November 26, 2014

Here & Now

Why are we here? And what do we really want?

Actually, I’m not indulging in deep philosophical musings about the Meaning of Life. It’s just that after 22 years, I thought it was time to take a look at why I’m here. Right here, I mean. In Naples, Fla. Instead of—oh, I don’t know—Goat Town, Ga. Or Oblong, Ill. Or that town where Ron, my significant other, has kinfolk: Toad Suck, Ark. (What were the founding fathers smoking, anyway?)

I clearly remember what brought me here in the first place: pure white angel wings. Not in the biblical sense. Since the age of 20, I was obsessed with shelling on Sanibel Island. I had to be first on the beach at sunrise to score the most perfect double angel wings. I remember the luggage inspectors rushing off for unscheduled coffee breaks when they saw me coming with my stinky bag of treasures, especially the whelks. While the expired tenants of those shells had departed spiritually, some of them had not physically left the premises.

The official reason I was here was ice scrapers. I hated them and my chafed, numb hands. I also thought it would be the most awesome thing in the world to raise my children on the beach, among the gulls and pelicans. I was here because the local radio news show included a daily manatee report but no traffic reports.

That explains why I was here. I’ve never been good at New Year’s resolutions, but I carved out some time recently to contemplate why I am still here, now. In the silence of my mind, I heard two chilling words: ice scraper. It’s still No. 1. (FYI, it’s 72 degrees here right now, People of the North.) As I settled into my contemplation, more words flowed through my consciousness:

Bougainvillea: Did you know they come in 70 colors?

Blue crab: I know this borders on blasphemous, but given a choice, I’ll take a sautéed soft-shell blue crab over a stone crab claw every time.  

Dumpster flowers: Yes, the most magnificent tree in my community is a towering purple-blossomed orchid tree. While brown leaves hit the ground up North, this tree makes a showy canopy over our Dumpster. As the blossoms drop, they transform the ugly, 40,000-pound box into a velvety purple-drenched objet d’art. You have to admit, if ever there was a place for an orchid-covered Dumpster, it’s Naples, Fla.

Tabebuia trees: For about six weeks, these gnarled and totally unremarkable trees all along the Gulfshore lose their leaves to make way for an obscene show of yellow pompom-sized bouquets. I see it happen every year (sometimes twice a year) and still, every time, I get all oohy and ahhy.

Guacamole salsa: Fresh, giant, smooth-skinned avocadoes right off a Florida tree. Uh huh.

A flowery Dumpster and a plate of soft-shell crabs may sound a bit shallow, but here’s the thing: Often, up there in cold country, someone would look at me and ask, “Why so serious?” Well, it’s hard to smile when your teeth are chattering and you’re stuck for an hour on the expressway three miles from home.

When the first random stranger flashed a smile at me here, I frantically tried to place a name on this unfamiliar face. Neighbor? School mom? Then I realized that she was just reacting to the huge grin on my own face. I haven’t wiped it off in two decades. Which gets back to the ice scraper issue. And that’s why I’m here.

Now that i’m on a roll, contemplation-wise, what do I really want? The success gurus say if you want something, you just visualize it, focus on it, and—poof!—it happens. It’s true, too, although the “poof” thing may be a bit overstated.

My first year here, I really wanted to be in theater. In the audience, back stage, on stage—anything to be part of the magic. I got tickets. I visualized. I focused. Within weeks, I landed a gig in the Pelican Players’ production of Dracula. I was chosen to stand in the wings with a script. Every time Dracula was slated to make an entrance, it was my job to lob a rubber vampire bat across the scene. It was a pretty vital role, because I had to aim it to enter the window on stage left and exit through the window at stage right. There also was some pretty impressive howling involved.

Sometimes this visualization thing requires more patience. Around the summer of second grade, I began visualizing a personal jet pack in my Christmas stocking. It didn’t show up that year, or in the decades afterward. But the vision followed me to Naples. I imagined soaring just over the shoreline to watch pods of dolphins playing or zipping down to Old Naples for a show at the Sugden without circling for a parking spot. (Just check the jet pack at the door.) Finally, I get the news. The Martin Aircraft Co. in New Zealand has introduced the Martin Jetpack. But they got it all wrong. It’s the size of a small BMW and looks like a bad cartoon made from scrap Star Wars parts. Also, it costs $100,000. No offense, Martin people, but you need to revisit The Jetsons and do some better visualizing. I’m getting on up there in years.

Meanwhile, here’s what I’m visualizing for 2011:

A WikiReader: It may not be the coolest thing since the iPhone for a certain generation, but for this Google queen who spends a lot of hours working in flight with no Internet connection, it’s a gift from the gods. Imagine the entire Wikipedia (Wikiquotes and Wiktionary, too) in four teensy ounces: no Internet needed. In case my editors are reading this, I’m not saying Wikipedia is the definitive resource, but for $99 and three AAA batteries, it will tide me over till the jet pack comes along.  

More chocolate: No problem. The brand new Norman Love Confections shop in Naples is exactly 2.71 miles from my door. The address is 3747 Tamiami Trail N. I personally visualized this for all my fellow chocoholics. You’re welcome.

Fewer cords and cables: I have 30 feet of them under my desk alone, hissing at me like a bed of vipers. Wireless is a lie.

Bacon: I went (mostly) vegetarian last year, and I really, really want some bacon. Sorry, there’s no substitute on the planet that delivers the same sizzly fat and satisfying crunch.

For the most part, my little introspection—and my crystal bowl of still-perfect angel wings—says I’m still on track. Now if they’ll just make bacon without the participation of pigs …

What do you really want? Are you visualizing? I wish for you a magical 2011 and the joyfulness of being here, now.