On my last visit back home to Jacksonville, I saw something I hadn’t seen before, not even during the 18 years of my life I lived there. I saw promise. I think it was maybe because I felt suffocated by the impossible vastness of the city and constant construction and routines that made my impressions of Jacksonville sub-par. I mean, I had a pretty good childhood and great school experience so that must be the only logical reason behind it. But… with fresher eyes that had seen more of the world and that were understanding of the histories of cities and the troubles experienced in city growth in the U.S., I’d gained a grander perspective of it. I think what also helped was having a best friend who goes to school in Jacksonville University – I’m one to think that college is the time you learn (if you want to) everything possible about the town you’re in and love it! That’s what happened to me with Baltimore and with every new discovery or altered perspective, I love it even more. It was different from what I remembered, yet something completely familiar because it was. Anyways, here’s what surprised me.
- There is art everywhere in the downtown area, from wall art to mosaic tiles on benches and re-painted businesses.
- The beaches are cleaner.
- People seem more socially and environmentally-conscious.
- It seems bigger than I remember with all its many roads and neighborhoods.
- People from high school are there, doing wonderful things.
- We have some really good Cuban food (my sister works at Mambo’s Cuban Cafe).
- It still takes an hour to get from one end to the other (maybe even longer) but with new roads it’s pretty efficient and not a bad time at all.
- Vegan and vegetarian spots are popping up here and there. Take the classic Chamblin’s Bookmine in Downtown Jax and their vegan brownies and the newer Juicebox smoothie bowl shop on the Southside.
- The buses are still nowhere to be found. Do we even have those?
- Oh yes, our summer music festivals and year-round arts markets and flea markets are the beacon of hippie good vibes, low-waste (even before it was a thing) and thrifting!
Of course, this isn’t all there is to the town but these are the things that pop up most in my mind and that I think are worth sharing. Whenever I go visit, I am captivated by this town, enchanted by it. It makes me almost proud to be from Florida, save that our town is named after Andrew Jackson (cue the gagging). And I think I was wrong in brushing it off before without really knowing it and giving it too much of a chance. But that’s what I’m doing now, so let’s see where that leaves me.
Is there something special about your town?