Alligators in B-Flat: The Gator Symphony

“Alligators in B-Flat” is the title story of my latest book and also the name of the first video Maurice Rivenbark and I did together. This work was inspired by a 2007 National Public Radio Story about “B-Flat — nature’s favorite musical note.’’ I convinced Bill Mickelsen, the principal tuba player from Tampa Bay’s Florida Orchestra, to drive with me in Gatorland in Orlando to try an experiment. You’ll have to read the story and watch this famous video to find out what happened!

Floridians Should Read These Books!

  • Travels, William Bartram, 1791
  • Palmetto-Leaves, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1873
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
  • The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, 1938
  • The WPA Guide to Florida, edited (among others) by Stetson Kennedy 1939
  • The Lion’s Paw, Robb White, 1946
  • Everglades: River of Grass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, 1947
  • The Deep Blue Goodbye, John D. MacDonald, 1964
  • Oranges, John McPhee, 1966
  • Ninety-Two in the Shade, Thomas McGuane, 1972
  • Condominium, John D. MacDonald, 1977
  • A Land Remembered, Patrick D. Smith, 1984
  • Tourist Season, Carl Hiaasen, 1987
  • The Man Who Invented Florida, Randy Wayne White, 1993
  • Florida: a Short History, Michael Gannon, 1993
  • A Naturalist in Florida, Archie Carr, 1994
  • Anna in the Tropics, Nilo Cruz, 2002
  • Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams, Gary Mormino, 2005
  • Shadow Country, Peter Matthiessen, 2008

The last Martin of Gilchrist County

I’ve been writing Florida stories for a half century now. Everybody wants to know who was the most interesting character. It’s hard to say, really. But Nathan Martin would be near the top. My pal Melissa Lyttle shot the photographs and made the video.

By Jeff Klinkenberg, Times Staff Writer, Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A traveling day. Nathan Martin is going to town. He is going to have a meal with the woman he loves. He usually hates wearing a shirt, but Vida will tsk tsk if he shows up with chest bare. He also needs to decide what to do about footwear. He hates shoes even more than he hates wearing a shirt.

For as long as anyone can remember he has tramped through his North Florida woods in naked feet less human than possum. They’re yellow, padded and bristling with nails more like talons. Those feet fear no stone, stick or snake. But maybe, just a little bit, they fear Vida.

Buy the Book!

My new book, Alligators in B-Flat: Improbable Tales from the Files of Real Florida is now available in Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle

Readers will join Klinkenberg as he roams through the twisted roots of past and present, describing a beautifully swampy place that is becoming increasingly endangered. The traditional ways of the scallop shuckers, moss weavers, and cane grinders in his stories are now threatened by corporate greed, environmental degradation, and mass construction. From fishing camps and country stores to museums and libraries, Klinkenberg is forever unearthing the magic that makes Florida a place worth celebrating. Join him in contemplating Florida, both old and new, a place that is as quirky and enigmatic as it is burgeoning.

From brassy writers to fussy publishers, Florida journalism had it all

My final column with the Tampa Bay Times. October 2014

The Orange Shop is a sweet spot amid sprawl in North Florida.

By Jeff Klinkenberg, Times Staff Writer 
Friday, January 28, 2011 

CITRA — They arrive in the rain to buy oranges, bags of them, and maybe a quart of juice, fresh-squeezed. At North Florida’s last honest-to-God citrus stand, they drive up in cars bearing license plates from Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other Yankee states where orange-laden trees are only a winter’s dream.

At the Orange Shop, established 75 years ago in Marion County, time has tried to stand still. Once there were dozens of similar mom-and-pop citrus shops and packinghouses standing like dominoes up and down the county’s major road, U.S. 301. There were citrus trees by the thousands and grizzled men on wooden ladders plucking oranges. There were freezes, too, but when the ice thawed the farmers always replanted.

Grits and More at Bradley’s Country Store

Bradley’s Country Store, located on a lonely two-lane canopy road north of Tallahassee, is among Florida’s magical places. Frank Bradley’s grandmother, Mary Bradley, began selling sausage out her back window in 1910. By 1927 her son L.E. Bradley had added the gristmill and store. Bradley’s Country Store is still going strong. As I write this, Frank is still grinding corn, slaughtering hogs and selling sausage on the premises. His daughter, known as Miss Jan to everyone in the community, runs the old-fashioned store. Don’t visit without an appetite and an ice-chest to haul your edibles home. My longtime friend Maurice Rivenbark shot and produced this video when we were both working for the Tampa Bay Times. The story is in “Alligators in B-Flat.’’

Red-faced with the Coppertone Girl

By JEFF KLINKENBERG Published September 5, 2004

OCALA — When I was a boy, growing up in Miami, we often drove across MacArthur Causeway on our way to the beach. Near Biscayne Boulevard, on the side of a downtown building, was the biggest billboard I had ever seen. On the billboard, a dog was pulling down the bathing trunks of a little girl in pigtails.

Eisenhower was still president, and everybody was repressed except maybe those finger-snapping, reefer-smoking, free-sex beatniks in Greenwich Village, so it was shocking to be able to look out the window of our Nash Rambler and see an innocent little girl’s butt cheeks being exposed by a rude dog for all the world to see.

“Don’t be a pale face,” said the letters on the sign. “Use Coppertone.”

Mack’s Fishing Camp in the Everglades

My dad loved fishing for bream and for bass in the Everglades. We often visited Mack’s Fish Camp when I was growing up. Years later, as an adult, I’d stop by to chat with the colorful Grandma Nelle Jones about what was biting. Imagine my surprise when I found out her twin grandsons — tough Gladesmen — were still running the Old-Florida show. My story about this Everglades institution is in the book “Alligators in B-Flat.’’ I consider this video one of Maurice Rivenbark’s best.

Boston Bill

For years, when I rode with the bike club in St. Petersburg, I pedaled next to Bill Hansbury, a friendly but profane senior athlete, who always seemed interesting yet intimidating. Bill’s tragedy, which I document in “Alligators in B-Flat,’’ turned out not to be a tragedy. It turned out to be blessing, not only to Bill but to a hurting little boy. I still can’t watch Maurice Rivenbark’s video with dry eyes.