Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Greetings from the Sunshine State.

Well, so much for writing here regularly.

Anyway, bitches, here I am. And where am I, pray-tell? Currently, I am seated on a chair in a room in a hotel in Lakeland, which is in Florida. It's my Seventh Annual Spring Training Baseball and First Sunburn Of the Year trip, and so far it's fulfilled both criteria:
  1. spring training baseball
  2. sunburn
Because I'm exceptionally pale -- they'd probably let me in the door at the Albino Convention -- I managed to get a pretty nice pink glow today. Part of it was my fault, as I'd forgotten to put on sunscreen before the game. But a good chunk of it goes to Mother Nature herself, because until noon it was either pouring rain or just sorta dreary and misty, thereby allowing me to forget the aforementioned sunscreen. What a bitch, eh?

Today's game was on the Gulf coast of Florida, in the city of Clearwater, against the Phillies. I've never been to Clearwater before, and I didn't really get to see much of it, but it's close to Tampa, and Tampa is a god damn hell hole. Ergo, there's bound to be some spillover to Clearwater, right?

(Actually, I don't think that's true at all. Clearwater is much closer to the coast than Tampa is, and the places on the coast tend to be tourstified/fancy/at-least-presentable. So there's that. If anything, Clearwater would form a barrier protecting the coast from the shittiness of Tampa, and vice-versa.)

After the game, instead of diving elbows-deep into Tampa's notoriously bad rush-hour freeway traffic -- the intersection of 275 and 4 is referred to as "Malfunction Junction" -- I decided to head up the coast a bit on US-19 to see what was up there. What I observed can be summarized in a bullet-point list.
  • oodles of billboards frequently advertising things such as...
    • vasectomies (including "No incision! No scalpel!" and an assurance that the doctor in question has performed over 26,000 such procedures)
    • plastic surgery of various flavours (chiefly liposuction)
    • personal-injury lawyers (including one with a female lawyer which asks rhetorically, "Have you ever argued with a woman?")
    • a picture of a cute baby and the caption, "My heart starts beating 18 days after conception!" -- so, presumably, something right-to-life-ish
  • gas station after gas station, all puzzlingly displaying different prices (in Toronto most of the stations move in perfect lock-step, except for full-serve ones which are consistently 0.4 cents per litre higher than self-serve)
  • the red/green cycle on traffic lights is WAY longer here than in Canada, which makes for some idiotically-long backups
  • lotsa churches, man
The jewels of the US aren't often found along these crazy-busy, strip-mall, chain-store roads. They're found in the smaller places, the independent stores, the places that you need to dig a little to find. Hell, tonight I had dinner at a little Turkish restaurant in downtown Lakeland, and it was fantastic (and not out on US-98 with the Applebee's and the Hooters and the TGI Friday's).

That's why I'd love to go back to France -- I visited Paris in 2001 for a week in July, and it was insanely busy and touristy -- but go to a much smaller place. I think it'd be amazing to find a little place in the middle of nowhere, where few people speak English (if any), and just chill out there for a week, forced to sharpen my rusty grade 11 French into something workable. Could be fun.

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