Stopped for gas yesterday, the kind of magnificent, glorious day that makes your heart sing and your body forget its age. 74 degrees, with a few little clouds, the bright sun shining off the newly waxed red convertible, air as fresh as it is anywhere wafting like the smell of jasmine off the blue Atlantic.
The advertising sign on the gas pump has a picture of bundled up people on a toboggan and snow. My neighbors have begun to put up fake icicles, fake frost, chrome caribou and sleds festooned with lights and other reminders that Christmas, a month away, is really a pastiche of ancient Northern European winter celebrations. It's jarring, a disturbing denial of reality as though all the world were northern. It's jarring like wearing a wool suit and wing tip shoes on the beach.
It's in the teens up North where I used to live and when I say live I mean huddle in the dark waiting for Spring, leaving for work in the dark, returning in the dark, spending hours each week shoveling snow in subzero temperatures, but you can't have Christmas without archaic imagery and the more modern but strictly above the 40th parallel iconography as given to us by such bards as the Coca Cola company, Montgomery Wards and all the commercial interests that have latched on to the holiday. The plastic fat men, robed in plastic furs -- the descendants of a skinny Nikolaos of Myra, will bloom on manicured green lawns bordered by bougainvillea and hibiscus and not an iota of irony will spoil the spirit unless the polystyrene saint is shattered by a falling coconut.
But right on schedule, as it seems, it's cold today, probably won't be more than 70 although with the southern sun it will feel warmer. Wool wrapped people will wait outside Wal-Mart for the retail rampage to begin and driving to dinner with my few remaining family members I may wear one of my old leather jackets and if I can find one, a pair of long pants. It's Thanksgiving in this formerly Spanish bit of the tropics. Florida where the flowers still bloom, where oranges and bananas and lemons ripen behind the house; Florida where the "pilgrims" never came and the Puritan ventureth not nor did the Europeans ever sit down to dinner with the natives.
But never mind the latitude, it's about the attitude. It's about tradition. It's about a fictional past from far away and as people do, we'll make up our own reality even though it's nowhere as good as the one nature provides and I'll sit indoors eating things I shouldn't instead of sitting by the pool or at a restaurant by the water listening to steel drums and being thankful for where and what and who I am.