What Is Treason?

Entry by: MediaOcracy

6th November 2014
Fleeing The Country. A Betrayal (of sorts)

Earth sits in the Solar System three stops from the Sun, somewhere on one arm of a barred spiral galaxy called the Milky Way. It is estimated that this spinning cloud of gas, dust and rock is a little more than 13 billion years old, spans about 100,000 light years and contains between 100 and 400 billion stars. We know what we know. The rest is just guess work.


Perhaps a moment arrives, when balance is lost and there is conflict with the world. It is time to escape right then and a call is made. You explain to the agent, the need for a flight to anywhere warm - and as soon as possible. The friendly voice says that a 707 leaves tomorrow night for Orlando. That sounds perfect.

It happens that tomorrow is the 31st of October and in the spirit of things, the cabin crew welcome passengers in Halloween costume. Yours is a window seat at the rear and as you excuse your way past the aisle occupant, he grunts and coughs. The safety procedures are mimed by witches. Given the course of recent events, you take this surreal performance in your stride but as you flip through the magazine, the heavy sighs of your neighbour signal a difficult flight ahead.

A delayed take-off finally happens and as the no smoking light flicks out, the grumpy man produces a soft pack of Luckies. He offers one and you accept. Co-conspirators and kindred spirits suddenly, fuming at the back of the plane. When the nicotine hits, he relaxes and you realise that the bad humour was only the withdrawal symptoms of a dedicated smoker. So you talk. And he begins to tell his thick accent life story, punctuated by those piercing coughs.

Tales of escape from Poland in World War Two, jeopardy, near capture and death. Asylum in Sweden, and finally washing up on American shores.

For almost 50 years in the land of the free, the home of the brave, he has made a living crafting up-market wooden boats for the well-to-do on Long Island. His wife runs the business end of the business because he is just an illiterate carpenter. A perfect match, he says.

Eventually, he sleeps for a while and you gaze through the lozenge window as the moon slides by. You take in the stars, thinking once more about time. And whether yours is almost up.

As the plane descends for landing, your new friend places his lighter in your hand. He explains that his wife made him give up smoking, after an X-ray showed evidence of his chest caving in. But on the visit to relatives in London, he lapsed and fell back on the Luckies. Their rendezvous in Orlando begins a two-week pilgrimage to Disneyworld, and other tourist traps, an anniversary present to his better half. She will meet him off the plane as a non-smoker once more, so he won’t need the Zippo. You hope that for the sake of domestic harmony that his wife has no sense of smell but accept the gift with thanks. In a parting shot, he fishes an emergency pack from his jacket and gives it up as wheels bump and squeal on foreign tarmac.

He says, ‘God bless America.’ and means it.

Shaking hands, you feel the strength that comes with physical labour and the palmed callouses of this gnarly craftsman, as he wishes the best for your life. Watching him file down the aisle, you hope that those crackling lungs will hold out for a good few years more.

And wonder what it must mean to have a skill like this man. A simpler life perhaps.

It is early hours in Orlando airport but the friendly agent has arranged that a station wagon is ready and waiting to accept your luggage and the Kona mountain bike that you brought along. There is a vague plan to drive down to the Keys - or perhaps Miami to cycle around the Everglades.

But after heading south on Highway 1 for a while, past the parked rockets dotting the Space Coast, a new station cuts in. A different beat to the usual wallpaper music. In short order, Fela Kuti, Penguin Cafe and The The, bang through the speakers. These tunes are broadcast by WFIT public radio and suddenly it seems like a good idea to hang around for a while. So you make a left and head seaward. And somehow by chance, you have arrived in Melbourne Beach, Brevard County, Florida.

This tiny town has a population of 3015 according to the road sign, which reminds you to drive careful. On hearing your accent, the perceptive gas station attendant hands you a tourist guide, which list the facts. That Melbourne Beach is located on an unnamed barrier island. A thin slice of Earth, which separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Indian River Lagoon and is anchored by two causeways to the mainland. And in bullet point form, that the town is Brevard County’s oldest beach community. And that more wildlife is concentrated in this area than any other in America. And that it was a favoured hangout of writers in the 1930’s. Golf is a feature.

‘Welcome Snowbirds!’ shouts the front cover. The young attendant helpfully explains that the term refers to the thousands of old folk, who migrate temporarily from the northern states, to overwinter in the south.

He says, ‘Yeah, they all fly down here from Maine, Michigan, Montana and - er..’


Yeah, that’s right!’ he says.

As neither of you can think of any more northerly ‘M’ states, it’s thanks and goodbye.

You are just about to take off when he shouts, ‘Hey!’ and waves you back.


Big beam. Day made.

Your main concern now, is to find a cheap motel near the beach before you fall asleep at the wheel. And you do. The Jolly Roger couldn’t be closer to the sea and is owned by a Bavarian frau, who may be crazier than you. Her name is gone now - but it might be Heidi. Which seems entirely inappropriate, given that she weighs at least 18 stone and looks like a man in drag.

You hit it off with this unlikely character, who takes you for an eccentric English artist and calls you ‘dahling’ from the outset. The accommodation that she offers at a bargain rate, is perfect. A cabin, one of 20 or so ranged in a quadrangle around the swimming pool. Inside, a decent-sized living room and a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom off. With a picture window view of the ocean that couldn’t be more than 30 yards away. You’ll take it. Time to sleep.

When you wake some hours later, it suddenly hits that no one knows where you are. That for the first time, you are really alone. Not lonely, however. Glad to be out of it, like Thoreau in Walden - but without a doting mother down the road to cook the odd dinner. That’s fine though because in this climate, cooking is barely necessary. Raw salads and the odd baked fish will be absolutely fine for now.

You kill some time hanging out with your Germanic landlady. When you ask if there is a Mr Heidi, she details a bitter divorce, dismissing her ex with the final comment. ‘He looked like a vindow cleaner.’ The vindow cleaner had apparently run off with the chambermaid some time back. You imagine that the pair must have set up a tidy home together, with crystal clear views of the garden. When Heidi gets busy, you lounge by the pool downing Barney’s Beanery coffee and think how blue the sky is for November.

This temporary stay extends first into days and then weeks. It is not long before you get into the habit of waking early as the sunrise hits the windows, out of the door and along the silver beach. At that hour seabirds hog the shoreline. Some like the herons, are easily recognisable but the smaller models have a distinct look that you haven’t seen back home. These tiny waders work around the old men casting lines into the surf. Retired insurance executives, plumbers, police officers - all equals now, wielding rods and fishing for sea bass.

The beach is strewn with detritus. Flotsam. Or Jetsam, you are not sure. Later when you look it up, the distinction is clear. Everything on the beach is the latter. Objects still floating around out there, the former. Lagan and Derelict are classified as other nautical debris that lie still on the sea bed. So it’s Jetsam that interests you. The scraps of smooth worn wood, snips of coloured rope, glass bottles, rusting metal and other oddities, all seem like ideal materials to make found object sculptures.

Because you have no tools, fishing line and hooks from the tackle shop can be used to bind and hold together the structures. Nothing could offer more pleasure. Fooling with shape, form, balance and tension can lose days.

A week or so in, you sit one night on the beach to witness a spectacular storm out over the ocean. Lightning cracks from the sky in a free show that lasts for hours. Next day you awake to hear that the Berlin Wall has fallen at last, East Germans knocking lumps from concrete and jumping the borderline.

Here the dramas play out in a lower key but are still to be found. Naturally you brought a camera that you can use to make records of this place. At first, seascapes, landscapes, the disused Ice Factory, the Mack trucks rolling cargo down to Miami. Then the wildlife takes your interest, the lizards, the pelicans, the stone crabs and the Sand Dollar shells.

And finally the citizens of Brevard County. It is easy to approach anyone with a portrait request with that English accent of yours. Like the family of seven, poor though happy enough, fishing for supper in the Lagoon. Like the immigrant 24/7guy stacking shelves in the convenience store. Whose partner stole his business, working three jobs now to claw his way back. Like ex-boxer Jackie, who spends nights in the jail cells, after drunken scraps in the Severns Bar.

Although you don’t drink as a rule, The Severns is where some evenings are spent studying the locals and chatting to Honey, the world-worn barmaid. Honey, a white witch with half a dozen kids, who between them have six fathers. She claims that MB is special because of the mystical highways of ley lines that course through it. That the Severns was one of Hemingway's favourite hangouts, pointing to the moose head on the wall, as if that is proof of the fact.

At the far end of the bar is regular Jackie, a man who has lived evidently. Broken nose, huge hands and a ladies’ man face that makes you wonder if any of Honey’s children share his genes. She handles Jackie with ease but the Severns’ clientele know that it’s best to avoid argument with the big man.

You spot him staggering along the highway one evening and offer a ride home. Jackie lives with his brother, an inventor entrepreneur who has made and lost several fortunes. His latest effort is designed to combat erosion of the dunes, a big problem here, particularly in the hurricane season. He explains the concept - a long tube of perforated plastic, filled with sand and lodged at the base of the dune. This sandy slug absorbs wave energy and stops sea eating the land. Maybe he will make another fortune with it. And if not, he has plenty more ideas.

Breaking a rule, the night dissolves in whisky talk of big science, environment and escapades. Jackie meanwhile, has passed out in the corner.

‘He could have been a contender’, says the brother, without irony.

But not a bartender apparently.

copyright john adams 2014.