I return to blogging today after a trip to Jacksonville, Fla., over the Presidents Day weekend. It was a family occasion - my wife and I were visiting her stepfather and his wife who live in Orange Park.
My two kids came down from New York City for the break, with my daughter Allison also bringing her fiance. They will be getting married next month, the certain subject of a future column. I understand that soap operas always throw in a wedding when ratings are down, so I have decided to take the hint, given my recent dearth of e-mail traffic.
It was at a family dinner on Saturday night that my son Jim informed that I had the "Sully" look, which I wrote about in my column this morning.
We were a bit unlucky with the weather. It was sunny with blue sky when we arrived but that turned to rain on Saturday and overcast and cold on Sunday. When it was time to leave on Monday, the weather was great again. Of course!
Still, a good time was had by all. With its sub-tropical climate, Florida is not unlike my original home in the south-east corner of Queensland, Australia, so I am predisposed to like it.
Unfortunately, like its Down Under counterpart, the area has seen tremendous housing growth in the last 30 years. The result is that the original Florida, a Garden of Eden, has become more and more a garden of malls.
My wife's stepfather lives is a tranquil old section of Orange Park overlooking the stately St. John's River. But you only have to go two blocks inland and you are caught up in killer traffic on a wide boulevard of commerce.
We saw a tantalizing glimpse of the old Florida in a boat trip organized by Riverkeeper, an environmental organization. The boat went up a relatively lonely stretch of the Ortega River, a tributary of the St. John's. We were looking for manatees and alligators and such but it was drizzling and all we saw were some bedraggled birds, although some were pelicans, my personal favorites. It takes a hard soul to look at a pelican and not smile.
With the wild terrain looking suitably primeval and inspiring our imaginations, we looked out on the passing river banks, ate out sandwiches and were happy.