The Extinction of the Early Bird

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The east coast of South Florida feels like purgatory. There’s Miami, and there are beaches, but drive for 20 minutes outside of either, and it’s just vast plains of boxy, beige retirement villages, distinguishable only by their names, which all sound like euphemisms for a place you go when you die — Valencia Isles, Windward Palms, Mangrove Bay — and the relative elaborateness of their welcome fountains. The sky is a flat blue, and the temperature ranges from a chilled 62 degrees indoors to a muggy 85 degrees outside. Entire strip malls have been colonized by medical centers, generically advertising “Eye Care” or “Dermatology,” and every home purchase comes with a subscription to Nostalgic America magazine. “If Florida is the Great American Escape, it is also less enticing: the Great American Dumping Ground,” wrote Gloria Jahoda in Florida: A History in 1984. “It is where Mom and Pop go to die.”

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