Weird But True

Strange in the City

Northeast Florida stays quirky in more ways than one.

In a town with multiple airports and military bases, it's not unusual to see an aircraft with flashing lights in the sky. However, not all flying objects can be identified, which is why local yokels post their UFO sightings on websites like ufoinfo.com and ufomaps.com. More than 100 believers have shared visions of boomerang-shaped entities and silver spheres with strobe lights, and green fireballs making "zed-zid zed-zid" sounds. Na-nu na-nu, indeed.

Jacksonville is the largest city in area in the continental U.S., but no one agrees on exactly what size it is. The City of Jacksonville claims 841 square miles. Visit Jacksonville promotes 848. The U.S Census and Info Please World Almanac state 757 and 758, respectively. About the only thing we can be sure of is it’s not 885 square miles—since that’s what it says on Wikipedia.

One of the most obvious challenges that comes with being the largest city of indeterminate size in the lower 48 is coming up with enough street names. Perhaps that would explain oddly redundant names plaguing our fair city such as Lane Avenue, Boulevard Street, Circle Drive, Court Street, Lane Circle, Highway Avenue and, best of all, Noroad.

Greenbriar Road, located about seven miles south of the Duval/St. Johns county line on Hwy. 13, is said to be haunted by a mysterious ball of glowing light. Reportedly, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s office had the phenomenon investigated in 1987. No definitive source of the Greenbriar Light could be found. Some believe it is the spirit of a motorcyclist who was decapitated in a horrible road accident.

When your team name is the Jacksonville Sharks, you shouldn’t have too much trouble coming up with an appropriate mascot, say, a shark named “Killer” or “Jaws.” Instead, team management decided to go a different way and created “Chum,” a red fluffy creature who looks like Elmo on steroids (see page 48)—assuming Elmo had a giant yellow schnozz, crossed eyes and wore a purple wig with matching eye shadow. Fans have to wonder, what the hellmo?

European Street Cafe refuses to accept pennies or give pennies as change. They banned the coin as a publicity stunt on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday several years ago, and it stuck. These days, they’re happy to round your change up to the nearest nickel.

How strange is it for a town to change its name from “Cowford,” which was both fitting and original, to “Jacksonville,” which wasn’t fitting (its name sake, Andrew Jackson, hadn’t set one muddy boot inside the city limits) or original (see: Jacksonville, Alabama, Illinois and North Carolina)? And don’t even get us started about the 2,800-pound bronze statute of Jackson, which still isn’t fitting (he never did visit) nor original (it’s a replica of a statue by Clark Mills that sits in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.), that the city recently moved—a block away.

In the 1920s, Jacksonville was known as the skyscraper center of the South. To take advantage of the, ahem, upswing in construction Downtown, the Otis Elevator Company built their headquarters on Liberty Street. Ironically, it was a one-story building.

Question: How would you prefer to find out that your sister, best friend or coworker is expecting a baby? A phone call? In person? E-mail? How about a card from her unborn fetus? Fetal Greetings, based in Jacksonville Beach, specializes in “fun and creative” pregnancy announcements. The cards feature illustrations of babies—still in the womb—saying things like, “It’s cozy in here.” Aw? Or ew?

We know eating chocolate has a number of health benefits, but that doesn’t mean local chocolatiers have to put it on everything. Cases in point: chocolate-dipped Datil peppers from St. Augustine’s Hot Shot Bakery, chocolate cabernet wine sauce from Whetstone Chocolates of St. Augustine and chocolate-covered bacon from Heavenly Chocolate Creations. Bacon, mmmm…