by Tim Gilmore, 11/2/2014
I paid the ticket.
The Jax by Jax event poster designed by Liz Murphy Thomas.
I received the ticket for the placement of a beautiful poster advertising a literary festival taking place at Park & King, the district named for the cross-section of two major axes in the heart of Riverside, the three mile-long semi-urban Jacksonville district built mostly from the late 1800s to the early 1940s.
The festival is called Jax by Jax, taking its name from the idea of “Jacksonville Writers Writing Jacksonville.” Its organizers want to show the city how rich a literary culture’s developing here. They want to use the city as a stage by featuring this crossroads thriving with restaurants, bars, comic book shops, ballet studios, tattoo parlors, antique stores, styling salons, coffeehouses, florists, bakeries.
A map of Jax by Jax venues along the axis of Park and King Streets. Jo Carlisle designed the map.
Park & King is the kind of place urban theorist Jane Jacobs described in her 1958 essay, “Downtown is for People,” an urban environment healthy and vibrant as “an enormous collection of small elements.” Everything here is human-scale. There’s no Wal-Mart. You get to know the people. There’s community. Community brings art.
Jax by Jax participant, T. F. Straight, author of The Stories My Foremothers Told Me and All You Could See Was The Water: Hurricane Katrina through The Eyes of Children.
So Jax by Jax uses nine local Park & King businesses as venues, features 15 local writers and three local literary magazines, and stages almost 30 local writers altogether.
Teri Youmans Grimm. Her poetry collection, Dirt Eaters, was published by the University Press of Florida. Her writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Green Mountains Review, Indiana Review, South Dakota Review, Sugar House Review, EAT and Homegrown in Florida: An Anthology of Florida Childhoods, among other journals and anthologies. Her second collection, Becoming Lyla Dore, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2016.
Graphic artist and Florida State College at Jacksonville Professor Liz Murphy Thomas designed the official Jax by Jax poster. She made it beautiful. An FSCJ minigrant paid for the posters, but stripped from Liz a design fee. Liz designed logos, posters, banners, stickers, brochures and schedules voluntarily, though a similar corporate job would price more than $1,000.
Mark Ari teaches Writing at the University of North Florida. He’s a writer, painter, musician, and all-around great guy. He has written three books, including The Shoemaker’s Tale for which he received enthusiastic critical support from writers in major newspapers, trade magazines, and other media.
Several Jax by Jax volunteers placed almost 100 posters in Riverside’s three main business hubs—Five Points, Avondale, and Park & King, in local bookstores like Chamblin’s Uptown and Chamblin Bookmine, on the campuses of the University of North Florida, Stanton College Preparatory School, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and FSCJ South and Kent—the Riverside campus.
Heather M. Peters is bad at checkers. She writes both fiction and nonfiction. She likes short, choppy sentences, but she is not Ernest Hemingway. Heather clips her nails religiously and has a particular fondness for chickens.
Along the way, someone taped a poster to a light pole outside Pele’s Wood Fire Restaurant right at the nexus of Park and King Streets. Pele’s was kind enough to post Jax by Jax posters in their windows.
Hurley Winkler writes and edits for the publication Perversion Magazine and is production manager for Swamp Radio. A graduate of the University of North Florida’s English program, Hurley is working on her Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hurley lives in Jacksonville Beach with her partner, Alex.
But volunteer Municipal Compliance officer Paul Bremer found this one poster taped to the light pole and he did not like it at all.
Chris Bodor is the editor for AC PAPA magazine, which stands for Ancient City Poets, Authors, Photographers, and Artists. The inaugural issue contains work by Lynn Skapyak Harlin, Jim Draper, Sharon Scholl, Tonn Pastore, Jacqueline Draper, Larry Baker, Carolee Bertisch, Nadia Ramoutar, Gayl Angela Masson, Tim Gilmore, and many others.
Bremer looked up the website, www.jaxbyjax.com, saw that my wife had designed the site, located her address, and mailed us the ticket, oddly citing the web site as the perpetrator.
Sohrab Fracis won the prestigious Iowa Short Fiction Award for Ticket to Minto: Stories of India and America. It was published by University of Iowa Press, and republished in India and, in translation, Germany. His stories have appeared in Slice Magazine, Other Voices, The Antigonish Review, Weber Studies, The Toronto Review, India Currents, State Street Review, Writecorner Press, Ort der Augen, Wild Application, and South Asian Review. He’s taught Creative Writing and been artist-in-residence at Escape To Create and, twice, Yaddo.
I opened the mail, on the way out the door to pick up my daughters from school, and was puzzled, then nonplussed, then angry.
Matt Lany is very pretty, but looks don’t matter. He goes about 160. Still, he’s trying to get down to 37 lbs., his birth weight. His poetry has been published in Spoon River, The Carolina Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, etc. The poems have made him billions, and he’ll read a few. He’s also been a college professor for a long time. In 1981, Oprah nominated him for a Teaching Amazing award. He lost to Nike, but it’s not about winning. His recently finished YA novel is entitled The Tree. He will read from this as well. Matt exudes optimism because he always sees the glass as half full—of urine—and because his wife and daughter tell him every day that they love him. Generally, he believes them, but sometimes, he admits, it just feels like they’re saying this to be nice.
I called the Municipal Compliance Division and spoke with zone supervisor Dennis Steele, who said he didn’t understand the citation, that if he were me, he’d be equally upset, that he didn’t know who all these volunteers who’d signed up to write tickets even were.
From its website, “For 30 years JACKSONVILLE magazine has been the standard in the Northeast Florida market for editorial excellence, providing the largest and most qualified paid subscriber base, the largest newsstand presence, and a track record for producing results for our advertisers.” The King Street offices of Jacksonville magazine are a venue for Jax by Jax.
He was briefly confused by the fact that my wife and I have different last names, but then told me he’d run into such situations before, that he didn’t really understand it, but that it was okay that our last names differed.
Tim Gilmore is the author of In Search of Eartha White: “Storehouse for the People,” The Ocean Highway at Night, Stalking Ottis Toole: A Southern Gothic, Ghost Compost: Strange Little Stories, and This Kind of City: Ghost Stories and Psychological Landscapes. He’s the creator of jaxpsychogeo.com. He teaches at Florida State College of Jacksonville.
He seemed baffled and kind and said he’d get back to me in the morning.
From the website for Lola’s Burrito Joint, “We believe our menu is pretty unique. Our sauces are made with fresh ingredients. All proteins are cooked to order, so… that’s not going to be quick. Remember… Fast is not good and good isn’t fast! (Just ask Dr. Ruth).” Lola’s is a Jax by Jax venue, where Perversion magazine will feature five of its young, hip, innovative writers.
The next day, Halloween 2014, he called me and told me I was guilty by association. If someone posts a sign to a light pole and names you or your website or your business, you’ll be fined. I asked him how a website could pay a fine, since the citation had been issued to jaxbyjax.com. He said he didn’t know, but if I didn’t pay the fine, I could expect the police at my door with handcuffs.
Wayne Francis teaches literature and composition at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He’s currently working on a book detailing the history of Camp Tracey, a fundamentalist children’s home recently shut down by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
When I said that didn’t seem fair or make sense, he told me, “I’m just here to enforce the law and we’re gonna do this thing lawfully.”
Anthony Jarvis, owner and cook of Cool Moose Cafe, is a former resident of Maine. He is an advocate of the Riverside area because it embraces his hometown love for independently owned businesses. His goal is to make the customers feel like family while showing his love for the RED SOX, his former state’s official animal (the moose), and great food, coffee, beer and wine. Cool Moose is a venue for Jax by Jax.
When I suggested I was trying to do a good thing in this community and this town and didn’t find a fine for a misplaced poster a serious offense in the balance of things, he said, “I’m not part of this whole Progressive thing. Maybe things will be better in the future. Maybe not. But I’m here to support the status quo. That’s my job. I’m here to maintain things the way they are.”
For more than 20 years, Susan Cooper Eastman has reported on the good, bad, ugly and quirky in the Sunshine State. She’s slogged through the Fakahatchee Strand to see the ghost orchid. She’s chased after hunters following the trail of Catahoula leopard hounds hot on the scent of wild hog. She’s profiled a guerrilla gardener in Miami’s Overtown who was turning desolate stretches of urban wasteland into oases of sugar cane and collards, and she’s profiled a Guatemalan girl who walked to the United States at 13 years of age to find work to help her family. Susan’s work has won numerous regional, state and several national writing awards, so she’s done something right. She will read cogent bits of her favorite stories, discuss her journalism and free-associate on why Jacksonville has been a great place to do journalism.
To my point that Jax by Jax would be good for the literary community, the neighborhood, the culture, the city, and that citing a sign taped to a light pole to advertise the event seemed petty, Steele said, “Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. I’ve got a different opinion.”
Tiffany Melanson is a poet, performer and MFA candidate in poetry at the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared on Swamp Radio, a live radio and podcast experience celebrating the culture, art and history of Northeast Florida, where she is both occasional co-host, interviewer and frequent contributor. She is currently working on her first full length poetry collection. She currently teaches poetry workshops, magazine production and oral interpretation at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.
Surely the law’s not premised merely on differences of opinion? Surely the law doesn’t define right and wrong?
So I called Paul Bremer, the volunteer who wrote the citation. A friend told me he was a “nice guy, but he takes offense with things posted on light poles.”
When I mentioned Jax by Jax, he started laughing, then said I was lucky I was only fined $55. “I pulled down several of your people’s signs,” he said.
He told me he could have sent me a ticket for every poster he’d pulled down, and if the posters had been a couple feet higher, “It’s an automatic $350 fine per poster.”
Beer:30 is a craft beer emporium located at 1271 King Street and a Jax by Jax venue.
I immediately worried about all those “Lost Cat” and “Lost Dog” signs I see on telephone poles every time I walk my dogs. I hate to imagine people who have lost their pets being slapped with $55 or $350 fines for asking for help.
I asked Paul Bremer just what the big offense was, and he said, “You’ve wronged the city of Jacksonville.”
Raleigh Rand is the author of Brightleaf, a novel set in a boarding house in North Carolina. She is currently working on a novel called Ash Wednesday, set in a Mayport mobile home park.
As I walked into restaurants and shops and bars and antique stores in Park & King and Avondale and Five Points to ask the kindness of business owners to hang a Jax by Jax poster in their shop windows, nobody said no. Every single business owner—almost a hundred of them—was kind. Many of them let me tape up the posters myself. Many taped up the posters themselves within the hour. One after another, they expressed excitement about Jax by Jax and told me they were more than happy to post our signs.
Rodney L. Hurst Sr. is a civil rights activist and the author of the award winning book It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke!, a personal account of the 1960 sit-in demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida and Ax Handle Saturday. Hurst, a native of Jacksonville, Florida recounts with clarity the bloody events of August 27, 1960 when 200 whites with ax handles and baseball bats attacked members of the Jacksonville, Florida Youth Council NAACP sitting in at white lunch counters. The press calls that day Ax Handle Saturday. It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke! is the winner of more than a dozen awards, including the USA Book News First Place Gold Medal Award for Multi-Cultural Nonfiction, and the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal in Nonfiction. His work has been recognized with the Florida Historical Society’s First Annual Stetson Kennedy Award and Prize. In addition to his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, Hurst served two four-year terms on the Jacksonville City Council, and is responsible for a number of “firsts” in the Jacksonville Community. He is one of the original thirteen national recipients of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Television Fellowships, and the first black person to co-host a television talk show in Jacksonville on PBS Channel WJCT.
I mentioned the citation to a few of them randomly, when conversation permitted. Every business owner had a horror story to tell. Many of them knew Paul Bremer by name.
One small business owner said, “These are people who don’t want bars or alcohol sold in Riverside, and they’re losing the fight, so they make it as difficult for us as they can.”
Ben Davis, founder of Intuition Ale Works, one of the initial breweries on King Street north by Roselle and the art district known as CoRK, Corner of Roselle and King, said Bremer “also threatened me with a fine because of an ‘illegal’ poster that listed Intuition Ale Works as a sponsor. Not our poster or our event.”
And big-bearded Kyle, d.j., chef, bartender, and known public figure at Rain Dogs in Five Points—café, art gallery, bar, music venue—kindly found a place for me to tape up a Jax by Jax poster in a window.
He shook my hand and asked me that I not stick any posters to light poles. Though it’s been a tradition of bands everywhere for at least 50 years to post flyers wherever they could to drum up support, bands who’d played Rain Dogs had stapled flyers to wooden light poles around Riverside, and though Rain Dogs hadn’t authorized the flyers, the business was ticketed more than $400.
I asked Kyle, “What if somebody just wanted to sabotage you guys and posted flyers with your address?”
“That’s what I was saying!” he told me. “If somebody just wanted to be an asshole, they could make us pay hundreds of dollars.”
Jennifer Chase’s music has taken her performances and recording projects to France, Spain and Senegal, Africa. Jenn has opened for Grammy winners, including the Doobie Brothers, The Rippingtons, and Lisa Loeb. She’s released five albums of original music. She also wrote and performed music for the nationally-aired P.B.S. documentary In Marjorie’s Wake. Jenn’s plays include the dramas Handmaid and Artichoke Soup and the musicals Majigeen and La Caroline, which recently traveled to Nantes, France. In 2013 Jenn and collaborative partner John E. Citrone received a residency at the prestigious CAP 21 Musical Theater Conservatory in NYC to work on the continued development of La Caroline. In addition, Jenn was awarded an Art Ventures grant from the Jacksonville Community Foundation for La Caroline 2014. She has studied and written, performed and taught abroad in Dakar, Senegal at the ACI Baobab Center through a Rotary Ambassadorial grant; at the University of New Orleans summer seminars in Madrid, Spain and throughout France. She has a B.A. in International Studies and French from the University of North Florida and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. Jennifer has been an award-winning professor of English at Florida State College for more than a decade and owns the production company aJENNda productions.
So I asked Dennis Steele at the City’s Municipal Code Compliance Division what would happen if someone posted flyers that included his name and number, whether he would be fined.
He said, “I guess I would be. But I would go to court and they would find that I was not guilty.”
I asked him just how the court would decide that.
He said, “Now you’re asking me to give my personal opinion and I’m not going to do it.”