Feeling very Ernest Hemingway

Today as usual I bicycled to Bayfront Park. Actually I went further along Gulf of Mexico Drive to Block 5000 rather than stopping at Block 4000. At the time it seemed a manageable extension of my normal ride. But as I sit here now – not yet numbed by the handful of analgesics I took a moment ago – I can see that at my age the extra miles are work! On my way back I stopped on the beach for a swim. The weather, though continuing sunny over the next week, appears to be headed into the cooler December temperatures which will naturally affect the sea. I wanted to take advantage today of the cloudless sky and warm weather to swim in the sea before having to relent for a couple of weeks.

At the beach there were three groups of people scattered about within my immediate view, left and right. One was a group of middle-aged people, seemingly two married couples who were in the process of folding up their square shaped canopy and collapsing their chairs, apparently heading home. One of the older men, clad in a top and what looked like black leotards (which I assume are to protect from the sun) surveyed me in the water. A younger couple sat further along the beach stretched out on their low-level chaises longues, stunned into tranquillity by the brilliance and heat of the sun. The man cocked his head and looked vacantly at me swimming. I speculated he wondered whether he should do likewise. His female friend next to him lay motionless with her eyes closed, head turned directly into the sun.

Beyond the young couple was a man whom I couldn’t see precisely other than to observe that in addition to a flimsy open shirt he was wearing white cotton pants with the bottoms turned up. He sat on a chair, reading. The white pants reminded me of the white painter pants (with the loop on the side) I wore in Key West a century ago. With the bottoms rolled up (not far above the ankles, just enough to manage their patent over-extension). I remember wearing them while wandering about the lower end of Duval Street one morning on my way towards the Southern Most Point which in those days was just an interlude not a major tourist attraction as it is now, where people line up to have their photo taken on the site. Those were the days! Recovering from alcohol, smoking Winston cigarettes, not giving a damn.

Today I tried that again – not giving a damn. It’s not terribly difficult as behaviour goes, primarily because I have nothing about which to give a damn – other than what I wish to care about. It’s difficult to imagine any disruption when floating on the turquoise salt water adjacent a white sandy beach, having nothing to do but cycle home afterwards. I pondered this while swimming face down, extending my hand to touch the sandy bottom of the sea. The salt water purified me all over. It tasted good on my lips too.

Now that my parents are dead, now that we’ve both retired, now that we’ve sold everything and deputized our affairs, now that we’ve had a granite monument set upon our grave site at the Auld Kirk cemetery, nothing remains but to savour the final act of the play. The philosophic and psychological refinement is to abandon complication, the transition from outward to inward. I still have hopes. There are things I want to do and places I want to go.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock