Sunday, July 6, 2008

Officially an Islander

It isn’t that I dislike Orange Park. OP seems to be a reasonably respectable place to live. It has Blanding Boulevard, Wells Road, and the convenient-if-not-frightening Orange Park Mall. Orange Park has definitely improved in the last decade, at least by my standards. It has a couple of decent Chinese food joints, a feature that was non-existent when we moved there 12 years ago. OP is up to four Starbucks locations, an indicator that it has some people with taste. Despite all of the improvements, I am proud to state that I no longer call Orange Park my home. As the result of a bold decision by the Unites States Postal Service, I left Orange Park as of July 1. Now all my bills, junk mail, and Mint Magazine carpet cleaning and Papa John’s pizza coupons will be delivered to my home on Fleming Island.

Fleming Island is different from Orange Park. This is a community with a sense of identity. We’re not hip like the Beaches folks, or a trendy “everything old is new again” gang like the San Marco crew. Fleming Island is mostly a bedroom community with a substantial NAS-JAX influence. With three quality elementary schools, and Clay County’s top-ranked high school (bearing the community name, of course) Fleming Island has a rep for being a good place to bring up a family. It’s a small-town feeling within a large town, a place where you can see Everyone if you take your coffee to the patio tables in front of our Starbucks. This is a place where you know the folks you really don’t know, whether from sharing a sweat session at the Y, offering up an emptied cart at Publix, or sharing “good morning” during a run or bike ride on the Black Creek Trail.

As a proud resident, I’m not ashamed to point out Fleming Island’s shortcomings. It sorely lacks in ethnic diversity. If Fleming Island residents pray to any god other than a Christian variety, they probably cross a couple of bridges to join their congregation. The Fleming Island Democratic Party could fit its meetings in my house, if it even existed. A decent bookstore means a long car ride, and any new cinematic releases must be suffered through at the AMC Orange Park Mall movie theaters. The library here is a lovely, new structure with sparsely-populated shelves. But every place has room for improvement.


MJ said...

The perfect small opportunity for writing: a new address. There was no hassle with address change cards or moving vans. Congrats on your new island status!

EJG said...

I think I'll add my thoughts in a companion blog.


Liz said...

A few other things I've noticed is there is no such thing as a quick trip, you have to add 30 minutes for the talking you will do with all the people you run into that you know. My kids say they can't get away with anything because everyone knows who they are and who they belong to! I agree about the bookstore and theatre and if I am really going to get greedy those plus a bowling alley would be great!

Cora Spondence said...

Living on an island myself, I can relate to your connection to a chunk of land with all its flavors and wonders that make up your home.
You've marked it with lots of your usual attention to interesting detail.
Thanks for a new found appreciation to the "other" island.

LJ said...

I love Riverside for a bunch of the same reasons.

DiaBelo said...

My sister used to live on Fleming Island and I couldn't figure out why she moved. But now she lives in Fernandina and it's kind of similar. Jacksonville's unique neighborhoods are like New England's small towns.