Wednesday, November 30, 2011


As I took my leave of Portland in the waning days of a glorious summer (a 6-week summer, but a summer nonetheless), several people told me they could never enjoy living someplace that “didn’t have seasons.”

Ah, but Miami, I have recently been forced to recall like a slap on the cheek, does have seasons. Or rather, it has “The Season.”

The tourist season has moved in for the duration, and things will get worse before they begin to let up, around April. The restaurants are busy, the Starbucks cafes are fuller than ever, the boardwalk at Hollywood beach pits boisterous international families against kamikaze bicyclists, and miscellaneous out-of-state license plates pepper the traffic jams like a game of fifty-two pickup.

I arrived in early October, when South Florida was still sleepily enjoying its extended summer and going on about its workday business. I moved my little RV into Seville Mobile Home Park (permanent trailer homes with just a sprinkling of spaces for RVs) and enjoyed the quiet of being surrounded by pulled-down shutters and chained-up patio furniture.

But Les Canadiens sont arrivés!

I had been warned that the population of this parc was almost exclusively Quebecois snowbirds, but that was fine with me. During my prior fifteen years of Miami citizenship, I got used to the European and Latin American visitors that filled the stores and roads of Dade County during the winter. This would be my first winter over the border in Broward County, and my first encounter with the French Canadians, butt of much local humor. (Eh?)

So gradually, the trailer homes have been coming to life; the shutters have come off, the sound of hammering and general fixup, from the depredations of a South Florida summer of winds and rain, fills the air. Bienvenue, mes voisins.

I am a very undemanding tenant, wherever I live. All I ask for is quiet. Of course, in most rental situations one asks in vain . . . but the next best thing is being surrounded by people whose language you cannot understand. Conversation is as music, in such a case.

Before the first of the snowbirds arrived I feared that my rudimentary language ability might negate this benefit, my French being sufficient  for reading simple signs and instructions and the aphorisms introducing novels of literary pretense. But no. My new neighbors could be plotting provincial secession or talking about my funny shoes, and I would never know. And I don’t think I can blame it on my seventh-grade French teacher, Mr. Henderson, whose Français  had a resolvedly Brooklyn accent. No, I suspect that these folks are the same puzzle to me that a fast-talking Cockney would be to, let’s say, a Cuban who got an A in her Advanced English class. 

What I enjoy most about living in this enclave is that it has the air of a summer camp. I realize that in other neighborhoods nearby, people rise early and leave for work, come home and attend their children’s school plays . . . but here, in over-55 snowbird paradise, the long winter afternoons are spent sitting on patio chairs, riding bicycles up to the Dunkin Donuts, or playing petanque  behind the clubhouse. 

Once I leave our complex and put my car or my bike on Federal Highway (which turns into Biscayne Boulevard just a mile down the road, at the Dade County border), I am in the thick of The Season, or rather several “seasons.” I am, first of all, in the midst of holiday traffic for the region’s megashopping mall, Aventura (which, unfortunately, is also the home of the local Apple Store and thus I am sometimes forced to abandon all my bah-humbug principles about seasonal shopping and brave the Animatronic Santas in order to pick up a cable for my iPad). And this coming weekend the racing season starts: horses at Gulfstream (half a mile to the south), doggies at Monte Carlo (a quarter mile to the north). 

I may sound like I’m complaining, but this all brings back tender memories of my earlier sojourn in Miami, and fifteen years of going into and coming out of The Season. Perhaps there’s a little more traffic now, and the alta cockers in their white Cadillacs with New York plates, going 25 mph up Biscayne Boulevard, have been replaced by alta cockers in white Camrys with New York plates.  We natives honk and shake our heads, but really . . . we love the energy and money and challenge they bring to South Florida’s “Season.” Even the alta kockers in yellow Miatas with Oregon license plates.

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