LAWLESS: LOVING IT AND NOT IN SOUTH FLORIDA
For the traveler—and the local, too—there’s a sort of lawlessness—a coast-to-coast sensation—when you’re in South Florida, below the Lake Okeechobee shoreline.
Our guide—Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, published by the WPA in 1939—says it in plain words: “Florida is at once a continuation of the Deep South and the beginning of a new realm.”
And in that new realm, you do whatever the hell it is you want to do. You see it in the faces of those just passing through to the faces of the snowbird, the country cracker, the Miccosukee, the Cuban, the black American—anyone and everyone.
But, it’s not that you’re up to no good if you’re in these parts. No, because down here you’ve either been left to yourself or abandoned outright—something you either fought for and won or fought against and lost. That’s the prettiness and the ugliness of the place.
Just ask our guide: “Throughout more than four centuries, from Ponce de Leon in his caravels to the latest Pennsylvanian in his Buick”—You can throw in Walt Disney, HMO-barons, spring-break bros and hoes, and sub-prime mortgage lenders—”Florida has been invaded by seekers of gold or of sunshine. The result of all of this is a material and immaterial pattern of infinite variety, replete with contrasts, paradoxes, confusions, and inconsistencies.”
"Seekers of gold or of sunshine"—that’s a damn fine line to walk: between the Freedom—with a capital F—that we all seek and the temptations and trappings of its pursuit.
It’s all the “seekers of gold or of sunshine” where that lawless feeling comes from.
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Tom McNamara is the co-editor of THE AMERICAN GUIDE.