The results of a Clarity Campaign Labs questionnaire I participated in recently indicate that I should be living in Niceville, a Florida panhandle town near Ft. Walton Beach and Eglin Air Force Base as most of the folks there think as I do, or so say the Clarity folks.
A recent Pew Research Center report claims that the average American is much more likely to choose to live near folks who think as they do saying, “liberals like living in urban areas, within walking distance of shops and neighbors, while conservatives prefer the wide-open spaces outside the city that puts more distance between themselves and the next-closest house.”
Answering “Agree,” “Disagree” or “Don’t Include” to seven questions that include “I identify with the Democrats more than the Republicans” and “I attend religious services regularly” the Clarity people ask you to identify the state were you want to live and then tell you what zip code and towns within it suit you best. I got Niceville, zip code 32578, a pleasant enough sounding place with the next closest ideological town being Fleming Island, not far down the road from Amelia Island and then Shalimar, a town just a few miles from Niceville, and I’m thinking the proximity of a US Air Force Base has a lot to do with these panhandle town’s conservative leanings.
For those on the left the Miami zip code 33136 appears to be the best Florida fit followed by Fort Lauderdale’s 33311 as they popped up one and two respectively when statements such as “I agree with gun control” and “Climate change is an issue that needs immediate attention,” were answered affirmatively.
However, I’m not sure I want to live where everybody thinks just like I do, as I’m sure that would be terribly boring, but after some research on my own I found that Niceville is home to the annual Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival beginning the third Friday of every October, and even though I have no intention of moving to Niceville, I now plan to attend its mullet fest, a celebration that pays tribute, not to the goofy haircut, but the tasty fish that are abundant in Niceville waters.
During my research I also found out that in addition to food ranging from smoked and fried mullet to alligator on a stick and crawfish bread, the Boggy Bayou Mullet fete is notorious as one of the South’s premier country music events in a small venue with Vince Gill, Trace Adkins, Travis Tritt and Kenny Rogers headlining past events.
I wouldn’t have known any of this if I hadn’t participated in the Clarity questionnaire and then looked up Niceville and stumbled upon its smoked mullet extravaganza and also discovered that “Boggy” was the town’s original name, but was changed to “Niceville” to make it appear more attractive to tourists, a smart move by the nice folks in Niceville.
Dredging For Dollars: Commissioner Pat Gass’ inexplicable apology to gadfly Lynn Williams at the June 17 Fernandina City Commission meeting expressing her dismay at Mayor Ed Boner’s legitimate June 3 questioning of Williams for an accounting of $8,000 in tax payer money it gave him for a harbor dredging concept, was so inexhaustible it appears the voices in her head of folks that don’t vote and never attend commission meetings, that she claims to represent, went into overdrive stoking her mental furnace.
Said Commissioner Gass, “Mr. Williams, I’d like to publicly apologize to you for the last meeting and not defending you. You have done nothing wrong, and I’m sorry I didn’t come to your support. We the Commission owe you thanks and gratitude. You have kept us informed every step of the way. You have done everything we’ve asked you to do. Thank you. I apologize for not coming to your aid two weeks ago when you were called out and called down. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating, and I apologize for my lack of response, but I was just dumbfounded. I offer you my most sincere apology.”
What the ….? She was dumbfounded? It’s the taxpayers who are dumbfounded. How could this commissioner think that asking for an accounting of our money that they foolishly gave away in March 2013 without any agreement or contract, is wrong and the guy who got it deserves an apology when he was rightfully questioned about how it is being spent?
Why was Commissioner Gass falling all over herself in an act of contrition for Mayor Ed Boner’s justifiable questioning of Williams when he rightly asked Williams to account for the eight grand of our tax money he had been given well over a year ago, without any kind of signed agreement and no accounting up to that point?
But wait, it gets even goofier. Williams, prior to showing Dutch dredging firm Van Oord’s promotional video of a water injection program of the sort he’s suggesting, jumped on the apology band wagon too, telling the commission his “hostile” comments last week may have resulted from him being too thin skinned, but he did verbally account for $3,380 of the eight grand saying it was spent on a pump, valves, gauges and travel expenses. That’s a beginning, now where’s the rest of it?
Much to his credit, Mayor Boner was not swayed, and emphasized that he looks forward to another update and that he is the kind of guy who looks at numbers and budgets, a welcome relief from those groveling apologists who obviously don’t care how our tax money is spent.
Commission Johnny Miller, who was not on the commission when the money was given to Mr. Williams, appeared bemused by Commissioner Gass’ gushing act of contrition as did several citizens attending, who swapped puzzled glances at one another during the apology parade.
I don’t know a darn thing about dredging and I hope Williams’ concept has merit, but I do know that election day can’t come soon enough so we can rid ourselves of the Moe, Larry and Curly trio that have turned the commission chambers into a slapstick comedy venue.
Thinking Out Loud, Local Rumors & Other Stuff: I’ve heard from a number of sources that the South 8th St. property near the veterinary’s office is scheduled to become a garden center, a project that can only improve the appearance of that shabby roadway….…I also heard that the hotel room occupancy rate on the island is approaching 80 percent, the highest it has been since 2011 and Travel & Leisure readers have named Fernandina Beach their 3rd favorite beach town in the US…….Thanks to good parenting and fine schools staffed with caring professionals, the kids on Amelia Island are some of the nicest, brightest, energetic and ambitious I’ve encountered anywhere else I’ve lived in the US, Canada or Europe and I’m not alone in my observations as reader Marc Williams tells me that he and his wife, who play Thursday evening Trivia at Sliders, get their mental clocks cleaned regularly by a table of local teens, leading Marc to say “I think they’re great,” also proving that Mr. Williams is a good sport despite his intellectual thrashing by our talented teens……..We are fortunate to have a lot of really good musicians and venues for them to perform on Amelia Island, but whenever I see a notice that the upcoming group is reggae or rap, I head in the other direction, as it’s just not entertainment I enjoy, particularly rap, which to me is just foul mouthed fast talking…… Belatedly flipping through the May issue of Jacksonville Magazine which featured the “Best” restaurants, bakeries, bookstores, pubs, etc. in the area, there were 14 listed on Amelia Island, most I agree with but a couple I question, like the Palace Saloon, which I like a lot, but JAX Mag says is the best music venue on the island and I say there are many far better and that’s because the lousy acoustics in the Palace and limited seating may make it one of the island’s worst music venues. They also say the Green Turtle is the best bar and T-Ray’s the best burger, selections I won’t argue with, but think all their picks need explanation since I wouldn’t bring the CEO of AT&T to the Green Turtle for cocktails, but would run him by David’s or Baxter’s, places my eccentric Canadian cousin Bill wouldn’t care for as much as the Turtle….. I like dogs and have owned several over the years, but they were never invited to dine with me, so I will probably not eat outside at a restaurant were dogs are allowed on patios by a just passed city commission ordinance, because as nice as Fido may be, he may also have fleas or ticks, bark at his canine dining companions and pose a hazard to foot traffic. I also don’t stay at hotels that are “pet friendly” for the same reasons, but I make an exception when I see Ash Street Addison B&B owner, quirky Bob Tidball, sitting next to his dog Maggie at a local watering hole and always stop to chat, with Maggie, not Bob…..Friend and town character Pajamadave Voorhees, boat captain and owner of South 2nd Street’s Pajama Life shop, asks a penetrating question of “Why don’t we ever see baby pelicans?” I dunno, why? ……I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I think there were better people to honor with a downtown statue other than ardent slavery proponent and convicted and imprisoned traitor David Yulee, whose likeness is now sitting on what others have pointed out to me is a hot seat, literally, as a Yulee facsimile is seated in front of the old downtown train station at the end of a long bronze bench, which after baking in the sun and in high 90 to100 degree heat for several hours will make a surprisingly searing seat, particularly for those folks wearing shorts……Will the Obama administration exercise its “Catch & Release” program with Ahmed Abu Khattala, the terrorist involved in the deadly Benghazi, Libya attack that killed four Americans including the US ambassador, who was captured by US special forces earlier this week?
Vacation in Buffalo? I’ve never put much stock in those online voting and review sites that ask folks to rate everything from their favorite restaurants and hotels to vacation sites and TV shows. It was nice that Amelia Island was voted the number five “best” vacation island in the country by USA Today recently, but prior to that announcement I was inundated by Facebook and email requests from locals to “vote as many times as I could” in that poll for our island, so my take is that while the results give us bragging rights, they are anything but scientific, but more like Chicago Democrats rallying their followers on election day. For example, it was recently reported by something called WalletHub that Buffalo, NY was ranked the number one city in the US for a “staycation,” a stay at home summer vacation, and that Jacksonville came in at number 75, just one notch above Newark, NJ. My theory on this is that while the population of Jacksonville was occupied with swimming, boating, fishing, jogging, outdoor dining and other such activities they didn’t have time to stuff Wallethub’s ballot box, while the chilly denizens of Buffalo, unable to maneuver their icy streets, sidewalks and snowdrifts had nothing but time on their hands and spent it trying to convince each other that being snowbound in their frozen isolation was actually a “staycation.” Hey, I’ve been to Buffalo, and it’s not a place I care to be no matter what the weather, and as far as crime-riddled Newark is concerned the folks there were probably too busy running for their lives from each other to take part in a survey.
Flying Fish Fun: If you think you’ve seen all there is to see of the North end of Amelia Island and Cumberland Island’s coves, beaches, inlets, etc. then think again, as amicable George Morris has a surprise in store for you that includes a close up introduction to dolphins, manatees and exotic birds via a jet ski. George, who is one of the most knowledgeable wildlife and waterway folks around and a genuinely nice guy to be around, runs Flying Fish Adventures, a jet ski tour operation from the downtown Fernandina Harbor that enables its guests to cruise the winding creeks and rivers on Cumberland Island, enjoy its pristine beaches and see horses, fish and birds up close. The sunset cruises are unforgettable adventures that’ll have you posting Facebook photos that will make you the envy of your friends and relatives. For more go to www.FlyingFishFun.com and to book a tour call George, who personally guides each group, at 904-583-3420 or email him at GeorgeMorris4.gmail.com.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The Sadler Road Play & Party has jumped on the Bloody Mary band wagon but it was for mom and dad, not junior, last Saturday, June 14, between 6-9 pm when they dropped the kids off and spent a quiet hour or so sipping one of Sliders’ BM specials while their offspring bounced themselves silly. Just $20 a kid included pizza, drinks and ice cream at Play & Party for junior and a Bloody Mary at the just down the road Sliders Seaside Grill for mom and dad. It was such a success that Rob Long tells me he’s going to do it again at a yet to be announced date. To reserve your kiddo a Play & Party date call ‘em at 904-415-7731. And speaking of Bloody Mary’s, wife Linda and I stopped by the Palace Saloon last Sunday and enjoyed a Johnny Miller concoction consisting of stuffed olives, mozzarella cheese, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, and a celery stick, topped off with a huge pretzel with a mustard sidecar, a perfect appetizer prior to our early evening dinner at Ciao Bistro. And speaking of Ciao, I enjoyed the Zuppa Di Pesce that included a generous helping of mussels, shrimp, calamari, clams, scallops, a fish filet and garlic, in a wine broth consisting of herbs and tomato that was served in a huge bowl over spaghetti that was well worth every cent of the $28. Oh, if you order the antipasto for one for just seven bucks, you’ll end up sharing it as it was enough for both of us. I’m sure the $14 antipasto for two is a regular take-home special. Call Ciao at 904-206-4311. Ciao’s Zuppa Di Pesce is the Italian version of what Ricky Pigg at Joe’s Second St. Bistro does so well, the French Bouillabaisse, that I order each time I go there. Folks, you won’t go wrong ordering either version, particularly when they are offered up on our island known for its wide variety of fresh seafood. Call Joe’s at 904-321-2558. Shuckers in Yulee on Rt. 200 says they will be have a 50 cent each raw oyster special every Tuesday 6-9 pm starting the first Tuesday in July, which comes to six bucks for a dozen compared to the $20 a dozen menu price at the new downtown Palate, which also features a raw bar but without the traditional “shucker” behind it.