For your listening-while-reading pleasure
You have officially hit Best City Ever status. And I’ve not only visited some pretty great cities around the world, but lived in some, too. So congratulations! When I was in high school, I absolutely hated it here. Seriously, you could ask anyone because I told almost everyone. I hated moving away from Nashville, hated the heat, hated a lot of the people, and thought there was not a single thing special about this place. I couldn’t figure out why my parents would ever want to live here TWICE. To be fair, you have changed a bit since I left for college, but you are basically the same city. So in honor of my last night here for a while, I’m dedicating this one to you, dear city.
Reasons why you rock…
Jacksonville Historical Society
The JHS is a pretty cool organization unique to only Jacksonville (imagine that). In case anyone was otherwise unaware, Jacksonville had the third largest and most devastating known fire in our nation’s history. You were probably unaware but I’ll let it go if you are taking the time to read my blog. Anyways, the Great Fire of 1901 destroyed most of the downtown area, covering over 145 blocks. So basically everything in our city that dates pre-1901 was destroyed. That includes buildings, documents, homes, family heirlooms, etc. Miraculously, only 7 people died. However because of the fire, the city was built back up bigger and better than ever. We became a city of architects and movie stars. Jacksonville was THE place to be. Unfortunately a lot of the beautiful homes and buildings downtown that were built during the rebuilding phase have now been torn down. During the 1970’s and 80’s business began expanding into other areas of the city and the businesses that remained in the urban core began to expand as well. The buildings that stood in their way became casualties of a modern age. That part doesn’t rock. That part actually kinda sucks. But the Jacksonville Historical Society is the organization that keeps those old, now non-existent places alive. I can’t tell you how many times I asked, “Do you know what/where this building is?” while I was interning there this summer. All that we have left of these places are in photographs and documents and the only place to find those are at the Historical Society. It is a place to be explored and to learn from, and I hope I can continue to do so when I can.
The Jacksonville Historical Society archives are in the Old St. Luke’s Hospital built in 1878. It was saved from the fire by a creek with about a block to spare.
When I say neighborhood, I don’t mean the subdivision down the street. In Jacksonville, the neighborhoods are the sizes of cities. All in one city. Because Jacksonville is the (now 2nd by 1 square mile) biggest city in the United States. It’s HUGE. And the thing is, there is no possible way for you to understand the enormity that is this city unless you have lived here. Even then you might rarely leave your side of town. But lucky me, I got the chance to go to school about as far away from my house as you can get in this city. That meant friends equally as far and scattered all over the place. Believe me, that is not the part I like. I would much prefer gas in my tank. However, because there are so many neighborhoods, each one is different and brings something special to Jacksonville. I live in Mandarin, which is just about the prettiest place on earth. At least the area where my house is. I look forward to driving home from school and getting back under the oak tree tunnel that is Mandarin Road. The beach has the beach (duh) and delicious subs. San Marco has prestige and delicious chocolate. Springfield has real history and also delicious chocolate. (The “Peter” is the same at both places.) Riverside has charm and delicious beer. It’s basically all delicious. Everywhere has the river. There are a whole lot of other places, too, but I don’t feel like naming everything delicious from each side of town (because that’s all that matters, right?).
Right down the street
I just got the low down from a friend that Jacksonville is now a “metro” area, meaning that the Jacksonville area is comprised of a few smaller areas. That means more opportunities for Young Life! I almost had a fit when he told me that they intend to start YL at my local area high school sometime in the near future. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW EXCITED THAT MAKES ME. There are so many high schools in this city that can’t benefit from YL because there just aren’t enough leaders. All of my leaders in high school were out of college and maintaining a life while being a leader. While I would never in a million years trade the people that impacted me, this city NEEDS college students to lead who can dedicate more time and effort into leading local kids. And it’s not like there is a shortage of college students. Like UNF is huge now (when did that happen?). There are college students there who could be leading kids right now at Mandarin High. And kids would be able to have leaders that didn’t stay for just a year (my problem). The need for college life is present and I can’t wait for it to finally start (ehemm Ben cough). If you go to UNF, please think about leading! I bet there are a ton of people just waiting for the opportunity. Or maybe you live in Jacksonville now and you were always the “I didn’t go to Young Life because I didn’t like the crowd that always went” kind of guy. That’s lame. As a leader, I know that that “crowd” is the reason Young Life exists. Now is your chance to lead THOSE kids. Times are changing for YL here and I can’t wait to see how this city is affected.
Yep. That would be me at 14 on the far left at Southwind. Oh you can’t zoom in on my face? Darn.
Just a smattering of reasons why you, Jacksonville, are the greatest. I will miss my Tuesday afternoons at the Cummer, my Saturday mornings at the market, my Sunday afternoons by the river, and evenings with family and old friends. I have never really wanted to come back and live here after graduation, but never say never.