30 December 2008

Three Girls On An Excellent Adventure

The weather has been so warm since I've arrived here that today seemed chilly. Still, it was about as warm--albeit a bit breezier--than a mid-May day in New York. And the sky was so clear and blue that it was all but impossible to imagine it as a foreboding to something, or the eye of a storm.

In other words, it was another great day for bike riding, even if I didn't do as long a trip as I did yesterday or on Saturday.

Today's trek took me to a place I'd visited the first time I came to Florida to see Mom and Dad. That was fifteen years ago, and what can I say but that I've changed a bit since then?

I rode down a stretch of State Route 100--not my favorite cycling road--to a sign that read "Bulow Plantation Ruins and an arrow pointing toward it." Then I followed a two-lane road that had a shoulder for about the first quarter-mile until I saw another sign for the Bulow campground. Three miles away, it said. And that was the last sign I saw until I saw something for a Bulow development. I guess someone was trying to come as close as possible to creating a Bulow theme park without actually making one.

Then, after the development and the campground I saw a wooden sign--the kind one expects to see for a state park or a Boy Scout (been one!) camp--for the Bulow plantation ruins. There, I followed a dirt road that make the bike I was riding feel like a jackhammer for about a quarter mile. It led to a parking lot at the entrance for the plantation ruins and the beginning of a nature trail.

There, I noticed a car with Quebec license plates pulling in. "Bonjour. Comment ca-va?," I said to a stocky, balding man. He introduced himself as "Willie" and his wife. "Elle ne me sembla pas un quebecoise ou francaise." He chuckled, "Oui, chinoise." "Comment s'appele?"

"My name is Sinh. I speak more English than French."

And we spent a few minutes trying to figure out whether the place was closed. There was no sign indicating that, but there was a gate pulled across the path to the ruins. After a few moments, two boys lifted their bicycles, then climbed, over it. They said they'd come in from the opposite end of the park, and rode through. But they didn't see any ruins, they said. Willie and Sinh decided that they didn't want to try to chance it. "Peut etre quelques metres, peut etre dix kilometres," Willie mused. "Dix kilometres, a pied, ca sera tout la journee."

I agreed with him, and after we said "au revoir," they drove away. I pulled two plums from my bag and was about to bite into one when another car with pulled in. The driver waved to me; I said hello. Then her passenger asked, "What's here?" I described, as I remembered, the ruins of the plantation and sugar mill that stood somewhere on the site, next to a lagoon. They asked about the gate. I replied that I thought it was open, and I saw two boys climb it.

So they parked, disembarked and started walking toward the fence. The younger, more petite woman started to climb the fence. "I'd try it if I were twenty," I demurred. They laughed knowingly. Then, after she stepped off on the other side, her partner, who was taller and even stockier than I ever was, started to climb.

You might say that the spirit of adventure can be infectuous, or that, at least, I can be swept up in it. Soon enough, I climbed, too, and so two young female lovers and a middle-aged tranny woman they found along the way were off on an excellent adventure. (I know, that last phrase sounds sooo 1990!)

We went to the lagoon, where visitors can rent canoes. The younger one, named Ciera, said, "Hey, if we took one of those canoes, what could happen?" I shrugged my shoulders; Anita, her partner, talked us out of it, as if we really were going to take off in one of those boats (which were probably bolted to something). So we wandered around the place, finding something that looked the way one of Monet's lily ponds might've looked had it been in Florida instead of France, and, next to it, the sign that pointed to the ruins, which were a quarter-mile away.

Along the way, we shared stories and other details of our lives in ways that we normally wouldn't with strangers. They live in Orlando; Anita grew up in Miami but was born in Chile. Her family came to the US after Pinochet came into power. I explained that her story parallels that of my ex, who was born in Cuba and whose family fled to Miami when she was five years old and Castro took over the country. And Ciera has been in Florida all of her life, she said.

Most people would take her for a straight, or possibly bisexual, woman; while Anita is, at least in appearance, the "butch" in that relationship. However, they explained that in some ways, they reverse roles. Anita usually cooks and does other domestic tasks for them, while Ciera likes more masculine pursuits. "What difference does it make?," Anita wondered. "All that stuff about gender roles is silly," she added.

Oh, girl. (No sexism here!) Now we're in dangerous territory. And what hazard did she court? That I would get on one of my soapboxes. Which I did: "Well, you know, we have the luxury--and necessity--of rethinking gender roles. It's not all about procreation or the survival of the species anymore."

Then we got even deeper into the sort of territory into which people don't usually venture with people they met only half an hour earlier. Anita is a butch who still wants to be a woman, which is exactly the reason why she could understand why I wanted the operation. And she is Ciera's first girlfriend, which is the reason why Ciera could understand my sexual history.

We parted with two of the heartiest hugs I've ever received from strangers. And they said, in unison, "You're a really good hugger."

"It's one of life's pleasures."

And Anita gave me her card and I gave my promise that I would contact her and Ciera. I'll also give them the link to this blog. I wonder what they'll think.

Just think: After that, I got to spend more time with Mom and Dad. Tomorrow I'm going home, to spend New Year's Eve with Millie, the best friend I've made since starting my new life, and her family--and Dominick.

Am I blessed, or what?

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