Maybe because I never traveled south during the winter, now, getting into the rental car at Tampa airport seemed – otherworldly. The gods of central Florida, welcoming the weary traveler from the winter-battered Midwest: here, a warm moist towel, to saturate you with the steamy sauna-like air of our state.
Speeding down south on I 275, I couldn’t help roll down the window, because otherwise I may forget that feeling of being hot. I go over the Sunshine Skyway and then I pause to look under it. Birds. Florida birds. Pelicans maybe?
And fishers. No longer my huddled bulky ice fishers of Lake Mendota. A lithe young man gracefully works the line before throwing it back into the water.
I head even further south.
At a stand where a young girl tries to sell me many boxes of berries. I’m out with my camera, enchanted with the redness, the ripeness of the fruit.
You never seen a strawberry stand? – she asks smiling.
I’m from the north, from Wisconsin…
Wisconsin! I had a teacher from there! You guys call the stuff you drink “pop,” don’t you? Here we just say “coke.”
I buy the berries.
In the afternoon my pals and I head for Sarasota and the barrier islands. There is a San Francisco like fog pulling in and the white sugar sand of the beach creates seamless waves of land, water and mist. In the distance, I see the buildings of Sarasota, coming in, fading out...
It's all so beautiful.
And here, the weather is kind to me. The fog teases and pulls back a little. The water is warm. I wash the soles of my feet with the waters of the sea and watch others build dreamy castles, whose lives are shortlived.
A boy chases waves, a bird runs the other way...
In the evening we sit at the terrace of a restaurant facing the bay. Fishers, oblivious to the weather (imagine that!), standing still as the mist works its way around the shores.
I eat a Florida fish (tripletail?) and fill myself with key lime pie and I think how beguiling this all is – the air, my lifelong pals, the food, the waters around me.
But I only have until the next morning. The plan was to disperse on Monday and I have a flight to catch – another long day of travel, heading still further south to meet up with Ed.
I am so mellowed out by my twenty-four hours here. He may not recognize me.