29 March 2009

zimdog's South Florida survival tips

I went earlier today to the local Publix grocery store, and Jesus F'ing Christ, I have never been more anxious to leave a place (meaning South Florida). The level of inter-personality ranks about as high as the median IQ, and if you think I'm just cynical, then ... suffer a cyber-slap across the face. (As Exhibit Z, I offer said cyber-slap up as proof of what South Florida has done to me. I would never cyber-slap a reader five-and-a-half years ago.)

No, during my entire twenty-minute stay at my favorite Publix grocer, I confirmed my suspicions that Florida is truly toxic to personal interaction. I still got some quality people watching in, and I still had a relatively good time with myself, but there were exceptions as usual. For instance, on my way in, I was walking in behind some guy whose back-of-shirt read, "Puccini's Smiling Teeth." In a rare moment of reverting mentally to a time when I could actually show acknowledgment for a stranger, I said to the man, "Okay, I'm curious. Sir, what does 'Puccini's Smiling Teeth' mean?" The man just walked on, not even turning to see if my voice was real or imaginary. He continued to ignore me when I excused myself, trying once more to get his attention.

When I got home, I told Emily and her dad about the failed communication, and they suggested maybe the guy didn't know what was on the back of his shirt. (Emily and her family members do this sometimes, usually when I don't want them to; Emily often does this when I'm genuinely trying to criticize something small that stands for a much larger problem. She instantly views it through the most positive lens possible. Sheesh.) Maybe. Maybe he didn't know what the back of his shirt read, but we were the only two people for at least forty feet. Was I talking in conversational non-yelling tone to the other person in sight?

No, I think it's something else, something more wrong with the behavior of the population-stressed human being. If he turned around to acknowledge me, he might find me pointing a gun at him. As someone who has been held up down here, I can attest that it does happen. But I never saw it coming. Why would you assume you're about to get held up? Or worse, drawn into a conversation with a stranger? Ahhhhhhhh!

I know you sense the horror too, so I apologize. I am one of those people who occasionally attempts conversations with strangers. I'm of that kind, you might say. In the store, I attempted about six conversations. Perhaps two of them felt honest on both ends. And I'm not saying I wasn't ever the self-centered or uninterested one. All I'm saying is, how did it come to this? South Florida is slowly choking me to death, and I feel like one of the few people that realizes South Florida is choking their human-ness to death.

Don't get me entirely wrong. Florida has not been all bad. I love that Emily and I came down here with almost nothing. We have really created a shared life for ourselves, and we've done it on our own. For myself, I got an MFA in Creative Writing, and in my shared life, Emily and I got married and have now started a family. But always forefront on my mind is that South Florida is the last place I would ever want to have a family. To do so would require me to believe much more blindly in the First Capitalist Commandment: Thou shalt cut thy neighbor down at the knees.

Boy oh boy do I spend my days in this cynicism. I must admit though. Life has gotten progressively harder since my in-laws came to town. This isn't to say that life as parent to a newborn hasn't been tons easier with experienced help around. It has been good in some ways, but in one way that matters to me very much, I have not recently encountered many opportunities to just relax and do some zimdoggin'.

I often have a whole lot on my mind, be it good or bad. Ergo, I either need people I can share these thoughts with, or I need time to churn the thoughts myself--and both have been in short supply. Emily truly is my soul mate, so she often listens to my thoughts, but Emily isn't always the Emily I know when her family is around, and right now, spending time at home means spending time with my in-laws and their two dogs, both of which are the most annoying dog I know at alternating times. Some nights, my brother-in-law and his dog come over too, which ups the in-law and dog counts each by one. And most nights, we probably spend an hour or more with our viewing entertainment paused while Emily and her family talk to either of the two remaining Roosa in-laws in Indiana.

To raise the stakes further, there's a double-generation gap between my world view and the way Emily's parents perceive the world. Really, it's a wonder I have been able to spend 4+ months with her parents living here. Last night was the first time I blew up at her mom. She's having a very difficult time finding happiness in her life, and it just became too much for me last night. As for her dad, we haven't butted heads yet. He's been quite respectful of not being too fatherly in the house Emily and I share, but the possibility of a clash is always there. In many respects, my methods for happiness differ from those of my in-laws (and Emily's methods too for that matter), so as long as we can all continue to respect each others' rights to be different, the rest of Florida will go just fine.

Damn, I can't wait for the end of April, which is where I get to the good news. Emily got an internship match with Western State Hospital. Come the end of April, she and I are moving to Tacoma, Washington with our totally kick-ass son Griffin (and of course da wicked ol' Murph-hizzound). Washington fucking State, sir. I am so anxious for the change of pace, the change of intellect, and definitely the change of climate. I grew up in England (from 2-and-a-half to 8 years of age for those who don't know). Even more than the mind-numb and/or greedy participants of South Florida who have injected me with more negative energy in 5.5 years than I encountered cumulatively during the previous 23 years, it has been the Florida weather oppressing me, so the prospect of moving to a damp, cold coastal climate is exactly what I need right now. I think Tacoma is going to be the fresher air I crave--for many reasons. Most of all though, I am excited to start my family life there... just me, Emily, Griffin, and Murphy. We'll finally start a family, and actually become the married couple we legally became over three years ago.

One idea I've been tossing around to go with the lifestyle change is something of a return to discipline. I took some martial arts as a much younger lad, and I've been seriously considering getting back into it in WA. I'm at a point in my life where I am now responsible for another human life (and half of Emily's too). Martial arts is one activity that would return some of the physical and mental discipline that my shy, lazy, and uncertain Florida life has completely conned me of. I either feel removed from myself at home or crammed so far down inside myself in public that I am working on becoming everyone except who I actually want to be.

One thing I miss feeling is the confidence of preparation, hence the title of this blog entry (at last). This became clear to me today in the Publix parking lot. As I walked toward my car, groceries in hand, I had these very thoughts:

1. Keeping your car keys in your back pocket offers the easiest possible access to them, from either a running motion or a fighting stance;

2. Carry most of your grocery bags in your weaker arm. Not only does this help you strengthen that arm, it lets you carry only one bag in your good swinging arm. This bag should contain something that balances force of impact with swing-able velocity, something like ice or some coconuts.

Yes, now you see what I have become in this place. The way I figure it, if I get back into martial arts, I can just react to the bullshit this world is becoming, and I can spend my own time thinking about more important things... like living, not just surviving. I recently also began training myself to leave my wallet in my pants' pocket at all times so I'll always have it with me, no matter what the circumstances: be it house fire, nighttime burglar, carjacking, etc. This is what happens when you live on shakedown street, where the criminals don't hide their behavior, and the criminal cops hide theirs even less. Truly a sad commentary, considering I have, without knowing it, become a man perpetuated by his own fears in a place so full of fears that they rule us all in one way or another.


Xander and Alana Cole Faber said...

I have a whole theory about your grocery store interaction, but I'll try to be brief. Alex and I both think that this is the problem with mid-sized cities. Everyone thinks New York is the perfect example of a city where no one else talks to each other. Not true. People acknowledge and interact with each other almost constantly there. You have to, because you're all squished together. But in a mid-sized city, you live in a bubble just enough to forget about your fellow humans. But you're around them just enough to become apathetic. It's one of the things we hate about Montreal. It's colder here than New York in more ways than one.

SOS said...

Zimdog-I feel your pain with the crappy South Florida vibe! That was one thing Spence and I were eager to get away from when we left! Now that I'm living in the much friendlier Midwest, I have to be careful that I'm not bringing my asshole-South Florida-negative energy when I'm putting around town. It's just so bright, and hot, and crowded down there; I think the combination rots brains.

Also, I can't believe your in-laws have been living with you for four months! Yowza! It sounds like a tight squeeze, but it won't be long until your breathing the fresh Tacoma air, so enjoy the tight squeeze while you have it! :)

zimdog said...

What is that, self-Zen? It does make sense, I suppose. I shall hereforth try to enjoy the madness.

zimdog said...

A reply to Xander and Alana Cole Faber:

Ahh, now that's an interesting theory I can get behind. I shall have to look at South Florida this way until I leave for confirmation. Intuition tells me you and Alex are spot-on though.

So Montreal isn't the shiznit? It sounds so distant, and responsible for itself. That's a shame. Anyway, I can provide one damning link between here and there. Plenty of "Quebecans" come down here for the winter, and they are often just as rude, if not ruder, than South Floridans. Maybe they feel at home here, or maybe they brought their frozen madness down here to simmer.

Is it the chicken laid the egg, or the egg hatched the chicken? Actually, 'twas probably more like a slow evolution of both the chicken and the egg, or the chicken from small dinosaurs that already laid eggs, but one may never know for sure until time machines.

Team HA said...

You've stated what I've felt for a while down here. Tho it's supposedly this land of sun and fun, I've never felt so tense. Maybe it's the transplanted New Yorkers, maybe it's the stress of the high cost of living, but people down here are pretty miserable. We're ready to move back to good ole' Louisville and go to the Kroger where people don't run you over with their grocery carts.

zimdog said...

I know, it's bullshit. Florida is one of the densest cases of false advertising ever perpetrated. Kind of like those commercials for Jamaica's luxury vacation compounds. I wanna know where the real video footage of Jamaica is: the poverty, the police with machine guns, the down-to-earth people that aren't spouting "Yah, mon" on cue.