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The End of a Love Affair

For over 30 years I had a love affair. Yes, you heard right: a love affair. A love affair with a piece of land called Florida.

When I grew up back in Germany I watched Flipper. Not sure if the black & white series was the actual root of my affinity with Florida but the name itself always sounded exotic to me. Once I moved to the US I couldn’t wait to visit the «Sunshine State». After visiting the first of many times I knew Florida would keep it’s promise. Over the years I traveled to virtually all corners of the State, from the beaches of Miami to the historic sites of St. Augustine, from tropical Key West to the long white beaches of the Gulf Coast. I fell in love with the vibe, the canals with its beautiful homes in Ft. Lauderdale, the Latin flair, the food and the never-ending party scene. Back in the 90s I took my future wife to Florida and we decided to purchase a place along Miami Beach. At one point I was contemplating to move my family and business to Florida. Thank God I didn’t!

Because of Covid, it’s been a few years that I have visited the southernmost State and it is no longer recognizable. The vibe has changed to a sort of tension. It seems the past few years have changed Florida into a hotbed for outspoken conservatives who call themselves «Trumpers».

My wife and I just spent an extended weekend in Sarasota on Florida’s West Coast. It was hot & humid, but we expected that. Together with friends from California we enjoyed the white beaches and the Gulf of Mexico with it’s turquoise warm waters. After a spectacular dinner at a local restaurant we decided to frequent the hotel bar to watch the final period of the Stanley Cup (hockey finals). The local team «Tampa Bay Lightning» was in a «must win» situation. A lady chatted us up and after establishing that she was from Tampa Bay and we were Californians we enjoyed the game until she mentioned Roe v. Wade and that she was «heartbroken» about the Supreme Courts decision. «Imagine how I feel», our California friend mentioned, «I have a 18-year old daughter». The conversation continued with our friend’s husband mentioning «well, we all know whom to thank for it”, stating the obvious. Well, our new friend from Tampa Bay was obviously baffled. «Donald Trump has nothing to do with this, he was the best President America ever had» she said. I couldn’t resist but to disagree with her and pointed out that it was Trump who appointed the conservative members of the Supreme Court who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

«You guys have not idea what Trump did for this country, it was about time to finally curb Liberals like you. You should all be ashamed, go back to California and keep living in a hole» what we got to hear from her. We simply left to avoid further conflict.

Not even 24 hours later, we strolled around «The Circle», a popular area with restaurants and shops in Sarasota. «Let’s see what a million Dollars would buy us here» my friend said while pointing at a real estate office. We gazed through the window and were astonished that we would get a 4-bedroom mansion on the water for a million bucks around Sarasota. Compared to California, these real estate offerings represented a bargain. A well dressed female realtor came out to greet us, asked if we were looking to buy and where we were from. My friend said: «from Southern California and no, we are not looking to purchase as Florida is too hot & humid for us… but thank you anyways». We smiled and turned away, thinking the conversation was over. Well, it was not. «About time Trump cuts your California Liberals rights», she yelled at us. I turned around and asked «what do you mean». She must have had a bad oyster for dinner as she exploded throwing even more insults at us, insults Facebook would not let me mention in a post.

Two verbal attacks in 24 hours? No thank you. We came to Florida to have a good time. I am not spending my hard earned money to get insulted while on vacation. This is not about political opinions or picking a side, this is about common sense, acceptance and courtesy. I just don’t feel comfortable in Florida anymore.

Now, that I am sitting on a plane back to the West Coast I hear similar stories from other travelers. It seems our experience was not an isolated one. For me, a long love affair came to an end…