There was no Disney World then, just rows of orange trees. Millions of them. Stretching for miles And somewhere near the middle was the Citrus Tower, which the tourists climbed to see even more orange trees. Every month an eighty-year-old couple became lost in the groves, driving up and down identical rows for days until they were spotted by helicopter or another tourist on top of the Citrus Tower. They had lived on nothing but oranges and come out of the trees drilled on vitamin C and checked into the honeymoon suite at the nearest bed-and-breakfast.
"The Miami Seaquarium put in a monorail and rockets started going off at Cape Canaveral, making us feel like we were on the frontier of the future. Disney bought up everything north of Lake Okeechobee, preparing to shove the future down our throats sideways.
"Things evolved rapidly! Missile silos in Cuba. Bales on the beach. Alligators are almost extinct and then they aren't. Juntas hanging shingles in Boca Raton. Richard Nixon and Bebe Rebozo skinny-dipping off Key Biscayne. We atone for atrocities against the INdians by playing Bingo. Shark fetuses in formaldehyde jars, roadside gecko farms, tourists waddling around waffle houses like flocks of flightless birds. And before we know it, we have The New Florida, underplanned, overbuilt and ripe for a killer hurricane that'll knock that giant geodesic dome at Epcot down the trunpike like a golf ball, a solid one-wood by Buckminster Fuller.
"I am the native and this is my home. Faded pastels, and Spanish tiles constantly slipping off roofs, shattering on the sidewalk. Dogs with mange and skateboard punks with mange roaming through yards, knocking over garbage cans. Lunatics wandering the streets at night, talking about spaceships. Bail bondsmen wake me up at three A.M. looking for the last tenant. Next door, a mail-order bride is clubbed by a smelly ma in a mechanic's shirt. Cats violently mate under my windows and rats break-dance in the drop ceiling. And I'm lying in bed with a broken air conditioner, sweating and sipping lemonade through a straw. And I'm thinking, geez, this used to be a great state.
"You wanna come to Florida? You get a discount on theme-park tickets and find out you just bough a time share. Or maybe you end up at Cape Canaveral, sitting in a field for a week as a space shuttle launch is canceled six times. And suddenly vacation is over, you have to catch a plane, and you see the shuttle take off on TV at the airport. But you keep coming back, year after year, and one day you find you're eighty years old driving through an orange grove.