Where Old People Bake Their Brains
ROAMING THE REAL WORLD:
MY Family has a Christmas-time ritual. When the Grinch rears his ugly head and the wintry winds begin to whip wildly westward (making Chicago very cold), we pack up the family station wagon and head south. To Florida.
South Florida--the strip between Miami and West Palm Beach--is very strange. There are lots of old people there. Many are paranoid, big-mouthed, incredibly pushy New York Jews. Even worse, their bodily fluids have been dried up from spending too much time lying under the tropical sun and complaining about the havoc other people's grandchildren are wreaking on the shuffleboard equipment, baking their brains into blackened rocks. You get the Picture.
THE ECONOMY in South Florida has adapted to these harsh realities. Only two kinds of businesses are permitted by local zoning ordinances: banks and restaurants. There are banks of every name imaginable; virtually every possible combination of the Words "First," "National," "American," "Federal," "Savings" and "Bank" are used in their titles. Since stingy old people have their life's savings at their disposal and spend money only on restaurant meals, there is enough cash lying around to give Mr. Drysdale quite a boner.
The traffic situation is equally strange. On any given day, you might see daredevil stunt drivers wearing hats and smoking cigars gunning their Cadillac Eldorados to speeds of 35 M.P.H. and beyond. You hear lots of horn-honking; the younger residents, their fuses cut to the quick, are simply venting their frustration and rage at the latest senile driving snafu. These people must nurse elaborate fantasies involving grey heads and sinister implements of torture.
Grandma (who we were, of course, going to visit) lives in a Condo Complex. Most Condo Complexes (and there are many) have similar features: swimming pools, shuffleboard courts, tennis courts, clubhouses, lots of old people, and lots of completely identical buildings to house the old people. They also generally have imposing walls and gates staffed by crack walkie-talkie-toting octogenarian security forces. Grandma assures me this is to provide protection from the hordes of degenerate muggers and rapists who swarm around South Florida after the sun sets.
She is also careful to warn me of the other myriad dangers that apparently make daily survival there a tenuous proposition at best. Armies of red "fire ants" gleefully attack those unlucky enough to step on their hills; their bites could (in those with the proper allergies) cause Death, according to the newspaper article she cut out on the subject. The blazing sun causes blistering skin cancer of the most painful sort in those not properly protected with sunscreen 47.
WHERE DO you think Morey Amsterdam plays these days? What about George Burns or Buddy Hackett? Steve and Edie are still rockin 'em in the concert venues of South Florida.
The weather's nice. And it does have a beach. And it's the foremost center of post-Niagra Falls schlock entertainment. There Falls schlock entertainment. There are about a zillion malls, movie theaters, race tracks, jai-alai frontons, bowling alleys, and combination mini-golf/go-cart/water-slide/batting cage/driving range/video arcade pleasure-mass-production-extravaganzas--plenty to keep one occupied for two weeks. And Grandma does have cable. And there are enough hot young high school-age granddaughters crisping themselves to perfection under the sultry Florida sun to keep you going back to the pool even though your feel the bridge of your nose has been exposed to lethal doses of radiation. Looks like I'll be going back to Florida next Christmas.