Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Living on the edge … in Florida

Back in 1985, I broached the idea of moving from Long Island, N.Y., to somewhere in Florida.

My reasons were mostly financial. With lots of overtime at the post office, I had managed to get within striking distance of a salary of $30,000 a year and I had no savings. I had a girlfriend at the time, we were hinting at marriage, and I had no illusions about my ability to support a family on postal wages.

Long Island’s home prices were pretty high, taxes were crazy high and the much-maligned LILCO always got a cut of everyone’s wages. We couldn’t live without electricity, and LILCO, the Long Island Lighting Co., believed that every spare dollar belonged to it if we wanted their precious electrons.

Although my girlfriend broke up with me, I was still of a mind to go to Florida, if only to escape the hurt and bad memories. But people insisted that Florida was like some strange land alien to anyone from New York. There were alligators, I was told; sinkholes, too; and the conversation-ender: the dreaded hurricanes.

To hear it told, the state was raked regularly by massive storms that left destruction in their wake, and disaster was just around the corner.

I suppose it was the fact that Hurricane Gloria hit Long Island in 1985 that made me realize that Long Island was pretty exposed to hurricanes, too, and Florida had to be better.

So I wangled a transfer in the post office to West Palm Beach, and in December 1985 packed up my cat and on New Year’s Eve 1985 set off in my 1985 Plymouth Reliant on my adventure to Florida. It was the first and so far only time I drove I-95 from New York to points south. I had flown down in December to find an apartment, had found a nice new place in the western part of West Palm Beach and arrived safely after two days.

It was a quiet time for hurricanes in Florida. Of course, 1992’s Hurricane Andrew was a big worry for me and there were other tropical storms that caused concern, but it was not until 2004 that I was living in a house that was hit so hard by a hurricane. Indeed, my house was hit by two hurricanes, and thanks to its construction quality, as well as being sheltered by a larger house on either side, it came through with very minor soffit damage that was easily repaired for a few hundred dollars.

One thing about newer Florida houses is that they are built better than older homes. I remember going to look for a job in Columbia, S.C., in early 2004, and seeing new houses under construction that were basically frames; it shocked me because in Florida, concrete block and stucco (CBS) construction was the standard for most new houses. I guess they felt safer. Still, I have lived in concrete block houses my whole time in Florida and feel secure in the event of a hurricane.

Having lived through some active seasons, why don’t I move somewhere else, where hurricanes are just things I watch on The Weather Channel? Well, some folks have moved to get away from Florida and hurricanes, and I respect their decision. Still, you can’t really escape bad weather or weather disasters, even in the Midwest. And let’s remember that it can get pretty darn cold in the winter in some places; Florida does experience cold snaps that can send the temperature into the 30s and sometimes 20s, but they are mercifully brief. I mean, where else but Florida (OK, some other southern states) can you do holiday shopping in shirt sleeves?

I guess part of the adjustment of moving to Florida in the winter of 1985-86 was seeing winter constellations like Orion in the night sky, and not being cold. In 1986, I experienced a Florida Christmas and was hooked.

True, I sometimes think I want to be where there’s snow on the ground and lots of winter fun, but then the thought of heating bills and bundling up to go out brings reality back. I can take the heat better than the cold, and in my current situation, Florida is the ideal place to live.

In 1985, I voted with my feet and left Long Island far behind. In 2008, I’m voting with my feet again … and staying right where I am.

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September 7, 2008 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , , , ,

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