Friday, October 9, 2009

The Autotrain--The Return

On the way back from Florida, there are only 151 passengers and 92 cars. One entire coach wagon is empty, and a lot of people opted for the sleepers which cost anywhere from $150 to $300 over the basic fare.I did that once, many years ago, and it was the only time I became genuinely seasick.

Across the aisle from me is a Vin Diesel look-alike who instantly falls asleep, and three seats in front are two old codgers in full leathers. They're transporting their bikes back from a week-long reunion of old-codgers-on-bikes and I immediately have unkind thoughts. How do they have a good time, these Harley-riding seniors? Do they get high on Serutan? Destroy the Depend section at Wynn-Dixie? One, it turns out, is a retired Air Force mechanic, the other is a plumber. They built their own bikes from the ground up. Respect grows.

The deal went through. My apartment is no longer mine. It was bought by a nice man, a father of four boys who came with his own father to the closing. Up until the moment of signing, Gramps pointed out my place's shortcomings and things that really should have been repaired. I am fortunate, my own real estate agent is there and, perhaps sensing the potential failure of this sale (he knows I have very mixed feelings) intercedes quietly. As documents are passed back and forth, the agents and the lawyer talk fishing, sharks, restaurants good and bad, the weather. When all is done, the agent pockets his check, shakes my hand, pats my back, and climbs into his Cadillac Escalade. Gramps tells me he will start tearing out the bathroom tomorrow, and has already called a truck to take the furniture to the dump. I have tears in my eyes and bite my tongue.

I drove back to the place to get my luggage and the detritus of 20 years' vacationing. This is a turn-key sale, which means almost everything in the apartment--the pots and pans, silverware, towels, throw pillows, TVs and DVD players--everything stays. I had to negotiate to take the espresso machine. Now I wish I could leave some sort of Floridian booby trap under the bed, something that might explode and cover Gramps with aloe gel. Or better still, something alive and with claws.

The three-hour drive to the Amtrak station in Sanford is uneventful, except that I have sprayed Hawaiian Gold SP4 in my left eye so I am tearing throughout the trip. Also, my Avanti's aged A/C is not up to the task of dealing with the noonday heat. I arrive soaked in sweat and with my left eye swollen shut. I resort to sticking my entire head under a faucet in the men's room, but in the interest of conservation, water comes out in two-second spurts. I am trying to wash my eye out when a voice says, "Wouldn't drink that, if I were you." There are no paper towels, and I will not suffer the shame of putting my hwead under the whooshing air dryer.

At dinner, left eye almost back to normal, I am seated with three guys who at first talk baseball and then segue to Florida's ills. One of them is moving back to New York. There was an alligator in his front yard, a little thing really, not even four feet long, but it freaked out his girl friend and she gave an ultimatum: New York or no more pussy. His words, not mine. He'd miss his bungalow in Sarasota but was looking forward to being in a place with real seasons. "The sweating Santas got to me. And the Christmas lights on the palm trees, that ain't natural."

I remember spending a Christmas in Florida once, and the man is right: the holiday is plain weird when celebrated in 70 degree weather. But still, still... I'm back in Virginia and last night it was in the upper 40s. There are things to look forward to. I do believe most events have a reason for occurring, and it is not within my ability to discern why. The only thing I know with certainty is that somehow I'll get back to Siesta. There's too much of me still there.

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