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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just another day in paradise

I've lived on Treasure Island for nine months and counting. And, it still takes my breath away when I step on the white sand beach and look in either direction. It's like living in a postcard. The reality of living here is often more complex than a postcard can capture.

Our neighbors here on our neck of the beach all have their little quirks. One of them, an elderly lady with weathered skin usally clad in a swimsuit, cover up and flip flops, greets you with "Just another day in paradise." She rarely says it with a smile. Just a matter-of-fact.

Not everyone on the beach is retired. Most of us hold jobs, if not 9-to-5, still jobs that take us away from the beach. Daily chores and other things get in the way. We don't get to watch as many sunsets as we would like.

The neighborhood is diverse -- not ethnically perhaps, but none the less definitely diverse. Retirees, waiters, waitresses, bartenders, a writer, an artist, a nurse, a sports agent -- we all live in close proximity touching on the fringes of each other's lives.

One neighbor, one not liked by anyone on the block for many good reasons, was found dead in the house he lived in two doors down a few weeks ago. It's sad, he's not missed. The older woman who had invited him to live with her, only to find herself shipped off to a nursing home while he stayed in her house has returned home. Just another day in paradise.

One retiree walks his two dogs every day. He limps as he walks. We were chatting with him one especially beautiful sunny day when all the neighbors were out and about. He mentioned his late wife. It was the anniversary of their marriage. They had one son. He died many years ago, said the neighbor, the loneliness and sadness of his losses spilling over into his eyes. Just another day in paradise.

Spring break has been hard. The crowds move from the local beach bar into our driveways and we're constantly yelling at drunk tourists to move their cars. Just another day in paradise.

I'm looking forward to May and June. When the sweltering days and the hot Gulf water temperatures began to creep up, forcing the tourists from up north -- and Tampa -- to find refuge elsewhere.

All this complexity can wear on you. Then I walk on the beach, look around and soak it all in. Just another day in paradise.

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