Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home Sweet Home…stead?

They say home is where the heart is.

Lately, my heart’s been freekin’ everywhere. I was born and raised in northeast Ohio but have lived my adult life in Florida. For the past four years my residence was Orlando, which I became quite fond of, but I recently took a job in Miami. But I don’t yet have a permanent residence in Miami. Instead the temporary place I’ve been resting my head is Homestead, Florida, in an extended-stay hotel.

A hotel room. In Homestead.

So that’s where my body is. Where’s my heart? Hell if I know. I am still only two months removed from my mother passing away, so part of my heart is with her. Ohio will always be special to me, another piece is there. My son lives in Jupiter, he gets a chunk. And I left Orlando begrudgingly, as I became quite attached to a place most of the world knows for its mouse ears & overpriced buffets. So O-town owns a piece too.

So while I am still sorting out the postal codes my blood-pumping organ resides, I want to talk a bit about where my carcass presently calls home. Homestead.

Look on a map. You will see that Homestead is waaaaay down south, right next to Florida City – the last two vestiges of civilization on mainland Florida, the gateway to the Florida Keys. To the west are the Everglades, to the east, Biscayne Bay. Ground Zero for Hurricane Andrew’s landfall in 1992.

And my temporary home. I took up residence here to get started with my job in downtown Miami, which is 35 miles away. Economics drove the decision – things are much cheaper down here than in Miami. In fact, about the only thing Homestead has in common with Miami is they share the same county.

But that’s it. Homestead ain’t Miami. At all.

Homestead is a cool amalgam of small town & old Florida. It’s primary sources of economy are agriculture and the nearby Turkey Point nuclear power plant. It seems to be a close-knit place, and the locals like where they live – they seems to reject the ‘big-ness’ of Miami and revel in the fact that they have nothing in common with their huge neighbor to their north.

The people. They’re an interesting bunch. Every Saturday morning I have breakfast at the local restaurant – the Royal Palm Grill on Krome Avenue. And you want an example of the old Florida I speak of? The Royal Palm Grill is embedded within a Rexall drug store. Yep, Rexall’s still exist, and this particular one has sundries on one side…and the local’s favorite restaurant on the other. Retro-cool.

The Royal Palm Grill is teeming with local character. Virtually every time I have breakfast at the counter, I engage in conversation with whoever is next to me. And I have received phone numbers from these folks who insist I call them for a quick trip to Key Largo (which is only 25 miles away) or a round of golf.

And then there’s Star – the aging, self described Hippie. Star is one of the servers at the Grill, and she is, most of the time, a blur of motion. I would guess her to be in her early 60s, and this morning, as she was racing past me, I said to her, “I bet when you get home you pass out.”

That stopped her in her tracks. She turned to me, walked over and whispered, “I have MS, and the way I figure, if I keep moving it can’t catch me.”

Rock on, Star.

She then sped on to fill a cup of coffee and deliver some toast.

When she returned to my vicinity, she decided she earned a five-second break and told me, “I treat my MS homeopathically. Acupuncture and herbs. I’m a Hippie! I was at Woodstock…I hitchhiked there!”

And off she went.

So after breakfast I decided to take a drive around town. Homestead actually has a downtown, a quaint five-block stretch of
Mexican restaurants and an old movie theater. To the west you can see the flat expanse of open farmland. Along Krome Avenue are old-school hotels. Things move slower here, and there is palpable feel of real community – something Miami sorely lacks.

I needed to run some errands, and one of the places I needed to stop at was the local U-Haul, as in two weeks I will be moving from my hotel room to my apartment in South Miami. My time in Homestead is nearing an end.

And that actually made me choke up for a moment.

Looks like Homestead now owns a piece of my heart too.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today, Random

Leave it to Facebook to provide me inspiration for a story.

A couple of days back I was perusing the ‘News Feed’ – posts from my Friends, and one bugged me – it was a pic of Shirley Temple and Honey Boo Boo side-by-side, with the caption “What has happened to this country?”

Setting aside whatever political statement the poster was trying to make (which I still don’t know and don’t really care), the inspirative thought hit me –

Why do people romanticize the past at the expense of the present?

Now sure. Some of it has to do with nostalgic recollection of days gone by. And certainly I have no problem with that line of musing. I do it all the time, especially when I see an old friend – “Hey remember when we were in high school and that night with those twins? Man, those were the days…”

Okay, there was no night with twins. Roll with me here.

What I am referring to are people who embellish the past at the expense of the present; people who think things – or they – are worse off now than then. Now add to it the future, and these people have some grave, apocalyptic Mad Max vision of how things will be, both for them and for society.

And some of my Facebook friends apparently can divine all this from pics of Shirley Temple and Honey Boo Boo side-by-side.

Well, here’s the truth. The past was not as great as you remember it, the present isn’t as bad as it appears and the future is not going to be a mega clusterfuck.


Because life is weird. It’s random. It is, literally, unpredictable in the most literal sense – nobody can predict what will occur based on what has occurred. And definitely not politicians, so remember that in the next election cycle.

Let’s take my friend’s Shirley Temple example. Apparently his message was that things were much better in the 1930’s than they are now.

Really? Millions of blacks who did not have the right to vote and could not attend schools with whites would beg to differ. Polio sufferers would have issue with that. And that guy in Germany who had visions of a ‘master race’ was plotting his plan.

Okay, I win that point you say. But what about on a personal level? “I miss the good old days!” you cry.

Well, cry all you want, but you are suffering from selective recall. You remember the good but conveniently forget the bad. Let me use the one subject I am an expert on, myself, as an example. It is very easy for me to sit here and talk about how ‘wonderful’ things were in, say, 1983. I was 24 years old, had just moved to Florida, I was meeting a lot of girls and living a very carefree lifestyle. But I was also dirt poor, my car broke down every other day, and was living with three other guys in a house with no privacy…and no air conditioning. In South Florida.

So yesterday was no picnic. Now, let’s go to today, and let’s stay on the personal level, because opening that discussion up to the global levels brings in politics and world events and all kinds of stuff that will get us off message. What is going on in your life right now can either be looked at positively or negatively. Your choice. There is good and bad going on – nobody has a shithole/no positives existence and no one has a utopian/everything is perfect one either. We are all in that muddled middle of good and bad.

But here’s the thing – it’s all temporary. None of it will last. So remember that when you are hitting a rough patch. It will pass. But, that also applies to the good times - those too shall pass.

So it’s all in how you look at it.

I hear you now – “Gosh thanks Dr. Phil.”

Whatever. But it truly is all about perception – your perception and your life.

Now, the future. This one is simple. Who the fuck knows? Nobody. And I caution you from drawing conclusions of the future based on current conditions. Why? Re-read that paragraph about it all being temporary.

So, what’s my point in all this? Simple. It’s all up to you. I’ve seen happy people who don’t have a pot to piss in, and I’ve seen unhappy people in mansions. It’s all about perception. And one of my favorite phrases is, if you have one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow, you are pissing on today.

Carly Simon said it best. These are the good old days.