Living on the Edge

Obligatory palm tree photo from trip

By Mike Johnson

I pocketed the first shell I saw.
Needing warmth and a change of scenery, I flew to Tampa then drove to St Pete Beach.
The very END of St Pete Beach.

I love living on the edge.

The edge of Florida.
The edge of the Gulf of Mexico.
The edge of the USA.

I went alone.
Margie stayed behind to run our home and animals in Wapiti.
I’d lived in St Pete two years before meeting her somewhere else.
So the place means more to me than it does her.

I love matching old memories to present day.
I also like new exploration but appreciate the security of knowing its framework.
Knowing how to navigate St Pete helped me relax into my treasure hunt for warmth, exploration and old memories.

The downside was diving back into the mass of people.
I’m used to living on the edge of humanity.
The far, far, remote edge.

In many ways, St Pete is the exact opposite of my life.
Hundreds of business offerings.

The frustration of crowds was tempered by the surprise of pleasant moments.

Friendly banter with the over-qualified cashier at 7-Eleven.
3-way chili and a cheese coney dog at Skyline Chili.
The exotic hairdo on the worker at Steak n Shake.
Ping-pong with my niece during an evening at my brother’s house.

But the truly magical moments arrived exactly as planned.

I reenacted a pre-dawn drive as a 17-year-old living with my family in Largo, to my job as an opener at the Tyrone Blvd McDonald’s.
This was a deeply-imprinted memory, at the start of one of the best years of my life.

So on a Thursday, I left my hotel at 4 am, and drove to that old house.
I cued up the 10cc song that had played on my orange Vega’s radio 50 years ago.
As I drove the same route to that McDonald’s, those same feelings washed me back in time.
The journey was long enough to play the 6-minute song twice.

It’s miraculous melancholy to relive who you used to be, from the perspective of who you are today.
I flipped between the teenage me, with all those unachieved dreams, to the retired me, who achieved them.
Hope and gratitude blended together. Reliving the past, during the present, that once was the future.
It’s like holding a book that contains the entire story.

The old rural road was now a multi-lane thoroughfare.
Open countryside was now fully developed.
Tyrone McDonald’s had replaced its building.

But the 4am darkness had cleared the roads, dimmed the lights, reset the scene and conjured the magic.
Just me, the car, the dark, the music and the memories.

This is why I live on the edge.
Of everything.



That Drive 50 Years Ago

More Time Travel: Why I'm Magnetized to This Railing

Tossed Into the Gap


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