Florida is just like I remember it. No, I mean just like I remember it. Sure, there are little things that have changed here and there, but by and large this place is untouched from when I left it. Driving into our old home town, I was stuck by how run down and ragged things look. This is an old area, and I don’t think much new money comes in. I’d say there are an equal number of closed up, shuttered, and unoccupied stores than there are open and functional ones. There are large supermarkets that stand as empty as the day they closed when I still lived here nearly ten years ago. Chipped paint and broken storefront signs still scream for repairs like they did the day I left. Strip malls with less than half their stores filled look like a set of redneck teeth, empty gaps more prevalent than not. Faded “for rent” signs still taped to the windows of the same dilapidated commercial properties they pleaded from years ago.
This place is old and run-down, and the years show. Still, there is a charm here. Some kind of beach-bum, Florida-bred, run-down-and-who-cares charm that so well fits the Floridian mentality. Where things are simple, and don’t need to be new and shiny. Where people buy things at the same place their parents bought things. With the Jimmy Buffet attitude, the dusty and outdated facade becomes something nostalgic and not at all unpleasant. There is a history here, and the people are friendly to each other. There is a Mayberry-esque “general store” type feeling that shines through the old-n-busted exteriors and makes me somewhat homesick.
It’s strangely enticing. “Come here and don’t worry.” “Look at this place, this is the pace at which life should be lived. We have all we need and we’re happy this way.” Florida is great for that. Of course, there are newer, more California-minded, areas – as there probably are anywhere you might go. But here in our old home town, it’s business as usual. I’m somewhat envious of it, but altogether not sure if being here now would amount to relaxation, or something more like stagnation. It’s Florida, it’s the South, it’s where I grew up – and it’s still in my blood. I can’t deny the draw of it all, but it’s definitely a double edged sword. For all the reasons there are to admire this place, there are the same reasons to think it a festering sore. Still, the memories are here – and I do smile when I drive around. That’s Florida, that’s where I grew up.
As for us, we’re having a great time so far. Since we’re here for far less time than we’re used to spending, we have to cram a lot of visiting and socializing into our schedule. Today I met my brother’s fiancé’s family for the first time. Above all, they seem like really nice people. We spent time opening gifts with Sharaun’s family, and resting from our harrowing journey from the Schwarzenegger state. Once again, I made out like a bandit on the gifts front. I got lots more nice clothes, and a handful of other cool this-n-thats. We also had an awesome home-cooked southern Christmas dinner. The rest of the week plays out with my bro’s wedding, and visits with friends and relatives. Should be a fun, if hectic, time.
Day two of vacation and I’m still blogging. Although uploading and searching for images over dialup is supremely frustrating. I’m off to bed, good night all. Hope everyone had an awesome Christmas. Oh, and hope you pagans enjoyed whatever heathen rites you celebrate as well.
Also written on this day...
- gifts, spoils, and fevers - 2006