You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy
NO SHIRT. NO SHOES. NO PROBLEM.
It’s morning on the Gulf.
Sea Gulls are riding the breeze, their wings never flapping, as an inviable layer of energy carries them through the air.
The birds soar a foot over the top of the undulating sea, their eyes probing the aqua green waves dotted with foam.
The aerial predators glide easily, making slight adjustments in their flight pattern, skimming over the tidal surge.
The gulls’ eyes are fixed on a school of fish swimming just below the surface
The birds follow for a moment, then like radar lock in a fighter jet, the bird targets its prey and strikes.
The gull crashes into the churning sea, submerging under a white cap. The tiny splash is immediately swallowed by the tidal fury of churning existence.
A long moment passes. The bird is gone, replaced by the interminable swell of the sea.
The roar of the water lapping the shore fills the expanding moment.
How long can a bird be under water? How deep can a seagull dive?
The question is mute, as the gull reemerges, piercing the translucent barrier defining liquid from sky.
The hunter animal, saturated with salt water, furiously flaps its wings. As by prehistoric magic, the gull pulls away from the magnetic white cap, and enters the domain of wind and flight.
The gull defies gravity, as the air current fills his wings.
As the Sea Gull banks toward the horizon, I see a silver fin hanging from his beak.
The gull rides low and fast over the waves, toward the thin line that seperates heaven and Earth.
It’s morning, and my old man eyes are tired. I am squinting, trying to follow this miracle moment of existence.
It’s been this way on the Gulf Shore since the begining of time.
A hungry bird feeding on an unsuspecting fish, swimming in a warm sea, trying not to be eaten by a myriad of sea creatures prowling the coastline.
From the fourth floor balcony, I can see the prehistoric begining of Earth. I can see the voluminous expanse of ocean that flows into a single filament on the horizon.
The clouds are low and white. The sea turns from green to dark blue. It’s a timeless portrait that somehow exists regardless of what happens under the balcony below.
It’s 9 am. The condo unit is waking.
The morning air is refreshing, not yet an incubator of heat and humidity that is sure to come later in the day.
I hear the unmistakable shrill of a child in the pool below. The water splashes against the concrete deck as his excitement rises up the side of the stucco façade.
The sound mixes with the constant roar of the sea, spilling over the banister.
Down the beach, I see 6 men playing volley ball. The sound of the ball being slammed against the ground thuds concussively in the distance.
In front of me, the orchestrated sweat of the beach crew is on full display. The men drive their four by four loaded with brilliant blue mats and umbrellas.
The men navigate the narrow rows, jumping out of the gator before it even comes to rest.
The vehicle’s nobby tires spit sand as the machine chortles to a stop.
The men are beach ballerinas, choreographed and rehearsed.
They throw the umbrella pole into the wooden post hole and then slide the folded canvas into place.
The unmistakable image of a bright blue beach umbrella materializes. It is taught and ready to take on the sun’s onslaught for yet another day.
The umbrella’s fringed outline is crisp and clean, creating a perfectly formed shadow in the sugar white sand all around.
The beach boys are like a NASCAR crew, each man with a job.
The gator accelerates 15 feet to the next group of chairs. The men toss brilliant blue mats over the top of the wooden slats of the lounge chair.
Out comes another blue umbrella, into the slot.
In a moment, another post card moment by the sea.
Before it can be savored, the gator, stacked high with blue mats and umbrellas, rolls down the sandy row.
And the set up ballet commences yet again. The wooden lounges are perfectly aligned, facing the sea, like soldiers in formation.
And so it shall continue for the next hour, as the crew transforms lifeless wooden lounges into inviting oases.
Within minutes, the beach is alive. It has drawn breath, a fresco of blue umbrellas dancing upon white sand, meandering beside an undulating sea of green.
From the fourth floor balcony I see families carrying towels and pulling wagons, sauntering toward the beach.
A father and son, wearing swim suits are throwing a baseball. It’s an image as old as time.
The shore is dotted with floatation devices and chunks of humanity bobbing in the surf.
This stretch of Florida is known as the Red Neck Riviera.
Families, who have saved the entire year for this week, will shuttle cart loads of supplies into the condo complex that rises 20 stories high. They will find a picture perfect lounge chair and umbrella and then spread out.
Within minutes the umbrella will be tilted, the blue mat hanging off the wooden frame.
The perfect formation of beach militarism is quickly replaced with desultory lethargy.
SEC flavored beer coolers dot the ground. Blow up toys purchased at Wal Mart are inflated ready to support a flotilla of fat. Boom boxes are blaring Alan Jackson and Kid Rock.
I’ve seen this red neck ballet many times. I don’t mind it. I relish it.
It reminds me of America, that grand old gal that has weathered every type of storm, and still marches forward.
As more umbrellas pop open, and more exposed white bellies enter the beach, I sense that all is well with the world.
I know that if I turn on the news there will be a march, or a protest, or a riot. I know that if I surf the web I will hear about how much people love or hate the president. I know if I pull back the curtain on this frozen moment in time, the angst of skin color will rush down my throat, choking me like a disease.
Perception is reality.
The reality here is a good one. There is peace. There are laughs. There are smiles and respect.
There are no masks or talk of Covid 19. There is no thought of a window being shattered or a building set ablaze.
Tear gas and handcuffs and riot gear is an incongruous image among the dotted blue umbrellas on the sugar white beach.
I watch a jet ski pull a banana boat with 5 teenage girls. The inflatable neon yellow float hits a small wave and the girls scream with delight.
There is laughter and peace all around me.
As the cloud layer burns away, I watch a gull land on the balcony bannister.
The prehistoric creature, unchanged for millennium, winks at me. His eyes are piercing. Is he telling me that despite what Twitter says, everything will be alright?
Or is he scouring the balcony floor for left over remnants of a half consumed Shrimp Sandwich from the night before?
As I watch yet another lounge chair succumb to the ever expanding wide ass of a mee maw from Birmingham, I decide it’s time to join the ranks of the redneck Riviera.
I will sit among them, and be amazed when a Blue Angel Jet roars by on its way back to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.
Perception is reality.
The perception is we can all get along and that life is indeed good.
Remember, No shirt, no shoes, no problem.