Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Day in the Covid Life


I managed to get out the house yesterday, indeed, out of my zip code.  It was a Herculean feat, really, for I lingered long in languorous routine, unable to muster reasonable interest in the great beyond.  I waited too long, really, not deciding to leave the house until after eleven.  That is the time to be finishing activities here in the brutal August weather of the tropics, not starting them.  But in a flash, I grabbed camera bags, film, lenses, sunscreen, a hat, and a can of water, and headed out for a beach town.  

My idea was that I would find the old world, the old south, and make wonderful photographs that would be the envy of others.  I've lived here a lifetime, and I've traveled these roads forever, but even forever changes.  Roads are widened, stop lights installed, the old gives way to profit, budget apartment complexes, shopping centers, Home Depots and Walmarts. . . nothing I couldn't photograph in my own hometown.  

The beach town to which I traveled is a hillbilly place full of crackers and rednecks, coke whores and crack addicts.  They are either working class or part of the welfare state.  The beaches are not peopled by the leisure class.  Rather, they are lined with those low stucco 80's style four or five story condos of unimaginative design, the stucco smeared with water stains, long walkways and balconies falling apart from poor drainage and construction materials, everything done on the cheap without imagination.  

It was after noon when I arrived.  I parked a couple streets over from the beach and walked the small downtown realizing immediately that I would not be photographing what I had imagined.  The thing is, the place looked like it always has, just ugly, worn buildings filled with restaurants and bars.  Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Italian restaurants were on ever other corner.  Bars with Irish names and sticky, modern counters where people sat on high, backless stools.  Surf shops, and stores full of gimcrack.  

And Trump.  Everywhere you looked--Trump.  

Eventually, I made my way to the beach.  Packed, as were the beach bars.  Masks here and there, but no in abundance.  There probably have not been many Covid-related deaths here.  You can see why small towns across America say the pandemic is a media event.  You can't shut down beaches where people don't believe you.  

By god, it was hot.  Scorching.  From a boardwalk in the dunes, I looked out upon the beachgoers huddled under umbrellas and small portable shelters, sticky, sandy, sweaty. . . snacking.  They surely snacked.  You could see that without watching them eat.  The things they wore. . . well, I am not in the mix, but wow!  

I got back into my car and drove south to the old Air Force Base on the beach.  They had some old rockets and airplanes on display by the highway that I thought to take pictures of.  

Nope.  Gone.  Nothing but vast fields and and airstrips.  Blankness.  Nothing.  

I drove further.  I thought to drive by my ex-grandmother in law's house.  She surely would not be alive any more, but I wanted to see the house where I spent many weekends with my wife.  

I couldn't find it.  I couldn't remember where to turn.  Everything was different.  The old landmarks were useless.  

I drove by the place I used to camp in my VW bus next to the beach.  It had been a large stand of Australian pines that sheltered the van from the sun.  I would take my surfboard and a Coleman lantern and a sleeping bag.  I would surf, then use the outdoor shower at the surf shop down the road.  I would go to Lums on the beach with its big glass windows and schooners of beer in icy mugs and their famous beer steamed chili dogs.  

Gone a long time ago. 

I decided to head home.  

But I hadn't eaten anything but a bowl of cereal with Biblical grains early in the morning.  I'd only brought a can of water with me.  I wanted to eat something.  Dare I say?  I had some mania for an Impossible Whopper.  I kid not.  What can I say.  And so, if I saw a Burger King, I would drive through.  Otherwise, it was a hungry drive home.  

I drove through town.  Nothing.  I drove through the big intersection to the main highway.  Nothing.  I was headed out of town toward the port and the toll road home, the road lined with small businesses, convenience stores, scuba and bait shops, Gentlemen's Clubs.  Just before the port, a Wendys.  Nope.  Then a McDonalds.  Nope.  That was it, but wait!  The last business before the highway--Yes.  

I got special sauce all over my shirt and pants on the drive home.  But man, that was good.  Best of all, afterwards, there is no burping up of the animal fat, no tasty belching that makes you wonder.  

And a cherry Coke.  

I stopped by mother's since her house was on my way home.  It was earlier than I usually go over and sitting outside was oppressive.  I thought I was getting whiffs from he garbage can, but it was me.  I smelled like a day old pizza.  Mid-afternoon.  Windless misery.  

First thing when I got home, I showered away the stench of the day.  God, I swore, never again would I go to that beach, that town.  It is the place where stupid goes to never die.  Ugly zombie life.  More soap.  More hot water.  

Now comes the bad part of the story.  What, you ask?!?  I thought that was the bad part.  Well. . . it should have been.  But after the late day Whopper, I wasn't all that hungry.  I decided to make a salad concoction out of diced cucumber, split cherry tomatoes, slivered red pepper, and garbanzo beans topped with feta cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  I made a really big bowl.  

And ate it all.  

I was tired by nine and could barely keep my eyes propped open.  I was watching videos about the cameras I want to buy though after the photo day I just had I wondered why.  And then it hit me.  My stomach started to rumble and spasm.  Cramps.  Holy smokes. . . I guess I'd eaten a lot of fiber for one day.  A scotch would have helped, I am certain, but I am not drinking right now as my consumption has become outlandish, so I drank a big glass of water.  Oh, boy, that was dumb.  

Sleepy and crampy and miserable, I went to bed, ending a perfect day.  

The sun is shining.  I should get out and make some pictures of another hideous place.  I know one close by, a highway full of used tire shops, used appliance stores, a Salvation Army, and some dollar stores.  I should get there before the crowds.  

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