Thursday, December 14, 2017
Human Interest

First Person: Observations from Ona

Many of us, when we get busy, which is always of course, are tempted to keep the blinders on. No distractions, please. Not so Tampa resident Stephen L. Goodman, left. Even on the job, he's eyes-open and awake. As a writer, Goodman says, "I have three main inspirations: as it is happening, memory and stuff that burns me up, usually in the form of editorials. (This) story happened while I was working for a small air freight company in Tampa about five years ago. So many hours passed out there, and the local color was so rich, I had plenty to log." We've left Goodman's streaming consciousness as is.

Ona: crossroads links bradenton to the west with avon park to the east; but it is nowhere: dusty lot, roaming roosters, dilapidated shacks and a masonblock convenience store selling offroad diesel a la john deere tractors. Converted school buses painted white pull up into deep ruts, & weary migrants pile out to cash their checks, 20 at a time, at the window in the back. Huge mexican pastries fill clear plastic bins near the register. Wauchulas hardde county advocate lie in a rack below featuring "news from ft green" & its folksy news & events, maybe a quilting bee? Up hwy 661 is my fave: ft green snack shack: king & queen burgers (yummy) & homemade giant cupcakes &/or brownies (to die for.) Nearby phosphate miners flood in for lunch, slamming the screen door behind them. The floor is dusty wood planks, the bathroom an outhouse (you gotta ask for the key) only pickups fill the dirt lot (mostly ford f150s) pizza is available, too, along w/milkshakes..mmmm! Almost no one else liked it out here...too far, too long, too wild. I loved it! Real people, real attractions, real wildlife, not an oversized aquarium or artificial african grassland. Some nights I pulled offroad & shut her down to see stars & tampa far away. Could lie on the center line & be ok if I chose to. Soon a pickup approached, first lights against trees, a growing sound, then the roar, disappearing sound, then stark quiet again. Five years, thatz it, floridas heartland, driving grove after fragrant grove, cattle grazing between, high tension wires humming, buzzards cleansing carcasses. I ran air freight for a couple of tightwads in tampa; you know, bleeding drivers for maxim profit & minimum consideration. But the scenery was a plus. City people never see it, raw beauty on a vast canvas, even phosphate mines & their gouged "wasteland." Beautiful, awesome, eerie. narrow roads wind 20 miles between burgs, interrupted by emerald cities (glowing power plants) & an occasional bar like charlottes web, a biker bar near zolfo springs, or the limestone grocery & countryclub near arcadia.

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