Friday, September 9, 2011

The Winter of Our Discontent

We simpering souls - we who have spent the summer simmering in steamy Florida  - hunger and thirst each year for return of the gloriously temperate days of fall-winter-spring.  Perhaps it is the brotherhood of The Long Sweat that makes us look askance upon the annual influx of ... The Snowbirds.

Fully half of our trailer park manufactured home community neighbors are Snowbirds.  Nice folks, most of them, but real Floridians - we year-rounders, that is - and The Snowbirds enjoy that same stuttering love-hate relationship that haunts every other seasonal tourist Mecca.  (Here in Tampa Bay, at least, we need not suffer the annual pilgrimage of plump, white-bearded old farts pretending to be Ernest Hemingway.)  No, this is OUR Paradise, and only reluctantly do we share its joys with the infidels from Michigan, for instance. And Delaware.

Florida has never really signed on to the U.S. Constitution's promise of freedom to migrate from cold places like Ohio and Indiana to our Sunshine State.  Much less Canada.  If ever there was any moral foundation for the War Between the States, it is this: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Winter.  We don't come shovel your snow; why do you come sift our sand?

Constitutional issues aside, there is, I suppose, a certain perverse entertainment value to the annual Snowbird hadj.  Like a tawdry rolling carnival sideshow, these ragged refugees from Carolina or Connecticut arrive in their overloaded SUV's and Caravans  They pause en masse at the state line, gulp down a draught of our warm, liquid air, and cast off all their clothes. There is more white skin here in December than at a Limbaugh family reunion.

Hello, pasty sojourners, and welcome to the Sunshine State.  You might take note that our natural sunlight is imbued with enough ionizing radiation to cook a Thanksgiving turkey faster than a Viking oven.  A dermatologist waits on every street corner, eagerly anticipating autumn.  For the love of God, put your shirt back on!

Now don't get me wrong: The Snowbirds invariably arrive with cash-stuffed pockets, and a little cash makes a lot of friends in this land of the forever unemployed.  Retail citrus shoppes that lie fallow and forlorn all summer explode into joyous bloom after Labor Day.  Kids conduct car washes in front of every school.  Police adjust traffic signal timing from "languid" to "frenetic."  After all, in a few short months, The Snowbirds must fly north once again.  So little time; so many T-shirts to buy.

Posted on every beach and beachfront eatery hereabouts are warnings against feeding the birds. Watch as the newly arrived beachgoer misunderestimates the cunning and derring-do of the average herring gull. See him venture onto the beach with craftily cradled french fry basket, longing to loft bits of oily potato gently into the heavens to nourish God's winged creatures.  Yee-hah!  These are Florida birds, folks, sporting considerably larger frontal lobes than their foolish fry-flinger prey, and they dart in from where our hapless neophyte is not looking, swooping over his shoulder to snatch his pitiful hoard, scattering fries over acres of beach. Watch him slink back to his car, fryless and slimed with seagull poop.  Seagulls poop most copiously when excited by the sight of food in ballistic flight.  It's Pavlovian.

Welcome as the sweet winter season may be, we the real Floridians will come to long for April and May, when once again the Snowbird tide will ebb, and life will return to that long lazy simmer.

And so it goes.



  1. Be prepared for a testy, curmudgeonly reply to this post, y'all.

    First of all, I wouldn't live in any part of Florida, at any time of the year, if you paid me. I lived in West Palm Beach for three years and I detested every bloomin' second of it. It was too hot, too touristy, too scenically boring, too monotonous. Give me a change of seasons, rolling hills, beautiful fall scenery, snow-capped mountains, fresh water lakes, fresh produce, and lots of horse pucky. The only sand I like is in the outdoor ring.

    Second, just to set the record straight, if it weren't for the snowbirds, there would be little to no revenue in the state of Florida.

    Good grief, man, get a grip.

  2. Um, you left off the joys of lake-effect snow.

    But beyond that, I agree: no one should ever come here. It's too hot, too sunny, too boring. My point exactly. Luckily for our revenue stream, there are enough people out there who can't be persuaded what a horrid place this is.

    I tend to agree as well that the east coast of Florida is less visually interesting than the Gulf Coast (I used to visit West Palm when I worked for Pratt & Whitney) and that Florida lacks many of the joys of New York and my native New England. But it has other joys that some folks find to be adequately compensatory.

    I think I'll take up kayaking this winter.

  3. Kayaking this winter sounds like a lot of fun, ESPECIALLY with the lake effect snow. You're such a good sport, Ev. Love your blog.

    ~The Horse Pucky Queen