Below is a ‘To The Editor’ piece I will be e-mailing shortly to the Orlando Sentinel, a response to a column in their paper from last week.
633 North Orange Avenue
Orlando, Florida 32801
To The Editor:Personally, I LUV having BurgerFi on the first block of Park Avenue. Open almost a full year, it has been a terrific catalyst for new businesses around it. It’s close to Rollins College and I think a “burger joint”, especially one with such an interesting, urban décor, is a nice addition to both Park Avenue and Winter Park.
I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about the impending Firehouse Subs to be located next door, have heard well thought out pros and cons from friends and neighbors. No surprise, we have a knack for debating things in Winter Park, to openly discussing them. To me, that is a positive. I prefer living in a community with residents who are passionate about its future and wish to play a role in how to best move into the future versus one where nothing is ever challenged. I’m not afraid of voicing my opinions, of others doing so, feel no need to silence them. Free speech isn’t exclusive to newspaper columnists.
I cannot claim to have ever read a complete column by Scott Maxwell. I joked with my life partner this weekend that I leave that up to him, though he denied doing so very often. But given the right topic, he has made it all the way to the end. I was surprised when he used the same word I had with friends to describe the usual tone of such pieces: snarky.
Mr. Maxwell’s observations about Park Avenue from last week, about “hamburgers” and “paper napkins”, is the perfect example. I’m certain Mr. Maxwell thought his establishing straw men in the argument was very clever. Oh, those silly Winter Park snobs, at it again. This time they’re afraid of “hamburgers” and “paper napkins” on Park Avenue. “Sound the platinum-plated alarm,” he chided. I’m sure his fingers tapped excitedly as he sanctimoniously strung together each word, glib in his own vaunted opinion as he mocked a desire in others to share their own.
My life partner and I have lived in Winter Park for almost exactly 7 years, Mr. Maxwell. I am envious of those who have grown up here, have lived here longer than I have. I’ve never lived in any community I’ve enjoyed, LUVed more. Winter Park is a wonderful, special community. I know some very well-off people here. I know others who live pay check to pay check. I know business owners on Park Avenue who are in their shops seven days a week. I know people who have just started new businesses, others who have been running the same businesses for decades. I’ve met a Rollins College student who told me she tries to eat lunch on $3 a day on Park Avenue. I’ve met people from other nearby communities who bring their dogs to Park Avenue to walk them because it is such a dog-friendly environment. I know lots of people, Mr. Maxwell, from varied backgrounds and financial means who call Winter Park home. What they have most in common is that they are proud of this community, are passionate about it and its future. They care, have their own opinions and I am thankful for them. Their opinions are worthy of a little respect from all, but especially from someone who is provided such a soap box from which to share his own.
We, you and I, Mr. Maxwell, have some things in common. We both grew up in North Carolina. We both graduated from the Journalism School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. What are your favorite memories of your time at UNC, Mr. Maxwell?
I’ve reflected on my own experiences there much over the last few days. Franklin Street was magical to me then, still in my memories. It was only after a number of hours of reflection that I remembered the Burger King across from Morehead Planetarium where I sometimes ate. I remembered Brueggers’ Bagel Bakery a bit more easily, as well as the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop. I didn’t have to think hard to remember Sadlack’s Sandwich Shop, one of my most common lunch stops. I easily remembered The Golden Dragon, Spanky’s, School Kids Records where I bought 10,000 Maniacs, REM and The Housemartins cassette tapes. Over the years I’ve often thought of He’s Not Here and its three dollar blue cups, late night stops for chicken biscuits at Time Out. In my mind, I can still see those huge mounds of spaghetti and butter drenched toast from the Ram’s Head Rathskeller, easily enjoyed back during a time when I was running 5 miles a day and could eat and eat. I remember visiting friends working at Ye Olde Waffle Shop, the clanking dishes all around, the smell of hash browns. I never shopped there, but it was wonderful having Julian’s there on Franklin Street, the shop owned by designer and Chapel Hill native Alexander Julian. I did a quick search about that shop and found it opened on Franklin Street in 1942.
I think, Mr. Maxwell, my own college experience was made better by those unique, Local small businesses, the wonderful times I had in them, made possible by hardworking individuals who had dreams and passions, opinions about what was good for their community. I haven’t been back in a long time, know the changes must be many. I know of but can’t imagine a Gap in the Carolina Theater where I remember seeing movies, even though I can’t recall which ones. In my mind, when I return to Carolina, it will always be as it was then.
I’m glad I now live in a community where people feel passionate about preserving what they love, where small business owners feel they have a voice and residents get involved. I’d rather be surrounded by passionate folks with vision and purpose than complacent people who are inspired by nothing, only to one day wonder how something they did enjoy was lost. Does Winter Park spend too much time debating? Perhaps. But one might also ask why other communities don’t spend more time doing just that. Do they all agree on everything? Is there nothing to be passionate about? Is debate about substantial issues not important; and, in reality, not a positive reflection of citizens who care?The conversations occurring all around this wonderful community now about how we carry it forward, what we want it to look and feel like, Mr. Maxwell, are about more than “hamburgers” and “paper napkins”. And if the mood was right, if you thought it advantageous at the moment, I’m sure you’d set up new straw men to take a very different view about the joys of small town America, the loss of individuality, the evils of big business, establishing the narrative which suited your purpose.
If you’d like to bring your kids back to Park Avenue, there are quite a few restaurants serving hamburgers, including Briarpatch, The Bistro and Prato. In fact, Prato has an amazing burger, unlike any other I’ve had. And no matter which restaurant you might choose, if you want them to burn a spot on the top of the bun for the kids, just ask. Our businesses are wonderfully accommodating. Want paper napkins? I can think of at least five places on North Park Avenue alone which can meet that particular desire. Some even have plastic knives and forks. Oh my.
I’ve had regular columns in newspapers in the past also, Mr. Maxwell. And as long as you’ve been writing your own, I’m sure it is easy to become a bit arrogant, condescending. It is only in the last year that I have ever referred to myself as a writer, as I’ve begun writing about, telling Local stories of Winter Park and the wonderful people I’m fortunate to know as friends and neighbors. When you are passionate about something, Mr. Maxwell, when you have something you truly LUV to write about, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.
Look around you at all that Orlando has to offer, the multitude of small communities which make this entire area such a delightful place to live. Look around, find something to be passionate and positive about, share it with others. Find a positive cause and encourage debate based on real issues and individual merit. I think you may find you no longer want to be so snarky.
Avid Fan, LUVer of Winter Park