I was late for an appointment and, like always, was sure I knew exactly where I was headed. I took a left at a road that looked about right, then a right at another that gave me good vibes. Then, like always, I realized after far too many miles in the wrong direction that everything was unfamiliar.
I flipped on my signal again and pulled a yewey at the next light.
The thing about being cursed with a terrible sense of direction — I tell people I’m a “landmarks guy” when they ask why I can’t remember street names — is that every car trip comes prepackaged with the possibility of flying into Panic Mode.
If you’re going to make that meeting on time, every one of your next moves has to be perfect, you tell yourself. So you start second-guessing every turn, questioning everything you thought you knew about driving.
Does a red arrow mean you can’t go at all, or that you just have to stop first? you wonder. What are blinking yellow lights all about light, anyway? And what’s the deal with the glove box? Really should be called the insurance-and-registration box, you ask me. Nobody puts gloves in there anymore. It’s insanity ...
Before you know it, you’re turning off the radio to concentrate. You start speeding. You think you hear clinks and clanks coming out of your 13-year-old Civic and imagine every piece of it flaking away as you drive, until it’s just you, your car seat and your steering wheel, scraping sparks along Granada, cartoon-style.
Finally, I regained my composure and took a desperate right onto John Anderson Drive. And that’s when it happened. I became tunneled in a canopy of ancient trees, rolling down a one-lane road lined with long driveways leading to beautifully landscaped mansions. It was quiet there and felt quaint, but also stately. And I swear the air got sweeter the deeper I drove into the neighborhood.
You see, in an indirect way, all this was planned. On my way to a meeting at the city’s history museum, I had stumbled across a slice of real Ormond history. I discovered it, hidden away right there in the center of everything, and I followed the road from one wrought-iron gate to another until reaching an intersection heading back to town.
Eventually, I made it to that meeting I was so concerned about. But when I arrived, I was somehow less the new guy in town than I was before my detour into Ormond’s past — and wasn’t that the whole point of the meeting in the first place?
All I’m saying is there’s value in being a landmarks guy — even a mildly incompetent one.
Keep calm and country on
I’ll be honest: The turnout surprised me.
It was a downpour Tuesday afternoon when the Ormond Beach Regional Library hosted country singer Bobby Meeks in its auditorium. It was windy, dark skies and 2 p.m. on a workday.
There was no reason to believe this wasn’t going to be a bust. But I had to see for myself.
“Never mind the risks!” I howled at Lilian, our office manager, when she pleaded with me not to brave the weather. “I’m a reporter,” I told her solemnly, turning toward the windows at the front of our office, sizing up the storm. “You don’t pick your stories, toots. They pick you.”
Knowing for sure that I’d nailed that last line, I shot her a wink over my shoulder and made my exit. I won’t say I wasn’t terrified — it was ugly out there. But this was a story that needed telling.
Country music. Cover songs. Day show. Library.
This thing was bigger than all of us.
A mile and a half down the road, with soggy socks and foggy glasses, I arrived. I followed the corridors to the auditorium in back and, lo and behold, the place was packed. And there was Meeks, grooving inside a spotlight before a captive audience, completely owning the joint.
Did I risk life and limb to witness this moment? Arguably. But that’s what intrepid journalists do. We get the story — which, in this case, is both that country music is an unstoppable force, and that, apparently, so are Ormond Beachers.
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