Baby, It’s C O L D Down Here !

Frozen Areca Palms

All right, all my Yankee friends and family– I realize you are putting up with truckloads of snow and ice and sleet, and I know that that’s the kind of weather you expect to have up North.  I realized that one freezing, sleety day at the end of 1977 while waiting for a bus. “What am I, nuts?” I asked myself. “As soon as I graduate, I’m moving to Florida.”

And I did; I moved here for a variety of reasons, one of them being the weather. No longer would I have to put up with pangs of guilt as I watched my mother and grandmother shoveling snow from in front of the house, trying to unearth the fire hydrant; no more would I struggle with my father as we dragged the gigantic window air conditioning unit from its summer berth and down into the cellar so it wouldn’t freeze during the  L O N G  Brooklyn winter.

Chilly kitty

Florida weather was all it promised, and more. I’d been down here in the summers of 1970, 1974, and 1975 with my uncle’s family, and when I landed in July 1978 for good I looked forward to an endless series of tropical vignettes from Where the Boys Are— palm trees, lazy, beachy weekends, year-round greenery, and shriekingly brilliant hibiscus shrubs coloring the landscape.

All was well until the winter of 1982-3; I went home to Brooklyn for a dutiful Christmas visit and returned to a blasted, frozen Florida. Shocked! Everyone was shocked… the air smelled rotten green, the sky was gray, and there was a dead cold that creeped into everything. I remember that many of us drove west into the hills near Clermont to see the acres and acres of orange groves that had been shattered. (Now it’s acres and acres of houses.)

Since then, our Florida winters have grown colder. We’ve had more than enough freezes, which kind of takes the fun out of tropical landscaping. The big window box in front of my home office is full of dead areca palms– a glorious sight the rest of the year, but now they’re brown and withered. And don’t even ask me about the bougainvillae, the hibiscus, and all the other green things that normally thrive down here. They tell me we’re on the cusps of two climate isobars here, and so we can go either way, but it’s become a trial to try and nurture tropical plants when a few freezing nights so easily do them in.

But we persist, because this is Florida! It’s supposed to be warm all the time, and these freakish winters we’ve been having are wrong– very wrong. This sort of weather belongs north of the Mason-Dixon line, not here within sight of Cuba. (I can practically see it if I stand on my roof and squint.)

So bear with us when we complain about the cold weather. We hear you saying “we could have stayed HOME and had these temperatures,” causing us to spend our wintry days apologizing to you who come down here to run around in shorts and flip flops, even to go to Mass. And we do realize you help our economy percolate, but still– I think we’ve had enough already with this weather, for residents and visitors alike.

And don’t even get me started about hurricane season.

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5 responses

  1. Oh boo hoo!

    I just got up to 10 inches of snow this morning. I still remember your going away party in July 1978 thinking “it’s so damn hot down there, why does Jim want to LIVE there?”

    Now that I’m getting older, I think, hmmmmm, warmer weather would be nice. I would write more but I have to bend over to take off my knee-high black rubber boots and my layers of socks. xoxox

  2. Jimmy, what they didn’t tell you in 1978 is that Florida does not have a monoclimate – just because you cross the state line near Yulee doesn’t mean you’ve entered the tropics. Perhaps South Beach or Key West would be more to your liking – but it will be a long daily commute up the Turnpike to Urban Think every day. And all those beautiful tropical plants beneath your Laura Ashely bedsheets?…. none of them are native to Central Florida! Plant palmettos and be happy you no longer have to chip through 3 inches of solid ice just to walk to the curb! (sarcastically said with love….)
    : )

  3. I miss snow days!! wish we had Heat alert ( or can’t drive cause ur sterring wheel will burn you) days when it hits 115 here in AZ!!!! so I can stay home..

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