I’ve moved to a new home in my (adopted) hometown.
By Hannah Wallace
When I moved to Indian Beach nearly three years ago, I was greeted by a peacock in my yard, plumage vibrant, tail spectacularly fanned.
This Christmas day, the first morning in our new (rented) Bradenton home, CCB and I were greeted by roosters, volume to 11, crowing call-and-answer. At 4 a.m.
Now, regardless of what you consider reality in Sarasota and Bradenton, peacocks and roosters are a pretty good metaphor for the towns’ stereotyped differences.
Moving sucks, in case you’ve forgotten, but I’ve finally gotten everything moved to the new place—and some of it’s even in the proper rooms, too. (Never had to figure out which room to put stuff in before; I’ve only ever had one room to choose from.) So here we are, CCB and I. Together. Our house. In Bradenton.
It’s not actually any different. I haven’t seen any drive-bys and no one’s horn has honked Dixie (unlike here on Pineapple Avenue, ahem). Drivers seem to get more aggressive from about Whitfield on north—there’s a prevalence of pickup trucks on my ass, especially northbound Tamiami, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen so many shoddily modified Escorts weed-whacking their way through traffic.
And cars carry a lot of stereotypes. CCB and I, while watching the traffic on Main Street from a second-floor O’Malley’s window, once discussed a Sarasota Automobile Drinking Game: One drink for run-of-the-mill luxury cars—your Lexuses, Beamers and Jaguars; two drinks for the more exotic Ferraris and luxury SUVs; three drinks for Rolls Royces, authentic Hummers and, I don’t know, Model Ts and stuff. I mean, try playing that in Bradenton. Your drink will evaporate.
The Bradenton version of this game, we’ve decided, centers on the size and color of mufflers and rear spoilers. Black Neon with a three-foot-high blue spoiler, sounds like a riding lawnmower? Two drinks.
But in reality, Sarasota’s got plenty of these qualities. It’s not like the Boar’s Head Tavern is a bastion of forward-thinking philosophers, and Sarasota’s got a Hooters just like every other red-blooded, red-stated city in America. I know it’s Sarasota and all, but your waitress’ll be hard pressed to sing Puccini.
And Bradenton, well, it’s got its share of haute, as I found out on my second day in town.
Desperately in need of a haircut during Christmas vacation, I decided to return to what used to be my regular high school salon (when I really had no money and my life revolved around soccer). It was once a Fantastic Sam’s and had changed hands a few times, but I always felt comfortable there, an unassuming strip mall on Cortez Road.
The second I walked in, I knew I’d made a horrible mistake.
“Hi. I…um…would like a hair cut?” I was wearing green soccer shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, of course, with my hair in a ponytail. The woman—the only person in the salon—was remarkably well put together, 40-ish, wearing a fashionable black suit and short, well-styled hair. She seemed mortified.
She looked anxiously through her book and muttered a few unfinished sentences about her next appointment, then asked finally, “Have you been here before?” Yes, of course, I told her, all the time…years ago. When it used to be a Fantastic Sam’s.
She looked pained. “Do you know how much I charge?” God, the perfect Sarasota nightmare. True to my insecurities, I plowed on through as if this had been my plan all along. Apparently I looked as though I couldn’t afford a $45 hair cut—exactly what I would’ve paid had I driven down to Sarasota.
To her credit, the woman was pleasant and conversational—albeit using little euphemisms here and there. “Are you a teacher? You look like a teacher.” And, “You look very laid back. It’s good you feel so relaxed.” (Turns out, she once worked at the Southgate Saks.) She repeatedly joked, “So you only get your hair cut every other year?”
When her next appointment, an older woman, came in, the hairstylist was horribly embarrassed. “I never take walk-ins,” she whispered to me. Yes, my appalling presentation does in fact cross county lines.
So you see, either I’m not classy enough for Bradenton, or our two towns aren’t as coal black and pure white as we think they are. Please don’t tell me which you think is true.