Dear Sarasota, Florida,
So, even though I have a love-hate relationship with you, and was born and raised here, and for some frickin’ reason (or circumstances beyond my control) I keep coming back and trying to build a life here, I am writing this letter to tell you we are breaking up for good. I should have done this a long time ago, because it’s clear that, no matter how much I love your swamps, your natural areas, your beautiful old oak trees, the human culture that resides here has made it clear, time and again, that I’m not welcome. You think I would have caught on after the tenth hundredth time I got dirty looks, rude treatment or followed around the store every time I went into a place of business, or even refused customer service outright. Or, getting fired because my fuchsia hair made me “a bad role model” for kids, or finding out my conservative clothes I borrowed money to purchase and wore to a (finally!) job interview still “weren’t good enough to work in my office”, as I was told.
Still, I wish I could pass on my passion for the “Old Florida” as we long-term locals like to call it, but seeing more and more woodframe/older homes fall to the wrecking ball and replaced with McMansions, even in the neighbourhood I grew up in, I am hard-pressed to remain optimistic. I even had someone tell me that those McMansions did reflect “Old Florida” architecture style. *sigh*
So, here is the list of things that I wish you would preserve or change, as I leave here, and the latest wave of out-of-towners/out-of-staters/more-wealthy locals moves into Sarasota, and into my neighbourhood.
- PLEASE stop cutting down big, beautiful oak trees, and other wonderful trees that have been here since I was a little girl. It’s killing me that almost every day now, I hear the heart-wrenching whine of chain saws–I’ve tried so hard to protect the trees in any way that I can, but I can’t seem to fight the standard ruling of code enforcement or whomever is issuing these permits I had thought they were safe, based on code enforcement laws, but, according to an individual I recently had a conversation with, they told me they were able to get the/an arborist to say the tree was diseased, and were able to cut down a gorgeous old oak tree and this individual had been very angry that they did not have the right to cut down anything on their property (they had recently moved to this area, from out-of-state). So many animals and birds rely on those trees, especially since new development is swallowing up more and more of the natural Florida: hawks, songbirds, owls, and many other forms of wildlife that rely on the tree cover to live. Please protect these trees, not cut them down.
- Please consider planting more eco-friendly lawns, and please don’t continue to spray/maintain your turf yards, public sidewalks, and driveways with Roundup and other chemicals, fertilizer, and pesticides. The almost year-round red tide and dead zone in the Gulf is not there by a whim of nature. Also, City of Sarasota/Sarasota County and other park areas, fairgrounds, local businesses, and eve nature reserves, please stop using Roundup to water the grass and maintain the landscaping/nature trails.
- Local officials and police: In my perspective, it has seemed that you are primarily catering to a specific demographic–developers, conservatives, gun aficionados, rich people, people in condos downtown complaining about the noise, leaving the rest of us that make up this community as well alienated and with no say in anything that stands in the way of your vision for Sarasota. Once, I even called the cops for men that were trespassing, and were even coming up the house and standing there watching me. I was told by the cops (true story) that instead of calling the cops, I should go outside, confront any trespassers, and if/when they attacked me, I should call 911. (And, if you say this is libel, well, just FYI, I even have the officer’s name and the date and time the incident occurred and the date and time when I spoke to the officer’s supervisor, or so they claimed to be.) I also remember reading in a local paper that a certain county official told the press that they implemented a ban on food trucks out at the Siesta Key Beach because they didn’t want to have the kind of people the food trucks would attract out at the Siesta Key beach. I have no idea what those kinds of people are, I just know that I am the “kind of people” they don’t want out on the Key, because I love food trucks.
- Implement a living wage. Stop exploiting underpaid, under-minimum wage workers to clean your megahomes and take care of your lawns and build said homes. End modern-day slavery that exists in Florida.
- Fix your school system. It failed me, just like it’s continuing to fail thousands of kids since I was in school, and currently. Treating students like prison inmates, delaying them emergency medical care over something more trivial, and mentally, emotionally, and physically abusing the children in your care is UNACCEPTABLE. And, yes, I witnessed this firsthand.
- Address the systemic racism, classism and sexism that plagues the local community.
- Although it’s inevitable, because I simply have Florida can be so much more than a tropical, suburban, beach/golf playground for the rich. Again, please give the natural Florida a chance to work its allure. Stop overdevelopment, stop encroachiing on wildlife habitat to build unnecessary gated communities, stop cutting down the trees I loved as a child, stop killing/culling wildlife just because they are “inconvenient”, please stop clearing shorelines of natural mangroves. Please don’t fire firecrackers into a rookery of nesting birds (and their babies) just because you happened to move into a house that is near said rookery (they were here first, and supposedly protected by law.)
- Again, please, I beg you, look after the natural Florida–it’s rich, wonderful, atmospheric, and a treasure that I hope you will learn to love, and embrace all of Sarasota’s inhabitants, rich, poor, young, old, artistic, progressive, nature loving alike. And please stop feeding the raccoons, the Muscovy ducks, the alligators, and any of the other local wildlife. *wry laugh*
I hate giving up, myself, but even this ass-kicker (wanna-be?) is admitting defeat. Since I have no money, no social status, no income, no social connections (I’ve tried!), and, therefore, no worth, or voice, in anything that happens to Sarasota, I’m giving up. I wish I could buy huge swaths of land and wetlands, to save them from development. I feel so helpless. I know that, the way I feel right now, I can’t imagine ever coming back to Florida. I wish I could take all the trees and the wildlife with me. Dammit, I told myself I wouldn’t cry. Goodbye, Florida, I will miss you, and your trees, and your fecund swamps, and the way it gets so rich and atmospheric and vibrantly green right before the (rarer and rarer) torrential rains.
A heartbroken A Chaos Fairy