Sitting on a bench at Truman Waterfront's Inner Mole on a midnight lunch break I was enjoying the silence of a still night. The northeast wind was not strong enough to ruffle these protected waters, but it was a cooling draught after a long hot summer. It was certainly short sleeve weather in the mid 70s, but this latest cold front marks the transition between summer and winter, a drop off in humidity even though temperatures will slowly climb back up near 90 degrees between periodic cold fronts.
I looked across the Navy Basin at the cruise ship dock known as the Outer Mole, home to visiting Navy ships but more usually where many of the city's cruise ship visitors dock and whose passengers are transported to town in a lucrative half million dollar annual contract by the Conch Train. I was thinking about how desolate the dock looked, the shapeless little sheds and awnings strewn about waiting for the next bunch of impatient IDs to descend off the ship, arrivals from some possibly exotic destination - Miami? Galveston? Charlotte Amalie? or Cozumel perhaps. Bright eyed and bushy tailed they descend not just onto the mole but into the city itself eager for experience as long as it is in a controlled and secure environment. Key West offers that in spades, English language , US dollar, and health department approved food, all under a hot almost tropical sun feeding exotic greenery and mushrooming odd people they like to think, Bohemians flourishing in an endless summer.
I remember decades ago looking at Key West that way, a veil gradually shredded by acquaintance though one likes to imagine that the 1980s. pre-internet and modern road really did foster a more exotic and off beat little town. These days I struggle not to submit to the prevailing view that money and an influx of people not driven by a desire to flee average mores in a median life style are transforming the Southernmost City. Certainly Miami has changed, it's still a sinkhole of a city but its nothing like the southern backwater it was back then. I wonder how rare and odd Key West looks to the voyagers off their ships five days each week. Do they see what I saw in 1981? All indicators are they do, and I wondered as I sat there how they felt about getting back on the cruise ship and leaving.
I've done a lot of traveling over the years and I wonder about that when I crawl onto an airliner or drive through a toll booth or buy a rail ticket. Do the people left behind, the people that make the journey possible, do they regret not leaving with you? Do the ground crews at the airport, the baggage people for instance, do they check your ticket and wonder about your destination? Do the people who wave the paddles at the jet and line it up on the taxi way, do they watch the silver tube wistfully as it waddles off to gain elegance and speed in the sky, flying who knows where, far away? Or do they give it not a thought and resume pining for their homes and their routines and their own close familiar neighborhoods?
In a life dedicated to wanderlust, now within a stone's throw of my sixth decade of life (where did it all go, so fast?) I watch the planes take off, I saw the crowds driving North out of Fantasy Fest land and I felt not one whit of regret that I wasn't going with them. They earn more money, they have bigger homes they can go shopping round the corner from home. They also perhaps have more interesting roads to motorcycle than I do, but even Paradise has it's limitations.
Even with my extra busy schedule and the overtime I still get time to myself, time to pause and to think and to revel in the sun. I commute half an hour on the Bonneville, I have a boat at my dock, even though the weather for boating has been foul! None of those things, aside from friends and family and funny colleagues at work, none of those things await me anymore far away. Thanks for visiting, spend more money, enjoy your journey.