For the third year in a row, I am spending a good chunk of the winter in Palm Beach, Florida, as a guest of a friend who rents an extravagant two-storey, marble-floored gaff four doors down from Mar-a-Lago. When our preposterous president is in residence, the Secret Service and local sheriffs are stationed in our drive.
Old Florida hands (and there are some, even in this new, garish, flattest and most rootless of states) measure out their lives in hurricane names. They remember particular angles of attack, depths of flooding, wind velocities and force measurements, destructiveness in dollar amounts. I can see objects being pushed illustratively around a bar-room table. It’s a form of higher geekishness, each man (and of course they’re usually men) his own survivalist. It’s one of those occasional bits of Floridiana that remind me that people were never actually meant to live here, and that being here converts you into a leathery, eccentric kind of specialist, something like the ‘old sailor,/Drunk and asleep in his boots’ of Stevens’s poem, who ‘Catches tigers/In red weather’.