I was on Duval just before four in the morning, the witching hour when bars have to close by city ordinance, one of those rules that no one gets up in arms about.
The mask requirement has been gutted by the governor just in time for the next wave of coronavirus which one hopes will be diverted by vaccination. We read about the hopeless state of Europe in permanent lockdown and no vaccinations in sight for them and we have to be grateful we are pushing ahead and getting it done.
I never did like the lockdown principle at the start of the pandemic, not least because upon release the message was that the danger was over. After all no one comes out of an air raid shelter until the danger has flown away, so ending a lockdown sent the message the problem was gone.
I remember the public mocking Nancy Reagan when she started the "Just Say No" campaign to drug abuse. It was they said out of touch and too simplistic for the severity of the problem and the sophistication of the times. Which may have been true and certainly it was not a single solution to a massive social problem. But it did set the tone for the 1980s and slowly it did become uncool to do drugs.
I was never part of either culture, those for or against, but I figured suggesting it was a bad idea to waste your mind couldn't hurt. Similarly with masks. I wish we had pushed masks and social distancing and -god knows why this was necessary- hand washing from the beginning. No mandates, no laws, just a request that you take care of your neighbor by doing the sensible thing and working together. That opportunity evaporated and here we are.
Life goes on and in Key West Spring Break is here, young people alcohol and hard work by the working classes. Money is flowing and at four in the morning as the bars close Duval Street looked normal when i was there the morning after St Patrick's Day. Hank's Bar on Caroline was closed, as required:
Rusty led me a dance in a series of circles for 75 minutes hither and yon back and forth following his noise. I saw opportunities to see things in ways not previously noticed through this stay-at-home year of illness.
These tow youngsters wanted their picture taken, happily drunk and full of excitement we exchanged Rum and Photography philosophies and photos and I worried for them but I hope they are strong and if infected will do little long term harm to themselves. The odds are in their favor and one of them from Pennsylvania carries evidence they are dropping much needed money in local laps...
I discovered a couple of years ago my father's family came not from south London as previously understood but from Wicklow in Ireland. I confess I have yet to come to terms with my DNA ancestry now determined at 60% Celtic and 40% Italian by way of Siberia (??) so pandemic aside I took the year off from St Patrick's Day. My neighbor when asked replies she isn't from Ireland, in her thick brogue, no, she's from Cork. Perhaps I'm not Irish, I'm descended from Wicklow, wherever that is.
Perhaps I am just a nonconformist but green stuff seems weird to me. St Patrick actually seems to have been a much more interesting man than all the leprechauns and shamrocks would suggest. I read a potted biography of him on the History Channel which raised quite a few interesting points. Now I know why a Celtic cross looks the way it does for instance.
Walking away from Duval even as the crowds dispersed to the fading sounds of laughter and good cheer I found the quiet spots that Rusty led me towards.
Rusty got separated from me on Duval by a wedge of partiers going home, and after he finished basking in their attention he looked around for me with just a hint of panic. I was quite gratified when he hustled up to me and leaned against my leg for reassurance. That's how much we depend on dogs, as much as they depend on us.
Spring Break will press on for several weeks I suppose. Some schools aren't doing the break I believe but most seem to be. To see the streets full of young people looking for...whatever it is they look for feels like another step back to the land of normal.
Everything I see, the buildings the streets and some of the stores, are the same as a year ago. And at the same time everything is different.
It is shocking at some visceral level how much I want normal back. Europe? South America? They can have normal in their own good time. We need it here now; jobs and people and lights and...normal.
Normal feels like a mirage, an oasis shimmering on the horizon as the thirsty man crawls across the sand towards it looking for nothing more complicated than water. And so out of reach. I think I'd settle even for a glass of green beer at this point.