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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Destin is Deep South

It may sound obvious, but the Florida panhandle is “down south.” We know Florida is the southern-most of all the states, but it’s also the least “southern” in many ways due to “snow birds” and other demographic influences in the most heavily populated metro areas. The population of Orlando, for instance, on any given day is likely to include all 50 states and as many foreign countries. Further south, Miami-Dade County is known for its diversity; it has many accents Cuban, Manhattan,Yiddish, etc., but “southern accents” (if any) are not local. They are here in Destin.

The lady we’re renting from has a beautiful southern accent. Whenever she calls, we know it’s her within three words: “How y’all doin’?” Monday morning I heard a roofer over the fence whose inflections sounded like “Harrell,” my college roommate from Macon, Georgia. He was a great character with a classic accent and fantastic sense of humor. Hearing “his voice” again was when I first realized we were down south.

I was visiting with a local businessman today who laughed with a drawl and informed me that “The Emerald Coast” has two other knick-names: The short one is “L.A.” which stands for “Lower Alabama;” but it's even better known as “The Redneck Riviera.” Most of the clientele comes from nearby Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The band we heard tonight came from Tennessee. Perhaps this explains the contagious “laid back” spirit here. That’s one of the reasons it’s great for a trip like this for the seniors. They've all given it thumbs up for future classes.

This same businessmen also explained that much of Destin's economic development and construction is actually “reconstruction” from the aftermath of last year’s devastating hurricane season. Coastal business in Destin completely shuts down a few times a year due to hurricanes. (Destin is directly north of the eye of Katrina in this photo, but as we all know, it eventually tracked a direct hit on New Orleans.)

Destin folks are nervous because hurricane season starts in two weeks. He told us Hurricane Katrina (while not direct hit on August 29, 2005) washed away about 100 feet of the beach that our students have walked along each day (. (Photo to right is our beach during that storm. Photo at top shows narrower beaches after the storm.) Some of the large condos and hotels lost their seaside swimming pools into the gulf during Katrina (even though the eye was over 100 miles away). It’s still beautiful, but it will take years to rebuild the white sands of the shoreline.

This talk of hurricanes helps us appreciate Michigan’s subdued West Coast—if only we could do something about those frost advisories in late May! Our school families are hoping we bring this perfect weather with us when we return home tomorrow. We'll do our best.


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