Pennants

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As the child of public schoolteachers, summers for me meant car trips. Not simple weekend getaways but months-long excursions that my mother meticulously planned with the AAA and road managed with her dog-eared Trip Tik.

Over the course of my childhood, we saw the country from coast to coast several times over; always taking time to stop at historical markers and national parks in addition to homages to the legendary horse racing tracks that my father had always dreamed of visiting. (In the 1960s and 70s children could still visit racetracks, but that is another blog post!)

These were the days of Stuckey’s, those blue-roofed wonders where in addition to refilling the gas tank and taking a restroom break, a child could always find a sticky pecan log, a key chain with your name imprinted and my favorite: felt pennants advertising the local area.

In the days before instant cameras, pennants were an easy and fast reminder of all of the places we had visited. Recently, I cleaned out the hall closet and came across my collection in an old Maas Brothers bag and still in good shape.

And did the memories come flying back! There was the 1965 Disneyland pennant that represented my highlight of our trip to Los Angeles in a black Volkswagen Beetle—complete with the specialty luggage that fit behind the back seat and in the front “trunk.”

From 1970 were my two beloved Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” pennants that took me back to the middle school summers we spent in Cincinnati so that my father could attend graduate school. I don’t know what he learned in his studies but I do know that I learned how to decipher a box score.

And among the assorted Florida pennants was the one from the Kennedy Space Center. In 1971, the seventh grade of Marshall Jr. High School spent a Saturday traveling on school buses to Cape Canaveral for a day-long field trip. This was the height of the space race we were all convinced that we would see a real astronaut or engineer that day; the Justin Biebers of our time. I’m sure I took lots of naturally 1977 filtered pictures on my Instamatic camera. But all it took to transport me back to that feeling of actually BEING in a special place at a special time was my pennant.

Not a bad thing to collect after all.

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The Vagrant: The View From Here

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by Vagrant

I’m in a city that stretches past the horizon in every direction. I’ll be here for a year. Hot, parched, cloudless sky above for months; the city itself a chaotic mess of beige and dirt and life. Wikipedia tells me that the population density of Cairo is near 50,000 per square mile; where I live it’s probably even higher.

It’s a strange and exhilarating change from growing up in Polk County—a peaceful, relaxed, even meandering haven—one I considered boring, slow, and boring again when I was younger.

Running with bags to the local orange grove to pick some fresh fruit, camping in Saddle Creek Park and kayaking through the entwining lakes was my normal. Now my alarm clock is the dawn call to prayer echoing through a city of millions. By the time I get dressed, enjoy my Turkish coffee at a local coffee shop, and start my day the streets are already packed and nearly immobile with masses of people. Exciting? Certainly. But there are plenty of things to miss from home.

There is something to be said for the quality of life a live Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band along with some cheap, decent beer with friends affords (the swill available here, while effective, is terrible). Not to mention the thrill of sailing along the beaches of Anna Maria; watching the thunderstorms roll through Lakeland; reading Tolstoy on a hammock strewn between palm trees in the back yard; or casually appreciating the epitome of southern belle fashion—the sundress.

That’s of course leaving out the surprisingly diverse local characters which make Polk come to life: the metal-head who’s on his way to becoming a doctor, the youth minister who moonlights as a beer expert, the childhood friend who is becoming something of a mechanical savant, or my retired neighbor who recently told me her twin retirement hobbies are travel and skeet shooting!

Florida may move at a bit slower of a pace than the rest, but it never ceases to be interesting. Especially from here.

Vagrant is a Florida native who got stir crazy and wanted to see the world like the stereotype of the twenty-something he is, but then somehow pulled it off. He is currently residing in Cairo.