From the foreword:
"What is raw, alive, and essential about Florida is becoming more difficult to find, true; but it's still possible to encounter it, to experience it, and a good place to start is any story or book by Jeff Klinkenberg. . . . Jeff loves Florida. It shows."--Randy Wayne White, author of Shark River and Everglades
"Klinkenberg is a genius reporter and a wonderful writer. I read this book in one gulp, then went outside, looked at that magnificent Florida sky and made myself all sorts of promises."--William McKeen, author of Highway 61: A Father-and-Son Journey through the Middle of America
No wonder Jeff Klinkenberg loves Florida. At any time of year he can find a place in the state that's ripe to enjoy or a person whose story has aged to perfection.
Arranged by season, the book opens in the fall, which Klinkenberg says is like spring in the north--a time of celebration: "Having survived our harshest season, we feel renewed." Fair weather, good food, and the joys of nature lie ahead, described here in essays that are like time capsules of "old Florida values." Preserving the past, they reveal Klinkenberg's waggish appreciation of the state's history, folkways, and landscape, not to mention its barbequed ribs, smoked mullet, stone crab claws, and fresh lemonade.
Many pieces focus off the beaten path and on modern rogues who seem to turn their backsides to the subdivisions and shopping malls that pave the state: Miss Ruby, whose fruit stand features rutabagas, boiled peanuts, and her own brightly colored plywood paintings; an 85-year-old resident of the remote island of Cayo Costa who hums Beethoven while she hunts for shells; the scientists who test mosquito repellent in Everglades National Park; and the unofficial caretaker of Lilly Spring on the Santa Fe River, who greets canoeists wearing glasses, a necklace, and on occasion a synthetic fur loincloth. Other pieces pay homage to Klinkenberg's literary heroes who've written in and about Florida, such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Rawlings's companion and memoirist Idella Parker, Everglades crusader Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and novelist Ernest Hemingway. Klinkenberg also revisits an old St. Johns River campsite of 19th-century botanist William Bartram, whose encounters with alligators there were as alarming as Klinkenberg's with beer cans and soda bottles.
For anyone who has a stake in the real Florida--resident, tourist, naturalist, or newcomer--this tour of the seasons will linger in memory like the aroma of orange blossoms on a clear winter night.
Florida native Jeff Klinkenberg has been writing for the St. Petersburg Times since 1977. He is the only two-time winner of the Paul Hansell Distinguished Journalism Award, the highest honor given by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.