Friday, January 24, 2014

I Will Absolutely NEVER— Live in Florida

It started with our honeymoon in Miami Beach in 1965.  Remember Hurricane Betsy?  She came roaring at us from the Caribbean, hung around off shore long enough to churn up the surf, and made a sharp right turn.  Close call - but wait.  Around Jacksonville, she changed her mind, made a U-turn, and came back.  Another right turn and she barreled across Florida, built up steam in the Gulf, and killed seventy-six people in Louisiana. 

A few years later, we were visiting my wife's parents in Boca.  The multitude of octogenarian northern transplants was the same annoying people they'd been back home, only older and crankier.  They all drove cars as big as ocean liners in the left lane, which caused the local rednecks to try to run them off the road.  And then there were the early-bird specials. 

The frogs that serenaded us each evening turned out to be alligators in the lake behind my in-laws' house, and one morning, I found a coral snake curled up on their front walk.  In summer, the weather was unbearable and the medical care was so horrendous we had to fly them up to Johns Hopkins whenever something went wrong.

My brother moved to Disneyworld to escape northern winters, went through two horrible marriages, and died there last year.  Attending his funeral, we met Hurricane Sandy who did her best to blow the funeral tent down.  We had to fly through her to get home, but she wasn't done with us, aiming right for our area on her way north to wreck the Jersey shore.

Did I need more reasons to hate Florida?  How about the gun culture?  The reactionary, intolerant politics?  And now, the Burmese pythons that have virtually destroyed the fauna of the Everglades and turned their ravenous eyes northward?  I was justifiably righteous when I smugly swore I would never be a Florida Snowbird much less live there.  Damn right, I was.

Then, last summer, my son and daughter-in-law decided to move to Orlando instead of San Diego.  We were especially horrified because they took seven-month-old Nate, our only grandchild, and Tessie, our favorite dog with them.  In September, we bit the bullet and flew down to visit them - missing them convinced me that adaptability was a more attractive quality than stubbornness. 

While we were there, my son suggested a trip to the beach.  With unpleasant memories of South Florida Atlantic beaches, I wasn't excited, but he assured us this place would be different.  He introduced us to New Smyrna Beach, a lovely, artistic town that lies between Daytona and the Canaveral seashore.  My wife had announced that she was retiring at the end of the year, and we both knew an idle winter in Maryland was not a good way to transition into the next phase of life.

Three hours after arriving in New Smyrna, I found myself signing a contract to rent a beachfront condo for January.  So here I am, writing this as I look out at the ocean.  I'm inside because it's too cold out on the deck. Nineteen days here and there have already been four hard freezes in central Florida.  But I'm not complaining.  Up north they're talking about this new thing called a Polar Vortex.  I think they're up to Polar Vortex 3, now.

We have to leave early because my mother is in hospice in New York.  There's almost a foot of snow at home today and there will be a negative ten degree wind chill when we exit the Auto Train in northern Virginia two days from now. 

Considering everything, three weeks here with Nate and Tessie never more than forty miles away have trumped five decades of certainty.  We've engaged a realtor to find us a place to buy in New Smyrna.  Like I said, never say NEVER.

Alan Zendell spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda.  But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.  Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction with three-dimensional characters.  It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling.  It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading. And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.  You may find Alan’s books here


Linda Rondeau said...

Great post, Alan. Of course, Steve and I can relate. We visited my brother a few years after he moved down here and vowed we hated the humidity. My lungs got so I couldn't take the cold anymore. So here we are three years later in Jacksonville. If you'd like to get together sometime, we'd love it.

Caroline said...

Lol, Alan. Great post and surely enjoyed it. We'll have to remember your experience so the rest of us will never say never! :)

Caroline said...

Forgot to say, ugh on the snakes and alligators and hurricanes. Other than that . . . well, we'll see!

Claude Nougat said...

Congrats for saying never say never! You're right, one should always consider any situation on its own merits, very wise. And good luck with your new home!

Sherry Carter said...

I said "never" a couple years ago and yet, here I am living in far west TX.

You are so right - never say never! It's like slapping God in the face with a white glove :(

Linda Robinson said...

Alan, I loved your blog! We spent thirteen years in Central Florida and had a condo in New Smyrna for ten of them. Seemed every time we had northern visitors, we'd take them to the beach in New Smyrna to enjoy the sun and surf and promptly have a nor'easter sent a cold front as far as Florida. We blamed them for bringing us bad weather!LOL

Jeri Fink said...

I loved your blog - and as a Long Islander where EVERYONE seems to end up in Florida, I still say NEVER! Every snowstorm or polar vortex we get a call from Floridians asking whether we're jealous and when are we moving south.

I'd rather retire (west) to Manhattan!

alan said...

Thank you all for your comments. Linda, next trip we plan to explore north a bit - St Augustine and Jacksonville. Nice to meet for lunch?

Jeri - we're from LI originally, too, which is why I also always said never. But we have a new twist. As we froze in Florida these past weeks, my other son in San Diego kept sending pictures of warm 75 degree days at the beach. Aren't kids wonderful?

I love Manhattan too, but I have to value grandchildren ahead of it.

H L Wegley said...

Alan, in 2005 my wife and I rented a condo on the beach on the Gulf side. Flying from Seattle & planning a stop to see our kids in Arkansas, we ran into Hurricane Rita twice. First when Rita shut down the Houston airport. We couldn't land there and were diverted to Minnesota. We flew into Little Rock, rented a car, and ran smack into Rita, now a tropical storm, as we drove south to our kids house. When we got to Florida, the backwash from the storm pushed the red tide onto the Gulf-side beaches, concentrating it and resulting in a huge fish kill (which stank to high heaven). The red tide left toxic particles in the air that were a lot like mace. No one could go on the beaches and the restaurants along the beaches closes because the workers were going home sick. If you want to go some place warm during hurricane season, try the Hawaiian Islands.

Patricia Bradley said...

Yeah, I've learned to never say never as well. Doesn't matter what it is, I always end up doing it. Great post!

Patti Shene said...

Hey, Jeri and Alan, I'm a former Long Islander as well! Where are you guys from? I grew up on the South Shore in a small town called Bayport.