It’s hard to miss the drastic culture change at the Florida border. From Virginia through the Carolinas and Georgia, the drive is noticeably Southern. Which I like. I like the history, the architecture, the ghosts in the marsh. But Florida doesn’t have the same association with the Civil War, despite being one of the founding Confederate States. It also doesn’t have the same associations with African American history and Native American Indian history, despite being the site of the Seminole wars and one of the biggest harbors for runaway slaves and ex-slaves. The influence from Spanish colonialism is still apparent.
Sometimes I like these hodge-podge states, the unique native culture that springs, from the bottom up, throughout several colonizations and culture influxes. But the [damn] tourism industry here is brighter and more colorful, and hard to ignore. Billboards for Adult Entertainment Centers tower side by side with “Jesus Saves” billboards. All the neighborhoods have moved inland, while retirees build waterfront houses. It seems like everybody is from New Jersey.
I think about how every city has an area like this near the main roads; even my own town must seem ugly if somebody were only to see it from the highway (well, maybe not this ugly… but we’re a smaller city).
We’re here because my brother is attending Eckerd College, whose Orientation program begins on Thursday. The city is tourist-y and retire-y, which seems like a strange place to study. Wikipedia tells me that St. Petersburg is known as a destination city for Northern Americans, and that the population growth has been slow the past few decades as a result of having been “built out.”
Fun Fact: Apparently, Jack Kerouac died here. I guess the road ended.