By Jay Heltzer.
Since Barry was a kid, his Uncle Manny talked of Key Largo’s “pristine white beaches”, elongating the second syllable in “pristine” to solidify his point. Barry had been planning his Florida vacation for years, since the first time he heard this lecture. And he heard it over and over every other year, motivating his plans even more. This journey to paradise was his great reward for working hard and creating a disciplined savings plan. Once he committed to it as an adult, he had put off dinners out, movies, extravagant purchases, all so he can treat himself to a week in the Florida Keys. “Those must be some incredible beaches,” Barry first remarked to his uncle. “White as snow and smooth as glass, my boy,” Uncle Manny replied with a wistful smile.
Twenty-eight years after his uncle’s initial passionate speech, he arrived, though Barry was not feeling the euphoria. The beaches were white as snow, but the air temperature also shared a wintery similarity. He planned the trip for February to escape the frigid death that infested his home of Denver, Colorado. Instead of seventy-seven degrees with bright Southern Florida sunshine, he was shivering, punished by breezy forty-eight degree air gusts.
Standing on the beach under threatening, grey clouds, he was joined by the occasional droplet of rain from the not-so-friendly skies above. The low cloud cover, with picturesque undulating curves and a mocking sense of chilled doom, was the last thing he wanted to see on his first Florida beach. Today’s unseasonal weather was ruining his long anticipated gift to himself. This lifetime Denver native had never been to a real beach, and this was his frigid and sad introduction.
Barry dressed appropriately for the unfortunate weather, leaving his tank-top and cargo shorts back at the B and B, instead choosing the only warm clothes he had – his favorite orange Bronco’s hoodie and jeans. He ditched the bricks that were his sneakers filled with sand and now his bare toes were sifting through the cool “pristine white beaches” that Uncle Manny promised him. Determined to not give up on the trip, Barry pulled a Corona out of his sweatshirt pocket and plopped ungracefully down on the beach, halfway between the street and the shore. Cracking open the cold beer, he held it up as a respectful toast to the shoreline and took a big swig. The salty beach air almost added the right flavor as it tasted remotely better than when he drank it at his neighborhood bar. The ceremonial gulp was followed by a croak of a burp from his gut. As he continued to sip at his beer, watching no bikini-clad ladies strutting by him, no surfers testing their skills in the water, no frisbee tossing or sand castles being built, he muttered in defeat “crap”, thinking the entire venture was a huge loss. Years of dreaming and planning, all blown away under cloudy skies and an icy wind. Staring off at some fixated vanishing point along the horizon, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a single beam of sunlight that broke through the clouds, and landed directly at his feet.
JAY HELTZER is a professional musician (bass trombone) from Alexandria, VA. While music has taken him around the world – in front of some of the most famous conductors and world leaders – he hopes his new aspiration of writing takes him… somewhere.