After 13 years, we’ve decided to quit Florida. I don’t expect to miss it much.
I’ve realized I’m not a beach guy. I’m not a Jimmy Buffett guy. I hate theme parks and I hate I-95 and I’m not fond of the year-round bugs and humidity. I’ve never gotten used to the sodden air and sulfurous water. I will miss the alligators, but I won’t miss Florida Man – especially as personified by the overstuffed figures of Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump.
I know what you’re thinking: It took you 13 years to figure all that out?
Well, it hasn’t been all bad. The weather’s nice in February and March. You can get fresh produce year-round. There’s no state income tax. We live in a neighborhood that’s pretty walkable and, in many important respects, nothing like The Fucking Villages. We’re convenient to a somewhat moribund downtown. For local color, we boast a fair number of thieves, idlers, beggars and loons.
We’ve stayed this long mostly because of the wife’s job – but now she’s retired. We’re daunted by the stratospheric price of real estate elsewhere – but now our old house is also worth a bit more. Then there’s simple inertia: Moving is a shit-ton of work. Easier to delay it than do it, even if it helps to think it’s probably the last move we’ll make.
Finally, we’ve got grandkids and family we haven’t seen enough over the years. None of them are getting younger. The clock’s ticking. So it’s back to Montana, the place where I was born and raised.
People our age tend to lift an eyebrow when we talk of Montana. Doesn’t it, like, snow a lot there? Aren’t there a lot of wildfires? How about them neo-Nazis?
Good points. We’re aware of the tradeoffs. The state has changed since the mid-90s. It’s gotten a lot more red and a lot more expensive and a lot more crowded. The governor is a Dollar-Store version of DeSantis. Paramount is filming more of “Yellowstone” there too, which tends to attract even more cosplaying riffraff. My son in Missoula reports a big increase in Texas license plates.
We’ll focus on the upsides. Unlike Florida, Montana has actual terrain. It has four seasons that are more or less distinct. True, winter is the longest of them – five months or so. But I lived in the state for nearly 45 years before leaving. I can still handle icy roads and a snow shovel. I dread the bleak midwinter much less than Florida’s hellish midsummer. And I-90 is a stroll in the park compared to the rage-fueled gauntlet that is I-95.
Meantime we’re paring down our possessions and marveling daily at how much stuff one can accumulate when one has space to store it out of sight. We’ve become regulars at Goodwill. We know the location of every Little Free Library in a one-mile radius. We’re jamming the Facebook yard-sale page with stuff we somehow acquired and then somehow never used. Not many takers. Turns out the demand for our junk is not as robust as we’d hoped.
Not sure exactly when we’ll be able to put this strange and balmy place in the rearview mirror. Couple of months anyway, probably more. That’s OK. I’m already finding that Florida is easier to appreciate when you know it’s not permanent.