I’m escorted out of the park by another wet little rain shower. Under the gate at 7 am. Slowly the terrain becomes more urban, until I’m in the pits of West Palm Beach. A man at the city limits persisently asks me for a cigarette. A big man with a bleached, dredded beard checks payphones for change. A woman with her shirt open in the front yells at me as I pass, careless of her sun-beaten chest. I wait until the neighborhoods improve before I stop for breakfast.
When I cross the intracoastal to Palm Beach I’m instantly in wealthyland again. I stop and watch the bright blue waves roll in for a while.
Miles of condos, beaches, and pretty tanned people line the way to Boca. I find it pleasant to stop and watch the girls shower the salt off their bodies. This is the sort of thing one never sees in the high country. Too bad, really.
It’s mind boggling to try to imagine how many wealthy retirees must inhabit this coast. I envision myself riding down A1A in the future in a grand canyon of condos hundreds of miles long, interrupted only by upscale homes, estates, and the occasional conspicuous park where vegetation and wildlife may still exist. If the developers truly have vision perhaps they’ll build a private road along the tops of the condos from which the ocean can be seen, and inhabitants can travel to the store without ever descending into the dusty canyon.
I say goodbye to the East Coast and head west into Boca Raton. I haven’t really seen much of the coast between here and Bar Harbor, Maine, but I feel a little melancholy anyway.
To avoid showing up hungry I stop for a rather large calzone. A man eating there warns me not to start my own business. “Get a good 9 to 5 job working for someone else.” Further west I pick up a cell phone by the side of the road, scraped up but still working. I make one last stop at Walgreens for some odor eaters for my foul shoes, then make for Aunt Lou’s.
I’m talking to a couple sitting out in front of the retirement home when a tiny lady in a brown wig and bright lipstick somes trotting up to me, “Dylan?” So this is my Aunt Lou. She’s excited that she saw me ride in from her window. She makes some remarks about answered prayers and the quantity of perspiration I’ve accumulated. I welcome her suggestion of a shower. Afterward I fiddle with the cell phone I picked up looking for a number to call, but Aunt Lou is eager to get to dinner. I’m still fairly full from that big calzone, but apparently I must eat again. I manage to pack it in while I drink about 8 glasses of lemon iced tea and talk about my journey. I learn that Aunt Lou is 89, in good health but for a bad knee, and misses my great Uncle Bill terribly since he died a couple of years ago.
I call Nerissa, the owner of the cellphone. She is very relieved and agrees to come pick it up at 10 am tomorrow. I look forward to the meeting – I like the way she sounds.
We watch the news, Jeopardy, and a new Regis Feldman game show before bed. Game shows seem to be a guilty pleasure for Aunt Lou.