Home has always been more strange than familiar.
This is a video clip I found while going through old stuff on my computer today. It shows my sister throwing rocks into the lake by our house. You can hear Nana laughing. I’m also laughing to myself right now because the clip is actually labeled “WhatWeDoforFuninFlorida.mov” in my videos folder.
I make fun of Florida a lot. I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life. It’s quite a strange place to live, to be honest, if you don’t know anything about it outside of your occasional trip down to Disney World (or any of the other theme parks) or to Sanibel Island for the nice beaches. Although, if you watch the news enough, you might know something about how often people get murdered too. The perpetual heat makes people do crazy things, I think. I also live in one of the most popular counties (and attended one of the most overcrowded universities), so it is the very definition of hot and crowded.
Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, often uses Florida as fodder for her fiction, spinning it into her own mythology and an eccentric ensemble of characters. I write about it sometimes too. I write about neighbors and neighborhoods a lot, and hurricane parties. I remember writing a short story once about a gated community where the neighbors all gather outside after a hurricane has passed them over. That’s one unique experience that I’ve lived through quite a few times. It’s an interesting experience seeing all the people gather into the streets – sometimes people you hardly know at all – and sit down together to share some lunch, games, and conversation.
Other than that, I write about escape too. I think about leaving. Really, there isn’t much here to see besides all the housing communities, shopping plazas, and miles and miles of sprawl. I sometimes wonder how things would’ve been different if I grew up in a city in New York instead, which is where my parents are from. How different it is there. I wonder if I would’ve grown up into a writer at all. I say this because, as a child, boredom and an overactive imagination were a potent combination, and Florida – despite how much I pick it apart – has proven to be the perfect place to grow something like that. New York would’ve made the process almost too easy, maybe, for something like that to happen. Maybe all the color and culture would’ve been too much – there would’ve been less reason for me to write as a kid because the stories would be happening to me instead of me having to make them up for myself.
Edit: I received a comment about this post elsewhere discussing how I was implying that people who come from the city are more likely to have a weak imagination, which is obviously not true. Plenty of great writers come from such environments and I didn’t mean to insinuate that. This post is more speculation about my own personal trajectory.