So You Want To Move To Florida?

So you want to move from Michigan to Florida?  You’re not alone.  I think more than half of the population of Michigan fantasizes about moving to Florida.  When I was interviewing for the job I accepted in Florida, my co-workers in Michigan – all of them – said some variation of “Ohhhh….Floo-ooorida.  I’d give anything to live in Florida.”  It’s probably the winters – when you’re waist-deep in snow from November to April, you tend to think of the warmest places that you can.

But having moved here from Michigan myself, let me tell you that it’s not the paradise you dreamed it was, when you were snowblowing for the 34th day in a row…at 5:00 am…in the dark.  Here are some things to consider if you move from the Great Lakes State to Florida.

You’ll never have a good apple again.  You have no idea how good Michigan apples are – so crisp, and sweet.  Apples don’t grow in Florida, they’re sent here on a truck, and they’re mealy and tasteless.  Kind of like apple paste in a skin-bag.

“Local Wine” is an oxymoron.  The wines from Northern Michigan are as good as anything from Napa, or the Rhine valley.  The late-harvest Rieslings are exquisite, and the blueberry port from Leelanau Cellars is astoundingly good, and most of this delicious vino is $10 a bottle or less.  Florida can grow muscat grapes.  That’s it…the grape of cheap muscatel.  Cheap wines in Florida are just cheap, not good.  Sigh.

Summer gets old.  I know you won’t believe it, but it does.  There are no seasons in Florida.  There’s summer.  Everything’s green…always.  There’s hot summer in July, there’s pleasant summer in January, but it’s always summer.  Christmas is in the summer.  Valentine’s is in the summer.  Back-to-school is in the summer, as is spring break.  It never changes.  It’s always the sa-ame…nyaargh.

You’ll miss a good blizzard.  It doesn’t make sense, but you will.  It will be January, and you’ll have just walked the dog while wearing shorts and sandals, and you’ll come in and the news will have pictures of a massive blizzard “up north,” with semis jack-knifed on the expressway and snow blowing sideways and people with frozen snot on their face.  And you will think “oh, I miss those.”  You have to admit, blizzards are interesting weather.  Also, weathering the “great blizzard of” whatever year feels like an accomplishment – makes you feel rugged. You will miss blizzards.

That being said, news about blizzards will seem surreal.  That news you just watched, in your shorts and sandals, will also make you think “how could there possibly be a blizzard when it’s—“ and you’ll follow that in 3.2 seconds with “Oh, right, it’s January.”

Florida does get “cold,” though.  And you’ll laugh when it gets “cold.”  It’s the top story on the news, when the temperatures are forecasted to drop below freezing for, oh, say four hours.  When it’s 60 degrees the Floridiots wear parkas.  When it’s 50 they dress their kids in full snowmobile gear.  You’ll laugh.

Christmas will seem like an arbitrary gesture, though.  When it’s 80 degrees outside and you work up a sweat hanging lights on the house, it doesn’t feel very Christmassy.  When the downtown doesn’t hang any decorations at all…and flowers are blooming, it doesn’t feel like Christmas.  When there is no hint of charity or goodwill, and the holiday is all about buying…it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

You can’t see the bottom of any water…except for a couple of beaches.  You have no idea how nice it is to see the sandy bottom of whatever you’re wading in – the lakes in Michigan are just so clear it defies belief.  Clearwater beach…you’ve heard of it?  It’s a misnomer – it’s not clear.  You could be knee-deep and not see the bottom.  I’ve stepped on fish and never seen them.  It’s creepy.  I like knowing what might be swimming with me.

Speaking of water, don’t drink the stuff that comes from a tap.  If you lived outside the city in Michigan, you had a well, likely with clear, tasty water.  Florida does not have that.  We live at sea level here, and the water that comes from the faucet tastes like – and I’m quoting my wife – “a chlorinated fart.”  Enough said.

Palm trees are like pines.  I remember when I thought palm trees were cool…when we moved down here, my kids hugged the palm trees at the Florida border.  They jumped off the sidewalk and touched the palm tree in the front landscaping of our hotel when we arrived here, and people stared at them.  When my brother in law visited this summer and was excited at the palm trees, I remembered when I didn’t think of them like you think of spruce trees.  Palm trees are everywhere.  They grow here.  They’re ubiquitous.

Nobody knows what “pop” is.  It’s “soda.”  Then again everyone here’s from New York, so go figure.  They also don’t know what Faygo is, or how delicious it is.  It’s on the shelf, but it’s considered to be on par with the store brand.  Their loss…

…because everybody hates Vernors.  Shame on them.  The stuff they call ginger ale?  Pale and insipid.  No other ginger ale has a decent ginger kick like Vernors.  People here, though?  They talk about how nasty – nasty – it is; how it made them choke; how it burns their little throats.  They have no idea.  Sheesh.  At least you can get Vernors here and enjoy it, no matter what the wusses say.

I said a bit earlier that everyone here’s from New York, and I meant it.  You thought Michigan was rude?  Welcome to South New York.  Long Island South.  People here root for the Yankees.  Have Yankees stickers on their car.  Hell, there’s a Yankee Stadium in Tampa where they spring-train.  The restaurants are chains that exist in New York.  I went to an Italian market and was old “We get the good stuff…from Brooklyn!”  Their self-importance knows no bounds, because they left “the best city on earth” and now live “someplace else.”  They moved from New York to Florida and immediately went about making it Just. Like. New. York.  Ugh.

For instance, what is with this freaking “New York Style” Pizza?  The New Yorkers all cry “oh, you can’t get a good slice of pie,” but it ain’t for lack of trying, let me tell you.  On the map around me I can find “Gino’s New York Style Pizzeria,” “New York New York Pizza,” “Sam’s New York Pizza,” “Best NY Pizza,” “Hawkeye NYS Pizza,” “New York Times Square Pizza,” “Cesare’s of New York Pizzaria,” “Eddie & Sam’s NY Pizza,” and “Gianni’s NY Pizza.”  And that doesn’t even count the places without “New York” in the name, that advertise New York Style pizza.  From what I can tell, NY style pizza is paper-thin with toppings out to the edge of the crust.  It’s okay, but I’d really rather have a nice, thick Chicago-style pizza, and you Can’t. Get. That.  Not unless you find the ONE place in town that doesn’t cater to all the New Yawkers.

Nobody here can drive.  You probably knew that from the cars with Florida plate wandering over the centerlines in Michigan from May through September.  It’s worse than you can imagine down here.  The New Yorkers are rude and cut-throat.  The southerners are slow and deliberate.  The old people are slower than that, and only tenuously connected to reality.  Throw that all together, and overload the roads into gridlock and – well, my 22-mile commute takes me an hour-fifteen more days than I want to admit.

Once you get to work, your Michigan work ethic is not here.  You are in the South…but not in the South, exactly.  If you try to go-get’em at work, it will offend people.  I’ve watched people keep their jobs long after they should’ve been outright fired.  I’ve seen people full-out sleeping in the breakroom, and having fifteen-minute smoke breaks every hour.  Oh, and when you order a burger at the golden arches, it WILL take twenty minutes for that burger to make it to a bag and for that bag to make it into your hand.  Just go with it.  On the plus side, you can slack off at work by your standards and totally impress your boss with your productivity.

Michigan has beautiful scenery, once you leave the I-94 corridor.  Florida has beaches, that’s what’s pretty.  I mean, there is countryside…it’s just ugly…and the residents will shoot you.  Once you get inland from the beaches, Florida is populated by scary people in trailers with huge fences around their property, who have been in the sun too long.  If you turn around in a random driveway, you may find a shotgun pointed at you.  Once you leave the beaches and cities, you are very definitely in the deep, deep South.

In that countryside, though, say goodbye to hills.  There aren’t any.  Florida is five feet above sea level.  It’s not quite as flat as, say, Indiana, but it’s flat.

Oh, and you have an accent.  You didn’t know you did, and neither did I.  But when you live here, people will ask you “So, are you from Wisconsin?  You sound like it.”  People will remark on your pronunciation of words like “iPad,” because it comes out as “iPyad.”  May be hard to accept, but oh, yah, hey, yoo got an accent, ‘dere.

On the positive side, wearing shorts and t-shirt in January is awesome.  Absolutely awesome.  After you’ve suffered through the horridly hot summer, wearing essentially beach-wear in January is wonderful.  And, shorts and sandals are the new uniform.  You can wear shorts and sandals to pretty much every restaurant and store in Florida.  It’s pretty lax.

But speaking of the summer in Florida…it’s wretched and you will suffer.  Tampa has officially never broken 100 degrees, but my car thermometer has read 105 quite a few unofficial times.  It’s hot.  It’s damn hot.  It’s damn hot and humid – like 99 degrees and 100% humid.  For months.  You haven’t experienced true miserable heat and humidity until you’ve experienced Florida in August.  You can work up a sweat literally standing still and having a conversation.

How humid is it?  Stepping outside is like stepping into a hot bath.  The humidity, it slaps you in the face like a hot, wet dick – all nasty and disgusting and it makes you go “ugh, aw, eww.”  That’s the most accurate way I can describe the humidity…like getting slapped in the face by a hot, wet dick.  It’s so nasty I had to type it twice.

And although you won’t want to brave the dick and go outside, if you do there are fire ants.  And cockroaches the size of your thumb.  And spiders the size of a cd.  And snakes.  And they’re ALL poisonous and aggressive.  In fact, that should be the state motto:  “Poisonous and Aggressive.”  I’ve had wolf spiders come into the house that are big enough to shoot – and in fact I did.  Granted I used an Airsoft pistol and shot it with a plastic BB…but it was large enough for me to draw a bead on it and actually hit it.  There are black widow spiders here, and coral snakes, and water moccasins, and a host of poisonous plants.  I miss the utter benign-ness of Michigan woods and fields.  I maintain that you can stop your car anywhere in the state of Michigan, and go for a walk in the grass, and the only thing that will hurt you is if you trip.  Not so here.

And lastly, there are no Florida oranges in the grocery stores.  None.  You can’t buy them.  I was surprised, being that Florida is synonymous with oranges.  Nope, the oranges all go to Sunkist to be ground up into orange juice concentrate.  The ones you eat come from Mexico or something.

There’s more, but if I went on it would just sound like I’m complaining.  Most blogs like this end on an up-note.  You know, the “but still, I love it here and blah blah blah.”  Not this one.  We don’t like it here, and want to move away.  By all means, come and visit.  Frolic on the beach.  Go see Walt and the mouse.  Buy cocaine in Miami, whatever.  But don’t for one minute think that living in Florida is like having a nonstop vacation, because it isn’t.


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