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Appearances In The Florida Keys


Yard work and gardening in the Florida Keys are not typical of what you might imagine.  Things grow rapidly here, it’s the tropics.  If you don’t keep on top of things, it quickly gets out of hand.  Initially, I wasn’t aware of this and left things to fester, thinking it looked all it looked all “Tropically”.   One morning, during coffee outside, I spotted a substantially huge Iguana lounging on an overgrown tree branch.  Two days earlier I had seen a raccoon in the mango tree.  That’s it!.  Time for Yardio.

Yardio is a yard clean-up workout known in The Keys.  It represents an undertaking of massive yard work, something usually experienced after a hurricane.  Or, in my case, after you’ve let your yard go wild too long.   Completing this will always take longer than you think it will.  And it always involves a huge amount of energy, sweat, mosquito bites, scratches, sunburn, and dehydration.  I suppose you could call it a good workout, but I would rather do my exercising in an air-conditioned, bug-free, sunless, environment, like a gym.

I got busy whacking everything back with a machete; branches, palm fronds, small trees starting to take root.  I cut it back to bare bones.  Between cutting and bundling for disposal, it took me four successive weekends to manicure, mulch, edge, and mow.  Knowing it would all come back quickly during this rainy season, I nearly overdid things.

The yard looked nice, but I didn’t.  Sunburned, with scratched arms, and a missed hair appointment over the course of the month spent doing this; I looked pretty nasty.  I tried washing the shorts and tank tops I had been wearing throughout this activity.  After two cycles through the washer, they just wouldn’t come completely clean, so I wore them anyway.  After all, it’s The Keys, we are so casual here, it’s part of the charm.

I decided a trip to “Clothes by The Sea” was probably necessary, as my shorts and tank top would need replacement.  I “Flip Flopped” over to the store.  In The Keys, as I’ve mentioned more than once, everything is relaxed.  It’s not unusual to see someone filling a prescription wearing their swimsuit. Into the store I went, with my “never to be completely clean again” attire. No second thought about my appearance.   Immediately I was approached by a clerk named Enrique.  He gave me a quick all-encompassing, glance. I could easily see, from his expression, that he was filled with either pity or disdain. Suddenly mortified by the realization that even I had pushed it with “casual”.  I whimpered with embarrassment “Can you help me?”  Enrique murmured a consoling “Oh Honey….”, took me gently by the shoulders and propelled me toward the Fitting Room.  Over his shoulder, he called “Lexie three Sheaths size 8, stat.”  Easing me through the curtains he ordered “Strip!”.  Right behind me an arm extended holding three dresses.  “Umm, I was looking for some shorts maybe,” I explained.  “Oh let’s just try these on for fun”, Enrique suggested.  Ok, so on the dress went.  It was beautiful and fit perfectly.  All three were beautiful.  I couldn’t choose a favorite, so chose them all.  “Let’s wear one home”,  Rodrigo suggested, as though he were going with me.  “You cannot wear those plastic shoes”, he commanded pointing toward my feet. “Some strappy sandals will be best.” So I ended up with those too.  “And what shall we do with these?” he asked holding the clothes I originally wore, between his index finger and thumb. I mumbled something about trashing them, this seemed to please him.  “What about our hair?’ he asked.  His looked great, mine was wadded up in a messy bun with a stick.  “Salon Serenity” would be wonderful for you!” he sang. Twirling around, he grabbed the phone to make the necessary call.  “Chrissie – emergency.” He murmured covertly into the phone.  Wow – “I can hear you”, I thought indignantly as he twirled back around asking if I could go today, now?

I didn’t even think Salon Serenity was open on Saturday afternoons.  They weren’t.  I cupped my hands around my eyes looking into the darkened interior seeing nothing.  In the distance behind me, I heard a voice calling “I’m coming…….”. It was Chrissy. She unlocked the door and hurried me in.  I tried to apologize for her having to come during off-hours.  She did not care.  I also tried to tell her how I usually liked my haircut.   She did not even pretend to listen as she happily hummed while working.  I was nervous as she cut and styled while keeping my back to the mirror the entire time.  My palms were sweating as I kept thinking that no matter how it turned out I couldn’t look any worse than when I came in.  When she turned me toward the mirror, it did not look worse. My jaw dropped in admiration.  It looked way better, better than any haircut I ever had. I wondered if I really looked that bad initially or if Chrissie was just that good at her craft.  

Back in the parking lot l was all dressed up with no place to go!!  I think of quick visits to friends to show myself off. They were equally astonished at my transformation.

Sometimes, while living here, I can feel things slide as I ease into this ambiance and lifestyle. I remember reading somewhere that when the British colonized India they took everything with them. Their furniture, food, servants, lifestyle, and customs of socializing, just so they could cling to normalcy. Not go completely native. The longer I live here the easier it seems for that to perhaps happen, letting go of certain standards. I’m thankful for the Enrique’s and Chrissie’s of The Keys’, that can snap me back into reality.

P.S. I will never be caught dead or alive at Walgreens in my Swimsuit!!

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