February 5, 2013 – Birds that Cross the Road
Everything – and I do mean everything – is cleaner and sunnier in Florida than it is in Michigan. Even large flocks of birds crossing the road and making a general nuisance of themselves holding up traffic.
In Michigan, the Canadian goose is so prevalent that huge amounts of time and money has been expended trying to keep their numbers and mischief to a minimum. In my dog-centric house, someone only had to yell the word “BIRD” and my dogs would immediately whip into a frenzy trying to find a goose or duck to chase and torture. I had a dog jump right through an open window one time when some mallards decided that my swimming pool was a rest stop in their spring migration.
But Canadian geese and mallard ducks are basically as grey and brown as the Michigan landscape. Here in Florida a brown or grey bird would never dare to flock or try to cross a road, lest it be met with scorn and contempt.
In Florida, a bird must be white in order to be granted the privilege of crossing the road in sufficient numbers to stop traffic.
August 28, 2012 – Republicans and Rest Areas
It’s no secret that members of the Republican Party embrace the conservative philosophies in the American political spectrum, particularly fiscal and social conservatism. Democrats are obviously the opposite: fiscally and especially socially liberal.
I have only lived in Florida for 9 months, but it is pretty clear that the residents here are most generally conservative. In fact, in the past 20 years, there has only been one Democratic governor, not counting the guy who was only governor for 21 days when his predecessor died.
A few days ago I made my first road trip since moving to Florida, driving from Naples to Orlando for a conference. I entered I-75 northbound at exit #111. Right. after. lunch. Then I drove all the way to mile marker 237 – 126 miles – before I came to a rest area where I could stop and use the bathroom.
Is there anything more conservative than too few rest areas on an expressway?
I also wondered how much money McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants had contributed to Florida gubernatorial candidates who pledged to keep the expressways rest-area free, because I am sure there are others like me who will not use a fast food bathroom without buying something to pay for my use of their resources.
July 10. 2012 – Rain and Convertibles
Back in the 60s, it seemed like everyone who really wanted to “make it” had a convertible. My sister, a young career woman at Ford Motor in 1964, had a black Ford Thunderbird convertible that was the envy of the entire family.
But the love affair with convertibles in Michigan soon wore off, doomed by impracticality and fickle weather.
Now that I am in Florida, though, the convertible is back to being alive and well and . . . everywhere.
Florida certainly seems to have the weather for putting the top down and feeling the warm wind blow through your hair. Except, perhaps, in summer.
Summer is rainy season in Florida, with July its rainiest month of the year. It seems like it rains every single day. Sometimes the rain just seems to appear out of nowhere, and leaves just as quickly. And sometimes the sky is clear and bright and then BAM! You’re driving through a rain squall.
A couple of weeks ago a convertible, top down and occupants smiling, passed me on I-75 when I was returning from the airport. The weather looked fine and the sky was clear. But no more than 10 minutes after that convertible passed me, I was suddenly driving through a heavy rain squall that lasted for about a mile. After that, skies were clear and sunny again.
I am still wondering what the inside of the convertible that passed me looks like now. Are the occupants still smiling?
June 5, 2012 – Seasons
For the first 55+ years of my life, the word “season” meant several things to me. Mostly, it meant times of the year when the weather would change and people became more or less cranky, depending on whether they preferred skiing on the water or the snow. Being a dog-centric person, it also meant the time when a female dog was in heat, and some flyball dogs had to stay home. The sport of flyball is crazy enough without a bunch of boy dogs running around looking for that bitch who smells so good. Speaking of smells, season also meant dousing food with garlic. Salt and pepper, too, but mostly garlic.
But when I moved to Florida, the word “season” took on a whole new meaning. Here in Naples, there is only one season. In Naples, we are either in season or not. Naples almost ceases to exist when we are not in season. In fact, Season is so important that it really deserves capitalization and no superfluous article like “the”.
Naples is in season from roughly Thanksgiving to Easter. Sometimes season starts as late as New Years Day and ends as late as Memorial Day. It means the same thing regardless of when it starts and ends, though.
It means that restaurants are full and seats hard to come by from breakfast through late dinner, requiring reservations days and weeks in advance at some places. It means tons of traffic and a 10 minute drive that turns into 30. It means waiting for weeks to get a haircut or dental appointment. It means an increase in the price of everything.
I am going to love the next 55+ years of my life. Especially from June through October.
May 8, 2012 – Bath Gardens
“Why does this house have a wall outside of a wall?”
That was the question my husband asked me when we were touring our house just before closing. I answered that it was probably just decorative, although adding an extra wall that supports and encloses nothing was an odd and expensive choice.
After I finally moved in, I approached our landscaper and asked him why there was this empty, dirty spot between the decorative wall and the house wall.
“Do you mean the bath garden?”
What the hell is a bath garden? He went on to explain that many Florida homes have a wall outside the bath, so that people taking a bath can relax and look out onto a lush floral garden without sacrificing privacy.
So I promptly had my landscaper add some plants and rocks so that the area looked like a garden, instead of a dirty mess full of wind-blown debris.
Now when I take a shower (I have no bathtub), I can see some splashes of color but not much else, because the glass block window inside of the wall minimizes the view.
Sometimes things in Florida get lost between theory and execution.
April 15, 2012 – Hospitals Without Doctors
You’ve probably heard of Doctors Without Borders, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of Hospitals Without Doctors.
Welcome to hospital emergency room treatment in Naples, Florida.
I made my first visit to a Naples hospital emergency room a week ago on Easter Sunday. Most of the experience was pretty typical – see a tech, then see a nurse. Get all of the mundane things like history, blood pressure, vitals, etc. out of the way before the doctor actually visits you behind your flimsy curtain.
In Florida, though, a doctor didn’t arrive by my ER bedside at all. The person who came was a physician’s assistant.
PAs are far more common here in Florida than they are in Michigan. In Naples I have visited two doctors who were using them in their offices. But in those offices, the supervising physician – who I was really paying money to see – ultimately arrived. Not in the ER, though.
I guess I am particularly spoiled, because in my regular Michigan hospital they even send specialists to the ER patient if one is warranted. I met the orthopedic surgeon who ultimately operated on my daughter’s broken ankle when he was called to her ER room on a snowy Friday evening.
Now I’m not complaining about the treatment I received in the ER, nor of the competency of the PA. She certainly knows more about medicine than I do, and she did consult me about being admitted to the hospital (I argued vehemently against admittance, natch) – a consultation which a licensed physician probably would not have entertained. But I left that ER with a little pang of disappointment.
Maybe because I didn’t see the Easter Bunny, either.
March 19, 2012 – Contradictions
Naples, Florida has an identity crisis.
Unlike the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area, which has a lot of east coast “Ima- comin’- so-get-outta-my way” sensibilty, Naples is very heavily midwestern. License plates from Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ontario, Canada are everywhere. People are really polite, and totally accepting of each other and their idiosyncrasies.
But that also makes Naples a land of extreme contradiction. Some examples:
1. I have palm trees and pine trees in my yard. In fact, there is an area in the front yard where they grow right next to each other. Pine cones, those symbols of snowy winters and Christmas, litter my driveway. Palm trees evoke images of tropic breezes and vacations. Their fronds litter my driveway, too. If Florida wants to have two distinctly different trees that represent totally different climates and lifestyles, I wish they would choose trees that don’t shed.
2. Last week I was driving down the center lane of a 3 lane highway, stopped at a light. On my left was a jet black Mercedes S65 AMG, valued at around 200K. On my right was an early 90′s Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon, tropical blue with woodgrain trim panels. Value? Maybe a thousand dollars. Transportation in Naples means driving a Rolls Royce -or a rusty bicycle.
3. Sitting outside in the hot tub around midnight, it was nice to hear the familiar sound of crickets chirping. What was totally alien was that they were joined by the sound of birds chirping. Birds are supposed to chirp at dawn, not midnight.
I hope they were telling the crickets to STFU so they could go back to sleep.
March 3, 2012 – New Names
Back in high school I said something to my girlfriend once about wearing a “babushka”. She looked at me, perplexed, and asked, “What’s a babushka?” I stared back at her, just as perplexed, because it was as if someone had asked me “what’s a chair?” or “what’s a book?” I stammered, “you know, it’s . . .a . . .a . . .babushka!”
Growing up in a Polish household, I learned that a scarf worn over the head was a babushka, and I had no clue, until that day, that babushka was not an English word known by every 16 year old girl in the country.
Now that I live in Florida, I am having the same sense of displacement that I did all those years ago, because I have discovered that Floridians use a lot of different nouns than Michiganders. For example, my house does not have a patio. It has a lanai. I find this particularly confusing, since lanai is a Hawaiian word and patio is Spanish, which is a much heavier influence here in SW Florida. And next week workers are installing a screen, er, a cage around the
When I tried to discuss the doorwalls in the house with my real estate agent, she looked at me as if I had grown a third arm. Down here they are called sliders.
I thought that was a hamburger from White Castle. Maybe that’s why I haven’t seen a White Castle (or Bray’s, or Green’s, or Hunter House, or . . . ) since I have been in Florida – they are afraid of what Floridians might call those little, greasy burgers.
February 12, 2012 – Land of Fruits and Nuts
When I was in law school, one of my professors used to make disparaging remarks about the state of California whenever we discussed a case that originated there. Things like, “California – the world’s largest open air insane asylum”, or, “California – land of fruits and nuts.”
That law school professor has remained a good friend of mine to this day, and I know one thing: he has never lived in Florida. Otherwise, he may not have been so hard on poor California.
I recently moved to Naples, Florida, after spending my first 57 years in Michigan. It has been an adventure, to say the least. Quite frankly this place, at times, is downright odd. So I will be using this page occasionally to discuss my life in Florida, and bring you some of those oddities.
What else is there to do when I am sitting outside on my patio in February, sipping margaritas?