Editor’s note: this was written on the threadbare carpet of a terminal at the airport in Ft Lauderdale. Since, I’ve partaken in so much indulgence, accuracy is about as tangible as temperatures below the 80 degree mark. Moments ago, in the Ft. Lauderdale airport, I ingested copious amounts of Bud Light draft prior to 11AM in a bar that had charts of the Florida Keys for wallpaper.
Charts. Backdrops of a youth—things to not spill upon; things to rest a coloring book on; things to find bunny faces in. You learn to gauge your moods from the facial expressions the captain of the vessel issues forth above unfurled charts.
If it’s post-5PM, your mother has to tinkle over the starboard side, your brother has a towel draped around his burned neck—the sun is setting, and the chart paper is belching under frantic palms…you learn to adjust your one-piece and trust the charts.
I know charts… far better than I know clothes. I’ve squinted over them more lovingly than any BAZAAR.
My mom hoisted an arm over my shoulder and pointed at a yellow crevice in Big Pine Key:”Look, Bear! The home of the Semi-Professional Building!” The fantastic biscuits of humor you pick up and nibble on for years to come when you’re a kid growing up in the Florida Keys.
But, not so funny? The terrifying Monkey Island. Or, to be accurate, Lois Key.
Flashbackward to 1987: on long, hot days fishing the flats, I could be heard from back near the bait well mewing, “Monnggg-keeez. When can we go to Monkey Key? I want to see the monkeys,” completely unaware that later in life, I would have veritable nightmares about monkeys (Awful. Hate.) and their ball- and face-ripping capabilities. Anyway, can you blame me?
We rounded the corner of a small, wooded island and heard what sounded like really pissed off birds… and saw a devastated, parched island swarming with monkeys. They’d eaten everything, and probably a few of each other. Abruptly, my father uttered a purposeful “Jesus H. Christ,” and planted the pole in the sand. Our boat halted, the bow radiating ominously like the the needle of a confused compass.
If we’d gotten any closer, those hairy bastards would have made a poo-throwing disco out of our shredded bodies, wearing skin turbans and ear lobe pendants in their raucous death dance. But… rather, my dad built a safe distance, plunked down on the bow and opened a Heineken.
It’s times like these I realize where my ‘cool, calm and collected’ comes from. And it’s times like this I wish I the rest of life was reading charts.
2 minutes until boarding.