Getting Away and Not

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The ferry boat was pitching and rolling in the choppy depths between the islands where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean and I was looking at the life preservers suspended from the roof of the dank, oily cabin.

"Inspected by Authority of the British West Indies, February 1987," was stenciled on each in block letters that had faded over time.

The man sitting next to me, a native of one of the islands, was reading a local newspaper and I glanced at it over his shoulder. I hadn't seen a newspaper for a week -- which makes me an average American these days -- and found it more comforting to read the recent fish catch report than to give further study to the onboard safety equipment.

He grinned at me when he finished the paper and handed it over. "Here you go, mon. Enjoy," he said, and grinned again, showing as many gaps as teeth.

A week without cell phones, email, the internet, television, radio, and shoes is a good thing. On a sports writer's schedule, there is a name for when this is possible. It is called, "February."

I got to take advantage of that last week, spending days on perfect beaches, hiking, snorkeling, eating and drinking cheaply at night in the open-air beach bars where the band is noddily dreamily through the same five Marley (the musician, not the dog) songs over and over. Step off the plywood floor toward the water and the locals are playing soccer in the sand, to the beat of the music, not spilling a bit of the rum as they do. And, look at that, a sunset. Not bad.

The illusion of getting away is a good one to maintain as long as possible. For me it lasted until the ferry ride to the next island where the little airport would begin the journey home.

"Where you from, mon?" the man with the newspaper said.


His eyes widened and he said, "Do you like American football?"

I told him that I did follow the game a little and he said, "They got get McNabb receivers." When he said it, through the many doorways in his mouth, it sounded like "retheefers," but I knew what he was talking about. I told him that there are other Eagles fans who would agree.

"Me, mon, I want Gonzalez (Gunthaleth) from Kansas City. And Boldin from Cardinals," he said. "You tell them when you are home."

I said that I would and we shook hands. And now I have. Somewhere in the Leeward Islands there is a man who wants the Eagles to upgrade their receivers. It was good advice, but also a good reminder that, just as you can never go home again, when it comes to the Eagles, you can never really leave home, either.