Chalky White

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boardwalk empire + favourite scenes/moments • [9/??] → The Pepper Tree (1.04)

∟”I was born in Elgin, Texas. My daddy taught himself the carpenter trade doing for the black folk there. And I tell you, anything that man put his hand to…table, chair, wedding chest…he make that wood sing. 

Now one day a man, Mr. T.O. Purcell, come round. He a white man, own his own store, a stable, hotel. He say to my daddy, “I hears you the finest carpenter in Elgin.” My daddy tell him, “well, I can’t say one way or the other, but I knows a bit about somethin’.” So Mr. T.O. Purcell take my daddy to this house he was building…biggest house in town. They walk in there, say, “this here gonna be the library. What you think ‘bout that?” My daddy say, “Well, I thinks you need some bookcases.” “Well then, that’s what I want you to make me.” 10 month my daddy work there. And then when he finished, he bring me round. “Mr. Purcell, this here my boy. I’d like to show him what I done.” “Well, come on in through the front door.” Just like that. And we did. When I seen them bookcases all carved with scroll and flowers, baskets of fruit, little angels floating in the corner, that was the most beautiful thing I ever seen. 

About a month later another man come round. “I seen what you did for T.O. I can’t let that old dog top me. You come round my house and I’ll show you what I need.” My daddy go with him to the edge of town. Wasn’t nothing there but six white men, 12’ of rope, and the pepper tree they hung him from.”

What it was like living in Florida for seven years of my life:

I’m so thankful to be somewhere with snow on the ground right now I could almost cry a little. I almost forgot what it was like to be able to wear a sweater or be physically close to a human being for more than one minute without everyone stewing to death in each other’s sweat.

Whenever someone here in Iowa catches that we moved from Florida, there’s always remarks about how “lucky” we were to be there, how “crazy” we were to leave it, or how terrible it must be to experience a winter. These are people who have likely never been to Florida, and probably think Florida looks like this:

When most of Florida actually looks like either this:

Or this:

Florida was built mostly on what used to be swampland, which was drained and filled in with imported soil and gravel until houses could be built on it. This means that most of where you go in Florida, the ground itself is basically fake, and it looks the part. It’s flat as a pancake, there are perfect, straight drainage ditches instead of rivers or streams and the hills are blocky, artificial things wealthy people have on their properties to keep their shit above flood level.

It is not pretty enough to compensate for its climate.

Now, you probably think you know what being “too hot” is like. Maybe you live in Australia or Nevada or something and you’ve been able to fry eggs on the sidewalk. Yeah, nasty. Like living in an oven, right?

Your NICE, DRY fucking oven.

Florida spends most of the year in the high 80′s at a minimum, the sky is usually cloudless, buildings are built low to the ground and the trees are either palms or scrappy little things offering next to zero shade. The sun is perpetually baking every single surface, to the point that a freshly paved road goes from black to chalky white within weeks.

In fact, EVERYTHING outdoors is steadily bleached chalky white. You better love pastels because no matter what you paint your house or decorate your lawn with, it’s going to become pastel. Pastel with streaks of piss yellow.

  NORMALLY, an environment like this is also associated with dryness, but Florida is not normal.

In Florida, there is almost no reprieve from the humidity. Not in its coolest “winters,” and not indoors with any level of climate control. You can never get rid of mold in your house. You can never stop feeling greasy. Often it’s so moist outside that breathing is physically difficult. Again, you’ve probably experienced this, but there aren’t too many places, at least in America, where you’re stuck with it some 330 days of the year.

And moisture, as you may know, traps additional heat, so when they say Florida is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s the ambient temperature, in the open air. You aren’t air. You are a solid mass that produces body heat and moisture of its own, and you’re legally required to wear some amount of clothing when you step outside. The air may be 90 degrees, but you are going to feel about 120 degrees, and it’s probably going to just steadily get worse until your next opportunity to shower or stand directly in front of an air conditioner for a while.

So Florida combines the blistering sun of Death Valley with the moisture of the Amazon Basin, without looking as nice as either of those places. It’s like they had a baby but they’re two different species so the baby is some freakish sterile donkey monster. That’s Florida. It’s the abominable mule of a rainforest and a desert.

And we haven’t even gotten to THE SMELL yet! Do you realize what it smells like when an entire state is both too wet and too hot ALL the god damned time? When there is never any cool, dry period long enough to clear the air of the collective funk of every possible surface being slowly, perpetually broiled?

Think of how much plastic and rubber is lying around one city. Have you smelled burning plastic and rubber? Now think about how much garbage is lying around in one city. The garbage in the streets, in the cans outside every business, in the cans on the lawns of several million households, all both too hot and too wet. All the time.

Next, factor in the usual level of air pollution when you’ve got a dense population, made denser by the number of people vacationing there and visiting their elderly family memmbers all year round. Good god, the traffic. On top of the car exhaust fumes hanging around in the wet air, you’ve got the collective odor of the people themselves, since everyone is constantly pouring sweat and can’t possibly afford enough showers to keep up with the stink.

Add to that the fact that, despite the wetness, you are never more than a couple miles from something on fire. Sometimes acres and acres of Florida scrubland are on fire. You’ll hear fire trucks multiple times a day no matter where you are, but we’re not here to talk about the noise pollution, which would make this post go on even longer - as would any talk of its equally godawful political and cultural environment.

You’re also never very far from either a beach, brackish river or estuary, of course, and that means you can top off the miasma of bleaching plastic, ash, sweat, body odor, sunscreen, smog and roasting garbage with a whiff of decomposing fish every now and then, like someone quietly hitting a triangle to add one more note to a never-ending song about ass.

And to cut this nice and short, let me wrap up with two magical words every single Floridian will know intimately well sooner or later in their reeking, roasting stew of a state:

FUNGAL.

INFECTIONS.

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