What’s up with all the sinkholes? Makes me glad I don’t make my home in Florida, a state seeming rife with them. Last week a building in a resort near Disney World was swallowed up while patrons slept, narrowly allowing them time to escape. To add to the woes of a state greatly dependent on tourist dollars, the beautiful sandy beaches bringing tourists to Florida’s doorstep are running out of sand. That’s like Hawaii running out of palm trees, pineapples, or, um, Hawaiians. Without glorious sandy beaches what would be the draw? “Come to Florida a hot, humid peninsula prone to hurricanes, largely populated with swamps, reptiles, and senior citizens in Speedos.” In desperation, along with what seems like everything else in our beloved country these days, sand is now being outsourced.
I have visited Florida, but unlike many states in the U.S., never received mail there. One of my dear friends, Sal, now living in beautiful Ashland, Washington, was born and raised in Southern Florida. Before relocating to California she and her first husband and their two boys called home a rental butting up against a canal. As she tells it, “the back yard was lush, as areas with easy access to waterways tend to be, particularly where the humidity is high”. Toys strewn here and there signaled the presence of two active toddlers somewhere on the premises. A one car family, on days weather permitting when they were afoot the yard was their playground. The kitchen window provided a lovely view of the eucalyptus marching in line along the banks of the canal. One afternoon while the children napped she noticed what appeared to be a huge log lying by the abandoned Big Wheel in the center of the lawn. Slightly myopic, she grabbed her glasses and went out the back door to investigate. Glasses perched on her nose the “log” disappeared and in its place a huge alligator came into focus. For me any alligator measuring over 6″ would be considered huge. Signalling his displeasure at being disturbed mid siesta, he hunched down on short fat legs and commenced to racing in her direction at an alarming speed. “Mommy”, oh sorry, that would be what I’d say.
Animal control was contacted and a pair of he-men referring to themselves to as “alligator wranglers” showed up to do battle not long afterward. Before going in the yard to face down the beast, they warned Sally to keep an eye on the small Pomeranian circling her feet as alligators had a preference for small dogs, and also to be aware they weren’t averse to sampling little boys for special occasions. Stereotypically, the men wore leather hats with clothing to match, one having a band of leather around both wrists with spikes protruding from each band. Of the two, the most colorful she described as heavy-set with nearly more tattoos than skin to bear them, numerous piercings on his face, and sporting a pair of alligator boots, an ironic touch. Watching these two unlikely heroes wrestle with the testy reptile, finally taping his jaws shut and maneuvering him into the truck, she was so relieved she said she could have married one of them, nose rings and all. Never again did she view her backyard with the same casual eye. For me having issues with something as small as a wasp, I would have moved. Let me restate, I would have moved that day.
Along with the scaly carnivores there are large flying cockroaches indigenous to the area, better known as Palmetto bugs. Lured by the promise of food and attracted to moisture, a kitchen in Florida is made to order for these bugs to unpack their duffel bags and set up camp. I’m sorry, but any bug the size of a small meat loaf is not welcome any time, anywhere in my home. Once, in Alabama, I opened the closet door in my kitchen and found one attached to my ironing board. It was the scream heard round the world. In spite of the intense summer heat, I sat outside in the shade until my husband returned from work and performed a catch and release before venturing back inside the house.
If the alligators and the cockroaches don’t grab you, how about the slinky slithery types? Sal said she spied several cottonmouths sunning on the banks behind her house and her neighbor had a boa constrictor catching rays on her front porch. Sand or no sand, I don’t believe I’m going to have a FL behind my city name any time in the near future.
When I am “fully retired” I think the ideal situation for me would be to live in every state I’ve missed for one year. Perhaps I could omit Kansas and Oklahoma for obvious weather reasons, and Florida because I have been there and feel that is enough. Definitely I would like to have a go at Montana and Wyoming, if limiting these two to Spring through fall leaving winter to heartier inhabitants. I’ve often been curious about Alaska and would love to visit, but I am a human who craves light and to be without it I’m afraid I would wither and die. So this still leaves a healthy list of places to go and see. Right on top is the Grand Canyon which is coming up next year, or perhaps the World’s Largest Ball of Paint or the Corn Palace. So many things to see and do. Guess I’ll have to hang around til I’m at least a hundred to pack them all in.
Anyhow, here’s a corn dish that’s worth visiting. Really good.
Creamed Corn with Grilled Peppers
1 red bell pepper, grilled, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 bunch scallions, chopped whites and greens separated
3 cups cooked corn (you can use frozen but fresh is the best)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash or two of Tabasco, optional
Preheat grill to high. Place peppers directly on grill. Cook about 20 mins. until quite charred on the outside. Remove and place immediately in a resealable plastic bag or large bowl covered with plastic. Allow to remain in plastic for about 1/2 hour. Cut hole around stem and pull out. Slice peppers in half and remove seeds. Skins should peel off easily. Slice in thin strips and chop. Set aside.
Heat butter in large skillet over med. heat. Add garlic, white chopped scallions and red pepper flakes. Cook about 6 mins. to soften.
Add corn and cream and mix well. Allow to simmer for 10 mins. until thickened.