02.05.20 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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I’ve never had a particular affinity for cars. I’ve always been grateful to own the ones I have, of course – from my first, a 1991 Ford Thunderbird to my current, a 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt – I’ve just never been one to covet the latest make or model to move about town.

That likely began with my Thunderbird, graciously gifted to me by my parents in the early 2000s. It was far from new, though its James Bond-esque keycode entry was clearly ahead of its time, but I was thrilled to have it. All it needed were regular oil changes and a cassette tape adapter for my portable CD player.

With the help of modern technology, state-of-the-art skip protection and a few trips to the mall to forage FYE, my ride was pretty cutting edge. It blasted the best music money could buy, from Destiny’s Child to *NSYNC, at least until the engine bid me “Bye, Bye, Bye” after years of ignoring its check oil light.

My stepdad didn’t help me buy my second car, a difficult but necessary lesson in the importance of automobile management. He did help me inspect it, however, and insisted that I steer clear of the deeply discounted 2004 Pontiac Grand Am an acquaintance was selling.

Sure, it had a busted radiator, but what did he know after decades of driving and working on cars? I’d already run one car into the ground, so I obviously understood what not to do. I bought it, a difficult but necessary lesson in the importance of purchasing an automobile.

Shortly after, my then-boyfriend cosigned for my third car, a 1999 Mitsubishi Galant direct from the first dealership willing to work with a creditless kid in college. The loan outlasted our love, a difficult but necessary lesson in the importance of relationship boundaries, but after four years I had successfully paid off my first car.

That’s when I realized how much I loathed car payments. I vowed to drive it for years, even using it for my trek down the country when I moved from Ohio to Florida. I was more diligent than ever when it came to upkeep, but the road to a payment-free life is paved with good intentions.

Even with its pristine radiator and years of timely oil changes, there was no salvaging that car after a distracted driver ran a red light and plowed into it. Thankfully everyone involved was fine, but once the dust and disputes had settled it was back to the bank.

Enter my 2009 Cobalt, which I successfully paid off quite a few years ago. That’s pretty evident between normal wear and tear and some untimely denting, but I’ve rededicated myself to a car payment-free existence.

In the last two years alone and under the expert guidance of YouTube, I’ve replaced air filters, door handles, headlights and a number of other parts myself. In other firsts, I’ve scheduled comprehensive tune-ups and purchased four all-new tires in lieu of “gently” used replacements.

In my efforts to better prepare for the unexpected, and because I was fortunate enough to be a in a position to do so, I even opted to add roadside hazard protection. Since then, including one inopportune lunch hour during our last press cycle, I’ve happened upon two flats.

The insurance that I begrudgingly added to my tire tab covered the cost of repairs each time, more than paying for itself rather quickly. Like the construction-heavy streets of downtown St. Pete to my tires, when it came to planning ahead, I’d totally nailed it. Affinity for them or not, I have a newfound respect for showing cars some much-needed tender loving care.

A number of folks throughout Florida are looking for a little TLC themselves, which is the focus of our third annual Most Eligible Singles issue. We present 10 sweethearts from throughout Tampa Bay and Central Florida who are looking for love.

There’s plenty of it to go around in Tampa Bay news; love is love as we check in with our multiple Pride celebrations. As Tampa Pride announces the inaugural Pride at Night concert, welcoming “It’s Raining Men” diva Martha Wash, St Pete Pride details the impressive economic impact it had on Pinellas County last year.

Orlando’s LGBT+ Center welcomes LGBTQ civil rights icon Cleve Jones in Central Florida news. The city also mourns community champion Terry DeCarlo.

In Arts & Entertainment, queer actress Mary Kate Morrissey – Janis in the first national tour of the musical adaptation of “Mean Girls” – talks being fetch in Florida ahead of the show’s Tampa and Orlando premieres. Orlando Ballet dancers Matthew Cunningham and Adam Boreland of “Cinderella” also detail their special sisterhood.

Watermark strives to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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