I am absolutely entranced by the city of Lakeland. I don’t think I’m going home to Memphis. I’m just going to have my dog and cats shipped here, and I’ll work from the FedEx office in Downtown Lakeland. Can someone please tell my boss?
I took a walk around the city tonight after work, and I totally fell in love. This is truly Small Town America. I’ve already been quite smitten with the people here who call you Darlin’ and talk to you like you are the best thing they’ve seen since their children were born. The local restaurants are so quaint and good that they seem like they should be on a movie set. But, now the entire town has blown me away. I feel like I’m in one of those Candid Camera episodes where somebody will finally come up and say this was all a joke and the town was set up just to make me think someplace like this exists. Smile…you’re on Candid Camera!….and, I’m busted.
The locals did tell me about their controversial Sheriff. He’s doing a great job apprehending criminals, but the locals are in an uproar because it’s making their town look like there is a crime problem. Huh? Well, I guess that’s a problem to have. I also noticed a strange happening tonight as I was walking around town. People all over the place had their lawn chairs tied up on the sidewalks as if they were putting them on display. I walked by one group and asked if they were watching the traffic go by. They looked at me and laughed. I saw more and more lawn chairs, all alone, tied up on the sidewalks. It was really weird. So, I asked a woman who was coming out of her car to place her lawn chairs among the rest of them to explain this strange custom. “There’s a big Christmas parade tomorrow night. But, you’ll never get a good seat if you don’t put your chairs out tonight,” she informed me. Must be some parade.
Apparently, the parade is two hours long. Everybody in town (who isn’t sitting in their lawn chairs on the sidewalk) will be in it. My informant said professionally designed floats will parade by along with senior citizens riding John Deere tractors. She introduced me to her daughter who will be dancing in the parade tomorrow. A two hour parade? I said, “Wow. I hate that I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m missing the parade AND the First Friday celebration.” That’s why I’m staying. This is just too good to miss. I’m going to buy a lawn chair and tie it up as soon as I get done here.
I was looking at the beautiful painted swans and butterflies throughout town, and I asked a woman out walking her dog what was the significance of them. “I don’t know about the butterflies, ” she said. She went on to tell me that the original Lakeland swans (live ones) got sick and died. Legend has it that one of the townspeople wrote to Queen Elizabeth and asked if she would donate some of her swans’ lineage to the town to replenish the flock. She did. So, the local white swans are of royal lineage. Well, that’s pretty significant, I guess.
I thought I had seen most of the really cute downtown area, but I went in search of a Cuban restaurant that was recommended to me. When I got close to the corner of Main and Tennessee, I realized I was standing in an old Southern Town Square. They had it decorated to the nines with Christmas lights everywhere. In fact, the entire city is decked out better than the city of New York during the holidays. Lakeland doesn’t let a little warm weather wilt their holiday celebration. I discovered several nice restaurants and quite a few local taverns, all dressed up in holiday fare. I ended up eating at Palace Pizza which was recommended to me at lunch, and I’m not even going to talk about what I ate. My acupuncturist is about ready to fire me as a patient anyway. This story won’t help me out.
I just can’t say enough about this little gem of a town. I’m so glad FedEx has a place here. I hope there are a lot of managerial problems which require training. I’ll be happy to volunteer to help them out on a long-term basis. I haven’t even visited the Florida Southern College that is loaded with about 20 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. I’m going to run there tomorrow morning. I wonder what surprises await me there. Stay tuned. Now, where did I see that ad for lawn chairs???……..
NOTE: My blog host changed the photo sharing platform, and it’s not working. While I am very grateful that they are trying to make it more user-friendly, I’m not grateful that it’s not working today. I’m more than a little frustrated. Today, you’ll just have to see the pics with no captions. Sorry…we’ll all survive the disappointment, I imagine.