All Crossroads Lead South

Life is filled with crossroads. But for those of us who grew up in New York, there comes a time when we are faced with the most important crossroad of all – the time when we must move to Florida.

For me, that decision came in 1989, when after years of subway commutes from my home in Flatbush Brooklyn to my job at ABC Television on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I woke up one cold, dark winter morning and decided the time had come.

It wasn’t really an epiphany. I’d struggled with the decision for years. But as an only child first-generation Cuban woman, I found it hard to leave my parents and move hundreds of miles away.

Despite their support and blessings, I felt that leaving them would be the equivalent of abandonment.

I’ll spare you the shaggy dog details. Suffice it to say that in January of 1989, I boarded an Amtrak train to Miami and, 17 years later, I have yet to use the return ticket.

It’s a decision I’ve never regretted and one that’s taught me countless lessons about life, love, family and who I am.

With the lessons came even more questions … important, life-altering questions to which there seem to be no answers. Questions like …

Why doesn’t Florida have an ‘upstate?’

If you’re from New York and you tell someone you’re from upstate, they immediately know you’re from someplace up near the Canadian border … and they give you that smile that says, “You poor dear. You’re not from the real New York.” You know, the City.

Yet tell a native Floridian (the two that are left) that you’re going upstate and they look at you like you have Cheerios coming out of your ears.

When was the last time you heard someone from the Florida Panhandle refer to themselves as from ‘upstate’?

Another question that has gnawed at me through the years is …

Why don’t people in Florida believe in California?

The first time I visited friends in Los Angeles after moving to South Florida, I told several neighbors that I was going to the west coast.

“Oh, really?” was the reply. “Do your friends live in Tampa or Naples?”

Think about it. When Floridians tell you they’re going to the west coast, you can bet they’re planning a trip across Alligator Alley. It’s as if they think the big earthquake hit California and took out everything west of Pensacola with it.

The third and perhaps most baffling question of all is …

Does blood really thin?

Every winter, transplanted New Yorkers love to use the blood-thinning phenomenon to justify turning on their heaters the minute the temperatures dip below 70 degrees.

Those were the same people who years before they moved to Florida could be seen walking around South Beach in shorts and tank tops on that rare winter day when temperatures don’t make it into the 70s, while locals shivered beneath layers of clothing.

But now that they live here, the ex-northerners will tell you their blood has thinned. That’s why, 70-degree temperatures now require them to turn up their heaters and dress in layers.

You can spot the locals a mile away in Florida. They’re the ones walking around in fur, gloves and a hat while the tourists swim in the ocean.

So, I leave you with those questions to ponder and welcome any answers or additional questions you might have about transplanted northerners.

I, however, have to go turn up the heater. It’s 69 degrees outside and I have to pack my corduroys and parka for a trip to the west coast to visit friends in Tampa.

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