Freshly Stale: Key West

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July 29, 2014

   Very unsure of myself, I climb down into the cabin of my brother’s floating domain. The lack of clear horizontal surfaces clenched my jaw slightly. Deep breath. We talk like new cell mates for the first day. He is no more sincere about the welcome back than I am.
   Talk steers away from reasonable effectiveness. The intention of promoting confidence is as translucent as my weakly brewed French press coffee.
   The next morning I make a rich pot. Our tones of voice originate closer toward our stomachs and our breathing slows. Our smiles become natural reactions.
   We knock out a couple of small projects, make my bedding a bit more cozy, and buy a scooter to share.
   I mingle with old co-workers after getting my old job back at Island Dogs Bar.
   A couple more projects are done and lists are formed for grand plans between watching inspirational movies like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
We talk about goals and steps to move forward with such productive and realistically enchanting simplicity that I am sure I am right where I’m supposed to be.
Everything that happened on the path to here and now was absolutely crucial and wonderful. I’m glad it all went down the way it did.


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August 29, 2014

It didn’t take long to become reacquainted with the downsides of KW. Every place on Earth has its own unique Yin and Yang. Natural exotic beauty, relaxed locals, and glowing tourists on the good. Overpriced low-quality food, shyster-run businesses, and obnoxious bums on the bad.
Which bad traits are you willing to put up with? I have to cook more and grow thick skin, but those things I want.
“Take care of your words when in company; take care of your thoughts when alone.” -Unkown.
It’s an easily acquired habit to have a hurried demeanor and, in turn, only see the bad. With effort, the habit can be reversed to feel each hour like a first time visitor to paradise.
In a sense, each day is our first.
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Manatee Company

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So, I jump in the water with a snorkel, mask, and a foot-wide metal window scraper. After removing seagrass and barnacles from the fiberglass dinghy and plastic kayak, I make two trips around the sailboat, scraping as far down the hull as I can reach without my snorkel filling up with water. I’ve been in the water for about an hour.

The sole of my foot brushes something flat and soft and feels like a patch of grass on one of the concrete pillars supporting our dock. I pull my foot away to avoid cutting it on an oyster, but when I glance up, I see the pillar is in front of me.

I turn around to meet eye-to-eye with a vertically floating manatee, roughly twice as long as my body.

I slowly back away, struggling in vain to take calm, deep breaths. I scuttle up the kayak and rapidly knock on the boat as the underwater blimp follows me, maintaining eye contact. Steve produces from the boat and answers my question with, “It probably could hurt you, but I don’t see why it would.” I splashlessly lower my self back into the water and put my mask back on.

The foggy, blue eyes calm me the way a great-grandmother greets you in the morning without words. I carefully show her my palm and she mirrors with her fin as if she remembers me, but this is the first time I’ve swum with one of these in this life.

My hand rests on the grey, elephant-like skin for a couple of seconds before the manatee does a ballet spin. The centimeter-long gray hairs brush under my finger tips with the subtlety of tickling air bubbles. I cannot detect a heartbeat, ribs, or any change in texture as I feel 180° around the waist of the massive mammal. Just the same heatless leather with the response of a mud-pie.

After a few minutes, my lungs relax enough to fill with enough air to make me buoyant. Floating as easily in the salt water as the beast, I begin to notice small distinctions on the belly including a seam connecting one orafice to another, newly discovered and growing orafice.

The hole opens and something camo-green emerges. She drops a deuce and I vamoose, laughing through my snorkel.

Seaside Serenity

After leaving work and reading a chapter of the classic sci-fi book, Blade Runner, over coffee and a biscuit at Denny’s, I start heading home. 2:30AM.

A dark patch of the side of the road catches my eye and I circle back to see if it has beach access. It does, and being two hundred yards from the nearest streetlight, the water is only visible because of faint reflections of the stars.

Key West imports its sand from the Bahamas because it gets no natural wave action. The only waves, I see now, come in constantly without retreating at about a half an inch tall, and instead of a thunderous crash, give the ambiance of a fountain typically found on the hostess counter at a Thai restaurant.

The peaceful dark matches the chill vibe of this slowest time of the year in terms of tourism. In another month the temperature will drop to perfect and business will climb to fill the pockets of us service industry workers.

For now I’m enjoying the calm.

Human Initiative

There’s something inside of us, that I believe is a form of self-preservation, but I also believe is outdated. A voice shouts out of the blue of our minds, berating and insulting us and irrationalizing the logic which is so clear after a couple of glasses of wine.

This voice can and will do irreparable damage if not kept in check. Friendships will end. It is the source of anger, paranoia, and feelings of inadequacy.

There is a school of thought which hails to this voice. It is believed to be the honest guide to what the self actually desires.Following this path, one willfully cuts off ties which are not completely insync with one’s highest goals. Humility is non-existent, although respect if given to those who earn it. The human will is unbendable, supplanting the capacity for intense sustained focus. The individual transitions from a part of the human herd to a lone artist, only rarely crossing paths with another in the same state.

The question I seek to answer is not directly related to morals, enlightenment, or the old, “why are we here?” Like religion of dieties, I don’t believe it is possible to know what’s going on after a life ends while still being in the life. A fish doesn’t understand what’s outside of the tank. A 2-D being can’t understand 3-D. The reason I experiment is to learn concepts and then apply then to my life to enhance it. I want to get the most enjoyment I can while I’m here.

The same way fish don’t realize they are in water, stressed people don’t realize they’re wound up. And something happens when the mind is relaxed. After a ten hour work shift, and the offworker plops down onto a stool, sheds with a deep sigh the tensity of work mode, and let’s flow the cool, crisp nectar of fermented life over teeth and tongue, trapping with gentle lips to taste the sacred punch of forgetfulness as it falls down to the offworker’s inside. A few minutes and deep breaths later, something distinct begins to happen. Stern downward corners of the mouth begin to loosen and gently rise. Dull, weary eyes peer curiously over the setting. Sounds which always existed become audible to the offworker’s mind. The world gets bigger.

This phenomenon is not dependent upon drinking alcohol or any external stimulation. While there are a variety of catalysts, the true source is just relaxation and awareness of surroundings.

Focusing causes the consciousness to close in on details like a narrowing beam of light. It’s a tool, which means it’s only effective for certain tasks. Obeying the voice which tells you to drive forward and isolate yourself from anything that holds you back keeps you in a closed mindset as long as you feel you have not yet reached your goal.

The big question: “Is it possible to reach contentment through achievement?” If there is always more to gain and conquer, then the relief is only ever temporary and unrelated to the self. Using success as a plan for happiness is about as useful as trying to cure a heartache with pain killers.

Boulder July 9, 2014

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Decision Day

Sinking into the weathered blue fabric couch on our front porch, I’m pleasantly surprised to see the sky showing less than black color. To the left, parcels between the leaves glow faint lavender. Now I hear the creek right next to the porch. It’s funny how we only hear what’s around us when we listen.

It’s been a neurotic 2-1/2 months here in Boulder. Trying to relax is stressful. Now two cotton candy stripes trisect the blueing sky. Perhaps this is what happens when a water person goes to live in the mountains. Being near the swishing creek has kept my soul from jumping out of my chest.

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Lots of forced deep breathing. Averaging $40 a shift at my button-down and neck-tie serving job doesn’t helped. It’s a situation that kept promising results, but never delivered. I refrained from changing jobs because I felt I’d be leaving soon. The sprinklers just cut on. My water is probably boiling, too.

As the coffee grounds steep in the French press, I take in the thick vanilla notes and experiment with exposure settings on my DSLR.

Even though I’ve traveled away from a natural state of happiness, I’ve still traveled, which I think is always a good thing. You can always go back.

I’ve had some great times here. I finally got to know my grandma. She surprised me with her frankness and optimistic outlook on life. I would like her even if she wasn’t directly responsible for my existence. It gives me a deepening sense of gratitude to have spent a good amount of quality time with her and her boyfriend, Rolland.

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I gained some knowledge: the major grape varietals of Bordeaux wine, the difference between Israeli and Moroccan couscous, depth-of-field control on my Nikon, and the basics of crack climbing. I also learned concepts: caring too much at a job can ruin it, (from climbing) how to take slow deliberate steps, and the importance of having a social life. Along with the last note, letting the house stay a mess to maintain a relaxed vibe proved more important than keeping it clean and tense. Gotta go with the flow to enjoy your environment.

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I never felt calm. Being in the center of the country, Boulder reeks of the American dream. That’s kind of why I’m leaving. The standards of food/drink service are so high in Boulder that it’s difficult to make good money as a server for the first three months, and even then, the effort is disproportional to the reward. I’ve confirmed this with a dozen people in various restaurants. It’s a scholarly hub based on the university. I would need to change careers or stay for a long time to live the way I wish.

Living in a tent for a couple of months to save money on rent was an idea I researched. This is illegal and difficult to achieve without an automobile. All signs are pointing East. Like Bruce Lee said: Be like water.

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I spoke with my brother several times over the last year about preparing the boat. My mother’s birthday is coming up which will bring me through Savannah for the first time in 2 years. I can also with a job I enjoy and allows me to save for a big trip.

That’s why I’m heading back to Key West for now. I love Boulder. I really do. It’s an amazing phenomenon in human living.  The people are genuinely friendly, the food is superb, you can experience exotic flowers, raccoons and squirrels that aren’t afraid of people, and daily mountain views. Beauty skin deep exists here as rule rather than exception on a level that I’ve only seen in Stockholm, but combines with the chill mindset of San Francisco, intellect of Seattle, and the artistic freedom of New York.

There is as peaceful wonder that sets in when you first step foot in this town and continues to surprise you 14 years later (say the locals). It’s just not my last stop. Returning is rooted in the back of my mind.

My roommates and friends don’t all like my decision. I feel this tension when I leave somewhere, but each new place proves that it was worth it. Just like when I left Nashville and Tacoma before that.

I am proud of the fact that I enjoyed my time here. We don’t get to do all the things we want to do in life, but if we can enjoy the days we have and smile at the sadness of them ending, I think it’s a life worth living.

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