It's an El Jungle Out There-O

You wouldn’t believe what we south Floridians have to go through down here. It’s a jungle. Really, it’s a tropical jungle where alligators feel they have the right to waddle down the middle of an avenue if there’s a heavy rainstorm, where lizards crawl out from under your computer keyboard when you’re trying to write something calmly, and where Cuban refugees can gang up on your SUV just because you pulled into the community center parking lot.

OK, they were friendly Cubans, but they didn’t speak English and there must’ve been something about the way I pulled in hesitantly, looking around, not sure which way the arrows were pointing, trying to avoid the police cruiser parked next door at City Hall. They must’ve thought I was picking up day laborers to work on my Jupiter Island paradise mansion. No, no! I am shaking my head vehemently as I get out of my car and they are literally storming my car, two of them running so fast toward me that they had to hold onto their hats to keep them from blowing off in the stifling, rancid 108 degrees of midday.

“I’M JUST PICKING UP A FORM!” I enunciate while shaking my head and waving my arms in a signal I saw once at the airport.

“FORM!” I repeat a couple of times, motioning with a pen in my right hand and holding an invisible paper in my left, scribbling in the air, until they slow down and give me the A-OK sign, signaling they understand.

I have got to learn some Spanish.

That was one of my goals when we moved down here. My new Florida life was going to include a class in Spanish, a photography course, me sitting on the beach with the laptop writing a book that would sell, getting a shower before 11 a.m., and my kids getting straight A’s and going to the University of Miami on full-ride scholarships. In this fantasy Florida life I have long eyelashes and no callouses on my feet.

Of course, none of these things have actually happened. I do occasionally get a shower before 11 a.m., but only because I’ve had so many people in my house giving me estimates on work we have to have done on the house that we bought, had to have, couldn’t live without, would pay any amount for. Now we’re changing everything about it and need to have a steady stream of work boots and measuring tapes in here.

The plan was to get a shower by 9, after running a mile in my neighborhood, doing some arm weights, cleaning up the house and doing laundry. After the shower and shaving my legs (every day. EVERY DAY), I am listening to classical music and drinking coffee out of the mug without the chip and that matches my kitchen colors. Then, showered and with the long eyelashes, I head for the beach, where I sit with my laptop and write a book that someone will want to publish and send me lots of cash for. I’m not sure, but I think I’m wearing a long white caftan or sarong or something. I look good, I can tell you that. And there are no stains on the sarong.

That’s Mondays. On Tuesdays I’m taking Spanish so I can speak to the waiters at the restaurants in South Beach (and so they won’t take my food away and never return, after I clearly said, “Can You Put This In A Container For Me To Take Home?”) and, of course, the guys at the community center who will jump on my bumper in a heartbeat unless I learn how to say “I’m only picking up a form” in Spanish.

On Wednesdays I’m taking the photography course from some artsy guy with a gray ponytail and one of those khaki vests with all the pockets, who will unleash the suburban housewife Annie Leibowitz in me.

On Thursday I greet my husband at the door with brie and french bread and some olives I got at Carmine’s after driving to Palm Beach Gardens to shop. I stop at Carmine’s after filling my car with shopping bags full of colorful, trendy things from Pottery Barn and other unaffordable stores at the Rich People’s Mall.

On Fridays . . . oh hell, by Friday I’m on a Lifetime and TNT bender, eating Fritos, leftover brie and olives, and Little Debbie Cakes and by noon, still unshowered, I’m scraping my foot callouses with a pumice while a painter walks through the house with his measuring tape.

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