Sunday, March 3, 2013

A taste of honey

Everywhere I go there's always music playing -- Van Morrison in ShopRite, the Doobie Brothers in Home Depot, A Little Effin Nachtmusik in the Port Authority, and some cloying lite jazz shite filling the background emptiness here, in the airport outside of Fort Myers, Florida. Tourists like sheep stand around nestled in their bulk like figures in a painting. Their bodies hear the music but they don't. It's simply there, like the air they breathe or the daylight that allows them to see past each other into the flat Florida distance. Nothing there either except an even bigger emptiness -- signs that warn motorists of panther crossings and heron and ibis acting dumb.

I think to myself, it's unsustainable, this life. This unconscious life -- pure biology, E. O. Wilson's wet dream. A quick death is surely preferable to wasting away in one of those monstrous housing developments east of the airport. And yet, even there, on a macadam path paralleling Imperial Parkway, I saw people out running and cycling early this morning, huffing and puffing in the wet air, biologically alive. I watched them sweat in their absurd tights and an unbidden feeling of tenderness came over me. My eyes filled with tears. Sentimental me -- I had to pull over and stop the car. Hell, I might never know how a bat feels -- its wishes, lies, and dreams, or if it even has them -- but I knew how these people felt. Life is so fucking sweet, you want to keep it in your mouth, tasting it. You want to sweat and feel the blood rush through your veins. As long as everything works the way it's supposed to, you can't imagine it coming to an end. You want to live forever. You are god.

But who could live forever in Florida? Maybe mosquitoes or lizards. Or those termites that eat concrete or that soft smelly shite that thrives at the bottom of the swamp. Time passes and nothing happens here. Generations come and go, people with different skills, new technologies, fascinating ideologies, but they're all the same to the mosquitoes: vats of blood. Cars skid off I-75, shootings occur in strip center parking lots, snakes eat dogs, and the tourists keep coming down to the beaches with their arthritis and fixed notions of morality. They wander around, collect shells, and repeat to themselves, "Life is good." Who's to argue?

Down at The Skillet, the breakfast special is blueberry blintzes, two eggs, and bacon. Two tables down, a big-headed old man with an English accent does all the talking -- he's giving a long disquisition on Macmillan's role in the Suez crisis while his buddy and their two wives chew. He has a full crown of white hair and ruddy cheeks and a lovely voice. He sounds like a BBC announcer. Apparently he was in the army back then -- something to do with the invasion of Port Said -- but there was a problem with the Americans. They wouldn't commit because of Eisenhower's reelection. We could see that it was going to end badly. He goes on talking while the other three take comfort in the syrupy sweetness on their plates and nod. It's a fucking triumph, his explanation.

The Skillet is jammed on a Saturday morning, there are throngs of old people out in the parking lot waiting to get in, waiting to get their blueberry blintzes. The life of the colony can be seen as traffic along the Tamiami Trail heading south through Bonita Springs. I look around and listen -- here too there is music: "A Taste of Honey," but not the old Herb Alpert recording, although the arrangement sounds the same. Nobody pays it any attention.

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