I walk all over Key West.
There is something magical about walking the streets in Old Town early in the morning, just as the sky is breaking open with the first rays of day. After the last bar closes, during the Morning Glories, and before the scooters. Every flower blossom worth a damn is wide awake and everyone else is asleep. Everyone but Sandy's on White. My feet find themselves wandering toward a cafe con leche and toasted, buttered Cuban bread.
It offers the senses a dance in which one must participate.
The waterfront at midnight. The pirate sway of drunkeness as I try to navigate the boardwalk after several whiskey(American spelling) and cokes. The inevitable walk back from Stock Island from either the hospital or the jail. I used to walk all the way from the dinghy dock to the laundromat, Sam and Moon as well, with my laundry bag on top of my head like some sort of sweating, swearing, olive-drab hat the size of a manatee. Sometimes I just walk out to White Street Pier and stare at the water and the people and their dogs and their kids and I think about things better left unthunk. Old regrets and moments when you wish you had been a better person, a better friend, a better father, a better...anything. That kind of walk is required penance periodically as long as you can remember, as in all of life, to not take yourself too seriously. Guilt is mankind's most useless emotion. It changes nothing.
This walk was different. This was home, for home's sake. I just wanted to feel it under my feet, to let the musk of cedar and magnolia and BJ's BBQ permeate my skin, to recall something lost, a Most Important Thing, and hold it. To hear Grampa Daniel's voice once again, telling me that I could always come home when all I wanted to do was leave. I still crave fresh homegrown tomatoes and will bite into them like an apple because that is the way Grampa taught me to do it when I was 8 years old. I wanted to drink from the spring behind the thicket with the mason jar hanging from a stick. But I have that. Or have had. I can hold that in my Inner. What I came here for has been missing for as long as I could remember but at the time I really couldn't have told you what it was.
I wanted to flake away the bark of a pine tree until my hands were sticky with resin. I wanted to get red clay on my best shirt. I wanted to hunt for arrowheads in Altha Wingo's woods across the the road because for some reason I never could find any on my side. I wanted to go fishing with Trip, a plastic bucket of nervous minnows and a cane pole. I wanted to sleep in the barn. I wanted to go to Snowdown Church and try to sing bass during "Standing on the Promises" like I did when I was a kid and sat on the back row. My Grampa sat on the front row and cried everytime we sang "How Great Thou Art". The difference 30 years can make.
I have hitchhiked across this beautiful and savage country several times. I have been told that I have a bit of a rogue-ish look about me so when I hitchhiked in the late Eighties, I got to walk a lot. I walked out into the Mojave for a week once. I lumbered into the Tetons several times. I have stood on a corner in Windslow, AZ. The Lovely Sam and I walked to Billy the Kid's gravesite. He really is buried with Charlie Bowdre. It really does say "Pals" on the headstone. We have also walked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, to the top of Bell Rock in Sedona, the giant redwood forest of northern California, and the streets of San Francisco. We have walked hundreds of miles in North Carolina together and slept under the stars for so many nights in a row that a Wal-Mart became an alien concept. I walked down Hollywood Boulevard and stood next to the casting of John Waynes boots. Marilyn Monroe has bigger hands than his feet. Or maybe I am getting Norma Jean's cement prints confused with a drag queen in Nashville who sings "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in perfect breathless fashion?
What happened here? Where did the dirt roads go? Where went hunting snakes and curing the hides on the clothesline with Mom's salt? Where is Claude Curtis' burger joint? How come no one "liberates" the special mushrooms from The Field anymore? What happened to the damned water in Mineral Springs Park? What happened to Rhonda's pool and Eastside Superette? Who filled in the chalk mines? And for Dungeons and Dragon's sake, will someone please tell me what happened to good old boy sheriffs like Amos Bates? I understand you guys don't even see yours much. Sometime after 8 years old and sometime before I decided to blow my life up the last time, I was happy here. When did it again become somewhere else to walk away from?
I keep on walking hoping some semblance of truth comes from this trip. I feel as if something has been unresolved and unravelled for a long time now. Something to do with this place and why I chose the End of the Road for a home this last several years. I need to hold it in my hand. That Most Important Thing. Hold it and treasure it this time.
Nothing lasts forever...
To be continued.
Visit http://hotpavement.blogspot.com/ for more articles on Stan Yow's blog.