Press Talk: Searching for forever more



The Florida we all know.

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — I opted to look– really look — for something I seemed to have lost some time ago.

My youth.

The back creaks a little, no one asks for my I.D., and I can’t climb my apple tree.

But where do I look for it?

I’m not into fad diets, crazy exercise programs or that guy on TV who said he found it in the back pew.

I am a more practical guy. I searched for the Fountain of Youth.

Laughing is allowed at this point, but the famous Ponce de León looked around for it. He finally ended up in what is now known as Punta Gorda, Fla. He didn’t find it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I went immediately. Hey, I’m not getting any younger.

o o o

Florida stopped being Florida years ago. There are more New Yorkers living here than mosquitoes. There’s still a debate about which pest is more annoying.

Then there are all those tourist attractions. You really can’t turn around without running into someone wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Probably from New York.

And we can’t forget the beautiful people sitting under an umbrella grabbing something from a cooler and enjoying the ocean breezes.

But if the Fountain of Youth is here, it won’t be found at the Magic Kingdom.

No, I needed to look where the mangroves are thick with gators and birds lumber along the shoreline, both looking for a meal.

This Florida still exists, and it’s the Florida that greeted the Spaniard Ponce de León.

Punta Gorda — “Fat Point” for those who know their Spanish — lives in both Floridas. It has its tourists and Northerners. But it also has its legacy. That’s where I headed.

o o o

Surrounding yourself with underbrush and brackish water isn’t the brightest idea. The entire area smelled like … yesterday’s news.

But then it hit me.

If the Fountain of Youth smelled like flowers or apple pie or those Jennifer Lopez TV commercials, we’d all be forever young. The good stuff never comes easy.

Could this be it? The brackish foul-smelling water I came upon? Does one have to drink the water that is undrinkable?

I touched it to my lips. My head began to spin. For a fleeting second, I thought I actually saw Ponce de León. Or maybe it was just some cheap statue that someone had put up.

I stumbled out of the underbrush and back to civilization. I poured myself back into a plane seat and headed to Vancouver.

o o o

Only time will tell if I had found it. If I’m lucky, I’ll be around forever.

But not everyone might be happy about that. Especially my palatial political friends, whom I try to keep honest. I mean, did you see that latest story on Vancouver City Councilwoman Jeanne Harris? Can’t wait to get my pen into that one. But that’s for another day.

Today, I see some apples that need picking at the top of my tree.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, or