The Gumbo Child

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A few years ago I wrote a lyric that my friend Brad Ford helped me turn it into a song. I was thinking of home, the Florida Gulf Coast, city of five flags and of its diverse history.

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“The home of my heart is on these white sands , where the north shore laps against this southern land. Santa Rosa breezes are always freeing me from the chains I feel but cannot see….I’m just a Gumbo Child, rollin’ flowin’ with the tides, waves rollin’ in and they subside. With the pull of my soul and another ride…for the Gumbo Child”.

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The people make up this land. It is always that way. Here, Native Americans, English, Spanish and French were the ealry ones, and now it’s a big  pot of good tastin’ Gumbo ! I suppose most places in the good ole US of A could lay claim to that. Pensacola seems even more so with a longer history (Americas first settlement by the way), with it’s ethenic blends, Pentecostal roots mixed with tourism, Armed Service folks, rednecks, laid back beach lovers and just about anyone else that wanders down to our beaches and never leaves ! Who could blame them. I wasn’t the first one there and so I can’t say who gets to be the last.

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“Cowboy hats and old surfboards, Crawfish boils and half ton Fords. Marley music ain’t no surprise under a full moon Hank Williams sky….Just a Gumbo Child, goin’, flowin’ with the tides, waves rollin’ in and they subside. With the pull of my soul and another ride…for the Gumbo Child” !

 

Isn’t the diversity in us as a people and even within our own selves, that makes us interesting? I think so. I love culture, mine as well as anothers. Living and learning about that makes us stronger, not weaker. Makes us unite more and divide less. For how many of us can say we are full blood anything? It’s getting more and more rare these days. And if we are all the children of One Creator, then what difference does it make? Just because we want to learn of and live with other cultures doesn’t mean we have to let go of ours!

Just a Gumbo Child, goin’ , flowin’ with the tides, waves rollin’ in and they subside….with the pull of my soul and another ride… for the Gumbo Child” !!

I think we should all embrace our inner Gumbo, what do ya say? !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Postcards From The South: Pensacola, Florida

When I am home, I am there totally entrenched in my most natural culture. When I ‘m away, I think of her, longing for the next time home. What’s not to like? Sugar white sandy beaches, lazy surf, grouper sandwiches that make you want to eat 10 ! Americas oldest settlement is my hometown, Pensacola.

There are some that would say she’s a better mistress than a wife. That my longing is what makes her appeal so strong. There are those that would remind me of days hot enough to fry an egg even before it hits the proverbial pavement. It is the buckle of the Bible belt, yes I know, and sometimes the thinking is a bit too, well, maybe I should just say, not where my thinking is. Conservative, slow, but soulful, growing and well home is just home. It’s an easy place to love !

I write not only to share my town with readers, but to encourage those that might be planning a vacation, to come to our shores. With the hurricanes of the last several years and the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, Pensacola has taken a hit in more ways than one. Already reeling from a current lack of industry, then the economic downturn, the hurricanes and oil, well, times are tough. But Pensacola is beautiful and resilient.

Our beaches are without oil and the hotels, restaurants, bars, musicians, and retail stores would love to have a little of your money. In return we will give you a little slice of the Gulf Coast to take home in your heart.

Our downtown is right in its stride of redevelopment, with new restaurants, clubs and music venues right downtown on famed Palafox street. There is an energy that is building there in part with new, young mayor Ashton Hayward. I believe Hayward can be the spark that Pensacola has needed for a long time. They are approaching growth with a “build it and they will come” attitude.

The new Maritime Park with AA baseball team, the Carolina Mudcats which is a farm team for the Cincinnati Reds, promises to be a great addition to a host of things to do in Pensacola.

Here’s a few places to eat that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Best Breakfast: The Coffee Cup– Cervantes St

Best grouper sandwich- Jerry’s Drive in– Cervantes St

Best Burger- Paradise Inn– Pensacola Beach

Best Seafood- Marina Oyster Barn-Bayou Blvd and Peg Leg Pete’s on Pensacola Beach

McGuires Irish Pub is still an awesome place for dinner. Check out the new music venue Vinyl for your favorite bands. Check out the cross on Pensacola Beach marking this countries first Catholic ceremony. The Naval Museum is always a great place to take the family.

So, there ya go, book your flights and reservations. Come to Pensacola, discover its history, bask in its charm, take a little bit of heaven home with you. If you do, I think you will be booking next years trip before you leave this year. Please remember to leave only your footprints on our beaches so they will be beautiful for everyone else.

My Own Margaritaville

Today in Nashville it’s 76 degrees. We’ve not really had any cold weather yet, save for a few nights right around freezing. For years now as I’ve lived away from the ever present home of my heart on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I’ve played beach playlists on the stereo and pulled books off the shelf that would magically transport me back home.

Home to lazy, sunny, salty air days, with the clanking of the mainsails in the distance. Home to longboards, shrimp boats and street names that are as much a part of my memories as my family. Names like Cervantes, DeSoto, Innerarity Point. Places like Wolf Bay, Perdido Key and the Sugar Bowl. Places to grab a grouper sandwich by the Gulf, drink a cold beer and watch life pass by from the eagle eye view of paradise.

A place where some can’t wait to leave and can’t explain why they long to return. A place where some never leave and very few feel trapped. A little strip of earth, of sugar white sands, tanned laughing children, and the presence of God drifting and dipping with the effortless sea gull. To America’s first settlement. To the land of the Muscogee Creeks and Panzacola Indians. To my forefathers and a place my children are spiritually tied to with the loose moorings of love.

Here I am in Nashville. a wonderful city, but it just ain’t home. It will be a long winter, if those Buffett playlists are already gracing the sounds of my house. Hopefully I can hold off the lure of home, until my usual winter migration to touch the sand and take deep breaths of heaven.

Biodiesel Anyone ?

I wonder what generation will end up reaping the benefits of some better thinking about where we get our energy sources. I fear it’s a long ways off ! It looks like my hometown and the beautiful white beaches of Pensacola Florida are soon to be threatened immensely, maybe even destroyed. I know things can’t change just like that but when something like this happens and can literally watch some of the most beautiful beaches on this earth ruined for oil, well it can get a person pretty ticked off.

All of the above is about the beauty and ruining Gods creations, but it doesn’t even begin to tackle the enormous environmental and economical impact….The shrimp and oyster beds, marine life and all of the folks that make their living from the Gulf. Tourism, you think ! If the beaches are ruined, then tourism will be non existent…hotels, restaurants, retail stores and it goes on and on and on…..

It looks like the way the gulf stream is headed that this will affect not only the Gulf Coast but on down to the Keys and the right up the east coast, bringing along with it all of issues that folks at home will be affected by. So when do we wake up. If we were able to figure out a way to move collectively at a nation, we could change things quickly. Perhaps that’s the issue. If something doesn’t affect us directly then we don’t tend to respond as well. I’m surely guilty of it.

So solar anyone? Biodiesel for sure, come on, it’s great and the air will smell like french fries. What’s not to love. Please pray for the coastal folks, and also remember then when you pull that lever in the voting booth. It’s time for a change, and as they used to say in Nashville, “It’s a good day for a revolution”. Lets give our children something better.

Ahhhh Water

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When I was a kid and was maybe home from school sick, laying around feeling crappy, my Mother always told me to take a shower. She promised me that if I showered I would feel better. That there was just something about water! Cleansing, healing, rejuvenating !! As usual my Mother was right. I’d guess that most kids loved playing in the water. My first swimming lessons were at Bayview park in Pensacola, and thru the years I have skied and been canoeing in those waters.

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Here are a few little facts about our old friend, Mr. Water.

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*”There is the same amount of water on earth now as when the earth was formed”. I’m not sure who was doing that measuring, but I guess it’s true.

*”Americans use 5 times the amount of water that Europeans do”

*”Ground water can take a lifetime to traverse one mile”.

*Human brains are 75% water. 75% of a chicken is water! Wonder how much water is in a tortilla?

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The love of water is mentioned in many of our favorite songs. Remember “Singing In The Rain”, “Up On Cripple Creek, “Cool Water”, “Splish Splash”, one of my favorites is  Jackson Browne’s “Rock Me On The Water”, and the first 45 I ever bought was B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”.

It takes me back to Pensacola Beach every time I hear Jimmy Buffett sing “Mother mother ocean, I have heard you call…wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall….you have seen it all” from Pirate Looks at 40.

Here’s one for the books…The Oak Ridge Boys…”Baptism Of Jesse Taylor

So what is it? Why this love for water? Maybe it’s the pureness of its beauty, and possibly mixed with its very real danger. I will always be a child of the water. In my head and one day maybe even in my body, like a Jimmy Buffett song, I will sail away to some island to live out my days.

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What are your thoughts on water? I’d love to hear. In the meantime, “Mother, mother ocean, I hear you calling”……