Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wait! What? There's sunshine in the Sunshine State?

I went to Port Canaveral to photograph a rally of people worried about the loss of jobs at Kennedy Space Center. I wasn't too impressed by the rally, so I instead photographed the moon, the destination of NASA's next mission.

As a copy editor who works nights, I spend most of my weekends - Mondays and Tuesdays - in bed.

Well, that's not entirely true. I spend most of the daylight hours of my weekends in bed. And when I do that, there's little time to enjoy life because Florida - especially this part of it - is a very 9-to-5 kind of place. And, in case you couldn't gather from its nickname, it's a very sun-worshiping kind of place, too.

I took a different - though tiresome - approach this weekend.

At 4 a.m. Monday, before going to bed after working Sunday night, I spontaneously decided to get up early and make the most of my day.

At 8:30 a.m. in Port Canaveral (25 minutes north), there was supposed to be a large rally of people advocating for NASA jobs. Florida's senators - Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez - were supposed to speak in front of a crowd of 6,400, with each rally participant representing a Kennedy Space Center worker who will lose his job when the shuttles are retired in 2010. I thought it would be a good photo op. I thought it would remind me of D.C. protests.

So I woke up just before 7 a.m. It was a solid three hours of sleep. I took a quick jog to wake myself up. It's amazing how cool Florida is in the morning, just after the sun has risen. It's much easier to jog in 75 degrees than in the 95 degrees I usually experience in the mid-afternoon.

I made it to the port at 8:45 a.m. I took my time, so I was a little late. But when I arrived, it was obvious that I hadn't missed much. There were a few hundred people, and the senators had already wrapped up their rally cries. Where were the 6,400 people? Probably either at work or at home doing the crossword puzzle.

Plan B.

Without anything exciting to do, I resolved to walk around the port, looking at the cruise ships and waterfront restaurants that serve seafood and drinks with umbrellas. Unfortunately, it was 9 a.m., and fried fish didn't seem appetizing at the time. Even if it did, none of the eateries were open.


Among the restaurants are boats. Public ramps offer a point from which the more wealthy residents of Brevard County - or, more likely, Orlando - launch their fancy boats. Above is a storage place for several.

The SunCruz casino ship takes cruisers on daily gambling trips along the east coast of Florida. At 10 a.m., as I walked by the ship, its workers were arriving and the deck was being sprayed with water.

But I didn't want to get hosed, too. I laugh at suckers who gamble. Wasting money isn't my cup of tea.

I walked some more.

Paintings on the outside walls of small, rickety buildings advertise half-day deep-sea fishing trips or nighttime shark-hunting expeditions. That would have been fun if I had planned ahead. That's another foreign concept in my pursuit of fun-having: forethought.


Not having the time or the energy for such an undertaking, I decided instead to do some shopping in Cocoa Beach.

In the two months I had lived in Cocoa Beach, I had never visited Ron Jon Surf Shop, above, a 24-hour superstore in the heart of the city. Most of the time I spent there Monday was consumed by the rather tedious and frustrating search for a been-there-done-that T-shirt. Most of the options screamed too loudly "surfer dude." Flowers. Wild designs. Large printing. One changed colors in the sunlight, and another was scented.

I eventually found a brown shirt with the classic Ron Jon logo on the front and, thankfully, absolutely nothing on the back.


The exterior of the store is guarded by large artifacts of the water-faring culture. There's a statue of local surfing legend Kelly Slater. My favorite was of a no-name windsurfer, above.


Feeling a bit famished after the exhausting search for a T-shirt, I wound up at Coconuts on the Beach, a restaurant-bar-club with direct ocean frontage not too far from where I used to live on the beach. Knowing I had to go with the seafood, I settled on the crab cake sandwich and sweet potato fries, above. It was risky because I can easily dislike a crab dish. It's not like a piece of haddock, which, good or bad, I could devour.

But when it arrived, I was blown away. It was fancier than I had expected from a beachside joint: The remoulade was delightfully spicy. The crab cake's mix of spices was just enough to complement the meat without overpowering the shellfish taste. It was excellent. And only $9.


And of course, my view, above, from the deck outside Coconuts probably made the meal taste even better.

It was a good day. But it was only 1 p.m. On a usual weekend day, after being up for six hours, it would be dark already.

But on this day, there was much more left. And there was only one thing stopping me from enjoying it: a low camera battery.

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