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Florida survival: a menu and map

Warning: Don't feed the snowbirds.

Published February 17, 2006

They may look all cute and cuddly. Standing outside on a blustery February day in their white T-shirts and their white tennis shoes, middle of a parking lot, like no one else exists.

"Can you tell me. Where is the Shells?"

It closed.

"It closed? How could it close?"

It just did.

"Did it move? Can we still go there?"

The new one's supposed to open up on Van Dyke Road sometime.

"We know Van Dyke Road. We have a friend who lives off Van Dyke Road. Now is there somewhere else where we can go for seafood? We like seafood!"

Of course some large woman, all the while, is leaning on her car door, looking all annoyed because we're standing in a prime parking spot by Starbucks.

So in one fell swoop we have offended two tourists and a native.

Note to everyone who has ever known me: I do not live near Fort Lauderdale.

One of my old high school friends, e-mailing to announce her April trip there, wisely "looked at a map." So she's not insisting that I meet her for cocktails.

But the rest want to meet in Disney.

Disney. Why does it have to be Disney? Okay, so are you springing for the tickets? And driving my kids to Hebrew school and soccer and doing my job for me while I'm galavanting around the state?

Don't feed the snowbirds.

My young friend Amber was on deadline, middle of a Friday afternoon, when an old college friend asked her to pop on over to Orlando in the teeming rain and keep her company after a cruise.

I don't like to tell people what to do. But I did. And what I witnessed next was a rite of passage for any Floridian.

"I'm sorry. I just can't hang out with you. It's raining so hard they're closing off roads here. And I'm working."

Take comfort, Amber. It gets easier.

I want to fly into Boston one day, call my friends in New York and ask them to hop in the car and meet me. On a work day.

I want to stand in the middle of 42nd and Broadway, flag down some merger-and-acquisition lawyer and demand that he tell me where to go for Chinese food.

I really and truly want to invite a middle-class working mother in Los Angeles to meet me at Caesar's Palace on the Strip.

Sometimes I forget that we are, for all intents and purposes, Cancun to the people we left behind, and I wish they would pack wads of $1 bills and peel them off when we indulge them.

Do you apologize for the weather? Be honest. Do you?

They'll ask, what is it with these Floridians? Sunburn on the brain? Hurricanes knocked all the good sense out of them? Do they dare take the tourist dollar for granted?

Yea, maybe. But it's like this:

a) I know you have no wad of singles.

And b) I don't want to die under the wheel of a fat lady buying coffee.

[Last modified February 16, 2006, 17:36:02]

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