If our constant travels hadn’t already upended my sense of time and season, I guess January in Florida would do it. Locals think it’s cold, but it gets almost to the 70Fs (20s C) some days, and the sun shines nearly always. I like it because some days I can wear a cardigan and boots, and other days it’s bare legs and t-shirts. Already we’re talking of visiting next year at the same time.
Our friends, Ying and Ståle, live on the edge of Tampa in a town* called Temple Terrace, named after an orange and designed in the 1920s around a golf course. Their house is filled (or actually, deliberately not-filled) with sleek modern furniture of the type Ying prefers: sculptural chairs and neutral-grey sofas and pristine white bed linen, all selected for visual harmony and physical comfort (Ying is a dancer). I realized after we got here that their furniture and dishes feel almost as much my friends as Ying and Ståle themselves, and that I’ve missed them almost as much — which I recognize is an extraordinary thing to say about furniture, but it’s true. This is a very good home in which to immerse myself during the month before moving into a place of our own.
Also extraordinary is the location of their house, just around a corner from the Hillsborough River. There’s a nice little park in their neighborhood, and we walked out there on the morning of MLK Day to see birds (and birdwatchers), squirrels, and people fishing or exercising.
Why did the heron(?) cross the road?
Yes, it really does look exactly like this. It’s surreal.
A carpet of aquatic plants: don’t walk on that nearer section of green!
On the edge of a different river — or is it another bend of the same river? — there is a Thai temple that sells food on Sundays. We went last weekend and ate our treats outdoors as gulls and pelicans circled the water. Ståle used to live in Thailand and he was over the moon about the food. We all loved it. We went at 10:30 and I thought it was tremendously crowded; Ståle said, “No, this is before it gets crowded.”
The day before that, we’d had even more enormous meals at a famous smoked-fish place. This was my mackerel dinner platter with coleslaw and German potato salad (I did not expect it to be so huge):
There are elements of the landscape/urbanscape here that remind me of Houston — strip malls, wide flat spaces, a necessary alignment with the demands of land and climate — and other elements that remind me of Hawaii — tropical flora, delicious fish, everything so green, the interplay of sky and bodies of water. Ying says they get geckos in the house in the summer.
Ying and Ståle are some of our oldest and dearest friends; Ying and I met in my freshman year of college, and have been in touch throughout all the years after that, even through moves to different cities or even countries. When we lived in Berkeley, and again when we lived in LA, we’d see each other almost weekly (if not more often). Sometimes we would go out to dinner or attend events, but more often than not, Friday night would find us, and other friends, cooking together and playing board games. It is so fantastic living with them because it is like Friday night almost every night — except nobody has to drive home afterward.
I’ve also spent a lot of time, over the years, with Ying in more girly pursuits. Our time in LA involved a lot of retail therapy (grad school + sample sales = shopping addiction) and visits to Korean spas. Oh, and discussion on that ever-absorbing topic: why our husbands do/think such inexplicable things. I never get tired of Erik, but after two years of his company almost exclusively, it is a rich pleasure to spend so much time chatting with a lady friend — both in serious talking, and also in the kind of day-to-day running commentary that both of our partners find distracting and unnecessary (“I love that dress because ______”; “do you prefer this yogurt or that one?”; “so what do you think of ____’s love life?”, etc).
Yesterday Ying and I went for haircuts. Her stylist, Liz, is not just a warm and lovely person and great with hair, she also rescues seabirds. Super amazing. Liz cut my hair first and then I sketched her and Ying while she was doing Ying’s hair.
It was quite a challenge to try to draw someone’s hands while they were in constant motion, but I enjoyed it.
Weirdly lit evening selfie, post-cut:
Pre-haircut a couple of days earlier, in a vintage hat from a local shop:
We’ve been here one week now, and will stay at least two more.
*Technically an incorporated city, but I didn’t know what that meant, so I’m guessing neither do you. I did look it up: it means it’s self-governing, as opposed to a town, which in the US is not. But when the population is about 24,000 and the place looks like it does, I’m not calling it a city.