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It's no secret that I hate living in Florida. I hate the sand and the heat and the weird, plasticky texture of the grass that reminds me of those welcome mats with the little daisy in the upper right hand corner. I hate mowing the lawn on Christmas Eve. And above all, I hate that, with the exception of a few fairly impressive shell mounds piled up from Calusa clambakes, there's nothing very old here at all.

An "older home," is a Florida real estate-y term applied to any dwelling that was built before 1999. I say, as a general rule--with the exception of tents--no one should ever use the term "older home" if the residents are older than the home.

New buildings are made to look old here: Spanish colonial villas; Italian Mediterranean pallazzos and French provincial chateaux; Florida cracker-style stripmalls; Queen Ann style beach cottages done up with more lace and rick-rack than a maiden great auntie. But there's something amiss in these nostalgic architectural bulwarks. They have been designed from the inside out, ballooning those soft proportions exponentially--21st century materials have thinned walls and thickened windows, pushed open span distances and shrunk interstitial spaces. If a 12-foot ceiling is impressive than a 20-foot ceiling must be even more impressive!! The envelope balloons outward, making the charming American dream of a beach cottage into a monstrosity--a cute thing blown up to freakish proportions with unblinking, double-glazed eyes and thin stucco skin that ages gracelessly, chipping off its metal lath, mouldering and rusting in the hardwater spray of the lawn sprinklers.

The new residents' old furniture--proportioned for older ceiling-heights and smaller butts, perhaps--suddenly looks like doll's furniture in these cavernous spaces; a shriveled peanut rattling around in the giant pumpkin shell. So the furniture follows, bloating into proportions that must be filled with vast poly-filled cushions, bed pillows stacked 3 and 4 layers high, elephantine dining furniture fit for some fascist baronial fortress. I am not a small woman and yet, sinking into these sofas is a comical sight, my legs sticking out, and my head lolling back on the cushions like Edith Ann on a bender.

Maybe it's because of the second home culture that permeated Florida: the taking of the "second bests" to the beach, the buying of the cheap and disposable for the three month romp in the sun and surf.

Then: Haul it out, tear down the old house, build it bigger, buy new. The sand is raw for a few months and then they unroll the sod in neat little strips like carpet, poke a few palm trees in the ground, water the shit out of it, and you'll be damned if you can remember what was there before. And there at the consignment shops and the thrift stores is where the memory winds up:
--the new, overstuffed bullies go toe-to-toe with the dainty little couches as prim as a buttoned shoe. And neither is improved by the comparison.

Comments

  1. I was amazed when I moved here and found that if a house was built in 1960 it was considered an antique! I realize that there wasn't much here before that, but the whole mental set of we must have new, better, bigger, shiner, more, more, more, is hard to swallow. And the fact that things are thrown up (literally and figuratively) around here leads me to believe that no one in this state appreciates craftsmanship. They just want the walls up and the bodies inside. I'm with you...let the sea take Florida!

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