I want to sit around all day and write. A lot has happened since the last post. I’m working at Island Dogs solely, changed homes twice, have an out of control, complicated life full of events and tasks that I have no genuine interest in undertaking, and am leaving in 2 weeks to go south. I gave into another opportunity and at the moment have much respect for those who can say ‘no’ and keep their lives simple and linear.
I’m unfocused, constantly interrupting myself with curious googles and how to’s (right now reading a facebook zen quote, airline tickets, and the difference between a latte and a cappuccino. Shortly, I will leave Dunkin’ Donuts and go back to the new boat searching completion of tasks deemed absolutely necessary to take the boat south. These are really unnecessary comforts, since the boat is already capable of movement and habitation. Truthfully, any obstacles encountered underway will be negotiated, simply because they must. My desire to take it easy is overpowered by my instinctive sense of duty to prepare to the highest degree given the time to do so. This means searching for anything to do which will make life a little easier while we are sailing, even if we don’t really need it. It’s too bad I am currently living this way. Living with this self-shackling demeanor makes life no different if you are in a cubicle in Detroit or riding a zip-line through the jungle canopies of Cambodia.
I wrote on my inner forearm in size 48 font, “It’s not life and death”. This is my attempt to keep the aerial view of my present situation.
Tick tock. 11:42, 11:43. The rubberband under my diaphragm is stretching, telling my mind that I am running out of time. I have the day off. It’s Saturday and the sky looks magnificent. I must be late for something. There’s so much to do. Such an OPPORTUNITY to get stuff done. If I don’t get something done, will the continent suddenly sink and introduce the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?
So here is the present situation: Planning to sail south with Steve, Julie (my lady friend), and possibly Kris (dude I used to work with at Vitos), with possible destinations on the gulf coast of Mexico and further to the Bay Islands in Honduras. From there I could stay on the 35’ Morgan sailboat or jump off and hit the backpacker trails (busses and maybe a bike purchase) and allow Julie to discover how simple and satisfying the world within worlds of hostel living is.
The past 5 months have had lots of ups, not too many downs, as always is true, but not apparent, My spoiled tropically flooded eyes were somewhat greyed to the winter flowers of Key West after passing violent violets and other intense floral spectra for a hundred days in Central America. That was then. My eyes have adjusted and this is the wettest season in KW for 140 years. There are Flamboyant trees on every street showering the streets and sky with mammoth explosions of orange trumpets. The palms range from fire hydrant height to skinny sky scrapers like in Malibu. Some have trunks as big around as a smart car and the royal palms give the fullness vista of the wall to wall skyscraper density on midtown Manhattan when looking from Hoboken across the Hudson.
Typical buildings downtown
The chickens. My god, the chickens. I cautiously circumspect whether it is good use of time to get into this discussion. I love the chickens in Key West. Along with my favorite coffee shop and cruising around the back streets on two wheels, these little poofs of feathery frolicky are one of top echelon in my personal favorite KW qualities. The descendants of fighting cocks in the keys before it was outlawed, they maintain the pure Spartan bloodline and it is displayed in their sound aesthetics. Take the top 100 paintings of a rooster on top of a red barn. Magnify and isolate the bird and reduce the collection to the best 10. These are the chickens that are seen plucking around gas pumps, hauling ass across streets both busy and vacant, and sometimes creating death implying colluseum spectacles on sidewalks downtown.
My eyes keep checking the clock. Time to go to the boat and put in some hours. I added the note on my arm, “More than 4 is not efficient” It shouldn’t take more than two hours per task anyway.
A slow motion glimmering katana silently gliding, end over end, through the air of a candle lit alley way under the starry black air, above the water covered cobblestone in the downtown backstreets of a nearly ancient south European city. This is what Steve looked like taking the kayak for a midnight paddle out of our marina, one island up from Key West. It’s a little quieter on Stock Island, and even though it is often called Rock Island for all the crackheads and hookers, I kind of like it. I don’t mind the Conchs either. They actually succeeded in declaring war with the United States back in the 80’s.
Key West is a very welcoming community. I really like New York, but the one-upmanship gets old. You have to live there for 10 years to be “a New Yorker.” The first day in Key West, people talk to you like they’ve known you since elementary school. If you tell them which part of Key West you live on, they assume you are transient. If you tell them you live on Stock Island, they assume you are a Conch.
It is true, although we rarely realize it, that we are living the life. Julie is driving us to FIVE GUYS and telling us how fast paced and overwhelming Ft. Lauderdale is, having just come back from a massage licensing seminar. She says how much she likes the 2-lane roads and slow, simple traffic. When you stay on an island for months at a time, all you hear about is how it’s all going downhill and about the glory days. The detail left unmentioned is that all other places are also relatively evolving so that the ratio of rat-race to relaxed pace stays fairly constant.
The wavelength has gotten long these days between the productivity analysis and discoveries of the magic world we get to walk around in. It really is time to go. I still drift off and stare at high up palm fronds, cutting like scissors out of the construction paper blue sky, between filling up water glasses on the front porch of Island Dogs. I never really had a bad day at work. My feet hurt a lot and I have been mildly fatigued, but I always appreciated spending time there. Waiting tables at what I consider the coolest bar in Key West has to be in my top 3 jobs ever. That’s about a 20 strong list these days. Cool managers, everyone is professional, and you are expected to party like a rock star on a regular basis. It’s not like the usual wait staff that is working through college or waiting to graduate highschool. More like a cruise ship staff. Anyway, I didn’t party too much here, so me being a bad waiter, was overcome by uncommon diligence and work ethic. I was told that I was a “badass waiter” a couple of times and made good money, so I know I improved. These kinds of multi-tasking, multi-interfacing, sometimes multi-lingual, pressure-dissipating jobs are very rewarding and rarely praised. I got to laugh at the awkward things I would say to my strange, foreign guests and also feel that warm and fuzzy pride when I successfully diffused an awkward situation. Great practice directing conversation. In the busy season, I made almost as much as I did in engineering. Key West is a battleground between two small armies: the locals and the tourists. You can screw up everything with a customer and each member of the organization has your back. Then they will talk badly about the customer you just pissed off to make you feel better about your mistake. It’s great! So I take my time, the best I can. Occasionally, when it’s completely packed and I have literally 14 tables to myself, one of my nerve-racked tourists tells me they have a trolley to catch in 15 minutes, then spend 5 minutes asking me to explain every soup, salad dressing, drink, menu special, and market price, AND THEN ask how long it’s going to take to cook their well done pizza, I just stare off, watch a painted bicycle ride by, shuffle condiments around at the host stand, then look the customer in the eye and say, “That is the single longest cook time on the menu. Maybe a half hour. I’ll give you a minute to figure out what you want.” And then walk away before they have a chance to ask another stupid question.
That’s how some businesses have to operate down here. I didn’t understand on training day when the server I was shadowing told me he doesn’t mention promotions or even happy hour to the guests. Try explaining happy hour to Chinese tourists who don’t have the English vocabulary to tell you which kind of beer they want. It costs the restaurant money to spend time on trouble tables. If they ask to try a blueberry ale sample, I let them sit there for 5 minutes. Usually they are ready to order by then. Sometimes they get mad and leave before I get the drinks to them. Then I sigh in relief and sell their drinks to guests who ask fewer questions. I know, I sound like a jerk, but anyone that has worked in a heavy tourist district knows what I’m talking about.
I realized why we have taste buds. Might be common knowledge or sense, but I never really thought about it. The 5 taste sensations we have are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (the last, ‘savory’ one was discovered around the turn of the 20th century, but only received global recognition around 1985). If you get “the shakes”, your blood sugar is low. Sodium is used for muscle contractions. Your tongue tells you what your body wants. Whether we listen is up to us.
People ask me if I’m afraid of pirates or getting my head chopped off in Mexico or mugged in Guatemala, but my biggest fear is being uncomfortable. I am very afraid of being temporarily stuck in a situation that I can’t get out of. Like claustrophobia of the will. I have pushed myself through quite a few projects and crunch-times. When I like what I’m doing, it’s pure euphoria. When I’m trying to finish something that my heart isn’t into, it feels like I am wasting my time and hurting myself. The boat scares me because of the commitment it requires. There is no absolute freedom, in my opinion, with regard to the boat. You either don’t have one, or one has you.
This thought led me to a conclusion of why people don’t travel. The fear of danger is nothing compared to the fear of discomfort. Our most active instinct is making life easier. That’s all we do. We buy stuff when an advertisement uses logic to convince us that our life will be easier if we have the product. Done. It’s that simple. Traveling means moving ourselves and stuff. That requires work. We have to find new resources. This is the opposite of being lazy. The weird thing that happens when you start traveling is what keeps me addicted. Something wakes up in my brain. Something that stays partially dormant when I’m settled. I’ve tried to identify this phenomenon. All I know is it’s there when I’m moving and fades the longer I stay still.
Where are you going? Some good thoughts; I like the chickens too. Affica likes turtles, and chickens too. That the more one simplifies the happier one gets, we both agree with Henry. Sincerely, Greg