Exerpt from Applause from Issue 65
After my mother fell from the top of the pyramid of girl swimmers balanced on the shoulders of three water skiers at Turquoise Reef, a would-be rival tourist attraction to Cypress Gardens back in the early 60s, she could no longer perform synchronized swimming routines in the pool. She was kept on as a siren. When the fake paddle-wheeler passed near the man-made island in the center of Lake Turquoise, she could be spotted lying inside a big plastic clam shell in her sequined tail and bikini top, beckoning to the passengers as eerie music floated from a hidden tape recorder.
Turquoise Reef is gone now. The lake was drained during the land boom of the 1980s, and the swamp filled in with truckloads of “landfill,” which in Florida might mean anything from poor red dirt dug out of an over-planted peanut field to oily sludge dredged from a silted bay. A retirement community, half-condos and half-bungalows, complete with an eighteen hole golf course and brand new palm trees replaced the gravel parking lot, the shabby aquarium, the big, blue painting swimming pool, the two boat docks and the old clapboard cabins where some og the performers lived. I drove through there recentlyㅡit’s called Aqua Sandsㅡand recognized nothing from my childhood, not even the stand of tall yellow pines that had shaded the wing sets and monkey bars in the barbeque area. Bug vans and SUVs were parked in the dine driveways and under carports. Oleanders hedged lawns of bright green bermuda grass. mail boxes were decorated with cardinals, or painted to look like little red barns.
I suppose the mild heart attack I’d had last winter had something to do with my decision to fly into Tampa two days before a scheduled business meeting. I rented a car and drive east, surprised by heavy traffic. I hadn’t been back to central Florida for many years. My mother had ended up in Phoenix, so my wife and I usually flew west out of O’Hare when we planned a vacation.