As a child I know the winters must have been milder, as it was never too cold to have my parents take is to Sheridan Park where my father would drag the old wooden toboggan up the chute adjacent to the stairs as we ran ahead, and smile as we hurtled down seeing how far we could go across the snow packed runway.
After an hour, when our hands were blue, the mitten clips long since defeated, he would once again smile as we drove to Louie’s for a foot long and a couple of orders of curly fries.
I’m thinking the weather changed right about the time my parents packed off to Florida, as if God had given them some Noah-like warning that winters would soon get ugly, or maybe He was just trying to help Detroit, since my step- siblings had to have certain cars, while I struggled through winter in the north in my leaky, rusting Opel.
Bob Dylan is, to the best of my knowledge, the only songwriter to successfully rhyme outrageous and contagious, which doesn’t explain why I knew I could never be a successful songwriter in this life.
The explanation is far simpler, it was when Leonard Cohen served me tea and apricots, said he hated the river even living in Montreal and said I should pack off to Florida or California if I wanted oranges, though he said, if I ever visited China, if I’d see where their oranges came from.
We’re all older now, Leonard is dead and even Bob admits he’s not sure he’s younger now, but he says, Bob that is, that I need to get over keeping up with the Joneses, because in the final analysis, we are all Jones at the end.
Hell is a place where what you least desire becomes eternally yours, or so we were told as children, well not us, not the Jewish kids, for us Hell was our mothers’ finding that copy of Playboy we stole from our father’s stash our mother didn’t know about, and which he would deny, throwing us under the bus or any large vehicle she found
If we buy into Hell, and given that ours is an aging population, many of whom have landed in Florida and Arizona to avoid the winters that are hell on the ubiquitous arthritis, and all those who have joyously consumed the evangelical Kool-Aid, when the final bell rings, they may be surprised to discover there is far, far more of a chance of a snowball in Hell.
He circles carefully constantly adjusting altitude expanding and contracting his orbits in great increments. His each move is calculated that much is obvious. And you watch him with a deep fascination. You are not the only watcher this day, at this time, others peer up as he plunges downward breaking the surface, his head appearing, thrown back, consuming what ever it is he plucked. While I stand watching the anhinga on the shore of the pond makes it clear he finds the pelican the least graceful of all his distant kin.
The manatees hide just below the surface sticking up their heads every few minutes, for a breath or to thrill the tourists who watch intently, because it is a thing to do in this part of Florida in winter.
The restaurants in the harbor don’t mind, it draws a crowd and takes pressure off the kitchen, for people waiting for sea mammals do not grow impatient like those waiting for just burgers or an order of fried clams with a side of fries.
The manatees will never understand humans, why they queue up in the sun to eat animals, when the sea provides a free feast for herbivores if you are only willing to immerse yourself in the search for a meal.
He always paid passing attention to the coconut palms. It wasn’t that they were so attractive as to merit attention. Quite the contrary, they were remarkable ordinary as palms go. But he knew that if the drivers here didn’t get him, a ill-timed coconut leaping from a palm would be pleased to do the job. And that was just too horrid a way to go. He could see the obit: “Killed by an angry coconut whose natural gravitational journey he had the temerity to interrupt.”
Only the ducks remain, and they aren’t saying. Ask a Muscovy where all the ibis have gone and he will say, “good riddance, they’re ugly and get in the way.” Ask of the pelicans and they will remind you that now there are more fish, and they’ll be back eventually, but things are much calmer in their absence. Anyway, they say, the moorhens are still here, but thank heavens the coots have gotten a room to do their mating this year. And for a moment, in this senior community, we think they are speaking of us.
You are driving through the Florida that once was, that is off the coast, and out of Orlando, the Florida of jalousie windows, run down once gas stations and the more than occasional double wide. Suddenly, you are in a Disney version of a semi-tropical New England, gated villages where cars have been supplanted by an endless stream of golf carts, where the Disney smile is a permanent fixture of most every face. In the community, as you walk into the town center, a town square imagined by Rodeo Drive, each night at five a wave of golf carts arrive , to plastic lawn chairs laid out in neat array soon to fill with those who so well remember when the songs to be played, and they, were young.