When I stepped out of the Ft. Lauderdale International baggage terminal, it was into a gently balmy early morning that moisturized skin and nostrils dried out by airplane atmosphere. The concrete and asphalt tunnel designated for pick ups was awash with familiar orange-hued light and the loud cacophony of birds screamed morning gossip amongst the palms.
Within an hour, I witnessed the first Miami u-turn of my trip and b-lined for the Publix in pursuit of a long-lost favorite: the Publix sub. It’s hard to explain what makes these sandwiches special. It isn’t the contents, though those are very good, because those items can change depending on the diner. I, for instance, prefer mine with mayo, Turkey, lettuce, onion, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. My family theorizes that it’s the bread, baked daily by Publix themselves, and I agree wholeheartedly Something about their recipe melds perfectly with the ingredients put on them, no matter the combination. I am here today to insist that it was no amplification of memory that created bliss for me that morning. It was truly as delicious as I remembered seven years previous, and a whole lifetime ago. Paired with my beloved Ironbeer soda and a guava cheese pastry, my inaugural meal was a perfect success.
I rediscovered Florida through the eyes of a tourist. While there were so many familiar things around me, seven years away had peeled away my old opinions of the place. I could appreciate beautiful scenic moments on the beach in the early hours, sun I had once thought my enemy, and warmth I was sensitive to but could not appreciate. There were places to visit that I’d seen only as a kid, but I yearned to reassess as an adult such as The Venetian Pool, a coral rock quarry turned fresh water pool, where I learned how to swim as a child. I longed to see Vizcaya, Robert is Here, and several friends I had the honor of knowing the year or two before I moved away. I did not get to work all of these things out—though, one worked out better than hoped—but I love them no less and hope to see them on another trip. Hopefully, not after such a long break.
What I did get to cross off my list was a number of food items I cannot get around my new home in the Pacific Northwest. Publix subs, guava pastries, Publix tarragon chicken salad, cuban crackers, cuban bread, gator, conch, Yellowtail francese, empanizado bistec con maduros y arroz blanco, Checkers burger and banana shake, and so on. The one item I hoped to get, but could not, was birch beer. Similar to rootbeer, it’s derived from birch sap and bears a reddish tint. It’s more of a southern drink and I was sad to find the places that used to carry it when I lived here no longer do. Luckily, birch beer syrup is available online and not entirely out of reach of home sweet home.
I had unexpected joy when the arrangement to only see two of my old beloved friends turned into four without planning. It was short, but oh so very sweet to the taste, to see these men I hold so dearly in my heart. Generous, kind, funny, and absolutely wonderful, I am grateful for the few small moments I got to spend with them.
I was blessed to visit my family and receive their generosity the day and a half we spent together. We ate good food, had lots of laughs, swapped stories, and toured places we used to call home. I even got a chance to see new locations that did not exist when I lived in little old Homestead.
I was delighted to spend an entire morning talking about nothing but writing with two fellow talented writers. It gave me a hint of the sort of inspiration a group of writers could give to each other and I’m excited to be included in the plans for a small, concise online community to perpetuate the sort of support we gave each other that morning. I was invigorated.
I expected Florida to be very different from the one I left, and it was. It’s a better place; a hybrid of memories and improvement that I hope I can revisit more often than I’ve had the chance to. I miss what I miss and the the sheer joy I experienced rediscovering them is worth the pricey plane ticket. So farewell, Florida, hope to see you again soon.