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Off/beat

Holiday spirit hard to find here

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published November 24, 2005


Today is Thanksgiving. I know this. The calendar tells me it's true.

I have an invite to eat and drink at Fort DeSoto. On the beach. This was the idea of my fun new Floridian friend. She said something about a flaming pineapple.

When in Rome.

But I have to admit: My seasonal body clock is all out of whack.

I moved here not quite six months ago. The numbers say I am not alone. Some 7,000 people who did not live in Hernando County a year ago at this time live here now, and that kind of growth is going on up and down the North Suncoast, of course, and all over Florida, all of which means I am one of many who are starting their first holiday season in the Sunshine State.

And I'm having some trouble manufacturing a case of the fa-la-las.

I was born in California, grew up in Massachusetts, went to school in North Carolina and came here from New York, so I'm certainly no one-place pony - but Florida is different.

I got here in early June.

The air felt like wet wool.

At 7 a.m.

Since then, there were, like, three Julys, a couple of hurricanes blew by, high school football happened, and I swear I saw some trick-or-treaters crossing a busy Spring Hill street.

Something is changing.

Some sort of seasonal shift.

I wore a hoodie one evening earlier this week to go to Ruby Tuesday for 2-for-1 Killians.

The other day the heat was on at the Mariner Boulevard YMCA. Or at least the air conditioning was off. Even thin people were sweating.

Outside the big American flag was straight with wind and a few crinkly brown leaves were skittering across the blacktop lot. Fall? Hello? Is that you?

But it still doesn't feel like Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving feels like tight cold-cleaned cheeks.

Thanksgiving smells like firewood.

Thanksgiving means Christmas is coming.

Last week, though, when the twinkling lights and the cotton-ball snow-scape went up next to the metal detector at the courthouse in Brooksville, I thought that was weird.

Some folks put up a tree in the lobby of the St. Petersburg Times' Hernando office on State Road 50 across from the 7-Eleven. They decorated. I thought that was weird.

Last weekend at a pool party down in St. Pete I ate a cupcake decorated to look like a little turkey. I thought that was really weird. And not because I hadn't eaten a cupcake since the fifth grade.

On Monday, there was a woman wearing flip-flops in front of Publix ringing that hand-held bell to make folks put money in a bucket for the Salvation Army.

Weird.

On Tuesday I drove by a house on Spring Hill Drive that had a whole mess of reindeer and whatnot set up out on a front yard that smelled like just-cut grass.

Weird.

Then a couple of press releases appeared in my e-mail inbox this week.

One was for the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce's Holiday Golf Extravaganza next week at Silverthorn Country Club.

The other was for the annual tree lighting ceremony the week after that at the courthouse.

They didn't help.

Today, though, on the beach at Fort DeSoto, there will be sand and water and the sunset over the gulf.

And a flaming pineapple.

And . . . Thanksgiving.

I'm looking forward to it.

"We'll probably get to the beach around early afternoon, start up the fires, blow up the beach balls and football," wrote my fun new Floridian friend, who, by the way, is from outside Pittsburgh.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

[Last modified November 24, 2005, 00:18:19]


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