In a zone of my own

indexBalanced and harmonized. At one with the universe. I achieve this magical state only once in a while. Like a great sports athlete who keeps shooting three-pointers that do nothing but swish neatly through the net, I am in a zone. But this moment passes quickly. My stride gets a kink in it. I miss a step. It all goes south fast.

I was in a zone coming back from Key West a few days ago. No doubt about it. We had relaxed and recreated in every way possible. I’d had a deep tissue massage, gone snorkeling in a barrier reef and flown high as a kite above the ocean in a para sail with my wife and 15-year-old son. Nothing could go wrong.

A little history. Back in the 1980s, Key West had a little run-in with the law. Every vehicle leaving was stopped at the border and searched for drugs and Cubans by the U.S. Border Patrol. This didn’t sit well with locals. Treated like a foreign country, Key West started to act like one and began calling itself the Conch Republic.

On April 23, 1982, the Conch Republic seceded from the union and declared war on the United States. It was a matter of throwing some Cuban bread at a single naval officer stationed there. The Conch Republic promptly surrendered to the soldier, apologized for the bread-throwing incident and applied for a billion dollars in foreign aid. Brilliant! A land of misfits, rowdy and embarrassing. My tribe! Where have I been all my life? Why haven’t I always been in the Conch Republic grooving to its exotic beat….. in a zone.

A rooster, a hen and a small clan of baby chicks are wandering around our table during lunch at a pizza place on Duval Street. How cute is that? We snap pictures of them. They circle around us getting closer and closer. The hen jumps up on the table to get a bite of Robyn’s pizza. She has to shoo it away. Weird. That hen could have tried to gobble up my pizza, but I guess she realized I was in a zone and couldn’t be disturbed.

The morning we leave we are serenaded by a rooster crowing. A free-range rooster just strutting around Key West like he owns the place. Maybe he does. The animals can’t be killed. Chickens in Key West are like cattle milling about in India. Not sacred exactly, but protected. Another great eccentricity of the Conch Republic.

On the way back up from Key West to the airport, I sat in the back seat with Avery going over geometry notes for an upcoming test. I remembered some of the geometry I never learned at West Rowan High School as a sophomore. It turns out that while I was doodling around idly on my lined notebook paper, something my geometry teacher said actually did manage to lodge itself way back in a dark recessed corner of my brain. Some of that long forgotten geometry popped up again in our rental car on US 1 as we passed some truly tacky tourist traps on the way to the airport.

You cannot beat Florida when it comes to tacky tourist traps. Florida has this down to an art form. Everything you should never do with a seashell, Florida has done a million times already. If you thought pink flamingos were weird, that was just Florida getting warmed up. It’s strictly next-level tackiness in the citrus capitol of the country. A matrix of tacky that makes you want to crawl back into your slumber and untake the pill that turned you on to reality. But I was in a zone, so the tacky flashed by. I took a few pictures of some tourist traps and let it brush past me unfazed.

Even in the airplane, I am still in a zone. I drop off to sleep in my seat next to my wife. I get the window seat. It’s her seat. She remarks on this fact, but she lets it slide. Probably because I’m in a zone.

Then we hit turbulence. An announcement is made over the intercom for passengers to stay in their seats and buckle up. It’s as if no one on the airplane from Key West to New York City has any idea what the stewardess means. Half the plane gets up and begins wandering around for no good reason. Adjusting luggage in overhead racks and chatting up neighbors. The stewardess makes another announcement.

“Does this feel like a bumpy ride to you, ladies and gentlemen?” she asks. “That is turbulence. We don’t want any of you bumping into anything. Please get back in your seats and fasten your seat belt.”

More people get up. Whoever wasn’t up in the first batch of ADD-convention passengers, has now risen to go find a friend or make one. It’s driving me bananas since I have just a little Barney Fife in me when it comes to following and flaunting rules. I start  hoping a sky marshal will appear on the scene and take charge and take aim with a Taser gun.


If I were the air marshal, I would shoot the worst offenders with my electric ray. Then I would help people step over their convulsing bodies as they twitched on the floor from a thousand volts of electricity. So, not in a zone.  As we step off the plane, I sympathize for a moment with the stewardess.

“I don’t know why everybody on this flight acted like a free-range chicken the moment you told them to sit down. I’m sorry that happened.” She nodded. “That means a lot,” she said. “I appreciate that.” Neither of us are in a zone, but we are together in our feelings about the flight.

We start to make our way home and have to readjust to the reality we left behind. The wet and cloudy 20-degree weather we traded in for clear skies and sunshine with highs in the low 80s is back. Hello again, New York City!

So not in the zone now. My mojo has abandoned me. I want my mojo back. Where do I apply for a passport into my zone – a district somewhere in the Conch Republic where free range chickens run amok and freak flags fly loud and proud?


In a zone of my own