A Visit to Southern Florida

 

           Lila and I returned today from a visit to Southern Florida.   We went there to visit with some friends who now reside in Florida and to see what all this hoopla is about people relocating to that area.  I soon found out that all is not perfect in southern Florida.  First of all and I am sure that many of you do not realize that it is warm there.  There is no snow, no ice, and no heavy clothes to wear and yet these crazy people really think this is great.  You can never explain taste.

             Now you have to understand that many senior citizens move to Florida just to get away from the rest of the family…the kids, the grandchildren, and cousins and have to suffer with the heat.   I soon came to realize that in southern Florida they do not have a “rush” hour with traffic on every street.  They have a “slow” hour with traffic on every street that lasts all day.  This is because they have senior citizens sitting in cars …it is very hard to see them, they become quite invisible as soon as they get in the car…traveling everywhere, but mostly to get food and prescriptions.

             Upon arriving in Florida we went to Boca Raton, on the eastern side of Florida, at the Atlantic Ocean.  There are an endless number of housing developments there, each with at least a thousand or more homes, and where the seniors get to pick the house of their dreams and then go play in the backyard.  Many of the homes have seniors taking their grandchildren in hand to play with them, as these little tykes are visiting from somewhere up north.  Then there are all the other seniors looking with huge smiles on their faces because their grandchildren left last week and now they can rest.

             We visited with Bea and Harold who are our friends from the time they lived across the street from us in Silver Spring.  They are the old-timers, if you will, as they have settled in Florida many years ago and live near the ocean…that means they can see it from their many windows and balconies.   But I have asked many of the other seniors living in these various developments if they ever go to the ocean and they often reply, “Is there an ocean near here?”   We had a truly great time with Bea and Harold as we have always enjoyed spending time with them. 

             We also visited with Ginger, Lila’s Mother’s friend from the Brooklyn days yet.  Ginger is a truly spry lady who took us to lunch in the café in her housing community.  When we walked in to the café it seemed that all the people there lived in my neighborhood when I was a kid.  Despite all the problems with the heat they seemed happy and well adjusted…everybody knew everyone else.   Ginger has a wonderful outlook on life and is always looking forward, never dwelling on the past.

             Lila and I also had a great time having dinner with our friends, Roberta and Normand, who only recently moved to southern Florida from Connecticut.  They have not had a whole bunch of time to settle in, and unfortunately can only get to play tennis and bridge about five or six times a week.   But with practice I am sure that they will perfect their schedule so they can be busy just twelve hours each day.  Lila and I wish them only the best in their new surroundings…but watch out for the heat.

             Well, after about five days of fighting the seniors on the roads in the environs of Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Deerfield Beach…funny names because they tell me there is no ocean nearby…we head for the Keys.  I am really excited since I heard about Key West all my life and have never been to visit.  We get on the Florida Turnpike four lanes of pounding cars heading south, which soon reduce down to three lanes, then two lanes and finally, only one lane heading south into the Keys.  What is unique about the turnpike is that you can drive as fast as you want…no speed limit, because every mile you have to stop and give seventy-five cents to the toll collector.  

             But we get beyond that and soon all the cars are heading to the Keys.  For some ungodly reason I thought that I would be the only one heading down there.  I don’t know why...it just seemed like that is the way it should be.  About one third of the way through the Keys, the local sheriff must have known that I was coming on down and he set about to welcome me.   As I see all the cars in front of me come to a stop and I get dutifully in line as well, we crawl for the next seven miles…one lane heading south, no way out, no where else to go.  And seniors did not cause this great traffic jam, as they do not usually venture very far from their home, but rather it is a flea market.  Now, down in Florida flea markets are a really big event...sort of like a presidential inauguration anywhere else. 

             Key West was not at all what I had expected…if nothing else it was hot and humid…like Washington, D. C. in the summer.  Had I mentioned before about the heat in Florida…I guess not.    From the palm trees to the large bushes and trees around the area, Key West looks subtropical and in fact, it is.  Even though it is surrounded by water, there are really no great beaches.  Houses are very close to each other and generally quite old.  Except for Duval Street, which is dedicated to the tourist trade, all the other streets are quiet and residential.  We visited the Truman White House, Hemingway’s home and the southernmost point in the continental United States. 

             We also walked through the City Cemetery, which had a Jewish Cemetery section as well.  Most of the grave markers date back to the beginning of the last century…some earlier.   While there a guide was showing a group a grave with the inscription “I told you I was sick”…supposedly marking the grave of a confirmed hypochondriac. 

            We stayed in an interesting guesthouse and were able to meet and talk with other visitors to the area during breakfast around the pool and in the evening when we also sat in the garden/pool area.  We visited some excellent restaurants sampling some of the local cuisine.  A local resident best described Key West as a “Granola Bar”…. a bunch of fruits, a bunch of nuts and some flakes all brought together in this community.

             The next day we headed out of Key West…through each of the fifteen to twenty keys heading north toward Miami and then west to the Gulf coast past Naples, Venice and Ft. Myers on our way to Sarasota.  The west coast enjoyed cool breezes; much less humid air and we enjoyed walking along Lido Beach where we were staying.  We had lunch with Beverly and Dee and her husband, Tom.  I had worked with Beverly and Dee and it was wonderful to visit with them again.

             One evening we had dinner on a restaurant’s outdoor deck (we did enjoy eating outside many times during the trip) and watched the sun set on the gulf…always a terrific experience.   Here again in Sarasota, traffic was a bear and one has to be very careful when you try to head to a certain destination because it may be “slow” time or a bridge is being raised to let a boat pass or there is an accident.

             Anyway our trip was coming to a close and we had to head back across Florida to West Palm Beach to catch our plane.  We had been advised to use the interstate roads, but they went clear around the state’s periphery.  A long trip at best, but we were told it would be faster.  With Bev’s help we opted to head across the state roads going through the center of the state.  It was estimated to be a four and one-half hour trip.   Well, we passed orange groves, sod farms and many ranches as well as many cars and trucks.  I did this with Lila telling me to be careful…I am going too fast.  It took us only two and three quarter hours and it was a great ride.  

             Well, the next day we caught our plane home, a short two-hour flight.  It was a very nice trip, but did I mention that it was quite warm in Florida.  I am glad to be back in the cold…even though we are expecting a big snow tomorrow.