I’m sitting in an office with bare walls and an empty desk and cabinets.
The photos and mementos collected over four decades are gone. A strangeness fills the …
“Cut the drama, Littlepage,” Jimmy Ray Bob said. “Everybody already knows you’re retiring.”
He was right. A story published in this newspaper last Sunday announced that.
After 28 years of writing this column and almost 40 years at The Florida Times-Union, I’m moving on to a new chapter in life.
I’m quite certain this development will bring joy to some. The gentleman who sent me this email will be one of those:
“You sit over there in the gutter with your good ole boys and supposedly solve the problems of the world and you think we care what you think … You are a simple-minded, tunnel-visioned gutter-snake … How you keep your job is beyond me.”
And that’s one of the kinder missives I’ve received from detractors over the years.
But I’ve also received many messages of support and in recent days expressions of sadness to see me leave.
For the record, I appreciate each one of you who have been readers of this column — even those who are convinced I’m an idiot.
“Now you are just getting maudlin,” Jimmy Ray said.
The guru of all things political has never had a shortage of strong opinions or any hesitancy about expressing them.
“Like a three-point preacher, just tell them three things that are important and then wrap it up,” Jimmy Ray said.
Continue to fight to protect the St. Johns River, our springs, the Ocklawaha River and our other natural resources that are critical to our quality of life.
Don’t let the momentum that is transforming Downtown fade; see it through until potential has become reality.
And strive to include all of Jacksonville, every neighborhood, in the successes that are ahead.
“That’s better,” Jimmy Ray said.
I had come to see Jimmy Ray because he had a head start on me, having retired about three years ago.
I tracked him down at what had been his hunt camp on the banks of the St. Johns River near East Palatka.
The old tin-can camper I was used to was gone. In its place was a large, two-story cabin with cypress siding.
A fenced-in pasture contained Sissy Lu Bob’s horses, and a shiny new F-350 dually pickup with a crew cab was attached to her horse trailer with living quarters.
The only familiar fixture was the large pot sitting atop a propane burner boiling peanuts.
“Things sure have changed around here,” I said to Jimmy Ray.
“Bitcoins,” Jimmy Ray said. “I got in early and then got out while the getting was good. Made a fortune.”
“So how is retirement going?” I asked.
“Fine,” Jimmy Ray said. “I had grown tired of talking about politics. Things have gotten too poisonous. You can’t get anyone to listen to reason anymore. It’s all about party loyalty.”
That struck a chord with me as I, too, have grown weary of talking about politics. Then Jimmy Ray and I spent the next hour sipping cold ones, eating boiled peanuts and talking about ... politics.
About that time, Sissy Lu came in and handed Jimmy Ray a long list.
“Don’t worry about finding things to do in retirement,” Jimmy Ray said.
“Your wife will keep you busy.”
We got into Jimmy Ray’s electric car — a spiffy Tesla sedan — and set off to fulfill Sissy Lu’s list of errands.
But first we stopped at one of Jimmy Ray’s favorite spots along the St. Johns.
Two retirees stood in silence looking across the mighty river, taking in the sadness of ghost cypress trees killed by too much salinity and the green algae staining the river’s water.
“I’m worried about the river’s future with Donald Trump in office,” Jimmy Ray said.
We both sighed.