P / P Essay: A Day in the Death of Seminole County

Written by: Mark Fritz

Foreword by: Jordannah Elizabeth

black and white

I have a great life, but I meet a number of people who genuinely don´t like me. I think I essentially step on people´s toes just by showing up. Some people don´t like it when other people ¨show up¨. It shakes the status quo and forces people to make emotional and sometimes physical adjustments in order to create a safe space for others. Without love, people are not willing to make changes for others.

So, maybe I shouldn´t say I meet a number of people who don´t like me. Maybe I should say I meet people who don´t love…not just me, but the sacrifice of kindness that creates longevity and healthy relationships.


Anyway, Mark Fritz has a great bond with Publik / Private. His previous submissions inspired me to reach out to him and ask him to write the foreword for my upcoming book, Don’t Lose Track Vol. 1: 40 Selected Articles, Essays and Q&As, and now, he´s back at P / P to submit a raw, rushed, charming, romp of a story that I enjoy. I have no desire to change what he does. Mark, for better or for worse is best, perfect and polished just the way he is. He comes here to get things off this chest and to write what he wants. I completely encourage that…I should probably mention that Fritz is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, which is another reason why he can do what he wants…at least here.

I was working on a freelance story about Baby Boomers getting stoned at retirement communities when I came across a woman who suggested her father for the project. He was a hard ­ass welder who got old, scored a pension, then decided a joint every night made his life a bit better. He was a denizen of central Florida, only thirty minutes away from Disney World, a place he never could bother to visit. He had recently returned to weed, like a lot of retirees.

He was a resident of Seminole County, the southern-­fried seat of which is called Sanford, where old money and old poverty collide on a daily basis. This is the place where the criminal justice system exonerated George Zimmerman for murdering Trayvon Martin for being black in the wrong neighborhood.

This welder who smoked pot in his working­ class retirement years represented the middle class in Seminole County. So, through a friend who happens to be a bail bondsmen and barkeep, I find myself sitting in a motel room with his daughter, Stacy, waiting to hear from this guy. Time flows as we talk.

Stacy is beautiful. She is also a streetwalker who went down crack ally and, really, never came back. She has spent much of her life behind bars committing victimless crimes, and doesn’t doubt she will ever change. She carries around a figurative Idiot’s Guide to The Bible and invokes the

Lord so much it makes me want to wretch. We talk about a subject of common ground, which is drugs. She is not a typical aficionado of the herb, but she has a sad­ eyed perspective about the simplicity of indulging in something that would never kill her.

“Weed is a drug in all its own. Weed to me is an all ­purpose drug. Everybody should smoke a
fucking joint. Smoking a fucking joint would fix everything.” Stacy has spent 11 of her 41 years on this supposedly habitable exoplanet in jail. She is out just right now, and if she makes it through the year, she may stay out. She has days filled with counseling programs that are essentially aimed at piling up a costly debt to society. She will never get her driver’s license back until she can pay up. She has to pay money for being arrested by Florida’s Seminole County. She is being charged by the day for being in trouble. Much of her time behind bars has, essentially, been in debtor prison.

Stacy is a day out of jail and trying on countless outfits and preparing to go out and make some money. Her friend, Nicole, stops by her motel room arranged by her bail bondsmen and tells her that a white Florida sundress is too bland for business. Nicole is dressed in a translucent pink dress

that hugs her body like a sausage casing. The see­-through polyester amplifies her tiny panties. Stacy, by comparison, looks less like a hooker. Nicole is pissed off. “Ya look like shit!,” Nicole scolds, sending Stacy cycling through one outfit after another. I tell Nicole that the sundress looks great, and she shoots me a dirty look. I ask Stacy about her family, and which side gave her those huge blue eyes. I ask her about her Latina background and the roots of her ancestry. But we were talking about weed before Nicole even showed up, and Stacy, who is kind of brilliant, stays totally on point.

“I’m Stacy Miller. My married name is Stacy Martinez. I am Guatemalan by marriage. I am a daughter of misunderstood parents that should have smoked a joint. When I get clean, when I get off probation, I am going to roll a big fat one and get high.” Stacy, who spent nearly a quarter of her life behind bars, finally finds a spumoni ­colored skirt and leaves with the essentially naked Nicole, the poster child of cheap tricks.

Me and Stacy were booked for a Cuban breakfast the next morning. I need to find retirees who
smoke weed so I can sell a story to a magazine. Stacy does not show. The bail bondsman who introduced me to Stacy feared the woman would “fly,” contemporary lingo for skip out on bail and leave the bondsman with the burden of paying off the rest of the bond. I forgot about her and went back to work on my story about elderly people who smoke recreational marijuana in a state with the highest percentage of elderly and the among the nation’s most restrictive pot laws. I was also apartment hunting and, momentarily without wheels, taking the bus around the area.

About a week ago, I was on a bus when it stopped at a main transfer station. A woman approached the open doors to speak to the driver, and was apparently told this wasn’t the ride she needed. She walked away and passed under my window. It was Stacy, wearing tights under cutoffs in the midday Central Florida sun, looking dressed up to go down, a plastic smile on her face frozen firmly in place.


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