Before I expand upon the fodder I consumed at the trough today, I feel bound to record the distinction which unwittingly arose while cycling along the Gulf of Mexico Drive this afternoon. The distinction is this, between “here for the season” and “winter here“. I am provoked in this dilation because of three recent putatively insignificant encounters on the bike path, events which frankly perturbed me.
The first – and the one least bearing upon this particular theme – was a comment made by a chap walking along the sidewalk as I cycled in his direction. As I approached him, I saw another cyclist – a woman – coming from behind the chap. I could tell the chap was unaware of the cyclist approaching from the rear. The chap said hello to me as I approached. I did not however respond to him because I was preoccupied with the rear-approaching cyclist and wanted to ensure we didn’t collide. As I was passing the chap – and as the other cyclist was immediately behind – the chap uttered, “Asshole!” I’m guessing he was annoyed I hadn’t acknowledged his magnanimity. The verbal punishment intended for me appears however to have been levied more directly against the woman who rode next to him from behind. Whatever the analysis of this chap’s vulgarity it pointedly arose only within the past several weeks – that is, since the beginning of the New Year.
The second incident was ostensibly more tolerable – because it was less directly offensive – but nonetheless just as frustrating for me. Again the event arose while I was cycling. As I was leaving Bayfront Park and wheeling my way onto the sidewalk along Gulf of Mexico Drive, a woman (and her husband presumably) approached from the opposite direction. She considered it her social obligation to shout to me, “You should be wearing a helmet!” I didn’t have the inclination to explain to her that when I had fallen from my bicycle three years ago on the beach at Ponce Inlet, punctured my lungs, broken my ribs and concussed my head I had been wearing a helmet. This particular event transpired within the past week.
The latest occurrence was today. A woman was walking on the sidewalk. As I approached her from behind I gently rang the bell on my bicycle. Upon hearing the bell, she first jumped to the middle of the sidewalk; then jumped to the left; and finally returned to the right side. Thankfully I had slowed to a crawl prior to this performance and saw the manoeuvres from behind. As she turned to see me, I invited her to proceed – since I had by this time no idea in which direction she intended to go. She insisted that I pass. As I did so, she yelled to me, “You’d be safer along the pavement!” by which I understood her to mean cycling alongside the road. Once again I hadn’t an interest to tell her of a friend of mine who while cycling alongside the road in Ogunquit, Maine had been killed by a passing cement truck.
There is one final reference which is only obliquely connected but I am certain it relates. Only moments after the previous incident I again passed – from behind – a gentleman walking on the sidewalk and as usual rang my bell. He at least moved to the right but exclaimed as I passed, “It sounded like a train!” This is unbelievable because I have but a tiny bell on the bike. By this time I was so stressed I couldn’t resist responding, “You should turn down your hearing aid!” To my surprise, he said he already had!
So where, you ask, is this all going? Well, it is this. The change of the calendar to January 1st marks what it is historically the beginning of “the season“. Regularly these days I hear from people – whether those I encounter at the grocery store or by the pool – that they are “here for the season” invariably followed by “January, February and March” or less. Equally common is the gossip or intelligence that others are here from January 15th – April 15th.
Therein lies the distinction. The people here for the season are three-month interlopers or less. Those – like us – who “winter here” are here for six months, by far the most unusual and far less frequent of the interlopers. Where this impacts us is that after having been here for the initial period from the end of October to this time, we’ve ramped up from a very tranquil period to a noticeably more active – some may even say hectic – period. During that initiative we have effectively begun to blend in with the wallpaper. Meanwhile the new arrivals who are unconditioned to the prior behaviour of those here already presume to weigh in upon and instruct those whom they encounter. The blunt truth is that as six-month residents we qualify for a level of habit with which the others are ill-acquainted and over which they are not entitled to paramountcy.
The only group which I venture to say surpasses our own legitimacy are the year-round residents who almost unanimously have learned to cope with the contamination of tourists. I strengthen our prerogative by reminding the three-month interlopers that they too predominantly are from the north not far removed from the Canadian border, so the American distinction – if any – is faint at best.
This is a plaintive start to the seminal account of our exceedingly pleasant luncheon today with George and Nancy at Tide Tables at Marker 48 on Cortez Avenue in Bradenton Beach. In the lead-up to the reunion Nancy proposed Monday (today) because the weather was anticipated to be fine. Serendipitously it could not have been better! The sky was an unclouded azure dome! The temperature was well over 80 degrees! From the moment we collected them at their condominium we chatted endlessly – though shamefully without much deference to George’s football predilection! Our arrival at the restaurant was convenient and welcomed. We had no trouble parking and securing a table. I can summarize the cuisine by reporting that the Key Lime pie was superb! The others at table affirmed their approval.
After our lunch Nancy and George introduced us to other restaurants and fish mongers in the neighbourhood known as “Cortez Village“. It provided an insight into “old Florida” customs and architecture. We shall as a result no doubt make a point of visiting those venues in the future especially as they are in keeping with our preference for casual dining.
At the end of the day I recovered as is my custom by the pool where I chatted with the regular patrons and took a dip.