Thursday, March 30, 2017

5 Years In: Things I've Learned About Life In Florida

Five years ago, I moved from a stable life in Kentucky to an up-and-down existence in Florida. These days, it's more up than down, for which I am grateful. Here are some tips if you're a prospective citizen of the Tampa Bay Area:
  • Florida has no state tax. This means that anything involving government costs a lot more. Prepare for 'sticker' shock with transferring your vehicle.
  • Do not underestimate the sun. You might have worked outside all the time up north, but this is different. The Floridian sun can give you freckles through your shirt sleeves, and you can even get sunburned driving home from work.
  • Related to the above: if you’re trying to make a living in Tampa Bay, expect a long commute. The largest number of jobs are in places you can’t afford to live. Those places are for tourists and the wealthier snowbirds. The assumption is that you’re partially paid in sunshine.
  • Florida residents have a higher-than-usual risk for skin cancer. I think this must be a corollary.
  • City regulations in coastal areas are not devised for the benefit of the citizens, but for that of tourists and rich snowbirds, who will supposedly flock to that town, even if there is no beach.
  • If there is no beach, tourists and rich snowbirds will use your town as a pee stop en route to the beach towns.
  • You will see advertisements for ‘manufactured homes’. All housing, outside of caves, is manufactured. These are really mobile homes.
  • Manufactured housing is evacuated first during a hurricane, even if your town has no beach.
  • The air may be warm in December, but the ocean isn’t. Ditto swimming pools.
  • You won’t get a refreshing swim in the ocean or the pool during August unless you add a truckload of ice first.
  • Do not wade or swim in retention ponds. The early developers drained and filled in many natural lakes during their quest to peddle land. Guess where the alligators live now?
  • Lizards are everywhere, especially dinky ones. Check your shoes.
  • The climate is favorable to vermin, not people. Expect to invest in heavy-duty prevention measures. Learn where the closest Tractor Supply Company store is, even if you don't own a tractor.
  • Mashed potatoes ‘Florida style’ are often watery instead of creamy. I don’t know who thought of this, but they should be horsewhipped.
  • Greek restaurants in Florida often put a scoop of potato salad under the Greek salad. They may claim it’s traditional, but it’s an American tradition. I've been to Greece twice; I know better. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.
  • There are two growing seasons in Florida, but many “farmers” at farmers’ markets don’t grow their own wares. Instead, they resell farm produce rejected by the supermarkets. Look for the guy with the badly spelled sign on the side of the road instead.
  • You will lose snow days and gain hurricane days. Yes, it's weird. 
 The adjustment is slow, but continuing. Kentucky seems so far away. It is - in distance and time.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Fair in Ft. Myers

Our second major book fair, the Southwest Florida reading festival, took place in a beautiful location. The view of the river was inspiring, especially when we were coming over the bridge. Later that day, I would dream of jumping in those dark blue ripples.

The Sisters in Crime booth had a steady rotation of authors, with our president, Wendy Dingwall, staying all day. She gave Gwen and me plenty of useful information for future affairs. We also had the pleasure of meeting Kate Carson for the first time.

We had a steady flow of people come by our booth in the morning, but it did slow down at lunch. In the afternoon, the crowd thinned. Florida gets warm a lot sooner in the year than Kentucky. We still had a good time sharing information and getting to know one another better.

It's been a long time since Gwen and I did so much standing and walking, especially in the heat. We drank a lot of soda and shared shaved ice, which seemed to evaporate from our bodies as quickly as we consumed them. When we got back to Safety Harbor, we ate, drink more fluids, and collapsed. Two days later, I'm still tired.

This coming weekend is the Venice Book Fair. We'll remember the cooler this time.