My point today is actually not to be serious. I guarantee this post will be 100% profound-insight-free. To be honest, I’m going to struggle a little bit to rise to the level of being merely trite.
I wrote yesterday about how I’ve lived lots of places and there are things I’ve liked about all of them. There’s one place Carla and I go frequently that has all the familiar feelings of home, yet we’ve never lived there: Florida. Specifically Central Florida. There’s this kind of rough triangle that goes from Clermont, northwest of Disney World and extends over Winter Garden to Cocoa Beach and then down past Sebastian to Vero Beach and then back to Clermont. That’s our Florida.1
Many people have tried to explain Florida. Carl Hiassen and Dave Barry have probably captured the weirdness best. There is an undeniable natural beauty that sits right up along side the most crass, soulless commercialism. Anyone who can drive down US 192 between Old Town Kissimmee and US 27 without wondering where evolution went horribly wrong is a better person than me. The human mind has given us poetry, music, medicine and science. It has also given us the Roomba Inn.
What the hell does that name even mean? I so want to walk into the place and be greeted by one of those little hockey puck vacuum cleaners. I suspect, however, like so many things along 192 I would walk away disappointed. The Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews read like a mashup of Stockholm Syndrome, deep denial and a cry for help. And it’s one of the classier joints on the road.
On the other hand, get off 192 and go north on 27 for about 15 minutes and you’ll find yourself at Lake Louisa State Park. It’s what this part of Florida looked like before the mice and wizards and superheroes moved in. Go southeast on 192 away from Kissimmee towards Vero Beach and you’ll see ranch land very much like what I used to see all the time in South Texas. Drive up A1A from Vero to Cocoa Beach and you’ll see your share of 1-percenters and wannabe 1-percenters stacked like cordwood in condos. You’ll also see these amazing little county parks that keep the beaches open and accessible to everyone. There are still little fishing towns and communities that might get a little touristy at some times of the year, but are mostly made up of people just working to get through the day like anyone anywhere.
There are always people to whom this place speaks. Literally. Like they hear voices in their heads. They get in their cars and drive south down I-95 or I-75 or east along I-10. They’ll drive 20 miles above or below the speed limit. No one will use a turn signal except by accident. And they will all come to Disney World the same week we do.
I have no idea whether this will become another place where we’ll live someday, or whether it will always just be a place we visit. I could see it going either way. I’m getting less enamored with winter all the time, but I despise hot, humid summers. And here that’s April to September. But we’ll keep coming back. Just like all the other crazies.
1I was going to make a cool map using Google Maps showing an overlay of the area I’m talking about. Unfortunately Google decided to add the “make everything freaking unusable” feature to all its products, so we’ll all just have to use our imaginations.