Eating around the World: The United States

 

Luckily, I’m still feeling summery-lazy, so this will be a short list. I’ve lived and visited a bunch of places in the U.S. and, while I still pine for the international cuisine I sampled way too many years ago (French bread. Italian gelato and espresso. Indian food in the UK.), there are a few restaurants that stand out in my memory on this side of the pond. I tend to like my restaurants cozy, down-to-earth, and simple, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good!

In Burlington, Vermont:

A Single Pebble is, quite simply, the best Chinese restaurant I’ve been to. I still get cravings for their Mock Eel–which, from their menu description, is “crispy shiitake mushrooms glazed in a ginger scallion soy sauce”. And it’s unbelievably good. I miss Vermont for a lot of reasons, but this tops the list.

In Asheville, North Carolina:

The Laughing Seed. Because of their amazing variety of vegetarian/vegan options. They also have a lot of stuff that’s gluten free, which I would have appreciated more if I’d known then that I was gluten intolerant. Anyhoo, I don’t see my favourite on the menu anymore (but, my brain is getting old, so…) but I think the Seven Seas Filet comes close to replicating it. (Maybe that was it?) Truthfully, the wait service was consistently poor, even from the viewpoint of this sympathetically patient former food service worker, but the delicious food made up for the rude and inattentive waitstaff.

In Sarasota, Florida:

Sunrise Cafe–A cozy, friendly, down-to-earth jewel in increasingly elitist and snobby Sarasota. Scottish staff is super friendly, and they quickly became friends of the family. One of the few things I miss about Sarasota. (and, yes, I try to keep my posts nice, but I have absolutely zero qualms about painting Sarasota and Florida for what it really is–especially since I was born and raised there, and have witnessed firsthand the crazy shenanigans that happen there.)

Bangkok Restaurant–The restaurant is just gorgeous. The owners told us one time that they brought over all the restaurant furnishings from overseas when they came. It has been a favourite of mine since the early 90s. Back when I could actually afford to eat/live in Sarasota (and, even then, only survived by working three full-time jobs), my friends and I used to eat there every week. And, yet, they still managed to mess up the dish I ordered every single time. *laugh* But it was so good, it was worth the wait. And the atmosphere, with incredibly carved dark wood tables…well, you just have to see it.

 

In Santa Fe and Espanola, New Mexico:

I’m not sure if  I’ve decided on a favourite, yet, this time around. Among contenders are The Teahouse, The New York Deli, the Tecolote Cafe, and the Five Star Burgers, and La Cocina.

 

(Not) Understanding the Suburban Mentality

 

Mulder: “I mean, is it so damn important for everybody to have the same color mailbox?”–The X-Files, “Arcadia”

Okay, I admit, the mentality of suburbanites and gated-community dwellers just plain mystifies me. I used to be a little more philosophical about it–live and let live–as long as I don’t have to live there. Or even visit people I knew who lived there. Until I really became aware of the environmental impact of the suburbs (back in my late teens/early 20s–so a while ago *wry laugh*).

Little Boxes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUoXtddNPAM

Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States

Let’s temporarily forget about (not that you should) the acres upon acres of wilderness (in Florida, where I’m from originally, it’s the already severely diminished wetlands and swamps) that fall prey to the developers’ chainsaws. Let’s look at the communities themselves. Instead of renovating an older home or apartment building, there’s this trend where everything has to be brand-sparkling-new. This one young person I knew actually said those specific words when she was complaining about her old-building rental. So, now, because people don’t want to live in a place that’s been used and lived in by someone else, they help contribute to the destruction of the environment, because of all the new construction materials that have to be manufactured to build these perfect new homes. And, typically, they are pretty cheaply built on top of that. Or, if there’s an old home on the site, it has to be demolished and carted away to a landfill, generating more environmental issues.

So, having ignored all of the above, I don’t understand why you would even want a cookie-cutter home that looks like all the others. Boring. Plus, how on earth do people even find their trendy brand-new home, after one too many mixologist-concocted drinks, if they all look alike? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLxC1bJmF_Uhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLxC1bJmF_U)

Then, the lawn mania. It astounds me how obsessive people still are about having perfect green lawns. All day long, every day, you’ve got people or lawn crews out with lawnmovers, leafblowers, weedwhackers–the noise is constant and it’s all…day…long. One couple even had a ShopVac that they used to vacuum leaves off their lawn–seriously. People, having those green lawns, especially in Florida, takes a toxic combination of chemical fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. And guess where all that stuff is going, especially in coastal communities? Yep, right into the waterways. (http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/dark-side-lawns) And, it seems to me that it’s completely unregulated. Even organizations and people who are supposed to be advocates for environmental protection and protectors of our natural spaces not only use things like Round-up, but are strong supporters of its use. (I know, I contacted some local representatives of these organizations directly). You know what that causes? http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/us/florida-algae-pollution/http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/us/florida-algae-pollution/ (This recent news item is the main inspiration for this article, by the way.) I can also speak from personal experience. Red tide used to only happen maybe once a year when I was growing up. When I was living there more recently, red tide was happening practically year-round. When I was growing up, there were less turfed green lawns–now everyone seemed to have one. And, of course, there’s the dead zone in the Gulf. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/080415-gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-above-average.html. So, what can be done about it? Even for those of us trying to fight it, it’s difficult when the local city and state politicians are corrupt and firmly on the side of developers and tourism. See examples here: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20150630/ARTICLE/150639959  and  http://www.srqmagazine.com/srq-daily/2016-03-26/3713_Institutional-Corruption and http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20150319/ARCHIVES/503191026

This paper espouses a stronger viewpoint about the state of things in Sarasota: http://sarasotaphoenix.net/

Sadly, even when people strive to implement xeriscaping, or try to use mulch beds in combination with native plants, they then resort to using Round-up to keep the weeds out. Which makes no kind of sense whatsoever. I mean, why bother with the environmentally friendly landscaping if you’re just going to dump Agent Orange Round-up all over it?

I hated to leave Florida without being able to affect any kind of change whatsoever. It felt like I was abandoning it to the mercy of the people who just wanted a beachfront paradise/condo–abandoning the swamps and the natural Florida I loved as a kid. But I couldn’t afford to live there among all the rich snowbirds, and an opportunity opened up to get out of that conservative hellhole.

So, I moved to New Mexico. Santa Fe. Where I’m at, at least had a little bit of a rural feel–a touch of the wild. There’s a ditch right by my driveway, and it was lined with beautiful flowers. Tall yellow flowers that followed the sun, and little orange and purple flowers. Essentially, lots of green growy things that helped take the edge off moving to the desert from green, lush Florida. And it was so quiet–no sirens, no SWAT teams running down the street, no gunshots,  and, best of all, no lawn equipment.

Then I was woken up (7 am on a Saturday morning, no less) to the sound a weed-whacker right outside my window. Yep, all the lovely wildflowers–gone. All the lilies around my rain barrel–gone. The whole lovely meadow, full of waving, shimmery grass in the compound–gone. And now the compound is coming after me because the area lining my gate looks “messy”, so, by the laws of the unit, I have to get rid of all the growing things along the fence.Or some of them. I still don’t understand what they are talking about. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to weed out. It’s no different than when I moved in. To me, it’s just beautiful, wild nature.

I don’t really feel like I belong in this world–it makes no sense to me.  I’ve never felt more like a social misfit then I have this week. And I’ve always kinda been the odd one out.

I have some things to figure out about where to take my life from here…to continue the fight and how best to make a difference for this planet and all its wonderful plants, animals, and other natural elements.

 

 

 

Culture of Hate, Florida, and the Orlando Shootings

I am not writing this article to downplay the tragedy and horror of the shooting that took place inside the Pulse nightclub. As a relative of a local thespian in Florida, there are friends of the family that know people who had their beautiful lives cut short because of this hate crime. I am glad to see that the media, even the president, is not downplaying the atrocity of this event.  This is so difficult and I can only hope that I can write this the right way–express things without adding insult to injury and the pain that the local community is feeling. I’m trying not to be, but I find myself so frickin’ angry, as well as devastated, by this event.

This may have been the act of a “lone gunman” with mental stability issues (as many articles claim), but this type of hatred is no stranger to Florida.

I know. I was born in the Sarasota/Bradenton area in 1972, and spent my younger years (20s) in the Tampa and, occasionally, the Orlando club/music scene. I remember the justifiable riots in the “ghetto”(yes, that’s what people called it back then, as well as a few more other unmentionable terms), aka the Newtown community, for the rampant injustices and crimes committed against African Americans nationally or locally. These riots blocked off the streets  that my bus took to school and required police intervention that seemed straight out of the civil rights movement era. Now that community is being gentrified by people going in, fixing up houses, and raising the prices and land values, there is less and less affordable housing in a city where the standard pay for the working class and laborers is often well under minimum wage levels.

Police brutality was as common as the humid, tropical air. Hatred and intolerance was just as strong. Racism and sexism permeated every aspect of my upbringing, including the language. Intolerance and injustice was as common as grits. I had a bit of a safe zone in that I grew up in the theatre, but there was still a lot of classism that couldn’t be avoided, even in that more progressive environment. If you shopped at Kmart or didn’t have designer clothing, you were treated as if you were caked in fecal matter. As far as racism and racial hatred goes, there was also a thriving subculture of skinheads that persisted well into the 80s and 90s. As young, American-style punk/alternative/goth 20-somethings, we constantly had to be on our guard against the skinheads. We used to have to travel in packs to avoid getting attacked by the bands of skinheads–even in sleepier Sarasota. I remember having to escort my gay friend around because the skinheads were harassing him, and he was terrified. There were concerts you didn’t go to because they were all-out battlegrounds between skinheads and S.H.A.R.Ps (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice). One of my punk friends asked me to blow off work one night to go to a concert. While I wasn’t a direct witness, her story was that it was a setup (there was no actual concert) for the skinheads to attack punk kids because they had a Mexican American punk kid they were hanging out with in their family-like group. According to this punk girl, they slashed everyone’s tires and then circled the group, attacking them with 2x4s and broken beer bottles. One kid was put in the hospital and later died. Again, while I wasn’t the eyewitness, this punk girl said the skinheads got off because they were from rich families with political connections.

After the crackdown on kids hanging out in downtown Sarasota (so as not to disturb the wealthy elite), we finally absconded from Sarasota to spend time in the more liberal atmosphere of the Tampa goth and gay nightclub scene–driving an hour 6 or 7 nights a week so that we could feel safe and accepted. Then the Christian hate groups descended in white vans…parking outside the clubs and harassing the club goers with both verbal hate chants and picket signs saying we were going to hell. And lots more epithets I won’t even bother to repeat. I never saw them again after my Christian goth friend went over and challenged them on their own grounds. They packed up and left.

Then the news crews showed up–doing exposes on the evil Satan worshippers of the goth club scene and how we were all vampire wannabes up to all kinds of sick and twisted shenigans. Because of the danger of the romantic appeal of the Anne Rice vampire novels on impressionable youths, ya know.

Then the frat boy types came. Then the police began targeting the clubs, with their thuggish police brutality beat-downs.

The goth/alternative scene often intersected with the LGBT scene…both providing havens for Florida’s misfits and fringe communities within Florida’s intolerant, noninclusive cultural climate in the 80s and 90s.

But I read the articles about this event, and Florida just seems to come off as this tolerant, accepting place, where this sort of hate-fueled violence is an anomaly and completely uncharacteristic. I absolutely mean no offense to the people affected by this violence, and express my deepest sympathy for the victims and their loved ones. But, Florida, I’m not letting you off the damn hook. The truth is, as a previous long-term resident of Florida–born and raised there–this type of hatred and rabid intolerance is ingrained in Florida’s culture. I saw it everywhere growing up.

The perspective of these articles act like the Zimmerman types are not commonplace, and that people have already forgotten about Trayvon Martin. But, even as I neared my more mellow 30s, I still experienced it firsthand. It was 2013-2015 and the level of racism and sexism freely expressed by a group of local public performers was astounding. One of them threatened to flame me on Facebook for posting “bleeding heart liberal crap” on my own page, and said that Trayvon Martin “deserved to die” and that “he should have never been in that neighbourhood in the first place”.  Another person in this same group at a social get-together said that it was too bad that was illegal for him to take an outspoken woman that was a friend of my friend outside “and beat her head repeatedly against the wall to teach her a lesson” for daring to talk back to him. This is the real Florida: where if you don’t fit a narrowly circumscribed status quo (rich, white, elite, Republican, male, conservative) you do not matter. You have no rights. You do not exist.

Yes, the articles have explained that Omar Mir Seddique Mateen committed the attack in support of ISIS-type beliefs, but Florida has, and is, a culture of hate and intolerance in itself. Thankfully, I am no longer a resident of Florida (I successfully escaped, finally), I can only hope that this incident will serve as a wake-up call–a mirror–for Floridians’ own tendencies to the same levels of hatred and intolerance within their own communities and cities. And within themselves. Put an end to this hatred. This kind of hatred is not an isolated case in Florida, it’s an epidemic…take the word of a born-and-raised former Floridian.

Feel the Bern?

I’m still holding out hope for a Bernie Sanders win. Just on principle. And, I just need something to believe in–a touchstone in this off-kilter, discordant world. As a feminist, I would love to see a woman in the White House, but I don’t trust Hillary Clinton, not that I feel that any politician can be trusted. Now, if it were Elizabeth Warren, maybe…but I’m not really writing this to get into a political debate, nor am I particularly concerned with logical analysis in this blog post.

This election has been emotional and very personal for me. I remember seeing myself through the eyes of (conservative) Florida—labeled a failure by Florida’s education system that was actually failing me (and continues to fail young people today), looked down on and ostracized by the Florida elite, and constantly reminded that I was nothing everywhere I went (such as in the case in a Florida library when a woman staffer looked at me in my below-minimum wage work uniform with an expression like she stepped in garbage and went and hid in the back rather than have to help me at the counter I was approaching). Broke, jobless, and out of options, I sold almost everything I had, packed the rest in my car, and went back to college, via student loans. In Vermont. I was 28. There, I not only managed to get my degree, but was made aware of the fact that I have ADHD. After I was diagnosed, the school taught me coping skills to help make me successful and stabilised in life. I also worked with an activist and puppeteer from Argentina that helped me make sense of the police brutality I routinely saw in Florida (firsthand), and gave me a cause to believe in and fight for. Social injustice. Being broke, I had to return to Florida, where my degree didn’t mean anything. After getting fired from the YMCA for having dyed my hair pink (which made me a bad role model for kids—their words), I finally landed a job interview for a pet day care. The offered pay was $4 an hour for cleaning kennels and such. “Take it or leave it,” the guy said, “there’s lots of people willing to work for that pay.” I should have taken it. Fifteen years and a Master’s degree later, I still don’t have steady work, and I have student loan debt I’ll probably never be able to pay back.

 

This is why I still want Vermonter Bernie Sanders to be my president. Why I still hope that the United States will enter into a new era, and reverse the horrifying backslide it’s embarked on, despite the fact that Clinton is deemed the Democratic candidate.

 

But the reality is “Not likely”. I found myself thinking last night: What kind of country is this where a dishonest hatemonger like Trump has a chance of being President? I just don’t understand. But, in some ways, this is representative of America, if you look at certain eras/trends in this country’s history. Maybe this should be a wake-up call—that the U.S. is place that fosters greed and consumerism over sustainability and its local communities. A place where women still don’t have equal pay. Where we can be raped and our (white male) attackers get off with a slap on the wrist (yes, I’m referring to the Stanford University case, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/stanford-university-rape-case-the-victims-letter-in-full-a7067146.html and http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/08/stanford-had-a-rape-every-two-weeks-before-brock-turner-was-caught.html ) while African Americans (for example) carry heavy sentences for petty charges. It’s like nothing changes. It’s 2016 and racism is still endemic in this country, and ingrained sexism makes women less than zero in the courts, on the streets—even in their homes, in hospitals and doctors’ offices, and in the workplace. Plus, it only takes the simplest of math (even with our failing public school education) to realize that the minimum wage level can barely support one person, not to mention an actual family. That’s if you even have minimum wage. And, now, companies are re-learning all the loopholes to really cheat their workers, making me really glad I didn’t pursue my career in food service, despite how broke I am.

When I went back to work in food service after college, I worked for a place called Charley’s Subs. While there, you were graded on your work performance. You had an actual script that you had to abide by when working the register. If you missed even one phrase, or failed to say it the right way, you got points taken off by an investigative person from headquarters. They had a clipboard and stopwatch. The stopwatch was to time how long you went through this spiel for the customers—you couldn’t take more than X number of seconds for each phrase. (I’m not making this up—this really happened). If you went over the time allotment in making a sandwich/meal, you also got points taken off. Enough points collected, and you were in danger of losing your job. But, here’s the other catch. You’d be fired, right? Nope. As informed by an employee with a family to support, they’d just keep cutting back your hours until you were forced to quit. Then, once you quit, you’d have a black mark on your employment record, and they’d give you a bad review to any future employers that might call to check on your work there—according to this staffer. You know, the old “Why did you quit” line. That’s why we need rights and protections for all workers—guest or otherwise—enough this with “Right to Work” garbage that erases what little protection workers in this country have.

 

If I had any money, I’d move out of this country. But I’m trapped on this sinking ship (Titanic the Sequel, essentially) called the United States. Bitter? Yep. But not bitter enough to abandon my hope, yet, that Bernie Sanders can still win. Because I keep hoping that maybe one of these days, I’ll win, too. That I’ll be somebody successful and worthwhile. And that’s what Bernie Sanders represents for me. Thank you, Mr. Sanders, for hanging in there till the bitter end, no matter what the outcome.

Sarasota County Commissioners for sale/rent–available to the highest bidder…

Developer? Sport Hunter? Or, simply an individual property owner that hates leaf-dropping, old oak trees? Sarasota-Bradenton will welcome you with open arms! Pesky development and environmental/wildlife laws preventing you from cutting down old-growth trees, building on wetlands/protected natural areas, or hunting on wildlife like black bears? Not to worry–Sarasota County Commissioners will change local laws and regulations to suit your heart’s desire!

(Except where I’ve included links and quotes from newspaper and online articles, this is an opinion piece, and all opinions are mine, and mine alone. –A.C.F.)

On the wake of seeing homes like the one that was built in 1925 in my very neighbourhood demolished, and even this one (http://realestate.heraldtribune.com/2015/06/30/historic-119-year-old-reasoner-home-becomes-rubble/) meeting the wrecking ball, as well as beautiful old oak trees being cut down with no effort to preserve them (despite purported codes/laws in place protecting said trees), I was greeted by this article in the paper this morning that Randy Benderson, who infamously got permission to build a huge, wildlands-destroying and traffic-congesting mall, the University Town Center, “somehow” convinced Sarasota County Commissioners to “unanimously” grant his proposal to expand development to a whopping 600K feet of retail space and 100K of office space, according to the article (Read full article here). Not to mention that he’s going to be able to put in “nearly1,800 homes and 500 hotel rooms” on the site. But, no worries, the commissioners have learned to hide their bias towards/ties to developers behind convenient green-washing doublespeak. Supposedly, the “281-acre property…bolster(s) wetland protection.”

Here’s a novel idea, County Commissioners, why don’t you just simply PROTECT the wetlands and Florida’s natural ecosystem?

Oh, that’s right, because you are apparently carrying on with a trend in local Commissioner behavior–behavior which seems to point out that you pass measures that not only support a small influential percentage of the local population, but your own interests as well, as this article states “It wasn’t a tough sell for commissioners, most of whom shoot guns and frequent the range themselves.”

The article about the expansion of the shooting range in Nokomis goes on to inform us that the County commissioners allowed about 43 acres of protected natural land to be used for the expansion of the shooting range in Nokomis, despite environmental outcry, and the article suggests, by my interpretation, that you probably (illegally?) tried to keep it under the radar by not informing the public that it was coming under vote until the last minute.

(A small local paper presents another viewpoint into some of the issues facing Sarasota, often including reactionary articles on Benderson and County Commissioners that are interesting to read, simply because of the perspective offered on issues that would be hot-button among the voting demographic anywhere else: https://www.facebook.com/SarasotaPhoenixNews. )

Is it any wonder I (and other environmentally concerned Sarasota-Bradenton residents) feel so helpless? After all, we can’t compete with wealthy developers, out-of-state snowbirds (whose needs and wants are placed above those of long-term/year-round residents), or the special-interest groups that have the advantage simply because they reflect the needs and wants of our County Commissioners, as it suggests in many of the articles in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, and the events taking place “on the ground”.

Also, keep in mind that all this is happening while schools are underfunded, funding for the arts is being slashed, libraries don’t have enough funding and have had to slash staff and programs, social support programs are being neglected, and many people here are “lucky” to make minimum wage, and, even then, that is routinely exploited, with many businesses/individuals paying their employees under the minimum wage (I know about this tactic, firsthand, from personal experience in years of job hunting/working in Florida.)

I am saddened and angry beyond belief. And I have admitted defeat. I feel so powerless and alone to stop any of this from continuing to happen. Since I am poor and have no social status, I don’t matter. I can be sidelined like all of the other residents with heart, who care about what happens to not only Florida’s dwindling ecosystem, but to the local community and to preserving a sense-of-place connection with the area as well. I cried a lot this morning over the fate that Florida’s natural areas and wildlife faces in the face of political-based greed and favoritism. Not that the County Commissioners would notice, or even care, how members (like me) of their grassroots community would feel.

You win.

 

#Sustainable #Saturday: Historic Preservation

(Disclaimer: This is strictly an opinion piece from The Chaos Fairy.)

There’s a part of me that just wants to let everything that’s old decay, rather than preserving monuments to the (misguided) ideal that humankind’s achievements are so phenomenally great. Yet another part of me supports preservation of the past–whether in its “natural” form via ancient, wise trees, restored natural landscapes, and older buildings and other iconic historic structures. It doesn’t matter whether it’s classical-style architecture that everybody thinks is so great, or the starkly unsettling, yet powerful, language of Brutalist architecture–I think it’s all worthy of preservation. Especially over the alternative.

I’m referring to the fast-growing trend towards brand new “McMansion” homes. Despite it being the trend on uber-elite places like Longboat Key here in Sarasota, I thought such people only existed on staged reality shows like House Hunters on HGTV. You know the kind: the potential home buyers that all parrot the same thing “stainless-steel-appliances-open-floor-plan-BRAND-NEW-HOUSE!”. And who turn up their artificially perfect noses if they walk into a vintage home with fixer-upper potential. “It’s just so dated,” they whine to the realtor. “We want a pool and five bedrooms for under 200K.”

But, then, the trendy home buyer scourge hit my neighbourhood. Beautiful old oak trees fall to the chain saw. Many of the older homes, instead of being restored, are being demolished.

This 1925 house (according to a previous real estate listing–no longer there for sale) was demolished to make way for this depressingly awful McMansion (under construction). I suppose I should be grateful they only mutilated the oak tree, not cut it down entirely. A silver lining, I guess.

FlHouse2

I found out through the neighbourhood gossip grapevine that, purportedly, the person who owned the demolished vintage home and the lot next door (also going to be built with another McMansion), also purportedly owns this soon-to-be-vacated house.

FlHouse1

I can’t imagine that it will escape the fate of the wrecking ball, either. Maybe someone will see this and at least possibly be given the opportunity to relocate the house.

One place, with two lots, used to transform into a fairy field of lilies after the rains.

Rain Lilies

They’re no longer there, of course–just two new depressing McMansions. I bet these new homes will come with “granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances”. *sighs* The McMansion down the street from these, along with a few others in the neighbourhood, have already had the sod laid so that the trendies can have their toxic, ecosystem-destroying lawns.

What bothers me most about this this, according to the media/social media is that there is a strong movement among the trendies (of all ages) for “sustainability” and “downsizing” and “tiny homes” but the evidence, in reality, seems to point to it as being exactly opposite of that. People seem to want the convenience of brand-new homes that are move-in ready, complete with toxic green lawns/water-sucking landscaping that can only be kept perfect by regular applications of Roundup and pesticides. Instead of taking the time to rescue and restore an older home. they prefer to waste resources, materials, energy, and negatively impact the local ecosystem, just so they can live like suburban royalty in their McMansions.

Sometimes, there are good guys. At least one person, if not more, that I know of in the area, has saved quite a few older homes by launching a movement to at least relocate them, and, when they weren’t able to do that, tried putting the word out via social media for takers to step up and save/relocate these older homes.

That’s all I can do, as well. Put the word out. I wish I could save them all, but, since I have no money, I can just put these closing thoughts out there. Please buy older homes and fix them up, even “green” them if you want (though, be careful, that can be misleading regarding products–kind of the equivalent of a company claiming the organic label for their product when it’s really not organic). Even smaller homes from the 1950s can become an awesome mid-century modern gem, if that’s your style.

Here’s some random articles I found in the local paper about people who have restored older homes, which may prove that you can “still have your cake, and eat it, too.”

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20110811/article/110819918?p=1&tc=pg

http://realestate.heraldtribune.com/2015/03/14/st-armands-gem-refreshed-for-a-new-era

Plant native landscaping, avoid turf lawns, plant butterfly and bee plants, and avoid applying chemicals, pesticides, Roundup, and commercial fertilizer in your yard. And don’t use Roundup on your driveways, walkways, and community sidewalks. And for the ecosystem’s (and the neighbours’!) sake, cut out the dang leaf-blowers. Just use the fallen leaves to form attractive mulch beds instead of raking them, or vacuuming them up off your lawn with a Shop Vac. (Yes, I’ve seen this with my own eyes!). And stop cutting down trees.

Check with your local extension service about native plants (though, a person manning a SRQ Extension Service table at a local library condoned the use of Roundup. :-p)

Buy used/antique furniture from antique and thrift stores. If you’re remodeling an older home, see if there’s a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you (like we have in Sarasota).

See if there’s someplace like the Sarasota Architectural Salvage where you live.

If nothing else, rely on the Internet and Craigslist to find vintage home items like bathroom fixtures, toilets, etc. Or go to garage sales!

Happy hunting!

Remember: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Dear Sarasota, Florida…

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Address the systemic racism, classism and sexism that plagues the local community.
  7. 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.)
  8. 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.

Sincerely,

A heartbroken A Chaos Fairy