Friday, May 31, 2013

What is Living in a Small Town in America Like?

I never really have lived in a small town, unless you call a gated community of 4,000 something like it. It must be interesting. Do you live in a small town? If so, what's it like?

I don't know if I could be happy without being able to catch a great international film that was just released, or checking out the oldies at special stores that keep them. I don't know if I could be content without picking up something interesting to eat on a whim, or shopping for something really fabulous to wear last minute. Miami is not a huge city, but the exposure to art and music is sufficient to keep my cultural taste buds happy. There are plenty of galleries, design districts and multi-cultural events to enjoy.

I know how to make coffee (cafecito) at home, but couldn't imagine life without the espresso stands where people get together to just be social or share the day's news. Coffee down here is not at all like at Starbucks where you keep to yourself for hours on end over a notepad or computer. It's not quiet at coffee stands anywhere in Miami. You take a shot (not a sip) of a small but potent cup of finely ground coffee mixed with a generous amount of sugar and conversation flows. The moment is meant to be shared - whether with a stranger or someone you already know. That ritual alone makes this big city feel like a small town.

I know where I live is not ideal, but geographically, I do love the flat, wide open and undeveloped space that surrounds my community. I am thirty minutes from Miami, where I spend a lot of time. I have the best of both worlds living near a big city where my family is, and being in a small town where I reside the rest of the time. Homestead is the closest I will ever get to that small-town feeling or "country"in America, so I am curious about what your experiences are.

Even though the population is over 60,000, there is less traffic, plenty of green acres with seemingly endless nursery farms, and nifty craft shops here and there. There is one official Main Street, even though it is a historic district that is mostly vacant and inactive. You can find a few general stores open for business in some of the more rural areas in the outskirts of town. The fresh air, fresh produce and access to exotic fruit grown locally are a plus. I also never have to dress fancy to go anywhere down here either, which is always nice. It still does not feel like a small town, though. Population growth and construction, as slow as both may be, are steady. In twelve years it has lose part of its charm and character.

Key Largo is just 24 minutes away, and Key West just three hours south of that. At its southernmost point, Key West is just 90 miles north of Cuba. In the Everglades, 25 miles west of me, is Flamingo Part. At its southernmost tip, you can see the sun rise and set from two different oceans from the same spot. If you pitch a tent in February or March, you don't risk getting swarmed by mosquitoes and the view is simply gorgeous: one horizon with both views. Incredible. I don't own a boat, but can only imagine how wonderful it must be to have the bay area, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Gulf of Mexico at your disposal any time. Many people come fom all over the globe to park their boats along the waterways along the Keys. I wonder if local residents feel like they live in a small town with so many visitors all the time.

Overall, I find the experience of living in South Florida a mixed bag of blessings. It is an improvised city in many ways, and small towns have history; but there are many ways in which this has been made to feel like a place where everyone knows you. In the case of Sourth Florida, you don't have to know everyone by name to know the history, struggle and general politics people live by. I grew up hearing about politics on a daily basis. It is a part of life. It has brought us together in many ways.

Before 2008, politics never was a real topic of conversation.  Maybe politics will unite more than ever. The more we know each other, the more effectively we will fight against the forces that seek to destroy us. No one should be in the trenches with stranger. Security-wise it IS a fact that knowing your neighbors makes everyone safer.

I think the elitists that Sarah Palin is referring to would be well-served by having more respect for small towns and America would definitely benefit from all the advantages that both lifestyles bring.

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