State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

cigars

by Natalia

Watching cigars being made by one of a few remaining artisans in Ybor City I almost regret that I don't smoke. Unless one counts those rare drunken occasions, when it suddenly seems like a grand idea. But even then I fail to appreciate the effect.

Perhaps I would smoke cigars, if they were still hand made luxury items. And if relaxing after dinner in a fine company over a cigar was a socially accepted activity. But it never really was, not for women anyway. Cigarettes replaced cigars and television filled after dinner time before women became formally equal to men.

Ybor City lost its cigar factories and its ethnic rivalries between Spanish, Cuban, and Italian immigrants. In time it changed from abandoned city center to revived urban attraction complete with shops, clubs, restaurants and theaters. Its citizens use indoor plumbing instead of outhouses. Museum occupies a former bakery. Workers' rights replaced factory owners' care for their workers, suburban sprawl replaced planned communities, and automobiles replaced streetcars. Affordable health plans offered by mutual aid societies evolved into Obamacare.

It's progress, isn't it?

family

You don't choose your family. Well - by extension - you sort of choose your spouse's family, but with all the hoopla associated with tying the knot screening the aunts and uncles is probably not high on the priority list. It should be though. Having your relatives conveniently scattered around the world helps should you decide to spend some time traveling. We take full advantage of that in Jacksonville. It's the first time I meet this particular branch of Damian's family (and let me tell you, his family has more branches that he can remember), but we hit it off rather well. They live in a well established suburban community that is close to everything: not that far from the beach, and acceptable distance from the downtown. One day, on their recommendation, we decide to ride our bikes 5 miles to the beach. It is really close on the local scale: covering 874 square miles (2,264 square kilometers) Jacksonville is the largest city area-wise in continuous US and the second largest in America. Anchorage, Alaska occupies over twice as much land, but something tells me biking options might be a bit limited there. Also, last time we checked, no relatives in Alaska (we are open to the idea of adopted family - volunteers welcomed).

rain

After living in New England for many years I still naively think about US as a country of a temperate climate with four seasons. Sure, I've looked at the hardiness zone map but colorful bands simply reveal higher temperatures as one moves down south. Nothing suggests the fundamental difference. Florida has only two seasons: dry and wet. Wet means humid and rainy, but that fails to truly depict the actual weather. Humidity throughout the day is absolutely oppressing. One gets drenched in sweat followed by continuous perspiration. A/C helps only if one stays inside 24/7; otherwise it's simply a recipe for catching cold. The rain is not what I know from the north. Hurricanes, even if they miss a state by a safe margin, bring torrential pour capable of stopping traffic and producing puddles that can sink a car. Inpenetrable clouds change day into night. Lightnings take up half of the sky. Amazingly people here try to ignore all that and valiantly drive on, lack of visibility be damned.