The Great Migration

18 02 2018

Doors are closing in South Florida. A new world awaits on the West Coast.

We have managed to rebuild our lives to a certain extent following David’s hospitalization. This with the help of dearly loved friends. David is even back to work, although his duties at the church have been re-assigned. This was welcome on my part. He is still involved in some political clubs, which I tolerate, in trust that the endless arguments and debates keep him sharp.

We have decided to give it a go on the other side of the continent — the Pacific Northwest. We have exhausted our search for a new apartment here and the numbers just won’t work. South Florida has taught me a lot about complex living. Real estate here is a tricky business. The building boom has produced a new wave of luxurious hi-rise apartments, shoreline McMansions and expensive homes.

It has been difficult finding an acceptable place. When the next move you make could be your last, you scruntinze and do your research more thoroughly. There can be no oversights in regards to buildings, neighborhoods, associations or landlords.

Palm Aire Exit

I admire David’s strength and composure during this difficult time so much. I wish I could provide more help myself.

“Help does not always come in financial forms,” my friend Billy sent in a text meant to cheer me up.

Ever the socialist, Billy had migrated to the West Coast last year, giving up Chicago for San Francisco. A far off land for a boy from the Florida Panhandle.

One thing I have learned about living in crisis is the pieces of information you trust with other parties can have bruising affects. This goes for family as well. Mother doesn’t need to know every initimate health decision and vice-versa. Gallbladder surgery taught me that.

Government is only a safety net in our lives and even that has holes.

South Florida taught me that naivety will be taken advantage of quickly and exploited for profit and gain. Kindness in this multicultural metropolis is rare and internal community disfunction all too common. There could be a better life hidden somewhere in the Tropics that I, as a journalist, was not privileged to cover.

We were married here. Moments in the Keys did produce love and joy but were fleeting in contrast to horror stories up the peninsula. Stories of hurricanes, violent crime, drug-addled parties, disease outbreaks and other terrible incidents.

Add the recent school shooting to the Orlando massacre and Fort Lauderdale airport attack and you really have to wonder what kind of tourism this state is pitching? Sounds like training grounds for Syria.

I remember how pumped up and ready to take on the dragon I was when we moved here five years ago. Ultimately it became about adaptation — trying to keep some of your core values intact without falling victim to fatal flames.

The dragon is firmly entrenched here, investigative journalists beware. If you look closely, follow the money trail and ask too many questions you may not enjoy what is brought out of the water.

I did make lasting friendships here and my character forever shaped by events too impactful to forget. With Godspeed we forge ahead to a new life.

“We’re not fleeing,” David said. “We’re moving on.”

Viscaya

 

 

 

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Complete Collapse

21 01 2018

Writing is therapy they say. Purge the bad.

I really despise hitting bottom. Particulary when you are trying to avoid it at all times. David developed a bad case of the flu. Off to the hospital we went. Not a fun place to spend the new year’s eve. But we did, watching Anderson Cooper from the fourth floor of Holy Cross Fort Lauderdale.

On David’s first night in the hospital, a letter came in the mail informing us we had to be out of our apartment at the end of the month. Insult to injury. The owner was selling and wanted us to vacate. The owner — an 87-year-old gay man from Massachuetts — was easily agitated and on advice from his cardiologist had decided to sell the apartment.

David, working two jobs, was doing everything he could to pay the bills. South Florida is not cheap. The BMW was constantly in the shop and my contributions had been too little. I wasn’t earning as much as I had the year before and by the holidays we had fallen into the gaps.

In mid-December we departed to the Pacific Northwest to see David’s friends and family. It was a stressful trip with a sudden climate change and long flights. I refused the flu shot just before we left. In Port Townsend, Washington, the sneezing started and stayed with us for the reminder of the trip. I was happy to finally meet David’s close friends, Paul and Carrie and his brother Russ and his wife, Shirley. Meeting the in-laws is an important part of marriage, I reminded David.

Paul picked us up at the airport in SEATAC and we drove north into the Pugent Sound region. It was cold, no fresh snowfall, but still plenty cold. The skies were gray and there was a chill in the air. Port Townsend is cute and charming, hilly with old brick buildings and a harbor where boaters take tourists on whale watching tours. We attended Sunday morning’s service at the Presbyterian church Paul pastors and it was comforting to discover a friendly congregation.

Pugent Sound

The sneezing made my visit miserable. It was only the beginning. Paul’s daughter Lidya drove us to Portland, Oregon the next day to meet David’s brother. That was the sickest point for me and it just so happened to be my first time in Oregon. Thankfully, Russ & Shirley took us in. We toured the city the next day and had dinner at Jake’s Famous Crayfish downtown. I enjoyed seeing David interact with his sibling as I imagined what life growing up in Oregon during the 1960s was like.

Meanwhile, I was unaware of problems mounting back in Florida. Perhaps I was consciously choosing to ignore them. Issues in Panama City refusing to go away and traps laid in Fort Lauderdale. Soon it would be too much for David. Feelings of helplessness, anger and self doubt filled me

Port Townsend, WA

as I sat bedside new year’s eve in the hospital. Another round of trial and error and learning who real friends are.

And then that phone call delivering words that cut like a dagger.

“You’ve made bad decisions in life, John.”

 





Autumn’s Bounce

3 11 2017

Biscayne Bay NP

The cool breezes have arrived at long last in the southern reaches of the United States.

Battered by hurricanes, Floridians are picking up the pieces of a life that seems to consist of at least one dangerous weather pattern a year. The Governor is well versed in crisis management. The Winter White House must be protected, after all.

And at any cost.

Looking inward, a self assessment seems in order. Why is America here? Who decided it would be such a great thing to settle 20 million people in a swamp?

If there are advantages to such stressed living conditons it must be an enduring ecosystem immune to certain invasive species. People do want to come here — for a variety of reasons. I’d prefer to push into South America and learn why that is.

Meanwhile, David says to trust God. He does his morning yoga poses and goes off into the community eager to serve. Working two jobs at the age of 70 while volunteering countless hours to the democratic party. He continually amazes me and I am eternally grateful for him coming into my life — and staying.

I am giving more time to friends who care about our shared health and well being and less to those who do not. That should be automatic but is much harder to practice in reality. I do not think I can make a difference, I know I can. Thus comes responsible action and deeper understanding.

Ah maturity.

Having recently celebrated my 45th birthday, I am aware of how satisfied I should be at this stage of life.

“You are still here,” our couples’ therapist said to me.

Yes, I am still here and it is quite remarkable considering all of the adventures. Coming to South Florida was an assignment in learing how to rebuild and make a way beyond familiar ground. I have learned a great deal about politics, the environment, minority communities, recovery, celebrity culture and the list goes on. I am beginning to learn what marriage means. Raising children is next.

I am by no means broken but very aware that no one goes through life unblemished. The perfect image Americans insist their leaders have was destroyed during the last presidential election. In the world of geeks, it’s Kingpins over Spidermen. Superman is truly a myth and the Jedi have been driven into exile.

Spooks own the hour now. The news still carries at least one mass terrorist attack story a week. But we forget about it after a few weeks and the dead become linked to a city or a school or a nightclub. It will depress you if you let it.

I choose not to. I am also choosing my media, information and entertainment outlets very carefully.

It has been a tough year. For a lot of us. I am thankful the holiday season is approaching and I can decorate the apartment. Maturity brings awareness of how precious life is. Now is the time to cherish our loves.

 

 

 

 





Weathering The Storm

27 09 2017

Uprooted Olive Tree

Hurricane battered we enter the autumn of this chapter. There are no physical seasons in Florida. Only hot and hotter.

I’ve been going to see my friend Jubal lately. He doesn’t have any cats and I’m okay with that. We are roughly the same age. A contemporary you might say. He gets me which is why he can invite me into his inner sanctuary or send me away without hestitation.

Jubal owns a loft in Fort Lauderdale, near the city’s urban core. He works with his hands and often goes away for months to work on ships. He is intelligent in a way I cannot think. Like a lot of my friends, Jubal believes the world is screwed and yet he seems to come up with an amusing antidote for all of the world’s ills.

As we stood on his rooftop watching jets hum all around, Jubal noticed me studying the surroundings.

“No, we’re not in the country,” Jubal remarked.

Buildings in the horizon and the sounds of bus brakes and car horns on the streets below signal we are indeed in a city.

Night comes quicker now. Darkness gaining the upperhand on light. Hurricane Irma wrecked havoc on South Florida and the Keys. Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico. Jubal called the storms “weak.” It was his way of projecting strength in the face of challenging times. The jets we watched arriving and departing were not all commerical passenger airliners. Some were four engine turboprop transport planes carrying supplies on search and rescue missions.

“San Juan will come back,” Jubal said in a serious tone. It was a rare moment for him.

The hurricane season was yet another blow in a depressing year. What started with a change in Washington has went downhill fast. Tricked into thinking I could be a politician again and fueled by ego and regret — a dangerous combination — I lost a summer to grief. Knowing I need to snap out of it before hit with a real loss to my soul I have begun seeking atonement.

David continues to care for me and is a dedicated and loving spouse. Geraldo, Daniel, Jubal and Horacio are friends I deeply love. I am grateful people still pay me to write. Freelance journalism, contrary to what some might say, is not free.

I continue to seek adventures in far off lands and until that day comes I will make the most of my time with family and friends in Florida. As my therapist tells me, we create our own attitudes. We can choose to create sadness or joy. I’m ready for joy. Let me take this phone call.

Ciao For Now. 

 

 





Thorough Clean-sing

11 08 2017

Osceola slept here.

Cristina asked that we all give up an addiction. She said we should grab a twig and toss it into the fire to symbolize the release of this addiction.

Moving around was quite challenging. The medicine was taking effect. I grabbed a branch and tossed it in. Carlos followed and did the same. Geraldo grabbed a whole stack and tossed it on the fire. The smoke funnelled up through the trees and Cristina began to sing again.

Some of the words I could make out. “Barricuda” “Santa Maria” and “Doma” I remember. I probably should not reveal too much as this was an exclusive gathering. Geraldo was pleased. He told Cristina he wished he had brought more of his family with him. There were times when I could not help but stare at him in silence. It was a display of respect.

Listening to the night and nature was fascinating. Cristina, with tears in her eyes, remarked how great it was to be moonbathing.

My bones began to crack like the flames shooting from our campfire as we each took turns drinking the Ayahuasca. Standing up and grabbing the branch to toss in was not easy. The terrain was rough. Although this area was populated by large neatly maintained farms, we were in “the woods.” During the ceremony some of the horses came near. In the dark I could only hear their musking noises — a sort of sneezing sound.

I sang some too.

Mostly humming to what reminded me of the Seminole war chant. My father took us to many Florida State University football games when we were young. Carlos seemed to know the chant too. If you know the legend of Chief Osceloa it helps. The brave native has become a recognizable symbol for the Tallahassee headquartered school.

I also had a tearful moment singing the biblical hymn, “When You Believe,” from The Prince of Egypt. The tears were more of a joyful confession than one of true sadness or sorrow. We were to let it all out, Geraldo had said. Release the past into the air.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Cristiana asked that we all embrace each other. She hugged me tight and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Carlos was warm as well.

“Come here,” he said as he pulled me in for a hug.

Cristiana then directed Geraldo and I to hug each other and we did and it was like the kind brothers give after making up from a fight. Quick, back slaps and all.

As the full moon continued to rise I found myself tranqulized by its beauty and that of the southern sky. I would have preferred to sleep outside by the fire but the bugs were too much. The next day Geraldo and I drove back to Miami. We were happy and inspired and listened to music and laughed all the way home.

The past was gone. A new day had dawned. It was good to be alive.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway.

 

 

 





Ocala Can You Hear Me?

10 07 2017

OcalaFarm

In search of healing we were introduced to Ayahuasca by a Brazilian shaman. Geraldo arranged it. We drove north into horse country to find it.

I was surprised to get the last minute invitation. It came via a text late Friday night after I had deactivated my Facebook and realized I had no clue where my next paycheck would come from. Before I could wallow in self pity Geraldo rode to the rescue.

His best friend from South America was here.

Cristina was her name. She was powerful and wise. A mother of two children. Girlfriend to Carlos. Healer of many.

Before Geraldo and I found Cristina’s campground we drove through the rolling hillside farm country. Some of the farms were quite immaculate with freshly cut lawns and thoroughbred horses grazing the fields. The oak trees in this part of the country were large with thick clumps of moss hanging from their branches. They were an oasis for cattle herds from the sun’s mighty rays.

Geraldo had been in Ecuador. He was a heavy man now. He said our trek into the North Florida farmlands would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He described it as an circle of healing — spiritual not sexual. That was good enough for me.

David gave his blessing and we left Pompano Beach in a brand new volkeswagen jetta. Early July and the heat in full effect. We made good time on the turnpike pushing into Ocala around the four-hour mark.

“You’re going to drink with us, John?” she asked as we approached the campfire.

“Yes,” I said.

Geraldo warned it could get ugly. Vomiting, diarreha of the worst. He advised I fast the night before and refrain from drugs and eating meat. This was a cleasening, he said…to decide who I wanted to be and to release the demons of the past.

Cristina helped with that. She wore a yellow feather in her hair. At the ceremony she dressed in a beautifully beaded long red dress. Carlos was ever at her side. He was standoffish at first but when we spoke was assured the cleansing from this Amazon vine was what we all needed.

Carlos, Geraldo and I gathered wood for the fire. For the ceremony, I laid on my wolf blanket from Yellowstone. The one Anne gave me. Four candles were placed around the fire pit. After lighting the fire, Cristinia offered the Ayahuasca. It was bitter and hard to swallow. I took one sip and gave the cup back. She encouraged me to finish the cup and I did.

Once the drink had been passed around the circle, Cristina began to sing her native songs with accompaniment on the drums and guitar by Carlos. Her chants were passionate and in dialects I had never heard before. She moved around the fire, always stablizing herself in a yoga-like pose before another cry into the night. The Ayahuasca began to take its effect and soon my ears felt unclogged from years of swimming in cholrine dosed pools.

My senses began to peak. I could hear other sounds from the wild near and far. I could hear my heart beating again. It was a full moon rising….

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 





Bottoms Up

26 05 2017

Here we are starting over again. Looking for work after a brief flirtation with politics. In the gutter looking up at the stars, wrote Oscar Wilde.

The summer approaches again in Florida. I have become numb to the lasting heatrays and all of the complexities of urban dwelling. I rarely go to Miami anymore. I don’t have enough money to go many places.

David and some friends have encouraged me to get back in the gym. I’ve been playing golf and basketball again and swimming regularly. I’m surprised how well my body has held up.

I considered running again for the state house but after two months on the trial determined it was the wrong district and wrong role. I remain in contact with friends from the park service and maintain hope a position will open up. It would be nice to breathe fresh mountain air again.

Last week, David and I attended a presentation from the Sierra Club. Members of the executive committee discussed pollution of Florida’s waterways and various other environmental concerns. I asked one of the speakers if she felt South Florida had an overpopulation problem.

“The world does,” was her response.

The arrival of more and more people in Florida means draining the swamp to house them. There is another way, however, but it would take acts of kindness, sacrifice and generousity to get there. Not exactly known traits a keen political observer would recognize from current Republican leadership.

In many parts of the South Florida shoreline sit towering condominums and apartment buildings. For half of the year they operate at significantly less capacity due to retreating Canadians. There are quite a few old buildings on the east side of Interstate 95 in South Florida. Old properties, in some cases. In dire need of rehabilitation.

And condemnation.

After recognizing a problem, it takes a community — or village, if you prefer, — to improve a habitat fit for all humanity. Good deeds, Pat from Palm Beach tells me.

“You can only resist and be against everything for so long before it wears you out,” Pat said during our recent phone conversation.

Living positively with a can do spirit while avoiding the pitfalls negativity produces is the plan. This my inner call to action.

It won’t be easy. Florida is such a weird state. It’s diverse melting pot is, at times, exhausting.

I take comfort in the fact that periods of hardships strengthen resolve and make families better when they emerge from a struggle. My friend Geraldo is doing so much better. His recovery brings tears to my eyes. My brother is settling into life as a divorced father. I wish him patience and compassion to continue giving the girls a healthy upbringing.

And now I look to David, my loyal husband, an offer a humble plea. After rehabbing our reps in Florida, I hope we can visit your family on the West Coast. Our eight years together has not been equitable in meeting the in-laws. I’d like to change that.

For the better, of course.

Koreshan State Historic Site