|The Captain watches the sea for enemy pirate ships|
He calls me “mate” and I call him “captain”. He is three years old and I am not. And yet recently, for several days in Naples, Florida, his imagination held me captive. He marches through his world carrying a plastic sword and a telescope, scouting for “the bad pirates”, and like a loyal mate, I followed behind him. The couch became our “safe ship”, where no one could hurt or attack us. Everyone should have such a place in their life.
Off duty, his name is Drew and he calls me JoJo. He is the son of my niece, who, along with her husband, has recently moved to beautiful Naples, a well-to-do city on Florida’s Gulf coast where at a four-way stop, I encountered a Maserati, an Austin Healy and a Jaguar. I fortunately was driving a rented Lincoln SUV, so it looked like I fit it. (Although I may have been the only one with my mouth hanging open). This is where the wealthy snow birds, as Floridians love to call those northern pests that annually stoke the Florida economy, live and play for several months of the year.
|No....these are not bathing suit tops!|
Here, residents shop in furniture stores that have valet parking, and lingerie stores that sell jewel-studded bras (this one still has me baffled). Multi-million dollar homes line the palm covered coastline and life is good….if you’re into this kind of thing. And who wouldn’t be? Well….maybe me. I admittedly would love to have the “means” to live among the rich and botoxed beautiful, but it would have to be on my terms. Which, probably wouldn’t match the standards of those wearing Jimmy Choo sandals to the beach, so I would have to insist they lower them.
Although, on one evening outing, I surprisingly discovered a group that definitely doesn’t fit the typical Naples profile, dancing on the beach as the sun was setting. After a lovely dinner out, the family decided to head to the coast to catch the sun setting over the Gulf. It was partly cloudy, which amazingly is what makes a spectacular sunset. And as we approached, we could hear tribal drums banging in the distance.
After climbing the steps over the dunes, we saw a large gathering of what looked like the lost flower-powered children of the sixties, surrounded by torches, gyrating to the rhythm of the beat, wearing feathers, beads and tie-dyed shirts. There were hundreds of them swaying in the breeze and seemingly waving to the setting sun. They were generous in spirit and routinely motioned to the gathering of gawkers to join in and dance. Upon questioning, I found that they meet every two weeks to honor and say good night to the fading sun. The drums get louder as the large orange glow drops beyond the horizon, and they raise their waving arms in unison until the last spark of light seemingly sinks into the water.
The dancing continues as darkness sets in and the waft of….well, an illegal substance, lingers in the air. But it’s all good. I strangely sense a familiar connection with the people of my youth. In my head, I could hear Jim Morrison singing “Come on baby, light my fire”, and I am wearing huge bell bottom jeans and moccasins. I looked down and found Drew dancing while banging on one of the many drums dotting the sand. Even though he was wearing a Polo shirt and J Crew shorts, I thought to myself “ha, he is one of us,”!
As the light disappeared, the crowed started to disperse and we walked the captain across the street for some ice cream. The juxtaposition (have been waiting to use that word since Journalism 101) of the Naples on the other side of the dunes and the Naples on the beach, amazed me. Within a few steps, we left the earth’s natural elements of wind, water, fire and free spirits, and stepped back into the land of luxury cars and lavish condos.
Now, back home in my kitchen, sitting at my counter, drinking from my coffee cup, I’m feeling a little territorial as I reflect about lifestyles and Naples. It is beautiful and my niece and her family will thrive there. And with brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces, and nephews, I have much family in Florida now and will return as often as I can….but most likely never live there.
I believe that seasons give texture to life and I need them to thrive in my own lifestyle. But being able to vacation in the south and live in the north is a bit like having the best of both worlds. And…..as long as there is a ship’s captain calling for his mate to help in his quest to rid the world of bad pirates, I will always be just a plane ride away.