Monday, May 31, 2004

Tampa Bay 

One thing that I have enjoyed about Tampa is the openness of the people here. Yes, the weather is fantastic; the wind coming off the Gulf while you're nursing a beer is wonderful; the city lights reflected off the water is amazing; but the people I've met have been amicable and friendly (except for that old fart parking lot security guard at the Green Iquanna -- he was an asshole).

Rueben, a Latino stock trader from New York who was talking for so long with us, his woman companion had to come get him. Paula, the body building science teacher who makes her good money bartending. The couple who hailed from Dayton and complained at how dark they were becoming. The hostess who hid her facial deformity behind her hair and hand -- she, in particular, was extremely nice and one can't help but feel for the situation she was in because half of her face was "normal" while the other swollen and bulbous.

Tampa reminded me a great deal of Toronto in this respect, the people, whether natives or tourists, were willing to meet and talk with strangers and have a good time. J told me about a family he met who had sold all their earthly belongings, bought a RV, pulled their three kids from school, and traveled for a year. At the end of the trip, they would decide where they wanted to live, sell the RV, and start over. What a wonderful experience. And what a wonderful way to figure out where you feel most comfortable.

It reminded me of my experience when I was younger -- before the weight of responsibility and reality had overtaken me. I had finished high school in January and spent about 3 months working full-time and getting ancy. As soon as the summer hit, loaded up my 72 Monte Carlo and my Siberian Husky, Kiesha Blue, and took off. This, of course, much to the dismay of my mother. I drove south -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, up the coast to DC, back west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains, and home. A great deal came from those experiences but there was one I always wished I'd taken more time with -- I was, I believe, traveling in North Carolina when my car died. I donned my backpack, grabbed the dog, and starting walking. I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to do it. The car was my safety blanket -- it would get someplace.

A guy a few years older than me stopped and asked if I needed a hand. He was just out of the Army and lived close by, right on the edge of a national park. His father was an old hand with cars and might be able to help. We got to his place, and I was struck by the chickens roaming the front yard. His father and mother both came out and we chatted for some time about the dog, the travels, etc. They invited me to dinner. I declined, said I needed to get on the road -- and the father said, hold on a sec, where you at? He grabbed some tools and followed us back to my car. Within about ten minutes he got it started and I was shaking hands and saying thank you, and army was petting blue. I wasn't a mile down the road when I wished I had taken them up on dinner.

Yes, I was tired of peanut butter and cold, canned soup; more importantly, I was happy to talk with them. They were good people and had a story to tell. I was so immersed in my own I couldn't hear it. I wish I had.

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