Now Face North

Miami is not my favorite place in the world.

This should not come as a surprise to long-time readers of Hidden City, and cannot possibly be surprising to those who know me personally. My tendency to sweat any time the temperature rises above 70° F is legendary, as are my complaints about it. At one time I even considered using the tagline, “Bitching about the Miami heat for over forty years,” but realized that people might get the idea I care about basketball.

A reasonable person might ask why I haven’t moved away, if I hate it so much. In fact, a good number of reasonable people — and a few unreasonable people — have done just that. The answer, though, is a bit complicated.

(I doubt that comes as a surprise to anyone, either.)

MKH with his mother, Carbondale, Illinois, 1960
Carbondale, Illinois, 1960

I was born in Paducah, Kentucky. My parents were living in Carbondale, Illinois, at the time. (These things happen.) Sometimes I wonder if this discontinuity between birthplace and first home — coupled with the frequent trips back and forth between the two to visit my grandparents — is the root cause of my lack of passion regarding place. Most other people feel a strong tie to their country of origin, their city of birth, or even where they have chosen to live; I never have. Oh sure, when people ask I tell them I’m from Kentucky, that my family’s heritage is Irish (mostly), but I’ve never lived in the former, and never been to the latter. As far as where I’ve chosen to live, well, so far I haven’t.

For the first few years of my life we moved around various towns in the Southern Illinois area, eventually ending up back in Carbondale, where we owned our first home. It was a brand new place in a new subdivision, with a bay window in the living room for my mother to decorate, and empty lot behind clearly intended to get young boys filthy. Once there we settled in. I made real friends, began to understand the world around me, and at age ten I even fell in love. This was the universe’s cue have my father transferred to Florida.

In August of 1970 we moved into an older home in the older community of Plantation. There was no bay window for my mother, only turquoise cabinets and terrazzo floors. And while there was plenty of sand and dirt for us to play in, there were also fire ants and sand spurs to keep us from having too much fun. My father was good at his job, though, and eventually we were able to make a good home of the place, even if my mother never did get over the loss of her bay window.

Excepting my brief stint away at college, I lived in that house until I’d left my teenage years behind. When I moved into my own place — a one room efficiency near Fort Lauderdale Airport — I stayed there for years, even through having two roommates. Friends would ask me why I didn’t move into a larger place, but it just didn’t matter enough for me to make the effort.

Plantation, 1972
Plantation, 1972

Eventually the building was sold, and I was forced to move. There followed a rather chaotic period of sudden relocations, tragic circumstances, and even a (thankfully brief) period of homelessness. When the dust settled I’d moved through more South Florida communities — Miramar, Hollywood, Hallandale — before landing with my eventual wife in Plantation again. I stayed in that apartment for many years, until my separation forced another move, this one taking me out of Broward County and into the wilds of Miami.

I’ve lived in this small house in a slice of unincorporated Miami-Dade County for more than a decade, the longest I’ve ever lived in a single place. I’ve lived here through my divorce, hurricanes, burglaries, deaths, and being laid off from the longest term job I’ve ever had. You would think that if I was going to form an attachment to a place, it would be this one.

I haven’t.

In truth, the only place so far to which I’ve developed a strong sense of place is the Internet. Since childhood I’ve lived largely in my mind: reading stories, telling tales, puzzling out people and the world (and myself) from the relative safety of my skull. I’m attached to my stuff, sure — often too attached, if I’m to be honest — but the most important items I own, the tools I use to live in the world, are all inside me. The Internet gave me a place to store those tools and memories, a place to form friendships which won’t end due to an unexpected move, a world to explore: a place to live.

Today, it’s as close to a home as I have found.

House at 103
Miami-Dade County, 2003

So again, if the things most important to me are intangible, and I don’t have any particular attachment to the area, why do I stay? Why keep whining about the blistering summer sun? Why stay in a region dominated by politicians who aren’t just corrupt, but are arrogantly corrupt? Why stay in a place which — while improving culturally — has little to offer my admittedly esoteric taste? Why stay in a place where the state’s leadership is committed to besting Arizona for the title of “Batshit Craziest Legislators in America”? Why stay in the worst urban job market in the nation, when the state’s prospects continue to trend downward?

I’d have to be stupid to stay.

There are good reasons. I know my way around South Florida, both geographically and culturally. People I love and care about are here, including my father and brother and sister in law. My cats are here and my stuff is here. My history is here. And yes: Moving is insanely difficult, and expensive, and a lot of work, and more than a little bit scary, even at this age. Especially at this age.

I’d have to be stupid to leave.

This is a dilemma.


These last two years I’ve had a lot of time to think, perhaps too much time. Over and over I’ve been counseled to get out of Florida for professional reasons; over and over I’ve stayed put, certain that things would work themselves out in the end. Eventually it became obvious — even to me — that the reasons to stay were becoming outweighed by the reasons to go. In the end I came to wonder: Have I become too old and lazy and frightened to save myself?

“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” or so the saying goes. Well, at the end of August, nearly forty-one years to the day after I moved here, I’m going to stop bitching about the Florida weather.

I’m going to start bitching about the weather in Washington, DC.

24 thoughts on “Now Face North”

  1. My friend, I think I can declare myself an expert in totally turning one’s life upside down. (At our age!) Hugs to you, and may you learn as I have, my support net of friends made the move with me. Friends are friends on or off the interwebz. See you in September…

  2. That’s a wow! We’ll have to get right on the last hurrah for you.

    I hope you find your new home and new sense of place there. In the meantime, you know where to find all of your “internet friends.”

    I’m real happy for you my friend. Oh and great entry.


  3. I only wish I didn’t have the roots I do otherwise I would be out of this place, too…for many of the same reasons.

    I’ve spent some time in DC but never lived there. There are a number of ways that it’s like South Florida (population diversity, summer heat, cost of living) but many in which it’s not (sophistication, seasons, decent mass transit).

    It’s going to be fun reading how you adjust.

    Lots and lots of good vibes your way.


  4. I can’t wait until you bitch about traffic and snow and corrupt politicians. Kudos on the decision! And remember… Lift with your knees, not with your back.

  5. You will find the dragon-snot heat and humidity in the DC area worse than here, just not as long-lasting.

    While I am sorry to see you go, I’m happy that you arrived at a decision and will take the plunge. I’ll remember you as Blogger I, on the web long before I even knew what a weblog was. Best of luck in whatever you choose and please stay in touch. Godspeed, wind at your back, and all that.

  6. I went to high school there, in Rockville MD. My old high school, is where GW Bush made his Patriot speech: appropriate, because we were the Wootton High School Patriots.
    Here’s what to know about the summers in DC: they are just as humid as Miami, but hotter because there is no ocean to keep things cool. The winters are mild, but any small amount of snow shuts the entire region down.
    But spring and fall are gorgeous! Nothing is prettier than a bike ride up the C&O Canal towpath, along Rock Creek Park. Heck, lots of great scenery, and historic places to visit.
    And the culture – world class museums, a vibrant theatre scene, you will never want for something to see or do.

  7. Speaking as someone who has lived in about fourteen different places in my life — I have a hell of a collection of license plates — I offer my best wishes and hopes for you.

  8. Loved this! The DMV is a great place to live. You will enjoy every single minute of it — including the July/August heat because you know October is right around the corner. Now, the winters…that’s another story. I’m happy to be able to say “see you in DC!”.

  9. Thank you, friends. This is tough — and more than a little scary — but I know I’m making the right decision.

    Trust me, if you keep following me after the move, I doubt I’ll run out of things to complain about and comment on.

    Oh, and Squat? I think I’d rather be South Florida’s Blogger I, than its blogging Patient Zero.

  10. Of course, I’m sad to see SoFla lose another brilliant person, but I am confident this will all turn out for the better for you. I know we didn’t get to know one another very well, but you were always so warm and welcoming and made me feel good. I know you’ve had a rough go of things these past few years, like many of us … this change might be everything you’ve been needing!

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you and we’ll continue to be internet buddies!

  11. Laura: You have to share them with Fluffy. Don’t hog them all.

    Lori: That is really, really sweet of you to say. I hope we’ll run into each other again before I go, but if not, of course we’ll remain digi-friends!

  12. You will love DC. I’m sorry to see you going…I love the little house in Miami Shores. Forever in my mind will be us reminiscing and “tubular bells”….

  13. Can one miss someone they have yet to meet in person? Because I will, my dear LOST buddy. If we can’t meet up here before you leave I’ll join you in DC at the Smithsonian! Best wishes and lots of success. I hope you find your way! Remember, “Not all those who wander are lost.” xo

  14. I really hate to see you go dear friend, but I *know* this is the best thing for you and honestly I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Lots of courage to you, onward and upward! I’m sure good things will come from this turn.

  15. Good for you! I’ve been trying to leave this hell hole for years, and still am trying. All the best to you man!

    Some Blogging Guy

    PS: Whatever you do, keep writing!

  16. man, you better start yer bitchin’ fast, cause DC is only awful for about 4-6 weeks in an infamous summer. the rest of the year it is an unbelievably gorgeous place. get settled and we’ll show you around. 🙂

  17. Hello future neighbor! We should join some DC blogging networks together 🙂 Where will you be living? Shoot me an e-mail!

  18. Can I just say that I’m finding it fascinating that I haven’t even finished packing yet, and already I am making friends in DC? Hell, I still don’t know the names of my Miami neighbors!

    Thank you again for all the kind and supportive comments. They mean a lot to me, truly.

  19. I’m looking forward to some exciting new posts about your new adentures. Yes, moving away from what you have known and loved/ hated for years is sooo unnerving and hard but whatever is meant to be will be. In the words shared with me by one of the smartest, nicest and most intelligent bosses I’ve had – said to me three months ago, “Don’t look back! 🙂 ” -Jim Melzer

    Safe travels and stay in touch!

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