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June 12, 2011

Can't Live With Them -- Or Without Them

Fort Lauderdale Beach 
By Elaine Viets


I live in Fort Lauderdale. Like most Floridians, I enjoy hearing visitors say, "It’s so beautiful. I wish I could live here."

Life in this so-called paradise is a paradox: We want your money, tourists, but we’d like you to hand over your cash and leave quietly. We'd rather you didn’t jam our favorite restaurants and major roads – that pleasure is for locals. And if you do fall in love with the place, love it and leave it. We’re not putting out the welcome mat for more people.

In my Dead-End Job novels, Helen Hawthorne, her new husband Pumped_for_Murder Phil and their landlady Margery Flax live at the Coronado Tropic Apartments. They consider themselves natives, though only Margery is Florida born. The three debate the paradise paradox in this short excerpt from "Pumped for Murder," my tenth Dead-End Job Mystery. There really is a Fifteenth Street Fisheries. Both tourists and locals can feed the  giant tarpon in the marina by the restaurant.


Out by the pool, they were blasted by the noonday heat. Margery was skimming bougainvillea blossoms off the pool surface and flipping them on the lawn with swift, expert movements. Helen thought the pile of damp purple flowers was too pretty for yard trash.

"Good morning," Helen called.

"Good afternoon," Margery said. "Off to work?"

"Out to lunch," Phil said. "Want to go with us?"

"No thanks, I have a date with a rake."

"Sounds racy," Helen said.

"There’s nothing romantic about yard work," Margery said, "though it is forever. Where are you going?"

"Thought we might try the Fifteenth Street Fisheries," Phil said.

"The last time I was there, the place was overrun with tourists," Helen said.

"You make it sound like it has roaches," Margery said. "They’re not an infestation. If we’re lucky, we get tourists. We live in a tourist destination. We all make our living off tourists, one way or another. We spend millions luring them down here. Then we don’t want to be around them. I don’t know why. People from the Midwest are more polite than Floridians."

"The New Yorkers aren’t," Helen said.

"Some New Yorkers," Phil said. "I like the Big Apple variety." 

"I said Midwesterners," Margery said. "We can debate the other states later. Midwestern tourists are polite. They’re less likely to cut you off in traffic. They’re quieter than Floridians. They don’t drink as much as we do or run around naked, except during spring break. So why do Floridians think there’s something wrong with a restaurant when the tourists go there?"

"It’s not the tourists," Helen said. "Restaurants cut back on the quality of the food and service if they get too many tourists. They figure the tourists won’t be back again, so they can treat them badly. A restaurant that caters to locals has to keep higher standards, all year long."

"The Fifteenth Street Fisheries is under new management," Phil said. "We’ll look at the boats in the marina, have a drink and dinner."

15th street Fisheries 


I agree with Margery, but sympathize with Helen. I like walking into a restaurant now that the tourist season is over and getting a table without waiting. But I want that restaurant to survive. Most of them make their money from Thanksgiving through May, South Florida's main tourist season.

No point feeling superior to tourists. I'm one, too.

I admires the upfront approach of panhandlers in tourist-rich Washington DC . They followed me down the street screaming, "Give me your money, bitch."

Until I discovered they were in Congress.     Capitol 



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Elaine, you are a constant source of education. Never again will I trust a tourist restaurant. It's so commonsensical and it never occurred to me, that they don't worry much about repeat customers. Ugh!

The Floridian attitude towards tourists is very much like the Californian attitude, except that some of us encourage tourists to take a few recent arrivals from the Midwest/South with them when they leave.

As a person who worked in restaurants for many years, I try to stay away from the hardcore tourist eateries. Much better to eat at a local mom & pop joint.

Doc, a popular T-shirt down here says, "If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them?"
For the first time in decades, Florida is losing population. Many are New Yorkers who move from Florida to the Carolinas. They're known as "half-backs" -- halfway back to their native New York.

The PERFECT punchline, Elaine...:)

For decades, people from this area have retired to Florida. We're seeing them come back up here in droves, though. The hurricanes, among other things, make the prospect of not paying state income tax way less attractive.

My daughter is getting married at a tourist attraction in November: Jungle Island. Can't wait.

I have cousins who live on Lake Erie. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the population doubles. Triples on the weekends. One thing for the natives, no summer vacation. Dan worked for the bank. Most of his customers had 110 work days a year. He needed to be there for them all 110.

The Delmar Loop, my high school hangout is now a tourist attraction (http://visittheloop.com/). Watching tour buses drop off in your back yard is up there on the weird scale. The look when the bus of high schoolers from Iowa (matching t shirts) and the guy with the ink from his wrist to his neck pushing a stroller meet up and both think the other is from another planet is pretty good.

If the Miami Heat pull it off and when the championship, I hope our community will remind the world on "how to party."

It seems like when other major cities win a sports championship, they burn down their own buildings. South Florida.....just celebrates.

Elaine, you've reminded me of one of my favorite Yogi Berra comment on a popular restaurant: "Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded."

And yes, we know all about the "half-backs."

So funny! It's like when the college students come back to Boston, in SWARMS in September. Forget about going anywhere in Kenmore Square.

Yeah--so glad I found this--another Florida author to read! I am a nearly 2nd gen Fla native, born and raised in Ft Lauderdale. I couldn't handle the insanity down there and fled a few hours North. No more French Canadians hanging on the beach in banana hammocks, no more roads clogged with Je Me Souviens tags and snow birds who can't see over the steering wheel, and plants beside palm trees can grace our lawns. But I do miss getting a decent bagel. Ah, trade-offs...

Going to look you up now...


Ah yes, tourist season. We're just at the beginning here in Coronado, CA and we have the same love/hate relationship with them. We're glad they're here spending money, but there'll be no more eating out for us until Labor Day; we're actively avoiding the main road across town on weekends; and the Zonies (summer people from AZ) next door are partying on week nights -- after all, they're on vacation, they don't have to work the next day.

We always celebrate the exodus in September by visiting all our favorite places that we've stayed away from all summer.

VB, the sight of beer-swilling French Canadian males in banana hammocks is forever burned in my brain.
I bet you do know about the "half-backs," Margaret.
They sell a cocktail napkin here that says, "I don't care how you do it up North."
Jungle Island sounds like a very cool place for a wedding, Karen.

Ft. Lauderdale! Fifteenth Street Fisheries! Sob. I love it so much.

Nancy, I'll feed the tarpon in your honor.

Lucky me, I live where sensible tourists fear to tread. We do get hunters in season and consider it a good year when no one loses a bull to a city slicker that can't tell the difference between cattle and game. And some years we get a lot of hang gliders. Some of the locals make a good summer income following a glider and giving him and his equipment a ride back from the boonies. Generally, women come here once, find nothing of interest (very poor shopping opportunities, no decent restaurants, and limited social opportunities) and we never see them again. There husbands love it though and return every year dreaming of the time they can retire here. But they visit in the summer and fall; the first winter usually sends them back to more hospitable climates. Tourists sure are welcome though. It's a shame none of the businesses can figure out how to keep the whole family happy. Stores full of the same junk from China that can be found in any town big enough to have a Walmart just doesn't impress.

You're right about those off-seasons in paradise, Carol. Before we moved permanently, we spent August in Fort Lauderdale, when Florida is hotter than the hinges of hell. We found it wasn't any hotter than St. Louis and my hometown doesn't have an ocean breeze.

This topic has an endless cycle of amusement potential.

People who are natives in a tourist area somehow never think of themselves as annoying tourists when they travel. And people who settle somewhere quickly designate themselves as locals, but the people who have been born there will almost never include those newcomers in that category. And the ones who have been born there are still considered outsiders by those who can trace their families back several generations. People who complain about tourists will also be complaining when they don't show up. And so on!

People are funny.

KarinNH -- People ARE funny and that's what makes us human. I may grumble about the newcomers and yes, there was a T-shirt a few years back that said "Nobody gives a f--k how they do it in NY" but the natives have settled down a little and learned to eat bagels instead of biscuits and now know what real pizza and hot dogs should taste like. Also, we now have a thriving symphony, ballet, and opera. Small is nice, but large brings many amenities. It's all about trade-offs.

I can sympathize ; we moved near Orlando 13 years ago. We NEVER go near Disney,etc. in the summer. And we know, if we have to go down there, to plan extra time. And we go to the beach in the off season (Sept/Oct).

But you can give me hurricanes over snowstorms any day. You don't do much shoveling in a hurricane. And I'd rather lose the electricity in the heat (although we do have a generator) than in the cold. I'm sure I'll be eating my words come Hurricane Season. :)

Come to the Florida Keys! We love our tourists. No, really, we do. We weren't flipping you the bird when you cut us off on the Overseas Highway. That was a, "No, it's okay. Please pull out in front of me at the last minute." salute!

When you race by us in your huge speedboat that's compensating for your personal small equipment, we didn't yell, "Slow down, asshat, didn't you see the diver down flag?" Oh no, we said, "Slow down. We're worring about YOUR safety."

All snark aside, we who live in the Florida Keys honestly do appreciate tourism and know damn well that we would not survive to enjoy our lives here in paradise if you stopped coming. So, we're going to serve you well with delicious food and comfortable hospitality. Come on down. Please!

Some of the major tourist sites are becoming elitist destinations because of the higher ticket prices.
It is becoming a back to nature possibility since many families are scrunched to vacations money wise.
I attended a wedding this weekend in an arboretum setting and it was very peaceful and beautiful.

Mary, you're preaching to the choir. The Keys are where Don and I vacation. It's more laidback than Lauderdale and the people are always nice, no matter how provoking we tourists are. The Keys have some good bookstores along the Overseas Highway, including Moore's in Key Largo and Hooked on Books in Islamorada. Terrific limeade at the little restaurant next to Hooked on Books, too.

Marathon Discount Books stocks a number of mysteries. He's done some signings, too!

Since Florida is my favourite vacation spot, I thank all you natives for not shooting tourists. I will have you know that I don't drive while on vacation and if I did, I can see over the steering wheel. I am not French Canadian and banana hammocks are NOT popular on the west coast . . .

We get our fair share of tourists in Vancouver, lots of cruise ships docking and expelling herds of them, as well as lots of tourists from asian countries. One odd problem we have is the main branch of the library is in the downtown core and has a large chinese/japanese section - the asian tourists think they can walk in and walk out with books - so the library has security guards now, who explain they have to be local to take out books and the books have to be returned!

We also have a very well attended Gay Pride week & parade & film festival in the summer, now those are some great and interesting tourists.

Come on down, Gaylin, the water's fine. We have FLIFF, the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival in the winter, and several openly gay politicians. We tend to shoot one another rather than tourists in Lauderdale.

Yeah, going to the beach (or anywhere else) in Santa Monica or Malibu is pretty much a pain in the posterior for locals when school is out and half the country has decided our beach is where they want to be. But only in the past ten years have we had gridlock extending many blocks inland . . . so frustrating when I just want to get to my office!
I try to remind myself that many people here would be unemployed if the tourists went away . . . and that tourists can be amusing when they're not dangerous (Arizona plates on an SUV going 45 in the middle lane of the 10 Freeway!!!).

Hey. Those of us who have trouble seeing over the steering wheel have nothing to do with all cars being designed for a six foot, 180 pound man. But when we are on public transportation there is ALWAYS enough leg room. So there.

LOL, Carol. Did not mean to be heightist. I am six feet tall, but not 180 pounds. And one of Florida's flaws is lack of good public transportation. I'd love it if we had DC's Metro system. Don't get me started.

The tarpon and I thank you, Elaine.

Here's a song by Utah Phillips that sums up the feelings of my fellow Coloradans:

We've got a lot of trouble with the jet set,
Those lazy no-good [loungers] love to ski,
And they all want to fly to Colorado,
Then buy up all our mountain property.

Well you can visit now and then,
Bring your money, bring your friends,
Bring your campers and your Winnebagoes too.
Bring your festivals and dope, and we all sincerely hope,
That you don't forget to leave when you are through.

Al, I hadn't heard that one, but I do love Utah Phillips . . . and miss him.

In my Florida--agricultural north central Florida--we don't resent tourists so much as the greedipusses who destroy the environment in their efforts to attract tourist dollars.
How could we blame anyone who falls in love and wants to embrace our pastoral landscape, springs, hammocks and wetlands. The tourist never hunted in the swamp now filled in to build his time-share condo. The new permanent resident is unaware of the cattle that once grazed where his McMansion now stands. He can only bemoan the damage when another high rise or subdivision is built next door.
An indirect consequence of south Florida tourism (and hurricanes) has been relocation of all those Yankees from down there to counties one to two hundred miles north. Hurricane Andrew, general economic growth and structural changes in agricultural all coalesced in the nineties and early 2000s to pressure farmers to sell to developers. And those few who could afford it, now escape, not to Margaret Maron's eastern North Carolina but to Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachia, where they have long been resented.
Economic collapse has put a brake on the environmental destruction, only now the landscape is besmirched by empty buildings instead of homes and workplaces.

Funny blog today, Elaine. Sorry I am so late. Now I'll have to go to Florida. Everyone I know there comes from somewhere else.

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