February 16th was my last day with gainful employment.
What a scary thing to type.
The plan was to take a week off and relax before I started the next chapter of my life. Life is always about chapters. The High School chapter. The college chapter. The eight years at the Middlebury Inn chapter. The married chapter. The cancer chapter. Ugh. That chapter Sucked with a capital Suck.
The plan for the week off would be to play some Magic, zone out in front of the TV, play Poker with my friends. It was going to be great. Instead I spent the next week running around like a madman taking care of things that I had no idea I would need to manage before I left. But then it was off for a relaxing week in Florida with my new love.
Florida was amazing. We had this little cabin in Jensen’s Marina that had Manatees floating around the docks. There were dozens of Manatees, sometimes within arms reach. Pelicans wandering around the docks, some of them as tall as my mid thigh. A dozen or more of them would gather each afternoon for naptime at the end of the dock. One morning, I looked out my window to see a dolphin jump out of the water.
This must be the Narnia chapter because it’s so far away from my old world. – Bull fighting, submission wrestling, Egyptian Temples, gigantic statues, Manatees, Dolphins, margaritas and sunsets on the beach.
The differences between Madrid and Florida are starker than those of Vermont and Madrid.
Madrid is a dry heat Bath towels and hair dry in minutes. Florida is remarkably humid. Bath towels never dry. Sunglasses steam up. Clothes feel damp that have never been worn. While everything in Madrid is open late into the night, the general store on the island closes at 6 p.m. They roll the streets up at 9. Wendy and I had a rough time staying awake past 10 pm since everyone and everything gets up at 7 am, us included. Where Madrid has cobblestones, statues and the occasional dog, Florid is beach, Manatees, Dolphins, Alligators and a billion species of birds.
One major difference between Florida and Vermont is the work ethic. In Florida, I constantly felt like I was annoying anyone that served me in any way. The pace of work from waiting tables to checking out at the grocery store was glacial and sullen. It once took us twenty minutes to get an ice cream cone with 4 people ahead of us. I just about went insane.
That said, Florida is the relaxation I was looking for the previous week. Almost no Magic and no TV. No working out. No running. No writing. No phone calls. Instead it was long walks through nature preserves with my folks narrating and Sammy and John fishing when they find water. Afternoons and sunsets on the beach. Margaritas and Mojitos. Fishing on the dock or even on a boat day trip and chatting with the family. Lying in bed watching movies. Lunch and dinner at different restaurants around the island with the family. (The Island Cow, The Bubble Room, RCOtters, The Green Flash, Key Lime Café, The Timbers.) Just movies out or movies on Wendy’s laptop in bed. Reading a bit. Very calming and soothing.
After a week of that, I was as relaxed as if I’d just had a massage.
We went on one walk through the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife refuge specifically so my folks could show us some alligators.
Me – “So, where are these alligators?”
Dad – “Just off the path up here.”
Me – “You know Alligators eat people right?”
Mom and Dad shrug.
Dad – “The biggest alligator we saw in here was lying across the path. We turned the corner and there it was. John turned and began to run the other way and I grabbed his arm - “Wait, let’s get a picture first.”
Jamie – “That’s awesome. Where are we going next, the Tiger Park?”
We meet a nice couple along the path.
Dad – “Afternoon, how are you?”
Man – Good, good. You?”
Dad – “Very good. Any alligators up ahead?”
Man – “Yes, there are two of them off to the side.”
Wendy whispers in my ear “Of course they’re good. There were six in their group when they started walking.”
We end up having a very nice relaxing walk through alligator infested lands but no one dies. And we see some nice birds and a turtle orgy.
In research for this entry, I wanted to see how dangerous alligators really are. How many people do they kill a year? Well, in 2006 they only killed three people. So, not too many. Here’s something interesting I found though.
“Robert Steele - Attacked by an alligator while walking his dog on a trail between two wetland areas in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge near Sanibel, Florida. Steele bled to death after his leg was bitten off below the knee.”
Dear Mom and Dad,
On Saturday, John and his family left for home, and Wendy and I rented a car to drive across the state and visit her friend Laura from law school and her husband. They were an absolute delight and we went out to the world famous “Joe’s Stone Crab” for dinner. The wait to get in was two hours long, so we sat by a small fountain in the waiting area, had drinks, appetizers and fine conversation. When we did get to eat, the crab was one of the sweetest most succulent things I have ever had the pleasure to devour.
The next day we drove to the Miami airport and got there two hours ahead of time. We immediately jumped in a line that was a hundred yards long just to get boarding passes and drop off luggage. Then there was a 300 yard line to get through security. We had to be pulled out of the line and rushed through security by an AA representative to make our flight. But we made it.
8 hours later and I had moved to Madrid.
Let the adventure begin.