As of today, February 5, I have lived in Florida for twenty years.
I braved a solo five day moving truck trip through a freakish Mississippi ice storm and a final leg across the panhandle that seemed extraordinarily long, arriving in Flagler Beach in the early evening. It was a cold, blustery Saturday but it felt like paradise after the -46 wind chill I left 5 days earlier in southern Missouri.
I didn’t come with much. A 10′ moving van filled with some of my parents’ things they had left with me when they came to Florida a few years before, lots of books, clothes, and some heirloom furnishings. I had sold most of my furniture, electronics, and even my car to finance the trip. I had just turned 24 and was coming off a three year “tour of duty” as a juvenile corrections officer.
There was a small “Welcome To Florida” party at Crabby Joe’s, the Beverly Beach eatery that would be part of all of our lives here in Flagler County (albeit under different) names until it burned to the ground in December of 2006. I fully embraced the beach life, getting tan and drinking rum.
I took it easy for a couple of months before answering a help wanted ad for the landmark Sheraton hotel in Palm Coast, thus beginning a twenty year Flagler County hospitality career. During my stint in hotel management, I was part of the developmental meetings concerning a new attraction with the odd name of European Village. By the time European Village opened I had shifted gears in my career and was blossoming as a bartender at the beachside Golden Lion. One of the charter businesses at European Village was a cigar bar known, simply, as The Humidor.
It is now February 5th, 2016. I still have wild appreciation for Florida every day, be it appreciation for the scenery, the weather, or the wildlife. I’m a proud tourist in my own town. In a twist that I could never have predicted, I now live with a great partner (Christa aka SuperBroad) steps from the former site of the Sheraton (It was flattened in 2004), the promise of a new resort hotel never filled. All that remains is the waterside pavilion (I had a wedding reception there once) and the still functioning Palm Coast Marina. Second twist? I am now the managing partner of The Humidor in European Village and co-founder of the Flagler Cigar Company line of cigars. My years in Flagler County have been good to me. I’m calling it right now, I’m officially a Flagler County icon!