Newsgroups: alt.slack

Subject: Summertime and the e.coli's high

From: (Jim Vandewalker)

Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 23:52:38 -0500


People who don't live here think of Florida as all beaches or swamps, but

the part I live in is sandspurs and palmetto and oak hammock. "Hammock"

comes from an Injun word that means "shady place," and starting about two

weeks ago, "shady place" is what all us old lizards look for.


I was brought up here, way before home air conditioning, so I know that

when it gets like this you just find a place off that hot sand and don't

move much. Old time Florida people ESTIVATE. When I was a kid, at the

begining of summer we went down to the lake that was three blocks away from

my house and laid in the mud right beside the gators and catfish and we

STAYED there until Labor Day.


But the crazy people who moved here since the Advent of the Amana RUN

AROUND a lot even in the hot weather. The men wear COATS and TIES and turn

the office thermostats down to about 68, and the women pile on the

pantyhose and power suits, and then they scuttle from office to car and

don't think about how much GAS they're burning while they try to cool down

that huge expanse of windshield. They live in apartment complexes with big

pools but they stay in their apartments with those thermostats turned to

BLAST FREEZE and watch tennis players sweat on TV.


They TALK FAST, and wave their arms and summer is always a BIG SURPRISE.

"This heat is JUST UNBELIEVABLE." "It's not the heat, you know, it's the



The old-timers had their limitations too, though. April is the cruelest

month in Florida, because it's the DRY season. Summer rains don't usually

start until about June, and every April and May the crackers would start

talking like it wasn't never gonna rain AGAIN. But every year June would

see the afternoon and evening thundershower machine cranked up one more

time. Just about every day between the first of June and the end of

September if you go outside in the late afternoon you could DROWN if you

look up.


That hasn't started yet this year, and the e-coli count's too high in the

lake and anyway I'm not personally acquainted with them new gators and

catfish, so we went to the beach.


Tourists know about Daytona and Miami, but Daytona's just a parking lot

with water on one side and Miami's got the worst beach of ANYWHERE -- it's

got the texture of pounded concrete and it's covered in globs of OIL. No

kidding. The set of the Gulf Stream is such that all the SWILL from all

the bilges of all freighters in the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribean washes

up on Miami beach and STICKS TO YOUR FEET. Standard giveaway in Atlantic

beach motels is a little foil packed towellete pre-moistened with MINERAL

SPIRITS to wipe the sticky globs of oil off your feet. And other body

parts, too, I guess, if you're dumb enough to let 'em come in contact with

the beach.


No, we go to where all decent central Florida people go to the beach, and

that's the Gulf beaches. Anna Maria (pronounced by the knowledgeable as

"Ann-a Muh-RYE-uh") and Holmes Beach are old Florida funky places off the

coast of Bradenton. Longboat Key, just to the south used to be pretty good,

but it's covered with condominia now, with names like "The Breakers at Cay

Royale," and looks just like Vail, CO, with salt water. It's full of

Republicans who stay inside.


We stay at an old mom-n-pop motel a half a block from the beach. The rooms

are hardly big enough to turn around in, but for old lizards it's just a

place to get out of the midday sun. Since the Gulf beaches are on the west

side of the peninsula, it can be quite pleasant on the beach in the

morning. If you hit the beach early you see old people. They fall into two

categories: The leathery walkers may have some belly on them but they have

legs like ostriches. Also, many of them have stitch marks up the center of

their chests indicating various cardiac intervention procedures. They are

generally tanned like fine Cordovan leather. The other group tends to be

stationary with thick tubular legs and even thicker bellies. They stand in

the low Gulf surf and smoke. Early in the day they may be pale -- later on

they will be flame red.


In the morning the best place to go for breakfast is Ato's which is a

Polynesian (actually Samoan) place. You can get pancakes with pineapple and

coconut syrup. It's no bigger than your living room and has about 12 tables

and there's a 20 to 30 minute wait, and the staff really are Samoan. After

that you're ready for the beach.


Along about 11, when the sun really starts to get authoritative, head back

to the room, replenish fluids, have a little siesta, blink back to

semi-consciousness late in the afternoon, slither back to the beach and

watch the sun go down. A restrained round of applause is not out of place

for a particularly fine sunset. Then find a seafood place and eat grouper

and redfish and shrimp. St.Armand's Circle on Longboat Key has an

EXTREMELY PLEASANT sidewalk cafe where you can eavesdrop on rich people

(most of whom are DEAD BORING -- they spend all their time talking about

real estate and financial planning, NOTHING about sex, drugs OR where you

can get really good crab cakes).


Back up at Anna Maria the eateries are funkier. Rotten Ralph's is at a

marina on the bay side. The best place to sit is out on the dock right over

the water where you can look at a huge expanse of incredibly expensive and

seldom used toys. They are up to 40 feet long and have enormous diesel

engines. The waitpersons clear off the tables there by scraping the plates

of leftover fish into the water. Where OTHER FISH know they can come up and



Not the sort of thing you want to meditate on when driving back home

through the parched Florida scrub with the sunlight coming down like

spears. Those miles of two-lane blacktop with turkey vultures wheeling

overhead breed some dark thoughts in the searing light before the rains

finally come.