I had dinner last night with strangers, mostly, and the conversation included some interesting stories. A flight attendant for a private charter plane was propositioned by Zac Efron. An optometrist is training for a swim in shark infested waters off Alcatraz, part of his upcoming triathalon. A former underwear model can play the piano by ear and eats at this restaurant several times every week. A friend just visited his newly nudist parents at their Winter home in a naturist community.
I’m not sure who won the competition for the most interesting story. But the meal and the conversation were pure fun. Almost all were strangers to me, but they have been friends for some time. I was fascinated that they shared some fairly intimate, intriguing parts of their lives with someone they didn’t know well.
After the meal I had no plans. So I drove toward the beach. As I crossed the intracoastal, I rolled down my windows to let in the breeze and the sound of the crashing waves. I could smell the salt. I could see the moon reflected on the shore. I could feel my past washing over me, and then away. In its place was the present moment, with new memories of funny stories and good people. Past and present mingling together.
I drove past other memorable places:
- I watched the boat show from that balcony.
- I met my mother for lunch at that restaurant during her visit.
- I made a passing friend at that bar.
- I used to work in that building.
With each memory, I wondered, who am I now? Am I the guy who used to live here, or the guy who likes to vacation here? I’ve been gone from Florida longer than I lived here. But I visit three or four times a year. So I have this “second life” now. With each visit, the former life fades a bit more, and new memories take its place. Yet the pull of the past is like the moon at low tide, constant, inexorable, almost rhythmic.
My 8th grade teacher taught us that ocean water rolls around but stays in place. The appearance of movement is an illusion. As I pass the time on my beach vacation in a city I once called home, the past crests and falls like a wave. What exactly is new and what is old, what moves and what stays in place, is a mystery. Both are within and both are true. How they combine to form and shape me is a process I will need to attend to if I’m to experience it fully. Otherwise, it will just wash over me like a nameless, meaningless happenstance.