Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day Two-Hundred-Fifty-Three, Bridges

I'm back online. The fault was my own.  I'm big enough to admit it.  And to apologise to the good people at Samsung.  You do not, in this one lonesome instance, suck.

Find me camped at or around milepost fifty-nine.  That's how we tell time down here.  There's only one road in and out.  Which makes street addresses a little silly.  I woke up at milepost eighty. 

In an abandoned hobo camp.  There had been people there before me.  Which is funny because, viewed from the road, it was just one point in a long stretch of trees.  But something about it looked like home.  Great hoboes think alike.

It was more elaborate than I first noticed.  There were wigwams woven from trees.  And a fire pit and a burglar alarm, fashioned from fishing line.  And a few tin cans.  It's a Viet Nam thing.  A lot of hoboes are veterans.  Who have earned their right to sleep undisturbed.  They don't like to be surprised.

They were long gone by the time I got there.  This isn't the first time it's happened.  I'll find an ingenious spot for my tent, only to see signs of others.  As far as I know I leave nothing behind.  The grass may be sqooshed down some.  But I pick up my litter.  I may have a poop, but I bury it as well as I can.

Good citizenship, that.  And something to teach every schoolchild.  If you open it, close it.  If break it, fix it.  If you drink all the beer, go and buy more.  If you poop in the woods, you should bury it.  Keep America great and free.

I avoided the ocean as long as I could.  I got a glimpse of the Gulf.  But you may have noticed I stayed inland all the way across Florida.  Because I wanted to earn it.  I had miles to go.  Even once I hit the Keys.  But today was all bridges and open water.  It was just me and the sea.

I had breakfast at the tip of Islamorada, at Bud N' Mary's Marina.  Amongst the deep sea fishermen, before they shipped out for the day.  Oldsters, a lot of them.  Come from far and wide.  I ate alone and felt just a little sad.  Everyone was going fishing but me.

But my world opened up just after that.  It was me and nothing but blue.  The radio played We Are the Champions.  It had special meaning for me.  Because for months now I've been haunted by a particular vision, of me when I reach the sea.  There'd be cheering crowds and a high school marching band.  That was the song they played.

I'm more likely to finish my journey unnoticed.  That may be for the best.  I've been told that when I hit Key West I'll be arrested for vagrancy.

I hope I have time for a few beers first.  Maybe if I ask nice they'll wait.  After all, I'm not wholly indigent.  Not yet, anyway. 

I again encourage you to check your maps.  It's hard to explain the Keys.  Today was just a series of bridges.  Only one of them sucked.  Over a body of water called Channel #5.  Marilyn Monroe used to sleep in it.

It weren't the worst bridge I've faced on this trip.  There was a six-foot shoulder.  But it had a high enough arc to make it blind at the top, and I wish the railing were higher.  And I'm convinced a lot of these divers are drunk.  Those who aren't are jibbering on their phones.  Or are just plain old idiots.  Only one tried to murder me.

And waved a friendly apology.  I gave him or her the finger.  Without much malice but I'm still ashamed.  That's not my Christ-nature.  It's for me to forgive these idiots.  They know not what they do.

What they do is scare the ever-lovin' crap out of me.  I've always known I'd die on a bridge.  But from an artistic standpoint it would be good.  It would add pathos to my tale.  Art vs. Life.  It's a tough call.  I'll let the gods decide.

My next several bidges weren't bad at all.  They all had pedestrian lanes.  Quite separate, a bridge unto themselves.  One must have been three miles long.  It had to have cost a fortune to build.  It was very considerate of them.  To spend all that money just for me and a few million fishermen.

Who line the rails.  It's a whole lot cheaper than chartering your own boat.  And a fine place to spend an afternoon.  They keep it pretty clean.  Or the the pelicans do.  I do like those birds.  They are amazing flyers.  They don't very often flap their wings.  They are masters of the wind.

But still manage to look stupid.  They're awfully big, too.  They must weigh 20 lbs.  More when wet.  None of that water-off-a-duck's-back bit for them.  Their dive into the sea looks more like a crash.  They come out of it sopping wet.  And shake themselves like a golden retriever, looking silly the whole time.

I never did see one get a fish.  They don't leave their beaks distended.  That's only in cartoons, I guess.  They look silly enough as it is.  They are not always cuddly.  They will eat other birds.  But they're still my favorite.  They're awful fun to watch.

There are other birds too.  Fishermen.  And their long-legged friends near the shore.  Big and small, beaks curved and straight.  I don't know what they are.  My mother would.  She's a bird maniac.  She would have fun down here. 

I also saw a sea turtle, a great big son of a gun.  I've never seen one of those before.  Maybe at an aquarium, but that just isn't same.  He was out for a swim.  He poked his head up, then dove back under the water.  Rather a thoughtful looking fellow.  He's probably a hundred years old.

I kept an eye out for dolphins and sharks, but I didn't see any of them.  I did meet, of all things, an iguana.  He was out on the bridge.  He was greyish, not green, and blocking my path.  He had dark rings on his tail.  I don't know if he was born here or if he emigrated from somewhere else. 

I figured he probably wouldn't attack me.  People do keep them as pets.  And if he did I could probably beat him up and throw him into the sea.  Darwin used to claim they could swim.  I could prove him wrong.  And put an end to his unbiblical nonsense.  The Baptists would all buy me beer.

I was still a bit nervous walking by.  It was a narrow path.  And he did have long claws and wrinkles and scales and weird liittle things on his head.  Like Phil Spector, may God forgive him.  We all should have seen that one coming.

There a number of tiny little lizards, shooting about at light speed.  So fast you can barely see what they are.  Like baby dinosaurs.  They don't bother me much.  Their chief purpose in life seems to be avoiding me.

What else, what else.  I met a few kind cyclists.  And an idiot outside a store.  He was a Green Beret in Viet Nam.  He is about my age.  I was six when Saigon fell.  "I was real young."  He also taught Kareem the sky hook.  I had little patience with him.  He wasn't mad.  That might be charming.  He was just full of shit.

I finished my day on a most happy note at The Wreck Galley and Grill.  I stopped in to swill some quick Cokes and refill my water bottles.  Everyone was very kind.  And the nice lady there covered my Cokes and gave me some french fries to go.

A buttload of french fries, enough for two Jameses.  I've finished them all by now.  And they were fabulous.  It is my new favorite bar.  Make it the high point of your trip to the Keys.  Drink much.  Tip well.

It's only a half mile up the road.  I've got a fine place for my tent.  I could go back and drink beer.  But I don't double back.  That's the policy that carried me all the way here.

PHIL SPECTOR was always a little weird, but it is thought his sharp downward slide began when Tina Turner's River Deep, Mountain High failed to find commercial success.  He considered it his masterpiece.  A masterpiece it is.  I absolutely love that recording.

TOMORROW I cross the Seven Mile Bridge.  I've been dreading it for 1500 miles.  But it might be so bad.  If it is, remember me fondly.

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