Monday, November 29, 2021


I left Pensacola yesterday morning after breakfast but I only took Rusty with me as he insisted on coming, and we drove east not west on I-10. Some more housekeeping had to be done. After I got on Obamacare at my new address in Green Cove Springs I was required to register with my new doctor in Clay County. So I planned to leave Layne with Therese for two days and make my own way back.

Rusty was unhappy when he realized Layne wasn't coming too but there wasn't much I could do about that. He is a creature of habit, even worse than me and a break in his new routine had him fretting. Too bad I couldn't explain but he had refused to stay behind when I got ready to leave so here we were. A short walk in a rest area settled him a little so I decided to make a long stop on our way.

I hadn't been to Tallahassee in decades and I felt it was high time I paid a visit to the state capital. The Interstate was packed with traffic, something to do with the holiday I assumed as well as numerous snowbirds in RVs presumably going south to plague my former haunts! 

On a drizzly cool Sunday afternoon the seat of government and the seat of Leon County was all buttoned up and deserted, so parking was easy to find. Apparently Tallahassee got its name from Creek Indian usage and supposedly means old fields, and the spelling was regularized by the daughter of Governor Walton. I guess she was there at the right moment and someone needed to figure out how many esses and elles the name needed. Double all letters and you will be close to correct.

Tallahassee's history is one of compromise more or less. After Spain ceded Florida to the US the new government found it had inherited two provinces and each had its own capital, St Augustine for the East and pensacola for the West. The Americans trying to govern the new territory spent a few years trundling between the two cities which are separated by 400 miles of land and are an impossible distance apart by water.

The city that was chosen as the compromise capital became Tallahassee in 1821 and by 1824 was the new territory's only capital city. All this was four years before Key West, the wealthiest city in the territory got it's charter. As Governor William Pope Duval took charge of the territory when Spain handed it over in 1821 and served for 12 years. Interestingly enough Andrew Jackson, future president, was responsible for taking charge of the new territory and arrived in march 1821 in time for eh July hand over date. In November he quit and Duval took over.

All that explains why Key West named a street after Duval (and there's one such in Tallahassee also). However in those days the main drag in Key West was Whitehead Street, named for one of the four original American purchasers of the island.

Nowadays Tallahassee is a town dedicated to governance and that doesn't mean it's ugly. It's hilly which is ironic in such a flat state, filled with trees and shrubberies and Spanish moss and shade. They cater to tourists too and those electric scooters can be found all over the steep grades of the city. I remember a comment complaining how they get abandoned so frequently. We found them!

One thing you will notice is the number of organizations headquartered in the city. Lobbying is huge of course and in a state as massive as Florida the money must be mind boggling.

I found it all as attractive as I remembered, with parks on the periphery and a sensation of a small southern town despite its importance.

Sitting on Park Street I saw a plaque which I assumed would be of some person I'd need to look up if I wanted to know more. Imagine my surprise when I saw who it was.

I heard Red Barber at the end of his life with his weekly chats with Bob Edwards on NPR's Morning Edition, when I worked at a radio station in Santa Cruz. It was an attractive spot:

Rusty suddenly pointed in alarm. I watched the dog keep a slow steady pace alongside his owner's shambling gait. Rusty used to do that for me when I was pushing a walker.

The outdoor garden attracted its quota of homeless and I saw police officers talking to two of them who had apparently been in a dispute (voices were raised!). Not my problem I thought to myself. I have no regrets about not being involved with 911 any more.

The patience of police officers dealing with the same old dreary street drama day after day:

Tallahassee is a superb town for ambling, lots of picturesque church, beautiful gardens and flower beds...I thought back to Springfield Illinois famous for Lincoln's home but not as pretty as this, I thought, rather churlishly I admit..

The old capitol is now a museum and behind it rises the enormous tower that is the current capitol as functional as it is ugly.

A reminder because I am compulsive a capital is the city, and a Capitol is where the legislators meet. It's named for Capitolium, the temple dedicated to Jupiter in Rome on the Capitoline Hill. The Founders were classical scholars which is also why the Senate is so named as Rome too had its own senators in times past.

I made a stop at the Police Memorial and I searched for the name of a friend who joined the department when I did. John Piskator came to Key West from California where he had worked in Silicon Valley so we had the geography in common. He came to key West like me to start a new life. Out training one day in New Town he had a heart attack and died. Seeing his name here struck me quite hard to my surprise.

Firefighters got their own memorial too and I was surmised to see six have died on the job so far this year.

It is what it is and that isn't much to look at. The Florida legislature meets part time for a few months at the beginning of the year. The Governor and his individually elected Cabinet govern for the rest of the year. Despite having more registered Democrats Florida has only one statewide Democrat in office, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Legislature is permanently gerrymandered Republican.

For all that the governance of the state isn't bad or monolithic, as the functions carry on pretty much without legislative oversight. The lawmakers posture and argue and the bureaucrats get on with it. As such perhaps this monument to hot air isn't as inappropriate as it is ugly. As former resident of California I know where I'd rather live.

Florida has nearly 200 state parks and they are gorgeous, well worth visiting all over the state. The state's pensions are among the best funded in the country and the roads are better than most. Covid has thrown the spotlight on Governor DeSantis who seems to have preferred to run for President than govern as the native Floridian he is. Even so he has spent money on Everglades restoration and talks a green line on environmental issues facing the state. I think a lot of states could do worse than learn from this one despite all the mockery of Florida by others. 

Rusty needed to prove to me that he can see shapes and forms as I watched him get freaked out for a while by a statue of a dog, part of a tableau celebrating literacy.

I had a good time walking around Tallahassee even though I only exchanged a few pleasantries with one other dog walker.

For some reason Florida positively bulges with public art to suit all tastes:

A great break for Rusty and myself on the road to the doctors office. 

We slept at a rest stop, paused for a shower at a truck stop in the morning and got my blood drawn, got a shingles shot and a tetanus jab all in less than an hour. And broke my fast in the city park by the St John's River. I am growing to like North Florida very much.


Rachel said...

I wasn't aware of how pretty Tallahassee was. Also, it was nice/sad to see Piskators name....Thank you for the post. It is lovely.

Conchscooter said...

I also saw Nick Pham from MCSO who was killed doing traffic stops as I recall at Duck Key and got run down. Too many memories for us.

SonjaM said...

Pretty town! Did you leave out crowds on your pics on purpose or was it as quiet as it seemed?