“Lucky me”

Back in 71, I contracted waterproofing condo exteriors in Venus, FL.  I could not find a place for rent and was staying in a motel in Sarasota. I was in a restaurant on Siesta Key and mentioned to the bartender that I was going to be in Florida for six months, and was looking for a place to rent. He gave me directions to a place about a mile down on the inland side of the key and said it was the last house on Crisp Point, and the lady living there was renting the guest house. I found the place and the lady was home. I forgot her name, but she was an artist who designed and made ceramic tiles. 

She showed me the guest house and I thought it was great.  It looked like a houseboat.  It had a deck all the way around it and the back deck went out over the water. There was one large room and a small bathroom with a shower.  The large room had two sets of bunk beds attached to the wall which the lower bunks acted as sofas in the day. 

There was an elevated, round, wood burning stove in the center of the room, and a small kitchen with a dining table next to a glass sliding door that looked out over the deck for a beautiful view.  I gave the lady two months rent and moved in that day. This was a paradise set in palm and banana trees. 

I love to fish and the back deck sat over a natural Snook hole.  I would put a lantern on a pole and hung it out over the water.  In the late evening, the light would attract the Snook and I would pull in my limit whenever I dropped my line. 

 We had an unusually cold winter and one morning I went to the wood closet that was on the outside deck wall. I found the wood logs and a pile of old newspapers. In the back was a stacked pile of paperback novels. They were all John D. MacDonald novels. I grabbed a couple with the fire wood and took them inside. I was thinking about using the novels as kindling to get the fire going, but had second thoughts after reading the introduction to April Evil.  I got the fire going and began reading.  I could not put this book down until I finished it.  After that encounter I read the rest of the wood- closet novels.  I especially enjoyed the Travis McGee novels and got a real education about Florida in the process. 

 I found out later that I was living in John D’s guesthouse and part-time studio. He had sold the house because he could not have privacy.  The street had a turn around at the end of the point and he could not gate the road for privacy. People were always knocking on his door for autographs and he felt the security of his family could be threatened. I have read all his works and am still looking for the rumored last novel. (The death of Travis McGee)  I will never stop looking.

Gary Chambers          

© CAL  2012