Since I was 18 years old (when in 1967 I attended undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall on Bayview Avenue in Toronto, Ontario) I recall ritually cycling on Sunday mornings whenever possible. The occasions were likely unwittingly prompted by a gentleman friend of my sister. He introduced me to a Garlatti Campagnolo 21-speed racing bicycle. The bike is now vintage but when I bought it from Foster & Byles on Bank Street, Ottawa it was considered state-of-the-art. My summer cycling habit in Ottawa, Ontario (where I lived at the time with my parents) predominantly focussed upon the Ottawa River Parkway and the nearby Gatineau Hills. There was a seemingly endless trail of paved bicycle paths with equally magnificent vistas. It was nothing for me to bicycle 100 miles per week.
In subsequent years there were interruptions of my erstwhile cycling custom. When I finished law school and was called to the Bar, and after having relocated from Ottawa in the city to Almonte in the country, cycling became my go-to form of exercise. From that day to this, I have re-ignited and maintained my constancy with cycling. The devotion has now been conveniently extended from summers in Canada to winters in the United States of America. This morning, a Sunday morning here on Key Largo, Florida, I hopped onto my tricycle and pedalled about the commune called Buttonwood Bay where we’re nestled for the season. During this old-fogey venture (regularly amounting to little more than 4 – 6 Kms) at 74 years of age, my ambition is fresh air and moderate stimulation. I was however treated today to an unpredicted benefit; namely, casual encounters.
My first projection was towards the northern end of the laneways within the commune. As I passed a recognizable Mercedes SUV I encountered Cigar Guy descending from his vehicle. He is a chap with whom I have spoken on numerous occasions but neither of us has once asked the other his name nor have either of us introduced himself to the other. So I call him Cigar Guy for what is an obvious reason. He smokes cigars. And I happen to enjoy the smell of cigars. I first got a whiff of his stogie when he visited the Island pool where I was then recumbent enjoying the blazing sunshine. That was almost two months ago. He is from Long Island, New York. By chance several days ago I overheard him speaking on his telephone. I reckoned I heard him say his name was Jeff Mooney. This morning I asked him if I were correct in my assumption. He said, no; his name is Ed Mooney. By the way, he identifies me only as Canada. Together this morning we gossiped about this and that. He informs me he is relocating to another unit for the month of February, apparently for considerably less than he has been paying. His new landlord (to whom he was fortuitously introduced following a chance encounter with a woman when walking about the property) is a physician from Cuba who owns several units here. Cigar Guy reportedly gave the physician a cheque and is at liberty to occupy the unit even though the tenancy doesn’t strictly speaking begin until February 1st. Cigar Guy was quick to caution his daughter (with whom he earlier connected at one point) that he did not buy the new unit. Apparently he already has a place at the top end of Long Island overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean in addition to an impressive 9,600 sq ft house (which I recall may be on Oak Island, part of Long Island). Cigar Guy is, by all I can gather from his casual assertions, a successful businessman who has much to do with infrastructure towers for internet capability. Frankly neither of us dwells upon what the other does or did; instead we trade apocryphal accounts of amusing adventures.
Daughter and Mother:
After leaving Cigar Guy I directed my tricycle to the Island which, as the title suggests, is within the centre of the commune, accessed by a small curved bridge over the canal where the residents park their boats. Two women were walking along the laneway on the Island. As I was about to pass by them, they hailed me down to ask a question. The older woman of the two was curious to know my assessment of the tricycle. She advised me she has some balance issues and wondered whether a tricycle might be the answer for exercise. We discussed the matter at some length, including my speculation that it would be preferable for accommodation purposes to have a 3-speed tricycle rather than the single-speed I have. When I was about to leave, I asked the older woman how old she is. She gleefully reported 91 years of age! I told her in no uncertain terms, “I want what you’re eating!” Truthfully, she looks very handsome indeed! Turns out she is the mother of the other woman. The mother comes from the Chicago area but winters here on Key Largo. The daughter did not say much throughout my conversation with the mother.
Woman and Small Dog:
I then cheerfully pedalled off the Island onto the laneway leading to the southern end of the commune. As I was coming back, a woman walking her small dog motioned me to ask a question. She asked whether I had earlier been speaking with a woman on the Island which of course I replied I had. This woman with the small dog was another daughter of the woman with whom I had previously spoken. This daughter was more garrulous than her sister. She asked to sit upon the tricycle seat to determine whether her mother (who is shorter than I) would be able to reach the handle bars. We drew qualified conclusions. She thanked me for my time – which naturally I told her was no imposition whatsoever – and I once again headed off on my Sunday morning cycling journey.
Fancy Black Truck:
Along my continued cycling tour throughout the neighbourhood I was verbally accosted by a woman calling me by name. She had the clarity to add that it was “Rhonda without the hat!” This instantly identified her to me. Normally I had only seen Rhonda by the pool wearing her broad-rimmed hat. She looked remarkably younger without her hat. She was driving a large exotic looking black truck. I haven’t sufficient acquaintance with trucks to identify the specific model but I could see it was a grand production. Rhonda’s voice is singular, more so than most others, so that helped me to recognize her. We merely shared several pleasantries before she and I pushed off in opposite directions.
As you may have observed already, the matter of nouns of address is generally overlooked in Buttonwood Bay. There are exceptions but mostly from younger members of the community whom I reason haven’t the peril of burgeoning memory loss which candidly affects most of the older residents here. The most generous description of the inhabitants is that associated with a retirement community. It is patently no indignity to forget a person’s name. Nor is it a discredit to call them by an associative term. In any event, on the final leg of my Sunday morning tour I met Hat Lady walking. We have talked before many times. Because we had had a long chat together as recently as yesterday there wasn’t much news to exchange today.