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Friday, August 20, 2004

Locals Only

One of my favorite bits of graffiti: the words “JAX FAGS,” enclosed in a red circle, with a red diagonal line crossing through it, spray painted on a seawall at St. Augustine Beach. Short, direct, with a touch of assonance, it’s not a message intending to scare away homosexuals from Jacksonville, but a simple warning to out-of-town surfers that this beach is for the local lads.

Let's forget the notion of thinking globally, and instead, think a little closer to home; particularly in matters of house construction. Nothing demonstrates poor house design so well as being trapped in an airless box with no cross ventilation and indoor temperatures soaring to 91 degrees. Last night was very unpleasant in a sleepless, steamy kind of way, even when the temperature in the Punta Gorda house finally dipped to a low of 87 around 4:00 AM. Cracker architecture is custom made for our hot, humid climate, being adapted over time from southern regional and Caribbean styles.

Why don’t local architects and building officials pay more attention to the tried and true? Rooms should be one, at the most, two deep, and the house should be surrounded by porches to improve air circulation. Ceilings should be high and end gables vented, or hip roofs dormered, to allow the heat to rise and escape. Having a cistern on hand to collect rainwater is always a good idea. Outdoor kitchens? Cool. Wonder why mold has become such a problem recently? Because building airtight houses with vapor barriers is a bad idea in Florida. The old wood frame places were built to breathe.

Climate Responsive Design: A Study of Buildings in Moderate and Hot Humid Climates
Classic Cracker: Florida's Wood-Frame Vernacular Architecture
The Houses of Key West
Caribbean Style

Here are more tips for living like a local:

  • Avoid houses described as “California-style” or offering a “lanai.” We are not in California or Hawaii. Likewise, a ranch, Cape, or mobile home is not a design for the subtropics.

  • It’s pronounced, “konk.”

  • Ask your servers, when they recite the menu and mention Mahi Mahi, if it is freshly caught. If it is, it should be called dolphin. Mahi Mahi is what they call dolphin in Hawaii; therefore, it couldn’t possibly be fresh. Educate your server on the subtle difference at your own risk. Also, eating dolphin does not mean eating Flipper. Dolphin is a fish; Flipper is a mammal. I suspect he might taste more like a big, juicy steak. Miami Dolphins are a National Football League franchise. Dolfans are a pathetic lot, doomed to cheer their team on to a season that can only match, and never beat, Shula’s 1972 Perfect Season.

  • Key Lime Pie should never be green.

  • Mold and mildew are part of the price you pay to live here. Before you try to sue your contractor for creating a mold hazard inside your home or business, check the outdoor air’s mold count. It’s higher.

  • There are no real surfers south of Hobe Sound. I don’t care how many Ron Jon stickers are on your car.

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