Sounds on Centre April 2, 2010

Last night an old friend came back in town, who listens to the name “Sounds on Centre”. The attendance of this easygoing event proved once again after last week’s Bells on the Riverfront concert that islanders are ready for this Spring and Summer. The sun was comfortably warm, the live music was rhythmic perfection inviting people to dance, move, smile and talk. Conversations and happy tones all over the downtown area, welcomed by the never resting smiling ambassador in yellow auxiliary police jacket, Susan Hurley. The Fernandina Pirates are frolicking and dancing with toddlers and babies on arms, desperately trying to look menacing.

City Manager Michael Czymbor, Mayor Susan Steger and Commissioner Eric Childers are enjoying the scenery in a brief happy encounter; Pete da Meat and two of his delightful children are taking in the scenes of a small town Friday evening, while talking to Philippe P├ętanque and Sunsplash Jeff about Saturday morning boule challenges on the courts. I see aspiring commissioner Chuck Hall campaigning for himself; I see Fantastic Fudge Steve walk by with a big bag of unpopped corn and dozens of happy pedestrians with towering ice cream cones. Shrimpfest Sandy is smiling at the crowd knowing that her next tour de force starts in exactly 30 days when the 2010 Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival opens. A couple from Georgia is enjoying the scenes as a prelude to their much anticipated Highschool Reunion here on island later in the evening and Julie is selling dollar raffle tickets for some or another cause. I don’t even need to know. Here is $5, just let me know when they are raffling them.

I walk into the Palace Saloon for a quick Friday Evening Happy Hour drink and realize all at once that I know more people in this cozy downtown crowd, than in the city where I was born long ago.
And while the music at the saloon is playing a whole set of Rolling Stones tunes from the sixties, “Mother’s Little Helper” comes on with that memorable opening line: “What a drag it is getting old” followed by a creative use of a compressed 12 string guitar and a bottleneck slide. In a flash I think about Brian Jones, the original Stone, who played this memorable lick and died too young and I think “Actually it’s not”.

Mingling in the crowds

“Getting old is not a drag, it’s a choice.”

I remember Dennis Kimbro saying: “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it,” and I realize once again that I’m living the life of an existentialist, wondering if it is by choice or by random design.

I love this town and this island as it encourages the idea of living authentically. Having been a gypsy with a Renaissance Soul all my life, this is the place I call home when I put all theoretical truths about life aside. I’m not living someone else’s dream, I’m not immersed in a grand philosophical system. This island is the perfect mix of acceptance of absurdity, personal freedom and individualism, authenticity, passion and acceptance of the inevitable. Existentialism is known as “the no-excuses philosophy.” You may be old. You may be broke. You may be sick. But existentialism says you start from where you are and move forward by accepting responsibility and making choices.

I know there are voices that want “Sounds on Centre” removed from the summer agenda because it supposedly interferes with their business. I know there are voices that apparently are opposed to a responsible distribution of adult beverages during these and other events in the streets, because it somehow interferes with their beliefs or is considered inappropriate where children are part of the scenery.
Accepting responsibility and making wise choices isn’t always easy. Pursuing authenticity requires relentless self-examination. It exposes you to things about yourself that you may not want to know. It may cause discomfort or friction with others.
Yet inauthentic lives, by comparison, are shallow, trivial and unsatisfying. They are often marked by the dogged pursuit of material goods, social status or the approval of others. This town shows wisdom and responsibility when it comes to the largest common denominators, which in the end is the only framework that allows personal freedom to prosper.

In many ways existentialism is a return to the art of living well.
Existentialism offers a guide. It shows us not just how to live, but how to flourish, how to create meaning in a senseless world. Those who reject this philosophy often do so not because they don’t understand it but because they can’t face it.
And that’s unfortunate. Existentialism provides a practical way of thinking about the world. It offers personal freedom and empowerment. It is a path to dignity and nobility.

Sounds on Centre
Fernandina's Sounds on Centre attracted large audience

After a long and unseasonably cold winter an old friend is back. I welcomed him with open arms last night.