This summer will mark my 30th year of working and living in Jacksonville. Having also worked in Charleston, S.C., going to school in Washington, D.C. and growing up in Baltimore, I’ve had a taste of all different city sizes and lifestyles.
Baltimore is a city that’s really a big town. In fact, Jacksonville is similar to what Baltimore was 35 years ago. Kind of a second city on the East Coast. While Baltimore was never quite DC or New York, Jacksonville isn’t Miami, Tampa or Orlando.
And neither town wants to be.
Washington is a big city with all of the pluses and minuses that go along with that. Great restaurants, lots of culture and the traffic and headaches that go with it. Charleston is about a deep south as you can get (OK, maybe Savannah) and is, as described, “charming.” It’s a big tourist destination now, but it remains a bastion of US Southern culture.
I often joke that I bought and owned three tuxedos when I lived in Charleston and wore them constantly. Here in Jacksonville, it’s a rare occasion that “black tie” is required.
And that’s just fine.
Sometimes that bothers people from out of town. Especially among my peers in the reporting community, when I travel they always deride Jacksonville in one-way or another. But we’re pretty comfortable with who we are. Maybe that’s what bothers people. They’re always moaning and complaining about something and can’t quite understand why we like it here.
There’s a sign at the Navy base in Norfolk that says “there are other duty stations besides Jax.” Just a small inside joke about our Navy population in North Florida and how they want to stay here instead of being stationed elsewhere.
“What brought you here,” is a question I ask people when we meet (since it seems nobody is a native). “The Navy,” is a popular answer from dentists and doctors to constructions workers and engineers. A lot of them were exposed to North Florida and South Georgia by being stationed at Cecil, NAS Jax, Mayport or Kings Bay.
Do you know what Rob Meier, Paul Spicer, Mark Brunell, Matt Robinson, Tony Boselli and Lonnie Marts have in common? None are from here; all played in Jacksonville and all decided this would be their “home-town” when they stopped playing football. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. These guys and dozens of others have played around the league but picked Jacksonville as their post-career spot. When asked they all say, “The people. The lifestyle. I just like it here. Nobody much bothers you and people just live their lives.”
Pretty good testimonial.