Driveabout: Day 20
We met a nice Kiwi couple at the tiki bar the previous night. Tony and Sue Haresnape; just cool, fun, interesting, neat people. You know, just fun as hell to be around, no stick in the mud, but also real insightful, sharp, aware, informed, and we just had a blast with them as did everyone else in the bar. They came over from New Zealand, rented an RV for four weeks and they're just bopping about the country. Imagine that. Everybody at the Low-Key Hideaway was super-cool, so we had a round of goodbyes before heading out of the clam fishing mecca that is Cedar Key and headed up State Road 24 until we reached Rosewood. Or what's left of it, anyway.
So, I'm going to connect some dots so that you can see the arc of the story, starting with yesterday's visitation in Perry. On December 14th and 15th, 1922, a black man named Charles Wright, jailed for murdering a white schoolteacher, was seized from the sheriff, had a confession tortured out of him and then was burned at the stake by a white mob of several thousand. Not content to stop there, the mob then killed two more black men, one shot and one by hanging, and then whites burned down the town's school, Masonic lodge, church, amusement hall and several families' homes.
Look at the date on that particular calendar and then travel 90 miles south to Rosewood.
They call it the "town that isn't there anymore" and, true, it's not. That town most certainly did burn straight down to the ground, but a few structures remain as a haunting reminder of how truly destructive the power of hatred and racism can be. Fast forward a few weeks and, Happy New Year!, Monday morning finds 21-year old Fannie Taylor rushing out of her house in nearby Sumner, Florida, out into the street and screaming that she'd been attacked by a black man that she "couldn't identify." A white mob, with bloodhounds, would eventually end up in Rosewood, a predominantly black town, and kill two residents before losing two of their own number in retaliation.
When word got out that blacks had killed whites, it was all she wrote.
They came from 75 miles around, groups from little communities all around the state. At one point in history, Florida had the dubious distinction of have the highest number of reported lynchings per black capita, I kid you not. Nothing surprises me about Florida anymore. Not a thing.
And they kept coming in wave after wave after wave of absolute hatred and anger, grabbing every thing in their collective arsenals and laying into Rosewood like a tide. Over the course of seven days, six blacks would be killed and most of the town would be set on fire. Many of the blacks ran off into the woods along the hammocks and scrubs, some being taken in by sympathetic white families. There is a lot of fascinating information out there on this event and it's mind-blowing. I always have to stop and pay respects. It's a grave unto itself. Not only death of the body, but of the idea. The death of a town that was smited so mightily that it just Never. Came. Back. The last survivor of what they call the "Rosewood Massacre" passed away some time ago, hopefully, they can all be at rest now. Director John Singleton made a movie about it with Jon Voight and Ving Rhames but even survivors who had previously advised on the production withdrew their support for the film. I dunno, doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement. I'm looking for truth, not rewrites.
I plan to return and see some of the remaining structures; there's a song in the works. But we had to keep on keeping on so we could roll into the
Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground at Walt Disney World! How's that for a wild shift in tone?
Fort Wilderness is , in so many ways, the perfect way to end our three week driveabout. It was the first place that we ever went camping (Rita's shakedown cruise in May of 2011) and it's close to home, so we wouldn't have far to go when taking Lucky back on Day 21: The Final Day. Plus, it's Disney; we freakin' love Disney. Jae asked nicely if we could trade our Meadow site for one closer to Pioneer Hall and the nice young Cast Member made it happen with a smile and bit of pixie dust. We were good to go, we found our spot and camped.
People at Fort Wilderness are all fabulous Disney fans and really go the extra mile when it comes to their RV decorations. Never content to just put up some multi-colored lanterns and rope lights with a couple of flags and pink flamingos, they guys have got like 10,000 Disney plushes in the front window of their Class A RVs, you, the big toaster-looking ones with the fishbowl windshield? Packed two deep from floor to roof with Disney plush toys. Awesome.
There's water features and dancing angels and yard blow-ups are big this year, too. Lots of Santa Yodas.
We rode our bikes, I grilled some steaks, we scratched off some tickets, we talked a lot and laughed a lot. We laugh a lot. I mean, we laugh a lot. It's kind of cool, actually. They say that laughing does something for you, relieves stress or cures cancer, it's supposedly healthy and I believe that.
I shot some intros for DittyTV.com and worked on some tunes, it just felt good to have nothing pressing, nothing that really requires immediate attention waving at me from the corner of my eye. It's really difficult to chill out and relax - theres always something that could be done. Not a moment to spare, not a minute to waste, productivity takes the cake. I'm a workaholic, I'm my own boss, I can be totally ruthless, I suck. So it was nice to actually chill out and not do that. Kinda. I worked a little. You have to, unless someone runs it for you. Working on that. Still, even for a vacation, we've been keeping a pretty amazing pace, just port after port-of-call. It's been an exhilarating whirlwind and we'd be waking up for Day 21 not long from now.
And the deer are out of control here. Out of control.
So, with fireworks popping and the soothing sounds of the train whistle and bell, hooting and clanging in the faraway across Bay Lake, it was a day that brought great diversity in culture and mood, rooted in the real, of real people and real places. Tethered by two-lane black top through a grim reminder of our nation's bloody and shameful past, and sometimes present. Wheels down and head on pillow in Lucky for one more night. Say what you want about Disney's backstage dealings, they know how to bring the dreams to life and that's not necessarily rooted in the fantastical.
Because dreamers have been fighting for social justice and equality for a long time now and, while there's still so very, very far to go, we've made a lot of progress.
Dreamers build factories and rocket ships and they design communities and open up coffee shops in college towns. Dreamers shoot for the stars and make their dreams reality. Disney knows that the desire to make our dreams come true is part of the thing that keeps us going in this life.
Good night, Mickey.