Mind Makes Heaven Hell

I was on the west coast of Florida a few weeks ago, not really a vacation since my wife and I were working most of the time – that’s what passes for vacation these days.  Still, I could see the Gulf waves rolling in from where I sat in a little bungalow on Casey Key and I would have been a fool to complain.

There must be a lot of fools there then. The weather was unseasonably cool for a few days – in the sixties my last day there, with the sun struggling to come out – and I heard a lot of grousing among the other wayfarers I met.  It was as as though Florida owed them something and they wanted to give the state one star on Yelp! (“Was this review helpful to you?”) –  forgetting what the weather was like where they came from: A friend wrote me from Madison, WI when I was there, where it was four below, and after Florida I went to NY where it was in the twenties every day….

Our capacity to make ourselves miserable in the finest of conditions never ceases to amaze me.  Before we went to Casey Key, a barrier island in Sarasota County, we were seeing my wife’s parents in Sanibel, a popular tourist and retirement destination south of there. More than half of Sanibel Island is made up of wildlife refuges, and thanks to the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan of 1974, it has not been developed to death. How could you not be happy there?

I saw a local about my age tool by in a purple Fiat Spider, top down, and I envied him his choice of locale, to say nothing of his car… until he passed me and saw his bumper full of hate stickers.  They happened to be anti-Obama though you never know in Florida: This was the state that gave us the George W presidency (you could argue that the Supreme Court gave us the George W presidency) but they went Democratic in the last election – a swing-state in the truest sense. And it’s not just Republicans who become unhinged when the other party is in the White House; I know a lot of Dems who were reduced to sputtering, quivering contempt after eight years of Bush.

I guess I’m marveling at the vitriol. On the nice days you see people looking for shells on the beach (“shelling,” in the local parlance), eyes downcast and shuffling like old-school zombies. It is the picture of carelessness. No matter what your political stripe, doesn’t the whole pursuit of happiness clause mean you should give the need to be right (or left) — and always enraged — a rest once in a while? The wave I got from my neighbors when I went running on the beach was not just the one-per-center wave of recognition (though being able to be there in March by definition puts me somewhere in the upper class bracket); it’s an acknowledgement of our good fortune. Hey there, says that little wave: Ain’t it good to be alive?

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