Over the years I've had the pleasure of working with Stacey Clarkson at Harpers magazine on a number of incredible jobs. She has a knack for sending articles that never cease to strike a person chord and this recent job was one I felt incredibly connected to.
"Paradise Swamped", written by the extraordinary Paul Reyes, is an excerpt from his upcoming book "Exiles in Eden: Life Among the Ruins of Florida's Great Recession" . It's the story of Florida's part in the foreclosure mess of today, rooted in a personal narrative starting in the 50's during a optimistic land purchase by his parents.
As someone who grew up here (raised by Grandparents and deeply entrenched in the idea of the promise of Florida) Reyes story is a mirror to my life long love affair with my state. We moved here into a life that felt idyllic: a blissful vacation mecca, with lazy waterside evenings, orange groves in the backyard, a sort of haven that made up my childhood views on life. How can you not be an optimist growing up in the Sunshine State? Fast forward 35 years and the answer becomes obvious: buy property during the housing boom and watch it all fall apart. As an adult living in Tampa, the contrast is palpable. Empty molded foreclosed homes abound, often left with the residents personal items still lingering in the rooms. It's heartbreaking. And this excerpt straddles those 2 views just beautifully. He's captured a part of Florida that those of us who live here can instantly recognize both with nostalgic affection and adult remorse.
ps- Thank you Stacey, for trusting me with a camera. And Thank you Paul, for trusting me with your parents picture. I hope I did them and your story the justice they deserve.