There's a piece of family lore on my mother's side that has followed me around for years. It's not exactly a flattering story because it highlights my self-interest, but it's the kind of thing that has great appeal and re-tellability because it falls neatly into both the "kids say the darndest things" and "this is our origin story" taxonomies of family yarns. When I was ten years old, my mother and soon-to-be step-father rented a beach house in which both families (my mother had two kids and he had three) vacationed together. One night, the two parents re-emerged in the house after going for a walk on the beach together, huge smiles on their faces and my mother's hand newly adorned with a shiny engagement ring. Legend has it that as I began to register what had happened and what was about to happen, my first response to the news was to excitedly exclaim: "WE'RE GETTING A POOL!"
I had a not entirely dissimilar reaction (although perhaps a bit more muted) many years later when my parents announced that they were retiring and would now be exchanging dreary Ohio winters for sun-and-golf-soaked Florida ones. "Good for you two, you've certainly earned it!" I exclaimed, having been properly socialized over the years to express such sentiments before getting to the real matter at hand. "So," I promptly continued, "what's the guest bedroom situation going to look like down there?"
And so my parents, generous and hospitable as they are, allow me and my siblings to come and visit whenever we would like. And this year, both my sister and I decided to spend our birthday weeks (conveniently in the same week in February) in Florida with our family.
While I love my family and definitely enjoyed my first couple days of working, reading, and relaxing in the sun at their home, after a few days, I began to feel the restless itch that always accompanies routinized sameness. (I also spent a large part of my birthday filing taxes and doing online "networking".) And so when I found out that my parents and sister were planning on staying a night in Orlando together after an Eagles concert, I began scanning Google Maps for an interesting getaway location for myself. And that's how I found Cedar Key, an island city off the northwest coast of Florida, sticking right out into the Gulf of Mexico, a significant body of water that I had not yet seen.
I booked a motel room, packed a bag, donned the most "Florida" garb I could find, and set out in the direction of the Goethe State Forest in my parents' Mazda convertible.
I spent a wonderful 24 hours on Cedar Key, mostly exploring in the sun. I walked all around the island, tried (and failed) to get a small airplane to take me for a spin around the island at the airstrip, and had a fish dinner with a man I met named "Dan the Junk Man." I met Dan when we were both admiring the sunset over the Gulf and he told me his entire life story, including a very eye-opening explanation of how his being raised by a pimp in Orlando during the '90s shaped his self-admittedly unorthodox valuation of money. "Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. But when you have it, you've got to spend it, before you don't have it anymore." Dan apparently had money at the time, because he bought my dinner for me in honor of my birthday.
On my second day, I picked up my rental Kayak and circumnavigated the whole island. I find that there is something indescribably appealing to me about transporting yourself via water. To put a couple of 'nesses' on it, I would start with: slowness, openness, strenuousness, and ancientness. In addition to seeing every angle of the island again, but this time from the grand perspective of the very body of water that lends the island its island-ness in the first place, I had my first real encounter with marine wildlife. Specifically: Dolphins! As I was coming around the south side of the island, I was suddenly joined by a small family of three dolphins, playing and splashing around me. I also have a new understanding of and respect for the work of pelicans.
Now I'm back with my parents for a few days, trying to hopefully iron out my schedule for the next few months. Looks like I'm going to spending some more time in NYC and D.C., as well as visiting North Carolina and Texas.