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Here & Now: Rating Our Cool

Despite the obvious mistake of ranking.com, Southwest Florida is the place to be.


Dear ranker.com,

Please be advised that you have officially crossed the line. The first thing I did when I got your email, “America’s 63 Coolest Cities,” was scroll down to see where our Gulfshore falls in the top 10.

No. 1, San Francisco, good. New York City, of course. Boston, Chicago, New Orleans … fine. Scrolling down. Scrolling down. No Naples? No Marco? No Sanibel?

By the time I reach No. 25, Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh—really?), I’m getting annoyed. But when I hit No. 59, Detroit, I’m convinced that the entire world is now smoking the (medicinal) loco weed. So if they are smoking that stuff, why aren’t Matlacha—with its popsicle-colored artists’ shacks and Fishingest Bridge in the World—and Goodland—presided over by the only Buzzard Lope Queen on the planet—No. 1 and No. 2 on the list? We’re talking cool on steroids, here.

Oh, and if Cleveland (No. 51) is such a cool city, why are 97.4 percent (approximately) of its citizens sneaking down to spend at least half the year here? I’ll tell you why. This place rocks.

It’s not just the sunsets and the ban-yan trees and the chefs. It’s not only the sidewalk painters at their easels or the alligators sunning themselves on the seventh fairway. It’s also the beyond- cool people who march to their own, often peculiar, drummers.

Take Tricia Borges, a drop-dead gorgeous blonde, sitting for a formal portrait in her little black dress and six-inch heels. Her right hand rests on her bare left knee, which is crossed ever so seductively over the right. Her left arm is draped languorously across the silver backdrop. Visualize Michelle Pfeiffer in her red dress doing that steamy torch song in The Fabulous Baker Boys, with only a subtle difference. While Michelle’s backdrop is a grand piano, Tricia’s is a gleaming platinum toilet.

It makes perfect sense, really. Tricia is co-owner of First Class Plumbing, which she founded with her husband, Eric, back in 1988. Their slogan is “We aim to wow,” and in the immortal words of Jerry Garcia, oh babe, it ain’t no lie. When she’s not taking emergency calls for broken pipes or conjuring up clever marketing campaigns, she’s modeling for ads and commercials, from luxury yachts to plastic surgeons to jewelry stores. Her company also chooses several families each year and donates to them expertise and materials to resolve health-threatening plumbing crises.

See what I mean? On the Gulfshore, you just never know whom you’re going to meet, what they’ll be sitting on, or what they might do next. Take James Steven Farnsworth, the classical violinist serenading the eggplants and artichokes at Wynn’s Market. At least that’s where I found him. Sometimes he hangs out in pastas, olives or wine.

The Mick Jagger lookalike, by the way, is from San Francisco, but guess what? He chooses to spend his winter season here. The clever Wynn family ramped up its store’s ambience another notch by booking him during various holiday periods. Besides delighting unsuspecting shoppers and performing at glamorous affairs, James

Steven comforts grieving families with classical, sacred and contemporary violin pieces through his other business, Graceful Passages.

A cool city comes about when people are inspired to do what satisfies their souls instead of what looks good on a résumé. Like Rob Modys, who escaped a decade ago from the vicinity of Miami, No. 15 on the list. He was headed to the peak of his career in the banking industry when massive merger-driven layoffs inspired him to pursue the life he really wanted. At age 48, the fifth-generation angler ditched the suit, put a down payment on a fishing boat, sailed it to Estero, and became Captain Rob, a full-time spin and fly fishing guide, under the name SoulMate Charters. He just was chosen for the hotshot Mako Pro Fishing Team, sponsored by Mako Boats, Tracker Marine and Bass Pro Shops. You can catch his fervor and his wisdom on ESPN’s Reel Talk Radio on Saturday mornings on 99.3 FM. The handsome captain also has proven to represent us well on the covers of regional and national fishing magazines.

Rob didn’t wait for retirement to think about getting happy. He now lives his passion, like so many others, in one of the coolest cities in America.

Take that, ranking.com.








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