State by State

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

rain

by Natalia

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.

We are not that brave. Caught by the rain in a huge strip mall parking lot we try to establish the wind direction and change position every couple of minutes to use the nature's biggest car wash. We hope that the rain would wash off all the dust accumulated when driving countless dirt roads in an attempt to spot a particularly photogenic alligator. All in vain: judging by the epic amounts of water our truck should be squeaky clean. It must be covered with protective finish that binds the dirt permanently to the body. Well, at least we haven't spent the weekend personally applying the wax.

It seems Floridians share my misconception of the climate in their state. They build houses the same way people further north do: enclosed spaces, garages, lawns front and back. Never mind the grass blades are wide and coarse (think crab grass) and it requires additional water even in the wet season. It's green and it has to be mown therefore it's a lawn. As for garages - they are more likely to be used for storage than for cars, which of course makes perfect sense. Why would one hide a car if keeping it outside leaves it nicely washed by the rain?

Rain affects much more then just convenience of drivers. It starts fires, spurs vegetation, promotes floods. We, as a society, ignore all that until we can't any longer and then we try to manage nature: dredge canals, mow incessantly, prescribe controlled fires, eradicate invasive species. But we are not giving up on our dream of a perfect English lawn.

cigars

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.

estate

Thomas Alva Edison was one of the original hackers but you would not know it if you toured Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. And I use the term hacker in its initial, not subverted, meaning: someone who tinkers with stuff to makes things better. Incidentally I stopped telling people that I am a hacker some time ago. Since no one can tell crackers and hackers apart, such admission is greeted with an awkward silence at best and nervous reach for a cell phone to notify authorities in other cases.