I’m a nomad, a vagabond at heart and my travel experience reflects this passion I have for culture. About ten years ago I settled in South Florida, the place I currently call home. It’s as far south as you can go in the U.S., yet it’s has a northern city feel at times with Miami and Fort Lauderdale dominating the east coast of Florida. A common saying is, “we are so far south it feels as if you’re in the north.” That’s culture wise, not weather related. Recently during an early morning jog, I felt like a stranger visiting my neighborhood, a sort of out-of-body experience as I noticed the sights and sounds reflecting a southern lifestyle.
This particular August morning was extremely steamy. The sun had not yet fully risen, so it wasn’t a double kick of intense solar heat. The humidity just drenched me in sweat when I was strolling and preparing to run, as if a bucket of water gushed from my inner body through my pores. My right hand constantly reaching up to wipe off the excess sweat while making my way to my starting point, the five-mile track surrounding the local general aviation airport.
The streets were eerily quiet. No rush hour in this neighborhood. I wondered if everyone was still sleeping until I saw a few teenagers walking to school. They were also soundless with a slow sleepy gait among the few scattered students. Crossing guards sporting bright yellow vests stood at the busier streets, holding up stop signs when the lights changed in order to help the children traverse safely.
“Good morning, Ma’am,” the older gentleman greeted me as I hurried past to my destination.
I smiled. “Morning.” I somehow forgot to add the good over the past decade, and made a mental note to actually emphasize the “good” prior to “morning” next time. Perhaps the yogi in me shining through, I silently giggled. Life is good, and I must say it during my greeting for now on.
I smelled bacon lingering through the neighborhood, a particularly strong smell for my vegetarian nose. It was mixed with a slight sulfur smell of the nearby ocean and the dankness of humidity. I was jolted by the brief refreshing smell of Jasmine while passing a blooming bush. I took a deep breath and grinned.
One corner in particular stood out as very southern, with a large Baptist church on one corner, a neighboring empty lot across with an associated church thrift store and a few pre-schools. An abundance of empty land dedicated to church and the people they help. Not really a sight you’d see in the city, but a community staple in the south.
Oak, Banyan, Palm and Pine trees flanked large single story homes built in the fifty’s and sixty’s. It was as if the trees weren’t sure if they were northern or southern with the palms and giant oaks living side-by-side. Banana spiders the size of the palm of my hand waited in complex webs spread between some of the trees. Its long black and yellow legs stretched out, flaunting a huge yellowish brown abdomen. I quivered at the thought of running into her web. Birds sang, crickets chirped a simultaneous rhythm while frogs croaked a deeper bellow, all creating quite the symphony.
I picked up my pace to a light jog. The Florida East Coast Railway hummed by with a clack, clack, clack, a squeal of the wheel flange scraping against the rail, and a long, loud tooooooot . Paralleling Dixie Highway, the almost forgotten railway system is a symbol of our industrial past.
Southern Florida is indeed a mix of north and south and I’ll take these southern roots any day as long as I have my northern comforts, occasionally slipping into a true love of everything the deep south has to offer, even the unbearable inescapable tropical, wet air.
The song from the movie, Singing in the Rain , flooded my blissful mind.
We’ve talked the whole night through
Good Morning to you
It’s great to stay up late
Good Morning to you