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  • When I graduated from university with my journalism degree and my self image modeled on Lois Lane, the newspaper that hired me put me into one of its suburban bureaus. It was in Lakeland, Florida, where I had gone to high school. I never really took to the place.

    When I was assigned there, I had to put my dreams of being a big-city news wrangler on hold while I worked my way up the ranks. In the Lakeland bureau of the Tampa Times I was one of three reporters. We each had to file at least two stories daily, which taught me to zero in on things that were interesting and to write quickly.

    I found Lakeland provincial and way too small for my aspirations. The town was laid out like a shuffleboard court and ringed with vast acres of citrus groves. In the winter it smelled like orange marmalade. Downtown was a dive bar called Zimmerman's where my high school friends and I used fake IDs to get inside, drink beer and flirt with college boys. The red, flocked wallpaper in Zimmerman's looked like something from a bordello with a pattern of coquettishly positioned, shirtless women seated at a vanity table. Most of their nipples had been peeled away by drunken patrons.

    My friend Robin came to visit from San Francisco. She and I and my journalist boyfriend walked around downtown Lakeland taking photos. When I look at this one, something happens. You know how sometimes a drop of water in your eye just so can give you a flash of crystal clear vision? This image is that drop of water. When I look at it, I feel all of who I used to be.
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