Is It Just Me?

I’m feeling that politics may be enough to make me flee Florida. Maybe it’s not enough to live in a liberal city in a crazy state. I’ve mentioned this idea to John, in tones ranging from “Maybe we should think about…” to “OMG! We have to get out of here!” He has greeted my suggestions with, “I love it here, but I’m not averse to moving. It needs to be warm, though.” 

So, I started looking for east coast locations that meet our requirements for the ideal place to live. It must be liberal and interesting; on the water; feature a strong arts presence; be home to a college or university; and have a warm climate.”

“You’re describing St. Pete,” people tell me. They are right. So, I’ve reeled in my hysteria and decided to refocus on the positives of living here, which is easy when I contrast them with life during the two years we spent on the other coast, in Boca Raton. 

We moved to Boca when John was hired for what we thought would be his dream job as Director of the Centre of the Arts in Mizner Park. I expected to be welcomed by the Board … but no.  The realtor wife of one board member helped us find our house, but aside from the “congratulations on your new home” cutting board and cheese knife, her hospitable outreach ended there. One elderly board member invited us to the opera, but that was only because she wanted us to play chauffeur.  John was clearly viewed as “the help,” and I was a notch or two below that. 

Interactions with concertgoers at the Centre’s Amphitheatre brought our new community into sharp focus. Patrons questioned the cost of $1 bottles of water; complained about rust on the (free) folding chairs; and asked if we could assure them that a tall person wouldn’t block their view. We witnessed that palpable sense of entitlement everywhere. People wrote letters to the editor about needing better valet parking at Publix.  Others were so rude to Starbucks and Post Office clerks that we felt compelled to apologize for them once we got to the counter.

When we decided to return to St. Pete, we emailed everyone we knew and said we were coming home;  that John was going to try life as a consultant; and to please get in touch if they knew of any opportunities.  

A couple of phone calls later, he had his first gig, which started two days after we got here. On our first return visit to Sun Country Cleaners, the clerk hugged us with an “I’m so glad you’re back!” John’s barber said, “I knew that was your car coming down the street!” The sense of community was strong and has become even stronger.

We have the largest and most diverse network of friends and colleagues we’ve ever had. We are integrated into this place where we know our mailman, favorite grocery store clerk, and pharmacy staff by name. Where John offers his assistance to any waiter or waitress who mentions that they’re trying to make it as an artist. Where we can always supply a suggestion when someone asks, “Who should I talk to about X?” 

There is much in this liberal little bubble that’s worth staying for. And if I can take frequent escape breaks in other states, and if a new person moves into the governor’s mansion, then maybe we’ll be here for the long haul. 

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