Wednesday, August 29, 2012


In Panama City, FL, I saw three men on the side of the road wearing black & white striped jumpsuits, picking up palm fronds and tree branches that had blown off in the first gusts of Hurricane Isaac. I didn't even really know that black & white striped jumpsuits still existed, but I think I saw a chain gang, without the chains.

Alabama farmland
Panama City is the furthest south I've ever been, and according to the locals the furthest south you can ever get, as anything below the Florida panhandle is Disney and Miami glitz and the tropical Keys. It was deep. Deep like Patrick's long(ish, since I grew up with a father who had a ponytail) hair caused issues with uncles and grandparents deep. Deep like coleslaw was the only vegetable at dinner deep. Deep like church on every corner & Grandmother Imogene doesn't allow the word "liar" to be said in her home deep. Deep like the best peaches & biscuits I've ever had deep.

I guess Alabama is where you're supposed to get peaches. 

I also guess there are pink cows there, too.

Patrick's mother's family is from Panama City, and her mother and father (mommy & daddy if you're a good Southern gal like she is) welcomed me with food and family and stories from the past, as well as gentle jokes about what I saw in the family's blacksheep-poet-who-talks-like-a-Yankee. It's the hair, I told them.

We went to the beach, so I could put my feet in the Gulf of Mexico. The sand is finer than sugar and white like it too. Hurricane Isaac hadn't reached land yet, and wouldn't for another day or so, but you could feel it coming in the skies and in the riptide that pulled back hard on your feet. Out in the distance, we saw three or four dolphins playing, taking advantage of the fact that the beaches were emtpy. Once, one of them jumped all the way out of the water, curving down and around so we saw his whole body arching back in the water.

Later that afternoon, I went with Patrick, his brother, and their grandfather to his property on White Western Lake. Florida has hundreds of lakes all over, hidden behind copses of trees from the highways, fed by springs from underneath the ground.

The springs are drying up, though, and the lake where Patrick spent his childhood is slowly shrinking, drying up & leaving more and more white sand around its edges. The water is warmer than any I've ever swam in, save the Mediterranean, but Patrick & Stephen told their family it was a little cool. Perhaps it was the lower temperatures due to the impending storm. We swam for a while, with dark clouds blowing by overhead, and Patrick's Grand-daddy sitting in a folding chair by the lake's edge, watching his grandsons and some tattooed girl in a bikini bobbing in & out of the water.   

1 comment:

Chelsea said...

I have always wanted to go hang out in the south like this...thanks for blogging my dream :)