This will be Thanksgiving number 15 in Gulf County for me, at least as far as my consecutive years streak
This will be Thanksgiving number 15 in Gulf County for me, at least as far as my consecutive years streak.
Going back to visits to my in-laws in Wewahitchka, and Thanksgiving was a major spread for them, I am probably past the two-decade mark for the holiday.
I would consider that a promotion to “junior blow-in.”
Another 10 years I will have graduation to “senior blow-in” all sewn up.
But while I will never be as native as so many who choose this slice of the world, I would argue my roots, though relatively young, are sturdy.
And to consider it has already been 15 years living, working and growing in Gulf County, that seems something again to the lottery to me.
I grew up with a newspaper editor as a father, a man who presided over the dinner table with the events of the day.
I didn’t understand then, only came to comprehend while performing every act of rebellion and escape known, how much osmosis was at work.
I soaked it in, I loved it.
I couldn’t wait for my dad to come through the door with that day’s newspaper, pore over the sports page and dive into the 2-minute mystery before allowing a piece to leave my grip.
One of the few times I arrived at a prize before my older brother; of course, he was as apathetic about the enterprise as I would come to be as I grew.
In time, the teen years arrived and so did my time to bolt, to spurn, to seek an independence I actually already possessed and those dinner room discussions faded away.
Only after my first “career” as a hotel loss prevention officer (a dressed up way to say security guard) with Marriott Hotels did those talks surface.
Mostly, as I progressed up the organizational food chain, they manifested in the form of floridly written reports, over-long and over-formal, but leaving out no details, thorough and accurate.
They, I, become the receiver of many of proverbial elbows to side, guffaws actually, as supervisors read aloud my reports.
I considered them a thing of beauty; most of my peers considered them comical.
But as my hotel career landed me in Miami, at a time a child of mine was becoming a teen, it was time for my wife and I to find a safer, more secure landing spot.
She had kin in Wewahitchka and a U-Haul drive later we were in Southport, she with a job and I with a career re-boot.
Journalism, my father’s life, suddenly presented itself as the best option.
I wondered, I am sure he wondered before he passed, what in the world I had been waiting for?
And through sheer circumstance, I like to think, as someone described Javarri Beachum over the weekend, it was “aspiration and attitude,” I got about as much out of working at a small daily paper as one could milk.
Capitol Press Corps, college football national title game, Daytona 500, Florida Supreme Court, expansion baseball in Miami, Talladega 500.
Editor of business and education sections; all from an internship and return to finish a few college credits.
But one thing my father always emphasized around that dinner table, an important subject as the editorial page editor, was that newspapers should try to facilitate and lead community discussions.
That opportunity, in one humble opinion (and, brother, is it humble), is one too many newspapers have forfeited.
So I sought such an opportunity, to get to the proverbial grassroots.
The Star seemed ideal.
That the opportunity came so beautifully packaged was a bonus.
The time has been nearly everything I would have hoped.
I say nearly because we never truly reach the brass ring, perfection, whatever it would be labeled or how it would appear in this business.
A Pulitzer Prize?
Yikes, let us not dally in deception. Money, prizes and a fabulous edition of the home version of the game is not in the cards.
But all of it, the people have met, the stories I have been privileged to narrate, has been a blast.
There are certainly challenges: the bar for public service seems placed unusually low at times and public meetings have too often taken on the tenor of a street brawl.
I have seen my share of public time and treasure expended in mysteriously inefficient ways and seen some very good people trampled in the process.
But all that is balanced by much.
By the countless people who have contributed over recent years to Scene Around, generously sharing their postcards of paradise.
By Kesley Colbert and what he brings to Opinion pages which have been filled over the years by reams of citizen input.
By the organizations, schools, coaches and individuals who share their stories, who fill the pages that have been expressly set aside for them.
Truly an honor.
And, finally, there are the readers and at the risk of sounding extremely cheesy, think Gouda, who pick up the paper, receive it in their yard or in the mail, who patronize this local enterprise.
Yes, this will sound really cheesy, but for years it always amazed me that anyone would actually continue to read a story over which my name was tossed.
Sort of that old Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to be part of any club that would have him as a member.
But it is truly a privilege, joy, chicken soup, fuel, whatever applies, when folks come up in the grocery store, on the street, while walking along the road, to say hello and provide kind words about something in that week’s paper.
Talk about your holiday bells.
So, I will leave it at thanks.
No other words suffice.