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Always wanting the thing we can't have

Warm Mineral Springs.


Warm Mineral Springs.

Three things I underlined in Sam Anderson's piece in today's New York Times Magazine on Florida's various Fountains of Youth:

1. I went to Florida recently to follow the traces of the traces of the legend of Ponce. Also, obviously, to drink the water, just in case the rumors were true — just kidding, ha-ha, I don’t believe in the Fountain of Youth — but really, just in case. What did I have to lose? I am old. I am fat. I have felt this way at least since I was 21 — a long time ago now. My hair is thin. My dog has died. My children’s fish have died. My body has been annotated, top to bottom, by injuries I can’t even remember suffering. I breathe hard when I walk up short flights of stairs. Sometimes I feel basically done

2. It occurred to me that I was seeing the remnants of an old and dying version of Florida, the kind of attraction that preceded Disneyworld and the Interstates: natural, shabby and on the edge of extinction.

3. Thirsty people seemed to prefer the Starbucks across the street.

To read too: Leonora LaPeter Anton in North Port. Jeff Klinkenberg in St. Augustine.

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Nine years here was enough

Where to next?


Where to next?

Joe Maddon probably knew he had done all he could do in St. Pete so it was time for a new challenge. The only constant is change.

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Add this to the fledgling trend of controlling invasive species by eating them




From Laura Reiley's story set to run in the paper this weekend:

Chiles leans back in his office chair, a banana-yellow paddleboard resting behind him and the famously fine-grained sand of Anna Maria glinting on the other side of the wide window. Handsome and boyishly enthusiastic, he looks a little like his father, two-time Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles. And really, his enthusiasms don't run too far from those of his dad.

"My mom was a great cook, and my dad cooked a lot of game. I grew up hunting and fishing and was taught a reverence for game," he said.

Whereas his father was one of the initial investors in the Red Lobster chain, Ed got his start when he took over Anna Maria's Sandbar in 1979, which he says "was the proverbial sow's ear." He added Mar Vista on Longboat Key to his lineup in 1987 and Anna Maria's BeacHhouse in 1993. These three moderately priced indoor-outdoor restaurants showcase Florida foods, Chiles functioning as ambassador and cheerleader to what is being achieved locally.

"The most important movement in the 35 years I've been in business is 'local.' It's what's making the food scene blow up. It's about reconnecting with our food." …

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Craig Pittman wants to know why this isn't national news

A flying car crashed and burned at a small airport up in Dunnellon.

A flying car. In Dunnellon.

That's not the most interesting part.

Here's this paragraph:

The accident involved a Maverick ATV-type aircraft developed at the I-Tec (Indigenous Peoples Technology and Education Center), which is owned and operated by missionary Steve Saint at the Dunnellon Airport.

That's also not the most interesting part.

Here's THIS paragraph:

The flying car is part of Saint's ongoing mission to the Waodani Indians, the very people who took the life of his father, missionary Nate Saint, along with four other missionaries on a beach in Ecuador in 1956.

Do keep reading.

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Six more thoughts and then some on the whole North Florida-South Florida question

1. "I'd be all for it if we could drop Miami into the ocean," wrote one commenter on the previous post. Let's not do that. Miami is Florida's Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. It's our only global city. Florida needs Miami more than Miami needs Florida.

2. Another commenter pointed out: "USF's geographic misnomer would finally make sense as it could become the university of the state of South Florida." True enough. Although the University of CENTRAL Florida still would be just up the road.

3. Polk County, a third commenter suggested, needs to be in North Florida, not South Florida.

Worth some thought.

It's a conundrum, Polk County, but it's important. And it's important because it's giant. And it's not just giant. It's giant in a particular way because of where it sits, pretty much smack in the center of the state, which makes it a connector. Its west border feels a little Tampa and its east border feels a little mouse-y. And its north and south borders? Totally different places. Is there any other county in Florida quite like Polk? …

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If South Florida became the 51st state ...




... North Florida would struggle. That's my first thought.

Or maybe those folks up there'd love it.

"It's very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean," South Miami mayor Philip Stoddard told the Sun-Sentinel. "They've made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that."

Anyway, Stoddard is part of a group of politicians in Miami who are tired of being left out to sea when it comes to addressing climate change concerns for the southern part of the state, according to WTLV. The proposed solution? SOUTH FLORIDA!

Two more thoughts:

1. This would make St. Pete the Seattle of South Florida. Right?

2. Super appropriate, too, that Pasco County would be the southernmost portion of North Florida.

What else?

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Lane DeGregory on a life-saving dog

Today on 1A:

ST. PETERSBURG — The first time it happened, Gerald Rittinger was driving to buy his gravestone. His diabetes was getting worse. Doctors had just diagnosed him with prostate cancer. They gave him six months. Gerald's wife, Jeanne, was in the passenger seat of their Lincoln that day. Their puppy, Zeke, was supposed to stay in the back seat. But the yellow Labrador kept putting his big paws on the console between them, inching forward. They headed north on Interstate 75 to his family cemetery in Kentucky. After about three hours, Zeke stood up and began barking. "Down! Zeke, get down!" Jeanne scolded, tugging at his collar. Zeke leapt up, nuzzling his wet nose against Gerald's neck. Licking his face. Laughing, Gerald tried to push away the puppy. But Zeke wouldn't back off. His barking got louder. The dog became so agitated that Gerald had to pull off the highway. Seconds later, Gerald had a seizure. "If he had still been driving," Jeanne said, "all of us would have been killed." That was 12 years ago. Gerald had his headstone engraved, planted it in the graveyard, then came home to die. But Zeke wouldn't let him. Keep reading.

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Your choice on Nov. 4

Charlie Crist on Rick Scott: "I'm, like, the opposite of this guy."

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Six things I underlined in the Times' editorial about the University of Florida hiring Kent Fuchs from Cornell

1. Fuchs (pronounced "fox") is taking a leap of faith in bringing his talents to a state and a system that too often undervalues and underfunds higher education.

2. ... at a time when higher education is rapidly changing.

3. A top 10 public university combines cutting-edge research with an educational system that produces the next generation of critical-thinking citizens, who know not only how to make a discovery but how to ask the right question. A solid grounding in the liberal arts plays a key role in creating those thoughtful leaders of tomorrow.

4. ... the prestigious Association of American Universities. UF is the only Florida school among the 62 members.

5. ... compare this result with the recent debacle at Florida State University, where John Thrasher, a powerful state senator with fundraising skills but no academic experience, was chosen in a process that appeared to be rigged from the start and discouraged quality outside candidates from applying.

6. ... the flagship university of the nation's third-largest state ...

Read the whole thing.

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This is a picture of Charlie Crist winning the election

See that smile?


See that smile?

"Are we really going to debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education and the environment and the future of our state?" Charlie Crist asked last night down in Davie. "I mean, really."

The fight over the fan, said this morning's lead editorial, is all anybody will remember.

"The new kind of synthetic novelty which has flooded our experience I will call 'pseudo-events,'" Daniel J. Boorstin wrote in 1961, in his book The Image, which even today — especially today — reads almost uncomfortably clear-eyed.

A "pseudo-event," Boorstin wrote, has some of the following characteristics:

1. Its relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous.

2. It is not spontaneous.

3. It is planned primarily for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced.

"Look how much power I have over you," Crist once said, "and I haven't even won yet."

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Evidently, Florida is the strangest state in America, but at least Craig Pittman exists to explain it

Seven things I liked in particular watching Craig's LipTV chat:

1. "We've been a haven for hustlers for decades now. ... It's a legacy dating at least back to the 1910s, the 1920s, when we were selling swampland to the Yankees ..."

2. "It's sort of the rootlessness that we have here in Florida. I mean, we are a state full of people who recently arrived, for the most part -- you know, 19 million people, and a lot of us just got here, and so there's no real sense of community in a lot of places. There's no sense of having anything at stake. And so it's easy to just focus on the surface of things, on the shallowness. I call it the Cinderella's Castle Syndrome -- you know, it's our most famous piece of architecture, Cinderella's Castle, and nobody lives there."

3. "We were a frontier long after most of the other states were settled -- I mean, as late as the 1890s we had cowboys, you know, shooting it out. ... All that has continued up through today as far as people feeling threatened, people feeling like, 'I don't know my neighbors,' so I'm going to have a weapon on hand."

4. "Florida voters are very fickle." …

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The frantic search for ways to stop the spread of lionfish

As invaders they make the pythons in the Everglades look poky. They're unfussy about their habitat, they're potent reproducers, they eat just about everything, their stomachs can expand to 30 times the normal size, and they have no predators in the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Not even sharks. But maybe the sharks can be ... taught to eat them?

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'It continues to stay with me,' Jeff Klinkenberg said this week

The other day I asked Roy Peter Clark about some of his favorite stories by Jeff Klinkenberg. He mentioned Old Hitler. Chesty Morgan. He also mentioned the personal narrative on the death of a young friend on a golf course in Miami. It came up, too, when Jeff and I sat and talked. The piece ran in the Times, in Floridian, on a Wednesday in February of 1987, long enough ago where it doesn't come up with a Google search. I hadn't read it until just now. Here it is, a little more than 1,000 words:

I liked to climb to the roof at night and throw water balloons at passing cars, and when that lost its novelty I hurled guavas, a common tropical fruit. One night, a couple of teen-agers whose car I smashed with a guava chased a friend and me over fences, through bushes and into back yards where dogs snapped at our heels. We somehow escaped.

One night, a friend and I built a dummy, and, hiding behind a bush, threw it in front of a passing car. The car screeched to a stop, and an elderly man got out, shaking, certain he had killed somebody. I am still ashamed. …

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The best Jeff Klinkenberg stories ever according to Craig Pittman

This week is the last week of Klink's 37-year career here at the Times. I asked Craig to give me off the top of his head some of his favorites.

1. Couple marry in swamp where love bloomed like rare orchid.

COPELAND — The bride wore a long white dress and muddy boots. She yelled "HOOTEEHOO!"

Waiting for her in the distance, the groom hollered "HOOTEEHOO!'' back. She homed in on his shout and sloshed toward him through the cathedral of cypress trees and cypress knees, ferns and royal palms that grew in the black water.

Michael Scott Owen and Donna Ann Glann-Smyth were going to exchange vows in the holiest place they know, a primeval Florida swamp where alligators and cottonmouths go with the territory.

In their wedding chapel, a ghost orchid, one of the rarest of all plants, clung to the trunk of a pond ash. Poison ivy hung from the curved bough of what served as their altar, a red maple.

Renee Rau, an ordained minister who also manages Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve in southwest Florida, asked guests to settle down. The green tree frogs, performing their unique version of Mendelssohn's Wedding March, ignored her. …

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Government REALLY doesn't create jobs in Florida

From WGCU's Ashley Lopez:

The state's population has grown by 4 million since 1998. Its budget has increased by $25 million since 2000. Yet Florida has almost 10,000 fewer established positions in the State's Personnel System, State University System, State Legislature, Courts System and Justice Administration combined, than it did 15 years ago.

This means Florida's government has been operating at its lowest staffing levels in almost two decades.

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