'Prepare to be immersed in the heat and vibrancy of Florida's natural world, full of such sensual detail that to read it is to breathe it in.' -Jo Shapcott [review of Greyhound Night Service]

Just settle down down down into bones

Week 2 of my US Spring Break tour and I'm home in my native Florida visiting a friend of mine in north Florida before heading even further south into the Bay Area. Youth revisited as usual while I'm here and this morning I woke up thinking I wanted to do something new today, something I've never done before. And much to my surprise, especially because I didn't so much as utter these words aloud, my friend exposed me to two experiences I've never had: the first was visiting the Alachua Sink and though I lived in Alachua County for five years during my early adulthood, I had never been to this alligator-infested swamp area.

My friend's mother told us over breakfast how she took a group of her students there once and there were hundreds (or did she say thousands...?) of gators all over the place. So as we get ready to leave this morning, I casually ask my friend what footwear I should don for the occasion. I was already beginning to sweat slightly from the potential of encountering gators in their millions (already their numbers had multiplied in my mind). Even though during my childhood I had numerous encounters with alligators (in my grandparent's pool, the local lake etc), I had never technically been 'surrounded' before. Part of me was very curious and in tourist-mode ready to 'see me some gators!' but the other half was terrified. So we went, and whether it was breeding season or just too hot or too busy or the fact that there is now a boardwalk round the Sink so you don't actually walk right next to the lakey area, we only saw about 7 gators. S e v e n! A totally acceptable and un-scary number of them compared to what I'd anticipated! In fact, isn't 7 my favourite and most lucky number? Exactly. So that was new experience number 1.

So then after lunch at Satchels my friend wants to know if I wanna get a DVD. Sure thing. So she gets on her iPhone and twiddles with some App and lo and behold she says we're going to the local redbox to pick it up. And I think, but how do you know which redbox vending machine has the movie we want? Aren't we going to have to drive all over town and try all different machines to find the one with the film we want? (again, cue slight sweat and panic)... And this oh-so-savvy friend of mine assures me that it's all going to be okay and the world will not end and in fact her iPhone App tells us which box has which films.


And then I garble on and on about how in the UK we don't have such things and oh my god and oh lord how odd this is and by the way, how many DVDs could one vending machine hold anyway? And by the time we get to the redbox, which is in fact red, there is the fix-it guy with the machine opened up and HOLY SHIT there are tons of DVDs in there and OH MY GOD if you swipe a card, for only $1 it spits out your DVD of choice (which, I'll just remind you, you already know ahead of time that they have in stock).

It's truly at times like these that I feel I now return to the US, my native ground, as a foreign country. I get major culture shock returning to the US from the UK. So much has changed and yet not changed. My friend and I still hang out like usual, we still talk about life and relationships and zoom around town in her car and stop for drive-thru coffee (another invention we need more of in the UK, the drive-thru that is...) except while I'm here I'm in that weird, limbo, in-between zone that I now characterise as just part of my normal life. That dual-citizen privilege--not really being 'of' any one place, yet being part of two worlds at once.

And I like it, but it's disorientating to say the least. The redbox, a normal part of life here, seems like the infamous, British, Dr Who Tardis, and if I get too close it might swallow me up and spit me out in the future somewhere. These two worlds now feel like they each make up half of me. I am whole when I contain and live in both, and if I remove one, no matter which one, I am only a half-version of me. Would only be half myself now that I am dual, two, two parts of one whole. And being here again, especially in Florida, as always, helps me feel deeply seated in one of my halves. And no matter which half I'm in, the other is always 4,000 miles away waiting for my return.

Title of this blog post credit: Counting Crows


  1. i like your journey.
    and your words, esp about
    the atlantic head split.
    and redboxes of celluloid ... oh my god, it will reach here one day ... and what will become of words written down in books ?
    we of the ilk who read will become the subversives. like those who read and publish independent intelletual small distributorship mags in the usofa that i just read about today in an old review from an old saturday guardian.
    any pics of aligator poo ??
    posted from darkest sussex

  2. Hi OwlEars, your comment just came through. No photos of alligator poo, though I did see another one yesterday in the pond near where I'm staying. The Atlantic head-split is what it is and it keeps getting more interesting, that's for certain.


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