Myrtle Street is three blocks long, running east to west from the Atlantic Ocean, to 3rd Street, also known as A1A, the east coast scenic highway as it slides through Neptune Beach, Florida. I was fortunate to have a small amount of savings to lean on during the 2008 economic downturn and was able to buy into a great residential beach community and after renting both units of the duplex for seven years, took on the downstairs apartment as our semi second home, for when we visit our friends here, or when we just need to get away – the needs of a person exiting a long career in accounting and corporate management.
The pandemic hit us like a sledge hammer (a music video just popped into my head) on the sixteenth floor of our temporary apartment home in Jersey City, eight weeks ago, and when my wife’s company went 100% remote work, we made a hasty exit from the northeast trading vistas of Manhattan for morning walks on the beach…
There is nothing like waking to the skyline of Manhattan, except that the same is true for watching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. There is just so much freaking beauty on Earth, even in places where you might not think you’d find it…
Being in the city or at the beach, or in the woods, or most anywhere is better than being at the mortuary, which has been the threat of this specific SARS CoV 2 virus outbreak. Thankfully we had the ability to get out of the belly of the beast up north where the English landed, and hang out down here where the Spanish settled back in the 1513.
Growing up in Virginia, we learned about Jamestown (Est. 1607) and Williamsburg, and I can trace my ancestry back to Warner Hall at Gloucester Point in 1642, but the Spaniards already had things going on down here on the First Coast a hundred-some years earlier, and sixty-some years before North Carolina misplaced its Lost Roanoke Island Colony; lost my guess is to booze, or possibly a Cat. 5 hurricane. Even so, from the land use here in northern Florida, you’d swear that there were some Scottish Spaniards on the boats that arrived so long ago.
Eight weeks post Jersey City, we are still somewhat in exile on Myrtle Street; I say somewhat due to the nature of the pandemic here, where the proven infected numbers are small and the reality of Covid 19 is just not the same as in Jersey City, where Hudson County has had almost as many deaths from the disease as the total number of recorded cases in Duval County, Florida, which includes Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Neptune Beach, where there is no real mass transit, and a population eleven times less dense (1,250 people per square mile v. 15,000) than in Hudson County, New Jersey.
And here in Neptune Beach you can get outside and manage large social distances easily: Earlier today I took our youngest puppy (two year old bulldog) to the beach for a morning walk in the surf. We may have been as close as 50 feet to another person, once.
Our exile here is mostly from our friends in the area. We do get out and walk the beach and ride our bikes, but we FaceTime our good friends here because we take the “quarantine” quite seriously (we did do a drive by happy birthday celebration a few weeks back, from the car – we felt well distanced and safe). But this disease hangs in the air, no pun intended, and the threat is real, and as I understand it, Covid 19 can be quite unpleasant.
Two years ago, I neglected getting a flu shot, and then got the flu. It was the worst case of the flu I ever had and at one point I was thinking I would have to check-in to the Mayo Clinic. Sick, really sick like I’d never been before and at a time when my wife was away so I didn’t have anyone around to be a big baby about it for; I just had to suck it up. Three weeks of feeling bad, with six days of only getting out of bed to make tea, or let the dog’s in and out of the apartment, good thing we have a fenced yard. The “used dog food” cleanup after the flu was almost as bad as the disease.
And so, unlike others here, I have a recent feel for being extremely ill, and I have a great respect what those microscopically small bastard viruses can do and don’t want to be any part of their history. I try to get everything we need each week on Monday morning at the Neptune Beach Publix when the shopping crowds are small.
The population here is about 50/50 split on wearing masks, which I do when I go into any store. And in the local social media, some of those 50% of non mask wearing folks here are quite adamant about their right as an American to go anywhere they want without a mask and cough or sneeze on whomever they please, so for now it’s a good thing that the known infection rate here is quite small; 1,186, among a total population in the county of 957,755, give or take, with only 29 Covid related deaths so far. I just have to hope that one of those symptomless and mask-less SARS CoV 2 infected characters doesn’t show up at the Publix on Monday mornings within aerosol projection distance when I’m there, cuz my mask may not be Covid-proof.
Occasionally I have to go out later in the week for more prosecco and beer. The prosecco is for a drink my wife likes that I made up and call a Neptune Beach, which is 4/5ths prosecco, 1/5th orange juice (from Florida), and enough grenadine to give it that Tequila Sunrise look (okay, so it’s basically a Mimosa with grenadine). I on the other hand have gone back to my youthful habits and have been drinking, no, not Boone’s Farm Wild Mountain Grape wine, but the famous Budweiser Beer, a brand who’s Beechwood aging “produces a taste, a smoothness, and a drinkability you will find in no other beer at any price.” Match that for beer poetry, damnit!
During a youthful drinking, smoking, stoned event back some 45 years ago, we played several memory games. One was a repetition game where you make up a phrase to go with each integer, starting at one. The first person starts with something like that game, “one duck”, then the the next person has to repeat that “one duck” phrase, and add something like “two pooped porpoises” – alliteration counts for… something. The last integer in that specific game I can still remember was “Nine old men on roller-skates all having a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth.” Whoa buddy, that one shut the game down, especially since it followed “Eight brass monkeys from the secret sacred sites of ancient Egypt.”
Following that game, was the memorize the Budweiser Beer label statement game, the statement shown in the ribbon on the top of the label, which is composed of three sentences, and includes one comma, which you have to properly place in your recitation. I can still recite it from memory, except sometimes I have to pause to get the “by any other brewer” phrase into the right spot. “This is the famous…”
Beyond trying to remember stupid things of my past, one thing this exile has me doing is cooking a lot more than ever. Last night was splurge night and we had filet mignon that I pan seared and oven baked; one rare (me), one medium well (her). I usually prefer a well aged and marbled Rib-eye, but since we spend a few weeks each year in Dodge City, Kansas, I can usually wait to get my rib-eyes there, from Kirby Meat Co, where you’d think from the size of the steaks they came from Texas, but Texans it seems and is mentioned occasionally by the local registered black angus ranchers, are more into brisket. I think that must be related to the Texas attitude and general invitation for all in the vicinity to attend any bar-b-cue.
Maybe we’ll get into some more exile cooking stories and possibly a Texas story or three in Chapter 2. Till then, do your best to keep your head up and in the game, hommes, and hommettes.
Music by Tom Principato, “Tango’d Up In The Blues”