May 07, 2003

Melting in Margaritaville

Back from the five day Tampa trip. I'm always a little stunned to find after a vacation that I hadn't any great insights or sudden epiphanies*. This travelogue will attempt to prove it.

It was hot
It was hot. Mogadishu hot. So running in this sun I wasn’t sure if I was a mad dog or an Englishmen, both unpalatable options to those with a drop of Irish blood. The lushness of the the waxy green leaves belie this desert sun. How do they stand it? But the heat is a good thing - it relaxes the muscles to such an extent that jogging feels almost effortless. And the warmth on the body at the pool is like a massage.

At Clearwater beach the poor, the rich, the good bodies, the bad bodies, walked by ceaseless as the tide. One old man twitched and danced to the music in his walkman, seeking the eye of we, his constituents. A 9-month pregnant woman walked by in a bikini, her bulbous protrubence worthy of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!”.

The Brazilianization of the American beaches continues apace; there were plenty of thongs obviating the need for the imagination. It feels unnatural to be exposed to so much non-familial flesh. But then again so much of our world is unnatural. From an evolutionary standpoint we are radically disconnected/alienated from the nature, living in concrete houses cut off from the seasons, from the forest....all extremely recent from an evolutionary perspective.

Living in one's head for 40x40 (40 hours a week for 40 yrs) seems unnatural too – hunter/gatherers worked an average of fifteen hours a week, albeit they lacked a VCR. And yes the living conditions were hellish. And of course the natural world is also unnatural, at least as far as man goes, given the Fall. So we are doubly alienated.

Meanwhile, Back at the Pool...

Axle-grease for the lips

First, the pool looked nothing like the above picture, this was from the hotel website. When I was there, it was hot, sunny and crowded. Tis difficult to concentrate; Percy’s “The Last Gentleman” is lyrical but apparently requires too much attention. Non-fiction feels too heavy/tedious. The poolside scene ebbs with the sun. The coolness invigorates. The late hours at the pool are sweet; self-consciousness has abated either via alcohol or attrition.

Like Manahattan parkers who move their cars at ritualistic intervals, so do the women contort and retort to avoid the nightmare of the visible tan line. By the pool they flock with so much to say! The water line must loosen their tongues like alcohol. I’m slightly envious, free entertainment, light as a gossamer’s wings. They are verbal bloggers without using storage space. I see anew the wisdom of Thomas a Kempis and the rule of the Trappists.

A snippet of conversation caught my ear:
“….Deborah Norville, the pitcher who lost his arm to cancer-“
“Gotta go! Gotta go! It’s 4:30 already-“
“Barbara Bush, “
“My grandmother’s idol!”
“Everyone of them talked about their relationship with God...”

Dreams of an unwritten novel predominate; my wife laughs as if I were a little boy with his train set. I read part of "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", a biography of Day, Merton, O'Connor & Percy, and the author describes how Tolstoy started out writing classics and ended writing religious tracts – what he thought worth a reader's time must've changed.

I found an old used bookshop and examined ye olde books. Hime’s “Morality”, circa 1880, cautions against “sowing your wild oats when young” as a viable moral strategy. It caught my eye not because I’m young enough to be eligible but because Hambone has four boys and wonders if such a strategy might work. As the son of a Fundamentalist minister in upstate Maine, he lived an adolescence of such moral austerity that dancing was verboten. (And I thought Footloose was pure fiction). Since he had trouble in that area of morality, he wonders if he should discretely get them a prostitute when they reach 17. I argued that that wouldn’t satiate them, but he seemed to think that to de-mystify sex may inoculate them. Mr. Hime convincingly suggests reasons not to, starting most obviously (duh) – it’s a sin. Even if it worked you can't have an bad means to a good end.
To Be Continued

* - I did have one (appropriately and not surprisingly at Mass) but it is a little too personal for the blog.

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