There’s this place over the Skyway that is one of the most beautiful and inspiring places I’ve ever seen. I was taken there for the first time about 7 or so years ago, by a man who is 3rd generation born and raised in Florida, and whom I admire and trust more than anyone on the planet. Although his stand-up skills need some work, he’s the funniest fucker I’ve ever met. The man I’m referring to is named Adam.
The place I’m referring to is named Cortez, Florida.
All photos by Amanda Turner
Countless stories of Cortez from Adam and his family make me yearn to visit every chance I get. Although Adam’s family made most of their history here in Pinellas County, Cortez played a role in a lot of their memories. His family is also on their 3rd generation of old school, gritty ass fishermen, and are one of the most predominant fishing families in Florida.
I don’t know why this fact and places like old Cortez are so appealing to me. Maybe it’s the mystery of history, or maybe it’s the idea of really manly men doing really manly things for many generations.
I also think it might have something to do with the stories I’ve been told about old Florida by his abundant amount of family members. It’s intriguing and interesting to know the part they played and still are playing in Florida history.
Depending on which family member I’m sitting down with, I’ll get completely different perspectives on what life was and is like around the area.
If it’s his father, it’s usually tales of his smuggling days or of old plans that could’ve been, and I become so amazed by his genius mind and his appetite for adventure, even today, every time he speaks. If it’s his brother, who, fittingly, captains boats at the family’s marina; I’m updated on business and how the fish are biting. If it’s an uncle, one in particular, it’s almost always a story of some girl that he used to chase on the beach, “the one that got away”, who usually happens to still be amongst the family friends.
Either way, they all seem to impress me somehow.
But if it’s his mother, I know I’m about to hear one of the most romantic and captivating stories of their younger years that will make me wish I was a part of that time. Every time she tells me about how she met Adam’s dad, or about their old house in coastal Tierra Verde, Florida or about how Adam was such a pain in the ass when he was little (totally believable), I get a sense of nostalgia although I was never there.
So when Adam and I venture down over the Skyway to Cortez every now and then, she will insist that we go to this place or that place, and without a doubt they are always one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.
One of her favorite places to go, that is now one of mine, is The Sea Hagg. From the front yard to the back, the outside of the entire structure to the inside, from floor to ceiling, it is covered in old Florida history. From 25 cent brass rings to thousand dollar ship wheels, I’m taken aback by the amount of antiques, glass buoys, fishing nets and mermaids of all shapes and sizes that inundate this place. I feel an insatiable desire to sit down and break out every art supply I own and get busy every time I walk into The Sea Hagg.
So when I think of old Florida, or Cortez, or the many lifelong friendships that this family has kept and passed on to me, I feel privileged that they would accept me as if I were one of theirs. I feel privileged to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth with some of the most awe-inspiring people I’ve ever met. And every time Adam walks into a room, I’m reminded of all of it.