South Florida IS The New Southern California
Drought ridden California Needs a Savior … I was blessed – I guess – living out in L.A. in the late sixties and early seventies when Southern California was the trendsetter for the country. I was at the University of Southern California, getting my master’s degree and loved the climate, the causal lifestyle and the gay scene which at that time was centered in Hollywood and Silver Lake, not West Hollywood as it is today. I would have never returned East if I had had enough money to buy a car, even a junk. Without wheels, it was next to impossible to get a job unless you wanted to rely on L.A. mass transit which at the time consisted solely of buses. The subway system was light years away.
Fast forward to today: Beside the drought that some naysayer experts predict may be the beginning of a thirty year cycle and tar balls on its iconic beaches (that’s why Florida has been fighting off-shore drilling for years), Southern Cal is congested, over-taxed, over-regulated (four bucks plus for a gallon of gas even though the price of a barrel of oil has dropped almost fifty per cent), and way, way overpriced in terms of real estate (a fixer–upper for six hundred thousand dollars??) and cost of living.
Enter South Florida, especially Fort Lauderdale, a once sleepy little spring break retreat which in just the last twenty years has become an international vacation destination, a major gay vacation mecca, and arguably the gay capital of the U.S. right now. And we’ve just beaten out New York as the third most populated state in the country. After all, where do you think New Yorkers are moving to? We’re the warmest place in the continental U.S. in the winter with our year-round summer (even L.A. gets chilly in January), a climate the convertible was born for, and for those who bitch about our humidity in July, at least everybody’s got central air so what’s the big fucken deal? With the weather comes breezy, outdoor living, beautiful white sandy beaches, and, because of our flat geography, a smog-free environment.
As for having the reputation as Hurricane Alley, we haven’t had a big one in almost a decade (hello, Jersey), but when the day comes we do, you at least have plenty of notice to prepare or get out. Earthquakes just happen. (I was in L.A. when the 1971 quake brought down a hospital.)
While admittedly real estate and our cost of living are rising – baby boomers, str8 and gay, are flocking down to carve out their niche of paradise – we’re still one of the cheapest metro areas to live in, have no state or city income tax, and yea, you can get gas for under three bucks a gallon and a nice condo for under a hundred thou.
Fort Lauderdale, only a hundred years old, was built, not retrofitted, for the car, and our highways – mostly toll free – are sleek and modern, and our local boulevards the size of many highways back East. Sure, we can have our traffic tie-ups (South Florida has the dubious honor of bumping D.C. as the tenth most traffic prone metro area in the country; L.A. is #2), but driving around here is still mostly a breeze. I hadn’t driven in L.A. as a student, but when I revisited some of my old haunts a few years ago I was shocked how antiquated and frankly unsafe L.A.’s freeways are compared to what I am used to here.
Finally, we’ve got one of the most dynamic and eclectic gay scenes in the country, attracting both the young and old, and where, if you’re over forty, you don’t feel like a dinosaur. Or alone.
So welcome to South Florida, the new Southern California.
Yes, you can go home again.