Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Hello, summer.

I never used to get excited about sunshine. I lived in South Florida for 25 years, and you just take it for granted. Yes, yes, it rains a lot. Those 20-minute rainy season thunderstorms that roll by out of nowhere can disrupt the sunshine here and there, but, basically- the sun in the sky... just becomes part of your life. I didn't think twice about knowing the car would be like an pizza oven, the a/c units worked harder than Chilean fruit pickers, the sand is like hot coals, and the pool would be like bath water.


These were things, that after living there long enough, you just knew. The sun would be out, the humidity would hang in the air like a wet dish cloth and if you found a shady spot, you didn't feel any cooler, really. Fruity, frozen drinks are always on the menu anywhere you go. Most people have a towel in the car, flip flops on the back seat, and are ready to get the "beach call" at any given moment, day or night. When you live in South Florida, you pretty much have a routine when you have visitors from up north. You head east, you roll down the windows of the car & do the slow crawl along A1A, the road that runs along the ocean, you find a spot to park, take a stroll past the bikini stores, the souvenir shops for a "Fort Lauderdale" shot glass, and you sit at a patio bar having frozen margaritas and people watch. When you play tourist guide like that, you tend to feel like you're exposing people to the sunshine for the very first time. It even feels like you're sharing your sunshine. "Here, kick your shoes off, order a frozen daquiri, squish your toes in the sand for a minute, put your shades on, and live the good life, like I do." The guests always seemed genuinely impressed. They have no idea that you work all day in a drab, gray cubicle, and the only daylight you see is during that brisk jaunt to your blow dryer of a car at 6pm. The last time you went to the beach was 3 years ago, because someone else visited. Your tan is from sitting in traffic. The only water you've had your feet in is from when you washed your car on the weekend and you're using a much earned vacation day to show them a life you don't really live.  But all in all, THEY think we walk around with the sun on our shoulder like a baby parakeet day in and day out- and that's fine! Listen,  I grew up in Niagara Falls, just outside of Buffalo, so I know GRAY days. I know factory smoke stacks puffin' out toxic clouds, I know massive dark snow squalls, I know lake-effect wind, I know a shopping mall with skylights in the ceiling but with flourescent lighting along side of them to FAKE sunshine. So, South Florida can be amazing, especially when you're selling that bullshit lifestyle to a pastey northerner. 

Before I moved to London last March, so many people asked me if I was ready for rain & snow again. I'll admit, the last time I was in Niagara Falls when it snowed was 1989, for my father's funeral and I was 20 years old. Seven days of it, and I was back on a plane to Florida, thanking my lucky stars that I could plan my trips around never being back there again in the winter.  It worked out well. No one died in a winter month, no one got married in a winter month, I visited in April, May, September or October and dodged the snow every time. I knew I could handle a little cold air. Even in a Florida winter, there were mornings that I woke up and it was in the low 40's. Those 6 days every year that it gets "chilly" are pretty funny- it's all anyone talks about. "Did you hear its getting down to 39 tonight!?" We pull out our ONE jacket, and ONE sweater and huddle over coffee in the office talking about when this "cold snap will be over." Look, in all honesty, anyone that moves to Florida knows what they're getting themselves into and they're okay with it. I was. For about 5 years. It just never happened for me- I never became one of those "warm weather people". The ones who don't mind sweating in November, or eating Christmas dinner on the sun deck in the 80 degree heat. The ones who could care less that the sun actually eats the paint off your car, or that if we weren't surrounded by water, the state itself would probably snap off like a piece of crispy bacon. You know, the ones who wake up, throw their hair in a ponytail, pull on a tank top, slip on those bedazzled flip flops, pick up their Maltipoo puppy, drop it in their Gucci handbag and run off to do a few errands. Unphased by the oppressive heat, getting in and out of the huge, black SUV, with gigantic Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses on their leathery dry faces, talking on rhinestone-studded iphones all the while. 

Even in Lesbo-land, the sporty dyke adapts because she finds the "perks". She can go kayaking, or take an airboat ride through the Everglades, jog with her chocolate lab, she'll pitch camp in the humidity, gets excited over lightening & thunder, like she's been cast in the movie "TWISTER" as a storm chaser, and has no issues standing on a softball field with the sun beating down on her baseball cap & drinking luke warm beer at the local lesbian bar later.

Nope. Not me. That's a skinny Florida girl's life. 

If you're even 20 pounds overweight, let alone 50 or 60 and you live in Florida, it's a very different look. Baggy shorts, oversized t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, pedi socks in running shoes (as if!), sweaty, stringy hair that never looks toussled, just ..plain...wet and of course, the pink, chubby cheeks. I call 'em "Cardiac cheeks"- when your so hot, that it feels like your chest is going to explode out of your face because you just walked from your car into to Walgreens. You plan your outdoor events by the amount of shade at the venue. You ditch any friend who keeps their a/c at 78, and you keep a roll of paper towels in your car, not for a soda spill, but to wipe sweat from your cleavage. You bawk at the word "outdoors", you make up excuses to get out of birthday parties held in parks, and you by no means go to the beach during the daytime on a weekend to "lay out". You swim at night, in a pool. You walk your dog before sunrise and after sunset, and you always find the closest parking spot even if you have to drive around for 18 minutes and be late for a meeting.


So, really, when people asked me if I was ready for the rain & cold & snow of London, all I could think of was "No more sweatin' like a devil bitch in Hell?"  YEAH, I'm ready!

I got here LAST March, and it was cool. I was so loving the colder weather. I was the one outside when it was 50 degrees, in a t-shirt, going "You call this cold?!"- Yeah- THAT asshole. I was so excited the first time it snowed because, it was like ..still NOT that cold! It's a tolerable cold. Like..."Diet Winter Light".  So, I had no issues with the cold. It was cozy to light a fire, and snuggle under fuzzy, soft blankets. There was always that 20 second "cold bed" routine, that I got used to by tucking my feet under my sleeping wife's feet and schooching into her til I got warm. But even that didn't bother me. The bottom line was: I wasn't hot. I was so totally okay with the London winter. 


I was not, however, okay with what comes next. The rain. I don't think I saw sunshine from the middle of this past March, May 23rd. Oh yeah, a sliver here & there for maybe 45 minutes at a time, but all of April, the sky was slate gray, and this odd mist like rain never stopped. The chill combined with the dampness made it a completely intolerable cold, and I kept thinking, "But, hey, I'm still not hot!" All of a sudden, THAT wasn't working. My go-to logic was no longer valid. The worst part of the constant rain, is that it doesn't seem to phase the Londoner's in the least. They just chuckle away, with their hair stuck to their forehead, coat thoroughly soaked as they enter a pub for a drink and say, "Blimey, it's pissin' down!" with a goddamn smile on their face! I'm not sure if it's cabin fever that set in, or the constant number of bad hair days in a row, or the dread I felt when we DID have to go somewhere in the rain. So.. I never thought I would be a person who could say this and mean it, but having a 78 degree day of sunshine, birds chirping, no humidity, where I could work on my laptop in the backyard, drink lemonade, turn my face towards the sun, no sweating, and feeling it in a good way- was rather exciting! The chime of the ice cream truck, the bees buzzing by, being in shorts again, the smell of the flowers, a reason to shave my legs- I was really diggin' it. It was the first time in 25 years I didn't cringe at the thought of summer. Yep. Summer is coming.


....and I just swallowed a bug.


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