December 03, 2012

Snapshots of Fort Myers Beach Trip


First thing we did was visit the famous Trappist Monastery at Fort Myers Beach. The monks make time for "tanning, surfing and triggering prayer in pilgrims by taking them on harrowing jet ski rides."  

Ha, obviously kidding. No monasteries here and I do wonder if there's any monastery near a beach. It doesn't seem too conducive to the monastic spirit of detachment. It's true there were monks on deserted islands in the Irish sea, but those weren't sand beaches in sunny climes. It's just hard to picture a monastery on, say, Miami beach.  Deserts, mountaintops, yes, but beaches seem to get the short shrift. 

So we ate lunch Saturday while watching OSU finish an unlikely perfect 12-0.  Worst team ever to go undefeated? Maybe not, but surely in the ballpark. Can't go anywhere bowl-wise due to NCAA ban.  Tomorrow I plan to drink the suds amid the sands and wax poetical in my mind if not on paper. But now am overlooking the lit city after dark. Quite a pleasing view from the 12th floor! By daytime I see the long scallop of beach as well as part of the city. It's a rather different; I can't recall being parallel to the ocean like this instead of just looking straight at ocean. I guess I get the best of both worlds here, nature and urbanity. 

Stopped at a slightly raucous beach-side bar for a light for my cigar and I thought about how foreign that environ feels now. Many Friday nights in my 20s were spent in locales like that bar with its pumping music and rows of stools along the gleaming wood.  The bartender said she didn't have any matches.  A bar without matches? Wow, what's this world coming to. Back in my day....


Ahhhhh memory foam mattresses! God's gift to modernity.  Sleep never tasted so good.  Woke up reluctantly despite the beckoning sun.  Now to the spacious balcony to watch the scalloped shore and its slow-slow-slow ripple-waves.  I can see for miles and miles as the (now) old song goes.  Full patio sun in the morning. Heavenly. Who could brush their teeth or shave while this is going on?  How pitifully bourgeois teeth-brushing feels on a vacation morning!  Let the dead brush their teeth. 

How amazing it feels, perfectly situated to catch the morning rays. It faces directly east instead of south towards the ocean and that seems a feature, not a bug.   I could spend a year on this balcony I think. It's magic time, especially in the morning before the bad pop music plays from the bar area, making concentration difficult.  Here in the morning it's pure gold and now I curse that memory foam that robbed me of an hour on this hotel-top eyrie! The twenty-by-seven balcony is enclosed by screen, no doubt a concession to drunks who might topple. Views transform even pedestrian landscapes into magic. I'm used to beach hotels being planted on long, straight beaches, but here it's right before the Gulf makes a sharp right turn. Thus I get to see a big promenade of land curving out into the water and thus adding interest.  

Certainly feel resilient given I could follow a 30 minute elliptical session today with a mile run that included some near sprints. At home a mile is far more effortful; here I run gusting as the wind, effortlessly gobbling shore. I did relish this fascinating Busch biography yesterday. The Busch brew-family of St. Louis has a history as varied and wild as the Kennedys. They call this place paradise, but paradise is arguably only as paradisiacal as the employees reflect it.  Magic is only magic if it extends not just to vacationers drunk on sun and drink, but on the toilers. And they seem happy to be here.  I can understand the notion that we won't be happy in Heaven unless everyone's there. 


Yesterday's exercise exuberance extracted a price for each time I turned in bed I felt sharp pain in the groin. Looks like I won't be running today, and will be walking with a limp. But I like these conditions of warm temps (but not hot), and the tide-less waves.  It's just a different feeling to be at the beach this close to the water, without the crowds and without the race of tides moving strenuously up and back.  On this vacation I briefly wondered why I'd go on any vacation except a beach vacation, although of course that's while under the influence of these primal elements and a certain dispositional laziness. 

Delightful to be off work - read from the Catechism about the goodness of creation, appropriate given this venue.  Logos software links to a variety of sources including St. Francis's prayer in praise of creation (in which he begins, I mention approvingly, with the glorious sun - he says, "worshipful sun" but the Catechism mutes the preceding adjective a bit, understandably). We ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant and lingered languorously over coffee researching (in Steph's case) the cost of a timeshare here (verdict: "no!") and me researching the beginnings of the infancy narratives (via Pope Benedict's latest book). Then down to the beach and immediately I set out walking east, down the primeval sandy paths and green-tinged waters.  Past tiny, darting fish and swooping pelicans, and sea birds sharply attired. I continued past colorful and manifold buildings.  Came across a big three story house with large balconies festooned with chairs.  Who does not love a balcony overlooking the ocean?  It was almost as captivating to me as the ocean itself, and I imagined myself out on that balcony on a permanent Tuesday morning.  Walked about three miles before camping out on the recliners for awhile.  Suddenly it's 5pm! I see the world fresh this morning and now in the afternoon I need to see it fresh again through the glasses of hops. 

Tomorrow we break routine in the form of a 9-11am dolphin-watching wave runner tour. Nice bit of trip spice for Steph. 


Ninety minutes of torture today on a "wave runner", or more accurately, a "wave collider". Jet skis, it turns out, are not my friend. They are to me what scorpions are to Jennifer of "Conversion Diary" fame.  They feel remarkably unstable and you have to maintain a certain high rate of speed for it to "work", to the extent a roller coaster is considered  to be "working".  I think I'm philosophically opposed to machines without breaks. Of course I don't like scuba diving equipment either. I seem to lack trust in machines other than lawn mower, car, or planes. Because it wasn't IF we'd flip this craft but WHEN.  Oh give me my slow-moving kayak.  Was initially torn between driving it, and thus having some measure of control, and ceding control in exchange for not being responsible for our death and dismemberment. Ominous, it felt, when the tour guide said that dolphins when drawn out of curiosity to ships sometimes get hurt in the propellers but that's okay because we humans are sometimes injured in extreme sports which, naturally, I categorized as including this activity.  It seemed extreme to be racing along an inherently unsmooth surface, slamming into waves.   "Speed is your friend," said the tour guide.  No, my friend is the shore.  

The trip was 95% jet-skiing and 5% dolphin-watching, which is the opposite of the way it's advertised.  Also while the dolphins - who were obviously having a far better time than me - were glimpsed they were not overly close to us. Maybe twenty or thirty feet away. Because the guide didn't feed them, there were no up close and personals.  Maybe I'd have felt better in pads and a helmet. I later googled "are jet skis dangerous" and "jet sky accident" and was mollified by getting positive hits. I sent the links immediately to Steph because, you know, it's not chicken blood, it's being "physically risk-averse." Yeah right. 


The fullest of moons graces the balcony here in the November dark.  There's a feeling of completeness in such a moon, a feeling of loose ends tied up.  I bet people with O.C.D. don't like un-full moons.

I look at the glowing trifecta of Christmas trees in the rental next to the beach and think two thoughts:  One being that it's a slightly pathetic effort to celebrate Christmas in this warm clime and two, a half-pang of memory at the mid-December trip to Cozumel a few years back with Mark and Sandy and how children come up to our table and begin singing to us something in Spanish.  That particular vacation has acquired the panache of veneered nostalgia and thus makes me wistful to go back there, with Mark and Sandy and Steph again, and to recreate it.  As if recreation is possible! Time marches.  
Dream a minute with me,
Living always in the land
Of sunshines and eternal pools,
Cabanas full of food
And drinks with reggae
I can almost picture that
Psychedelic life staring at the
Birds on wing from the north
While a merengue plays
And even those gauche things like
The hotel sky-rise

It's fake living I suppose,
Cruise ship living,
But I can't but fall under its sway
At least today.

What a fine morning today as compared to yesterday's fiasco. At daybreak Steph hunted down shells while I walked the beach with the tune "King of the Road" humming in my head.  The great sun rose up and shone a brilliant path along the waters.  Only thing better than leisurely sipping coffee over a book is leisurely sipping coffee while strolling a beach. Felt as though I could walk all day, and felt consolation that Saturday I'll have another leisurely morning since we don't have to leave until around 11, though tis true this vacation is getting ahead of me - not ready for it to be Thursday already. Wednesday would seem far more reasonable.

Then to McDs I went, on bike.  Saw a guy talking a dog for a walk had a shirt that said LIVE SLOW.  I'm beginning to do that down here. Today I started out at the pool but its charms are momentary given the music is much too loud and distracting.  Couldn't read here to save my life. But then into each life a little brainless living must fall as well some unchosen music.  It's funny how "trained" I am to tailor music to my precise desires.  Feels a hundred years since I last listened to a popular radio station and thus was captive to the tastes of a radio programmer.

Looked with affection for a long time at the rippling waves this morning. Such a simple pleasure that I'm beginning to be convinced I'm simple! Almost had the humorous incident of someone telling us they weren't going to pitch us by pitching us. Lady wanted to sell us a timeshare here so she comes up and says, out of the blue, that she insisted on not selling timeshares out on the beach walkers but to those here at the hotel (presumably because we're an immobile audience.) A couple times she got perilously close to 'selling language" but seemed to steer clear of that cliff of meta.  A hard job, no doubt. Feel a twinge of sorrow for her, though that's perhaps the angle she's looking for.

1pm and the sun is making a sea path of sparkles directly in front of us. Funny, but first time all week I was awake to this fact that 1pm is the ocean's peak time of sparkle-making, shaking the stars out straight ahead. Perhaps I'd been reading before or, perish the thought, working out on that fool elliptical in the indoors! The sand here is of a particularly fine vintage. Powdery, uncannily white and without any coarseness about it.  Does not hold the heat, meaning no burnt feet bottoms. Shoe prints look like those produced on the moon landings.

It's almost 3 and I'm ready to drink. I excuse the earlier-than-normal happy hour by virtue of the fact we go to bed a couple hours earlier than the average folks down here. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Plus who wants to salute a dying sun when you can raise a glass to the top shelf variety?  Seems more of a celebratory occasion that way. Very little reading this morning - just a bit of P.J. O'rourke's "Holdays in Heck".  Looks like he starts out with a visit to the Galapagos Islands. Not bad beach reading. Light, funny and tropical.
Dancing on the keyboard,
fingers like dendrites,
sun-fall at the pool y'all,
jazz playing and it's like...home.
In summer though.

Drunk on Kindle,
Moby Dick and the Odysssey,
verbiage galore!
I shan't be cheated.

The days here form a fine pattern: mornings lingering over coffee or shelling the beach (or better both at the same time), stellar late mornings spent greeting that strong sun and cloudless blue, midday walks or runs or elliptical training, late afternoon beer and music, evening dinner and post dinner cigar. Retirement, they say, gets old after the first couple weeks or months or if you're lucky, years, and so now I see no panacea in it, no paradise on earth. Plus I can certainly donate more to charity while working than when not. Time off seems like buying acreage - it's never going to be enough. 

See a young couple with two young boys walking the beach and am reminded of the Amy Welborn quote about there being two kinds of travel: those with children and those without - the latter being of a first class accommodation -  and I'm reminded how next year it appears we'll be beaching it second class with our grandchildren. That should be interesting.


The last day by the sea.  We had breakfast at a 'wafel' joint, which is I guess the French word for 'waffle" and then proceeded to bike down to Bowditch Point and look for gopher tortoises. The waters there were alive with wind and a little cove felt like an undiscovered island, as long as one could mentally remove the unsightly Bud Light can from the picture.  

Feel really tired now, the bod physically spent.  Time, alas, for a day off from working out.  It's overcast and windy, not ideal for the last day but perhaps fitting.  Some folks seem oblivious given their bikinis, attire that befits the locale if not the weather. Sunglasses now are purely for effect.  It's kind of interesting that even this far south and before winter officially starts the weather can have an edge to it, as it did Wednesday and today. Sweatshirt conditions. Playing the weather game involves a matrix of month and geography unless we go to Cancun or Puerto Rico where the weather is predictably peerless. A variety of desultory reads today: Michael Chabon's novel, the story of the Busch brew scions and the Pope's latest.  Caught up on blog feeds last night, which was nice. Came across a story of the generosity of spirit and wallet of the late Larry Hagman.  

Meanwhile Steph found some shells that made the first cut but not the final and so I throw a few of the out along the shoreline and wait to see who picks them up.  So far three happy customers. Initially the seagulls thought I was throwing food and grabbed a shell only to wind up disappointed. Starting to get sappy around them.  Hard to look them in the beaks and not toss them part of a granola bar.  

Gravely overweight man on elevator with bellhop with bags.  Bellhop asks where he's going and heavy guy says, with German accent, "home through New York to Paris to Berlin".  That is a helluva long and painful way to come just to get to a beach, I think.  Makes me appreciate our two hour nonstop.

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