I was about to sit down to some serious writing before I was so rudely interupted by a software bug.
Ah yes, I was going to tell you everything you never wanted to know.
Actually, tonight’s post is inspired by the weather. You see, every time it gets really cold out I think about New England. I shouldn’t, because I haven’t lived there for… jeez, I’m fresh out of fingers and toes. Alright, let’s not talk about how long it’s been. We’ll just say it’s been a while. A long while. Almost no one that hears me speak confuses my accent for my old Bostonian habit of pronunciation, and… horror of horrors, the last time I was up visiting someone accused me of having a southern accent. (Take that BACK!)
Alright, it’s not world class cold, but I think it’s finally cold enough that most people wouldn’t consider it shorts weather.
So I’m thinking about life in Florida. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Hell, for all I know I’ve thought about it a lot period. I have this suspicion that I’ve already written this post before, but I’m feeling too lazy to look. Besides, I’d end up reading too much of my old stuff, get distracted, and even if I’d never written about it before the mood would be lost. What I’ve been thinking is: I’ve got a complicated relationship with my home state. It’s important I admit that to you. Florida is my home. They say the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem.
I think I have the same relationship with Florida that my grandmother had with her cat. That cat was the meanest mammal I’d ever known. The cat wasn’t just mean to other people, she was mean to my grandmother too. If I’d had that cat, I wouldn’t… if you know what I mean. But my grandmother had that thing for years, and in some ways they were alike. For one thing, they both lived a long time… possibly longer than they really wanted to. My grandfather died in 1976, and the damn cat seemed old then… and it hung on for another 12 years or so (my grandmother for another 30, but that’s another post). But as mean as the cat was, I think there was something my grandmother loved. She just didn’t show it that often.
My dad moved us to Florida in May of 1979, and it kind of seemed like the end of the world. No snow? No snow days? It’s this hot for how long? You’re kidding, right? Our old neighborhood outside of Boston was filled with young families and kids. Our new neighborhood wasn’t. If you added up all of the ages in our family, I’m not sure it would quite get you to the the average age of residents in our subdivision. That was another problem with Florida. What’s with all these subdivisions? What part of “sub-division” doesn’t belong when you put a six foot, concrete wall around each little enclave, complete with a little gate and guard shack (well, in some but not all)? As if that wasn’t bad enough, each house came with a six foot privacy fence. Yep, we were paying good money to put ourselves in prison.
You know all about the heat, but do you know how utterly bland it can be here? Sometimes I wonder if the sun and humidity has a supressing effect on creativity. But then I remember there are (or were) places like New Orleans, so that can’t be it.
The year my wife and I lived in Orlando was the worst. It was the plastic, animatronic monument to paved paradise.
Alright, enough with the bad stuff. You know there are things about Florida that I don’t like, so what makes this relationship complicated? Well, you probably already know that too. It’s home. There are good and bad memories everywhere. It’s where almost every major event in my life has happened, the source of every cherished memory. It’s where I made the first goal I scored playing soccer, or the first save I made as a goalie; both of which made me feel like I was on top of the world. It’s right over there. You know, where the fields used to be before they tore them up for drainage to widen the highway. (Oops, no more negatives, I promise.) It’s where, against their better judgement, my parents let me buy a motorcycle with my lawn mowing money; and where my startled neighbor saw us jumping over a little man-made ravine (from the other side of his six-foot privacy fence). I suppose it was better he saw it than my mother (although she still found out). It was where me and my friends thought it would be a good idea to sneak out with canoes one night and paddle out to one of the barrier islands for a private camping trip (which was just about the most fun I ever had… and got me in just about the most trouble I’ve ever been in). It’s where me and my friends went out to the public racquetball courts at two in the morning for a rematch, just because we felt like it, and because we could. It’s where me and my girlfriend got to talking, and somehow came to an understanding that we would be getting married that spring, without either one of us having proposed. It was where my son was born after three heart-rending miscarriages.
But it’s more than just a backdrop for my life. If I left you with that impression it would be unfair. It can also be a place with character, which I appreciate all the more with so many places so close which don’t. There’s the little Mexican restaurant we love that a local woman opened after a vacation in Mexico, where she had an epiphany to start life over as a restauranteur. There’s this spicy dish with chocolate sauce that’ll make you get down on your knees and thank your maker. There’s the real Florida that our politicians, in a rare moment of clarity (that or they were high), had the good sense to preserve in our numerous state and local parks. One consequence of Florida being a giant, glorified sandbar, is the karst topography. Much of the land can seem dry, and perilous to build on, but it hides the Floridian Aquifer. It’s a deep, old, reliable source of constant 72 degree, crystal clear water that makes parts of Florida indistinguishable from paradise. A 95 degree day is easily forgotten if you’re floating down one of Florida’s many springs through a Florida forrest.
Despite the heat, I must admit there have been some nice aspects of having relatively mild weather year round, like some of the recreational activities that wouldn’t have been quite as practical (or possible) if we’d had harsh winters. Although tennis and racquetball might have been fun to try on ice. Bicycling has been one of my passions, and I’m not too sure I’d like it nearly as much in slush.
So there you have it, my love-hate relationship with Florida. Does it still seem so bad? Despite what you might think from this blog, I don’t really think so.