Iguana Days

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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.

He belched.

Then he reached into his Yeti cooler, cracked another light beer and poured it down his throat.

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18 thoughts on “Iguana Days

  1. You capture this type of modern mammal perfectly. Your style combines the best parts of realism with the best parts of impressionism: it’s a joy to read. In my actual, physical life (as opposed to this online realm or the mental life of books & art), I’ve known almost nothing other than these creatures that you call rednecks. That’s the majority of the population in my part of the U.S., the Midwest suburbs… I’m sure the city’s different, but wherever I go, Toby Keith Country haunts me. So your composition was cathartic; it’s somehow a relief to know that you too feel that same agitation that I’ve long felt, when confronted with these “potbellied air compressors” and their “stubbly goatees” (every detail in your sketch of them is spot-on)… And yet you’re not just flatly & unimaginatively ridiculing them: somehow your way of drawing them into your fancy and relaying your curiosity about their conversation lures the reader to think deeper about these people: How did they get this way? how are they so comfortable with this baseline behavior? — To puzzle over them, rather than to simply dismiss them as “others” and “aliens”, preserves us (the literate minority) from devolving themward; for I am sure that they would never mirror your meditations: as you explain, they’d strictly deem our kind “impractical, or weird, or foreign”, and ultimately “laughable”. — I have to admit that I’m actually kinda jealous of them; I wish that I too could enjoy that type of music; that easy patriotic conceit; that stout, spacious, sprawling presence, etc. It would be nice to fit, to match, to be one of the pack; especially if I didn’t have to maintain a memory of my former sensitive self, but I could seriously just sink into my rut of lite-beer gulping masculinity, blissfully ignorant of anything beyond. …Anyway, I hope you take this ramble as a compliment: for it means this piece hit me where it hurts in a healthy way.

    • I still had jetlag when I wrote this so it’s a lot shorter and less thorough than I had planned it to be. One point I wanted to get across was that a lot of them seemed quite likeable and fun. I am sure I would’ve had a great time hanging out with them if I did, but as you say, “I’ve known almost nothing other than these creatures…” and their homogenous qualities, and their lemming mentalities only serve to drive you insane in the end. Or in my case drive you out of the Country.

      p.s. notice how I capitalized Country. I learned that from Trump. It’s very important to capitalize when talking about Our Country.

  2. Your vacation sounds lovely — with maybe the exception of rednecks? But they did give you something to write about, so…

    Great to see you back. And thank you for the vivid trip to Redneck Riviera!

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