Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Sawgrass Village Shopping Center Road Rage
    I guess folks with expendable income show up in their Mercedeses and Lexuses (Mercedes and Lexi?) to the Sawgrass Village Shopping Center on Valentine's Day. At 1:15 on Valentine's Day, it was if there was a senior citizen convention at the shopping center. One of them nearly made a citizen's arrest on me, just before another one nearly crashed into another patron of the NY strip mall. Overall, there were too many mini and mega SUVs vying for the same parking spots, presumably occupied by shoppers looking for that perfect gift to curb the whining before it even happens.


    I would like to apologize to the lady who was going the right way in the one-way parking lot. I came down the up aisle, and no one was coming, so I went for it, and then this lady showed up. And there was plenty of room for us to pass, but she gave me the multiple light flash and the horn, along with flailing arms. Like I'd just run over her shih tzu or something. Maybe she was just ornery because she keeps trying to convince herself that her Toyota Avalon is the same thing as a Lexus. Or maybe she always gets upset on Valentine's Day because her husband would rather play golf than deal with her rantings about the horrible drivers in the Sawgrass Village Shopping Center. Or he already traded her in for a shiny new model who is actually a model. I am truly sorry, lady I don't know from Ponte Vedra, for making your exit from the Publix parking lot so stressful. However, now you have a new topic of conversation to bring up at the next fundraiser you attend. I am sure all your acquaintances you call friends would love to hear about how you nearly died when a driver came barreling down the wrong way at 5mph right at you. Maybe if you hurry back to Publix you can ask to see the parking lot surveillance video and have a warrant issued for my arrest.

    Oddly enough, even with the horrible road driving conditions in Jacksonville, most of my closest calls (or people getting angry at me for non-close calls) have happened in parking lots. Really, there is no standard: some one-ways, some stop signs, some grids. Area parking lots are like a microcosm of Jacksonville street planning, with the added bonus of empty shopping carts. And this lady’s anger in a parking lot was probably the result of years of having to deal with the roads in Jax, wishing that her weekly trip to Publix and Peterbrooke was an oasis from idiots on the road. So, I’m sorry.
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  • Formerly Fuscillo (or Fuccillo) Nissan
    I was looking for a deal on a synthetic oil change, and I'd used the Money Pages magazine for such a deal before with Southside Kia, when I came across an even better price at Nissan of Orange Park. When I looked at the ad a little closer, I saw the phrase, "Formerly Fuscillo Nissan," which got me to wondering what happened to the Fuccillo business, and whether it was Fuccillo (like the other dealerships in Florida) or Fuscillo (like the ad says).


    For about two years, Fuccillo Nissan had these wild commercials on TV, stating that the savings were HUGE. Lots of giveaways, like cruises, too. And, lest we forget, the very pretty spokesmodel who looked like she was heading off to her high school homecoming dance in the dress her father specifically said she could not wear. At one point, when I had out-of-town guests at my house and a Fuccillo commercial came on, the guest asked when hookers started selling cars. 

    Besides the eye candy, I always enjoyed the ads because it seemed like they just had one of the porters or salesmen standing there with a smartphone capturing people saying previously unrehearsed statements about a few cars on the lot, usually in windy conditions. Like something a small town car dealership might have thrown together back in the 1970s. It was as if a new car dealership wanted to give the impression that it was, in fact, a seedy used car lot, and that amused me. 

    I worked at a new car dealership back in Milwaukee, and I can tell you that the salesmen might be dressed in monkey suits, but they aren't really your typical banker or lawyer types. That said, most car dealerships want to project the image of being professional, so the guys wear suits to sell cars. And have miniature offices and business cards. I was a 17 year-old porter who washed cars, but the salesmen were the ones who came back to swear at us and make fun of the stupid customers they'd swindled. Those were the guys who taught me that I could never really be a salesman. Anyhow, I kind of liked Fuccillo because it owned that brashness that I knew existed at car dealerships. The problem might be that people want to pretend like they are buying their cars from honest businessmen in suits who run professional commercials on TV. 


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  • Is Regulation The Problem With Jacksonville?
    I got into an interesting conversation with a gentleman about why Jacksonville has not yet attained the stature that it should have as a metropolis of one million residents. We kind of went back and forth for a time, both of us mentioning what might be wrong, when he came up with government regulation. He claimed government regulation was the number one worst thing with living here, even though I often look around and wonder whether there's any regulation at all in the city. 
    I suppose it was my fault for bringing up government. He’d asked why I thought some people who move to Jacksonville become disillusioned and leave. One of my arguments was the overt corruption in local government: the Browns, the JEA sale debacle, and the weekly revelations of people in power taking advantage of their positions. The obvious old boys' club, political machines, and general consensus that the rest of us have no power all add to the mentality (for me) that many people in Jacksonville seem to be stuck in some kind of political time warp, maybe from the 1920s.

    But my rider didn't think most of that was really the problem in Jacksonville. He thought that too much government regulation drove people from town. He agreed that being minor league and having a boring downtown kind of hurt, too, but a strong arm government that made it nearly impossible to add a new kitchen to his home is what really got his goat. Technically, he lived in Neptune Beach or Atlantic Beach, but maybe Duval County handles all the building permits the same way. I am sure that building inspector cause headaches for some people in Jax, but I was slightly hard-pressed to agree with the guy that it was a major problem.

    My view of cautious support for regulation was reinforced by one of the man's own arguments. He said he had a friend in another state who wanted to build a private airport on his land. Since he lived in the low-regulation county, the officials just asked him if he owned the land. When he said yes, his request was approved. I wonder if his neighbor then went to the same government entity with a request to install anti-aircraft guns on his own property. Really, my rider thought it was a good example of how our local government ought to act to say that people who want to build their own backyard airports should be free to do so. Maybe the example friend should add a hazardous waste dump, a rooster farm, a casino, and a gentlemen's club for good measure. Zoning and building codes exist for a reason, and that reason is exactly the example used in an argument against those codes. Most of us aren't very good at determining what will drive our neighbors completely insane or drive property values way down, so we rely on local government to figure it out.

    So my rider probably didn't want to have to upgrade his shoddy electrical circuitry. I understand. It's expensive. But when you live 30 feet from someone whose wiring could catch fire at any moment, you kind of hope the government might suggest an upgrade if the owner wants to add a new kitchen that will probably tax the electrical output even more.

    In the end, responsible government regulation is probably one of the most important functions of a local government. We want to live in a civilized society, which means regulation is as important as policing and firefighting. How many of your neighbors would have three pickup trucks in the front lawn if it was allowed? The answer in Jacksonville is, “all of them.” One pickup is obviously cool, but you have to draw the line somewhere. How many landlords would allow unlivable conditions? Same answer, and you know it. I don’t claim to know where the line is, and I’m sure those members of the old boys’ club have their own versions of the rules, but the hope is that all of us benefit from some kind of standards in regulation. I reserve the right to change my mind if I get in trouble with local building codes while replacing my AC or windows late this year, but until then, I certainly can’t say that Jacksonville has too many regulations.


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  • The Last-Minute Valentine's Day Guide: Jacksonville
    So, you're supposed to book something romantic in Jacksonville, but you put it off until the last minute. Worse, you hate calling restaurants. Sure, you could seek out some national chain restaurant that doesn't take reservations and tell her everything else was booked. Or you could try to be a little more creative (though she probably won't appreciate that anyway). Here's what I did.


    First, I tried searching for events in Jacksonville, but Eventbrite and other sites had dumb events. That was a few days before V-Day, but I was disappointed and stopped my search. There isn't really a good, go-to, local events page in Jacksonville, so I figured I'd try again on February 13th. But I got busy, so early on Valentine's Day, I was still without a reservation or plan. 

    I'd been told the Lemon Bar was good, and it probably would have been fine if the weather was nice, as my wife can finish work early enough to get a table with a beach view...not sure if you can actually see the ocean. But 60s and rainy isn't good for all that, so it was back to the drawing board. 

    I used Tripadvisor to find the top Jacksonville restaurants in her favorite Italian category. All that allowed online booking were booked, and I got the idea that I wasn't the only guy doing this. But this wasn't my first rodeo, so I expanded the search to fancy restaurants. Again, no dice. 

    So I expanded my original Valentine's Day in Jacksonville search. Again, Eventbrite and its subpar listings. A local momblog claimed to have the ultimate guide, but she fell short on the couples section of her article. Then I found the dinner theater, which I figured to be one of those family shows that are kind of annoying but wholesome and predictable. So, safe. But even the safe option of some Elvis in 1969 was sold out. Well, there were single seats available, but what's more depressing than sitting alone with strangers on Valentine's Day, unless you're a serial killer or swinger on the prowl, I suppose. 

    Since neither my wife or myself are either of those, it was time to move on. I found a website that had some kind of Valentine's Day specials listed for local restaurants, and one of the places that Tripadvisor had deemed full-up actually had an opening. But that was one of those bougie places that probably required a suit and tie, and I wasn't yet THAT desperate. Except there was only ONE other restaurant on the list with available reservations. And only two time slots. So I booked that bad boy. 

    $65 a person for some kind of three course meal and dessert. It will make the wife happy. Escape Restaurant and Bar. I'll write a review of the experience and link to it. But if you're a restaurant that normally has empty seats in Jacksonville on Valentine's Day, let me know. I can add your contact information here so that other guys who wait until the last minute can connect with restaurants that have last-minute availability, whether there's a special menu or not. 

    Obviously, it's better to have a plan early. Maybe even hoard the reservations like it's gasoline during a hurricane, and then cancel based on weather or traffic or how much you want to spend. Anyhow, I wish you the best the V-Day, and I hope that if you waited too long to book the reservation that your special lady is still impressed with you dragging her to Olive Garden at 4:30 to beat the rush.

    And if you plan on a wine, beer, or hard liquor tasting, be sure to get a Lyft or Uber. 




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  • Jaguars in London Has Precedence (And it Worked)
    I grew up in Milwaukee, near where the Packers played. When my family moved to a new house near County Stadium, I lived just a few miles from Packer home games. Yes, home games in Milwaukee for the Green Bay Packers. The Jacksonville Jaguars are going from one to two games in London, and it's being done for the same reasons as the Packers playing in Milwaukee. The real question is whether it will work out for the Jaguars as well as it did for the Pack.


    Basically, Green Bay couldn't support an NFL team and needed a new stadium, so it moved games to Milwaukee from 1934 to 1994. Between two and four home games were played in the big city each year. During that time, some Milwaukee businesses tried to acquire a competing team in the other football leagues. Luckily for Green Bay, these attempts were blocked, partially by keeping games in Milwaukee. You've probably heard a lot about how perfect Green Bay is as a small market, but without the help of Milwaukee fans and (later) Brett Favre, the team probably would have folded years ago. Like before ANY (official) Super Bowl wins.

    Green Bay updated the stadium and eventually got fans from all over the state (and country) to accept the importance of seeing games in Green Bay. Maybe Chris Berman's redundant Frozen Tundra quote helped as much as a winning team. The point is that the franchise was able to survive in spite of being a small market, though it did take help from a larger market. That said, there was still a long tradition of pro football in Green Bay. The longtime rivalries against much larger markets drew national attention, and winning records with Super Bowl appearances certainly didn't hurt.

    I don't know if the plan is to string Jacksonville along until London is approved to have a team in the NFL's next expansion. Or maybe the plan is really to invest heavily in Jacksonville's downtown as the area grows. The problem is that if the fans just get upset and stop watching or attending games, the team certainly will leave, and that would put Jax back into the realm of a total minor league city when it comes to sports. Granted, I personally don't care all that much, since I'm a Packers, Bucks, and Brewers fan, but it does seem that a metro area of 1.5 million should be able to support a single pro franchise. If not, we'll be stuck in the same boat as Columbus, Austin, and Providence as large metro areas without a pro team.

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  • Alleys in Jacksonville Confirmed
    There are alleys in the Springfield area of Jacksonville
    I was driving in the Springfield area of Jacksonville when I finally saw my first alley. As I drove around a bit more, I saw more of the handy passageways, nestled behind homes. I'm not sure if this is exclusive to Springfield or if I've missed the miniature roads in other parts of town, but I'd been under the impression that alleys never made their way to Jacksonville at all.


    If you want to see some alleys like the one pictured, then head over to Springfield before all the alleys become parking lots or bike paths.  Or something progressive like community gardens. It looks like there are some paved alleys behind such local businesses as Hyperion and Main & Six brewers. Also in the residential neighborhoods to the west of Main Street. Park your car and take a stroll through an alley if you've never done it before.

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  • Advice From Your Driver: Lawyer Up
    I was listening to a lady today as she described her recent car accident. She had a green left turn arrow, but she was hit by someone who seemed to have been disobeying the law. While I think she was being truthful, I also think that she's probably in some trouble if she doesn't lawyer up.


    I don't particularly like lawyers. None of us do, I suppose, especially if we're ever on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Which is exactly why this woman needs a lawyer. The police officer on the scene did not issue a citation to the other driver, AND she was driving her friend's car, who is now complaining of back pain. PLUS, she was on the phone, answering INSURANCE COMPANY questions. That's all a recipe for disaster! Why? Read on...

    She claims she had a green arrow, which should put her in the category of little to no fault, but if she still had that arrow, the man who hit her should have received a ticket for failure to yield. While she does have two witnesses in her car, that apparently wasn't enough for the responding officer, which means she might need more witnesses. I assume lawyers know how to find these people...I sure don't. I nobody stopped to corroborate her story, then she's suddenly potentially AT FAULT. Or at least 50% liable.

    Also, her friend will probably have to sue her if the fault of the other driver isn't established. She just got done giving all the details of the accident to her own or her friend's insurance company. The only people worse than lawyers are insurers. They will work with each other in order to avoid any responsibility or extra payments. This woman should not want to deal with her own or her friend's insurance. On top of all that, her own insurance will probably go way up. That sucks, especially if she wasn't really at fault.

    If you get into an accident in Jacksonville, get a lawyer. If it's a fender-bender, at least call the cops and your insurance (I made the mistake of trusting the at-fault party).

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  • No Locals at Local Hotels Could be the Answer
    I was reading an article about a hotel policy in Milwaukee aimed at keeping parties, prostitution, and other illicit activities out of a hotel. The policy is not to allow anyone who lives within 30 miles of the city to book a room. It was kind of a secret policy, apparently, and local government officials are probably going to stop it, but maybe the hotel chain that was doing this has an idea that could work for Jacksonville.

    Wouldn't it be interesting to know the statistics associated with a policy like this before it gets universally condemned? Did calls to police go down? Were there fewer underage drinking parties that annoyed other guests? Did the hotels lose a lot of potential money? 

    I'd say that Milwaukee should ask the hotel some of these questions in order to find out if such a policy would be good for the community as a whole. And Jacksonville ought to pay attention to any answers that come from such an inquiry.

    I get it that a family might have a house fire or some other problem and need a local place to stay, so there probably needs to be a way to circumvent a policy like this. However, if we are serious about cleaning up some of the hotels in the areas known for illicit activities, then there may be some merit in a ban on locals.
  • Lyfted From Town
    If getting a rider for the airport when a return ride is available is the Holy Grail of ride-sharing, then getting sent further and further from home as the rush hour ends is the bottom of the rideshare barrel. Unfortunately, you might just have to eat the time and fuel.


    I was trying to get the morning commute streak, but I'd gotten a late start. Luckily, someone needed a Lyft to the beaches from close to home, so I had a rider right away. From Atlantic Beach, I was dispatched way back to the western part of Arlington, until the app realized I was much closer to another rider in Neptune Beach.

    Lyft just assigns jobs without much information about where you'll be driving, and I didn't have the option of saying no if I wanted my morning $6 bonus, so I went from Neptune Beach to Baptist Health South, just about to St. John's County.

    The next rider came up, and then seemed to cancel immediately: some kind of glitch with a boyfriend's phone, which almost caused me an accident because of rerouting to another rider while in a very busy, poorly-designed office park.

    Again, I had no clue that my third and final rider needed to go from the Julington-Durbin Preserve down to, basically, St. Augustine. Suddenly, I was nearly an hour from home with rush hour wrapping up.

    Since I didn't want to get roped into a ride in St. Augustine, I set Destination Mode for home. Nothing. I ended up driving all the way home without one request. Almost, anyhow. Destination Mode shut off after 30 minutes or so. I was almost home, anyhow, and I had gotten my $6 bonus (no tips). Sure, I got some decent payout with highway driving, until the point that highway driving took me too far from home for it to be considered a good day. That said, the previous day had seen me drop someone off in downtown Jax, set the destination for home, get two more riders on the way home, and cash out with very efficient use of my miles.



    My takeaway is that if I'm going to get the early morning bonus, I probably have to start on the early side of the allowed starting time, since a long ride that begins later in the morning could send me into no-man's-land at the end of the morning commute.


    If you want to try out Lyft as a driver in Jacksonville or St. Augustine, click here.

    If you want to give Lyft a try as a rider, click this link for a $5 credit on your first ride.

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  • Three Decades and Then No Pet Headstone
    I know it kind of seems like news that a man who buried his pet 30 years ago could not find the headstone in a local pet cemetery. It's almost like the news stories about underrepresented minority cemeteries or poorly maintained veteran gravestones. Almost. It's a poodle that dies 30 years ago. If the owner had visited the grave each year for the past three decades, the headstone would not be lost. 

    In dog years, the main neglected to visit his dog for 210 years. That's like if no one visited your grave until your great-great-great-great-great grandkids showed up and quickly called the local news channel when they couldn't find your grave. In fact, I visited some of my relatives in Vermont who were buried on a private family farm there for about 200 years. My family was grateful that the current farm owner even let us look at the small cemetery, but we didn't really expect it to be meticulously maintained. 

    My dad buried at least one of our dogs in the back yard of the house I own in Milwaukee. It will probably freak out someone who wants to plant a tree there someday, but when my dad wants to visit, at least he knows where to go.


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