Today, a tsunami would have been the most out of place thing I could imagine. It was the calmest so far; I rounded off the tip of Cape Romano island and could see fishermen's buoy traps almost a quarter mile away.
There are very strange structures at the Cape’s end. They resemble the remains of flying saucers that crash landed into the sea. If ever they were that, there is not much left of the alien technology for trash pickers to strip out. Only the shell of the ancient flying aircraft remains perched at odd angles on stilts, and their graffitied domes seem ready to collapse into the water. Day fishermen are fond of them; two boats were casting lines for fish that swim between the ruins, and the pelicans were diving all around with great enthusiasm.
The bay south of the cape is known as the 10 thousand islands. I think there may be many more than that. For some 30 miles of coast there is a maze of mangrove marshes that make transiting from the ocean to the bay more difficult than finding one’s way through the streets of a medieval town. Even with a GPS it can be disorienting; I checked the map and looked around but the path was not always obvious. Thankfully there is a guiding force to find the way; the tide creates a river between the bay and the ocean, so where the current is strongest is the path to follow. I soon got through and I had a clear view of both Everglades City and its little sister island town of Chokoloskee where I pointed to.
I landed on the East of town where there was a small beach. It was someone’s private property, though no one was around, and I quickly got the boat and gear on the dolly and walked out to the nearest road before anyone noticed. I made my way to the Chokoloskee Parkway Marina Motel. Some four years ago I spent a night here on new years when paddling across the Everglades. It seems the place is frozen in time. I was greeted by an old lady at the reception desk who sat behind a wall decorated with a collage of pictures from happy fishermen holding their catch. One of the pictures was a little disturbing; a fisherman was clearly lacking the tips from two of his fingers. “You got a new kayak. What happened to the red one?”
“Oh, you remember me?” I said surprised. “I still have it. It’s at home hanging from my carport garage.”
“Yes, I remember you, you’re one of the few who don’t fish off your kayak.”
“Indeed, I do not,” I said laughing.
I next headed to the Havana Café which is the only place to eat in town. It’s popular with the paddlers from the Water Tribe who stop here on the way to Key Largo. The place existed since 2005 but was almost wiped out during hurricane Irma. “There was so much mud and debris everywhere even the key knobs were jammed up,” said the waitress. “The bridge was impassable for days and the power was out for weeks. For a while we were on our own. We’ve been hit bad before, but nothing like Irma. Thank goodness for the China guys; when relief started coming through, they were some of the first volunteers. They helped haul off trash, clean the mud, played music, and were giving out prepaid debit cards. I’d thought they’d make us into Buddhists but thank god they were here.” I didn’t want to spoil her thoughts, but if they were receiving aid from the Chinese Government, chances are they were Atheists.
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Walking back, I came across a small girl of about ten who was driving a motorized golf cart. She stopped and asked if I had seen her blue parakeet, which had escaped from its cage. I told her I didn't. I didn't think much of it until not much later I saw the little blue bird dive down in front of me chased by a black raven. It perched not far on top of a tree limb. When the girl drove by again, I pointed to her where the bird was, and she asked me to climb the tree and fetch Mr. Blueberries and stick him back in his cage. Needless to say, this was a completely hopeless effort; I got up on the tree, but the bird kept hopping higher like a monkey. A passer who saw the awkwardness of what I was doing suggested I call the fire department. It was at that moment a random strange old lady with a hunchback, walked out from her trailer near the tree and started barking in a redneck accent, "You better not do that. If you do, they’ll have your number and you'll be “involved”. Trust me; you don't want to be "involved" in Chokoloskee; I've been here for 55 years, and I'm still one of the newcomers. Don’t get “involved" here."
She turned around, walked back into her trailer home, and didn't not say another word, but I felt she must have stayed watching me from the window. I felt spooked like I had just seen a ghost. "That was some weird shit," I thought. In that time, the Mr. Blueberries flew off, probably chased by the ravens, and the girl went chasing after it in her golf cart. That was the last I saw them.
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