Category Archives: Life In Florida

You Might Be A Redneck If…

If you’re from the U.S., you probably know that this is the famous hook the comedian Jeff Foxworthy uses in his comedy routine (“If you’ve ever mowed the grass and found your car, you might be a redneck.  If you’ve ever taken a beer to a job interview….”)

The kindest definition I’ve found of redneck is “a working-class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area”.  Which is actually the most accurate.  But the common usage is from Miriam-Webster, which defines it as “a white person who lives in a small town or in the country, especially in the southern U.S., who typically has a working-class job, and is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive”.

I had this conversation today with Yard Guy, who is a certified redneck, only by virtue of being from the South and having a blue-collar job.  He has no objectionable opinions, is not a racist, and is one of the most environmentally conscious people I know.  He probably has little formal education, but as far as I’m concerned, that makes him smarter than a lot of people who do.

I told him I was going away for the week of Christmas, so he said he’d be sure to ask his Mama to keep an eye on my house (she lives around the corner).  Also, my next-door neighbor, Kathy.  While we were on the subject, he noted that his Mama and Kathy have become cranky and hard to deal with in their older years (both of them are about my age, and both are widowed).  I said that probably they were spending too much time alone.  He wanted to know why I’m not like them? I said, because I work.  I’m out almost every day.  I deal with the public.  He said, oh, yeah, well there is that.

While we were on the subject of dogs, he informed me that Mama now has a second dog, which like the first dog does not really belong to her, but to his niece who also owns the first dog.  The first dog is a pitbull mix named “Vicious”.  I swear I am not making that up.  The important thing here is the distinction between “keeping” and “owning” a dog.  It’s the same thing as “living” somewhere and “staying” somewhere.  You get mail at one place (where you live), but you don’t actually live there.  You “stay” somewhere else.  Got it?

Yard Guy went on to say that he hates Vicious, who once tried to attack him, and only failed because he happened to see her coming out of the corner of his eye and swung a Weedeater at her.  He told Mama that if Vicious ever actually bit him then he’s going to kill her.  He said he would patiently go to his truck, get his pistol, and shoot Vicious dead in Mama’s back yard.  Just so you know, Mama.  She said, oh surely you wouldn’t.  He said,  surely I would.

And I believe him.  And he can legally do it.  If I had a gun, I would do the same thing, as much as I love dogs.  So you see?  Yard Guy and I are simpatico.  We think alike.

Yard Guy asked where I was going.  I said, North Carolina, where I mostly grew up.  He said, you grew up in North Carolina?  So you’re a redneck too?  (Well, technically, you can’t be a redneck if you’re from North Carolina, you’re a hillbilly).  I said, I was born in Tennessee.  He was like, well that cinches it.  You’re a redneck.  Who knew?

Then he was off and running into a story about a friend, originally from the mountains of North Carolina, who hates it here.  There are just too many people.  The friend has three little daughters, whose favorite food is frog legs, or whatever else Daddy can catch.  Yard Guy and I are not that impressed.  We’ll eat deer meat (and as far as I know, he’d probably kill it himself), but seriously…feed the girls a Happy Meal once in a while.  Branch out.

While we were chatting outside, my dog Pippin was inside whining furiously.  He “knows” Yard Guy and wanted to say hello. I let him out and Yard Guy and Pippin spent a little bonding time.

I love the South.  The few years I spent outside it, I missed it warts and all.


A Day in the Life Of Fakename

This day would be Friday, April 25th, 2014. Nothing special about this day, other than I happened to inhabit it.
First, I made my first ever trip to Whole Foods, because 1) it was the only grocery store between the hair salon where I got my hair cut and my workplace, and 2) I was having a food emergency, namely, I was starving. Had I not been in such a rush, I could do a whole Grocery Voyeurism post on the customers of this establishment, and I may have to go back, just in order to do a more detailed job of reporting. At a glance, I can say that the customers were of the Birkenstock-wearing, cloth bag-carrying variety. It isn’t nice to make fun of people, but some people just lend themselves too well to stereotyping, so I can’t help myself.
I also made a flying trip to the library on this day, since besides having a food emergency, I had a book emergency (didn’t have one). When I arrived, there was a guy standing at the ground level elevator. This elevator only goes up one level, and is there mostly to accommodate the handicapped. Because our library has delusions of grandeur and thinks it’s the U.S. Supreme Court. There are a gazillion steps leading to the entrance, which I think are supposed to remind you of the power and majesty within. So I take the elevator too.
About the time I arrived at the elevator, the guy standing there started to walk away. I said, “Isn’t it working?” And he replied, “I don’t know, I don’t know how to operate it”. This was like an immediate stab to the heart for me. I said, “Here, you only have to push this button”. Inside the elevator, he told me I’d come along at just the right time, and didn’t it look like it was going to rain? And lest you think badly of this guy, I realized later this was not one simple push button. It was an entire panel with another button to call for assistance, and another area for firefighter operation which you usually only see inside an elevator. And the button to actually call the elevator was not labeled.
I seem to have some sort of karma involving the library elevators. Once I was there and a woman got trapped and was screaming hysterically. Once she was freed, my flying trip was delayed by about 20 minutes while I sat at a table with her and pretty much cooed and talked nonsense, and said things like “You’re going to be okay”. I knew she was okay when she pulled out her cell phone and asked someone to come and get her. Good idea. No way was she driving.
At the end of my day, I had a truck towed from a parking space, because it was blocking the car next to it. In case you too ever manage parking, when you have a vehicle towed, the customer does not call you up and say, “Thank you so much for towing my vehicle. I now see that I behaved badly and I’ve learned my lesson.” Especially not at 4:00 P.M. on a Friday afternoon.
After making a couple of other feeble excuses, the guy finally said that he was there first. This made it a physics problem. I asked if he could explain to me how the customer he blocked managed to wedge herself in beside him so as to block herself?
Then I came home, read my book at the picnic table, drank some wine, played with the dog and the kitten, and watched the birds. The End.

Excuse Me? Communication in a Cube-Free World

My workplace is “open plan”, by which I mean, we don’t even have cubicles, much less doors. We used to have cubicles, but I removed them. Granted, we have no privacy, but we didn’t have privacy with cubicles either. It was just an illusion.
All our office phones are cordless, so that if you need to have a private conversation, you can step outside.
I can’t remember who pioneered this door-free, cube-free office environment, but it was Apple, or Microsoft, or Google (who can keep them straight?) The idea was that it would foster more spontaneous communication, and therefore more creativity.
In my office, there are anywhere between two and five people ranged at desks here and there. There is enough space to work in comfortably, but if a sixth person comes in, say, a customer, you start to feel a little squeezed. It’s quite amazing how we seem to have these personal boundaries.
So last week, one of my employees received a phone call at the office, just before he was to get off at about two P.M. Remember the cordless phones? This would have been a prime time for him to take advantage of that. Here’s how his end of the conversation went:
“5:00 P.M.? Sure. That sounds great. I’ll bring the canola oil and the garlic.”
Once he hung up, I waited about a minute (timing being everything)and said to no one in particular, “Don’t you want to know what the other person is bringing?” Everyone in the office erupted in laughter.
He said it was for fishing. He and his friend were going to dip the bait worms in a mixture of canola oil and garlic to remove the human smell.
It took me about 10 more minutes for that one, but I eventually asked how it was that fish could smell. He said, okay fish can’t smell, but they have gills, and they take in oxygen that way, so there’s a possibility that they can sense humans. I looked at him blankly, and he said, Okay, I read it in a fishing magazine. It’s an experiment, okay?
I take away two things from this: I bet next time he remembers to take the phone call outside, and fishermen are the craziest and most superstitious group of people in the world.

What is Noise?

I know you’ve been dying to know.
The City of Tallahassee is trying to come up with an anti-noise ordinance. The real reason is that they have erected an amphitheater next to an old, very nice residential area. Dear Old, Very Nice Residential Area People: this will not help you, because that amphitheater has been designated a Special Entertainment Area and will essentially be exempt from the imaginary noise ordinance. So sorry.
But other noises are not protected. Think, driving down the street, the car next to you is blasting some genre of music which makes the whole car vibrate, while the driver bounces up and down so that the whole car bounces. Car dancing. And your windows are rattling too. Is that noise?
Here, for your edification, is the definition of noise: “Any erratic, intermittent, or statistically random sound which causes a disturbance”. Statistically random? What the hell does that mean?
Next question: What is a noise disturbance? “Any sound which disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensibilities and exceeds the sound limit level set forth in this division”. Division? What division? Apparently the sound limit level has something to do with decibels. But how many? For how long? Reasonable people? Normal sensibilities? Give me a break.
This ordinance is doomed.
Noise is like pornography. You know it when you see (hear) it.
The best protection against noise is being deaf. Or wearing earplugs.
But let me say that I’m opposed to noise, whatever it is. When I used to live in New Orleans, there was a bar across the street from me called Dot’s Peppermint Lounge. It was fine when they kept the doors closed, but in summer, they were so packed with people and had such a weak air conditioning system they would open the doors. then I would start calling the police. Eventually I just started calling Dot’s in person saying, close the doors or I’ll call the police. We developed a friendly relationship.
In that case though, I lived just outside the French Quarter, where there is a mixture of residential and commercial everywhere. I could have moved. Not easily, but I could have. So I get that.
By contrast, I now live in an area where despite our best efforts, they built a Walmart. Before that happened, I could sit in my back yard and commune with bats. I love bats, because they eat mosquitoes, but I also love them just because they’re bats. The noise from the construction of Walmart drove them away, and they’ve never returned.
I’m not all empty talk and whining . I participated last week in a meeting between my County Commissioner, the County Administrator, and the head of Planning, and some fellow environmentalist type people. Planning Guy and I got into a little bit of a snit. But when I talked about the bats, he took notes. When I said, this is a wildlife corridor you can’t disrupt, he took notes. When I said, if you disrupt the environmental protections in this area, then you will shoot yourself in the foot. Nobody will want to live on a dead lake. When I said, development has always been allowed here, and whatever future development you envision here, it should enhance the lake, not detract from it. He took notes.
Go me. Go Bats. And go Planning Guy.

Home Sweet Home

I just love where I live, which has not always been the case.  But over time, the things I appreciate about where I live have changed.  And I’ve lived in a lot of places.

Since 1996, I’ve lived in a house, as opposed to an apartment or a duplex (semi-detached if you’re in England or Canada, a double if you live in New Orleans).

I liked apartment/duplex living way back when.  You connect a lot more with your neighbors.  But as time has passed, I find I don’t want to have that much of a connection any more.  However, there is something about living in a house, especially if it’s in a suburb, that tends to isolate people. But it also gives you more privacy.

Let me contrast just two suburbs I’ve lived in.  For about a year, I lived in a suburb of West Palm Beach (Royal Palm Beach, which is about 12 miles from the beach, go figure).  I was thrilled. It was on a manmade lake.  Officially that means it was a borrow pit.  It was on the edge of the Everglades and in order to build there, they would dredge a big hole in the ground to pile up enough soil to build, leaving a lake (borrow pit).

It’s a despicable practice, but when I moved there, I didn’t know that.  The birds didn’t care, it seems.  If there was a water hole with fish and bugs in it, they didn’t much care how it got to be there.  In the back yard, I grew a tiny vegetable garden.  I had a plumeria bush in the back yard, a giant croton and some gardenias in the front, and on one side, a mango tree and a couple of tangerine trees.  This did not turn out to be such a blessing, since I eventually learned that rats love fruit.

I bought a lawn mower of my very own, and mowed my tiny postage stamp front yard myself.  (Trust me, this is relevant.)

Now this house was in a real subdivision with rules.  I didn’t know what those rules were and nobody bothered to inform me, so I picked up things here and there.  One rule I knew about early on was that if you had a work truck or van with a logo on the side, you weren’t permitted to park it in your driveway.  I guess the idea was to keep the neighborhood from looking like a blue-collar, white-trash sort of place.  It already was that kind of place, but they were making a valiant effort to hide it.

So one day in late winter I came home and there was a giant warning notice pasted to the door of the garage.  A “courtesy” notice from Code Enforcement.  It was too early to mow, but a few spindly weeds had sprouted that were apparently over 12″ in height (What?  You brought a tape measure?)  This is not permitted.  So I got a weed-eater and whipped those offensive little weeds into submission.

As an aside, I’m also reminded of my neighborhood in New Orleans.  I lived on a corner, and there was a rule that if you parked on the street (such as, right in front of your house), you had to park at least 8 feet from the corner.  How are you supposed to know that?  I learned it the way I almost always learn these rules, by breaking them.  I got a ticket, and had the same reaction I had to the lawn police.  You brought a tape measure?

Now contrast this to my  current neighborhood.  It too is a subdivision, but it’s one that time forgot.  It used to have rules too, but no one enforces them and we are all pretty laid back unless there is some blatant issue.  I cannot imagine anyone here calling code enforcement because you have three 12″ weeds.  Your trash container is still at the curb 24 hours after pickup?  Who cares!  As usual, I discovered one of the rules after breaking it.  “Fences may not extend past the back wall of the house”.  Really?  I don’t have a back door, only a side door, so I erected a fence around the side door so I could let the dog(s) out without having to put the dogs on a leash for the two foot walk to the back yard. However, no one has complained.  I just read the rules long after I put up the fence.

Several of us did complain when my next door neighbor left a burned out, wrecked, hulk of a car in his yard for months.  (“Vehicles may not be parked in yards and must be in the driveway or in a garage”. )  I also complained when the same neighbor left his three dogs outside rain or shine, with no shelter, food, or water.  Chained to trees.

So the occasion is that yesterday I took a short drive through the neighborhood to the liquor store.  Normally I leave that for Sundays, but I had a wine emergency.  The liquor store is about a half mile away via the backstreet, dog-leg method of travel.

One of the first things you’ll notice is the speed limit sign announcing that it’s 30 mph because it’s a residential area.   Or you might notice it if the wind is blowing just right, because the sign is completely obscured by a tree limb.  But speeding is not a problem here.  It’s a dead-end neighborhood.  Nobody is rushing to get anywhere from here, because there’s no Where there.

Just around the corner from my house, I have a neighbor who owns twin Sea-Doos, which he parks on the street in a nifty twin trailer.  Which takes up half the street.  I just burst out laughing.  One day I’m going to be tempted to knock on his door and say, You are so lucky not to live in Royal Palm Beach or New Orleans!  We’re in Tallahassee, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!


And Now…Let Us Consider Fleas

In the previous post about mosquitos, I noted that a friend said they are good for something, in that fish eat the larvae.  And I said the fish would have to learn to eat something else, since my plans include the extinction of mosquitos.

Make that double for fleas.  Fleas don’t even have the redeeming quality of serving as food for anything, although ants, spiders, and some beetles may eat them occasionally.  But an ant would eat a rock if it was small enough.  I can’t really say that fleas are a major source of food.  If there is any worth to fleas, it may be in flea circuses…if they actually exist, which is in grave doubt.

There is a theme here.  Basically I hate anything that eats blood for a living, although I do (reluctantly) make an exception for leeches.  Widely used during the Middle Ages for medical treatment of all sorts (usually worthlessly), modern medicine has found a use for them in certain instances, one of which is for the treatment of the genetic disease hemochromatosis.  I read a great book called Survival of the Sickest, in which the author says his father regularly gave blood and always felt much better afterwards.  Eventually he found out why.

But back to fleas.  There are over 2,000 species of fleas worldwide, but some of the more common ones are dog, cat, chicken, rabbit, squirrel, rat, ferret, and mouse fleas.  Oh, and human fleas.

In my experience, fleas aren’t that particular., although they do seem to have favorites.  A dog flea will be more than happy to jump on a cat, or vice versa.  Or on you for that matter, but after one bite they go “Gag!  This blood is awful!” and go back to the preferred host.

I used to have several dogs and two cats, and at that time, I learned that I could control the problem by treating only one of the dogs and one of the cats.  Sooner or later, a flea was bound to hop on the treated dog or cat and die.  These days I couldn’t get by with that, because heartworm and flea medication are combined, so everybody has to get it.

I go to this veterinary clinic where every vet, except maybe one, went to vet school at Auburn U. in Alabama.  One of them told me once that he learned in school that in order to kill fleas, the ground has to freeze to a depth of two feet. That’s not happening here (or in Alabama either) so we’re stuck with flea treatment year-round.

I can still hope that some horrible disease begins to afflict fleas.  I’ll call it Flea Plague.

Why Are There Mosquitos?

I don’t usually argue for extinction, but I make an exception in this case.  I can’t see any useful function mosquitos perform.  Although a friend once told me fish eat the larvae.  True, but fish eat a lot of things, and I think they would be okay without mosquito larvae.  Maybe to fish, mosquito larvae are like caviar.  But you can live without caviar.  I don’t want to kill fish.  I just want to kill mosquitos.

The occasion is, it’s Spring, and the mosquitos are waking up.  The occasion is also that I just saw an ad on TV for a relatively new product made by “Off!”  It’s a clip-on mosquito repellent, which you can either clip onto your waist or just sit beside you.  It looks sort of like those air freshener disks you can buy. It creates an invisible force field around your entire body which repels mosquitos.   Ask me if I believe this would work.

Also ask me if I believe it’s good marketing–it is, for about five minutes.

Since I live in Florida, I am in the heart of mosquito land.  I’ve tried every repellent known to man so far, except for these new disk thingies.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. DEET is disgusting stuff.  The smell will gag you, it feels oily on your skin, and frankly, it’s poison.

2.  Repellents using Picaridin are better.  Nobody has yet told me it’s poison too, but if it is, at least it isn’t oily, and it doesn’t make you smell like a corpse.

3.  Citronella candles don’t work either.

4.  Whatever repellent you use, you will spray it on, but you will miss a spot and get nailed.

For a while, there was a big scare about West Nile Fever, which unlike malaria, is not as apt to kill you. And all it takes is one bite.  You could dress up in mosquito netting and load up with DEET, and then, see Point #4.  So, you just act as prudently as you can, without turning into Howard Hughes.

As my friends and regular readers know, I spend as much of my leisure time as possible in my back yard at my picnic table, reading.  I love reading, but I want to be outside too.  This means that me and the mosquitos are at constant war.  I use Cutter Ultralight (Picaridin, not DEET) ,but see Point #4.  You will always miss a spot.  Mosquitos are quite clever.  They are able to ignore the sprayed parts and zoom in on the un-sprayed parts.  How can they do that?  No wonder they have survived for a gajillion years.

In my city, we have mosquito trucks.  They come through at dusk or a little later and spray pesticides which they say are safe.  I love it when I see the mosquito trucks, and I love it when I see bats, because they eat mosquitos.  But there is some controversy about it.  I’m okay with the nuclear option when it comes to mosquitos.  They aren’t just annoying–they’re deadly.

I’m also not okay with fleas.



Yard Guy 2013

Normally, my reaquaintance with Yard Guy takes place in March, but this March was exceptionally rainy, so here it is toward the end of April.  He did come once in March.  He mowed the front yard (which means I’ve spent a month slogging through unknown weeds in the back yard to get to the picnic table).  And he killed off the vine from hell that was strangling my bamboo.

But I sense a change this year.  It used to be that when he was done with the yard, he would sit down with me at the picnic table, maybe have a beer, and chat.  Now he doesn’t have time for that.  In March he told me that his “regular” job was slow, so now I think what used to be his “side” job is his “main” job.  He has three other yards to do after mine.

He told me that the last customer he saw keeps asking him to do extra stuff, so it took him longer than he expected.  But, he said, she pays me for it.  (Ouch.  Does that include killing the vine from hell?  I need to wonder if this is a hint.) But you have to admire him.  Last year, he bought a riding lawnmower which makes quick work of things…except he can’t get it through my gate to the back yard, so he has to use his push mower and Weedeater.

But all that said, this guy is probably the very best example of capitalism at work.  He has shifted gears, and now works for himself.  He’s good at what he does, and he isn’t afraid of hard work and long hours.  I’m not sure he has learned yet how to value his skills.  But he is in one of the three businesses in Florida that you have to be an idiot to screw up:  Lawn/landscape maintenance, pool maintenance, and pest control.

I wish him well, but I’m gonna miss those occasional beers at the picnic table.


Whenever that is.  Technically, Spring begins on the day of the Spring equinox, usually March 21st.  But around here, it’s already Spring…but not Spring enough.  Like Spring everywhere, the temperature is very variable, and can’t make up its mind about whether it wants to be warm or cold.

When I lived in Iowa, I once went to…Home Depot?  In March.  I said to the guy at the counter, You don’t have any tomato plants for sale.   He said, You aren’t from around here, are you?  We don’t sell those until May.  Of course, his first clue was probably the Southern accent.

Then, as in now, I want Spring to hurry up and get here. I’ve started to seriously long for the late afternoons and early evenings after work, when I can sit at my beloved little picnic table in the back yard until it’s dark, and read.  I at least try to stay out until dusk, when I might see bats.  I love watching the forest behind my house, seeing it turn from lime green to dark green;  seeing and hearing the birds; watching the sun set.  Sometimes I stay out so late that it’s hard to find my way back to the house.  Sure, I know the right direction to go…it’s that the ground is very uneven because the Doberman (RIP) dug so many holes in it.

This year I’ll have to be even more careful since I broke my leg.  I expect my left ankle to be very weak, and I can’t afford to step in a hole.  I’m going to have to invest in a good flashlight, and not stay out so late.

The downside of being at the picnic table in spring is that I have to share it with a lot of insects.  Spiders, ants, caterpillars, carpenter bees, mosquitos, and some sort of nameless thing that bites, to name a few.  As for mosquitos–I have that covered.  Me and Cutter are BFF’s.  None of the other critters seem to be impressed by my friend Cutter.

I really can’t overemphasize how important it is to me to be able to come home and sit at my picnic table. For one thing, it’s decompression.  My whole work life is in the public eye, which has both its good and bad points.  Many times it’s very fun…I get to see and meet funny and amazing people.  Then there are the bad points, where I have to do bad things like…threaten to call the police (and sometimes actually do it), or correct an employee.  Shockingly, employees rarely respond with “You’re entirely right”.  But even the good times are stressful to an extent, because you never know which kind of encounter you’re going to have.  Ergo, decompression.  Me, by myself, recovering peace and equilibrium.

But a bigger part, I think, is that I need sun and warmth.  In other words, I’m pretty sure I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  And what a great acronym is that?  I can tell you that the day Daylight Saving Time ends in November is the worst day of my life, every year.  I am instantly depressed and look at December and January as an ordeal that must be endured.  February is fine…because if it isn’t already Spring, then you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Daylight Saving Time

My favorite day of the year is rapidly approaching.  That would be the day of the Winter Solstice, when the days start to get longer.  At least in the middle of northern hemisphere where I live.

My used-to-be favorite day was the day DST started.  Now it has been extended from some time in March until early November.  Only when this happened did I start to ask, Why?

I always thought that the idea of DST was to give farmers more daylight hours to harvest crops.  Now from what I read, the idea was to conserve energy, so that people used less incandescent light.  Really?  What is wrong with this picture, logically speaking?  You use artificial light in the morning, you use it in the evening.  What’s the difference? Did farm wives cook breakfast in the dark? I don’t think so.

Why don’t we just measure time naturally, by the way the Earth turns?  Since we sort of invented time anyway, why don’t we just stick to the program we agreed on in the beginning and stop messing with it?

I more or less hate real time. In real time, it gets dark this time of year around 5:30 P.M.  In summer, it gets dark at 9:00 P.M.  Which is due to DST, because it adds an hour.  Otherwise, it would be dark at 8:00 P.M.

I ask you:  what difference does that really make?  You either get up in the dark, or you go to bed in the dark, and sometimes both.  Making the clock say a different thing is really pointless.

I have a lot of trouble with DST.  I’m fairly good with the “fall back” part when we get an extra hour of sleep, but I’m terrible with the “spring forward” part when we lose an hour of sleep.  Regardless of whether we are on DST or standard time, here is something you can count on:  I will always be late for work.

In summer, I can come home from work and have three hours to read and watch the wildlife in my back yard.  And decompress.  In winter, I come home and it’s already too dark to read outside.  Also, it’s too cold to sit at the picnic table in my back yard, but cold isn’t as much of an issue to me as light.

I need light.  I need warm too (that’s why I live in Florida).

But north Florida is not as warm as I’d like.  (Into every life, a little rain must fall.)  I used to live in south Florida, and in the winter it was too cold for me too. I need to live in like, Guatemala.  I wonder if they have DST?