Friday, January 25, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, began early, without the morning set aside for writing. We drove to Fort Myers Beach to go deep sea fishing. The port was a roadside cluster of cars near a pier, with a variety of boats tied up, from small day-fishing boats to the Delta Queen. We joined 80 folk ready to adventure out on the Gulf.

We all piled onto a two-story ocean-going party boat, each side lined with fishing poles, and later, buckets of cut-up squid and herring. We baited our hooks, threw the weighted lines over the side, and caught fish. The crew pulled our catch off the line with towels, casually throwing back fish too small to keep, with keepers thrown into plastic buckets and ice. I caught a porgie, Allen caught a red and orange grouper. My fish had blue lines on its face; mine was a keeper, but those were the only fish we caught.

But we were out on the sea. For the two-hour trip out, seagulls followed us, their wings in constant motion. It was a beautiful day. Both of us were somewhat fearsome of getting sick (given our previous experience with blueberry pancakes and swells in Alaska), but this boat was so large, we simply sat and enjoyed the vista of the blue-green flat Gulf around us as far as we could see in any direction. Later, Allen taught me how to untangle my line (and keep it that way).

“Did you call me babe?” asked the wiry, brown crew, as he paused to check on our lines.

“I call her Babe,” Allen said, pointing to me. “After thirty-two years, I’ve called her Babe more times than I can remember.”

That name stuck through the rest of the trip, and the day was not measured in numbers of fish.

We saw a bright orange Loggerhead Turtle, its orange flippers and yellow head stuck well above water, swimming near our boat, miles and miles from shore. And when our boat turned to shore, four dolphins followed us in, jumping behind our wake.

Docked again, lightly sunburned, we were on land. A cluster of brown pelicans and a hungry egret met us, preening their feathers and waiting for the moment the crew began to clean the fish. We gave our one fish away (the grouper at 16 inches was not a keeper), and drove into Fort Myers Beach, stopping at the family-run Plaka Restaurant for a Greek dinner. We shared a Greek platter (chicken lemon soup, Greek salad, moussaka, pastitio, spinach pastry, and dolmata), with lemonade, and watched the sun sparkle on the Gulf as we sat under bright blue umbrellas and listened to Greek music and watched grackles beg for food.

Later, television news announcers talk of recession and outline right- or left-leaning plans to stimulate the economy, through accelerated depreciation incentives for corporations or tax rebates for the poor. Despite the high number of houses for sale, the cost of gas that seems to inch up pennies each day, and the countless cars on its six-lane highways that cut through flat mangrove swamps or pass by endless upscale malls, I cannot see Florida suffering long, for people will come to the sun, regardless of the cost.

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