CHRISTMAS IN FLORIDA: An Epilogue During The Long Journey Home

The skies are foreboding over the Potomac River approaching Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon.

The skies are foreboding over the Potomac River approaching Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by John Nash)

It was Monday night and I was laying flat on my back, watching the Florida sky whisk by until it became Georgia sky.

The moon, a beautiful three-quarter shiner, would play hide and seek behind the occasional clouds, or it would disappear from view for a while until reappearing as my destination turned back toward true north.

I was reminded, actually, of being a child again, of laying in the back seat of my family’s car as it drove through a Maine night.

It was the same view from above, flying by. The sky at night. The moon. The trees as they stood high over my chosen path of travel, zooming by at such high rates of speed they were nothing but a blur.

It gave me a good feeling, laying there; a brief reminder of what life was like as a child, when the world was innocent and future was full of hope.

That’s how I fell asleep inside my Amtrak sleeper car on Monday night, feeling good about my “Christmas in Florida” excursion.

I made a grown woman cry with a Christmas Day tribute to her lost son. I made a little girl smile by handing her a teddy bear she never expected.

I watched two movies — “Spotlight” and “Concussion” — that both made me think.

I got to spend time watching a college bowl game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

And on the day I started my journey home I fell asleep thinking about that little boy that was once me, laying in the car and looking up at a world full of wonder.

I fell asleep smiling, I’m sure.

Tuesday came and with it came daylight.

From my window, I looked out onto the world once again.

Only now I was able to see everything again.

Small towns rolled by too quickly to savoir. I saw backyards of houses, rear sides of businesses, and those trees. Those damn trees, blocking my views.

They had lost their romance from the night before. They were just trees, parts of the forests that you look into and get lost in.

Outside Raleigh, N.C., I saw homeless encampments — enough so that I spent the rest of my journey looking for more.

They say travel by train and see America, so that’s what I’m doing.

We let people live like that. Under bridges. In tents. Unprotected.

What a country.

I’m heading back to Connecticut — back to the real world — and my ETA as I type this is approximately eight or nine hours.

My ride for the 24-hour journey home arrives in Tampa on Monday afternoon. (Photo by John Nash)

My ride for the 24-hour journey home arrives in Tampa on Monday afternoon. (Photo by John Nash)

The North Carolina countryside is flying by at a speed too fast to enjoy.

Last night’s peaceful easy feeling, if I can borrow a term from the Eagles, is — if I can borrow another term from the band — already gone.

I’m going back to a newspaper business that is drowning, refusing to spend money to make money. It’s now a place where people wear the look of wonder, asking themselves if it’s going to appear above the surface again and will we all be able to tread water until we retire.

I’m going back to a place where traffic jams are the daily routine; a place where some people are too rich for their own good while others are trapped by the society we have created.

While I was in St Petersburg, two teenagers were shot in a drive-by shooting. One of them died.

Back home in Connecticut, a 14-year-old boy was killed in Bridgeport, an innocent bystander, from what I hear.

I guess it doesn’t matter where I’m hanging my hat. Kids die.

America.

It’s flying by outside my window right now, but for some people it’s over before it even started.

If this trip has cemented a self-discovery about myself it’s the fact that I don’t really like people anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I like individual people — I downright love and adore some people — but persons as a people just annoy me.

I also fear that I’m not a true fan of sports anymore — not in a sense that I don’t love the games and the story lines they bring forth.

Those are a part of me.

But as I sat in Section 306, Row T, Seat 23 at Raymond James Stadium, I felt like I’d rather be at home (in this case my hotel) watching on television.

I loved seeing the stadium. I loved walking around and soaking in the atmosphere.

But when I missed three out of the first four plays of the game because people were too lazy to get to their seats in time, I find that annoying.

Football has a shitload of media timeouts and I’d have no problem if somebody decided it was time to go get another beer, or take a leak, when the teams are standing around doing nothing.

But when it’s third-and-12 in the closing minutes of the first half, that’s when you decided to stand up and make our whole row stand up so you can waddle out to the concession area to do your business?

Seriously?

Fans show no consideration for other fans and that’s just wrong. It’s annoying and I don’t have to put up with it anymore.

And, when I saw a 10-, maybe 11-year-old boy holding up a sign that said, “Say No To Rape” — a slam at Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and the accusations that haunted his days in college — I literally asked myself, “What the hell am I doing here?”

How does a boy that age even enter into the conversation about something like that?

On the plane ride to Florida (Jet Blue — Love ya!) I had people all around me and I was uncomfortable, but it was tolerable.

On the train ride home to Connecticut (Amtrak – Like ya!) I’m alone in my little cubby of a “sleeper car” and I’m content, happy even, no matter how disgruntled I am about what I’m going back to.

Amazing how far I’ve come in 49 years.

Soul mates have come and gone, and I’m certain in my heart I’ve missed my window on that opportunity.

Friendships have come and gone, as well, and are now usually relished through each other’s posts on Facebook. I have 269 “friends” on Facebook, but that doesn’t make me rich. I know that.

To the contrary, I’m alone in this train car watching part of America scream by me for a reason.

Florida is sadly in my rear view mirror.

So too are the best days of my life.

 

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