Monday, July 31, 2006

Evidence of Florida's past ride the tides like a ghost in a mist.Walking the swash line at the oceans edge reveals much about Florida's slow ascent to the surface. Sharks teeth, sting ray crushing plates and fragments of bone from fish, sea turtles and unknown large creatures noisily swirl in a kaleidoscope of muted color brushed ashore with each wave. To the experienced eye, though, the deep ebony shine of fossil bone or teeth stands out from the obliterative background of tan,white, red and yellow coquina of our high energy beaches. With sea level's periodic rise and fall, the bones of marine and land species traded places over millinia. I try to imagine our new Minorcan home millions of years ago, in transition from sparkling tourist-brochure tropical islands to the vast tropical savannah of a sunburned land, broken only by the shore and mazes of dense swamp. It is certainly evidence for the tragedy of mortality when you allow your mind to run, imagining what one could have observed over the millions of years that natural forces shaped Florida in preparation for the arrival of Minorcans (or so I fantasize). The evolutional forces that shaped this ever-changing landscape prodded and experimented. With the closing of the sea between Mexico and Panama, critters from both hemispheres mingled and changed the ecology in dramatic ways. Camels, horses, sloths and mammoths thrived here until recent times, only to go the way of all genomes, extinct. There relatives only far away at the closest today. Here only their bones bubble to the surface of our beautiful springs or quietly reveal themselves in slow, dark tannin waters of our Florida rivers...and with their demise came another opportunistic species...us.

The view from the Crack Shack
Rain! Beautiful rain! I finally got a good tropical down pour to quench my parched yard. It has been a relatively cool, but dry summer for my part of Florida. And anyway, I love rain. Nothing refreshes the Earth like good, clean rain. I always wonder at the interactions of the atmosphere when the rains finally come. There is no sunny day that can claim more beauty than a warm, clean tropical rain. It comes, it goes, the land steams and life surges back into withered, dry leaves and stems. Its wonderful. Its beautiful, and I love it. Anyway, a while back someone was asking for cultural things like recipes so here's one with a heritage. Mackey Edge is gone now for many years. He was a subsistance fisherman like many, if not most Minorcans here. He made his own cast nets and lived by using a seasonal knowledge of what natural bounty would put food on the table and money in his pocket. I'll write more about his family and our Minorcan history later. This simple recipe he gave me on the beach one late-summer evening at Porpoise Point while cast netting mullet (our official animal mascot and food source).
Mackey's Mullet

Take a good, fat roe mullet approx. 2lb. (a black or striped mullet (Mugil cephalus)
Gut the scaled,fish and clean the body cavity,leave the roe in.
Salt/pepper the body cavity
Fill belly with a fat slab of smoked bacon, a pat of butter and one or two datil peppers (depending on your heat tolerance, one will make most men cry)
Wrap in foil and bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until fish flakes.
Drink beer, eat and laugh with your family.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Florida, you know, just a little souvenir from Africa.(and you thought Alaska was a bad deal for Russia!)
So far, I have, in a very round about Minorcan way, established in 6 blogs what could be said in about 6 sentences. Basically, the same geologic forces that created the Appalachian mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, the eventual mineral source of our beach and our ancestoral island home, also created the new land that we now call home...Florida. As the cratons that would become Europe, Africa and the Americas began to split apart, they not only created the Atlantic's northern basin, but also stripped the nascent Africa of a large chunk of submerged basement rock that glued itself to the new North American continent. That exotic terrain would be the complete mess we call Florida today. As a part of the trailing edge of the continent moving slowly, but relentlessly west, the tectonics for Florida were gentle, unlike the new upheavals that created the Rocky range to the west complete with some of the most violent volcanism that has ever occurred in North America. Yellowstone is a gigantic caldera, the remnants of an explosion that we better hope we don't see again. One on the scale of continental collisions that covered the entire North American continent with dust, ash and debris. Anyway, while the West was busy blowing up, Florida was basking under a blanket of warm, shallow seas. It must have been a very beautiful, if not frightful place. As South America drifted slowly south, a channel opened between the Atlantic's growing basin and the shrinking Pacific basins. This allowed a flow of ocean waters between the Pacific and the growing Atlantic. This was where the Central American countries from Panama to Northern Mexico exist today. It must have been truly beautiful. A string of tropical islands, collared in corals and simply filthy with fascinating marine life. Florida, slowly uplifting to the surface, was much the same, lush, tropical and full of fish and waves, a full-on Minorcan dream.
Problem was, Minorcans didn't even exist then. We had to wait for the better part of another 25 million years for humans to evolve, and then we had to perfect them and become us. Hey I didn't say being a Minorcan was easy.

The view from the Crack Shack.
Ah! Hurricane season. We love it as much as we dread it (sorta like having a girlfriend, there is either a very fine line between love and hate, or maybe there ain't one after all!). There are many bad things about hurricane season, and I won't go into them, that how CNN, FOX and the other psycho news channels make their bucks. As you know, real men stand in 90 kt winds with phallic look-alikes in their hands which they talk to. REAL Minorcan men don't, we learned about that a long time ago. There's a word for it in Minorcan...bad. Or is it dumb? Anyway. I have to admit, I love the tropical sky. There is no blue like the blue of the August sky. If a gem could be made of that color and clarity, only the Gods could own one. I wish I could give one to my Mom and put one in the mind's eye of my son. The heat of hurricane season shames even the prissiest pooch. It oppresses. It drenches you. It frees you of a lot of clothes...and it breeds storms. As a member of the surfer tribe, we love 'em. No one likes destruction (we elect presidents to do that), but these huge heat engines have a very useful purpose in distributing heat within the atmosphere. Without them, the oceans would boil, biologically, and marine life would suffer. They also create waves. To me, ocean waves are the most beautiful form in nature, challenged only by the female human body, perhaps. Last week, a weak tropical wave graced the coast with a small, juicy, fun tropical swell and I had a blast.I surfed my butt off, and there ain't much there. As I sat in the lineup, waiting for a clean little wedge(a good wave for the uninitiated), I realized that this was the 40th summer that I have surfed my home break of Vilano. I caught my first waves on this very beach with Beehive and Gary when Vietnam was just exploding.I looked around, musing at the variety of surfers, male and female. I laughed to myself as I watched.I greeted an 'old timer' of 30, one of my ex-students. Sam was always nice. He still held his place in the heirarchy of dominance. You know what I mean, the one who pisses higher on the hydrant and the ones who lets'em thing. I wondered to myself how much longer he would last. I've seen so many come and go. Groms to top dogs. Then they falter and fade away. Some never return. Some try to return, but babies, mortgages and careers wash them away. But, there a few, very few, who really have the spirit that they all claim they have when there're young, fighting to the top of the peak. But we are very few. I've watched them come and go. Come and go. They blow in on the wind, howl and rage and disappear. Just like hurricane season.