The following is my take of my time spent in South Florida. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA this is not the Middle-Class American vacation spot that I enjoyed walking and strolling about on Hollywood Broadwalk, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami Beach in the 80’s. All I knew was that it was 1980 Something and life was awesome. My family, like most everyone I knew, was living the proud American Dream. This even when the Pittsburgh Steel Mills closed. America was indeed Great. Having chased my Musical Dream in Nashville in the 90’s, I am aware that it is never the same when you move somewhere to live than when you are vacationing. If I thought luxury condos have now outpriced me, the common folk in Nashville (you know, the actual humble people who are living out those songs that are written about and written for) but can’t possibly live there now. I completely digress in my ignorance in thinking the Price of Paradise wouldn’t have been more expensive as well. If I hadn’t witnessed the socio-economic shock hands-on the past few months, the extreme wealth like I’ve never seen on TV or anywhere else, or learned in an updated Cultural Sociology Class, I would not have believed it. Albeit the Middle Class is no longer the biggest slice of the Middle Pie in America even in the Heartland, there are not even crumbs to lick off your plate in South Florida.
My dear, sweet very Irish Mum (I have yet to cross one other Irish las/lad in me moving here) passed away 6 months ago. Every single place & thing reminded me of her in Pittsburgh and I knew that if I didn’t move immediately, I would have been drinking Irish Whiskey and Beer, not one or the other but combined because it has and continues to be a loss that I will never get over. I am forever changed and therefore the only chance I had to not die myself was to make a Geographic 911 move immediately. I am 20 years sober. I also learned decades ago that just because you change the scenery, doesn’t mean the scene changes. The scene will never change for me forever even when I walk the beautiful beach each day and not having to endure the gray Pittsburgh weather. There is no longer a home for me in my hometown of Pittsburgh without my Mum regardless of what gorgeous scenery surrounds me. Things are never how they appeared in our young minds in are latter years regardless of whether the weather is in Paradise or not. Our childhood home and neighborhood didn’t change, time changed on us. College Tuition may now be as obscene as the cost to live in South Florida does now, but the Town and College Feeling remains the same. Time changed on us again. In losing my heart, my Mum, doesn’t mean that Pittsburgh isn’t a great city, but it now hurts to be there from the memories. Same town but time changed me in my grief.
But make no mistake about it, South Florida is as close to Paradise and heaven aesthetically that I have ever seen and where I don’t just want to live but need to be in order to survive my loss and heal. Although South Florida no longer gives me the nostalgic feeling I had as a kid and young adult here, I now need the sun and light on my face now, instead of the wind of grief and a decade of chronic sickness. I much prefer sun skin blisters now than cold blisters. My how things change when you get older. As I was caring for my Mum and didn’t know she was ill, I would watch hundreds of You Tube Videos each week of places I wanted to visit. I can still hear my Mum asking, Heather, what are you watching? I would always respond places (mostly city skylines) I wanted to visit someday Mum. I have always been an Adventurer and if I didn’t want to always work in the Music Industry, I would have been a Geography Professor indeed. I wanted to go Around the World in 80 Days and see and learn. What I never wanted to travel and see was my Mum leaving my world. Every day she would tell me that I hope you see everything sweetheart and do everything you ever dreamed of and have all the good stuff in life. My response back to her was that there would always be plenty of time for travels Mum. Having arrived in South Florida after my Mum passed, the only world I wanted to ever see again was now having my Mum back, healthy, vibrant and with me.
My Mum went to Heaven, to paradise in a nanosecond as I laid in bed holding her. I believe with all my being that she & my Dad guided me here to paradise in South Florida. Why do I believe this? Because I was never a fan of the beach as a kid or the excessive heat. I would get sun burnt in 5 minutes time. I have always loved the salt smell of the Ocean, but I was scared of its vastness. I got bit by Jellyfish constantly, peed in the Ocean and was scared that I would be eaten by Jaws! The sun absolutely hates me and my Irish skin to this day. I did however always love to swim. My cousin had a pool in his house in Miramar Isles and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. And although I have always loved the mountains, the Seasons changing, I have always feared the dark. Whoever invented day lights saving time should have to go to jail forever! To this day, I keep the lights on all the time. Since my Mums passing, the grayness, the winder briskness, all of it, well I just wouldn’t survive it and she knew this.
There was/is however 3 amazing, loving family members in Davie, Fl who picked up my shorn wings and heart and saved my life by bringing me here into their loving home and hearts. I didn’t come here on a whim. My Mum sent them to me and knew the Ocean and sun would help differently at my age now than back when. I need the sunshine, the sight of the seagulls, the sunrises, the salt smell and to be living in the Tropics. I appreciate the beauty that surrounds me now every moment. I appreciate it just like I appreciated every single day with my Mum in her older years as well as mine. As a kid, I took our vacation to the beach for granted, our wonderful, non-struggling Upper-to-Middle Class life, the loving, warmth home my Mum made and I took my Mum for granted way too many times to count until I didn’t ever again. The point is, that life is truly about not where you live but what you live for? But in my case now, this entails being in South Florida near my family. It entails living on the beach and to not miss a sunrise. How many sunrises did I miss and take for granted in my life? More than all the tears I’ve cried missing my Mum. Millions! Each day, I set my alarm to not miss the sunrise. I never saw a sunrise in my lifetime. When the bright sun, comes up over the ocean, I feel my Mum and God’s presence in a way that Webster and Shakespeare couldn’t possibly define. I am truly at a loss for words. Each morning, I say. Good morning Mum and then I know I can make it through another day, one day at a time.
But unlike God’s grace and heaven’s paradise that has an intangible price, this Paradise comes with a huge tangible cost so high it is scares me that I will not be able to stay much longer. According to the respected Urban Studies Theorist Richard Florida (yes, the irony of his last name) states that Miami area is the 7th most expensive place to live in the World. Not the United States but the world. The only other US cities are LA & NY. Those other cities on the West Coast, Silicon Valley, Northern North east Coast, Chicago in the Middle cost less in housing to live than South Florida. In essence, a single, educated Mom from SF area was on the news stating that she pays 1k a month to live in a garage with her 2-year-old daughter is still cheaper than living here. According to SmartAsset, it takes a salary close to $163,000 to live a Middle-Class life in NYC (paying 30% only toward rent) and almost 130,000 in LA. I was never good at Math but that would mean you have to make six figures in South Florida just to live a so-called normal life like I did grow up in the 70’s & 80s. So why in the world did I not realize that my move to South Florida would still be like the American Dream and Vacation from when I was young?
I am not here part-time as a Northern Snowbird from Canada who lives here in a second home on retirement money or more specifically from NY where the influx of Italians seems like The Godfather is being filmed here instead of the Super Bowl in Miami. The last time I saw so many Italian New Yorkers was the first time I visited NYC at 18 years old. One NEVER forgets the first time you see the NYC skyline. It is embedded in my mind like the hops and barely that is still in my system 30 years later.
What is also embedded in my mind and blew my mind was the absolute gorgeous night skyline of Miami. It literally took my breath away and I had to stop the car. What also almost took my breath away then and now was risking my life on I-95 every second of the day or night any day or night of the year. I-95 makes NYC and any other Major Metro area look like Kindergarten. There is no texting. There is no talking to anyone you are riding with. There is no singing to your playlist. There is both hands on the wheel, praying to God to not die and flooring it. There is no need for signals, no one uses them or ever lets you in. DAYTONA 500 is not in Daytona but right here in South Florida 24/7 and quite frankly, puts them and NASCAR both to shame. When I got a quote for South Florida insurance, I thought there was a computer error. But then I called different places for quotes. I had a rental when I came here. I bought a used Honda and my car insurance to live in Paradise costs more than my car! Please repeat that back. It isn’t a typo. I am 52 years old, haven’t had an accident since I was 16 years old and 2 speeding tickets in my lifetime. I am paying 2200 every six months and that doesn’t include collision? In Pittsburgh, I complained if I paid full coverage that was 1k a year, and taxes that were 2800 a year on a 300k home! Just ride around the hell of South Florida driving and then you get the AHA moment. I, you are essentially paying for all those immigrants or foreigners who don’t have a license or insurance. Those hits and runs who never get caught and you are left with the bill. I, you are paying thru your car roof for when some idiot driver takes my roof off when he/she hits me. It costs an arm and or a leg for when an unlicensed, uninsured drive hits me because my arm or leg will need attached by an unlicensed and/or uninsured driver who took it off!
I DO NOT need to go around the world in 80 Days. I am literally in the 6th BORO of NYC with Palm Trees! I have met people from all 18 countries of South America. How many Americans even know the countries of South America? How many Americans have been to 18 states or even know that many? And why didn’t I pay attention to the 6 semesters I took of Espanola at resbaladiza rock Universidad instead of just remembering Mucha Cervesas? I have met Russians, Ukrainian’s, Western and Eastern Europeans, Jamaicans, Bahamians, Indians, Cubans, African Americans, Asians. I have met people from every continent except for Antarctica because no humans live there.
Just when I am finally getting used to the different cultures and put on my racing helmet to drive each day, after 4 months, I am still without a permanent place to live. I am no gypsy. My sense of adventure always came when there was security to go home to. It is unsettling to me. The housing situation in South Florida is something Webster can’t define. either I saw the overbuilt luxury condos in Downtown Miami that look vacant at night but extremely gorgeous, but no one lives there. I saw Venetian Way. Key Biscayne, Bal Harbour, Bal Harbour Isles, North Bay Road, South Beach, Surfside, Golden Beach, Sunny Isles, thru Hollywood into Dania. If this wasn’t the most expensive and stunning Real Estate I have ever seen, what else could there be? There couldn’t possibly be more. Well, of course there is. Take the New River Cruise off Las Olas and I couldn’t believe me eyes and then the finale in West Palm Beach. Who in the world are these people who live in South Florida? Are they all just second homes for the wealthy 1%? Are they all just a bunch of foreigners buying property here to stash their cash and never live there like NYC? This causing price gauging for the neighbors who live on 26k a year? Are all the New Yorkers coming simply because they save millions from no State tax since Trump capped the deductions on second homes?
In these same areas, a luxury condo is being built across the street from a trailer park. In Aventura, there is la gorgeous luxury building being built just a few hundred feet from a run-down Trailer Park like Eminem grew up in! Even the dumpiest of trailer parks cost 1k for lot rent, plus your mobile payment. There are a few nice mobile communities here but for the price you pay, you could have a 300k house in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, plus you pay taxes and lot rent on top of it. I have viewed a garage just like the one the woman lives in, in SF. This one however was 1500 a month and it was advertised as a Charming Efficiency. I went to see another “charming efficiency” and it was an RV sitting in a man’s driveway! This was 1800 a month. I went to visit a house that was a 3/2 in Davie and looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a year. The pool was green, looked like Tony Soprano buried a body in it and there were bullet holes in the wall. The kitchen was filled with dirty plates and fast food wrappers everywhere. People believe that the RE is in such demand here that they don’t even have to clean it to rent or sell it. I went to view a studio in Dania Beach, and it didn’t even have a stove. It had a pot warmer from the 80’s that I had in college. When my niece started crying that she refused to leave her Aunt Heather in a dump, we called it a wash. And speaking of wash, none of them had a washer and no pets allowed! HELP! Please Note: If you see and advertisement with the word “Charming” anywhere in the description. Run and run fast!
Are they people who kept property from generations ago like the rent stabilized owners from New York City and held on then sold to the highest Property Developer? I just don’t get it. I know this is South Florida’s summer and the opposite of Pittsburgh winter but there can’t be a 6 million influx of 5 lanes on I-95 or backed up A1A just from just Snowbirds and vacationers. What do people do for a living who live here? Out of the 70% who can’t afford to even eat, that leaves 30% of South Floridians left to share the obscene wealth here and prices.
I am no longer living in the United States in South Florida. Not because of the all the adversity and Spanish is the unofficial language. Not because its in the Tropics. I am living in a 3rd world country called South Florida where it is truly the absolute rich and the poor need to be rich to be poor and live in a trailer or 450 sq. foot studio. Any place you move in costs nearly 5k and its just so disgusting that again, I am at a loss for words. When I pass the latest beautiful empty luxury condo, I see homeless people on the beach bench. For the Visitors, the second home wealthy, the foreign investors or other wealthy to park their cash and the other rich Northeasterners, this is Paradise. For the majority, the ones who live full time in South Florida, they are down in out in Paradise.
I don’t want to be Almost in Paradise. Me staying at the beach and near my family is about saving my life.
I have no desire anymore to take a trip AROUND THE WORLD in 80 DAYS. And here I thought I never took that dream trip with my Mum that we always dreamed of doing together because she was ill, and we were limited in our means. Boy, was I wrong. I had traveled everywhere with my Mum. We loved, laughed, cheered, sung, ate meals, watched movies, tv, celebrated rites of passages, joys, disappointments, sorrows, hope and the greatest of these is love with my Mum for 52 years. We had 19,035 days together traveling this world together right at home. I no long care to see all those places I watched on You Tube each night and told her about either. I went AROUND THE WORLD in 80 DAYS right here in South Florida and around the world in life with my Mum right at home in Pittsburgh for a half Century (but still will never be enough time). She was my paradise whether we lived in a tent, Mansion, trailer or so forth. She was my paradise on earth. She was my Sunrise from the first breath I took, until she took her last breath. However, now I feel my Mum at the beach Sunrise from heaven. I sing one of her favorite songs I have written each day at the beach. Then, a moments later, the sun parts the heavens, I gasp in beauty and a tear rolls down my face every morning both in sadness and in love. I absolutely know it is her hugging me in the warmth of her love and the bright sun on my face to warm me as she states; Heather honey, I’m in heaven with my love, your Dad. We are sending you this sunrise each day until we see you again. Until then, keep writing, singing and living and…..
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face; may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
May the family I sent to you from heaven always carry you
(This prayer is why I need to stay in South Florida)
May you finally find the one to share it all with you. I do not want you alone
May the world finally see all the Gifts God has given you, like I have, and find fulfilling and prosperous work!
Therefore, whatever it takes stay here, I will give it my all. Whoever reads this, put me to work. You will not be disappointed!
Heather Linkenheimer holds a bachelor’s from Slippery Rock University
She is an Author and has been a songwriter/singer/Musician for over 30 years. She has been a Music Executive for 20 years. HIRE ME!
If you would like to view her work, she can be reached @ www.awholelotofbudnevermademewiser.com