First Words — 02 December 2016
Postcard from the warm center of the world

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

The lady in the black parka and snow boots had come a long way for this.

The monitor above her at the luggage carousel at FLL showed arrivals from Atlanta and Charlotte and Baltimore, but I guessed she’d been on the flight in from Boston that morning. The weather app showed 27 degrees back in that cold world – a good chance of snow, a better chance of parkas and snow boots.

She stepped out into sunshine and 78 degrees here, warming fast in her cold-weather clothes, and found a girlfriend waiting for her curbside in a sleeveless white blouse and capri pants. Like an astronaut warily testing the atmosphere of a new world, the visitor from another climate kept her life-support suit zipped up tight as she stepped into the crosswalk with her friend to the parking garage.

Then, halfway across the street, I saw her fumble tentatively for the silver ring of her coat zipper. By the time she’d crossed, laughing now, she’d zipped it all the way down.

And, by the time she was in the breezeway of the parking garage, the parka was off and forgotten – swinging by a finger now loosely over her shoulders.

She’d come a long way for this.

I watched her and remembered the first time I got off a plane at FLL. It was a little different for me. It took me awhile to get, well, acclimated.

I had just graduated from school, flying in for a job interview in summertime at the local newspaper. I remember stepping out into sunshine and 98 degrees, warming fast in a black suit and dress shoes, thinking, “I can’t live here!”

But the seasons pass. (Off season, that is, to season). Now, I can’t think of living anywhere else.

So many years watching others arrive from cold worlds, with so much to do here while their native realms are frozen in place, will eventually do that to an expat from another climate. At least it did for me.

Even through hurricanes. And heat and humidity. And bugs the size of carry-on bags.

I guessed the lady in the black parka and snow boots was seeing things here for the first time. (Why else wear a parka and snow boots out the door at FLL?).

The temptations begin with signs flashing steps from the luggage carousel. “Hollywood Beach, 15 minutes close.” “Visit the Palm Beaches, just 20 minutes away.” Miami Beach. Gulfstream Park. The Everglades. The Keys.

Who could look and not marvel they’d arrived at the warm center of the universe?

We’ll be seeing more visitors from cold worlds now through next April at the gates of FLL and MIA and PBI. Our snowbirds of Capistrano, returning for the 45th annual Winterfest Boat Parade, featuring Pitbull, interview, as grand marshal; the Wonderland Ball in Palm Beach; the “snow’’ at Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Or just to let go of the parka and the snow boots, finally, for a few days in the sun.

They’ve come a long way for this. We should welcome them. Make them feel at home in our home for the holidays.

We may even see ourselves in them, from seasons long ago.

Mark Gauert,

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