January 23, 2006

West Palm Beach/Palm Beach County

Once again the warm tropical air is back. The past few days have been in the upper seventies and low eighties. Absolutely wonderful! I took a walk the other evening along the intercoastal waterway at sunset and took this photograph.


Palm Beach County doesn’t seem as crazed as Fort Lauderdale, though people drive just as badly, perhaps worse. There are all the arrogant “gen X” and “Y,” kids, as well as the “boomers,” all of whom drive as though South Florida is one BIG demolition derby. I also see many people that appear to be of my generation bent over their steering wheels, and most of these seem to be completely oblivious to other drivers. Ah, darn – I’m writing a diatribe about terrible drivers and I must apologize, dear journal. Back to Palm Beach County.

As in all of Southeast Florida, Latino culture is a strong influence. However, this area seems to be more stratified according to socio-economic factors. Palm Beach itself is the quintessential upper class enclave. At the same time, local tour guides point out that Jupiter Island at the North end of Palm Beach County is the most pricy piece of real estate in the entire United States. I drove up there myself yesterday and was impressed by the ten-mile stretch of estates, most on parcels of land ten to twenty times the size of the average property at Palm Beach. Of course, I drove to Palm Beach itself and went to the Flagler Museum. The museum was originally named Whitehall and was the home of Henry Morrison Flagler, the man who single handedly developed the East Coast of Florida, and created the Palm Beach winter social season of the Gilded Age.

On my second day here I again drove North to Jupiter and climbed the more than one hundred steps to the top of Jupiter Light House. I had to stop constantly and rest, but once at the top I was rewarded with a spectacular view South to West Palm Beach, and North into Martin County. The lighthouse is on Jupiter Inlet where the gray but clear water of the Loxahatchee meets the green water of the Indian River, the two mingle together, and then empty into the emerald green waters of the Atlantic. It is here that Florida projects farthest into the Atlantic Ocean, and closest to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. While at Jupiter Inlet I visited the Loxahatchee River Historical Society, and an exhibit of photographs of the river by Clyde Butcher. Butcher works with a field camera like Ansel Adams did in the Western United States, and like Adams work, the detail and range of value in Butcher’s photographs is staggering.

I spent my third day looking at condominiums in the area, and discovered that prices and taxes are as high as anywhere else in Southeast Florida. Property taxes run about 2.5 percent of the property value, so on each one-hundred-thousand dollars of property, one can figure taxes of two-thousand-five-hundred dollars. It looks as though I will have to spend more than I planned if I want to live anywhere along the Southeast coast.

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