Thursday, October 27, 2005

Once Upon a Time There Was a Land Called Florida

Ah, Florida, my home for many years. Walking on the beach with Tom, our German Shepard named after Tom Noonan the blacksmith back in Indiana. Silent dark hours in a small boat with the Coleman Lantern glowing in the bow and getting shrimp with a dip net. Or using a push net to get them on the grass flats. There were those nights when the full moon on the white sand made an soft kind of light almost as bright as the day. We would chip fat oysters off the bridge pilings, build a driftwood fire on the beach and steam them in their juice. When they opened they were ready. Saturdays, wading up to our knees in the crystal water of the grass flats pulling a wash tub into which we threw the scallops we found. Walking though the "wilderness" by the bay going from Sunset Beach to St. Pete Beach.

Reality check! You can't have a dog or a fire on the beach. Shrimp don't swim with the tide in the bay because the grass flats are gone and because the grass flats are gone the scallops are gone. And the "wilderness"; houses, waterfront houses. Even the bright moon has surrendered herself to light pollution.

I saw it happen. The dredges working night and day forcing a steady stream of sand and water over the grass flats smothering the myriad of life supported there until it was dry, dead land, read sand. At night the lights and sounds of these monsters were like something out science fiction, loud, eerie, a steady, a relentless "chug, whoosh, chug whoosh". The land sat vacent for a while and after the sandspurs and seagrapes sprouted, "Paradise Island" grew. "If you build it, they will come", and they did.

Sunset Beach is a finger of land on the south end of Treasure Island, a barrier island next to what is now known to the outside world as Tampa Bay. People who live there consider it St. Petersburg. There was a time when "Sunset" was a small town with a fantastic beach. The Carousel Drive Inn Restaurant and Dairy Freeze, Pages Furniture Exchange and Tackle Shop, Norm's Bait House are gone. I worked at all of them at one time or another. Each has a story which, as we say in the land of blog, will come later. There were beach bars, Hank's, The Driftwood and one of the best biker bars of all time, The Red Barn. The Red Barn is gone replaced by a condo. Hanks may still be there and may still be frequented by fishermen and beach bums. The Driftwood where the locals, high on whatever was available, would gather for a beer and sunset, has morphed into the Caddyshack, complete with valet parking. VALET PARKING!?!?!?!? What's up with that?

They say you can never go home. Well, we can go home but it's not the same. The landscape is changed, the environment is being crushed under concrete and cars and polution. It won't stop. A friend recently told me of a fella who bought land in the middle of the state in the middle of nowhere to turn into homesites. And he will build them and they will come. The Florida I knew was pristine. You kinda' had to be there. And if you weren't, mores the pity. It was a place and a time the earth and I will never see again except in memory. Like the time I saw the unspoiled Elvis in 1957 at the Florida Theatre. The Florida Theatre was demolished in the seventies.

What's the point of all this? It's nice to talk about the environmental issues but if you see the dredges comming, sink the ba***rds!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Nelson

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