchorage. If we could see buffalo rolling along the horizon of the open waters we determined it was probably better to stay put. Next time you are at the beach look to the horizon and if the waves roll along looking like the humps on a herd of buffalo you will know what I mean.
I wasn't planning on going sailing so I watched the waves crash on the rocks placed off the beach to preserve the sand in just these conditions. I like swimming in calm waters, body surfing seems rather gross to me.
Offshore I could see a ghost, a cruise ship lurking. It vanished into the murk and the little green pilot boat came rolling back down the channel a few minutes later. I doubt the passengers on the ship even noticed how lumpy the buffaloes were running.That other nautical saying came to mind, "I'd rather be in here wishing I was out there, than out there wishing I was in here." I took pleasure in the trees, the sand, the stillness under the canopy.
The sea oats is growing nicely along the beach. It is supposed to be for erosion control and beds of it are always fenced off on Florida beaches. Visitors aren't supposed to pick it or trample it or disturb it.
I love staring out at the turquoise waters and gray clouds. Sometimes when the clouds pile up over shallow waters, even while standing in downtown Key West, you can see a turquoise sheen reflected off the bottom of the cloud. It's reminder of how shallow and clear and close these magical waters are, even to the fleshpots of Duval.
Visitors do the damnedest things. They swim in November in rough waters:
And they seem to enjoy it. Others don't:
Me? I dropped my can in the recycling bin and packed my sandwich wrapper to drop it off in the garbage can at work. Lunch was over, time to answer a 9-1-1 call or two. It's hard to imagine but not everyone was having an easy day at the beach.