I sit on the familiar plastic bench seat at McDoh in Key Islamorada, Florida. That would almost seem obscene but the arches of justice bends toward familiarity so I take the charity of McDoh to heart. We come to the Keys in January to reflect as winter does something unpleasant up there. Florida is a bit of a cul-de-sac and we need not emphasize the word sac for all you snarkers out there. There is something sub “Southern” about south Florida. The signs are everywhere: perfect white beaches and nigh invisible ocean water lapping gently, waiting for climate change to sweep the entire sand bar to the north Atlantic. The strip malls cheek by jowl with the mangrove islands and the dolphins. The impossibly gorgeous views from stilted houses in a gulf side sunset surrounded by a sturdy perimeter fence. A land of contrasts to be sure. Everyone is enjoying nature, with a large motor.
God’s country accepts all down in the land where it never freezes. God is everywhere here from the large billboards with whispers of eschatologic foreplay to enormous truck tires dotted the central flats painted with red letters “Jesus Comes”. It is so gorgeous in south Florida, I find it impossible to imagine the state not over run by those like ten or fifteen dudes with all the money made during our “recovery” from the recession. But the poor, the retired and the insane are also most welcome in the Sunshine State.
As a side note, I’ve also learned from billboards Florida is a particular good state to be injured in. I mean I think if you twist your ankle on the way to the toilet in MacDoh's, I think you get free fries for life if you don't sue.
“Injured? Talk to Savage, Broker & Twist to get what you’re owed! I got $127k and I'll never work again!!" Injured people are really a grateful lot.
Much can be learned from the perfectly flat parking lots of the Florida MacDoh. Why just yesterday, I learned that you can made about $30 in a half hour if your a pregnant 20 something during rush hour and you stand near the exit. I observed our plucky heroine as she made the equivalent of a dollar a minute for holding a cardboard sign. This sign did not say “We Buy Gold!” or “Large Pizze $9.99!!”. This sign said “Need Gas Money”. That is something I need constantly. Indie musicians don’t make a dollar a minute. The spot must have been primo real estate but it takes a local to know the best locations. Two male companions waited a discreet distance away in a minivan. When the girl got her thirty large, she came back to the minivan & everyone was happily smoking butts and smiles. Another lady emerged from the van with painfully dyed red hair and other valiant preservation poultices spackled on. I didn’t watch for her take but I am sure she’s doing ok and living in Paradise. No matter what you say folks, it’s just easier to be destitute in Florida than just about any other state where at some point you’re going to freeze your ass off. Not here.
Maybe that’s where all the guns come from. After a Boynton Beach gig (every town here is “Something” Beach) I spoke with a flinty older gentlemen who warned me of the dangers in Delray and I listened attentively.
“I don’t even feel safe down there. So just be careful.”
He spoke to me in such a way that I felt like I was missing a punch line. As he spoke he was lifted his shirt & I decided for decorum’s sake to avoid over looking at exposed midriff as we had just met.
“I mean, *I* don’t even feel safe in Delray”. He gestured his head midriff-ward intimating in universal sign language, “No really. I want you to look at the exposed body part.”
With some trepidation, I looked.
In his nicely filigreed holster sat a 9mm Beretta, snug as ... well, a pistol in a holster.
“Oh, shit, well if *you* don’t feel safe there, I getcha now,” I said backing a half step away from the brink. I knew I was over-reacting as a sensitive new age folkie. He had already had mentioned he was a Christian so knew he would only shoot me if he got the green light from JC.
We spent a week in Sanford, Florida watching egrets peck at sand temples made by fire ants. The water seeps from everywhere in Florida. It waits for the people to stop digging trenches. The Walmarts are a little more touchy about who they let park overnight now. In a state hand made for RV’s even the good folks of corporate charity reach their limits which I more than support. We can't have just anyone down here. This means no parking in Orlando but towns like Sanford are still safe unless you make the armed citizenry feel threatened. Sanford’s most famous living resident is George Zimmerman. I think he feels threatened.
As I stand on the giant sand bar that is Florida, I think about facing the rise of an intemperate ocean and the millions of motorboat whirring around chopping up manatees. I begin to see the ground for which George so fearfully stood. Fear needs no understanding. Florida has no winter season but it does have plenty of high walls and side arms. Yet the ground keeps slipping into the sea. Judgement from you folks on the high ground is complex. There are fences in Florida, there is cold weather everywhere else. I never considered Winter a tool shaping social norms but do you ever notice how the liberals always look to Scandinavia for models of good government?