Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Warmth of the Sun

It was two years ago this month that I bought my little condo in Miami Beach, and last month that I stayed there for the fourth time. I arrived on Christmas morning and returned to San Diego on January 20th. The relationship with my off-and-on girlfriend there is on the skids again, and I'm not sure whether we finally realize that we're wasting each others time, or whether this is just an interlude to another round of making each other miserable.

She quoted some Biblical passage--as she often does--that says that two animals unequally yoked make a poor team. She's a public school teacher with a job that basically sucks, and she lives paycheck to paycheck. I'm a part time community college instructor, and at this point something of an investor in real estate. She has three grown sons that she frets over as if they were still schoolkids, while I don't even have any live plants in my place. I get pissed off because I only see her once or twice during my visits, and feel like she's making excuses. She gets pissed off because I apparently don't understand how hectic her life is, even when she's off from school, and because I feel that she actually enjoys being stressed out all the time.

I arrived in Miami weighing close to 250 pounds, with my pants getting way too tight. I left 15 pounds lighter, with everything fitting better and my body in pretty much the same shape it's been for the past decade or so. I'm working on losing another 15 pounds, which would make me downright lean as there's a lot of muscle under the unneeded poundage.

It was a deliberate regimen of eating less and exercising every day, either bicycling, long walks on the beach sand, or road runs along the Surfside and Bal Harbor walking paths. The north end of the Open Space Park (just a couple of blocks from my place) to the jetty and back is about 3.2 miles, and on my last day there I was able to run the complete distance for the first time. I did it with 5 pound weights on each arm, even though it probably would have made more sense to work up to finishing the run without the weights first, then add them later.

At any rate, it was not-too-shabby for a 61 year old who loves food and alcohol.

My bike got stolen during a rare foray into South Beach. The cop said it was likely one of the homeless types who hang around outside the branch library on 22nd. They wait until you go inside, then fetch some bolt cutters from the bushes and cut the lock. Then they sell it to other types who ship it far away from Miami Beach, often to places like Haiti and Cuba.

When it happened, I decided to walk back home along the beach. It was getting toward dusk, and it was a moody feeling to follow the wooden boardwalk to the end, just past the Eden Roc, then walk on sand in the dark, the only person on the beach. There's no beachfront path again until you get to the Akoya, the tall building in North Beach that looks like it has a crown on top. Then you can follow a concrete pathway to the beginning of the Open Space Park.

I'd never done such a thing before and didn't have a very good conception of the distance, but I remember passing the Blue Diamond and Green Diamond Buildings, then trudging trudging trudging along until the Akoya came into view in the distance. Some songs, particularly the title above, ran through my head during that long walk, and when I got home I made a new playlist from the 800 or so on my phone. I called it "Early 2016 Mood."

I thought of my gal, and of my loneliness. I thought of my two little condos on both coasts of the United States. I was also bummed about my bike, which had served me so well since summer 2014, when I hauled any number of furnishings and other items across the causeway as I made the new place my own. Toward the end of the walk, I'd even sung aloud:

"What good is the dawn
"That grows into day?
"The sunset at night
"Or living this way?
"For I have the warmth of the sun
"Within me at night."

She came over on my last evening there, even though she had an early day at school. We talked until almost two in the morning. My flight would leave not long after daylight, so I didn't go to bed that night. I gave my place a final cleaning, turned off the appliances, locked up, and walked all the way down Collins Avenue to the Arthur Godfrey Causeway where the airport bus stops.

The flight back to San Diego was uneventful, and a friend who works near the airport picked me up in the late afternoon. We stopped in Shelter Island and had a drink or two with some happy hour snacks. Life was good.

The Miami Beach place now has a lot of the same stuff I keep in San Diego. I bought another bluetooth speaker to use with my phone for music there, and the same model DVD player. Until my return from Miami last summer, I'd never even owned a DVD player. I'm not a big collector of videos, and everything I wanted I already had on VHS.

On return last July, I went on an upgrade kick, digitizing all my music and loading it into a new smartphone, buying a flat screen TV and dumping my cable company for an indoor antenna, and just in general becoming less of a 61 year old fuddy-duddy using 30 year old technology. Changing my surroundings several times a year has been good for me. It's neat to own two somewhat similar places on two coasts, and to be able to keep in touch on matters no matter where I am physically.

Millenial types just take this for granted, but for me there's still some appreciation of what a wonder it is. I'm not the sort to walk around staring down at my phone while working it with both hands. In fact it's hard to resist the urge to punch one of those self-centered, ever-connected, narcissist wussies in the face when they bump into me because they're not watching where the fuck they're going. My phone is usually at home, turned off. It's nice though, to know I'm as connected as I want to be.

In Miami Beach, I love my waterfront view. In San Diego, I love my stone lantern and my rock garden. In both places, I love my cozy little space, designed by and for myself. In a few years, the Prescott property will cease to be a rental and become a third hideaway. Life's OK.

Outside the San Diego condo

Outside the Miami Beach condo

Inside the San Diego condo

Inside the Miami Beach condo