Friday 19 JAN 2018 – West Palm Beach, FL
One of the reasons have been looking forward to our stay in West Palm Beach by the sailing club, aside from the fact that we just really like the club’s earthy attitude and Wednesday night bar nights, is the adjacent public park with a beach just big enough on which to careen Netzah. She is due for a bottom scrubbing. After time in warm waters, we have acquired a lot of growth and some barnacles. Glenn claims this is slowing us down. I just hate how it looks. Today, given the tide schedule and weather, is a good day to do this slightly gross job. At 10:15 in the morning, just after high tide, we drive the boat very slowly onto the soft white sand of the beach and lodge it, but just barely. Now we wait. As the water goes down with the tide the underside of the boat gets exposed, bow first. All of the gunk growing on the bottom under the water is slimy and a bit stinky, but it comes off easily when cleaned with a long-handled scrub brush. This is because the bottom of our boat, like all boats, is covered with an ablating paint that sluffs off when touched. Now the greenish growth (algae?) that is growing (living?) just above our water line on the epoxy paint, however, is a different story all together. This stuff is like a tenant in a rent controlled apartment. This stuff is like white on rice. You get it, this stuff will not come off. We try scrubbing with brushes, we try scotch brite pads, we try our Bon Ami, abrasive bleach powder. It’s quite exhausting and nothing really works well. Eventually, Glenn tries a wire brush and this proves to be the best tool. He hands it over to me. Luckily, our paint withstands the weapon. Our shoulders and backs, on the contrary, get somewhat demolished.
In the evening the club is having a party for new members to meet existing members. Though we are only visitors, we are allowed to attend. That’s nice, we think, it’s also convenient since we are parked on land and don’t have to dinghy over. The event is low key and we do meet some nice folks including two, beautiful-smelling sister travel agents, that are good conversationalists. The dinner is baked chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and bread, a good deal at $8, and provided you aren’t a vegetarian, satisfying. We eat at the bar since it’s a bit chilly and loud out on the patio where there’s some live music being played. Here’s not much keeping us at the party after we eat, so we head back early, climbing up the side of the boat from the sandy beach. We sleep on land on the boat tonight.
Saturday 20 JAN 2018 – West Palm Beach, FL
This morning we wait for the high waters to turn us loose. When our stern is back in its natural state, bobbing, Glenn starts up the engine and gives it some gas, but we get no movement from the boat. “Wait a bit, the water is still rising,” I say. Okay we wait, then gas again with some enthusiasm, and nothing, no movement again, more gas for longer this time, and still not a budge. We get a small pang in our guts. Are we stuck? I walk to the bow. It doesn’t seem likely, we’re barely attached. Eventually, Glenn gets off the boat and gives her an easy shove with his shoulder. Apparently that’s all she needed, a personal touch. I get it. On the move again, we anchor very close to our original spot.
I convince Team W to come with me into town to see a movie. It doesn’t start until 4:30, but I want to make a journey of it, so we leave before noon. I get excited about the new lunch place we’ll experience and novel things we’ll see along the way. As soon as we take a left out the gate of the sailing club however, Ava asks, “So, what’s the plan? Where are we going first?” (Screechy brake sound.) A dampening. Ava is a kid who takes no pleasure in my uncharted trips. She leans toward the known path, the set destination. She shares none of my joy for the spur-of-the-moment jaunt. These days I am on the lookout for clues to understand if she was born with this personality trait or if she’s growing into it. Deep down though, I know we are born with nothing. It’s all learned. It’s all from the here and the now. Ava is fourteen, an age by my account, about response and reaction, her means to developing a distance and space, not away from me, just toward herself. I’m not hurt by this, the way I thought I’d be, just sorry she’s missing the thrill of my ride.
“I don’t know,” I respond, “I thought we’d play it by ear.” She’s walking ahead of me now her shoulders creeping upward toward anxiety, making me scramble for an idea. “Let’s stop on Northwood and get some lunch there.”
“Okay,” she says happily, but then, “where?”
This, I should have anticipated. “At the bistro across from Harold’s,” I say, as plan-like as possible.
We walk south on Flagler Street, which turns into Poinsettia Ave as it pulls away from the water and gets deeper into everyday life. The neighborhood here is dense with modest little square-plan houses done up as either art deco bungalows or Mexican casitas. There’s an obvious effort underway to rejuvenate the area, with every fifth or sixth house undergoing a major flip renovation and many houses already complete and lived in. Each house has its own tiny yard, tidy with lush tropical vegetation and its own driveway for one car, or sometimes, two. The sidewalks are guarded by large, mature southern live oaks that shade the entire width of the street and whole place feels pretty delightful, a marginal neighborhood on its way back.
As we walk the street eventually gives way to larger lots with bigger buildings. First there’s a church on the left, then a school on the right, an abandoned brutalist thing, a park, a laundromat. All of the buildings are older, some unoccupied, some boarded up. There’s fabric outlet on the right, an event space on the left, an empty lot, a crab restaurant that gets vetoed by Ava because now she doesn’t like seafood.
We get to Northwood after twenty-five minutes of walking. The bristo, which serves fancy Cuban sandwiches, is too expensive for us today, so we continue. We think we are bound to find something else because there are many restaurants here, but soon find ourselves back at the beginning having only found high prices or uninteresting or cheesy food. “Let’s keep going,” I say.
“Where?” asks Ava.
“There’s a build-a-bowl place downtown.” I say staring at my phone, a concession that I make rather than aimlessly continuing, for the good of the order.
The next mile of walking is less pleasant than the first. We are in a commercial area that has a wider street with older businesses, most of which aren’t open to the public. The trees are gone here. The buildings are large and windowless, covered in pastel hues of stucco and trim. We pass a luxury car repair shop with some Ferraris in the front and a tall chain link fence all around, there’s a combo quick tire/Muslim mechanic shop, and a cool block-long nautical antiques place that we admire from the sidewalk as we march by. Are there people? Not many, just some waiting for busses. But there’s plenty of car traffic now, the street having widened somewhere along the way.
We get to a bright and busy intersection. Here we have to wait for the “walking man” light to turn white. There’s no other way to make it to the other side. The road we cross over takes cars to Palm Beach. we are in yet a third area of the city, a civic zone, with multiple court buildings, city officials’ offices, and all of the accessory businesses that come with these districts. The scale here is large, the atmosphere formal and serious and… punitive? In front of one of the largest building I walk over to see a large, low, stone monument sculpted to feel like its emerging out of the ground. There are two parts. The first and larger part consists of two solid canted semi-circular surfaces chiseled roughly out of white granite and rising from the ground to about knee height. The second and smaller piece is a tiny halfpipe shape, closed at one end, also in roughly hewn granite. It strikes me as I look at these shapes that they would be perfect forms on which to skateboard if only the stone were smooth. I laugh to myself, The Memorial to Good Times. I turn and leave without finding out the real name, satisfied to see some well ridden black edges on the granite planters along the way.
For food then we do, in fact, build our own Mediterranean bowls of lunch at a crispy white restaurant that finally meets our financial and flavor standards. And it’s almost perfect except for the sand on our greens.
We still have quite a bit of time, so we plod west on Clematis, crossing the tracks that brings the brand new light rail train back and forth from Miami every day. This neighborhood, dominated by many new midrise apartment buildings and construction cranes, is seemingly aiming at attracting yuppies. Do people still say yuppies? This place does. By a bright mural of Albert Einstein we take a long coffee break and split an inferior tiramisu. “This must not have any human skin in it,” says my hilarious and unappreciative husband.
We sit and wifi, breaking for little bursts of conversation and, because of the color of the pants that she is wearing, we try and reveal the magic of IKB and its patron saint, Yves Klein. He was a performance artist. He was a conceptual artist. He was crazy. He was the most important. He was bullshit. I loved him.
We go see Call Me by Your Name, a movie that lets me feel like I’ve just taken a lush summer vacation in a villa in the northern Italian countryside. The plot is a familiar story, a coming of age love story between two young men, that we’ve all seen before. Yet, there two things about this movie that are new, and though it’s set in 1983, I think this movie representation of that particular time could only have been made today. First, strategically, there’s no exposition. We, the audience, are not told of the characters’ motivations or feelings. There is only action. Sometimes it’s conflicted action, sometimes confused, none of it explained. Thankfully. The audience is trusted to be, even expected to be, empathetic to the characters’ situation. They don’t have to be trained through elucidation to understand that gay love is love too. We have progressed beyond that, this movie acknowledges. Second, and more important, at no point in the story does homosexuality become the logic of cruelty or suffering. There’s no punishment, external or internal to the protagonists (all the characters are protagonists), for their desire or passion. Of course there are a range of negative human emotions played: anger, irritation, sadness, but none of it is the blame of same-sex attraction. How refreshing, at last. The relief I feel in watching this film is scented with the earnestness and kindness. Earnestness, not sarcasm nor guile, feels radical today. Kindness, in the face of so much recent cruelty, is what feels new and relevant. Wow. Yes, it’s a sophisticated version, perhaps still only permitted in protected bubbles, but what a relief.
After the movie we catch a Lyft home with vivacious Maria, who is originally from Venezuela but lives in Boca Raton and is driving in West Palm Beach tonight because she had to bring a handicapped woman and her cute boyfriend to the convention center for the big art fair. In the rear view mirror, Maria considers Ava’s face for a while, and though she is “very pretty” decides that she is still a bit too young for her very handsome, albeit with some acne that is going away, nineteen-year old son. One day maybe, I say.
Sunday 21 JAN 2018 – West Palm Beach, FL
This day went missing.
Monday 22 JAN 2018 – West Palm Beach, FL
This morning while sitting at the sailing club on my computer I finish planning a course on essay writing for Ava. She has been doing a little writing, but not enough. Together we decide she needs more structure. The course I have planned will take 16 weeks: one introductory week and 5 modules of three weeks, each on a different essay type. It will consist of reading and analyzing some essays by great writers, short warm-up exercises, exposure to different techniques, and time to write five good essays. I’m enjoying this process immensely. I have to read a bunch of great stuff to decide what to teach! As usual, it’s always in the preparation of a course, that I learn the most. And since I’m also trying to write some of my own essays, I relish this chance to learn more about the medium myself. How familiar it all feels. First class – tomorrow!
Somewhere in the midst of the prep, I take a break to shave off a bunch of my hair. It had grown lengthy, which, I know, would be very short for most people, and though I considered letting it grow (again!) I decide I’ve had enough. Unfortunately, in my zealousness, I think I went a bit too short. Meaning, it will stick straight out for a week or two. Nothing a scarf can take care of.
Back on the boat, we get a nice surprise. Patrick pulls up for visit. He’s on his way to Miami, where in a week’s time he will meet up with his new girlfriend, Annie. In the meantime, he’ll hang out here with us for a day and a half.
Tuesday 22 JAN 2018 – West Palm Beach, FL
A slow day of mostly doing, and waiting to do, laundry. Patrick, Ava, and I sit around at the sailing club for hours since there is only one washer and one dryer for all of us to share. There is one guy ahead of us who insists on double drying his loads and making the rest of us wait. When he finally finishes he flips out that Pat moved his load to the top of the dryer so that he could dry his own stuff and keep the line moving. He’s a pretty nasty guy, so this unfortunately leaves a bad taste in Pat’s mouth and I feel badly since we brought him here. UGH.