Why Visiting Florida Isn’t a Bad Idea

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“Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.” Ernest Hemingway

This quote has little to do with the following tirade except for the fact that when I travel, I eat too much thereby expanding my nether regions.  Also, I recently visited Florida, which is not Illinois where I keep my bed so it counts as travel.

I am writing this on the plane home, so please excuse me if I rant, pout or suddenly trail off, which is to say you’ll probably won’t notice anything different.

As is almost always the case, when I am torn, kicking and screaming from my home, I inevitably enjoy myself once the flying elbow to elbow part is over, a lesson I’ve yet to fully integrate and seriously doubt that I will, at least not  this life time. Still, whether I like it or not, vacations can be fun and educational and, because I care, I’ll share my knowledge, sparing you the less than relaxing experience of flying with someone’s head on your tray table. (Note to seat tilters: this behavior singles you out as an insensitive lout who should never be considered as date material, let alone all the good stuff and I don’t mean pretzels.) Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Florida is the land of alligators and people in pick up trucks who seemingly have dire emergencies which require them to whip out in front of you from cross streets and then, just as suddenly, decide a more leisurely pace (20 or so miles under the speed limit) will do just fine.

It is also the only part of the country that, when I refer to the elderly, I’m not talking about myself. In fact, I feel almost sprightly there and it’s not just because my husband’s brother and his wife have moved into an “active adult” community near Kissimmee, (which is not pronounced as if an Italian were demanding a smooch.  You’ll need to look up the correct pronunciation, however as I never mastered it, my Sister-in-law’s patient tutelage.)

The reason I felt spring chicken-esque is that I walked through the center’s dining hall and, not to offend my in-laws who are less than old, everyone leaning over their meals had at least 15 years on me. This rarely happens anywhere else which is why, despite the blatant lack of ocean, the trip was totally worth it.

However, if I wanted to continue to feel superior about being dropped onto the earth at a later date than most people there, I have to avoid asking residents, “So, what’ve you been up to?” Each and every person I’ve met at this facility (OK, my in-laws) are much like the Marines in that they do more before 7am than I do all day. And in my defense, everybody does more than I do all day, but still.

The residents of this land where two stories houses are not welcome, receive a list of activities every month in a magazine called Reflections; a quick perusal puts the list at about 150 choices. Of course, all but nine or ten of them involve playing cards and/or red hats. Yet it’s a much longer list than mine which usually includes typing stuff and playing cards online which rarely requires hats of any sort although it is not without precedent.

Another observation I made is that, outside of the metro Orlando area, the color schemes are overwhelming diverse. They run the gamut from beige to ecru with an occasional rebellion of terra cotta. The folks at Benjamin Moore must be sniffing turpentine just to keep themselves awake.

There is also a shortage of kids and not just inside the community gates. Even those places where children can normally found in abundance, (Target and restaurants which are meant to to be peaceful escapes) seem devoid of unhappy, screaming toddlers. Perhaps Disney World is a vacuüm which sucks the temporarily height challenged from the immediate area. I fleetingly glimpsed a small child outside of a home, but he was quickly whisked away, perhaps to avoid his otherwise inevitable arrival at the land of Mickey Mouse. Once again, however, I was staying at an Active Adult Community and nothing makes adults less energetic than the presence of children which would defeat the whole “active” purpose.

The fauna of Florida is a learning experience and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. The wild life here is abundant and I’m not talking about movie night in the village auditorium. There are actual alligators here who take a dislike to you for no apparent reason; perhaps it’s the whole leather thing. Anyway, it’s best not to greet them in a friendly manner or your ability to wave could be cut in half.

There are also tall grey birds with red heads who meander across lawns as if they are not really, really weird-looking.

Squirrels here have no self-respect. They are not racing across roads instigating close encounters with cars to find and store life saving sustenance for the long winter, as all self-respecting squirrels are required to do here in the Midwest. They are a leisurely species in Florida and, as far as I can tell, refrain from burying their nuts in places which they will forget until the ground thaws, (a behavior which creates kinship between squirrels, as I often put things “away” never to find them again until, well never.)

Anyway, these squirrels have no need to prepare for the winter, so they apparently spend all their time at the gym. They look a bit like Kate Moss in a fur coat without giving PETA the overwhelming urge to throw paint on them.

And geckos, which are more abundant than AARP memberships in this part of the world, do not speak with an Australian accent, in fact, in all the time I spent there, they had absolutely nothing to say, despite my repeated attempts to initiate conversations; perhaps because I don’t patronize their insurance company.

Although my final point is of no use to anyone who isn’t related to me, my sister and brother-in-law could make a living teaching schlubs like me how to entertain. We ate, shopped and were generally merry despite an occasional pout on my part because Orlando lacks an ocean and the only ocean readily available had a terrible house guest named Sandy arrive at the same time we were meant to.

Sandy hit the east coast as we flew into Chicago, shaking our flight a bit, and making a wreck of the East Coast, which makes me feel a bit guilty for hating the head-on-my-tray- table-guy for the trip back.  As a result and because, we have light and heat in my home, I’m going to send money to the Red Cross and stay home for a while.

https://www.redcross.org/donate/index.jsp?donateStep=2&itemId=prod10002

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