Angle to Key West: The Other Southernmost Point (3/9)

The Other Southernmost Point

Key West, FL – March 9, 2013

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Sad the trip is almost over? Me too, but I’m sure the next adventure is coming soon. If you want to keep up to date, follow the blog via email (look for the link on the right side or bottom of every page), facebook, or twitter and you’ll know as soon as I’m lost again.

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Four miles to a block of sand on the south side of Key West. White umbrellas and blue chairs. Bikinis and a golden man smiling in a golden thong. Tourists blinking at me in the sun. Hawaiian shirts and sunscreen. Nine months stripped to satisfaction.

“From where?” people say.

Word spreads across the beach. Couples stop. A man stares. I want to shrink into myself, but there is nowhere to go. So I blush and answer questions. I shake hands. I wave and take pictures.

It is strange to end the trip twice, but I’m glad that once was quiet and alone on that key ten miles away where I splashed in the water until a man in boxer shorts and a robe came out of the old house holding a rifle in one hand.

“Private island,” he said.

“That’s why I’m in the water,” I said then left.

But at least I had those few precious moments where I thought I was alone.

A blonde woman in a black bikini tells me she’s from Montreal. Like a voyageur, I say. She says the word back to me in French. We take a picture together. She feels delicate underneath my arm. I feel like King Kong brought to shore.

The line is thirty people long at the Southernmost Point. It’s an old piece of metal painted like a buoy, but it says Southernmost Point and 90 Miles to Cuba so it make for a good picture even if it’s a lie. I move to the back of the crowd, dragging the Looksha behind me.

Someone yells that I came from Minnesota and waves me forward. I feel awkward jumping ahead, but I go. People cheer. My head spins. There are so many faces in the crowd to focus. I feel out-of-place. Salt hangs on my clothes in white swirls. It makes the fabric stiff. Only the Looksha feels real. Nothing else makes sense. The Looksha knows. Frank knows. Ali knows. I cling to them.

Clean faces and t-shirts. Sandals flap on pavement. Cameras flash and click. Straws stick out of coconuts. I move away and sit down for a moment. I rest my hand on the yellow plastic. I answer questions and talk about nothing. I don’t know what I’m saying. I don’t have words. People want to know how it feels. I say things, but no one hears anything real. They want quick answers. One or two sentences.

Real takes nine months.

And even then you don’t understand.

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9 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: The Other Southernmost Point (3/9)

  1. Beautifully said. How do you express/understand 9 months of that intensity and diversity in a 20 second response? Maybe a mojito or two or six would have helped.

  2. I am so torn, I’m happy that you finished such an epic adventure, but I’m so bummed that I won’t have your blog to look forward to everyday. Please write a book about this I’ll buy the first signed copy!
    Good luck

  3. What a journey! And your delightful writing has let a multitude of us be there with you. Well done and Thank you!!! Next! 🙂

  4. This entry rings true. We ended our trip by circumnavigating Key West, observing all of its chaos from the water, comfortable in the sea we had called home for so long and not wanting to join the circus on land. We came back later by land as tourists, but on our final day we belonged in the sea.

    A journey this long is felt only in its entirety, and the sum of the pieces is less than the whole. The questioners want quick answers, but the quick answers are hollow. “What was the best part?” There is no way to explain the melding of mind and body and boat and sea and wind, the transformation of your soul to a living breathing part of nature. There is no way to explain that the hardest days were the best days. So I just answer “seeing the manatees”, and the questioner is satisfied but I am sad I was unable to communicate the wonder of such a journey.

    Rod. Keys to Halifax, hikepaddle.blogspot.com

  5. Daniel, we understand your feelings fully. After living in Saudi Arabia for 2 years (76-78) people would ask, “what was it like?” When they wanted a short answer, we’d ask, “how long do you have?” All the best on your best on your re-entry. And congratulations!! Genice

  6. “Real takes nine months And even then you don’t understand.”
    Sounds like marriage, sounds like having children, sounds like life.

  7. Daniel,
    Thank you so much for taking us with you. You have to know there is at the very least a paperback here. I know everyone wants a quick answer but who can explain the connection found between the paddler, kayak and the sea?

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