I am never quite prepared for the shock of leaving our self contained universe here in the Keys.
The outside world, on the way down, fades into the rearview and seemingly ceases to be. At times the transition is so profound that it feels as if there should be some sort of ceremony involved. It is not like arriving anywhere else in the world. It's not like riding the Greyhound toward somewhere like Flagstaff. Sure, you are going somewhere but driving down US 1 South, out of Miami and toward Havana, you have the distinct feeling that you are going somewhere IMPORTANT.
On the way up, however, the city of Miami looms ominiously and beyond her neon indifference, the rest of the world. There should be a shrine in Key Largo for travellers forced to return to the mainland. They could pull over and ask the gods to protect them against the Evil Forces of Reality and 9 to 5, to keep a little coconut in our soul and some jerk spice close to the stove.
I had been promising my mother that I would return to my Mississippi home town for a visit for some extended time. It worked out to where my chronically unfortunate pockets happened to be flush near my Mom's birthday,the birth of my beautiful grandchild, Bailey, and the afterglow of finally paying off the Rusted Root. I decided to make the Mississippi Pilgrimage.
The Lovely Sam dropped me off at the airport bus station and sped away, spraying gravel and squealing tires, yelling something that sounded like "FINALLY!" I think she meant that she could finally cry her lonely cries for her absent love. Poor girl, what would she do without me for 2 weeks? I am her reason for living, after all...
I was raped for a ticket aboard the USS WHYDIDNTIFLY, a stately aluminum tube chock full of Swine Flu goodness, owned and operated by the New World Order Prison System. One driver was so militant and overbearing, especially about the behavioural speeches he would give at every stop, he made me want to break my nearly 60 day streak of sobriety just to break his rule about not drinking on the bus.
There are many signs, if a person is observant, of the inevitable decay of Western Civilization. None are more frightening as the Atlanta Greyhound terminal. There are so many crack dealers, crackheads, crackwhores, hustlers, pimps, and my favorites, smelly bums, that you can't move inside the terminal itself. And those are just the passengers! I was offered oxycontins 3 times by fellow passengers on just one 400 mile stretch of road! I won't say whether I bought any of them but I will say that if I did, it was strictly in the name of investigative journalism.
Less than 24 hours into this thing and I already miss the Root and conch ceviche. But wait, here comes Muscle Shoals, Alabama and I know I am close to home. A few more hills and I am in Tupelo, Mississippi, birthplace of The Big E. Elvis. Thank you, thank you very much...also superb hickory smoke pit BBQ and
My mother and my children live about 50 miles outside of Tupelo and by the time I arrived, I was starving! I spent the next 2 days raiding the refrigerator and playing catch up with Mom. And then I went for a walk.
The first person I ran into was an old flame of mine. Back in high school, I was a fool for this girl but she was always too good for me and I was a little too wild for her. She was the girl you wish you had lost your virginity to, instead of the girl at Pickwick with the mustache and the huge areolas. After all these years she is still just as beautiful as she always was. She comments on my walking and the fact that I always did when I was younger and we laugh about old things that no one remembers but us.
I still love to walk. There is something about the connection of my feet against the earth that seals the covenant between Myself and the Other. I walk everywhere. I don't care much for the word "hike", though. I'm all for hiking as an activity just don't care for the word "hiking" It sounds too butch, too strenuous. I am a Walker and an Explorer Afoot. A Meanderer, a Stroller even. What I do, what I have always done, is more of a leisurely larrumphing about, Baloo-style, exascerbated by my tendency to go barefoot or if I have to wear shoes at all, flipflops. I love the feel of Mother Earth beneath the soles of my feet. My spirit clambors for dewy grass and black tilled dirt, a salty beach, a canyon floor, or a long deserted stretch of highway. I walked completely across the fine and beautiful (psychotically hot and invasively dusty) New Mexico just to prove to myself that I could and that it would be worth it. I could and it was.
I have done my fair share of the Appalachian Trail, the Oregon Trail, the old Natchez Trace and most of Route 66 all the way to Flagstaff. I almost froze to death on the top of a mountain in Alamagordo once, whacked out of my skull on a handful of peyote and a case of japanese beer, until I was rescued by a beautiful mute Native girl in a white Caddy, who took pity on the lost and hopelessly demented.
I used to walk this town. I knew every trail and shortcut, every possible route to get anywhere. I would walk to school. I walked the woods. I would beat down my own paths through untamed brush and when I couldn't, learned to be flexible enough to accept the fact that you sometimes have to go back a little in order to go farther forward. I walked with my Grandpa Daniel through town where he would show me off to all his friends down at Jaybird Park where all the farmers smoked Swisher Sweets and told the same old lies to the same old men trying not too hard to sell vegetables.
I would walk past the antebellum mansion on Eastport St. and wonder about the rumors of the tunnel that alledgedly ran from the old Brinkley place to somewhere underneath the high school. Sometimes I would walk out to Leadbetter's Fish Market and stare at them cutting and filetting catfish. I once saw a river cat that laid across two large washtubs full of ice with plenty of fish to hang over each end. Not everyone can say that.
I even used to walk at night. Snowdown Cemetery and the woods behind our house were my favorite haunts. The etherealness of full moon through forest. Cicadas and tiny green tree frogs pulsating along red clay memories. I walked all the way to the Margerum Ghost Town once and arrived well after dark. I spent the night there and walked back the next day.
I walk all over Key West...
To be continued...
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