Having lived the whole of life until 6 weeks ago in the greater Orlando area, moving roughly two hours north to the Ocala area has been a bit of an adjustment. I know two hours of drive time isn't that far mileage wise, but civilization wise it's practically light years away. Orlando was comfy to me - urban and progressive, but not too big; Ocala, however, is not quite there yet. Don't get me wrong; there are a lot of truly wonderful aspects of Ocala - the rolling hills, the acres upon acres of pastures, the numerous horse farms, and decent shopping (most of it pretty new too). But being a less developed city, Ocala does have it's quirks.
Much to my shock, Ocala actually seems to be the very bottom tip of the Bible belt. All over town there are billboards proclaiming conservative Christian viewpoints. And the bottom five radio stations are all Christian stations, so on any given day you have the opportunity to make a tax deductible contribution, ponder the newest organ in town, and also here the philosophies and perspectives of a number of highly educated reverends - all on your morning commute. In addition to the religious aspects of this quaint little community, there's also sort of a backwoods feel - at least on the outskirts of the city. It's the kind of roughness apparent only to the highly trained eye (maybe it's the combination of livestock and multiple permanently parked cars in dirt yards that gives it away).
I was fortunate in that I was able to get little Jimmy into a preschool program half-way through the year. After checking out a handful of schools that were a bit subpar (could it be the ten plus children packed into a 15' X 8' moldy, deteriorating room that turned me off to these upstanding, government funded, academic facilities?),I settled on a preschool which I really love. Unfortunately it's a thirty minute drive just to get there. Thus, every morning, I have the opportunity to ponder my new home city over a cup of coffee as I drive Jimmy to preschool.
This time of the year, all the churches are getting ready for Easter. The one nearest us has a sign up for breakfast after a sunrise service; sounds enticing! It should be packed with that offer of free food. A few miles up the road is another church having an Easter play; they're really gunning to save souls as the signs promoting their play are on every corner. But just past that church is the one that takes the cake for Easter productions - they have a drive through OR walk through Easter story; so you have the opportunity to meander past a bloody assault (which I guess is ongoing so everyone can see) followed up by a real life crucifixion, and then watch as a human ascends to the heavens - again, all this is ongoing. . For me, I'd have to say the last one wins hands down. But, in all reality, why bother going to one of these things when I have the opportunity to watch the Passion by Mel Gibson at home on Easter Sunday; yep, gotta hand it to Mel - he took the jackpot on that one!
Continuing on the journey of my daily commute I have the priveledge to pass "Big Sexy Auto Sales." No, I'm not joking; that really is the name of the place. And every day I see their sign and am forced to ponder what in the heck is sexy about auto sales. Beyond that, the place is disgusting; there are various cars and trucks parked in the dirt in front of a trailer surrounded by chain link fence - where's the sex appeal? Whatever gets ya going' I guess. . .
Up the way and not far from the golf course you'll be able to see scores of vultures circling in the sky. As you get closer it may not be totally obvious what sort of carcass could be huge enough to feed them all; alas, it's the dump - the city dump. But not just any dump! This dump has these really neat balls of fire that are literally shooting into the air day and night, non-stop. This, I've been informed, is the burning methane created by the dump. They ignite the methane to, among other things, prevent any sort of spontaneous combustion of the dump itself. Should I mention that there a communities going up around the dump? Considering the risk, the burning of the methane really seems the safest way to go.
Actually, physically on the dump property is a billboard that reads in big letters: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." I ponder the effects of pondering the dump so often. . could it mean that I've become some sort of wasteland emitting massive quantities of methane? - definitely something to consider seriously.
As though the scripture billboard on the dump premises were not enough, just past the dump there's also a smaller sign which reads: "Church at the Springs," and then it has a phone number. I'd gather that "Church at the Springs" has purchased this property and intends to at some point build a facility on it. From the first time I read the sign I found it to be annoyingly deceptive. I pictured an individual searching for a church in the phone book: "Ah. Church at the Springs. . Sounds fresh and inviting." the naive person would think. How disappointed he would be to show up one Sunday morning at their newly completed facility at the dump. The sign should in all honesty read: "Church at the Dump."
Just past the inmate work farm and only a block or two before Jimmy's preschool is another huge billboard that reads "Sex without consent is RAPE." Now, I don't mean to be critical, but I'm going to be. What sort of individual above the age of 8 needs this pointed out to them?? What sort of people am I living amongst that need these obvious atrocities literally spelled out for them to see in huge letters. I can just imagine a rape victim on her way to work like usual one morning when passing the same old sign it hits her, "Hey, wait a minute! That's what that was!" Well I guess it's a good thing they have the number posted so she could contact them straight away!
And THAT is my morning commute. Suffice it to say, Ocala is NOT the 'City Beautiful.' There are beautiful aspects to it, but there are enough oddities to leave an urbanite like me scratching her head in confusion. Well, in trying to blend in with the Ocala locale (AKA: Locala), I'll sum this one up with: "Praise the Lord, and pass the peanut butter!"