Florida Velvet

Dwntown Ocala_115Florida Velvet Air, at least that is how it feels to me.  This morning I somehow slept in until 8:30 and when I woke the breezes were billowing puffy whites around a blue bird sky and the air felt like velvet on my skin.  The prediction for today is in the 70’s. Bel and I ambled (yes I amble a lot with Bel) downtown to visit the Ocala Farmers Market in the historic town square.  Just last night, we visited the same square to walk around the downtown streets for the First Friday Art Walk of Ocala.

Dwntown Ocala_103So much seems to have changed around here in the last ten years or so that I have been visiting, but so much also remains the same. Fort King Street is still beautiful, lined with stately old Southern homes embraced by gnarled oak arms that cover entire city lots.

It's Aggie, short for Agate, downtown on the square in OcalaThe square this morning was vibrant with color and happy people enjoying the sunlight and fresh food. I love seeing the painted horses from the Horse Fever event a few years ago.  I think one of them actually auctioned for 80,000 bucks that went to the art council here.

Dwntown Ocala_113Yesterday afternoon we slipped to the west side of town searching for a rib truck. Fabulous sweet sticky ribs, dripping with juice, served with yellow rice and green beans full of bacon fat. We sat on the picnic table in the parking lot and slurped up the amazing stuff watching lots of local folks dropping in to pick up supper in huge to-go bags.

I didn’t have the camera with me, sadly, because as we left the parking lot and tried to keep off the main route, I managed to slide into a part of Ocala people don’t talk about much.

Dwntown Ocala_102In spite of all the years that have intervened, in spite of the fact that Ocala used to have a black mayor, this part of town could have come directly from the pre-sixties.  My time warp again. Women on porches looking worn and sad, young men looking angry and sullen,  tiny black ladies the color of ink walking slowly with carts and old sweaters. I know we have segregated neighborhoods out west, I have traveled in them in most cities, but there is something very different in the south, something residual, and it was disturbing. Poverty is disturbing wherever you find it, I guess.

Dwntown Ocala_074After the market, this morning we dropped into a couple of downtown shops, Ocala Traditions, with gorgeous displays of fine china, sterling, and crystal set up on beautiful tables,  and the Paddock, a large, wonderful store dedicated entirely to horses, hounds, racing, and fox hunting.  Ocala is still the horse capital of the world (they insist it rivals Kentucky) and this shop catered directly to the genteel owners of the beautiful horse farms that surround the area.  Those at least that haven’t been converted to gated communities with million dollar homes.  After all, John Travolta hangs out here and lives just north in Anthony in a community that lets him land his jumbolair jet.  I guess the difference between all this genteel southern stuff and that neighborhood we were in yesterday is still in the back of my mind.

As the afternoon slides by, the sun is still warm, I have downloaded all the photos and will eventually get down to Wendy’s to catch up on email and blogs and such. The time warp is definitely back again…I have no idea what time it actually is right now…maybe I’ll go for a walk.