Daytona Beach: A Fresh Set of Eyes

The next time you’re out-and-about in the Halifax area, use your imagination.

Yesterday, I needed to run a few errands.

A lovely young couple that have been family friends for many years are tying the knot in a casual ceremony befitting the couples happy, laid-back style this Saturday, so, I thought it appropriate to up-date my tired wardrobe for the occasion with a trip to what remains of the Volusia Mall.

If you and I should ever meet on the street, chances are I’ll be clad in worn khaki cargo shorts, a weathered fishing shirt, with some run-down Sperry Top-Siders on bare feet.

After many years of wearing a uniform to work, I’m not one to give up on a “look” just because it gets monotonous.

A quick trip to “The Mall” earned me a fresh pair of Nantucket red shorts and a great linen shirt, perfect for a spring garden party.  I confirmed my color-combination with the friendly 30-something clerk sporting the fashionably shaped beard and well-greased man-bun, who assured me I was on target coordination wise.

Then, I endured the crucible of check-out. . .

Anyone else notice that the simple act of paying for retail items has become akin to taking out a complex second mortgage?

After shoving your credit/debit card in the chip reader, you are forced to make at least five important decisions in quick succession – followed by the physical inputs required to confirm your choice and authorize the purchase – the next-to-last of which is whether you wish a paper or email receipt – or both.

I suspect it’s just another way for retailers to collect marketing information – but it makes the point-of-sale experience an excruciatingly dreadful chore.

And, God-forbid, you have anyone over the age of 55 in line ahead.

Like me, they always seem to approach the small electronic box like they’ve just been asked to program the reentry sequence for a Space X rocket.  If you’re lucky, the clerk will show annoyed mercy and reach over the counter to press the correct buttons for you – as you stand there, slack jawed, staring at the box – arms raised in a pugilistic stance – looking for all the world like a victim of early on-set senility.

What became of those wonderfully simplistic days of swiping a debit card – or the futuristic, Epcot-style technologically driven advances we were promised, like “People Movers” – or a friggin’ toaster that doesn’t burn your G-D bagel every morning.  Yeah.  Like that.

Don’t get me started.

Whenever possible, I like to use the services of locally owned companies – you know, keep a dollar circulating in town – and my dry cleaner of many, many years is Acme Cleaners (conveniently located just behind Krystal at Mason Avenue and US-1) – an enterprise owned by a wonderful family who do their level-best to make sure you are completely satisfied.

As I left the mall, I decided to make my way east on Mason Avenue and drop my new purchase off at Acme on the way home.

Errands.  A typical day-to-day life experience we all share.

To make things interesting, I decided to imagine myself as a first-time visitor to the Halifax area and take-in the crosstown drive with a fresh set of eyes.  (I do that a lot.  I’m like a demented Walter Mitty, always visualizing myself in some weird fantasy.  Don’t judge.)

After all, I’m always moaning the blues about the deplorable condition of our long-neglected beachside – so I thought it time to consider aesthetics on the mainland as well.

Try it sometime.

Envision that you’ve dutifully scrimped and saved all year and your family is finally vacationing in the “Daytona Beach Resort Area” portrayed in a slick online ad by Danica Patrick.

After trying in vain to find that beautiful swimming pool Danica was luxuriating by – and having been accosted by homeless panhandlers on the Boardwalk for the umpteenth time, taken in all the attractions Main Street offers tourists, and caught the morning smell of stale urine wafting on the sea breeze near the Band Shell – you have decided to make a day-trip from your beachside hotel to Tanger Outlets or points south – Bass Pro, DIS, etc. – via Mason Avenue (or East ISB, for that matter).

Invariably, the drive will take you past the ubiquitous vacant strip centers, numerous establishments who have opted to simply spray-paint the name and service they provide on the front of the building (after all, who needs sign regulations when a rattle-can gets the point across, eh?), boarded-up chain restaurants, and overgrown lots strewn with trash and debris (for a great example, try the parcel on the southeast corner of White Street and Mason Avenue).

Last weekend, I was speaking with a young friend of mine who grew up in the Halifax area, but recently moved to Seattle to make a life – a classic example of the ‘brain drain’ of young entrepreneurs, professionals and creative-types who have fled Volusia County for better opportunities elsewhere.

She mentioned that after having been away, she took a drive to ‘downtown’ Beach Street and instinctively described the mid-afternoon scene as “closed” – a less-than-inviting feel that stood in stark contrast to the vibrant, “open-for-business” vibe she was used to in her new neighborhood in the urban Northwest.

Frankly, it was depressing.

Especially after years of hearing the near-constant promises of “more, jobs, more investment, more activity” of the CEO Business Alliance and other cheerleaders for the status quo whenever they are looking for the next “tax incentive” or cash giveaway from government.

Look, this isn’t an indictment of the City of Daytona Beach’s Code Enforcement Division.

In my view, this understaffed and under-resourced group are like the proverbial Dutch Boy holding his finger in the leaky dike, attempting to save his imperiled town by standing firm against the elements until the town elders finally take notice and make the necessary repairs.

Trust me.  I’ve lived the frustration of being responsible for alleviating code violations in a ‘one-hand tied behind your back’ political environment of “complaint-driven” efforts that can allow visible violations to fester for months and years – far beyond the point where reasonable abatement measures are possible.

It allows animosity to build – on both sides of the issue – and it becomes incredibly difficult for enforcement personnel to play catch-up, because, like time and tides, blight doesn’t wait.

It’s worse when unscrupulous politicians and the upper-echelon of government attempt to use the code enforcement system to punish political foes.

Ultimately, the only ones who win are the slumlords and irresponsible property owners who squeeze maximum profit through lack of maintenance and upkeep.

In my view, the cycle of blight speaks to the importance of an elected body with the strategic vision and strength of character to create an environment favorable to attracting quality business and industry, especially in a tourist-driven economy.

So, get outside of your comfort zone – rather than just stare at the bumper in front of you – and take a careful look at our collective experience with fresh eyes the next time errands take you across town.

(And use your damn turn signal, people!)

Imagine the possibilities – despite the empty bait-and-switch assurances of the powers-that-be who constantly crow about how wonderful we all have it, and then drive home to the sanity and security of their gated communities.

After you take it all in, demand accountability from those we elect and appoint to protect our interests here on the beleaguered Fun Coast.





3 thoughts on “Daytona Beach: A Fresh Set of Eyes

  1. “…a classic example of the ‘brain drain’ of young entrepreneurs, professionals and creative-types who have fled Volusia County for better opportunities elsewhere.”

    It is not voter apathy or voter ignorance, nor is it dirty-filthy Yankee transplants and their lack of a vested interest, nor is it oblivious senior citizens and the oblivious on-the-lower-end of the economic scale, that keep the Daytona Capos alive and well-fed. Nope. It is the Volusia Brain Drain.

    For it is they —the diaspora— who would have the intellectual muster, financial wherewithal, moxie, punch, and drive to take old dinosaurs like Hyatt out.

    Jobs for grown-adults do not come from building an oversized Wawa gas station, they comes from those creative types, those entrepreneurs, that have fled never to look back.

    What remains is an eclectic crew of flim-flam men, carpetbaggers, shakedown artists, wannabes pretenders all alike; and lastly but most importantly, sheer southern unworldliness, is all that is left.

    All you ever had was the beach and you screwed it up. Shame on you.

    Wonder how many friends I made today?


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