Hello!

Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Reverie Of Old Florida

"Junior Clerk". John considered the title painted in gold leaf beside his service window at the Commerce Bank. As was his habit, he used a small felt cloth to dust the lettering and the heavy brass bars that separated his work station from the customers who would soon be filling the lobby. Lately, John had been thinking a lot about how that title would probably not change for the next ten to fifteen years. Junior Clerk. John felt lost in a titular purgatory located between the most senior bank teller and the Senior Clerk, Thompson. Thompson had been Senior Clerk for almost twenty years. Junior Clerk two decades before that. John grimaced as he folded the felt and placed it in the pocket of his best pair of trousers.

The weather was not helping John's frame of mind. Outside the doors of the bank one of the harshest winters in memory was coating the sidewalks and ornamental trees along the city's boulevards with snow and ice. Again and again. Even the huge steam boilers in the basement of the Commerce Bank were barely able to dispel the chill. As John arranged the customary forms and banking slips behind his customer window his mind turned again to the South. To Florida.

John had not been to Florida. Junior Clerks did not take vacations. But Junior Clerks could be thrifty and save what was left of their pay each week after paying the bill at the Young Gentleman's Boarding House. John had allowed himself two extravagances in the past two years. A suit made of faded, off-white linen. And a picture book of Florida. He had worn the suit to the Fourth of July parade with Helen last year. He looked at the picture book every evening during this endless winter, usually while sipping a small glass of rum...





Each evening, John's dream of Florida grew stronger. Helen worried about his enthusiastic descriptions of the photos in "the Florida book" as they shared dessert on Saturday dates. It all seemed so...distant...and vaguely dangerous. Inconsistent with certain topics that were, each Saturday night, seeming to congeal into a map for a lovely and seamless future for them both.

The Senior Clerk was unlocking the doors to the bank lobby and the first customers were drifting in, each accompanied by an auras of snow flakes and a gust of Arctic wind. John shivered. At lunch, he knew what he was going to do.


John did not discuss leaving with his superiors at the Commerce Bank out of fear that they would successfully point out the substantial list of reasons why he should not abandon a promising career. He left the bank at lunch, after drawing out all of his savings. Plus an extra sum derived from the sale of his grandfather's gold pocket watch. He went to the shop where Helen worked and said goodbye. She was saddened by the news, but did not seem terribly surprised. John left her an envelope too, for her to open later. Mrs. Lesley at the boarding house said she was sorry to lose such a nice, regularly paying young man as a tenant. In the closet of John's room were his few belongings and his father's valise...


...the one Dad brought back from Flanders at the end of the war. Inside it were the linen suit, some grooming items and the book of Florida pictures. John buttoned his jacket and walked through the snow to the train station. He booked a coach ticket to Florida. One way.

When John arrived in Jacksonville, the station's size surprised him...




He felt invigorated by the scent of the sea and the damp heat, even in February. He wondered what the fellows at the Commerce Bank would think of him now. Wearing his linen suit. Standing in Florida!

Through one mechanism and another he traveled to Tallahassee, where he found a nice place to stay for a few days...


They had a beautiful college there as well...


John met a salesman in the diner at the motel, a veteran of his father's battalion at Belleau Wood, who agreed to give him a ride south. They ambled down the state, past orange groves as far as the eye could see...


John spent a few weeks squeezing oranges and sleeping in the back room of a road-side juice stand. Quite a different atmosphere from that of the Commerce Bank, but John found that he took to the work rather well. Plus, he had all the juice he could drink. He had never experienced anything as refreshing as freshly squeezed orange juice. The sunshine and citrus helped John's normally pale complexion turn ruddy and strong. After a bit, he bid goodbye to his job at the juice stand and headed even farther south, across the longest, flattest, bridge he had ever seen. The "Oversea Highway"...

The sunsets at Key West were unlike anything John had ever seen. The sun seemed to fight the very pull of gravity, then, ultimately failing, it would tumble from the sky. The evenings were enchanting also, illumined by a solitary light house...

In his former life, John had never spent the entire night up without going to bed. One night in Key West, he decided to lie on the warm sand of the beach and wait for the sunrise. He was not shortchanged for the effort...

John's time in Florida had been so exciting and so full of new experiences that he had not even considered finding a place to live beyond a few weeks. Basking in the tropical sunlight, he had not allowed himself to feel how much he missed the inner warmth generated by a Saturday night date. He eventually found a perfect cabin to rent and a regular job tending bar at the resort he was calling home...

The days stretched into endless summer. Yet, particularly at week's end, John felt ill at ease. As if one of the "ocean storms" the locals talked about were slowly twirling just over the horizon. He had been sending regular post cards and letters to Helen. In one of them, he asked if she had opened the envelope he left for her months before. Her letters did not answer the question one way or the other.

One particularly beautiful Saturday found John with an evening free. He prepared a small grill outside his cabin to broil another newly discovered favorite. A fish called "grouper". As John squeezed fresh lime juice over the fillets at his tiny kitchen counter, he heard an auto pull up outside and a door open and close. Light steps on his patio. A tentative knock. John ran to the screen door and pulled it open. Auburn hair. Blue eyes. A summer dress and a big straw hat with a pink ribbon. Helen. As John held her close, Helen whispered that after months of trepidation, she had finally opened his envelope. To find the train ticket tucked away inside. Wrapped in a crisp sheet of Commerce Bank stationary bearing the notation "John Hutchins, Junior Clerk".

Notes: To all my readers who are currently mired in one of the harshest winters on record and who may be in need of a small respite. Also, with apologies to the Allman Brothers and their great song "Nobody Left To Run With". Finally, the Florida Department of Tourism did not pay me money to write this. I wish they had. ML

10 comments:

Preppy 101 said...

Oh my goodness. This post is just what I needed to read today. I actually saw the sun trying to appear today, only to be crushed by these cold, gray clouds. And the wind today - piercing. It didn't help that the weatherman said we are 20〫 below normal. As a retiree, I am thinking why don't I just go South?? But I'm not as brave as John. And it would take me even farther away from my children. So, I'll live vicariously through John. THANK YOU.

Michael B. said...

(applause)
Nicely done.
(/applause)

Barbara said...

An MLane original? Fantastic. Hooray for the Junior Clerk.

CashmereLibrarian said...

What a lovely respite before heading out into the cold! And I love the vintage postcard illustrations.

Turling said...

Nicely done. Not just for the weather, but the escape from the rat race is quite a nice fantasy at times. Like today.

ADG said...

Great! I have such vivid memories of a childhood vacation to Florida in the mid 1960's. I also have vivid memories of being stuck in Jacksonville most of last week-snowed "out" if DC.

sorrentolens said...

I love those old Florida postcards... I guess because I can relate to the scene. Wonderful post!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

I love this- so fun to read and I love the vintage postcards!

vicki archer said...

Just lovely ML...I think I fell in love with your Junior Clerk just a little..xv

M.Lane said...

Thanks everyone for all the great comments! I'm very happy that this little story provided some diversion...

ML