SLINGS & Arrows

I spend my days in perpetual motion. I don’t sleep more than a REM cycle most nights, and I wake like a racehorse, moving quickly like I’m already three furlongs behind the day.

I drive like the road is roller derby. My car is dwarfed by almost everything else on the road. If I don’t zip in and out of traffic, if I get stranded at a stop light, it’s as if minutes—precious minutes!—are stolen from me.

In part, that’s driven by self-importance; the particular burden of an only child who moved around, year after year, who experienced social dislocation and the need to prove myself on the regular, and never quite got away from it. In part, that’s driven by knowledge of the finite nature of physical life and meaningful influence.

I have five years, maybe 10, until I’m obsolete. For every one Ron Littlepage who beats the odds, there are five or 10 other lifers who get laid off, who become tragic examples—the besotted, embarrassing old guys in the young folks’ bars.

I check the mirror, the new white hairs, piercing like stalks of sugarcane from eyebrows and ears, perhaps even the nose. The bags under my eyes have spawned new bags, a Magritte framing of exhaustion, of a reminder that the unconscious self has its own sell-by date, and that even the most well-planned Outlook calendar won’t stop us from stroking out in some random place, rendering us beyond late for that 3:45 with a background source.

My dad died before the age of 60: a heart attack, sitting in the living room watching morning TV—the kind of cutesy-poo pabulum that qualified as a morning show, as the sun rose on Mother’s Day. I learned lessons from him; he lived out his years in isolation, with few friends and no confidants. One such lesson was to build and maintain relationships. As his example taught me, without them, we are close to dead.

But in that context, that sense of foreboding familiar to Poles and Russians and eight out of 10 existentialists, I know betrayal also. In my position, I’ve been savaged by people who claim to be old friends. It often happens when I’m covering an issue or a candidate and I disagree with their takes.

I have my perspectives and my cognitive biases, and my message to people generally is that if you don’t like what I write/say on the radio or occasionally television, tune out. There is no state media locally. There are a few corporations on the daily beat, and then there’s me: a cross-eyed Polack with an underbite who takes a $200 laptop and breaks as many political stories as I can, day in and day out.

One of those old friends who made a habit of shredding me: Stephen Dare, in his previous position at Metro Jacksonville. During the mayoral race, Dare often questioned my credibility in posts and whatever on the site, even issuing a moratorium on links to my posts. I never registered for the forum but, like most writers, if someone is writing about me, I’m reading it.

I respect others’ opinions, in that I wholly subscribe to their rights to have them, just as I have mine. I’d see Dare around, and the conversations were always cordial, and I expect that if I saw him again, the conversation would still be cordial.

How to reconcile those cordial conversations with the one-sided cyber-antipathy? I don’t know. Dynamics are complex and people have multiple narratives. Which leads me, by way of extended preamble, to whatever’s going on with Metro Jacksonville.

I don’t know the specifics beyond allegations of financial irregularities and competing narratives. But I do know that Dare was removed from the board and his content dumped from the site. And, as word got out through the press that Dare was gone, people resurfaced to say they were glad he was gone and that discussion on the site would now be better.

It’s interesting to watch all this go down. I see a lot of TV, but I usually know when I’ve seen a movie before.

Jacksonville’s a small town, and everyone knows everyone else’s business … that is, if you’re actually part of the local firmament.

And in the end, scandal is just part of the package. Sordid stories about newscasters, scandal about politicians, dirt on scenesters and hipsters and Cowford celebs—they’re interesting, they’re titillating, but they’re not dispositive. People fall, then recover, then resurface as if they were never hit.

Back in the day, the aspiration among the Smart Set was to leave Jacksonville—for a Real City. But the thing is: You never leave Jacksonville. Because Jacksonville never leaves you.