Because I like frustration, I guess

While going through several older slides and pages of negatives, I decided I’d sit down and catalog the various trips to Florida that I took, trying to tie rough dates to the countless images that I had. First off, let me say that what I’m referring to are the trips taken while I resided in North Carolina; I’d lived in Florida from 2002 to 2004, and did plenty of photos then but, due to numerous circumstances, very little travel across the state, so some of the images that I’m quite pleased with date from before that residency.

I’ve never bothered with a journal or anything of the like, so reconstructing dates is usually accomplished by comparison and events that I can pin down better, such as determining the launch of a satellite during one of my earlier trips (the first, actually, since going down with my family from New York in 1978, and I can pin that down because I’d recently seen the initial, theatrical release of Star Wars*, to give a specific example.) Many of my slides have date stamps on them of when they were developed, and during those times I got my slides developed quickly, so close enough. But sometimes there is no date stamp, and of course negatives have nothing of the sort. Nor did I get the negatives into books promptly, so they’re not in chronological order, which would have helped immensely.

Which means there’s an early trip in there that it took some time to pin down as 1995, mostly from my employment records – I’d started a new job late in 1995 and didn’t have vacation time, so it must have occurred before the switch. As for pinning down a month, well, I doubt that’s going to happen, though I know it was in the late spring through summer months, because the dive off Key Largo happened then.

While doing all this, I was also regenerating my triptych for each, the rough path and various stops around Florida. I think most of it is accounted for, between my memory and the date stamps, but there are a few tantalizing gaps. For instance, I’m still curious about the evening photo outside Jacksonville, which is a weird place to be at that time – normally it would be morning on the return leg, because I had at least seven hours of driving ahead, so presumably I stopped someplace that night, but where? No photos that I’ve found back me up. Also, there seems to be a huge gap along the west/Gulf coast, last known photos probably being Venice Rookery. I know I’d have planned some stop between there, halfway down coast, and the cross-state leg to Jacksonville, but where? It might have been Hillsborough River State Park – I recall some stop in there being too boring (and the weather too grey and drizzly) to shoot much of anything. I’d been working from a list of birding locations downloaded off the internet for that trip, I know. Teasing my memory is another brief side leg, probably on the way down, someplace on the northeastern portion of the state, a floodplain/swamp area so thick with mosquitoes they were getting in the photos. I had thoughtfully applied the DEET repellent before leaving the car, and was cursing it because it failed to keep the little bastards at bay, but then I realized that, swarming as they were, they weren’t landing, so it worked, as long as the constant whine and vision incursions were tolerable.

But yeah, this is the kind of stuff that I do, for reasons unknown, though I feel satisfied when I’ve pinned things down. It hasn’t been enough to make me start keeping a travel journal, though, so your call on the psychological conclusions over that.

* I just feel the need to offer this little insight, since this is a trivial post anyway. When Star Wars (no, not “A New Hope” – it did not gain that subtitle until years afterward) was released, it was all done on 70mm film in big reels, with a limited number of those to distribute. Once the first theaters to receive them had finished their scheduled run, they shipped the reels off to the next theater on the list, and of course, the major cities all got them first. We did not live near a major city, so while Star Wars was released in May, it did not hit our area until August. The way that we knew what was currently playing at any given theater was through the newspaper listings – few theaters then even had a recorded message to let people know the titles and times, those came sometime in the 80s. In fact, my brother and I traveled to a little theater a couple of towns over that somehow nailed a ‘print’ (that’s industry jargon) long before it hit the larger town that we normally viewed movies within, probably the only time I ever attended that theater, and the memory of it vied with my knowledge of the town, perhaps ten years later, when I worked there and I knew there was no theater to be found – much later I determined that there had been, but closed down in the interim.

I saw Star Wars three times in the next year, the only movie I’ve ever done that with. One of those was at a drive-in, a terrible experience in nearly all accounts, and certainly not worth it in high summer when the sun sets too late to really squeeze in two showings of a film, so the first starts before it’s dark enough to see the projection clearly – you couldn’t even read the opening crawl. Stupid idea all around.

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