The first time I laid eyes on Redington Shores was 6/2000. I was moving to FL from NC with my friend Chelsea and her girlfriend Renee. We tentatively had our sights on Fort Myers Beach. But I wanted to stop for a night in Redington to see what the St. Pete area was like. We were in our early 20s, stuffed with hubris and low on obligations. For this moment in time, everything had conspired to make sure we could go where we chose. And then, of course, we would have to hustle to be able to afford it. At that time a two bedroom condo steps to the beach cost less than a dreary, rain soaked apartment up north (a secret most people never seemed to figure out). I’ll never forget driving over the Tom Stuart Causeway for the first time, in her beat to shit tan Toyota with 57 bumper stickers, catching a glimpse of what looked like paradise; it was breathtaking. To someone from upstate NY and a girl who grew up in New England, the white sand and crystal waters of the Gulf of Mexico was nothing short of magical.
I ended up living on that coast for 12 out of the last 20 years. And a few weeks ago I went back to tie up some loose ends and officially say goodbye. To a formerly beautiful, blissful oasis that had been (gradually and then aggressively) overtaken and eroded over the years by industry and tourism. I stayed 2 doors down from my very first place: 125b 178th Ave W. Redington Shores. Talk about surreal. I also got to watch two people I hold close to my heart experience the same enchantment and amazement I did two decades ago. They had never gone night swimming under the stars. Weren’t familiar with the way the air changes on the beach in the dark. The way the water becomes even warmer as the briskness of dusk descends. How the secrets of the universe feel so close to being understood in that majestic setting; like you’re on the same page as the very soul of creation.
Seeing awe and wonder reflected so clearly in their eyes was bittersweet. I feel like it was a million lifetimes ago when I was that mesmerized, struck by the vast endlessness of possibility. The entire world splayed out, asphalt snakes; a thousand roads unfurling; all well within reach. Limitless. At the end of the night, F ended up climbing onto the steeply pitched roof; something B and I had done countless times back in the day, on nights soaked in salt, sand, alcohol and invincibility. Passing the torch of nomadic, adventurous wandering and (hopefully) never capitulating to anyone else’s idea of the way you “should” live your life and become “an adult”. For better or worse, I’ll never regret taking chances on the unknown.