Stick a Wick on It

A New Yorker’s visit to Florida

| 26 Oct 2022 | 10:56

It seemed like only yesterday, probably because it was just yesterday, that I was enjoying the cool breezes; the crisp weather in New York City that is our abbreviated season called Fall. I remember when Autumn took its time. The leaves gradually turned colors and wafted to the ground and there was ample time to pull out my favorite sweaters and wooly socks. I could locate the cord for the electric blanket well before I needed it. In recent years though, it seems that the leaves almost leap from their branches, and winter is suddenly upon us. But don’t misunderstand, I love the cold weather.

So how is it that I find myself today, sweating and uncomfortable in 86-degree weather and 75-percent humidity? Simple. I’m making my yearly pilgrimage to visit dear friends in their swinging senior community in Florida, about an hour north of Orlando. It’s not unlike an eerily idyllic Stepford town or the picturesque and inescapable island inhabited by Patrick McGoohan in the mysterious British TV show “The Prisoner.”

I generally make this trip in November or February, when the weather is more bearable – but not this year, when apparently, I wasn’t thinking clearly when I booked it.

I got on the plane at LaGuardia early this morning, looking really good, with every curl in place. However, as soon as we landed in Florida and I strode onto the walkway and into the airport terminal, my hair, which had been perfectly behaved up until that point, made a break for it. I could almost hear a pop and a whoosh as my strands exploded. Every curl began to unfurl in the dense Florida air. My bangs started their descent into my eyes so that I was soon peering through a thick curtain of hair.

I took the escalator to the baggage claim area, fearing that I might not fit inside the elevator with my expanding corona of red frizz. After grabbing my bag, I stepped outside and was immediately transported into the Ninth Ring(let) of hell. It felt like an assault with steaming hot dishrags.

Barney and Me

So here I sit, an hour north of Orlando, covered in sunscreen SFP 70. The sticky stuff is slathered on every imaginable exposed inch of skin. Because I burn. Badly. I’ve never had anything resembling a tan in my life, just freckles and blisters. I’m practically translucent, so I take no chances. Once, years ago, I was on a USO tour of Central America. While my castmates frolicked for hours in the beautiful, clear Caribbean, I sat under a giant tree, avoiding each and every ray. As the day of fun came to an end, and the sun started going down, I splashed in the sea for about 15 minutes. The next morning, I woke up horribly sick, swollen and a shade of purple usually reserved for perfectly ripe Bing cherries or Barney the Dinosaur.

I’m currently sweaty and uncomfortable and will likely stay that way for the rest of my week’s visit. To remain pale, safe and uncharred, I apply and then reapply sunscreen often, so often, in fact, that I acquire a thick, waxy coating. So waxy, in fact, that you could probably stick a wick on my head and call me a candle, for that’s what I feel like.

It’s no one’s fault but my own. I definitely should have cultivated friends who live in colder climes – like the Arctic Circle perhaps. But don’t misunderstand, I’m quite happy to see my friends in Florida. I just wished they’d moved to Alaska.

Mona is a former vocalist, a freelance publicist and is still working on her screenplay and a book of essays about her mother.