“Would that mean you would move to the east or learn to coexist with the west state?”
An anonymous comment awaiting moderation about The Case for Two Floridas – Revisited blog caught my attention. I don't usually respond to anonymous comments, – you know who I am, so return the favor and let me know who you are – and I usually just delete them. This time I think I'll try to qualify my position in writing the blog and explain why it appears I parachuted behind enemy lines.
I was raised in Miami, and left what was really just a seasonal tourist town when I joined the Air Force way back in 1960. You know, off to see the world and that kind of stuff. Eight years later, – five and a half of which were spent in Germany – recently discharged and married, ready to raise a family, I returned to Miami and was surprised by the city that was on the verge of International big-time. Working in downtown Miami for thirty years, watching Miami win a couple of Super Bowls and later become the backdrop for a popular, modern television show that soon became the most watched show in America, I saw Miami evolve into a unique, International city unmatched by any other in the United States. When I retired, family, finances, and physics dictated our reluctant relocation from Miami so we moved through the time warp that separates the east coast from the west coast and settled in Port Charlotte. It's on the map, trust me.
We were fooled by the north/south rhetoric that pervaded Florida's politics. I was raised knowing the “porkchoppers” as the state legislature was known by everyone in South Florida, treated Miamians as foreigners way before any Cuban refugees arrived. What I got wrong was Tallahassee, Capitol of Florida, holding pen of the porkchoppers, isn't just in the north half, it is in the western half as well. And that is what I missed. We had dear friends who left Miami and relocated in Hernando County in a beautiful waterfront home with Gulf of Mexico access. Still, within several years, they were back on the east coast. I assumed it was because they were north of I-4 and their visa expired, but in retrospect I now know it was because they were west of I-75!
There are pockets of resistance in either of the two proposed new Floridas. I know for certain there are people still stuck in the fifties tonight in Fort Lauderdale! There is no doubt in my mind the Villages will rise up in anger, as far up as they can at least, for being on the wrong side of the Interstate. They won't be able to fight after nine at night and they certainly aren't going to hire anyone to do it for them, so they just may be stuck. But then again, they might get a lot accomplished before tee-time. They do tend to get up early there. They'll have a golf-cart strike and cripple the industry if they don't get their way.
The sixteen years we have lived here in west Florida, not far from a John Birch Retirement Center, gives me an insight to the two Floridas many politicians don't have. Living with people who are terrified of driving to Miami, who have never been there and who will never in their lives drive south of Disney World except down I-4 to I-75, gives me an analytical edge here. I don't just coexist in west Florida, no coexist isn't the right word. I've become a guerilla fighter. A stealth influence on the unsuspecting retirees who still keep Lawrence Welk alive on PBS. Some of them even now listen occasionally to Jimmy Buffet. Well, not often, but maybe every once in a while. We have found an underground network of like-minded people here who sweeten their own tea. And that is progress.