Seven days ago Tami and I set out in Baby Blue, our Westphalia camper to travel to Miami for the Grassroots Festival.
We camped in St. Augustine, got attacked by raccoons, lost a half pound of butter, some cream, and a package of hotdogs. We camped at Grassroots. Had a blast. And on Sunday she departed for her sabbatical. Tami went off in search of her “spiritual name,” and I was left with nothing to do.
I was going to walk home from Miami, but instead I jumped in with Carol Hewitt, and together we put on a “Running on Local” tour. The idea was to pull into town to talk to community groups about our books, and about how to build resilience.
First stop was Orlando. I was suspicious. Whenever I go to Orlando it is all Disney and Gaylord Palms and the Disney faux town of Celebration. Orlando used to creep me out.
But this trip we were hosted by John Fife at East End Market, and it is entirely clear that Orlando has an amazing sustainability/resilience vibe going on. John has taken an abandoned schoolhouse and converted into a hub of enterprise—everything from a cheese monger to a bridal outfit. It’s amazing. I learned a new word from John: “placemaker.” He is a placemaker of the highest degree.
We pulled into town, talked with a crowd of interested people, sold a bunch of books, and went out to eat one block away at a thriving night time “producer only” farmer’s market. I saw a bunch of young people wearing black t-shirts that read “Orlando Doesn’t Suck.”
Next morning we went live in front of a group of movers and shakers that John had personally invited. It was remarkable. They are growing food in an urban setting. Launching food trucks, spawning enterprises, converting derelict buildings into fecund space. Orlando has a happening scene.
Next stop Savannah. Carol made Savannah happen by sheer force of will. A small gathering at a coffee shop, Sentient Bean, lead to a long conversation with Thinc—a co-working space that has converted an aging office tower with a view of the river into the coolest space in town. We’ll be headed back to Savannah in the spring.
Just as the table was starting to look thin, Perogi Hut arrived and filled a table. Old Bull Tavern chipped in. They contributed an amazing pate. as did Sea Eagle Market—a fascinating local seafood outfit which is running a “Community Supported Fishery.” Tasty Bites rounded out the meal. It was fantastic.
Carol and I did our shtick, and we sold some books, and I learned a lot about what makes or breaks a shrimp season. It was fascinating. And wonderful.
Tomorrow we head for a breakfast meeting in Port Royal. Then on to a book gig in Charleston.
For the past seven days I have been selling books, talking to folks about what I have learned, and having amazing conversations with people who are searching for ways to build resilience into their communities.
I’m not sure I will return home with lots of money. We are living on
book sales and speaker’s fees, and tonight we split a donation bucket. We’ll see.
This tour might be a marginal undertaking, but meeting these people, and sharing our stories, is an unforgettable blast.
By now Tami has pushed into Alabama. And I’m a couple of days away from home. Whatever this is, it beats walking.