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Took a walk around the local geocaches, ended up trapped for half an hour in a nightmarish retirement community. Endless identical white single-story houses with garages and immaculate lawns, the streets deserted in the baking January afternoon. I was half-expecting octogenarian Stepford wives to come hobbling after me with trays of synthetic cookies. Many of the houses appeared to belong to retired military men, there were a lot of star-spangled banners (not many people know that it actually got its name from a Jimi Hendrix tune!), and a memorial garden at one end of the grizzled ghetto had many plaques speaking of wars fought before my parents were born.

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Two signs of life cheered me. One was surreal: the area was full of Muscovy ducks, big fat motley ones with red knobbly wattle over their beaks. Fearless, they came waddling up to me briskly, expecting to be fed. The other made me sigh with relief: an old black woman was sitting in her garage with the door open, a radio playing jazz, the car-space furnished as if it were the porch of a traditional Southern house. Granny, you made this skinny white boy’s day.

In other news, I have been interviewed by a minion of my overlords and I will spend tomorrow volunteering for conference preparation work at the James Randi Educational Foundation.

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Comments

  1. #1 jennifer
    January 23, 2008

    Muscovy Ducks. They are a “pest” species. They have overtaken natural populations of Florida ducks.
    Most Floridans despise them. And you can find many recipes for the duck on-line.
    –j

  2. #2 Martin R
    January 23, 2008

    Thanks Jennifer! The ones I saw today would be easy to catch using nothing more than a blanket.

    A Chinese friend once told me he was surprised that nobody was catching and eating the many swans and ducks in Stockholm’s public parks. (-;

  3. #3 Mikey
    January 23, 2008

    “Many of the houses appeared to belong to retired military men, there were a lot of star-spangled banners”

    I thought those houses with flagpoles were post offices!

  4. #4 The Worst of Perth
    January 23, 2008

    The ducks in China apparently taste better because they can be force fed.

  5. #5 Martin R
    January 23, 2008

    I wonder if they taste better when force-fed to you.

  6. #6 Mattias
    January 24, 2008

    I have always found it strange that the north-american federations have developed such distinct ideals of architecture while the ethos of their middle classes appears to have remained very similar to that in Western Europe.

    What do you mean with the reference to Hendrix in relation to the ‘Star-spangled banner’? This was the title commonly used for this song in prints from 1814 onwards.

    Hope you are enjoying your travels – when will you be back in the old world?

    / Mattias

  7. #7 bsci
    January 24, 2008

    I once had lunch in Celebration, FL which is literally what you would image a Florida retirement community designed by Disney would like like. (Yes it really is designed and run by Disney). All the houses and fences were white, but when you got closer you realized the old fashioned wood looking fences were actually built out of plastic – like the recycled plastics used for some benches. There was not a scrap of garbage or dust anywhere and there was soft ambient music playing on Main St, which was next to a man-made lake.
    We had to ask the waiter if he lived there and why. He said he spent most of his life in rural central Florida which was significantly less pleasant. Celebration was a great improvement.

  8. #8 Martin R
    January 24, 2008

    Mattias, I’m afraid you’ve got that backwards. All national anthems were in fact composed by Jimi Hendrix, and the national flags then named accordingly.

    Bsci, OMG, you been to Celebration!? That place is internationally abhorred!

  9. #9 Dave Briggs
    January 24, 2008

    Took a walk around the local geocaches, ended up trapped for half an hour in a nightmarish retirement community. Endless identical white single-story houses with garages and immaculate lawns,

    Someone should have warned you about not forgetting your hand held GPS! LOL!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  10. #10 bsci
    January 25, 2008

    I was at a conference in Orlando. Several of us had relatives further south so, after the conference, we rented a car to share the drive. We made a slightly wrong turn and ended up near Celebration so we decided to stopped for lunch. When else were we ever going to be there?
    As we approached, the entire town was gathering near a pile of rocks in the central square for the annual lottery. Oops, that’s some other story.

    In truth, besides being disturbingly clean and being near nothing else, it didn’t seem that different from the rows upon rows of planned communities that are next to each other in the more urban areas of Florida. Not that this is a good thing, but Celebration needs to be judged by comparison to the standards of Floridians not the rest of the world.

  11. #11 Mattias
    January 25, 2008

    Ok, that would explain the anthems ‘Spanish castle magic’ and ‘Voodoo Chile’, then.

  12. #12 John Huntington
    January 29, 2008

    Holy crap, I went running at sunset on Saturday night out of the hotel. I turned down the street and saw a park that led to that development and ran down that way. The sun set and I got COMPLETELY disoriented and ended up wandering in circles for about a 1/2 an hour.

    Great meeting you at TAM!

    John

  13. #13 Martin R
    January 30, 2008

    Haha, yeah, that park lured me in too. Loads of memorials for old soldiers. Great meeting you too!

  14. #14 clem
    February 4, 2008

    As to eating park ducks, when I was in the US Navy, one of my married fellow sailors fell in to an all too common payment snafu, and had to feed himself and his wife for a time by hunting park ducks with a baseball bat.

  15. #15 Martin R
    February 5, 2008

    Woah, just think of the stories the surviving ducks tell of the Avenging Batsman…

  16. #16 Todd
    December 20, 2008

    Hmmm, interesting. You claim to be a “liberal” yet your suicide-inducing article shows you to be a completely cliched self-righteous and judgmental conservative. Did you speak to anyone who lives in those homes, no of course not. I guess the fact that seeing a black person listening to jazz made you happy is what makes you a liberal, uh NO. Everyone has the right to live their lives as they see fit, if we all thought just like you well then we would be just like the neighborhood and rows of homes you criticize. I’m sure if you read this article and it was written by someone else, you would have a critical and negative comment on it as well. And the star bangled banner reference – I’m going to assume that was a joke and not a sign of you ignorance.

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