I split my time between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Coral, Florida. Although I'm always living on “the Cape,” the two places are very different.
I'm a New Englander. If you're from New England, I don't have to explain; you already understand. If you're not from New England, let me just say that we're private. The Lovely Louise and I have lived in our home on Cape Cod for over six years. I don't know any of my neighbors, and that's actually just fine with me. No one just stops in for coffee or to borrow any tools or to ask me to help with some project they're doing.
Cape Coral is different. We live in a great neighborhood, and we've met all of the neighbors—actually, Louise met them and I got introduced because they thought I was just some fictional person she had made up.
We're particularly friendly with our neighbors across the street, John and Linda. Louise and Linda have become best buddies, and Louise thinks nothing of saying, “I'm going to pop over to Linda's and see how she is.” This little “pop over” can last for hours. Once in a while, John will come over to our house just to say hello and chat. It still surprises me, because I just can't bring myself to do that. I don't even visit my mother without calling first to make sure it's convenient.
Every evening in Cape Coral, the neighbors gather in the street outside our house to go for their evening walk. Louise actually counts down the minutes until she can join them. I don't go. Not only do I not like walking, but they always walk during cocktail hour. Six o'clock at night is time for drinking, not walking. Besides, they don't really walk; they sort of saunter. Some of them bring their little dogs with them, and they have to stop every ten feet for the dogs to do their business or because the dogs have smelled something. A walk around our block, which would normally take about five minutes, becomes a twenty- to thirty-minute event while they discuss the events of the day. Not my thing.
We have lots of very nice restaurants on Cape Cod, but it seems like they all have the same menu: fried seafood and simple steaks. In Cape Coral, however, there are different restaurants everywhere. There's a Cuban restaurant we love for breakfast, where two people can get a full breakfast and get out of there for just over ten bucks. We have Peruvian, German, Polish, Vietnamese, Thai, and—possibly our favorite—a place called the Lobster Lady where they serve … wait for it … New England seafood. It's not really like the food on Cape Cod but, for Florida, it's pretty good.
Shopping is different as well. On Cape Cod, shopping is concentrated in specific areas. In Cape Coral and nearby Ft. Myers, there are stores and malls all over the place. Shopping is big-time in Florida, and we have everything you can imagine.
The one thing I really haven't gotten used to is the people. People in New England are properly reserved and it can take years to get to know them. In Florida everyone is so damn friendly, and I don't trust it. I think they want something from me. I don't know what it is, but when everyone tries to make friends with me I think they must have serious and deeply rooted psychological problems, and I'm worried it may be contagious.