Wednesday, May 27, 2020

On The beach

Working an evening shift I drove into town late afternoon and paused at Smathers Beach. I figure in a few days the coronavirus carriers will be in town forgetting to maintain simple rules to keep our numbers low. Might as well snag a few pictures now to remember how it was.  
I was regretting not having my own swimsuit with me as the toilets/changing rooms were open and the freshwater showers were available and not being used...I could have been refreshed and dried and back in uniform in less time than it takes to tell. 
Those waters just looked too inviting and even the birds were maintaining their social distance. Unlike our crowded neighbors photographed in thick crowds Up North we in the Keys mind our manners..!
There are hard core athletes in the Keys, running in the summer like heat, showing up at the newly opened gyms where machines are spaced, classes are reduced and yet I know I am not hard core enough to share their breaths with them. Not yet. I exercise at home thanks to YouTube and keep my germs to myself.
I was left to sit in the shade in my long pants and closed toed shoes, which ended up trailing lovely yellow Bahamian sand all over the place, and I looked and thought and hoped for the best, while thinking about all the calls I have received at work from people anxious to vacation in the Keys. Are the Keys open yet? they ask, unable to use Google to find the answer for themselves.
I hope in the long run nothing changes, nothing happens, life goes on, money flows in, work blossoms,  and we return slowly inexorably to normal. They tell us we will be living a new normal in the future but my reading of the past tells me we will slip back to stasis, because entropy will lead us back to the old equilibrium because we want to fly across oceans, to eat out, to gather in crowded arenas, to drink in public to go shopping to walk the malls and what we are living now in the First World isn't normal.
I have read about plagues past and I am struck by how virulent they were, how little people knew or understood about what was killing them and thus they never figured out how to stop the next plague, the next yellow fever from coming back and killing them.
I have had dengue fever from youthful times in Central America. I was scared of being shot  as I found myself in the middle of a civil war but the bullets I dodged with not too much difficulty though they scared me whizzing past my head. Dengue fever instead got me good and I went home feeling the full effects of "break bone" fever. The Salvadorans I left behind got tortured and shot and they died of dengue, in droves. I had access to food and fluids, clean drinking and washing water, a proper toilet and lots of comfortable, stress-free rest. A couple of weeks and my girlfriend was nagging at me to get out of bed. Then she wondered why I didn't feel like marrying her. I like to be coddled.
When I was a teenager in Africa I met other overlanders talking about chasing down women and carousing in the brothels of West Africa. Even though neither I nor anyone else had heard of AIDS back then it dd not seem like a very good idea to me. I stuck to my motorcycle and kept riding and seeing and living my ordinary life in extraordinary places. I still got sick!  That time it was jaundice and I had to fly home from Cameroon a nasty shade of yellow and sick as a dog. The French residents of Cameroon to their eternal credit packaged my Yamaha SR500 and sent it home to me. I must have inspired much pity.
Central Africans died in droves from what I had contracted simply from being young and stupid and inattentive. I got an isolation room at the hospital in Italy, first rate care in the form of free socialized medicine and a month later I was the thinnest I had ever been and free to live my young stupid life. I got back on my motorcycle and looked for more horizons to ride to and get sick on. I toured the US on a Vespa and managed not to get ill. Yay!
It's easy to read the words and ponder the misery of desperate times in the past. For instance the 1918 'flu which originated in Kansas and killed millions in rapid and horrible ways all over the world. Again no one had a clue what was happening and they tried quarantine, isolation, face masks and prayer. And still they died.
We live in more enlightened times we hope and we chose collectively to try to save the old and infirm in a collective moment of economic shut down in the hope this thing will go away and not come back. I am betting that when I return next week Smathers will be populated and social distancing will be an artifact of another era. I hope not but if that happens it will be interesting to see what happens next.
I am not a social animal inasmuch as I don't miss the bars or the rituals of eating out.  I don't like crowds nor do I enjoy gatherings of people who don't know me and my quirks where I can't be myself. Yet I do miss the crowds and the people if only at a distance which surprises me as I'd have thought a total desert would suit me best. Thus I have learned of some deficits in my character by living through the throes of this very weird pandemic. I have had to work through the pandemic and maintain a schedule acting normal as everything around me shut down. It has felt odd I must admit.
What I miss is the effects left by the people if not the people themselves, the vapor trails they leave as they drift through the periphery of my life. I have discovered that contrary to my previous belief the zombie apocalypse subtracts photographic opportunities instead of multiplying them. The quirks of people and their inexplicable behavior are all forgotten in a world devoid of people where nothing changes, where streets are empty and the debris of civilization is covered by leaves and animal foot prints.  It's an odd feeling for me to discover it is people who in the end feed my photography and I am finding myself forced to admit that I am missing that part of my inspiration. I have tried to use the lock down to see beyond what normally makes itself apparent to me on my walks, to see details and angles and colors, but in the end the debris of our civilization is the part that is missing and the lack of it has made itself felt in an empty town.
Empty streets and clean empty sidewalks.  Nothing to see here, move along. Until next week.