South of Lover’s Key – February 22, 2013
It’s rush hour around Ft. Myers Beach. Boats of a hundred shapes and sizes zip in and around the channels. Some have serious looking fishermen with a dozen rods hanging off the back. Others are all cushioned seats and groups of people out in the sun. Packs of rented wave runners buzz by with nowhere to go, but trying to get there as fast and loud as possible. Flats boats with no cabins carry families to the beach. Large cruisers do the same but with more style and bigger monthly payments. Wakes rock and chop up the water with no sense to them.
Umbrella rainbows and bodies crowd the beaches. It looks a bit like a colorful seal colony has sprung up underneath each high-rise, always thickest the shortest distance from the boardwalk where personal space is measured in inches not feet.
The backside of the island is all marinas and docks, places for boats to hide in rough weather and people to toss out fishing lines. A double masted wood ship named the Lynx looks on at all the modern plastic and diesel in wonder. The bridge behind it might as well be a parking lot with cars inching toward the overflowing beaches. Patrons stuff restaurants, spilling out on decks and hanging over rails. Fried fish waits on platters, tartar sauce on tables, margaritas in hands.
People walk to the water’s edge and take pictures to send home. They read books and turn red in the sun. They sit on sandy towels and eat sandwiches.
I drag the boat into the mangroves on a small island. I set up my tent and eat granola and peanut butter for dinner. I pull out my sleeping bag and take off my salt-stained shirt.
I hide in the cracks of a strange production, a giant industry of water and sunshine, a tanned, sand-blasted version of everyday life.