Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rainy Day Woman

A rainy day on Duval Street won't stop these tourists from enjoying their vacation.
This week it rained in Key West. It rained for days. It flooded the streets, trapped people in their homes, closed the schools and got us on the TV news. At the beginning of the rain, when the temperature dropped a few degrees and the air was heavy with dampness with salty breezes tossing the palms, it was sweet—a welcome change. But then it turned dark and relentless. Enough! The five-day season of rain reminded me anew of why I live in Florida.

Con Leche, rehearsing in the kitchen.
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, to promote tourism, the Key West Chamber of Commerce promised to pay $5 to the library fund for any day the sun didn’t shine, at least for a little while, on the island of Key West. The announcement was made in March. It was not until the following March that they had to honor their vow and pay the first $5. That’s the norm for this place. The average annual rainfall in Key West is around 38 inches. It’s twice that in Miami. It’s a benefit of living on a coral island, a hundred miles out at sea. 
Miguel. My baby. Singer. Songwriter. Teacher.
    People in Key West remember big rainstorms the way people up north remember historic blizzards. Sometime around 1980 I was home alone with my baby when the rain was so overwhelming I called a taxi to bring me diapers for my baby and cigarettes for me. When the cabbie, a woman, arrived I invited her in. We ate. We drank. We chatted. We had a great time. That’s the way it was back then.
    On Wednesday, Day Five of the deluge, I decided to work on my project of downloading my CDs onto my computer. All went well until I came across a Raul Malo album, and a song that touched my heart. The song "Remember" reminded me of many sad things: the way it always seemed to be raining in the autumn when I lived up north, and of how I fought an annual depression from fall till spring year after year. I thought of my mother, and of how much I miss the woman I feared and adored in equal measure, of when she was young and beautiful and magnificently nuts. I thought of my friend, wheelchair bound, recovering inch by painstaking inch from a stroke that happened over a year ago. I thought of the swift passage of time, of how fast life goes, and of how, in spite of how rich you make it, in the end, it always ends the same.
For the street or the reef!
    Then I did what I always do when my sprits sag. I cooked. Chicken soup, with lots of veggies. I called my son, my baby, grown into a man who teaches school and plays in a band and loves Key West as much as I do. I told him I was bringing soup. He was home from work as school was canceled for the rain.  He and the band were rehearsing. The guys played a command performance of their hit song, "Keys Disease." I photographed them, while outside the rain fell mercilessly.
    Con Leche, the band, is playing at the Pegasus Hotel on Fantasy Fest weekend. This, Will, the guitar man told me, is a “rare opportunity” to see the band live—and to buy their album. Why rare? I asked him. It’s a marketing thing, he told me. Oh. Like the Chamber of Commerce, and the sun.
    Today we’re heading to the beach to celebrate the return of the sun, our long lives, and the passage of time. In Paradise.

1 comment: