Monday, March 9, 2009

I Never Want to Believe Stereotypes, But...

If you were to ask me whether or not I’ve been to “the south,” I’m not sure I’d know how to answer that. Yes, I've traveled to Maryland to see the Sox play the Orioles at Camden yards and I visited my sister-in-law when she attended the University of Delaware, but is the northernmost subregion of "the south" really the true south? I understand Mason and Dixon had to draw the line somewhere (pun intended!), but these 2 states don't count in my book.

And neither does Florida, the southernmost subregion of the south which we've been to a number of times, most recently during February vacation. I like to refer to it as "the blue hair state." Although we’ve vacationed there multiple times, I still have very mixed feelings about referring to this state as a “vacation spot.” I will admit that my opinion might be a bit skewed because I've never actually been to hotspots like Miami or Disney, but, in my opinion, the warm weather is the main attraction. Let me be clear that I am NOT complaining about being on vacation, I’m merely challenging the idea of Florida as a vacation spot, as part of “the south,” as a state and, yes, I’m questioning it’s overall worth.

So, aside from the warm weather, what else is there? Well, I guess I could say that we did get to see the Red Sox practice in Spring Training but, man, did we feel bad for the players. I’d love to know where all the players stay and what they do when they aren’t “working” in February and March. Everyday they must wonder what genius decided to make Florida, of all places, the home of MLB Spring Training.
Trying to stay positive, though, I guess I could also say that the restaurant we went to for lunch (Joe’s Crab Shack, a southern chain) had 2-for-1 Blue Moon drafts. It was just after noon when we sat down and I ordered a Blue Moon and the waitress TOLD ME, not asked me, that they were 2-for-1 so she’d bring me 2. I swear to you. I guess some dreams really do come true in Florida.

Total positive qualities = 3 (better than I anticipated at the start of this post).

Enter the negatives.

Old, Fat or C.) All of the Above?
Even Matt's parents who are retired and spend a month down in Florida every winter forewarned us that everyone down there is either old or obese. I am not lying when I tell you that before we arrived there, Matt's parents were the youngest people for miles. And when we did arrive there, we had to drive an hour and fifteen minutes to Fort Myers to find a "scene" where Matt and I actually fit in. (Note: It’s possible that our drive could have been shorter if we weren’t surrounded by geriatric drivers. You all know what this is like. And, yes, by the looks of it, Florida undoubtedly holds the record for used Cadillac sales.)

So, this old/fat population in Florida is somewhat confusing to me and I’ll tell you why. As soon as the weather gets warm up here in Mass, we immediately see skimpier clothes, packed beaches, toned bodies, etc. Usually you can’t turn a corner without seeing some kind of hotness. So, by that regard, shouldn’t Florida be the same way year round? I’m stumped.

Floridians: Real or Myth?
During our travels, we found ourselves asking the following question: Is anyone actually born in Florida? Virtually everyone you meet is a transplant and of course you can't escape New Englanders when you're there. The people renting the bottom floor of the house we stayed in were from Connecticut and our waitress at the diner was from Maine (I'll get to the diners in a minute). And we saw more Michigan license plates than we saw Florida license plates. I’m not sure what that’s all about.

Strip Malls
In the words of Matt’s father, “Florida is just one big strip mall.” What baffles me is that these strip malls don’t even contain anything worth getting out of the car for. It would be better if it were one big strip club.

Did Someone Throw Up Pepto Bismol?
Just when you wonder if there’s anything cheesier than pink and peach buildings, you remember the dolphin motif. For some reason, Bermuda can get away with colored buildings. Maybe because they don’t pair them with dolphins. Or maybe it’s just the awesome British influence that allows them to do colored buildings in a very tasteful manner. Florida just can’t get it right. They are completely class-less when it comes to decorating sense. How hard is to mimic the décor of coastal locations like Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard? Can I get some natural ocean hues, please? Maybe some nautical stripes? How about an Adirondack chair? Do these things not exist in the south?

You’re Florida, Not Italy.
I have never been to Italy, but I’ve heard that Italians can spot an American a million miles away because all they have to do is look for someone trying to order a coffee “to go.” I didn’t know this until recently, but coffee to go is very much frowned upon in Italy. And apparently Florida is taking some cues from Italy because you have to drive miles to find a coffee shop anywhere in Florida. There are plenty of diners, though. You can sit in a diner all day, if you please, but don’t expect to get a quick cup of joe a short distance away. (Note: I refused to go into the one Dunkin Donuts that we passed while in Florida. Instead, I agreed to try McDonald’s Newman’s iced coffee for the first time ever and it wasn’t bad except they douched it in milk which is exactly why I HATE getting a cup of coffee anywhere that doesn’t allow me to prepare it myself.)

So, why no coffee to go? I’m pretty sure the old people had something to do with this because A.) they have all the time in the world, so nothing is ever quick with them and B.) they worry that if they drink too much coffee, they will be awake until 6 pm.

The New Addiction: Shell Collecting
Or maybe it’s the Bingo of the South because apparently you ain’t cool unless you collect shells. While most people bring towels to the beach, shell collectors bring makeshift treasure scoops (attached to long poles so the old folks don’t have to bend over). I suppose this is a step up from the metal detector, which we also saw a few of. I used to be embarrassed about clipping coupons, but I wouldn’t be caught dead metal detecting (I think I just made that term up). It’s not just the act of metal detecting that’s embarrassing, but it’s the whole idea behind it. Metal detectors cost upwards of $50. I’m sorry, but you cannot tell me that these things pay for themselves.

Pickup Trucks
Need I say more?

Total negative qualities = 7

So, would you say that I’ve been to “the south?” All I know is that if this is the pseudo-south, then I have ZERO interest in EVER traveling to the real south.

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