A feature essay from the 100th issue.
From across the broad and whitecapped Indian River, the Kennedy Space Center looks like two tiny Lego sets in the distant vegetation. The palms here are windswept, the oaks are scrubby. Pelicans bob in the shallows. Eventually, one of the structures comes clear as a small and skeletal rocket launch tower, the only one visible, though we know more are hidden not too far away. The other is a square block, the Vehicle Assembly Building, where giant NASA rockets are constructed in their upright positions.
In Myths of the Near Future Rob Stephenson considers the “Space Coast” of Florida after the closing of the Kennedy Space Center’s shuttle program. Interested both in documenting the very real economic struggles communities surrounding the Space Center have faced in the aftermath of the program’s end, and in exploring the “ambiguous realm between dream and reality, between past and future, nature and technology,” Stephenson’s photographs provide a portrait of a place suspended: “nostalgi[c] for the future as the promise of the Space Age slowly fades away.”
Editor's Note: We are saddened to learn of the death of rock & roll legend Tom Petty on Monday, October 2, 2017. He was sixty-six. Revisit Holly George-Warren’s interview with Petty from our Fourth Annual Southern Music issue in 2000.Since his 1976 debut, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, there have been ten mega-selling Heartbreakers albums, two triple-platinum solo releases, a six-CD box-set retrospective, and the soundtrack to an Ed Burns film. In the 1980s Petty played in the Traveling Wilburys, a young’un among legends Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison, and the Heartbreakers themselves have collaborated with Dylan and Johnny Cash, among other luminaries. Through it all, Petty’s roots have continually poked through his earthy pop-rock, most obviously on 1985’s Southern Accents, with its elegiac title track and anthemic “Rebels.”
In The Pines Chuck Hemard photographs remnants of the longleaf pinelands to reflect on the significance of loss and beauty in our past, present, and future. Hemard offers a glimpse of what was once “an extraordinary biodiverse ecosystem, rivaling that of tropical rain forests” while also exploring the tension between human settlement, environmental progress, and the beauty of nature.
We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace.
My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large. He tried being a hippie once, he said, but couldn’t abide the non-violence (too many people needed to get their asses kicked). At the first job he ever had, on a ranch, he got a business card with his official title: COWBOY. He kept that card. He wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He had the best hunting dogs in Levy County. For a while he ran a sawmill. For a while he was a watermelon farmer, then a beekeeper, then he raised buffalo on the family farm. That’s just a small sampling. His name was John. He went by Chuck.
I never thought I’d experience the likes of Rancho Grande in Monticello, a Deep South hamlet named for Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia manor (gleefully pronounced with a soft “c”) and about as cosmopolitan as a Baptist men’s prayer circle.
Photographs from the Summer 2017 issue by Johanne Rahaman with an introduction by Sarah Stacke.
Built in the early 1940s, Blodgett Homes is a 654-unit public housing complex. According to Cherlise, who was born in 1982, the community there used to operate like a family-minded village. But a downward spiral began in 1960 when Interstate 95 was built—with the government’s full understanding of the disruption it would cause—on the complex’s doorstep, provoking many families to move.
Following John McPhee to Florida.
McPhee’s book about oranges in the age of concentrate production is not a screed against industrial food or agribusiness priorities. There’s no scolding chapter explaining which oranges to buy at the grocery store. For that matter, there’s no hand-holding “what will happen in this book” chapter or really even much in the way of plot or main character, aside from the regular presence of our reporter guide. In that way, it doesn’t much resemble the books published about food today.
The artist works in a style he calls “romantic realism.” In his paintings people are twenty pounds thinner and twenty years younger, often surrounded by heavenly light, riding exotic animals, or framed by mountain ranges. This willingness to flout the laws of space and time and his largely unflappable good nature have allowed Cowan to form relationships with the kind of people who will pay for a portrait of themselves with a lion, at the mast of a ship, or gliding through a Venetian dreamscape.