Saturday, 19 July 2003
The phone rings. "WTF?", I think, as I leap out of bed to answer it.
"This is Brian, your driver. I'm outside your house."
Decongestants had been playing with my sleep cycle for a couple of days. I do remember setting the alarm before I finally went to bed last night, but I guess I must have slept through it. I glance at the front door, grateful to see all my bags packed and waiting there. I have only to put on a baseball hat and some clothes and spring out the door.
"Ok, thanks Brian. I'll be out in five minutes".
I head back for the bedroom, but the phone rings again.
"Uh, this is Brian again. I read the orders wrong. The orders are for 7:45 am, and it's only 7:15 AM. I'll be back in half an hour."
What a relief!
I put some coffee on, fly into the shower, gulping and dressing at the same time. I put the bags out the door and run around shutting and locking the windows. Out the door I spring, unaware that I've forgotten something MAJOR.
Traffic on Long Island was light this Saturday morning, as we sped our way west, uneventfully, toward John F. Kennedy International Airport. I checked my bags curbside and went into the Jet Blue terminal to buy some breakfast. Following my nose toward the coffee, I spied that familiar red, white and green sign. Krispy Kremes! What's better than this? Parked myself at a picnic table outside to partake, and whipped out my cell phone to check in on a friend who has been ill. Suddenly, I realized what it was that I'd forgotten - the charger! Soon enough, it was time to board the flight, which was uneventful.
It took forever and a day to get the luggage. In the meantime, I visited Starbucks for a mocha frappacino (tall, no whipped cream), and hung just outside the baggage claim to enjoy the deliciously hot humidity that is Florida. After the bags finally came, my next mission was to pick up my Hertz rental and make a pit stop at the Publix supermarket on Summerlin Road. Publix didn't seem to have cell phone chargers.
Away I went then, over the causeway and onto Sanibel Island, where one is immediately forced to slow down, owing to the 35 MPH speed limit. Down Periwinkle, past all the good shopping haunts from last year, a right on Tarpon Bay Road, and then a left onto Sanibel-Captiva Road, where 35 MPH to Bowman's Beach makes it a long stretch. Oh, and a pit-stop for a turtle crossing the road made it even longer! Finally, I turned into the Condos at Blind Pass.
Since I was a "late arrival", the clubhouse was closed, but there is a lock box to which I'd been given a combination. I pawed through all the envelopes until I found one with my name on it. Inside the envelope were the keys to the condo (Unit F-207) and copious instructions regarding the rules and regulations of the condo association. Toddlers must wear Huggies swim pants. Guests must recycle. No glass in the pool area. Don't disturb the turtle nests. Park only in designated stalls in the car port. Blah, blah, blah...
After wandering a bit, I found F-207 and let myself in.
A small foyer has a double closet door on the right, and a half bath on the left. The double doors conceal the washer and dryer. There's another closet after the 1/2 bath, filled with beach and pool gear - cooler, boogie boards, sand toys, chairs, umbrella, even a collection of flip flops in a variety of sizes. After the washer/dryer nook is the full kitchen, with a bar opening into the dining room. The dining table is a sheet of glass perched atop 2 enormous Venus half shells made of plaster. In one corner of the dining room is a wicker hamper filled to overflowing with shells - mostly Florida fighting conchs and lightening whelks. Blending into the dining room is a cavernous living room, which is dominated by two cream leather couches. off the living/dining area is a screened balcony/porch, furnished with wicker and a ceiling fan. Out there is another wicker hamper full of shells.
I bolt up the stairs to check out the bedrooms. Off a long hallway there is a full bath and a queen guest room with an enormous closet. At the other end of the hall is the master suite. King bed with a love seat across the foot, dresser, end tables, TV, full bath, sink/dressing area, and a walk-in closet that is housing a fold-away twin bed and a folding card table, with still plenty of room to run around inside. To the side of the king bed is another screened porch, with a wicker swing!
Yes, all this space is overkill for one person. I was supposed to have a roomie who bailed at the last minute. Plus, it was so cheap, comparatively speaking ($868 for the week, including the 11% Florida resort tax), it didn't make sense to take one of the more expensive one bedroom places I'd been looking at that are all closer to or directly on the beach.
After 6 million trips to the car, lugging suitcases and groceries, I was finally able to rest for a few minutes. First things first - them there bags are housing dirty laundry! Why make a trip to the dreaded laundromat before your vacation, when your condo has a washer/dryer? I started the laundry and then made a quick dinner - salad, broiled scallops, and corn on the cob drowned in honey butter. Hey, Land-O-Lakes - how about making honey butter available in New York, 'k? It's one of my favorite things about visiting southwest Florida.
It was now rather late in the afternoon, bordering on evening, but I still had a couple of hours of sunshine in which to do some major exploring. I had to find the beach! I knew from the website that my unit was quite close to the path that led to the beach, but didn't know how to find it. I wandered the paths between the units, admiring the way they'd left the surrounding "jungle" all wild and intact. There were lots of palms and tall, piney looking trees (a bit like our cedars here up north, but the branches are configured differently), with lush, dense undergrowth surrounding the place, which I loved. But I couldn't understand why there was a chain link fence separating us from the jungle. Once I finally found the path to the beach, I understood. There on the chain link gate was a sign that said, "Close the gate!", with a picture of an alligator beneath the words! A few feet after the gate was a bridge that spans a beautiful bayou, teaming with life. And I mean, plops to the right of me and plops to the left - didn't know which way to turn my head!
Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'....
While crossing the bayou bridge, I spied a hawk-like bird, brown with a white head, skimming the water. He landed on a tree, some distance away, and surveyed his domain. I quickly fished out my filed glasses, thinking, "Gotta be an osprey, a bit lighter in color than ours back home, but..." - NO! Bald eagle! Also, saw a jet black bird with the gracefully pointed silhouette of a snowy egret, worshipping the sun. No shit, he stood on the bank with his wings unfurled, allowing the sun to beat upon his breast. Wild! Then, I heard the unmistakable laughter of a woodpecker behind me. I whirled around, training the field glasses in the trees. Pileated woodpecker! Back home, I have downies, ladder-backs, and red-bellied/headed ones, but I've never seen a pileated (comb on top, like Woody) before. Too cool!
As the bridge sloped down to the opposite shore of the bayou, I took care to scan the banks for alligators laying in wait, but saw none. Following the bridge was a forested tract that turned out to a long path of well-pounded sand, beaten mercilessly by the sun. A variety of grasses, shrubbery, and palms dotted here and there lined either side of the path. In fact, the whole way from the condo to the beach is only a just-wide-enough swath cut through the wilderness. As I approached a small rise in the path before me, there began to emerge the jewel of Florida, all glinty and blue-green in the distance - ah, the Gulf!
As the shoreline came into view over the rise, my heart was struck with a visceral fear. The shoreline was most definitely red. My mind immediately shuddered as the phrase "red tide" flashed through it. I realized it was ridiculous, since I don't remember reading where the red tide is actually "red" - I think it has more to do with some bacteria that cause fishes to die and their corpses to wash up and create a bad smell. Then people start to have allergy symptoms and cough a lot.
I could see, however, what would become my challenge for the coming days. The shore was lined in some sort of red kelp, perhaps the legacy of the hurricane storm that had slammed the Texas coast the week before. It hovered protectively over the bed of shells that a person with quick reflexes and a net on a stick can harvest for some pretty good stuff - provided they can see it through that red, hairy haze.
to be continued...
Monday 21 July 2003
The pattern of days here seems to consist of the following: sleep late; make coffee, eat breakfast, and putter about the condo; look up today's low tide times in the Sunny Day Guide (available free at all shopping locations); hit the beach and look for shells; come back to the condo and wash the shells, looking up the names in the Sunny Day Guide; make dinner and watch the evening news; read and go to sleep.
The screened in porches have become the essential spots for escaping from air conditioning, relaxing with coffee in the morning, and for reading. This duplex should have come with two a/c zones. However, heat rises, and the thermostat is at the top of the stairs. Therefore, there can be quite a disparity between the upstairs and downstairs temperatures.
The downstairs porch offers an afternoon view of the sun setting behind the trees. It can get quite hot out there with the afternoon sun beating upon that side of the condo, but fortunately, the downstairs porch has a ceiling fan. What it does not have, however, is a light. So, after all the natural light has dissipated sufficiently to cause eyestrain, the options are to turn on the dining room light and open the drapes behind me, or move to the upstairs porch. That one has a light, but no ceiling fan. However, as I prefer heat and humidity to air conditioning, and since the upstairs porch has that wicker swing, it was a no-brainer to move up there once light was needed.
Both porches give the impression of living in a tree house. Mine is a corner, second floor unit, and the porches are pretty close to the very corner. The view consists of the top of the carport, which effectively cammoflauges the cars, and jungle beyond it. There is a big tree along side of the porches whose branches of leaves effectively block the next unit from view. At times, all the air conditioning units go quiet all at once, and one can hear the roar of wind through the trees, as well as the distant tumbling of the Gulf's waves. There are lots of bird sounds happening - mourning doves weeping, the maniacal laughter of the pileated woodpeckers, the mighty cry of the osprey, a clucking sound that I'm guessing is moor hens, and a strange, jungleish sound which I always thought was monkeys whenever I've heard it in a film with jungle scenes. We've all heard it - it's an ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-AH-AH-AH-AH-AH AH! type of a sound. It must be some sort of bird, because I don't think there are any packs of monkeys roaming this here forest! At night, I can hear the chattering of raccoons as they scavenge through the nearby mangrove mudflats (and probably, the dumpster in the parking lot!). Smells seem to be sharper here, especially at night - salt on the breeze, and a fresh, piney scent, mingling with the spicey aroma of the candle I'm burning.
Between academia and the job from hell, reading for pleasure has become something sacred and rare in my life. The first book I read on Sanibel was Margaret Salinger's "Dreamcatcher" - her memoir of growing up with famous author dad J.D. Salinger. I have to say that up until finishing this memoir, J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" was my all-time favorite novel. However, now that I know that he was such a pitiful excuse for a husband and father, my enjoyment of his writings has become tarnished. This man and his wife were classic examples of those who should not breed, for they steadfastly failed to comprehend their responsibilities as parents. If even half of what Peggy Salinger has written is true, both parents needed institutionalization followed by a swift kick in the pants to straighten their sorry asses out.
After finishing the Salinger memoir, I dove into a book that I'd managed to overlook in my childhood - "The Secret Garden". I just loved it, and want to go right outside and build four walls with an ivy covered door, and bury the key! This book was demolished in one short evening. I then started on Anne Morrow Lindburgh's "Gift from the Sea", which I understand was written while she was vacationing on nearby Captiva Island in the 1950s.
to be continued...
Wednesday, 23 July 2003
Well, I managed to get a horrific sunburn on the SIDES of my legs! I can blame the hypnotic, obsessive-compulsive allure of shelling. Here on Bowman's beach, one needs to be quick about it if one sees a shell dancing in the surf that one wishes to capture. Last year, I was on Sanibel around the full moon, and also during a big storm at sea. Large, unblemished shells were much more in abundance because of those factors - it was almost like being here in January. This year, the pickings are slimmer and more appropriate to the season, and owing to the damned red kelp hovering like a nanny over the surfline, one has to work for it. Last year, I thought using "technology" a.k.a. a shelling net on a stick, was "cheating" - this year, I considered it merely a levelling of the playing field, to at least be somewhat competitive with the kelp. I found a shelling net and a mesh bag in the beach supply closet at the condo, and away I went.
Schlepping to the beach with a chair and umbrella is a chore at this condo compound. It's not like last year at the Sundial, where I would walk out of the condo and onto the beach and select a chair, then wave a dollar bill in the air at the umbrella guy, who would come marching over with a big corkscrew drill to make a hole, then plunge the umbrella pole into it and firmly secure it to the sand for me. But I managed to survive hauling beach gear, and settled down under the umbrella with my book to wait for the tide to start rolling out.
I was covered head to foot with Panama Jack waterproof SPF 30 as I marched down to the surf with the bag and net. I had also prudently donned a t-shirt with a neckline up-to-here, so that my formerly radiated skin would never see the light of day, and one of my Disney baseball caps. With my back to the Gulf and the net in hand, calico scallops and lettered olives seemed to be the catch of the day. Even with the tide going out, the stupid seaweed was very much in the way. It was so damned difficult to see through the kelp, I eventually began to employ the random scoop method. You can't see anything, but you can feel through your water shoes that you are standing on quite a bed of shells, so you make a random scoop with the net. After picking out the !#$%ing seaweed, you sort through what you netted until you find some sort of treasure, then deposit that into the mesh bag tied at your waist. Empty shell net and repeat. If you are really lucky, one net full will yield multiple treasures, but more often than not, net full after net full gets unceremoniously dumped back into the sea, having yielded nothing. Sometimes, you find something really tiny that will slip through the holes in the mesh bag, so you put that in your pocket. Only, on this day, I was not wearing shorts, just my bathing suit, which has no pockets. So, I dug a hole in the sand on the shore, out of harm's way, put in a big cockle that I'd found, and kept depositing the teeny-tinys into the cockle.
I was soon to find that there was another reason to regret not wearing shorts. I have no clue precisely how long I was out there today, but I suddenly realized that it had been long enough for Panama Jack to have completely washed away, and that my legs were burning. Specifically, the tops and sides of my thighs, which had been catching the reflection off the water all afternoon, had turned a lovely lobster red. Gathering up all the gear, I made my way painfully up the sand path, through the forest, across the bayou bridge, and back to the condo, pitstopping briefly at the shell/body washing station by the tennis courts to shower off the sand and clean out my water shoes.
Once home, I ran a cool bath and dumped a large quantity of Aveno oatmeal body wash into it, then soaked for a while. I slathered my feverish skin with aloe and donned a t shirt and a pair of ultra-light cotton pants with a drawstring waist. Here I sit with ice packs on both thighs, writing my woes. I know, I should have re-applied. I figured out that I was out there about three hours! No wonder I'm burnt. No shelling for me tomorrow, unless I wear these here long cotton pants. I smell a shopping day!
Thursday 24 July 2003
After writing last night, I spent some contemplative time playing with the shells in the big hampers here at the condo. I don't know why I am so obsessed with seashells. I've been this way since childhood, when we were members of a beach club on Atlantic Beach in NY. Every day, my brothers and my friends and I would go to the jetty beach across Reynolds channel from the Rockaways. The boys would fish off the jetty, and I would play on the cove with my friends. We'd hunt snails on the jetty, and would squeal with delighted horror each time we pulled one off of the rocks and it made that squishy, **suck** sound as it defensively retracted into it's shell. If you were really lucky, you might find an empty snail shell or two hanging about, or maybe some teeny-tinys. I once glued some to a perfectly smooth stone I'd found, and covered the whole thing with clear nail polish, to make a shiny, miniature paperweight. I wonder whatever happened to that thing? If you were really, REALL Y lucky, your empty snail shell had a hole already bored into it, either by some bird or some other, cannibalistic gastropod, and you could wear it on a chain or shoestring around your neck.
The people who own this place had amassed quite a collection of large Van Henning's cockles and Florida fighting conchs, as big as your fist. I found, after fishing these out of the hampers, that there were teeny-tinys in the bottom, unnoticed. They had even found one perfect specimen of a "macaroni and cheese" shell, a small horse conch so dubbed by me because of the color, which is pure Kraft. They had a fair amount of lightening whelks, too, and one partially damaged paper fig, so called because the shell is really thin, translucent, and fragile. So I arranged all their shells such that the teeny-tinys and whelks were displayed inside of the cockles, which were arranged atop of the piles of fighting conchs.
I was determined to find a mac-n-cheese shell for my very own, and had read on the internet that the place to find smaller specimens was the lighthouse beach at the east end of the island, near the fishing pier. Thus, I began to formulate my plan for Thursday - I would shop my way from one end of Periwinkle Way to the other, and end up on the lighthouse beach about an hour before low tide. I would wear the long, cotton drawstring pants to protect myself from the evil sun, so there!
First stop on Thursday morning was the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel-Captiva Drive. Holy smokes, this place has shells from all over the world, some so strange-looking, I would not have even thought to call them shells had they not been seen in a shell museum! They had a bunch of neat dioramas which depicted the various shelling habitats on the island, and some information about the Calusa native tribes that used to inhabit these islands, and who had built massive shell mounds (much like burial mounds found out West). Anyone interested should check out their website and see the pages and pages of pictures of shells they have there.
After the shell museum, I picked up a new bottle of aloe with lanocaine added, a car phone charger (my poor cell phone was dead by now), and an ensemble of long sleeved t-shirt and drawstring capris made of t-shirt material, both in white. Also a white cotton hat with a brim, since I'd made the discovery that not only did my legs get burnt yesterday, so did the tops of my ears. I also found some souvenir type items for my nieces - we cannot have Auntie coming home empty-handed, that simply would not do!
Finally, I arrived at the lighthouse beach, and parked close to the pier. It's two dollars an hour to park, and I didn't think I should be there longer than that, so I pumped my two dollars into the machine, placed the parking permit on my dashboard, put on my water shoes and headed out. As I emerged from the woods onto the beach, I saw the pier, and to the west of the pier, I saw a line of shells heaped onto the shore that seemed to go on forever - shelling Mecca!
I found shells I recognized, and shells I'd never seen before. I guess the other side of the pier is actually San Carlos Bay, so I found more bay-type shells there than on the beaches further west, where I'd been accustomed to hunting on previous trips. All you have to do on this beach is squat down and get as close to eye-level with the ground as possible, then survey all around you. Anywhere you reach, within arms-length, there are shells for the picking. I found a great quantity of juvenile Florida fighting conchs, button snails (also called sundials), augers, ceriths, apple murex, worm shells in remarkably good condition, juvenile lightening and pear whelks, one slightly damaged paper fig whelk, dozens of lettered olives (some with their crowns still on, which was amazing to me), and oh, oh, oh! I found four, count 'em, FOUR of the coveted macaroni-and-cheese horse conchs! Also, a number of periwinkles and nutmegs, Gulf oyster drills, baby wentletrapps, sharp-rib drills, true tulips and banded tulips, Florida cones, one turkey wing, kitten paws, Florida spiney jewel boxes, giant cockles and prickly yellow cockles, calico scallops and clams, and a few I cannot identify. The crowning achievement was when I found two, full sized Florida fighting conchs, just by turning over what looked like a piece of a shell with the toe of my water shoe. Pockets bulging, I walked back to my car feeling as fully satiated as if I had just had a six-course meal. I'd been on the beach an hour and 27 minutes, but no park ranger had noticed that my parking permit had expired. Woo hoo!
Cleaning my shells while still on-island consists of putting them all into a kitchen collander and swishing them in a pot of water, to remove as much sand as possible. Also, especially in the case of the lettered olives, any debris that has collected in the mouth of the shell needs to be pried out with the point of a knife or similar slim, sharp instrument. I am very careful while I'm on the beach to assure that there is "nobody home" before I take a shell. However, I still like to give them a soak in plain water before they are laid out on towels to dry, because I don't want them to smell up my suitcases during the journey north and home. Proper cleaning and barnacle removal happens when I get back home to Long Island.
to be continued...
Friday, 25 July 2003 - Part 5
I visited the beach across the bayou bridge briefly this morning, making a stop on the bridge itself to spy on the wildlife with my field glasses. I saw the usual array of birds, and watched as a turtle struggled ashore, pulling himself onto a big rock to dry off in the sun.
Someone has set crab traps along the bayou bridge, tying them to the rail and lowering them into the water with fishing line. They appear to be baited with what looks like hunks of chicken breast. I am perplexed - what's to stop an alligator from coming along and stealing the bait? And, since they are the sort of traps that collapse flat once they are in the water, how does anyone expect to capture any crabs without monitoring them? The crabs themselves can just walk off with a meal, unless you are there to yank the trap up at the precise moment that the crab walks on it, which pulls up the sides and traps him. Like I said, I'm perplexed!
One thing I noticed on Bowman's Beach this morning is that the tide not only brings new shells to shore, it also uncovers those that are burried just beneath the surface of the sand. Each wave has the potential to both add and subtract, making it a whole new beach. Now we know what the term "shifting sands" means.
The tides on the lighthouse beach are much calmer - the waves sort of lap, rather than really break. Also, there is no confounded kelp on the lighhouse beach, which makes it MUCH easier to find that which is waiting for me there. I decide to head back to the lighthouse beach for the day. On the way, I pass two racoons by the side of Sanibel-Captiva Road that have apparently joined the ranks of road kill. There are speed warnings everywhere you go, so that this type of thing might be avoided, but I guess there are some instances where avoid it one cannot. They have these really cool speed detectors that let you know how fast you are going. Sometimes, there is a police car parked right next to the speed detector, as an added incentive to slow the heck down, you might hit something! One of the raccoons was in a rather bizarre position, on his back, with one leg sticking up at a weird angle. I thought at first that a child had lost a plush toy.
Once again, the lighthouse beach proved most fruitful in the search for shells. For insurance against the sunburn, I was wearing the long legs and sleeves I'd purchased the day before, with the brim of the new hat pulled securely over my poor, red ears. There are some trees lining the shore around the fishing pier, which provide some natural, dense shade under which to park oneself and rest a bit. I didn't used to be this sun-sensitive before chemo, never had to worry about getting too burnt. My friend Penny used to joke about watching my back turn black, no sunscreen, as we lay on the beach playing backgammon or acey-deucy. For many years after chemo, I'd steadfastly avoided the beach, but secretly mourned the loss of what I considered my long-lost childhood friend. That changed when I first became brave enough to visit Sanibel. I just need to be really careful, and not get so caught up in things that I forget to reapply the sunscreen!
It was fascinating to watch the sky over Ft. Myers, across the water, turn all kinds of black, purple, and gray, hear the thunder and see the lightening, while I stood in full sunshine on the opposite shore. Later that night, back at the condo, I would discover that the lightening had set off a serious brush fire in North Ft. Myers, as well as killed a giraffe at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I would also experience the full fury of a Florida thunderstorm as it finally hit Sanibel. I sat in amazement on the upstairs balcony, lights off, watching it zig zag across the sky, and hearing it pelt the carport roof below me. Before I knew it, it was over. Like they say - if you don't like the weather in Florida, wait five minutes or so!
The evening news also informed me of two other things - red tide had apparently reached Ft. Myers Beach, as dead fishes were appearing on the shores, and there were two reported cases of West Nile virus which had triggered the orders to spray via helicopter to kill the mosquitos. Being an Islander living one block from the wetlands, I have mixed feelings about this. In the dead of the summer, I have to coat myself with OFF before even going to the mailbox, but I don't like what the spraying does to the ecologically fragile area in which I live. And it pisses me off no end that I take the trouble to plant and grow vegetables and herbs organically, only to have a truck come down my street spraying Lord knows what into my yard! Still, if people are becoming very ill and maybe even dying, I don't know what the alternative might be but to kill the mosquitos.
On the way home from the beach this evening, I stopped to pick up pizza for dinner. I didn't want to have to cook, having a large quantity of shells to clean and lay out to dry, and also having to pack, as tomorrow I must check out by 10:00 am. Whoever said that they just don't know how to make pizza or bagels outside of New York was right, in my opinion. OK, they make decent pizza in Chicago, but definitely not in Florida - the crust was chewy like a pretzel or like bread, not the crispy stuff that my local pizzaria serves. Also, tragedy struck for dinner - I had just put the lime in my last Corona, and managed to knock it off the counter onto the floor, where the bottle smashed into a million pieces. And me in my bare feet! The kitchen smelled like a brewery after that, and I had to settle for a peach Snapple instead. Which turned out to be ok, since I needed the empty bottle in which to pack shells for the journey home! They can get crushed in your suitcases if yo u don't put them in something hard. I had two empty pignoli jars from when I'd made pesto for dinner a few nights before, and several empty Snapple bottles with the twist on/off caps. Also picked up a clear glass cookie jar at a local "antique" (read: junk) shop, and used that for the big ones, with the lid taped shut.
Evac mode consisted of washing all my clothes before packing them (I do love to arrive home with clean clothes, even though I often arrive on vacation with dirty ones!), and going from room to room to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. I did have to break out the fold-up carry on bag to put some of my shopping spoils into for the journey home. My oldest niece is into puzzles big time - she even painstakingly put together and glued a 3-D of Cinderella's Castle for my birthday last year. In a moment of weakness, without thinking about it's bulk, I bought her the full-length puzzle of Sanibel Island, with which I am sure she will occupy herself with much glee for the duration of the summer.
to be continued...
Saturday 26 July 2003 - Part 6
The plan for Saturday was a 10:00 am checkout time, and a 4:30 PM flight back to NY, with shelling and shopping in between. When I left the condo, I went back to the lighthouse beach, only to find a) high tide, and I mean HIGH tide, b) lots of green, grassy seaweed skeins just above the tide line, and c) dead fish everywhere. I turned right around and made to leave, but decided to just hang out on the fishing pier for a bit, digging the sunshine and watching the people fish. Schools of thousands of smaller fish milled in perfect circles around the pilons of the pier, with an occassional bigger fish thrown into the mix. The water was surprisingly clear, being calmer than at Bowman's beach, and I could see pen shells and other larger mollusks making their way across the white, sandy bottom. The sun sparkled just so as to make your soul hurt a little to see the beauty of it, dancing across the blue-green water. There was that end-of-vacation feeling, sorrow to see it over, but glad to be going home.
Off I sped then, across the causeway, to hit the Sanibel Outlet Stores, where I was pleasantly surprised to see the Gap store there carrying Om, one of the fragrances they stopped selling, at least in NY, a couple of years ago. Despite many temptations, that was the only purchase I made before heading back to the airport to ditch the car and check in. I saw one of the spraying helicopters on the way, and rolled up the windows while watching him dart and dive and spray the coast.
The flight home was uneventful. I do have two comments about air travel.
1) In Ft. Myers (Southwest International Airport), they made EVERYONE take off their shoes. No more of this, oh they are sneakers, they don't have a metal bar in them. No exceptions. Not so a week earlier at JFK.
2) Also at Ft. Myers, I got to see them X-Ray my baggage. When you check your bags at the curb, they load them into this hole in the side of the building. You can then go in and watch them put your bags through X-Ray and a possible search (yep, they have the gloves and the poking sticks and everything). I watched until mine were carted away, conviced they'd missed an opportunity to paw through someone's CLEAN laundry. Boy there were a ton of guards around the X-Ray stations.
I'm still on vacation, just no longer away on vacation. I cleaned all my shells on Sunday, soaking them in a 50-50 solution of bleach and water, picking off barnacles and other calcifications. You're supposed to rub them lightly with mineral or baby oil, to bring out the colors as though they were wet, then buff them down, but I never get around to that part. I like to go to antique/junk stores and find old jars to keep them in, so now they are all clean and in their jars. All of my patio plants survived, as Long Island got the rain that was predicted before I left - which was a good thing, because based on that forecast, I didn't bother to set the timer to auto-water them. I feel relaxed and restored, as I always do when I've been to Sanibel, and I'm ready to go back to the rough and tumble, high-stress zone that is Wall Street. I've also got the shelling bug so badly, I've been searching the internet for other places in the world that have great shelling beaches. Baja or Bimini, anyone?