Thursday, August 29, 2013

Smiling In the Sunshine; Supplies

Cromwell and Blix Prepare for the Journey

     The parking lot behind the Crooked Angel was empty except for two vehicles: Molly's sleek vintage Porshe Carrerra and my not so sleek vintage Chevy Step Van. It sat in the far back corner of the lot, next to the little beach shack that I was renting from Molly while I regrouped, as it were; while I attempted to pull myself together after the divorce. Cromwell and I carried our drinks and sandwiches across the parking lot to my truck for the ride to the beach. The beach is only a half a block from the Crooked Angel, but we have coolers and sails and ropes and so forth that pretty much stay in the truck, and these have to be transferred to the boat.   
      My truck is a forty year old Chevy step van, like the big box trucks used by parcel delivery services and bakeries. She has an aluminum body and a strong eight cylinder motor. In the twenty years I have had her she has served as a work truck, camper, party wagon, office and sometimes home. These days she is a crew bus and on weekends headquarters for our beach sailing. Ruby Beach has one of the last beaches in Florida that allow motor vehicles to drive on the sand. Driving on the beach is a rare privilege and makes for the perfect situation for launching our beach cats. My boat was waiting on the beach with the mast rigged and ready to go, sitting several yards above the high tide line.  All we had to do this morning was get the beer and ice loaded then raise the sails and go.

     “How much beer do you have in the truck?” Cromwell asked.
     “Not near enough,” I replied. “Less than a case.”

     “OK,” he replied. “I'll run into the Seven Eleven and get a case and a couple bags of ice.”  He handed me his drink and sandwich and started across the street . I stepped up into the big truck and put the drinks in the cup holders on the engine cover. Then I went into the back and pulled out a medium sized plastic cooler. Reaching under the bench seat I slid out a case of Red Stripe beer (in the hard-to-find cans, not the stout little brown bottles. No glass on the boat!) I made a layer of twelve beers in the bottom of the cooler.  Next would be the ice, then another layer of six beers and the plastic tray for the sandwiches and cigarettes and cell phones and so on. The rest of the beer and extra ice would stay here in my truck, in a big fishing cooler that was kept permanently on board for just that function. This regrouping of my life after Mona was taking a lot of beer. I sat in the driver's seat and took a sip from my Bloody Mary. A pair of gulls were swooping and dipping over the parking lot. 
     Cromwell came out of the store with the beer and ice and crossed the street. I went into the back and opened the rear panel doors and he handed up the bags of ice, then the beer. We finished loading the coolers and sandwiches and went into the front and sat on the black and red reccarro racing seats I had put in a year earlier. Cromwell and I reached for our drinks. He raised his in a toast.
     “To the Beach!” he said.

     “To the Beach!” We touched the red plastic cups together and I started the engine.

Smiling In the Sunshine: The Keeper at the Gate

The Keeper At the Gate
The Guardian is no match for the boys

     We pulled out of the parking lot behind the saloon and turned onto Coronado Avenue. There was a pretty good breakfast crowd at the Little Lighthouse Restaurant, but otherwise things were still quiet. Soon enough the tourist trade would come pouring in, filling the art shops and boutiques that line both sides of the Avenue, as well as the four or five saloons that make up the drinking scene in Ruby Beach. We are a small town, really. It was only a few hundred feet to the beach ramp. As we pulled up to the toll booth, there was the Atlantic Ocean. On this crystalline day in March the sea was brilliant azure close in, with dazzling white breakers gently slapping the morning sand. Further out, where we would be going, the ocean was a far darker hue, rolling along in large smooth waves that would give us a fast, undulating ride across the surface. 
     The sky was clear and blue, except for the seagulls that flocked constantly along the beach, waiting for handouts. The beach vendors were pulling in and setting up for the day. They all drove step vans like mine, pulling large trailers from which they would dispense hot dogs and sodas and bicycles for rent and kites and lounge chairs and all the other accoutrements of a tourist's day at the beach. We paused at the toll booth. The elderly lady working the booth stuck her head out.

     “Five dollars please.” she said.

     “No, ma'am, I said, “”We're not going to the beach. We're just dropping off some supplies to some of the other beach wagons, then coming back.”

     “You say that every week and I'm starting to think you don't really come back.” She knew how this was going to turn out but I admired her effort.

     “There must be a mistake,” I said. “I'm new on the job and this is my first day on this route. This is my supervisor right here...” Cromwell leaned over towards the driver's side and gave the poor lady a stern look.

     “Lady, we've got almost two-point-five metric tons of ice in the back of this wagon and it's melting fast. Plus I've got to train the new guy here and this really isn't part of the program. But if a lousy five dollars is that important...”

     “No, Sir, but I'm sure I remember you from last week and they told me to watch out for you boys and one of you is named Blix and...”

     “Blix?” said Cromwell. “What kind of made up name is that? Sounds like bad info to me, ma'am. I'm Fred and this is Joe and we really gotta get this ice to the vendors down here.” She was beaten from the start and we all knew it. It looked to me like she was trying not to laugh and I know that someday I will be punished for keeping a straight face in these situations but until then it is all part of the game.

     “Well, OK, but I'm watching you boys and you better come back through here pretty quick or else.” She was grinning pretty big now. This was a cool old lady. Hell, everybody in this town is cool. “By the way, what's in those red cups?”

     “Training Juice, ma'am,” said Cromwell as I headed the big truck down the ramp onto the sand.