I'm a founding member of the Stone Hill Association Science Fiction Club, www.stonehill.org. We run Necronomicon, the oldest and largest science fiction/fantasy/horror and so on convention in Florida.
Can you guess why the club is called "Stone Hill"? How about why the convention is so named? It's not a very good name, but better than Anthrax, anyway.
I co-own, and don't get to visit enough, an 18 acre mangrove island near Key West. I LOVE Florida and especially the keys, Tampa is paradise but the Keys are heaven.
Ok, about the island; it's much less cool than it sounds in a lot of ways. We can't build on it. It's mostly classified as environmentally sensitive. There are no real beaches; no palm trees so far, just mangroves. No deep water close, low tide is less than a foot deep probably a mile around. It's less than 1000' from US 1, about 12 miles from Key West. One could wade out to it. In the summer, mosquitoes and noseeums are bad.
It's also much more cool than most people could guess in a lot of ways. Only the owners can camp on these islands and the marine patrol is increasingly protective. Most of the surrounding islands are pristine and totally off limits. No motorized craft are allowed near to many of them. It's pretty big; 18 acres total. We haven't begun to explore it. No one has. We've only seen flashes of fauna. Key deer are supposed to range here. The waters are crystal clear, warm enough even for Floridians to swim year 'round, teeming with fish, crabs and lobster. We can pass this irreplaceable piece of Florida on to the custodianship of our grandchildren.
Here's why I love Florida, from John D. MacDonald's "Cinnamon Skin":
Florida was second rate, flashy and cheap, tacky and noisy. The water supply was failing. The developers were moving in on the marshlands and estuaries, pleading new economic growth. The commercial fishermen were an endangered species. Miami was the world’s murder capital. Phosphate and fruit trucks were pounding the tired old roads to rubble. Droughts of increasing severity were browning the landscape. Wary folks stayed off the unlighted beaches and dimly lighted streets at night, fearing the minority knife, the ethnic club, the bullet from the stolen gun.
And yet…and yet…
There would be a time again when I would canoe down the Withlacoochee, adrift in a slow current, seeing the morning mist rising at the base of the limestone buttes, seeing the sudden heart-stopping dip and wheel of a flight of birds of incredible whiteness.
On an unknown day down the road ahead, I would see that slow slide of the gator down the mudbank into the pond, see his eye knobs watching me, see a dance cloud of a billion gnats in the ray of sun coming through Spanish moss.
And once again maybe I would be wading and spincasting a pass at dawn, in an intense, misty, windless silence, and suddenly hear the loud hissy gasp of a porpoise coming up for air just a few feet behind me, startling me out of my wits, and see his benign, enigmatic smile as he sounded again.
Wild orchids, gnarls of cypress knees, circlets of sun slanting down onto green marsh water, a half acre of wind moving across the grass flats, fading and dying, throaty gossip of wild turkeys, fading life of a boated tarpon, angelfish—batting their eyelashes—moving coy and elusive between the sea fans, the full constant, mind-warping, roaring, whistling scream of full hurricane.
Tacky though it might be, its fate uncertain, too much of its destiny in the hands of men whose sole thought was grab the money and run, cheap little city politicians with blow-dried hair, ice-eyed old men from the North with devout claims about their duties to their shareholders, big-rumped good old boys from the cattle counties with their fingers in the till right up to their cologned armpits—it was still my place in the world, it is where I am and where I will stay, right up to the point where the Neptune Society sprinkles me into the dilute sewage off the Fun Coast.
It has too many magic moments that make up for all the rest of it. Too many flashes of a pure delight.
Here's why I love being a scientist:
What is it that confers the noblest delight? What is that which swells a man's breast with pride above that which any other experience can bring to him? Discovery! To know that you are walking where none others have walked; that you are beholding what human eye has not seen before; that you are breathing a virgin atmosphere. To give birth to an idea—to discover a great thought--an intellectual nugget, right under the dust of a field that many a brain-plow had gone over before. To find a new planet, to invent a new hinge, to find the way to make the lightnings carry your messages. To be the first--that is the idea. To do something, say something, see something, before any body else--these are the things that confer a pleasure compared with which other pleasures are tame and commonplace, other ecstasies cheap and trivial. Morse, with his first message, brought by his servant, the lightning; Fulton, in that long-drawn century of suspense, when he placed his hand upon the throttle-valve and lo, the steamboat moved; Jenner, when his patient with the cow's virus in his blood, walked through the smallpox hospitals unscathed; Howe, when the idea shot through his brain that for a hundred and twenty generations the eye had been bored through the wrong end of the needle; the nameless lord of art who laid down his chisel in some old age that is forgotten, now, and gloated upon the finished Laocoon; Daguerre, when he commanded the sun, riding in the zenith, to print the landscape upon his insignificant silvered plate, and he obeyed; Columbus, in the Pinta's shrouds, when he swung his hat above a fabled sea and gazed abroad upon an unknown world! These are the men who have really lived--who have actually comprehended what pleasure is--who have crowded long lifetimes of ecstasy into a single moment.
From The Innocents Abroad
I am intelligent, social, and busy