Life in the Slow Lane-Warm Mineral Springs, Florida

Conversations overheard while wading in the Warm Mineral Spring clockwise “loop”:

Conversation 1
75 year-old fat Ukrainian Jewish man with straw hat:
“I always get my movies from the library because it’s free.”

75 year-old fat Ukrainian Jewish man with baseball cap:
“Why don’t you watch them from your computer?

Straw hat: “My signal is very weak.”

Baseball cap: “Why don’t you call Comcast? They can fix it.”

Straw hat: “Nothing you can do in my situation.”

Baseball cap: “Really? Comcast can’t help you?”

Straw hat: “No, because Comcast requires a cable.”

Baseball cap: “You have Internet with no cable? Why don’t you get cable?”

“Because I have to PAY for cable!!!”

Conversation 2
Fat Ukrainian Jewish man number one:
“I put my water heater on a mode where it only gives you short bursts of warm and cold water, on/off. But now it doesn’t work anymore. I’ve tried to fix it for six months.”

Fat Ukrainian Jewish man number two:
“So what? You told me you don’t take showers!”

Number one: “Yeah, because hot water costs a LOT of money! Didn’t you know that?”

Number two: “Yes, but I know you really take SOME showers. What did you do?”

Number one: “I took one from Peter.”

Number two: “You took his water heater?”

“Yes. He doesn’t use his anyway.”

Conversation 3
Fat Ukrainian Jewish woman wearing a water noodle, a stylish feathered hat, a “nose guard” sun blocker on her sunglasses, and full facial make-up, bragging to her friends:
“My daughter only gives me expensive brand-name clothes. I accept them because it makes her so happy.”

These conversations were translated from Russian, which is the predominant language heard in the spring. They prove to me that a trip there is worth a few laughs, and that the cheapest and tawdriest people on earth may not in fact be the Quebecois, but rather Ukrainian Jews.

They say that this place is a magnet for them, and I believe it. Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and a handful of Americans come here because of the supposed healing quality of its warm (85 degree) waters-but I’ve lived here in Florida for over 30 years and never heard of this tiny spring in a residential section of North Port until last week.

Yet there they were, small clusters of foreigners, bobbing, wading, and dog-paddling clockwise around the circular sinkhole, chatting in the familiar way that only old friends can. From their talk and a conversation I had with one of the two lifeguards (also a Russian), I learned that they spend almost all day, every day there, and from personal observation most of that time is in the water, which is advertised to have 51 minerals (a North American best!) and that if you dip into the spring, “You’ll feel better!”, a slogan that the current owner, the city of North Port, felt was clever enough to copyright.  It is also considered to be one of the ten best healing waters in the world, and important enough to be on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ponce De Leon went looking for the Fountain of Youth in 1513 and died trying to find it. Little did he know that it’s a proven fact that the Warm Mineral Spring is what he was looking for, although, in truth, it doesn’t seem to be an anti-aging elixir based on the largely septuagenarian crowd I saw there-but maybe they looked 90 when they started bathing, who knows? I can say for my own part that I did “feel better” having spent a few hours in the warm embrace of the spring, and there are plenty of people who swear it can cure everything from arthritis to psoriasis. Besides, this is one of the last remnants of “Old Florida” kitschy tourism. Places like this won’t be around forever. The city is already talking about selling it to a luxury developer. So my advice is, if you want to experience it, do it now!
If you go, here are a few things you should know:

  • Don’t bring kids! There is NOTHING here for them to do, other than walk around in the “kiddie pool” shallow water area
  • The water smells-it is a sulfur, rotten egg odor, stronger in some places than others
  • The water is NOT the clear spring water you’ve come to expect in Florida. In fact, it is quite murky, and it has lots of green algae floating around in it.
  • There is no food allowed inside, and there is no cafe’. I know, I know, it makes no sense to me either!
  • There are no recliners, so it isn’t a great place to catch some rays.
  • It’s a hefty $20 per person to get in
  • You might want to bring a “Noodle” with you-it seems they’re part of the Warm Springs “uniform”.

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