I am back in Berlin after a three-week trip I took with my six-year-old son A. to Florida. I worked most of the time I was there, tending the equipment rental shop, but the first weekend I managed to get out for a little trip-within-a-trip to the Keys. I went down there with my son, my brother, his wife and their son, who is only a year older than mine. A. and I stayed in a little iguana infested hotel in Key Largo, but spent most of our time at my brother’s much nicer hotel and pool in Islamorada. We actually spent too much in his pool, but our kids loved it, and we didn’t feel like doing anything else. The July sun was too brutal and blazing. Besides, we had tumblers filled with lime and iced tequila. We’d brought our own booze so as not to get ripped off at the tiki bar and sat along the edge of the pool imbibing, watching the crowd of rednecks on the other side. There was about twenty of them I think, and from what I’d gathered they had come down for the weekend from somewhere between Vernon and Hell’s Half-Acre. The men were all very large, much larger than the tiny women they were with. They were built like potbellied air compressors, and sat most of the time bulky and stoic in the corner in their ten-gallon straw hats, and their blue-lensed sunglasses, drinking cans of light beer from a Yeti cooler someone had dragged in.
“God bless America, and God bless you all!” shouted the singer of the one-man coverband. He then started playing a Toby Keith song, and the rednecks got both proud and boisterous. I watched them and thought about how similar they looked to each other, and how their thoughts, their range of emotions, their relationship to themselves, their surroundings and the culture were probably very similar too. The common denominator was practicality. Anything they deemed impractical, or weird, or foreign to their masculine sensibilities, was so far beneath contempt it was laughable.
There was one redneck in the pool who all the others seemed to crowd around and admire. He was about six-foot-two of hulking flesh, the obligatory broadbrimmed straw hat shading him, blue-tinted sunglasses, stubbly goatee. He had his big hairy sunburnt arms propped up on the ledge of the pool and was kind of leaning his head back while all around him the others formed a ring, hanging on his words as if he were The Floating Godhead of the Dry Tortugas.
I swam a little closer to hear what important statement he was imparting, imagining it to be some wise aphorism, a haiku or a Kierkegaardian soliloquy about the tongue-tied spirit.
Instead, I heard, “I sold that lot for two and a half.” That’s all.
Then he reached into his Yeti cooler, cracked another light beer and poured it down his throat.