A Trap Not Just For Tourists.

I moved to Florida in the spring of 1999 at 26 years old. I am from the midwest - Detroit and Minneapolis to be exact, and I thought life could go nowhere but up. I thought I was moving in with an awesome girl and we were going to go diving and swimming in the ocean and we'd be sun worshippers and I'd use the education I got in programming to pay for the expenses.

Wrong. Dead wrong.

I don't want to go into too many details about what happened to me, but I will say that I haven't read an experience in this forum that I didn't share between then and now. I'm finally back out, but I had to get fired from my job to do it.

Florida is a trap. It's like a giant bear trap waiting for the unsuspecting, naive optimist to stroll on by so it can snap its gator teeth on a leg and drag, drag, drag you under. I managed to get out but it cost me my leg - figuratively, if not literally.

I've had the heart attack (age 36), had sunstroke and heat stroke from trying to move into another substandard, overpriced apartment after another when the lease was up in August or September, lost my job, been on Florida unemployment which pays a maximum (no matter what you earned before!) of only $275 a week even in a depressed job market - meaning I had a choice to break lease and leave to skip state and live with relative or be homeless a mere 3 weeks after being let go; I have the state department of Revenue trying to go after me for back taxes I don't owe since my business lasted all of about 5 months, if that (they have terrible record keeping! They actually had people calling me at work to tell me they had no reason to call me, then sent me a collections notice anyway) - and now they say I owe them more than $3500 in sales taxes that I haven't been legally able to collect since 12/31/2009 (it is 2012 now).

Upshot is that I wanted to leave years and years ago but didn't make enough money to save up to leave. Why? Same thing everyone else here says: living expenses are higher than wages because these cheap bastards can't be arsed to pay what someone's worth. You won't make enough to save up to go home. That's the trap.

I hate Florida. I used to live in Palm Harbor, St. Pete, Clearwater, Dunedin, and Largo. Now I'm near Minneapolis again. Florida is a good place to vacation but one of the worst places in the US to live. Minnesota is the reverse: A great place to live but kind of crappy to visit. Wish I'd known this in 1999.

gurensan gurensan
36-40, M
2 Responses Sep 14, 2012

People vacation in Florida at a resort and think life will be like that all the time if they live there....

Very true. I thought I'd be swimming with dolphins....

I hate hate hate it here in Florida. I am in Palm Harbor. Probably the worst area of all those that you mentioned you lived in. I don't know what it is like where you are but I'm glad you were able to get out of here and be happy. I am working on a plan to get out too, I really fear how many years I might be stuck here. I seriously do not think I am capable of being happy until I am out of here. I get pissed off everytime I have to walk outside, the humidity and bugs are ridiculous. People here seem to act as if the terrible things about this place are totally normal and I'm some crazy person for thinking otherwise. People here get offended that i've lived elsewhere and know that there are much better places in the world. (I spent several years in Las Vegas, NV and southern California) Much, much better resturants on the west coast too I might add. This place is a trap. It's very claustrophobic, I'm used to being able to take a road trip now and then and have a change of scenery. Here, four hours later, you're still in good old Florida with rednecks and mosquitos. How can people like the heat and humidity here? I think the heat has seriously affected the brains here. I hope I can find a way out so I can have a life worth living.

There are a couple of redeeming restaurants near you.

Lagerhaus, in the ***** mall across the street from the Boot Ranch shopping center. 19 to Curlew, then left at the first light after McMullen Booth rd and in the ***** mall on the right. If you see the "Beer Police" cop car, you're right in front of it. Be prepared to spend some money. It's a brew pub owned & operated by an Austrian whose family has been brewing nearly 500 years. The food there is killer (try the pizza, the schnitzel, spaetzle, the home-made sauerkraut). Much of the beer is made right there (the miniature brewery is glass-walled so you can look in) and is quite good. As are the lambics - my wife loves the wild berry. The service was never bad when we went. Join the beer club, it's incredibly worthwhile... free stuff on Thursdays. My wife and I are cardholders #68 and #69.

Beside the few real friends I made, it's #1 thing I miss since I left.

Little Italy in St. Petersburg (34th/19 and 36th I think - in a shopping center) is decent cheap pizza and beer. If you like calzones and strombolis done in the greasy, Sunday-football style, it's worth the 20 minute drive from Palm Harbor. I've heard from someone from New York that it's the closest you're going to get to New York pizza.

Spoto's Steak Joint in Dunedin serves game.. like elk and deer and yak and kangaroo. But it's kind of expensive, not so good, and the waitstaff are mostly incompetent.

Los Mayas in Clearwater is one of the best Mexican places anywhere. It's at the corner of Seminole (I think) and Cleveland. It's cheap, too, and a lot of it is what the Mexican family themselves eats. It's not spicy. No refills on soft drinks, though, but for the price of the food I was willing to buy an extra Coke if I wanted more. I usually had a Dos Equis, anyway.

For breakfast, Lenny's in Clearwater. It's right off of 19 on a service drive south of you... I think it's just north of Gulf to Bay blvd. Best breakfast anywhere in the area, I guarantee.

Eli's. FANTASTIC RIBS. Having spent some time in the south, I can tell you that you will not find better BBQ/smoked ribs. Anywhere. It's at the corner of Skinner and Alt 19 in Dunedin. Take Main Street toward the gulf and veer to the right when it does. It's a TINY little cinder block building on the right. Open only Friday and Saturday 11am to 2pm so don't miss it. Eli starts cooking on Wednesday and smokes it for two days. I am not kidding. It's $11 for a half-rack that's enough to feed a grown man. I used to eat there weekly, and I didn't always use the sauce they're so good.

Cody's Original Roadhouse. Lots of locations around. If you haven't seen one, you don't own a car. Good steak. If you've got a peanut allergy, stay far, far away. I recommend the 14oz. Top Sirloin because that's what I like. There is only one salad dressing and you're getting it even if you don't want it - garlic ranch. Good thing it's not bad, as I can't stand normal ranch. Go between 7 and 9 for happy hour.

So, not ALL the restaurants suck. Most do.

If you're looking for "healthy" keep looking. I hate that Sweet Tomatoes salad bar buffet place on 19 between Curlew and the next light north, but if that's what you're into, it's what's there.

There is NO good Chinese / Japanese. You'll have to look for Thai or Vietnamese, but they're there.

I hope that helps alleviate the blahs a little bit. You can do ok for food if you've got cash. The rest pretty much blows.

Ok, the first stars were "Boot" and "Ranch", and the second set was supposed to be "stripmall."

Oh yeah. Eli's is cash-only. Hit an ATM before you get there.

Oh and Einstein Bagels has great bagels. Worth it. They're a nationwide chain, but they've got a few stores near you. Most bagels suck in comparison.

You will find a way out. I hate Florida to death. It took me everything I owned and then some, but I made the move to Chicago. It was worth every blood, sweat, tear, and dime. I am back in Florida for a few days to pack up my apartment, and I feel sick to my stomach. I'm already counting the days until I can fly back home.

Good luck! I made it out alive, you can, too!

2 More Responses