Saturday, February 26, 2011

We are like manatees

I went to visit my folks in Florida. They are renting a mobile home in a “Gated Community for People over 55.” It is located just outside of Orlando, in a town called Tornado Alley. Actually, I’m not sure what the town is called, or if it even has a name. I think it is just a collection of golf carts, garden gnomes and American (and Canadian) flags. The only reason why it is called a town is because a Walmart and an International House of Pancakes are located 15 minutes away.
This is the second winter that my parents have migrated to the sun of Florida and seem to have found a home away from home. They haven’t yet joined the community’s Shuffleboard league. My mom says it is too competitive and has lead to bad feelings within the park. Apparently there is a big rivalry between those seniors who live inside the fence, and those who live outside the fence. My father is a retired senior officer in the Canadian Forces. During his career he faced off against Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic and dueled with fighter jets at the speed of sound. Shuffleboard against 80 year olds from ‘across the fence’ is too dangerous.
My parents are starting to evolve into full fledge retirees. They know that the ‘all you can eat’ lunch buffet is cheaper than the all you can eat supper buffet- and if you arrive at 3:30 and are patient to sit for a half hour you can one for the price of the lesser. 

Nothing says flea market than knock-off Disney hat and ugly shirt.
The most stressed I saw my father on our visit was the morning he was going to take us to a flea market 45 minutes down the interstate. It was the Monday morning flea market and he was worried that all the free parking spots would be taken by the time we showed up. We would be forced to park in either the $2.00 or $3.00 lots. 
Box of socks.
When I lived in Zanzibar, the best time to go to the market was the day after the new moon. Fishermen would use fire to light the surface of the water during their night expeditions and as a consequence it would bring in the really big catches. I once saw a 16 foot tiger shark eviscerated during one of these big catch days. The best time to go to a flea market in Florida is Monday morning. All the tourists are gone and the peddlers are ‘desperate’ to sell their stock. My wife bought 3 Louis Vitton purses for $60- the sellers must have been really desperate, Louis Vitton purses in the stores cost over 500 bucks each.
Something symbolic about this picture, but I am not articulate enough to say it.
Before I took my kids to Disney, my parents took us to a coal burning electricity generation plant.  There we were with all the other families of Canadian snowbird retirees, huddled under the smoke stacks gawking at manatees. For those that are not marine biologists (or almost marine biologists like myself), manatees are the unluckiest of the marine mammals. They are slow, and their tricks aren’t very impressive. They are kind of like retired hairless seals. 
Rumour has it that 17 century sailors thought that they were half women half fish. I understand how the myth of a mermaid came about- sailors aren’t that bright, and being at sea for long periods of time does make one see things that aren’t there.
After a year at sea, I can understand how this would turn you on.
One thing did strike me as we huddled under the majestic clouds of the smoke stacks. It was how similar we were to manatees. The have found a solution to the cold winter weather, they huddle in the warm effluent of the power plant- and so did we.
Manatees- also know as sea lumps

1 comment:

  1. You brought me to my knees in laughter! Too funny. Thought you'd get a kick out of this one. Our friend and pastor Rob was vacuuming sand out of his car at 7:30 in the evening, preparing to leave the next morning. Some old geizer approached him and asked him to vacuum in the morning when people were awake, the vacuum cleaner was making too much noise. LOLOLOL. When we get like that, you have our permission to stow us somewhere.


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