Hey, quick question: does the above image of a tranquil beach scene remind you, even just a little bit, of a rat’s mouth? I ask because I took this picture in a place called Rat Mouth, Florida, which is where I spent most of the last six days. And by the way, I guess I should mention that technically this place isn't actually called Rat Mouth, at least not by anyone but me. The Floridian locals, along with the rest of the free world, refer to it as Boca Raton. Maybe you've heard of it. But look, Florida, I took Level 1 Spanish in high school, and I know that "boca" means "mouth" and "raton" means "rat." You can't get something like that by me. Soy muy inteligente.
But let me assure you, from my experience, there was nothing rat-mouthy about Boca Raton, Florida at all. The streets were lined with palm trees, the beaches were all white sands and clear, blue waters, and no joke, one of the grocery stores I visited had a valet. It's literally one of the fanciest places I've ever visited.
|I swear I thought this place was a resort or some kind of private university.|
So perhaps there is some cute story behind why this resort town was named after a rodent's mouth. I could google it and know the answer almost instantly, but I prefer to speculate wildly (for example, perhaps a five-year-old named it or maybe the town lost some sort of bet).
AAAAANYWAY, all of that being said, this last week I was in Florida. My hubs was there attending a conference and the generous folks who flew him down offered to fly me down with him and of course I took them up on that offer because FLORIDA. Who turns down a free trip to Florida? Not me.
I had not been there since I was nine-years-old, so I couldn't quite remember what the fuss was about. I mean, I've got some friends who hail from that part of the world, and sure, I've seen Golden Girls. Plus, I've read lots of articles about Floridians finding live pythons in their toilets (if you google "florida + snake + toilet," you will wish you hadn't), but apart from that, I knew next to nothing of the sunshine state.
But man, once I got there, I fell in love. If you've never been, here's the deal:
In Florida, when you step out of your front door, your glasses fog up immediately due to the ungodly humidity, but somehow you just don't care because everything else is perfect. The streets are drivable, the people have a southern charmy thing going on, the sand is really, really soft, and pink and lime green are acceptable colors for cars. It's a miracle of a place.
But then there were also parts of Boca that were really was just like any other town in America. CVS on the corner, Super Target down the road, soup served in bread bowls -- that sort of thing. And that's probably what I loved most about this particular trip. Whenever I visit towns like this, I immediately feel a strange sense of comfort. Seeing a big shopping center equipped with a Red Lobster, Payless, and a Chuck-E-Cheese is like taking a long, deep breath. And being able to park a car in a massive parking lot with hundreds of spaces to choose from -- it's bliss.
|This sight is strangely soothing to me.|
While all of this might sound strange, you have to remember: I live in this place called New York City, and in New York City, everything is weird. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's also arguably the best place on earth. But while most American cities are set against a backdrop of Walmarts and overpasses, New York is characterized by hole-in-the-wall restaurants, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and mom-and-pop shops that can close simply because the owners are tired. Of course, these are all great reasons why people, including myself, move to this city in the first place, but these are also sometimes the things that make life here feel a bit unfamiliar.
I grew up in a normal-sized city of strip malls and convenient fast food options, and now that I live in this place of so much unpredictability, I sometimes find myself longing for the ease of my old suburban life. Of course, there are plenty of not-so-great things to be said about these cookie-cutter shopping center landscapes that make up much of small town America. But I have to admit, the dependability of being able to drive to my local HEB (or feel free to insert whatever grocery chain is close to your heart) and just fill a shopping cart full of generic products that I can then place in my trunk instead of having to haul everything on a train or down the street in one of those granny carts -- I will never take such a thing for granted again.
That said, Boca Raton was a welcome change of pace over the last few days. Still, at the end of the day, there is nothing quite like coming home to a view like this:
Still love this weird city. I'll take Pizza Rat over Rat Mouth any day of the week.