I’m in Florida now and when I look out my kitchen window I see this.
It’s a view of a bunch of areca, fishtail and fox palms. That view has become my normal over the course of the last 12 years or so and I don’t take my decision to leave all this lightly. It was foggy when I took that photo but even through the fog, I know that I live in the tropics.
A week ago, I was in Pennsylvania and trying on my new life for size. Tropical is one thing it isn’t. It was foggy last week there too and here’s what a foggy morning looks like in Landisville, PA.
It wasn’t just foggy, it was also frosty. In fact, I saw it snow twice last Friday. I’ve never appreciated a fireplace as much as I’ve come to in the last few months. Being cold is the nature of the beast during a Pennsylvania winters and the only thing that can raise my core temperature is to sit in front of my brother Steve’s fireplace and just bake.
When I look out his kitchen window, I usually see things like this. It’s rolling farmland from horizon to horizon. Here’s the view from his kitchen window.
The fog softens things but for the most part, fog’s not something we have to deal with. Fog or no fog though, it’s cold in Pennsylvania at this time of year.
Even so, it’s about to become home again after an absence of more than 20 years. I have a great job lined up and a place to live. Still, I know there are things about Florida I’ll miss.
I will miss being within a reasonable driving distance to my folks’ place in Orlando for starters. For seconders, I’ll miss living in a state without an income tax. And oh yeah, I’ll miss the palms and the parrots and the 75 degree Februaries.
However, I’m getting something in this move that I’d never find otherwise. Namely, a coherent career path. I’m almost 50 and I don’t take things like career paths lightly. Palm trees are wonderful but they’re no substitute for consistency and security.
People here come and go like the wind, I’ve always been amazed by that. Now that I am one of those people who’s getting ready to leave I get it. AS much as I wanted to make this place stick, it just can’t. Florida’s viewed as a giant waiting room by the rest of the country for a good reason. Nothing really happens here aside from the sun setting on the Gulf and that reality kicks in at some point after someone leaves.
I’ve sat through more friends’ leavings than I can count. It’s just odd that it’s my turn to leave now.
I used to tell now-dead Brian and Woody, Art and Bruce, Nivaldo, David and Carl that I’d leave this town in a pine box.
I’m packing now and there’s no pine box in sight. Sorry fellas, it’s just time to move on. I’ll continue to tell your stories and I’ll keep you real; they’ll just be stories I tell from somewhere else.
You guys touched my life and played an integral part in my becoming who I am now. I’ll miss everybody here of course, but it’s you guys whom I’ll miss the most.
I can’t give you a proper goodbye because you’re not here. However, I’ll always remember you. When I look across those frozen fields I’ll remember you Brian and your love of bread with hot peppers. I’ll never forget the look on your face when the Busch Gardens giraffes overtook us. My photos from that day still grace my dresser.
Woody, I’ll never forget the first time I ate Chayote — you sauteed it with butter and salt. Oh and Woody, I have your cookbooks and most of your crap. Would it be poor form to dump your crab forks?
Art and Bruce, you two knew tile like nobody else and man,could you squeeze a dime; Bruce especially. Bruce, you were the only person I’d ever met who knew the routing number of his checking account. Art, you were born in Poland and we never stopped harassing you about that. You were always a good sport.
Niva: you taught me what being Cuban really means and what it is to stand up for your heritage. I’ll never forget your memorial. The wind whipped through the trees that afternoon and it was as if you were there.
David, you showed me that someone could fall down and get back up. I bonded with your wife and your daughter at your funeral. You’d have approved. You and I did some of the best work of my life together. I wish we’d had more time to just sit and talk. You were a good man David.
Carl, you were a piece of shit and you showed me that even pieces of shit can be lovable. My last interaction with you Carl was me kissing you on the top of your head and wishing you a merry Christmas. We may have wanted to kill each other at the time but I am forever in your debt. You taught me how to be a designer. Thank you. And you’re still a piece of shit, despite my gratitude.
The men I profiled just now left me a better man for knowing them. I miss those guys; they played a big role in my settling here and my feeling like I belonged on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
I’m getting ready to leave this place for good and a big part of me will be left behind. Yet another lesson I never learned when I was a kid is that when you let other people in, they never really leave. Similarly, when you live somewhere for a period of time it becomes a part of you. St Pete’s definitely a part of me. It’s just time for me to move on.