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.