Gertrude Lawrence died the year my family
moved to Naples, but the old-timers had their tales
of her hanging out on the pier, fishing and smoking
and telling dirty stories. The town was an escape,
then, a world away from the sophistication of Miami,
across the Everglades. One might bump into Gertrude
or Gary Cooper at the Swamp Buggy Lounge, rubbing elbows
with the fishing guides and the old-money locals.
That world could not last. Can any? Development
and golf courses and retirees made the town
like any other in Florida. I could see it change
around me, even if I was a kid, become a pretty
Chamber of Commerce approved postcard. It doesn't
matter; the pier blew down in Sixty and its replacement
never looked quite right. Nothing looked quite right
after that except the Gulf. That does not change.
I have sought another town like the one I remembered,
tinged with false nostalgia, no doubt, but remembered
none the less. Naples, then, can not be now. No one there
worries about parking under a coconut tree anymore.
They trim them all before the nuts fall and one can not
go gathering them in the streets in the early morning.
Shake that coconut — can you hear the milk inside?
If not, throw it aside and check another.
Stephen Brooke ©2016
a bit about the town where I (mostly) grew up. the pic is the Naples pier in 1957