The Florida Effect

It's a foregone conclusion, folks. New Hampshire is my home of choice. No questions asked. Well...until spiders started ruining my new homeowner's glow. Just before I left for my Florida vacation to Jacksonville, I mowed my lawn. It was then my life changed. This picture does not do this little bugger justice. It has fangs and hissed at me as I passed with my mower. Yes. It hissed.

Spider

So I ventured from my land of arachnids into the land of reptiles--where lizards the size of your index finger run free literally everywhere. Not to mention, as we stepped foot off the airplane into the Florida weather, this is what the heat felt like:

Slap

Nonetheless, it was a fun time to hang out with a few people I don't see as much as I would like and, that alone, makes the trip absolutely worth it. Plus, it's summer! If there's a time I'm going to take a trip like this, everyone knows it's now.

If you're an author...or just anyone who likes reading in general...who is the first person that comes to mind when you think of Florida? Yup, it's Ernest Hemingway. I don't really know how Hemingway became one of my favorite authors, but he has been since my days in high school. I tend to admire authors that I know are way out of my league. For example, Hemingway kills it with character development. He strips his prose to the basics and allows the reader to attach or relinquish the characters in whichever way they please. He tends to get a lot of grief about this writing technique of his, but I think it's simply genius. Look where it's brought his writing--to a level I bet he never knew existed.

I'll be honest. I knew this weekend wasn't about accomplishing huge amounts of writing. In order to do that, I'd have to be sitting behind my computer in complete concentration, which wasn't happening in a time when fantasy football drafts, get-togethers, and America Ninja Warrior completely controlled my consciousness. But what did happen, happened reflectively. It offered me a chance to "free" myself from the crazy world of superheroes, zombies, and "greatest fears" and indulge in the blessing that is my ability to read.

So in this post, I'll be discussing a few novels that I have (and am) reading.

Anansi_Boys

My Kindle Fire says I'm 88% through the novel, which makes me horribly sad it's almost over. I wouldn't say that this is my favorite novel of all time. It's not even my favorite novel of the summer, but there's something magical about Gaiman's use of interweaving folktales and myth to create his own, wildly creative, and humorous storyline. It parallels his other works, especially American Gods, which just happens to be my favorite book of his. That was one I simply couldn't put down. But Anansi Boys has a certain flare of its own, which Gaiman boosts with his English dialogue and quirky personalities. We'll have to see how it ends, but so far, this summer read is worth picking up.

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Hole

So the plane is careening into Jacksonville. We're about 80 or so miles out from the airport and, to my right, I see one of the creepiest airplane sights anyone can see: a giant, winding mess of dense black clouds hovering like a tornado in midair. Inside of it, streaks of blinding yellow and orange bolts of lightning burst at each other like a scene straight from The Day After Tomorrow (you know, the film with Dennis Quade...oh, Dennis Quade). There was no announcement from the pilot, nor any reaction from the flight crew, which frightened me a tad. Granted, I don't fly much, but don't you think something like that merits some sort of attention? Apparently not. Instead, the plane bends away slightly and misses it by a good 100-yard distance.

What immediately comes to my head? Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos. That's what. Why, you ask? Well, because of one scene.

First of all, if you haven't read this wonderful piece of writing, you should. There aren't too many works of literature out there that rely on the brutal honesty of someone's reality, but Gantos does this incredibly well. He leaves nothing out. He describes the highs and the lows without censor and, because of this, his audience is able to absorb what they want about the story, the hardships he both undertook and overcame, and the beauty of sometimes having a second chance. Some parts of the story are graphic in nature, but it's well worth the read if you ever get the chance.

Now back to my flirt with death (such an exaggeration, but hey, who cares?). Before Jack's drug trafficking fiasco, he goes through a wild Jack Kerouac (particularly On The Road) phase and travels to Key West in the middle of a hurricane...just for the adventure. He describes the boarded up buildings and the departing traffic, all the while, thinking how he can be more like the characters in Kerouac's groundbreaking novel. He spends some time in Key West and, once the hurricane passes, he visits Hemingway's house and sits there for some time, admiring the dirty, debris-filled water and the sea turtle that had somehow made its way into it.

As I was reading this scene, I thought to myself, I know exactly what that feeling is like. During a giant blizzard, or a rough hurricane up here in New Hampshire, everything stops. No one travels. No one leaves their houses. The world seems to stand still for those long hours of natural wrath. But when it's all over (and, hopefully, everyone comes out of it without any harm), suddenly everything is so much clearer. Have you ever noticed that? There's just something different about the day after a storm. Somehow, we are so immersed in the beauty of escape and freedom that we view the world in a different light.

The Hemingway house is Gantos' moment of literary clarity. His adventure leads him straight into the clutches of a hurricane and he is able to soak it all in. I guess there is a part of me that wants to partake in crazy adventures like this, but that part of me is definitely not big enough to inspire me into a road trip. I'm a settler. I always will be (unlike Jack Gantos--image below.) A trip to Florida to hang with friends and miss an isolated thunderstorm by the length of a football field is as close to a Kerouac adventure as I'm going to get.

JackPlus, I don't look like Gary Oldman.