My View – August 2015
As a publisher, I spend a fair amount of my time out and about walking and talking with locals and visitors – getting a feel for things on the ground is a part of my job and something I enjoy. Discussion topics run the gamut from family affairs to politics and everything in-between. Interestingly, this summer, I’ve had an unusually-high number of conversations with visitors on how fortunate we locals are to live in a community like Jacksonville. Occasionally, as was the case recently, conversations morph my perspective and deserve to be shared with my readers.
Yesterday, I was on my rounds restocking the Jacksonville Review news racks dotted around town…including the racks at the Britt Pavilion. At around 1 pm, I spotted a couple on the hill having a picnic under a shade tree… and, as often happens, struck-up a conversation. This was their fourth visit here in two years and they were taking a break for lunch when I happened upon them.
The conversation went something like this: ME: “Hi there…it looks like you found the perfect spot for a picnic on this incredible day!” THEM: “It’s hard not to find the perfect spot in this town…it’s an incredible place…we want to live here!”
My mind instantly played my favorite movie line of all time – the very end of the 1993 film Groundhog Day where Bill Murray says to Andi MacDowell, “Let’s Live Here!” (I’ve written about this scene before because it actually happened to me.)
After a bit of Q&A, I learned that the weekend picnickers were from Central California and had driven back up to Jacksonville to stay at their favorite, local b&b. Both were nearing retirement age and were seriously discussing taking early retirement and moving here five years earlier than planned. Their main reasons included fleeing increasing traffic, crime, congestion and a general loss of quality of life. Having lived in Southern California at various points of my life in the 1970’s through 90’s, their description of the Golden State was unrecognizable to me. Their “California Dream” was now the “Jacksonville Dream.”
“The truth is,” they insisted, “towns like Jacksonville are really, really special and really, really rare…whoever’s responsible for keeping it so live-able is doing a great job.” I simply responded with the truth: “It takes dedicated city employees and an army of caring residents, passionate volunteers and friendly business people to keep Jacksonville such a lovely Small Town with Big Atmosphere!”