DONNA SUMMER, STEPHEN KING AND ME
What is that smell exactly? The combination of leather, hay, a horse’s nature, sweat, all cooked up in a steamy stink.
I drove by a barn the other day and grabbed a few bizarre close-ups without really knowing what drew me in. It all started with the way a horse puts it’s two feet together like a ballet dancer. Showing off it’s beautiful manicured nails. I was curious about the different names of the different stages and sexes. The females being Mares, the males Stallions, the young ones Colts.
Such incredible, friendly, sniffing beasts. Their pink velvet nostrils flare almost to the size of my camera as I walked by. You just know they want an apple or carrot or something. Have you ever thought about why there are always a lot of young ladies in a barn around horses? A few young boys, but not usually. If they are around, they’re probably there to look at the young ladies.
Plenty of moms around. You know, like Don Draper’s wife. Then there are always the pretty, slender horse girls who tend to the magnificent beasts. And if you’re lucky you’ll find a real skinny dude, with a few days growth on his face, mucking up the stables. He takes a break and steps outside for a Marlboro and turns to say, “…looks like it’s gonna be a hot one today boy.”
Two things you don’t find a whole lot of at a stable; Jewish men in flip-flops who don’t like bugs and esteemed elders. Why aren’t there more seniors around horses? Where are they all?
I got a few more snorts and their hairy details. When you look real close at a horse’s nose from the front, it looks like an alien’s head with big eyes. From the side the same, but something a little more gentle in their hairy puffy lips.
What are they thinking I wonder? Perhaps they too wonder why the seniors don’t come visit them. Do they like their life or do they dread the day-to-day, saddle on saddle off, not hay again routine. Do they like to be ridden? When they run wild in herds, do their eyes water from mysterious allergies?
What do their eyes look like when they run free and wild? Do they have visions in their huge head and horse mind about when they were young, frisky Colts? Do they wish they too could be young again?
I left the barn feverishly scratching my ankles from bug bites. On the way home I had stopped by one of the zillions of plazas around here to get a bunch of Sushi to go. While I waited for my food to be prepared, I walked around outside the restaurant and came upon a row of carts parked outside the supermarket, that was also in that plaza.
I could have put this fancy black and white picture up front… but that would be putting the cart before the horse.
The next day, I woke up early and decided to find out where the seniors went, if not to the barn. I was going to ask them if their age had anything to do with not enjoying being jostled around on top a hot sweaty beast. Maybe it was a fear of falling off the horse?
I had heard, contrary to the fountain of youth being located in St. Augustine or Puerto Rico, the “original” Ponce de Leon fountain was located right up the street from me. Maybe that’s where all the Seniors are?
I had to go and see what all the hoopla was about. I also thought there might be some great before and after photo ops. You know. What they looked like before they had the water and what they looked like after.
As I drove over there, I imagined a well or fountain and a long line of hunched over elderly waiting on-line holding their cups before the fountain… and erect and spry, thirst quenched elders on the other side of the fountain.
I imagined they would fill their cups with the magic elixir, drink it and astoundingly transform back to the young colts they once were.
I wondered if this really was the famous fountain of youth that we all heard the famous Spanish Explorer traveled the world to find. Was Ponce de Leon’s first name Juan? Maybe this was the original’s cousin Juan’s discovery?
240 feet deep. 9 million gallons pumped into this spot a day. And the water is always 87 degrees.Hmmm… seemed pretty appealing to me. I think it’s appealing to anyone at any age.
I parked the car and grabbed the camera. All around me were people of different ages, shapes and sizes… all carrying towels. Now my vision went from the line up with cups to some sort of bathing proposition.
Naturally, as I was just about to enter, a Mercedes pulled up in front of me and the dark tinted driver’s side window rolled down. The mature man driving the luxury car paused me to ask what the story was with this place. I should have told him that I come there all the time and I’m really 87 year’s old. But instead I said I didn’t know either and I was just about to find out.
Naturally, once you get inside, there is this main tunnel. It’s very dark and dramatic. At the end of the tunnel is a bright light and heaven awaits there. I guess they want you to head toward the light. Go to the light…
On the other side of the tunnel was this fairly large dark brown pond. The pond was divided into sections by floating ropes with colored balls on them. Around the pond were dozens and dozens of Lavender colored, plastic, Adirondack Style chairs. The main event at the pond was a huge “hydro yoga” class going on.
Apparently, in order to participate you had to wear a big floppy hat.
As usual, when there is such vigorous exercise going on, there are always the onlookers. Those that don’t participate but watch from afar.
I guess one doesn’t really have to touch the water to get the rejuvenating benefits. You just have to sit near it and the process of returning to your youth just occurs.
Some folks don’t want their whole body made younger. Some just want certain parts made young again. Well, that’s what I thought anyway when I took this shot. “He must just want his feet younger.” I thought.
Then I captured this guy. What a face. And the way the light shot through his hat. I just had to have him. At first I thought him Mennonite. You know, like Amish. After all, Sarasota is second to Lancaster, PA when it comes to those folks. But this guy looked more Greek to me.
I strolled around some more and caught this guy snoozing. I started to think about how getting older is really not so bad. How one’s head gets filled up more with the stories of time gone by vs. the anxiety of what will or won’t happen in the future. And how bad could it be to sit and nap at such an ancient mineral spring?
Ironically, my prior location, up in Saratoga… which sounds just like Sarasota… is also known for its healing springs. It’s also known for that famous horse track. See. I knew there was a relationship in their somewhere.
As I left the spring, I entered the same long hallway to exit. There was a man in front of me silhouetted by the light at the end of the tunnel. As I looked out at him in the darkness, he seemed like many of the elders that I saw sitting around the pond.
But as he stepped out into the light. He instantly looked young and spry. I actually started to feel a little young and spry myself for some reason.
I grabbed this shot as I headed for the car in the parking lot. This looked more to me like the traditional healing spring, more so than the commercialized pond style event. But hey. What ever works.
As I sat in my car and waited for the air conditioning to cool me down, I found myself with thoughts of my youth. I remembered working at a dance club in college called, “The Lighthouse.” It had a huge dance floor that lit up and my job there was to pick up cigarette butts ON THE FLOOR ON THE INSIDE OF THE CLUB!
It was 1978 and Disco was king. Just thinking those young thoughts reminded me that poor old Donna Summer passed away recently. Supposedly she lived up the street from The Fountain of Youth. I decided to see if I could go out to where her house was supposed to be and grab a snap shot.
Supposedly she lived on an island called Manasota Key. I drove up and down that place and tried to find someone to point me in the right direction and all I could find were these workers at a public park. I stopped to use the bathroom and grabbed a picture of them instead.
Oh well. No Donna Summer. However. Just up the road, another celebrity is supposed be living. Maybe I could bump into him while I was possessed by this impulsive jaunt.
A couple of turns to the right and few to the left and I found myself at another celebrity hide-away called Casey Key. I thought I might get lucky and find Stephen King wandering down the road. Him being a writer and me being a writer, it just seemed like a probable coincidence.
Unfortunately, he was not out in the middle of the road waving me down at the exact moment when I arrived in front of his house. As a matter of fact, I had no idea which house was his. But there were some amazing houses on that island and I snapped this one of a different kind of fountain at the gate.
I was exhausted and decided to head home. Even though I was supposedly younger from just visiting the Fountain of Youth, I was still kinda burnt out. Coming off of Stephen King’s island I passed another magical place that I impulsively had to stop at. It’s called the Historic Spanish Point.
Strange I thought, how all these Spaniards landed here and claimed all these great tourist spots. I went in to find out the story. I was greeted by a woman named “Charity” who told me all about the place.
I thought it strange that such a nice looking woman was working at this humble non-profit village type destination. She seemed to me like she would be one of those jean wearing boot clad ladies that loved to ride horses and would more likely be found on a ranch somewhere.
I really had to head back. I had dinner plans with Mom and Dad and didn’t want to be late. As I walk out the door, another stupid flower yelled at me so I grabbed it.