To save a few bucks on liquids the less than 20 mile drive North from Amelia Island to the Georgia state line may be in order as gasoline, wine and distilled spirits all cost less in our neighboring state than they do here says the non-partisan, non-profit Tax Policy Foundation (TPF).
At the time of this writing the average price for a gallon of gas in Florida was $3.44 says TPF while in Georgia it stood at $3.29, so the short drive up I-95 or Highway 17 may be worth it to fill your tank, particularly if you drive an RV or some other gas guzzler.
If you’re a beer drinker you’re better off buying your suds in Florida since Georgians pay the fourth highest amount of tax for beer in the country with Florida ranked ninth. The lowest taxed beer drinkers are in Wyoming while Tennesseans pay the most.
Florida wine drinkers are living in the third highest taxed state for that beverage while Georgia comes in seventh. Those in Kentucky are hit the hardest while Louisiana taxes their citizens the least for liquid grapes.
Distilled spirits drinkers can dramatically save a few bucks by driving to Georgia, which ranks 34th in taxes on the hard stuff, while Tallahassee’s taxes put us at number 19 nationwide. For some reasons politicians in Wyoming and New Hampshire don’t tax their folks’ hard stuff at all but you have to buy it in state controlled outlets.
Of all the states, it appeared to me that Texas had the most reasonable overall taxes on gasoline and booze ranking in the mid 40s among all states generally. The states with the highest tax burdens are those controlled by Democrats while the lowest were run by Republicans. I guess the left are a group of teetotalers driving around in their goofy little electric cars, not the kind of folks I’d want to sit next to in a pub or hitch a ride from anyway.
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Living Life Cozy: Today is the official opening of the Pajama Life Store on South Second St. near the corner of Centre St. downtown, where you can purchase PJ Life items ranging from a variety of designer PJs to homemade beer dog biscuits among other “good stuff” as the pre-opening sign in the window said. Quirky islander Pajama Dave Voorhees, who also captains tour boats for Amelia River Cruises out of the downtown marina, and his stunning blonde attorney girlfriend Zan Maddox are the folks behind this brick and mortar venture located catty-corner from the downtown Hampton Inn & Suites and a few steps from the next door Joe’s 2nd St. Bistro, home of the best bouillabaisse on the planet.
Pots, Paintings & More: If you haven’t been to the Amelia Island Art Association gallery at 18 North 2nd St. then get over there and take a look even if you aren’t a big fan of paintings, pottery, etc. because there are things there that will leave you wondering why you haven’t stopped by before. At least that’s what happened to me when Joe Winston a, local potter spotted me at the Amelia Island Coffee Shop and scolded me for not visiting the gallery, which is owned and operated by local artists and acts as a showcase for some 200 Nassau County creative types to display and sell their stuff, which ranges from paintings and sculpture to jewelry and photography and much more. The complex, which was once a vacant lot and a diner, boasts a colorful mosaic along the outside wall that visitors can follow like the “yellow brick road” through the courtyard to the front entrance, and which contains the signature creative efforts of almost all the area’s local artists. Also in the courtyard is a giant chess board, just waiting for someone to provide the chess pieces, or if you’re not inclined to exercise that much mental agility, checkers, for a fun outdoor game among the artsy crafty types. Ask the folks there about workshops for junior and its revolving exhibits among other good happenings. Call ‘em at 904/261-7020.
Spiedies NOT Speedos! More than 40 years ago when I landed in the newsroom of the Gannett chain’s upstate New York Binghamton Evening & Sunday Press I was introduced to an area specialty called spiedies, chunks of lamb, pork, chicken, beef or venison, that have been marinated and refrigerated for days (Yep, days!) in a special sauce, grilled on a skewer over charcoal or gas, and inserted into Italian bread or a hoagie bun that serves as a mitt, wrapping around the meat. No condiments, onions, etc. are added before eating as the marinate adds all the flavor. I’d never even heard the word “spiedie,” which derives from the Italian spiedo meaning “kitchen cooking spit,” anywhere else other than Binghamton so was surprised to spot three dusty bottles of State Fair Speidie sauce tucked away on a lower shelf at the island Harris Teeter grocery store. Folks, there’s no other reason to buy this sauce other than marinating spiedie meat and I eventually ran into former Binghamton residents Bruce Smyk, a retired lawyer and downtown Southern Touch owner Bonnie Johnson, who now call Amelia Island home, and assume they bought the other two bottles of the stuff. In fact, Bruce even supplied me with a spiedie recipe and some day one or all of us are going to offer spiedies at a Central Park or Main Beach cooking event and possibly turn this island into a spiedie lovers Southern oasis. A local eatery might be well served to give them a menu debut as I know three people who would happily place orders and encourage others to do the same.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “So many changes to the tax code over the past decade that it is now 10 times the size of the Bible…with none of the Good News.” – Dave Camp (R-MI)
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The Crescendo Amelia Big Band will appear next month at Sandy Bottoms on the second Tuesday of the month, April 8, not April 1, but after that look for the band the first Tuesday of each month there and arrive early to get a seat as this has become one of the most popular events on the island. And speaking of Sandy Bottoms, locals can toss their “preferred customer” cards in the trash because management has decided to no longer honor them. Ask them why, not me. Are other bars and eateries such as The Surf, Sliders, the Palace Saloon, etc. doing the same? Let me know. I was given a personal tour of the under-renovation Beech Street Grill by Ernie Saltmarsh the other day and can enthusiastically report that historic district buffs, diners, drinkers, music lovers, gourmets, antique aficionados, etc. are all in for a special treat once the yet-to-be-announced opening day arrives. Ernie, who won an award for his renovation of the 3rd St. South Florida House and garnered rave reviews for its next-door Green Turtle Tavern reformation, continues his renewal roll of downtown landmarks, meticulously overseeing the authentic restoration of the 1889 building’s hardwood floors, windows, porches, grounds and more. In addition to the antique store already up and running at the Beech St. and South 8th St. location, an unusual shop featuring a variety of specialty olive oils, vinegars and more and a couple of unnamed stores have signed up to fill the non-restaurant space in the historically accurate renovated complex. Did you know that the Beech St. facility was originally built by the German twin brother of the builder of Old Town’s Pipi Longstocking house and that the Teutonic twins were both ship captains? Townies Pizzeria & Deli is officially open in its new and very slick location on T.J. Courson Road, in front of Winn Dixie and Wal-Mart, between South 8th and S. 14th Streets. Call ‘em at 904/277-4755. The Texan is showing in Matt Mueller, who along with wife Rachel, are the new owners of downtown’s Amelia Island Coffee Shop, as he recently introduced the Lone Star State’s Blue Bell ice cream to shoppers and tells us that the luncheon menu is also changing with to be announced items to be added. Pastries such as plate-size cookies, scones, muffins, cakes, etc. will soon be joined by pies among a few other interesting tweaks says Rachel. If beer is your thing, then you’re going to be in hops heaven Saturday, March 29 from noon til 9 p.m. as the City of Fernandina Beach and 8 Flags Playscapes sponsor a craft beer event at Main Beach featuring an ocean of specialty brews along with a lively lineup of musicians. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $50 for VIP treatment, but if you’re under 21 don’t waste your time unless you just want to hear the music as you’ll not be allowed into the beer tasting tent. The event, which is a fund raiser for the 8 Flags Playscape all-accessible playground behind the Atlanta Recreation Center, will feature food trucks, arts and crafts, a kids zone, beer tasting from noon-5 pm and a lineup of musicians including Herd of Watts, Vagabond Swing, The Fritz, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band and what I consider the most interesting, Keller Williams, the name of a national real estate firm, whose repertoire I assume includes This ‘Ole House, Home on the Range, Two-Story House, My Old Kentucky Home and Little Boxes among others, or maybe not. For tickets go to www.eventbrite.com. Email Jay Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 904/753-0001 for more information. You never know what he’ll put out on Wednesdays, from BBQ to sliders, but Wednesday, March 5 from 6-9 pianist Gary Ross provided his Centre St. Sheffield’s fans his own brand of chili on the house, a fiery concoction worthy of competing in even a Texas cook-off event. Gary is a very personable and accomplished keyboard player who picks up the downtown piano slack from John Springer who plays at the Courtyard Pub & Eats Thursday, Friday and Saturday 7-10 pm. And he didn’t play Jerry Lee Lewis’ hit Great Bowls of Fire.” If you’ve got 10 bucks left after the weekend and are looking for a good time and a good cause, then Sunday March 9, from 5-8 pm. wander over to North Hampton’s Amenity Center, next to the swimming pool, for live music featuring Larry and The Backtracks, a cash bar (beer and wine for only $2.00), appetizers and a silent auction, all designed to raise money for the American Cancer Society, an event that is billed as Dr. Drew’s Crew 4th Annual Fund Raising Party, Dr. Drew being Dr. Andrew Halperin OB/GYN. The silent auction is chock full of more than 100 kinds of stuff you’ll want including a night at the Ritz, dinners at local restaurants, a Greyfield Inn tour, a trail ride for two and much more. Oh, and you’ll get home an hour late because you’re supposed to turn your clocks back Sunday according to my calendar.