As the beginning of my eighth year in Jacksonville approaches, I am so very grateful to have made this wonderful community my home; it’s truly the most at home I’ve felt of any city in which I’ve lived.  My friends, beautiful family and the clients that make my work so interesting and rewarding, reaffirm the decision I made in late 2007 to move from the Washington, D.C. area to the First Coast.

Several months after moving here, I wrote the blog post below.  It couldn’t ring more true today than it did back then.  Thank you to everyone who has made living here so meaningful.

Since moving here from Washington, D.C. in January I’ve been asked by many River City residents, some seeming a bit puzzled, “Why Jacksonville?”

I try to come up with a humorous response like “I’m training to become a surfing champion” or mention my search for a slower-paced, better quality of life, but my experiences this afternoon really capture the reason I moved here and what I love about my new home.

I drove to Riverside looking for a quiet and scenic place to read a book and spend a few quiet moments. Perhaps I should have been annoyed when the woman sitting next to me on a bench facing the St. Johns River not far from St. Vincent’s Hospital started talking to me, completely interrupting the peace I was so intent on finding.

Sure I could have given her that look signaling that I wanted nothing more than a few minutes of silence and solitude.  But I chose not to.  I just found it so refreshing that she was interested in learning about me.

I also wanted to hear about her experiences and what brought her to Jacksonville.

Within minutes of overhearing my phone conversation with a friend about wanting to meet more area Democrats, she handed me the business card of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee Chair and offered all kinds of tidbits on filmmaking contacts and resources. Just because…

Perhaps this seems trivial (especially to many of my Republican friends reading this) but what was so refreshing was that I didn’t have to ask.  She just wanted to help a total stranger feel more welcome in the River City.

Then as we were talking about my journey to Jacksonville and her move from Atlanta, three men with fishing rods and shrimp for bait, which I felt would have been much more appreciated by a seafood lover like me, joined us at our quiet little riverfront location.

Within minutes we were all talking: the four of us from different worlds, with different reasons for having picked this “quiet” spot to spend a summer afternoon.

The men started chatting with us and, when one of them almost fell in the water, we all started laughing.

Not long after, the woman sitting next to me headed home, and one of the three fishermen asked me what I did.

“I’m a documentary filmmaker,” I said.

“You should make a film about us,” he suggested half joking, as the two other men backed him up on this idea.

Watching them joke with each other while having their Budweisers and sharing the Zen of fishing with me – “Fishing requires patience and gives you peace of mind” and apparently some time away from their wives who they don’t bring along anymore since the women usually catch more fish than they do – did seem like the kind of slice of life moment that begged to be captured on film.

As I enjoyed the simplicity and spontaneity of this moment, the beautiful view, and the conversation which I struck up so easily with these four people, I thought about how this experience was so unique to Jacksonville.

I couldn’t imagine this happening in DC or Miami or Boston, the big cities where I spent most of my life.  People are generally too busy to strike up a conversation with a random stranger.  They’ve got places to go to and people to see.

Me too… and those people (all of you) and places are right here on the First Coast.

So, you may be wondering what my answer will be the next time someone asks me, “Why Jacksonville?”

Quite simply – because it has what so many cities in this 21st century barrage of strip malls, freeways, and Starbucks’ on every block lack – a SOUL.


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