Thursday, 13 March 2003


For those who aren't familiar with Florida, the state is not all that monolithic. Ocala, where I'm spending the week and finished up high school, is nestled in the hills of Central Florida and just west of the eponympous Ocala National Forest, and is one of the state's oldest cities (before the 1920s, the state was basically unsettled south of Tampa). The past few decades, it's become a retirement community and increasingly Republican.

But, like the rest of the state, it also has a growing Hispanic population, and nearby Orlando has a Univision affiliate with a very slick evening newscast (and, judging from my limited Spanish, a better newscast than the English-language stations). Still, it was somewhat jarring to be at Wal-Mart (waiting for my car's oil to be changed) and hear the following announcement: “Will a Spanish-speaking associate please pick up line two?” You don't hear that much in Mississippi.

That being said, Ocala is a community that has little to offer relatively young people. I suspect that of all those who will be at my 10th high school reunion, none of the ones who went to college will still be living in Ocala. I'm not sure there's much to do about it — notably, nearby Gainesville offers the bohemian life of a relatively large college town, although the cost of living is somewhat higher. Still, it's home (or at least, as much home as anywhere else has ever been for me), for better or for worse, and I'm sure I'll be back — but I probably won't stay until after my hair starts falling out.