Dear friends, family, and fellow sojourners through life’s vicissitudes,
First, let me say, I hope this finds all of you safe and well during these days of wonder.
Please check out my other postings on this website. Further On the Road Adventures, will be posted periodically under the “Writings,” section, and explore my upcoming Fish on A Leash Book Teasers, like how do, little piggies and witches, topiary gardens and tea rooms fit into the Roslyn story?
This year’s migratory trek south began on March 30, 2021, a reprisal of an unfinished symphony, a theme, and a variation of observations and experiences en route and upon arrival. My last travelogue left you off with my hasty escape from the racket waking roosters and chirping iguanas (marking the metamorphosis from sea creature to land to air) of America’s southernmost Paradise.
The summer 2019 return drive was not riddled by the telltale linear cluster of raised red welts of the enriched fleas, nor by the minute puncture wounds of the famously famished swarm of euphemistically named buffalo gnats (tiny black flies) who decided to hatch in unison. They found a haven in the Florida Dade pine below my dining room table, upon which sat my ubiquitous computer. I decided to take my leave of the Newton Street Hideaway, then and forevermore.
I searched the island for more suitable digs, prior to my 2018 departure and found them on the Atlantic side of the island at the tranquil little coqui on Reynolds street, or so I thought. Between the three-hundred-million-year-old resident Palmetto bugs, anoles, and Olympically athletic, green tegu iguana who delighted in attending to her ablutions in my cocktail pool, leaving unwrapped gifts, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you may run on this island, but you can never hide from the wrath of Robert the Doll, and his leprechaunish cohorts.
I left the Coral Frog on July first, 2019, fit as a fiddle after three months of working out with a Marine Sergeant. I looked forward to one last return engagement before closing the book on what is going to be a page-turner and relishing the moment when I would write the final page of this sixteen-year journey, “The End.”
I didn’t realize how prophetic the ‘then and forevermore’ sentiment would be. Upon my return home and feeling in the peakiest condition since my thirties (oh yes, I am well beyond those mythical years), I knew that it would be a downhill descent greater than Everest. I certainly had my share of a few slips and slides on Everest ten years ago. I had been having slight reminders that replaced hips were only as good as the implanted implements. By the end of July, my hip and tuchis ballooned.
World travel to some of the earth’s remotest places turns the simplest dunce into the best medical diagnosticians. Dr. Judi knew what this was, trochanteric bursitis. The annual appliance inspection with the orthopedist was pending. On August 1st I rushed to him with my pending diagnosis. The medical solution, immediate relief with the always financially lucrative to the doctor, cortisone injection. They never worked for me and only complicated matters, and so it was on this outing as well. Within two weeks, the pain went from chronic to a dying iguana’s shriek. This was not your run-of-the-mill bursitis. The journey to a licensed medical diagnosis took a convoluted route. I had prescriptions for everything: from oxy to diclofenac to meloxicam, from simple x-rays, and sonograms to Mri’s.
By mid-December 2019, five months later, the verdict. The guaranteed thirty-year ceramic socket and ball had slipped after ten year’s wear and tear. The titanium rod still as straight as a…well, a rod. It was pre-Christmas, and surgery wasn’t scheduled for another two months, mid-February 2020. I was looking forward to a pain-free existence. Like everything in life, it was not to be.
The surgery took three hours, not the promised one-hour in-and-out roto-rooter replacement, known as a revision. The hospital discharged me in less than twenty-four hours to home care. Two weeks after the visiting nurse and PT began, it ended. No need to tell you, the world was hit with the prophetically biblical and catastrophic pandemic.
Yes, it was life interruptus. For some, this became the Nightmare before Christmas; for me, it was a continuation, as life never-ending. As an only child, I have become acculturated to spending hours alone sustained by my writing, music, books, and cooking. Through the lenses of Zoom, What’s App, Facetime, and Facebook video, I observed the machinations of the world from my cozy chair. I found no loss of freedom. Only the opportunity to focus beyond the chronic pain of surgery, along with its ravages of my degraded military-grade body, to write.
In April of 2020, HBO released the movie Bad Education starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney. Given the dearth of competition and the fact that it was the only game in town, it did well. Its release was a blessing in fool’s clothes. It brought at least the basic story into view. Now it’s my turn to tell the deconstructed, de-Hollywoodized version, a repurposed tale with a purpose. And so, my long day’s journey into night has been revivified.
My former happy trails to friends and family had to be rethought out and recomputed. I darkened no doorsteps but went straight to GO—the Amtrak Autotrain, a first. The LIRR (Long Island Railroad for my non-New Yorker’s) does not constitute train travel in line with the Orient Express, the Gorakhpur Express, the Eurostar, or RailEurope’s high-speed train from Aarhus to Stockholm.
Non-stop from Long Island to Lorton, Virginia, the point of origin, and although, the bed was wonderfully comfortable, it was the start of what was to be a 17- hour night of disharmonious metallic tintinnabulations clacks. Fortunately, I had made the wise decision to take a bedroom compartment with its toilet and shower. Suffering not from Covid fatigue but Covid neurosis, I sprayed the entire room with Lysol upon entry. Son #1 astutely pointed out that I could die from the fumes, and I hardheadedly responded laying on the Jewish guilt, “So should I die of Covid?” His tune changed quickly. He didn’t want to inherit his millions so fast, or so I would like to believe. Overkill, perhaps.
I’ve been dubbed by some Key West friends as “the munchkin,” no affront meant towards Dorothy’s cortege. Being small does have its advantages. The 5’X7’ compartment was spacious except…wait for it…for my six-footer friends, if you ever intend to travel on the American rails, I suggest getting hold of a device known as a “bottom buddy,” to assist with personal hygiene needs.
The dining-car-in-room-cod-dinner miraculously turned into salmon, but surprisingly edible travel food. This was not economy class, the dinner came with a complimentary glass of wine, which my attendant after sizing me up, decided I would need a double to help me sleep. Now that was a major mistake. Guzzling the white immediately followed by the red roused my senses and activated my cortices. The anticipated rhythmic clicks of the rails, became mistral driven sheets slamming into an aluminum mast. As a sailor I know how to force a boat into a close haul and trim the sails, but this racket was beyond my control and persisted for the entire journey. But, I did fade in-and-out to the imagery and sounds of the Civil War. As the train passed through the swamps of Ashland (a quaint and quirky small town), Richmond, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Fayetteville, Rocky Mount, Savannah, and Charleston I was overwhelmed by ghoulish apparitions of when Johnny Comes Marching Home Again. Sadly, the divide than was as great as it is today. The Johnnies of the Vietnam War still have not found peace in the heartlands of America, only fields of broken promises.
When I left New York, it was in the fifties. Heeding the advice of friends who have previously traveled on America’s glorified iron horses, , I reserved an upper-level compartment and shelled out the extra dollars for priority loading (not of me but of the vehicle). To say America needs infrastructure improvement is being kind compared to how far behind other countries we are. But then again, this is the land of the automobile, not the Autotrain. I arrived in Sanford, Fla. to, a toasty 80℉.
My car was the tenth unloaded. Skirting around the passengers who refused to wear masks, were coughing, and smoking I dodged for my vehicle which was deposited, doors open, keys left on the seat at the far end of the station. Settling in for my long non-stop drive to the southernmost point, I savored the thought of having breakfast poolside—Café con Leche with a La Grignote croissant.
Although inoculated, I still abide by the CDC guidelines and did not want to subject myself unnecessarily after a year of living life cautiously with a metalhead husband is an accomplishment (rumor has it that the divorce rate has risen). The best-laid plans of mice and men, all as planned was not to be. After gassing up and hitting the turnpike, I adjusted my seat, set my music, and turned on the AC. Dressed in mourning black, the streaming sun baked me like a flattened potato latke. That gorgeous cut that I had the day before at the hairdresser’s frizzled. I adjusted the moonroof and rear windows to circulate the air. It took some time for me, the rocket scientist, to figure out that the AC was on the blitz as I passed Alligator Alley and crossed Panther Parkway. Amazingly, these creatures did not cross the channels or gulf as the miniature Key Deer did during the Wisconsin glaciation. They would have had a feast post-Hurricane Irma.
As mile after mile passed, I schvitzed for seven hours daydreaming of that rich buttery and flaky croissant dribbling with Bon Maman raspberry jam.
Frazzled, I wobbled into the Coral Frog as I had just stepped out of a sauna. My wonderful strapping house manager (hot, hot, hot!!!) was awaiting my arrival. Within the half-an-hour, he completely unloaded the car. After putting away all the produce (bought on my only stop at Robert’s is Here, a tropical fruit farm stand in Homestead) and canned goods schlepped from home, I collapsed for a much-needed deep sleep. Can you imagine I didn’t even rouse to go pishy? Now that’s a first, and I wasn’t even intoxicated. I awoke to a cool, overcast Key West anticipating my daily croissant and café. It was not meant to be either. Reality caught up to my well-traveled mind. Passover had not passed over. I could only have matzah, butter, and salt.
If my car’s AC is any indicator of how symbolic life can be, when I was approximately (actually those of you who truly know me, it was exactly five miles out) of KW, I fiddled with the AC’s on/off and fan buttons. Lo and behold, the AC worked perfectly. And so, my friends, always with shalom, I take my leave and wish you happy holidays and safe travels through this capricious new world in which we find ourselves. Happy trails to you until we meet again!
Copyright April 2021 Judith D. Winters, content may not be used without express permission of the author