BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
It’s all pretty hazy, like one of those smells that, in a flash, takes you back to 10 years old again.
The more people and places we visited after arriving here a few weeks ago, the more we heard about the “other” us. Everybody in the city seemed to know that, at some point in the city’s history there was some other Observer in town, but no one could tell us much about it.
I spoke to Susan Richmond at the Memorial Art Museum, Siobhan Daly at The Casements, insurance agents and School Board members, and they all confirmed it. We were treading on historic ground, they told us. We were new here, but our beats were old.
We weren’t pioneers.
It was about that time the fight-or-flight reaction kicked in. I think, deep down, everybody wants to be Columbus, sailing up to some pristine coast and planting their flag. Staking their claim. Starting from scratch.
So when you hear that’s not the case, it’s only natural to go a little Clint Eastwood at first, to put up your dukes and pull out the whole “This town ain’t big enough fer the both of us” routine.
But, really, that reaction didn’t last long. We weren’t unique. Big deal. And maybe we would need to spend some time at first smoothing over the confusion that, even though our name is the same, our people are different. But so what?
Fact is, our incarnation of the Observer is already an oddball. We’re a free weekly in a world of pay-for dailies. With six other Observers in West Florida and one in Palm Coast, we keep expanding in spite of downturns in the rest of the industry.
We kind of like being black sheep.
The way the story goes from Suzanne Heddy, director of the Ormond Beach Historical Society, the most recent Ormond Beach Observer was around a couple decades back, in the 1980s (microfilm from it is at the library). But there was also another Observer, she said, in the 1800s, although copies of those are now packed away in storage.
We know it was being printed in the days of the horse-drawn carriage and handlebar mustache, but that’s about it. Nobody’s sure exactly when that paper started or stopped.
But that’s OK with me. It’s fun to imagine 1800s versions of myself and Matt Mencarini (our city, sports and crime writer) and Brian McMillan (our managing editor) trolling old Ormond Beach streets, decked out in high socks, powdered wigs and monocles, writing with feather pens and using words like “poppycock.” But I’m more concerned with what’s to come.
Like Norm from “Cheers,” all we want is for everybody to know our name. We want to be the paper of record, part of your routine, the thing that makes your coffee worth drinking slowly in the morning.
Nearly all my life, I’ve lived in Palm Coast. I came from there, and so did most of the staff we have so far here in Ormond. We’re new in town just like our paper, and even if our name can’t be completely original, the mark we leave here can be.
Like every red-blooded American, we’re idealists chasing the dream, hoping that some day, one day, we can walk into a local bar or coffee shop, plop down onto a stool and utter the three magic words that, if understood, mean beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ve officially made it.
I imagine the scene dark and dramatic. The bartender’s name is Louie, or Mack, and he flips a white rag over his shoulder when he sees me come in. It’s smoky, loud. I nod to him and say those three words: “Gimme the usual.”
And then — get this — he actually does, brings me exactly what I wanted. And I take it in my hands. And I know that I’m home.