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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to All...

Merry Christmas! I'll be back sometime next week for my (ir)regular postings. Enjoy the holiday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Will Cheryl Dunlap's Murder Change Our Community?

According to area news outlets (including the "Tallahassee Democrat"), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed yesterday the body found in Apalachicola National Forest by hunters on Saturday is indeed that of Cheryl Dunlap, the Wakulla woman missing since Dec. 1.

When I first heard Ms. Dunlap went missing the first week of December, I didn't think much about it until I received a call while from a law enforcement official last week questioning me about what I saw and observed on Saturday, Dec. 1.

My class had a field trip in the area where Ms. Dunlap's car was found and I was the first one to the site. I told the official everything I remembered, which wasn't much and I don't think I was much help. Ever since, I've been racking my brain trying to remember something but have been unsuccessful.

I began following the case this week and reading the discussions posted by "Tallahassee Democrat" readers. I lurked the forums daily, getting myself easily sucked into the rumors and basically creeped out by the facts and the fiction.

There seem to be many unknowns about the case. For instance, Ms. Dunlap was last seen at home, is that where she was victimized? Or did she have a flat tire and stop on the roadside? How did the perp get her ATM pin number? Why do the police think her killer is still in our community? Is her murder related to two Georgia murders? (I don't know the details of those deaths other than dismemberment was involved, but were the victims' ATM cards used, too?)

I assume local law enforcement officials are wondering these questions, too and hopefully, they have the answers and haven't released those answers because it's vital information to solving the case.

One sad thing is for certain, Ms. Dunlap was murdered and her killer is out there. My prayers and condolences are with her family.

If you haven't seen it, take a look at this photo. Yes, it's creepy but do you recognize this person? Have you seen this person?

Anyone with information is asked to call the Leon County Sheriff's Office at (850) 922-3300, or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-876-TIPS (8477).

So what does this mean for us and our community?

I find it strange I'm referring to this area as "our community." Ever since moving here two-and-a-half-years ago, I've felt like an outsider, like a transient gypsy making a pit stop along a journey to something better. Oddly, somewhere along the way I've developed a sense of community to this place, especially to Wakulla. Maybe I've found the same attractive vortex which kept drawing Ms. Dunlap back to the area (from what I've read, she used to live here, moved away then returned).

I'm a bit of a free-spirit, I enjoy solo adventures but now I think I'll be clipping my wings slightly until the case is solved. I'm not planning on being a shut-in but will be more cautious on the adventures and trips I take. I had thought about biking Wakulla State Park and Apalachicola National Forest by myself but think I'll nix that idea for a while.

I think about the potentially dangerous situations I've been in, but thankfully, someone's been looking out for me and it's time for me to lookout for me, too.

Ms. Dunlap's murder has shaken our open-door community and many people are frightened by what they don't know, I'm included. But let's look at the big picture.

We can't let the murderer alter our lives. Heck, that's what the terrorists try to do.

While I find them goofy, we need to do what the bumper stickers on the law enforcement vehicles say, "Don't be afraid, be alert."
I'm not going to let someone take away my liberties, will you? Are you going to be afraid or alert?

The Leon County Sheriff's Office is looking for the truck pictured. Have you seen it? It's sure hard to miss.

AGAIN: Anyone with information is asked to call the Leon County Sheriff's Office at (850) 922-3300, or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-876-TIPS (8477).

Read print media coverage on the case at this blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tallahassee Holiday Gift Guide

Is your holiday shopping done? If not, you may find my Tallahassee Holiday Gift Guide useful (in no particular order):

Give the gift of laughter with a gift certificate to the Tallahassee Comedy Zone. Laugh often and much in 2008.

My favorite Tallahassee gift to give family and friends who live out of the area is a little piece of Tallahassee sweetness from Barb's Brittles. The cute little shop is at Lake Ella and samples, for brittle and yummy ice cream, are happily given. You'll most likely see Barb herself there and if you're overwhelmed with the all the sweet treats, she'll help you. I took some with me to Italy last month for my friend Saverio who gave me an insider's guide to Rome. (By the way, it's okay to get a bag of Barb's Brittles for yourself.)

Bookworms will love a good read. There's Historic Photos of Tallahassee for the history buff, a must-have in the library of anyone who loves North Florida history (read my review about Historic Photos of Tallahassee here). Or, are you looking for books by Tallahassee and local authors? Tallahassee's Anne Holt will be signing books this weekend at the Book Shelf in Thomasville, Ga. on Friday, Dec. 14, 6:30 - 10 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 15, Holt will be at Word Traffic Books, 1 - 3 p.m. She'll be telling stories for children and signing her books at Word Traffic. Holt writes Western novels, you can check out her titles on her Web site.

Word Traffic is also a great resource for books by other Tallahassee and local authors along with gently used books and other goodies. They also have gift cards available, too. (Read my article about the grand opening of Word Traffic Books).

Can't forget the tree huggers on your Christmas list. Give 'em a good paddle with a kayaking trip with the Wilderness Way. They offer kayaking trips for beginners and experienced paddlers. I took a trip with them earlier this fall and had a fabulous time.

Or, give a gift that gives all year round, an Annual Pass for the Florida State Parks. There are many state parks in the Tallahassee area to make this pass worthwhile. Or, it may encourage the receiver to get out and explore other areas of the state. I already have mine for 2008!

Don't forget the Seven Days of Opening Nights in February. Tickets are still available for some events. I requested a ticket to Salman Rushdie's talk on Friday, February 22, 2008. Suppose I need to go read a book of his!

Finally, can't forget Tallahassee's Native Big Brother 8 Houseguest Zach. If you missed my interview with Zach about his new edgy surfwear line called Dolphin Crash, read the article called, "Big Brother 8's Zach Talks About Dolphin Crash" here. (Part 1 of the interview called, "Interview with Tallahassee's Big Brother 8 Houseguest Zach: Part 1.")

The guy's put his heart, soul, livelihood and all his money into making Dolphin Crash successful. The guy has determination and I really hope his venture succeeds. Grab a tank top, pair of shorts or some swim wear for your favorite water bunny. With global warming, everyone will need more of this type of clothing! :)

Suppose I could go on and on with the list of Christmas gift ideas here in Tallahassee, but I won't. I do want to remind you about December 15 being Buy Local Day. Head over to the Locally Owned Tallahassee site for a list of locally-owned businesses and do a bit of shopping with them on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cast Your Vote for Florida's New State Song

Yup, that's right. Floridians can say buh-bye to the current state song, “The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)” by Stephen C. Foster because it's not politically correct, and cast their vote for their favorite Florida song to replace it.

Little bit of trivia I learned last year when visiting Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, the only reason the composer wrote a song about the Swanee River is because it rhymed with the rest of the lyrics, not because he'd visited it before. In fact, he never visited Florida. I digress...

Hold your horses Florida voters. We're not able to randomly pick our favorite song about Florida or by a Florida artist. I'm actually disappointed not seeing tunes by Tom Petty or Jimmy Buffett in the line up, but so be it.

Over on Just Sing, Florida!, site visitors can listen to the three finalist songs and vote for their favorite. I don't mean to be harsh (but I'll write it anyway), but can't I write in my choice? Isn't this a democracy?

While I appreciate the efforts these songwriters have put into their songs, I'm just not feeling any of them. In fact, I had to close the computer window because I just couldn't take the off-key singing of one of the songs any longer. It's almost as if I'M THE ONE singing that particular song. And when I'm singing, that's just not a good thing.

Jimmy Buffett! Jimmy Buffett! In my little ol' opinion, Florida's State Song should be "Margaritaville," after all, the Key Lime Pie is now our official State Pie.

Kind of ironic Floridians are being asked to vote, at least it's all electronic so we won't have to worry about hanging chads.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Oh, the Places I've Been and Will Go in Tallahassee

I feel I've been neglecting this blog. My excuses are:

Well, I'm back, at least for a little while. Last weekend I tried to re-enter civilization by heading out to Tallahassee Museum's Market Days at the Fairgrounds. Like last year, the event was busy and packed. I only had two hours to get my shopping done and picked up a few nice things, including a pair of classy earrings by my favorite Tallahassee jeweler, Page Rozelle (I'm wearing them in this photo). She just doesn't craft jewelry, she creates art and I love her work. I really hope she'll be at the Tallahassee Downtown Art Festival Dec. 8.

Saturday is a busy day in the Tallahassee area, in addition to the 10th Annual 'Just One More' Invitational Arts Festival, these are other events on my radar:

The Havana Holiday Parade & Lawnmower Contest at 10 a.m.

Over at Word Traffic Books, Perry, Fla. native Pat Cook will be reading from her book Faux Elvis at 11 a.m. (I looked up the book and it definitely looks like a fun read, especially to those who believe Elvis didn't die on Aug. 16, 1977.)

Be sure to check out the Tallahassee CVB Web site for a list of other great Tallahassee area events happening this weekend.

The most important date coming up is December 15, Buy Local Day. This is a great time to finish up the holiday shopping and supporting locally-owned Tallahassee businesses. I love shopping at independently owned shops like the ones at Lake Ella or Railroad Square. It's as though the items were either made with our placed on display with care and love. I just get the warm fuzzies when I buy locally, how about you?

Don't know where to shop locally in Tallahassee? Check out the Locally Owned Tallahassee Web site and remember, "Keep it Sassy Tallahassee!"

Been there, done that in Tallahassee? Then check out things to do near Tallahassee.

Green Guide Class: Bitter Sweet

It's hard to believe this semester's Wakulla Ecotourism Institute is over. It's been a fabulous ride and I'm looking forward to finishing up next semester.

Last weekend was a field trip to explore some of the sink holes in Wakulla State Park and Apalachicola State Park with Cal Jameson. Cal's a self-proclaimed hippie from the 1970s who skinny dipped in many of the sinks he showed.

Oh, the tales he told!

It was a great day hearing a slice of Wakulla history with another resident who lived. He talked of how the hippies camped near these swim holes in the 1970s and how the sheriff would try to bust them up. He talked about the raising of a car found at the bottom of a sink (and explained how sink holes end up being dumping grounds for stolen items, like stolen cars).

Some of the sinks were crystal clear and very tempting to jump into. Some were covered in duck weed and some topped with fallen leaves. He gave us a map and pointed out which ones are still swimming holes and showed us where we can drive, park and ride a bike (or walk) to the cooling off spot.

The next day, the class graduated, all but me. I'm a part-timer, remember? It was bitter sweet. One after one each student gave their presentation. I was so proud of them. I got a little teary-eyed here and there.

A celebration followed at Melody's and Norm's place, bonfire and all. It was a great way to chill, meet some of the family members of students and end the semester.

I'm looking forward to the next set of classes which begin in January. It'll be interesting to see how the next group of future green guides are.

If anyone's interested, be sure to get in touch with Tallahassee Community College. Check out the video below, too.

Be sure to check out my latest article on Ecotourism Travel to Wakulla.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is it Me or is Crime Up in Tallahassee?

This week, I've heard of three businesses being robbed plus a bank, all fairly close to where I live. Then last week, someone got shot in the parking lot of their apartment complex. Is it me or has Tallahassee always had daily crime? I also found it odd that last month my apartment complex distributed fliers asking residents to keep alert, be cautious when entering our apartments and if we know of a crime, report it. I need to check the police blotter to see if something happened here.

Is the perception of increased crime due to:

  • I have a heightened state of awareness and crime isn't up (it's a figment of my imagination).
  • It's the holiday time and people are becoming criminals to have a merry Christmas.
  • The economy is tanking and people are becoming criminals to make ends meet.
Things that make you go, "hmm."