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Times' Floridian section revives familiar format

Thirty years ago, Carol Polacek became the Floridian she always knew she was meant to be.

She had endured her limit of Ohio winters when in January 1983 she and her husband, Marty, a deli manager who played the accordion and piano, sold their home outside Cleveland and headed for an oasis called Palm Harbor.

What made the Polaceks a little more special than the other 20,000 arrivals to Pinellas County that year was that a Times writer named David Finkel documented their midwinter escape. David watched them inch along the icy predawn streets of their suburban subdivision. He snapped a photo of their sedan as it crossed the Florida state line. He was there when they pulled up to their tract home in Cypress Green.

I mention this story because it happened to be the cover story of the last issue of the Floridian magazine on Feb. 27, 1983. The magazine was ending just as the Polaceks' lives as Floridians were beginning.

As I assembled this issue — the rebirth of Floridian as a magazine — I had an urge to reconnect with the Polaceks, to re-entwine our stories. So I called a number in Clearwater.

A woman answered.

Carol Polacek is 68 now. Her voice is bright and energetic. I asked her to pick up where David had left off. The intervening decades went something like this:

Marty's career at Albertsons, joining the PTA, moving to a larger home, their daughter's graduation and departure for college, beaches and boating and road trips around the state, Marty's retirement, the four-month experiment with life in a motor home, the return to Pinellas, downsizing to a mobile home, their unretirements, Marty's death in 2007 from cancer, the return of their daughter and her family to Florida, volunteering at a local hospital and visiting the grandkids every week.

"Life here in Florida has been all we hoped it could be," she said.

This is the Floridian she was meant to be, I thought.

I'd say something similar about the section you are holding in your hands now. Floridian has gone through its own expansions and contractions over the years — daily section, themed section, Sunday-only. No matter the frequency or the format, Floridian has always been the place where Times readers could spend time with stories. Often, they were riveting narratives written by gifted writers such as Anne Hull and Tom French, both Pulitzer winners.

Always they were stories relevant to Florida. And this issue is no exception. Inside these 16 pages we take you from the threatened oyster shoals of Apalachicola Bay to the cattle-dotted prairie of Central Florida. The centerpiece, Leonora LaPeter Anton's profile of a woman with a confounding sexual disorder, takes readers inside a hidden and deeply painful life. But the issue is full of wit and insight — from Stephanie Hayes' delightful take on a confectionary cure for seasonal woe to Lane DeGregory's heartfelt reflection on a simple turning point in her family's history. Oh, and a totally new puzzle designed just for Floridian by local puzzle-genius Merl Reagle.

I hope that after you have spent some time with this latest incarnation of Floridian you will agree with me that, like Carol Polacek, this magazine is the Floridian it was always meant to be.

Bill Duryea can be reached at duryea@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8770.

Times' Floridian section revives familiar format 11/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 30, 2012 6:55pm]

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