July 8, 2014
A very little boy once thought the summer sun was bright because it was smiling and that’s why everything grew green and lush during the peak season. “Knee-high by the Fourth of July” was the ‘country’ expectation in the Midwest when looking at “that them” corn plants.
The Summer Solstice and July 4th, 2014 are now past. Over the last couple months as the Earth shifted on its axis I watched the sun of another year race to the north in the western sky and reach its zenith; we’ve now passed the highest point and things will start sliding back down again.
On the concrete causeway between the City of Miami and the City of Miami Beach I dug down into my bike pedals at 20+ human miles per hour.
Too fast for the lowering red-and-white striped barricades I shot across the drawbridge as the warning buzzer blared and inside the little control house a black female stared outward at me from her watchtower, her face inscrutable. The afternoon sun struck the glass at an angle making the window dark almost charcoal-smoked and her face a half-seen painting behind it.
The metal grate bridge vibrated, grinding open at its middle as it rose and split apart like James Cameron’s Titanic and my belly imagined for a moment miscalculating and getting caught in its gap, pulled off my bike and thrown into the tropical bay waters below.
But I was already threading through the red-and-white barricade arms on the other sides, faces of lined-up cars in front staring, immobilized.
I brushed them all off – the bridge, the barricades, the watchtower, waiting traffic – like sweat off my shoulders.
I dug into the pedals again and scissored across the water. I ride the Venetian Causeway – lot less traffic than 395!
Nighttimes when I’m coming home Miami Beach and its lighted buildings can seem like a floating apparition on that strip of land between the bay and the ocean.
Sometimes I blink. The last of the city’s lights are flickering out. Some of the buildings are already falling over, the water up a couple stories, the place abandoned. Wait – it’s just the bay’s shimmering reflection and the quiet of night.
Don’t just workout at the gym hit the parks and especially the fit bars at the beach! Yeah you can do standard fit work like dips and pullups and chin ups but how about muscle ups and flagpoles and flips and 360s and upside-down ninja abs and handstand pushups??
I’m still learning a lot. Hey I’m a vegan athlete who can do a lot of things but this isn’t just upper body strength it’s like climbing a coconut tree – technique!
Fine women with curves get on the pole and become almost contortionist snakes in beauty and perfect form and the dudes can’t help but stop and stare.
Some of the women obviously work at strip clubs; other women come to the workout beach just to put us in our place and show what an athlete can be. Pole fitness ain’t no joke!
This Dominican Buddhist dude with a huge beard and skinny body climbs like a monkey up a coconut tree and drops down 2 dozen coconuts. Don’t walk beneath you’ll crack ya muthafuckin head. Tourists and pics and upturned faces. Friends help him gather the cocos. He has a machete and straws. He will sell most of them.
The sea on the other side of the dunes changes its mind and moods throughout the day.
That’s one thing you’ve always got to be prepared for.
Tattoos, shorts on the dudes, sports bras on the females, brown, black and light bodies, a thick white pit bull with a bucket mouth and slobbering pink tongue the size of a lion’s who joyfully runs with 30 pound harnessed weights dragging behind. The dog is as muscled as any human and apparently very happy. He’s always got a smiling face.
South Beach for black locals slides like a handshake between two people who know each other – even if they’ve just met. The rest is like Cuban haircuts on an upside-down bucket in the alley. And the tourist zone, well that’s an opaque outer layer that sheds like a skin repeatedly.
I leave the gym bars and my knobby mountain bike tires that make the pavement hum go quiet in the sand and pillow forward till I hit the packed sand road – it’s great for jogging. Beneath bike tires it grinds dry butter.
The sun blazes. Never think this plainsman at the edge of the sea where Africa is just over that way doesn’t love the heat.
The sun is God reaching down through your flesh to grip your bones your bloodstream your guts and turn you inside out and you might be split open with fullness and love. I can smell saltwater, coconut oil, clean sweat, skin – like warmth after sex.
The shallower layers of the ocean have heated up now and it is rainy season.
There’s a point where the storm clouds surging in from the west take over the bright sun and blue Florida sky and suddenly all of us are cast in shade. We feel small and thrilled.
Afternoon tropical thunderstorms are Great Plains in the sky. They come in big like alien spaceships condensing black clouds then thunder cracking overhead, and lightning somewhere else, always somewhere else. Until one day that pointed somewhere else might be right here. I wouldn’t mind.
Curious we look out to sea and they – the fishes or whoever is out there at that moment – are still in bright sunlight.
Back at the bars, a 5-foot boa constrictor who is curious about everything sticks her black forked tongue out, testing the air, snake eyes shining.
The Cuban dude Hivo is her pet and a YouTube star athlete. While he works out on the bars she’ll hang like a jungle, body coiled around one bar.
I got close. Her flat diamond-shaped head and neck surged down and around my chest at the same time I realized I’d never held a snake before.
I was surprised how strong she was. Not a sound. She was like living Earth surging over my body, moving, molding, pressing into and over my flesh and muscles, and the contact inside her grip was a hard heated hug or lying face down on the ground with your arms spread wide and full body contact with what is bigger and even more alive.
She took over me. She held her head in the air off my chest looking at something else, not even thinking about me.
Time flies. It’s hard to grasp that it’s been almost 10 years since the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami, in which over a quarter million people perished. That was a sunny day inundation.
As the reeling aftermath subsided, I remember reading about a young local man who had survived. Speaking to a newspaper reporter, he said something to this effect:
My whole life has been the sea. I knew it like the closest friend. Now I can’t even relate to it.
The tsunami was a freak act of nature.
Sometimes I get so angry I could split in half and break apart when I think about the forced loss of time and forced act of climate danger we’ll all have to suffer. Here in Miami Beach we’re already experiencing the occasional sunny day flood – on Alton Road the sea bubbling from the back bay through the sewers. The sea is coming.
In the hot ocean shallows maybe at 5 feet deep I spoke to a dude holding up a clump of that gold sponge-like seaweed. He was staring into it.
“You can eat that,” I said jokingly, ribbing this thug-looking dude for his nerdiness. He said he was looking for seahorses or anything else that might be in its tangles.
Turns out he likes to go snorkeling down by the rocks or the Key Biscayne bridge. He works as a janitor now because as a convicted felon he has a hard time getting a job even though the burglary he served 3 years for was at 16 years old some 20 years ago.
“I was a kid,” he said. “I didn’t have a dad or nothing and that was all I knew. I did my time. Everybody deserves a second chance.”
Out of the blue he said he was bipolar and they’ve put him on meds. Says he is trying to finalize a career by going to school to become a mental health counselor since he feels he knows about ups and downs.
I said life is rough but man it’s like the waves it comes up and it goes down. I would never consider taking drugs for that shit. It’s just life.
In many cases men can learn to manage their feelings.
I said I used to have intensely self-destructive anger, depression and self-hatred.
He said they’re even trying to put him on Xanax but he doesn’t like the way that weighs him down. He said he’d like to eventually get off the drugs.
I said I use fitness and helping others as a main lifeline to walk through the war zone world and all the chaos and shit bombarding us every day. For better or worse I keep it moving forward – “I got this”. By staying healthy I count on the surety that when the water comes in, the tide will go back out again too.
Even the tsunami, which took so many lives, went back out. In May it was reported that the melting West Antarctic ice sheet had broken its point of no return and sea level rise of at least 4 feet was guaranteed, and likely 14 feet. This does not even include anything else, like Greenland ice sheets, or permafrost melt, or thermal expansion, which will be combined and added.
At sea level I can feel all of us caught in this tension of our times like a band stretched slow-motion to its breaking point. God I can’t believe we’ve allowed the big polluters to do this and happily paid them to do so. Lately the news has even written about “near-term extinction acceptance,” where some are preparing people for the abandonment of hope and self-extinction.
I am healthy, vital and alive. My body works well, my mind and heart are strong, I manage feelings and expectations, and through health and service to others I’ve always believed we could “go back – and fix things, to repair the things that have been broken” as Laurie Anderson sings so hauntingly in The Dream Before.
I still believe in what we can do – even as I know that where I stand at this very moment will drown unquestionably.