Thursday, June 21, 2007

the endless summer has ended

On our trips to Florida, I've taken my lovely wife to many of the hot spots, a number of the places I used to hang out, and a decent percentage of the cheesy tourist attractions. Every vacation, I try to make clear just what this particular chunk of Florida means to me, and why my Florida isn't like the Florida that everyone thinks about when they think of Florida...if you can follow that at all.

But damnit, they keep changing my Florida.

When you're in Florida, one of the things that everyone immediately latches onto is the beach. Well, until I got tired of my amazingly frequent and swift sunburns (and subsequent bouts of sun poisoning), I too used to spend some time on lounge chairs looking at the waves. Of course, I also brought either a few 2 liters of Jolt Cola (chug a few of these, and the resulting caffiene buzz makes five hours on the beach seem like five minutes), plenty of cigarettes, and often some cheap beer wrapped in one of those can wrappers that turned it into a "Pipsi" or a "Dr. Pipper." Mind-altering substances somehow help you get more in zen mode with the waves

Even after I got tired of the par-broiling and subsequent pain, I'd still head out on the hour-long trip to Jax Beach. They had the city's only heavy metal bar. They had one beach-side place that must've been happening, because it always smelled like vomit. They had hoardes of rampaging teens cruising down 1st Street at night and a small brigade of laughingly ineffectual bicycle police trying to "run the punks away." Of course, if you actually tried to go on the beach itself during the night, the cops swarmed onto you and would escort you either back to the street or, in a more draconian move, towards their would guess the officers were taking out some vengeance for people laughing at their speedo bike shorts.

You see, Jax Beach always had a mild identity crisis. They wanted to be a tourist resort. They only wanted families, preferably rich ones, to come, stay in resort hotels, spend lots of money. They wanted to be Daytona without the sin, the fun, or the Girls Gone Wild party bus.

Unfortunately for them, Jax Beach did not attract those kind of people. Instead, it was definitively working class, as much of Jacksonville was. It was blue collar parents letting their kids run amuck. It was construction workers trying to forget their work week by watching bikini-clad babes slar mysterious substances into their skin. It was teenagers trying to forget the mind-crushing boredom of their overcrowded school by diving into the crashing waves...which I'm told are big by east coast standards.

If I were to boil my memories of Jax Beach down to one scene, it would be laying on a towel on the beach in front of the heavy metal bar, smoking a cigarette and drinking a "Dr. Pipsi," half listening to the bar band play Van Halen...all the while trying to figure out how I'm going to get out of work next weekend for a concert.

This was not a tourist beach. It was a working class beach.

This Florida trip, me and the spousal unit finally went back to Jax Beach. It was my first trip in over eight years. None of the bars I remember still stand. There are, as far as I could tell, no places I could stagger up through the sand to a bar deck and grab a long neck. Instead, there's high rise condominium after condominium. There's a beach walk/pavillion built by the same evil bastards who did Baltimore's Inner Harbor. It's safe, clean, free of rowdy teens.

It was bland, sterile, safe, completely unremarkable. It could be AnyBeach, Florida. They've taken my working class beach and made it a theme park.

Coming from Jacksonville, I've always had to tell Northerners that all of Florida is not Disney. Unfortunately, every time I go back, a little bit of Jax has been turned into Disney. It's sad that my former home so much feels the need to live up to outsider expectations as to what it should be.

Friday, June 15, 2007

new Flickr photos

There's a new bunch of art photos up on my flikr site. Faves?

As a preview, I'm enclosing "fire grill ii" to the right.


A week or so ago, I had several posts on this blog pasted with comments that read "DOUCHEBAG" or some variation thereof. Last night, while walking home from a friend's birthday drinking celebration, I was the victim of a drive-by...a lame type, but one nonetheless.

I was about eight blocks from my house. This suv thingie went around a corner, and I heard what sounded like them running over something. I paid it no mind and kept walking, quietly humming a Grand Champeen song under my breath. The suv went around the block, came back around, and the little bastards shot me with a bb gun in the neck before taking off.

I have no idea what might've brought this on. It's been years since I taught in BG, so it couldn't have been disgruntled students. I haven't cut anyone off or anything, because I rarely drive over the summer. I haven't called the cops on anyone. So this wasn't someone being was just someone being a jerk.

What's surprising about all this is that it's all so 4th grade. Why would someone put anonymous yet unimaginative insulting posts on someone's blog? Why would anyone who hit puberty go around and shoot strangers with a bb gun? Did they not have the intestinal fortitude to give me a wedgie or something?

The sad bit is, I was feeling great. I have been writing, I have been making friends, I had a good night, I cooked out two nights in a row, I was going home to a wonderful spousal unit. After getting bb'd, I just felt pissed, mad, and hoping I can hurry up and get a job and move away from undergrad housing areas and be an adult.

Next, I fear I'm gonna have to start dodging water baloons.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

FLA trip...quote of the visit

During our recent trip to the ancestral homeland, I got to see a whole bunch of friends, most of the ones I was expecting to see, and a few that took me by surprise. One of those, who I did not even know was living in Jax, had the quote of the trip: "My brother just broke up with his long-term girlfriend...and then got a chin implant."

Monday, June 11, 2007

food television and the quote of the week

One of my old roomates came into town this weekend. We were watching Food Network for some reason, and we had a great conversation deconstructing how the network uses concepts from pornography in their programming.

Specifically, when you watch one of their cooking shows (as opposed to their annoying reality or travel programming), they have a lot of shots focusing on melting cheese, gooey deserts, or luscious sauces. This is the standard "let's get them drooling" approach which is also employed in food magazines and ads.

In particular, we were watching Giada De Laurentiis's program Everyday Italian, and, especially since that woman can cook, the food porn shots were in full force. They had gooey, melting ricotta cheese over pasta, close up, in slow-mo...the only thing missing was the "bom-chicka-bow-wow" music.

It was not, however, only the food shots...the host was definitely the subject of a porn gaze. Giada is an attractive woman, true, but she apparently likes to work in the kitchen in very low-cut tops, and the camera knows this...a good 2/3rds of the shots were centered on her cleavage. I'm not even gonna get into the food tasting shots, because they were bordering on "if I had kids, I wouldn't let them watch this." Suffice to say, I think there's another paper in all this, pornography and attracting the male viewer to cooking.

Anyway, Giada was doing the aforementioned great looking pasta dish, and she added some chopped herb to the skillet. The resulting conversation went like this:

former roomie, sounding unnaturally alarmed: "What was that?"

me: "Parsley."

roomie: "Oh, thank God. I thought she was adding cilantro."

me: "Are you a cilantro hater?"

roomie: "I have two rules about food. I wouldn't eat human flesh unless I was pretty certain it was procured in an ethical way...and I don't like cilantro."

best site on drive back from FLA

On the drive home from FLA (and there will be more about that one coming up), we passed the fine edifice pictured on your right. Naturally, it inspired some conversation.

There was a time when I subscribed to the "a church must look 'a Church'" philosophy, and by that standard, this fails looks like a reject from the now defunct Heritage USA park. This is not glorious, and it does not enhance the aura of anything.

I have long since quit thinking churches have to look any certain way. Instead, I now believe that those glorious cathedrals really are more about the institution showing how big and important they feel...and while I don't know exactly what God might think, I'm pretty sure He doesn't need his ego stroked. And if the public display of power and importance is just about the church showing "I'm bad," then that's the kind of thing that puts more people off religion than anything else.

But what about Stone Jesus? Is this just a big "look at me!"? Yes, this certainly draws attention to its subject, but at what cost? Does this not also just make the religious organization sponsoring it look silly?

I did notice on my drive an increasing amount of visual displays of faith. There are at least two Christian trucking companies out there, a few Christian hotels, and any number of commuters who feel the need to tell the world what they believe?

I guess this all ties in to the "I support our troops" car magnets and ribbons. While the sentiment is nice, I'm always wondering how exactly these people support our troops. I have friends and ex-students who're military, and I know that there are things they'd rather have from us than people putting yellow magnets on their Hummers.

Likewise, when I look at Stone Jesus, I've gotta think if all the effort put into this statuary could've gone to something useful, to either God or mankind. Or, as my wife said, "imagine how many starving people they could've fed with the money they spent on that."

blog attack

I have been attacked here. It was one thing when I started getting comment spam. Now, I have someone who's responding to posts with "DOUCHEBAG" and variations thereof. I wouldn't mind so much if they (1) had anything to do with the posts, (2) had any real reason with which I could debate, or (3) were clever in someway. As is, I'm just kind of puzzled as to the point of these anonymous and uninteresting attacks. They have been deleted.

If you want to insult me, I'm all for it...just please do so in a relatively clever and relevant way, please.