In all honesty, I must confess that I didn’t come to Kentucky directly from New Yawk. I was in exile for 17 hot, sticky years in Daytona Beach, Florida, where I was the only person who didn’t salivate at the mention of NASCAR. Many New Yawkers don’t drive – they don’t need to, because public transportation and feet can take them wherever they really care to go (which is usually, as you’ve probably guessed, other neighborhoods in the city). Most Gothamites who do own a car, pay to keep it in a garage because it’s dangerous to leave a vehicle in the street, what with thieves and alternate-side-of-the street-parking regulations. Renting space in a garage for a car is like getting a second apartment for a child who always forgets to honk at you on your birthday.
Anyway, I could never see the point of so-called motor sports. Where’s everybody heading in such a big rush? Nowhere, right? The drivers just go around and around for hours and hours. New Yawk drivers without garage spaces have to do that every time they need to find a parking place. You want to see fast and dangerous in an unbearable climate? Watch people race for a seat on the Number 6.
Florida is a great place to live, but only if you bite. It’s best if you’re an alligator, a mosquito, or a habanero pepper. Even if you happen to be human, you’re better off with a toothy grin, so you can smile away the fact that there’s absolutely zero sense of the passage of time. Years fry by with no Fall, no Winter, no Spring. There’s nothing but Endless Summer, regardless of what the calendar says. The only way you can identify what month you’re in is to check out the decorations at the mall.
OK, it’s not completely true that there are no seasons in Florida. There’s Fire season, followed by Hurricane season, followed by Tornado season, with maybe a couple of weeks of “Hey, it finally cooled off; where are my long pants?” thrown in.
Every single day that I spent in the Sunstroke State, I woke up thinking, “In six months, I’ll move back home, when I’ve saved enough to afford a Manhattan rental again.” In recent years, as prices climbed, I began to think, “In six months, when I win the lottery.” Or, last year: “In six months, if Obama wins.” I longed for a different environment, and wasn’t he the candidate of change?
I’m not saying that nothing good ever came of my sojourn there. Not long after I’d moved to Florida, I met my wife (although we were not married at the time). About half a minute into our first conversation, I commented on her southern “drawl.” For a true New Yawker, any woman who speaks English better than Ruby Keeler did is considered to have a foreign accent. My wife-to-be told me that I was imagining things, that she didn’t sound a bit southern. She said she was from Kentucky. Well, I told her, New Yawkers consider Kentucky to be part of the south, even though, yeah, it didn’t officially fight against us in the Civil War. But Tennessee did, right?
The next thing I asked was if she was related to Daniel Boone. She countered by wondering aloud if I was descended from Woody Allen. Then we both complained about the heat.
It’s essentially because of the success of that conversation that I wound up, many years later, moving to Kentucky. Obama’s election had nothing to do with it.