Friday, March 22, 2013

Gone shellin'

for a few days in Sanibel, FL, which I imagine many people before me have dubbed Sanishell, as it is the mollusk exoskeleton capital of the universe. I am a nonexpert but very enthusiastic shell-hunter.  As someone who generally can't shut the stream of consciousness down or do anything that might broadly be called meditative, I find hunting for my favored sea treasures mesmerizing.

Today, as I was standing ankle deep at the water's edge scanning a small mountain of tiny shells getting bathed by alternate waves, a similarly engaged sixty-something asked me what I was looking for. I said shark's eyes, a kind of bulbous chestnut-shaped shell that spirals to a kind of nipple, just to say something. This gentleman managed to tell me in short space, after mentioning a couple of shell names that meant nothing to me, that he owns a foundry in Michigan, making auto parts among other things, that manufacturing has made something of a comeback but is nothing like before, and that wages have been hollowed out first by the women's movement and then by Asian competition. He then launched into a series of arch-conservative credos about the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution and how its uniqueness is founded on faith in God, how wealth is created (manufacturing, mining, farming), how the Second Amendment is the key to all our freedoms. I listened to all of these and parried some, mildly, while meanwhile this guy keeps pulling the most amazing micro-turrets and ice castles, all under an inch long, out of the shell heap and handing them to me.  I said he was teaching me dependence on handouts; he said he was teaching me to fish; I contemplated starting an encore career giving shelling lessons, meanwhile pulling out two or three of these augurs and ceriths, or whatever you call these amazing little leaning towers of Pisa, myself.

It's ridiculous to suggest that Obama and Boehner could have cut a deal if they'd played golf together more. What's obviously called for is a shelling summit in Sanibel.

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