Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sun City, Florida

I suppose the idea of visiting or staying at a retirement village is not the most the thrilling of destinations when you I have a vacation in mind. I guess I like the solitude. There is a comfortable absence of human life. And the people you do meet are usually happy to see anyone younger than fifty; I probably remind them of the grandkids they rarely see. But the whole atmosphere is lazy and slow.

When I first visited my grandparents at Sun City I was very much struck by the fact that there were very few kids my age there. There were very few people in general. And every person you did see looked ancient to my young eyes.

Google maps screen grab 
Recently I saw a women here in Rhode Island that reminded me of the particular person you would see down in Florida. The most notable aspect about her was her deeply tanned skin. Her hair was short and had tightly permed curls. She looked healthy and active despite the many wrinkles on her face, wrinkles I tried to use as some gauge to properly judge her correct age. She wore white shorts and a bright pink polo shirt.

I guess I like to look for things that remind me of the place.

My favorite thing to do whenever I go to visit my grandparents is that I like to walk or bike for hours.  The sun draws me out of the house. I grab my iPod, my grandma's beat up bike and pedal down the wide, empty road.

There is something so calming about biking on that black pavement, the bike jolting slightly when you navigate around the sloped gutters that hug the narrow sidewalks. Your hair whips from the wind. And sometimes you just have to get up off the seat of the bike and pedal for all your worth.

I have a wonderful memory of wandering aimlessly and carelessly as the sun sunk into the earth. It glowed bright orange into my eyes. And music beat a tropical rhythm in my ears.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tall Trees

I was supposed to meet some coworkers for a celebratory dinner. I got lost. I was in my car alone, shivering from the slight chill I could feel, the heat in the car was rushing ineffectually against the windshield of the car. I drove the car through a quiet maze of side streets searching for the road that lead to the restaurant.

I worriedly looked around for a promise placed on a street sign. The streets grew wider and cars would appear now and then. I took a right onto a wide main street. It was strangely still. No people in sight. I drove slowly under a canopy of large shadowing trees.

I made a u-turn when I figured that I was going the wrong way. As I drove slowly I examined the neighborhood. The place spoke of peaceful desertion. The empty streets and sidewalks suggested that no one had been here for awhile. A fact I knew to be incorrect.

Beyond the sidewalk the ground sloped upwards. Green grass leading to a squat elementary school. Alongside it was a playground, a tall chain link fence sprouted from the mulched ground. The absence of children or noise was a touch surreal. And the blank windows of the school building bespoke of a certain serenity, an absence of chaos.

The road was wide, cars parked on one side.  The sidewalk had a row of trees. These trees were tall, with wide reaching limbs. Their trunks were wide and scarred. They bloomed with tiny white flowers. I felt like a kid; for some reason I was reminded of my youth. When you're young everything seems bigger, taller, better and more scary than it actually is. The towering trees shrunk me down to a child's state. And I  got to see this street through younger eyes, when life seemed simple. It was one second of perfection as only a child can see it and how only an adult can remember it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Clash of Cultures

I was nineteen when I left the country for the very first time. I think it never occurred to me how different the culture would be in a country other than your own. I figured I knew enough about Japan so that I would not feel completely alienated. But I came to realize that the food or the TV will not make you realize the difference in cultures, essentially it is the people that will make you realize that you live in a separate world.

I was in Shinagawa, Tokyo a full day before it hit me. We were staying at a hotel that was about a minute's walk away from a street entrance to the trains. We followed a cement walkway that led from the hotel, past small tourist aimed shops to a main street with restaurants. It was probably a combination sensory overload and jet lag, but the trip as a whole takes on the feel of a dream. We had a native of Japan as our guide, and I felt like most of the time I just floated after her like a ghost trying to absorb everything I saw but unable to commit anything to actual memory. I did not need to struggle to find my destinations or locate a good place to eat. So I feel like I never really paid attention I just experienced things. But somewhere amid my feelings of awe and sleepy fascination I woke up and realized I was far from home.

We happened upon a little McDonald's, and maybe this added to the overall image, but the setting and the surroundings of the restaurant were far from recognizable. And as a mass of people moved towards me in a commuter's rush I felt completely isolated. All the people in my vision were Japanese, no faces like mine were present. They were all uniformly dressed in black. Black suits, black jackets, black purses and skirts. I searched their faces for a hint of some familiar emotion that I could name and latch onto, so I could feel less insignificant, but all I saw was a general disinterest.

A Google maps screen grab. All my photos are gone due to my hard drive crashing.

 The people we met on our trip ranged from overtly friendly and outgoing, to curious and downright rude, to impassive and polite. I do not think I overcame my new frame of mind that I was different and that it would be hard for me to immediately fit in there. But I guess that is were some of my interest comes from with regards to Japan.

The crosswalk leading to the station

Friday, April 6, 2012


The sun was beginning to set as we left, my shorts and cami were starting to feel like the wrong choice for the weather. The feeling of Fall was creeping into August as the wind played with strands of my hair. We were running late and the darkening sky only made it seem so even more.

The highway was surprisingly free of cars as we drove up 95 North. Maybe it was because I was so excited to be going to this show that I had expected droves of cars and aggressive drivers would be blocking my path.

I drove the car through a maze of more rural country. The roads lead into the black of a forested night. The headlights were the only light. We past by dark houses and old graveyards. We finally met up with a promising looking road busy with traffic and glowing harsh under white florescent lights.

When we arrived the place was crowed with cars. A few people loitered around the entrance of the building. As we entered the building we heard the sound of music. Only a few people were straggling in now that the show had started.

The place was packed with people, and we skirted the edges hesitantly. As the first opening band finished their set we wiggled in through the dense crowd, slipping by individuals with their focus fixed on the stage. The dimmed lights and the loud music amped up my excitement level.

When the headliner finally began performing the crowd seemed to pack together even closer. The press of the crowd made the show even more interactive and entertaining. People sang along with the music. People who I can only assume were in some state of drunkenness spilled beer on my flip-flop clad feet.

By the end of it, my ears were humming from the noise of the music. My flip-flops sticky with beer. And our tickets were damp with sweat in my pocket. We waited for the crowd to disperse, revealing empty beer bottles and damp piles of suspicious looking refuse. My eyes lingered on the stage wishing I could stay a little longer.
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