The other night, I couldn’t sleep. It was the sound of falling snow that did it. I knew that it was snow because there really wasn’t a sound. I lay there still for a little while, all the while smugly thinking that one of these days I wouldn’t be facing snow. I wouldn’t wrestle with my heavy overcoat that never zips up right. I wouldn’t pull my hockey cap over my ears.
Whoopee! I'm off to Florida.
By the time you read this, Helen and I will be in South Florida, a land where it never snows and is nearly always warm enough to go outside in shorts. I’m sick and tired of this zero weather. Mankind does not deserve anything like 10 below zero.
We’ve annually sojourned in Florida for at least 15 years, maybe longer. This year, we expect to stay until April, not returning until the roses bloom and the robins sing and no columns in between.
IN LATE OCTOBER, my wife gets what I call “the Florida itch.” She goes around buying flimsy outfits to wear in the warm sun. She thinks we should begin our days in Florida before the holidays. No way, I say, until January.
There was a time when we drove to Florida, short-circuiting our way around the nightmares of Atlanta traffic. But it still was 1,500 miles. I’m a slow-poke, and it sometimes took three days to get to our haven in Englewood.
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To roll down the windows of the car and feel the first Florida sunshine was always a heavenly burst of warmth. It was easily worth the long drive. On our last motoring soiree, somewhere in Alabama, the phone in our car buzzed. It was one of our editors, Deb Brasier. “Tom Getz has died,” she told me. When the office calls, I jump. Getz was a swell friend and a community stalwart. I got off a column within hours from some motel office.
NOW, WE FLY out of Moline. This year, flying Allegiant, we snatched a super rate to Punta Gorda. It whisked us there in 2½ hours, non-luxurious, but the plane had wings and motors and friendly flight attendants.
Punta is only 50 miles from Englewood, where we have a condo with a big screened lanai that faces a lagoon. We’re on the Gulf side, an easy 10 or 15 minutes from the beach. There, I will press my toes in the sand, stretch out on the warm beach, and not think an instant about you people who are shivering back home.
Englewood is somewhere between Sarasota and Naples. Once, it was a fishing village and now is awakening to become an upscale place where breakfast at Mangos is tropical pancakes, topped with coconut and bananas. Englewood is a place where they don’t have corndog fairs, but go for lobster festivals with fried gator on a stick. Vendors peddle doo-dads and jewelry, all made from shells.
Once in Englewood, my heart always turns to nearby Boca Grande, where the wealthy loll and you pay $6 to drive onto this slip of an island. There, I love to hear the roar of thousands of tons of water crashing onto the shoreline, and the soothing sound as the water recedes.
I sit patiently in the sand, surrounded by sea oats, watching the waves go back to where they came from.
I'm here. Happy. See you sometime down the road.