Down By The Sea

[Photo is mine]

I knew the man’s story. I had read his many blogs but the campfire was the place where he untied his cachet of stories. There would be no campfires in Florida, not this time of year. Instead, I would have to find shade beneath a palmetto palm to study his photograph. I stretched the screen of my iPhone. Yes, it was him. I compared the picture to the one he sent me seven years ago. It was the same lighthouse over and behind his right shoulder. The mask and snorkel were the very same. His bracelet was different. The cheap ones he was inclined to buy had been replaced many times over. His pale shoulders were the same, no sign of a slouch. His beard seemed a tiny bit grayer as did his hair.

We all had been caught in the great Pandemic but he seemed to be emerging from its shell like a newborn chick. A new wrinkle? Sad eyes? I couldn’t get a good look because of the snorkel but I suspect they were present on his face. After all, it had been seven years since he stood chest deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some things change with terrifying speed. Some things never change Some things change so subtly that it’s hard to see the years.

I knew him well enough to see the partial smile on his lips. He was happy, happy for the first time in years. At least seven years anyway.

He failed to notice me behind the palm observing him. He thought he had sent the photograph to someone distant friend but I was usually physically closer to him than he knew. I noticed his head turn toward the twenty-something in a toxic pink bikini. Ha, I thought, he still remembers some of the important things in life. I saw him turn to his wife as she handed him the bottle of ice water. He smiled in his contentment. He looked westward toward the horizon and stared for many minutes.

He rises and walks to the water’s edge.

He thought himself Poseiden, but he was really just an old man standing on the shore.

Listless In Fort Myers: The Harsh Realities Of Wintering In Paradise


I’m sitting on the wooden walkway, on a green metal bench, sipping an iced coffee.  I’m watching a Cessna single-engine plane pull an advertising banner across the slightly blue hazy sky.  The banner is telling us to shop at the Tanger Outlet Mall.  I look around and realize that this is the mall I’m in right now.  Wow!  Is that a coincidence or what?  I’m grateful for this bench, because it’s located in front of the main entrance to the Polo/Ralph Lauren store.  Every time someone enters or leaves, I get a free blast of cold air.

It’s one of the few free things you can enjoy when you’re this close to Sanibel Island.

As I watch the Cessna fade into the humid air, I wonder why I’m spending my valuable time sitting alone at an outlet mall in Florida.  People flock here this time of year (we did) to escape the winters of the north.  How was I to know that we were arriving in the middle of one of the more memorable heat waves in recent years.

“This is very unusual for early November,” everyone says.  “Just wait, it’ll get better.”

I am very reluctant to cross the parking lot, get into my car, and drive back to our RV.  I know when I step off this deck and into the sun, I’ll pay dearly.  Yesterday, I looked at my indoor/outdoor thermometer that I mounted with Velcro on the wall just above my head where I sleep…if I sleep.  It displayed triple digits.  I began to worry about the propane canister that is attached to our L.L. Bean grill.  There was a warning on the label about exposing the little tank to…..degrees.  That part of the label was torn.

Was my cooking propane tank going to explode while I was at the Outlet Mall?

I thought about that for a minute.  There would be a fairly large explosion that would likely affect the trailers nearby–and that wouldn’t be hard because the distance between lots is quite small.  (I can sit in our attached tent structure and watch CNN in the RV next door.)  I pondered the damage of such a fire storm–the cylinder is new and full of propane.  The mushroom cloud alone would attract people in the pool or the Shuffleboard courts.  The fire truck that would arrive would block the narrow street we lived on and the people in the golf carts would have to make an extra block.

I hope our propane doesn’t explode.  I don’t even know if we’re covered by AAA for something like that.

After I dumped the watery iced coffee into a bright green trash can, I drove home.  I switched on our AC and immediately began to worry about how much electricity it would cost to get cool me off for ten minutes.  Mariam was working today–she does everything by phone and computer–so she’s over in the “library” taking advantage of one of the two “hot spots” for the WiFi in our resort.  I tried going to the “library” to do some writing and thinking but I found it very distracting.  Every few minutes someone would come in and borrow a Nora Roberts or John Saul book.  My concentration would be broken.  I’m trying to work on a novel, but a “real” writer needs time alone.  Even amateurs like me need a place to think things through in peace.

RV flower

I guess I’m just listless in Fort Myers.  The humidity would tire anyone out, even perky people like Rachel Ray would begin to stir more slowly than usual.  I feel like a hostage to the weather.  Starbucks?  Too far away?  McDonald’s?  They won’t give me skim milk for my iced coffee unless I buy a half-pint container.  I don’t even have the energy to attend the Grand Opening of the new Walmart just a mile away.

My mind begins to wander as I lay back on our bed.  One possibility, you might suggest, is to go to one of the famous beaches and just sit under the umbrella and read or write while the ocean breeze comforts me.  But, they want $4.00/hour to park at these beaches.  And, besides, I’ve tried this approach but neither of us could get our umbrella into the sand deep enough.  The answer: I had to go to the nearest Publix store (they’re everywhere) and buy an auger so that we can drill a hole deep enough to support our shade-providing umbrella.  We’ll have to wait until our next beach visit to see if that works.

The other issue on my mind is that unlike most other places, we’re paying more for ice than for gas.  That doesn’t make sense to me.  Water isn’t shipped from the Persian Gulf and refined in New Jersey!  Crude oil is.  This is just water.  Ice runs around $2.50/bag (and lasts about a day).  Gas is about $2.09/gallon.  I did some mental math and came up with the fact that if we use a bag of ice a day, the cost will be $75.00/month.  You could rent a small room in a nice home in a tiny town somewhere in Ohio for that kind of money.

I’d like to look forward to our quiet little dinners in our tent attachment, but that presents yet another issue.  We sit at a little table that we bought at an RV store.  It has a surface texture that is very slippery.  When we used our new Corelle plates, and tried to cut a slice of fish, the plate slides around the table-top, nearly knocking over our plastic wine glasses.  I consider putting two adhesive Velcro patches on the table and on the bottom of the plates.  They would stay in place for sure.  But, if we both picked up our plates at the same time, we’d pick up the table as well.  Then the plastic wine glasses would surely fly–as well as the pepper mill and citronella candle–possibly burning a hole in our polyester rug.  Or worse…

I’m still laying back on the bed.  I’m still a little lethargic, a little listless and more than a little discouraged.

The reason I’m so down is that I recently checked my stats on my WordPress blog site.  My readership is falling.  I get three or four “likes” on the site.  I’ve looked at other bloggers and they get forty or fifty “likes” for writing six sentences on the shoes they’ve chosen for next Friday night.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 3.39.36 PM

Soon, I’ll have to turn off the AC ($!) and when I do the temperature will start to climb in nanoseconds.  I guess I’ll go out and sit inside our tent.  I’d like to put an ice pack on my head to keep cool, but ice is too expensive.  And, besides, it would slip off my hair when it begins to melt–which would be immediately.

Maybe if I used Velcro on the ice pack…





Farther Along The Beach, Among The Periwinkles, There Are Things Unseen


I’ve finally arrived at the island that is known around the world for its seashells.  I’m unloading the car in the parking lot of Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island.  The sun is beating against my back and seems intense enough to melt the polyester fibers in my shoulder seams.  I enter the Men’s restroom to change into my swim suit.  The address of the Men’s room is 133 Periwinkle Way, in case you want to see its roof on Google Maps.  After washing my hands, I hold them under a hot air dryer.  Why?  By the time I get back to the car, my hands will be wet with sweat.

I search the mess on the back seat and mutter something only slightly obscene because I have forgotten my velcro water shoes.  I’ll have to cross the parking lot in shoes with socks or go barefoot.  I opt to leave my socks and shoes in the car.  Shoes and socks and sand are well-known to not play well together.  The asphalt isn’t bad as it looked, but just before I reach the boardwalk to the main beach, I am faced with a six-foot border of broken periwinkle shells.  I take a step.  It hurts my tender soles–the soles that have spent the better part of four years cushioned by thick hiking socks.  I walk like a baby.  It’s painful.  I must look like a Hindu from Aruppukkottai, India, who has failed Introduction to Fire-Walking.  Walking on burning coals can’t be as bad as the periwinkle shells.

Fire-walking is not on my bucket list.

I’ve been in Florida a week.  I’m learning to carry some kind of footwear everywhere.  Did I mention that I had tender soles?

Standing on the beach, I eye a thunderstorm, a majestic Cumulonimbus, building off shore.  Meanwhile, the sun continues to kill superficial skin cells on my shoulders.  After applying a bit of SPF 45, I test the waters.  Thank God it’s not like the water off the shore of Maine.  It’s nearly warm.  In fact, it’s an immense relief to wade out to my waist.  I kneel on the hard sand and pose for a Facebook photo.  Mariam goes back to the new beach chairs ($10.99 + tax each) and settles in to read a book on her iPad.  I’m alone with only a few shell divers and a family near me.  I’m surprised so few people are here on such a hot day–a hot Saturday–a really hot Saturday.

I watch two young women bring three long poles and a shovel to a place a short distance from Mariam.  What are they going to do?  Twenty minutes later, there is a tripod with waving silken curtains of mauve and salmon and blue.  Out comes the white chairs.  There’s going to be a wedding on the beach.  A young woman and young man (?) are going to pledge their lives to each other on white sand and periwinkle shells.  I wish them luck with a quiet whisper.  Bitterly, I wonder if they’re marrying for love or money.  It’s hard to tell out here on Sanibel Island.  It’s the Fairfield County of the south.  I’m sure places are even more affluent around Miami, but its hard to imagine.

I see three people heading to the water’s edge.  It’s a middle age couple.  Between them is an old woman with a foam floating tube beneath her arms.  They are holding her up.  They take her out to the deeper water.  The old woman laughs.  She shrieks with delight.  She is giddy with the feeling of sea water on her wrinkled skin.  I wonder how long it has been since she has felt the ocean surround her.  Maybe this is a weekly ritual, but I don’t think so.  There is something in her eyes that speaks of a certain tiny fear coupled with her pleasure.  The couple who support her–I admire them.  I hope someone, my son, my daughter, my wife is around to hold me tightly when I reach that age–and they will carry me out to the sea.


My fingers tips are getting dimpled.  My skin must look like those bodies they find in the East River, after a mob hit.  The “floaters” they say on CSI.  I call to Mariam to come out with my iPhone.  I pose my hand.  She takes a few images but I can’t see them with all the glare.  Later, when I’m choosing the photo that works the best, I begin to wonder about inserting it into a post like this.  My hand looks like some mocking and inane version of the Lady of the Lake who threw King Arthur his sword, Excalibur.  Then I realize it looks like a New York Post front page photo of a drowning victim off Coney Island.  I decide to insert it anyway.  I trust my faithful readers to understand what I was trying to convey.



It’s time I took a walk along the beach, along where the waves wash the sand, where the walking is easy.  I set out.  The sea gulls part when I pass them.  A great philosopher once said that if you want to write something bad or evil about someone, write it in the sand.  That’s not great philosophy–that’s just common sense.  Chisel nothing in rock but write in the sand.  Write a sexy novel, an anarchistic diatribe, a love poem of heartbreaking intensity and full of Romantic images, a bad joke, a brutal confession or a boring essay on palm oil extraction.  But write it in sand.  Draw an obscene image, draw a heart and arrow with a pair of initials.  Pierce the heart with an arrow of Cupid.

But draw it in sand.


Time to go back to Mariam and begin packing up.  We only paid for two hours parking.

As I returned along the same shore, I noticed that my foot prints were gone.  The traces of my being on this beach, on this day, will be gone in an hour.  By then, the wedding will probably be over.

Is this the destiny of my life and accomplishments?  My writings, my photos are interesting for a few moments, and then lost forever.

I begin to envy the humble Periwinkle.  It’s not the showy conch and no one yells when they pick up one of these little shells.


I envy it, because those shells will be there in five hundred years.

And, they will still be on the beach, but this time, alongside someone elses footprints.