I sat down on my front step. This is an entirely new neighborhood for me. I don’t know what is good and what isn’t — it’s part of a big city so surely there is stuff that isn’t good. But on this beautiful, blue-sky Saturday, pretty much everything seems good.
I watched a toddler run down the street yelling, “Daddy!” at the very large man waiting in the doorway. He picked her up over his head, obviously to her delight. Just then, a young man in dreadlocks walked down our side of the street, smiling. I waved. His smile increased, and he waved back.
Earlier in the day my wife Michelle and I visited our old neighborhood. As we pulled up, we saw our mail lady. She immediately recognized us and welcomed us back home. How cool is that? I had no idea who delivered the mail in our subdivision in Apollo Beach. But I do know that people complained about that person endlessly, primarily for a rickety old group of mailboxes that were to be replaced by the homeowners association. There were lots of new people in our neighborhood, and there were lots of complaints. It’s hard to tell people that you can’t move to a new place and expect it to be the old place. It isn’t. Ask any Florida native, assuming you can find one.
They say everything happens in its own time and for a reason. I’m still not entirely sure what the reason was for leaving South Hillsborough yet again, but I knew in my gut that it was time.
I’ve had the privilege of writing to you for the past 17 years. It truly has been a privilege and longtime readers have gone through a great deal with me, from depression, my failing hearing, foster children, motorcycle and sailing trips, life, loss and love and, in the end, a whole bunch of good times for our communities. In turn, in some cases, I have gone through things with you. Sometimes people need someone to turn to…and sometimes that person is a columnist. I have been honored to be that columnist on occasion.
Over those years I’ve received thousands of emails, most happy, some sad and at least one death threat. I’m grateful for all…except for the death threat, I suppose.
The snow of the fourth nor’easter to hit the city was gone within a day or two. While most everyone here is tired of winter, we reveled in the beauty and the quiet the snow laid upon the city. It was so different from Florida. We needed to see seasons again. As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that time passes by awfully fast without seasons to mark the passing.
I was in my early 30s when we first arrived in Ruskin. It was not the place that it is today. There weren’t all that many people our age, and the first few weeks were spent questioning the decision to live aboard our sailboat at Bahia Del Sol Marina. But quickly the place grew on us. And, not long after our arrival, more young people arrived on their boats. We all had similar goals: We wanted to see the world from decks of our small ships. Our friendships grew as months and years passed, installed SSB radios, water makers, radar units and more. And finally, we each created our own wakes, sailing off on our adventures, so brief that it now almost seems an illusion, but so deeply seared into memory, into my very soul, that I know the experience helped to shape me. Those were some of the best memories in my life, and I thank God for the experiences.
And regarding things happening in their own time…I think my time has come in South Hillsborough. If my “voice” hasn’t grown monotonous by now, it has certainly grown hoarse. The world has changed; South Hillsborough has changed; Bahia Del Sol Marina exists only in fond memories and in photographs now. It is time to go home…to a place that has been home for centuries in my family. To a frenetic city where I somehow can always manage to find peace. To a place where my voice hasn’t yet become monotonous. In South Hillsborough, for The Observer News, it is time for a new voice and for someone new to make “Observations” about the many wonderful things and people here. I love The Observer News, the people I worked with, and you. I thank you for putting up with me for all of these years. Or months, depending on how long you’ve been here.
Michelle and I decided to return to the New York City area — to a neighborhood in which we are strangers, but not for long. To a place where we know few people but can relish in the lives of many, just by sitting on our doorstep.
This newspaper has been a significant part of my life since 2001, and I care deeply about it. I know that it is in great hands with Wes and Karina Mullins, David Payne and Chere Simmons at the helm. The entire staff…editorial, sales and the pressroom are all the best possible people, all of whom I will miss dearly. I’ll still catch their work on www.observernews.net, or on occasional trips south.
I’m not yet ready to give up on sailing; our boat could become our eventual retirement home. Years ago I sailed it into Ruskin from Cape Cod and many of you helped to make that trip — filled alternately between many moments of boredom and several of sheer terror — your voices, in thousands of emails, made it possible. You warmed my heart on many cold nights, and I am eternally grateful. When it comes time to sail north, I would look forward to writing about it, and, definitely, to your help if you’d be willing.
Eight years ago, almost to this day, I wrote my first Observations, entitled, “It’s good to be home.” And now, that is where I hope to find myself again, just somewhere else.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for reading this newspaper. I am just a very small part of it — others who didn’t get the bylines improved my words. Thank you for supporting this family-owned business. Thank you for caring. In turn, I can assure you that I, along with everyone at The Observer News, sincerely care about you.
Fair winds to you. Take good care.