Monday, January 31, 2011

Our Fallen Officers

On Monday, January 24th, two St. Petersburg police officers were gunned down in      the line of duty.

Police choppers flying the Missing Man formation right over our apartment on Friday.  Once they got to the funeral site, two peeled off.  (the building above is the one you saw on Saturday's post during the rain.)

The Tampa Police department had to help with the instruction for the St. Pete funeral details because no one on the force knew how to do things, it had been that long since an officer fell in the line of duty.  

With the folding of the flag, which was presented to the wives, no red will be visible, which symbolizes the blood of battle.

One of the officers was in charge of Ace, a German Shepherd, part of the canine unit.  Ace will now be retired from active duty and placed in the service of the officer's family, his wife and three children. 

Upon the caskets being placed in the hearses, a final salute from the honor guard, and just before the release of doves, a final call from the station house, requesting the officers to "stand down...forever, job well done."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Special Saturday Edition

This past Tuesday, January 25th, was a fun one here in Florida.  The whole state was inundated by thunderstorms and tornado watches.  It arrived around 3:00 here and proceeded to rain buckets.  Good old-fashioned weather that is in short supply in these parts.  Believe it or not the sunny weather gets boring after awhile.  Finally, good stormy weather.  I loved it.

A picture of downtown St. Petersburg.

A video of the storm from my apartment.  Sorry about the screen.  That's the DMV straight ahead and the white building to the right contains many little companies.  Turn right there and you go to the local Publix grocery store.   

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter Day In St. Pete

                                                          Kite flying...

...building sand castles

wind surfing...

...with the ones you love

looking for inspiration...

...finding love

rollerblading family style...

...good reading



internet surfing...


Beautiful day on January 9th and a chance to take a walk downtown.  At the Vinoy Park people big and small, old and young and everything in between were out enjoying a day off and the neatest place in town to while the time, play a guitar, fly a kite, play tennis, kayak, walk fido, read a book, and hold hands with your lover.  Not displayed here is a guy high on drugs who was acting weirdly but decided not to film, and thus not do anything to set him off.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Free Food At Publix

Publix is a Florida-wide grocery market chain, much like Hy-Vee in Illinois. They are pretty savvy organization having bought out a lot of their competition, like Albertson's. They compete mostly with Sweetbay, but from my vantage point it's not much of a competition. It's like comparing Target and Walmart. Always there are bargains, mostly 1-for-1, which really equates to free food. Went over last night and these were just some of the items I saw. And notice its not just the slow moving items, or stuff no one wants. We're talking about veggies, ice cream, staples and even Dove chocolate.
It's tough not to like Publix.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Neil Allen Smith 1961-2010

A few weeks ago there was a hit-and-run fatality down here. Here is the original story from the St. Pete Times and further down an editiorial from a Robert Barsanti regarding the same death. Two very good and well written stories. Take the time and read them.

Neil Allen Smith died on September 18, 2010. He was biking back to his mobile home in Tampa from his dishwashing job at the Crab Shack. Somewhere along the highway, a white car swerved and clipped him. Neil crashed into lightpost, fell over, and never stood again. Three days later, he was dead.

Murder has its own unequal arithmetic. You could die for a fortune, for a cause, for an eightball jacket, or for a momentary distraction felt by the driver sharing your lane. The variables are incomprehensible in the inhuman algebra that finally solves for X.

So it must have been on that September night in Tampa. The driver felt something. A face flashed in the windscreen for a moment, and, from the corner of his eye, he saw the body fly. Insulated by its metal and protected by its speed, he asked himself, in an instant, if he should stop and leave the car. Then the instant passed, and he didn’t.

On Nantucket, where I drive today, the night is full of bicycles. Men are pedaling in the dark, plastic bags tied to their handlebars, windbreakers zipped tight against the chill of the fall. Maybe, like Neil, they ride into town to cover their shifts, work hard and well with their coworkers, and then pedal home to a rented room in an overcrowded house.

In the right light, Neil lived an enviable life. He owed money to no one. He had no one hanging onto him. He had no answering machine, no Facebook account, no Post-its on the door. He took off like Huck Finn; he lit out for the territories. At the end of the night, he looked on shelves of clean pots and pans and felt the glow of a job well done.

I am not Neil Smith. I am in a web of people, debts, and commitments, dangling from a wire perched high above the ground. My disappointments sting and my victories flee. I spend my weeks waiting for the paycheck, avoiding the 888 phone calls, and regretting last night’s $10 margarita. On a good day like today, boredom trumps excitement, the bill collectors mutter, and the wire stays steady and firm.


The father of one of my former students delivers newspapers. He had a career in banking that bounced him from three different companies before office doors just stopped opening for him. His fall from the wire began in haste. There were rumors of women, alcohol, horrendous loans. He is no working-class hero. He remains angry and upset at the unfairness of it all.

Once your career slips off the web, there isn’t much to put it back on track. A bad word, a black mark, and a few too many birthdays will slip your résumé down into the stack of thanks-but-no-thanks. You can pull yourself up, but odds are you can’t get back up on that wire.

And then there’s the speed of descent. How much did you put away, how much does your wife love you, how much money do your parents still have? What are you willing to put up with? Most of us aren’t all that lucky.

They can’t get back on the wire, so they make due in the mud. The past is a cliff and the future is a wall, but the present has a cold beer and the Patriots. They know Neil Smith, they know him well.


The driver that killed Neil still lives. I imagine he told his wife and his insurance agent that he hit a deer. Someone collected a check; someone else swapped out the bumper, the panels, and the rest of the car-body plastic; the rest of the world went on ticking.

The criminal needs only answer to his conscience. Cruelly, terribly, we can understand how a doctor, a lawyer, or a professor, held aloft on his financial and familial high wire, could force himself to forget those incidents, those instants. That biker was probably fine. I just nicked him. I was late; I had to get home.

As for the victim, the nation will not long miss a dishwasher, a Red Sox fan, a cigarette smoker. He did not leave a wife or children or a fortune; he had fallen from the high wire long before. His death left only coworkers and housemates who, in a few weeks, will turn to their own affairs. They will remember him in stories and gestures—and then they won’t.

If Neil were alive, I wouldn’t want to trade lives with him. I wouldn’t want to have spent the last decade of my life as a dishwasher in Tampa.

But I could have. The variables that put me where I am today could have instead given me a four-mile bike ride to work, a $7.50-an-hour wage, and a shared mobile home in Hollywood park.


But here I am. I drive home in my new Toyota, Jackson Browne on the stereo, air conditioning chilling the car. Today is a good day. Boredom trumps excitement.

Outside the car, dark figures on bicycles press on. From the protection of a steel frame and airtight glass, I peer at them, and I ponder.


In a 2008 study, Florida ranked the highest for bicyclist deaths in the nation with 125 fatalities that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Robert Barsanti gives a eulogy for a local man killed in a hit-and-run accident—a man who, in another life, could have been him.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Sunday Walk In the Vinoy Park

Discovered a neat new park just down from the Pier and still on the waterfront. What a cool place. Everyone is doing their own thing and there is plenty of actvities people are engaged in.

                                                    Martial arts training.

                                       Sand volleyaball for the younger set.

                                         Bocce ball for the older people.
                                    Exercising with the available equipment.
A nice day to fly a kite and bond with your best friend.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just Things

 This old guy seems to always be standing at this creek looking over the wire fence.  What is he doing and why here?  Is he thinking of the past, or not thinking of anything in particular.  Oh, and he reeks (in a good way) of cigar smoke.  It's like my grandfather's smell. 

 These pictures are of downtown St. Petersburg at 10:30 am.  Where is the traffic.  I've been to the Loop in Chicago and been to the heart of St. Louis.  They are teeming with buses, taxis, people marching on the sidewalks, the homeless, and beggars.  They are noisy and smelly.  Here, there is none of that except for the homeless.  It is a very non-threatening big city downtown.

You go under I-275 not far from the downtown area.  275 is Florida's main north-south interstate artery.

Went to this arts fair the other weekend.  Neat stuff, very artsy-craftsy but very expensive, too.

Saw this bike tethered to a street sign.  It is an odd specimen.  Surely someone smarter than me knows what this is.  It appears on the surface to be a motorized bicycle.  It has a gas tank, small engine and exhaust muffler.  Controls are on the handlebars, and is hooked up to the chain.  My question is: is this an aftermarket unit that affixes to a bicycle, or is it manufactured like this?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Evening Walk, Sunset, Wedding and Pretty People

These sunset pictures get pretty tiresome for you, I'll bet, but they never get old for me. Each one changes every minute and bring new hues and colors and are breath-taking. Tonight was a walk on Sunset Beach and we saw a wedding picture taking turned bad, two preening people taking pictures of each other, and experimenting with night pics. (November 20)

These two pretty people just couldn't get enough of each other.  They spent a long time taking pictures of each other.  He would flex and she'd snap, and then she would pose and he's return the favor.

They missed the sunset picture they'd hoped for and overheard him say to her as we passed by, "I'm married to you and that's all that matters."  Aw, sweet.  Bet missing the picture won't be his first mistake in this union. 

Now this is postcard-worthy.  I am a savant.

It was a full moon and couldn't resist trying to get artsy pics with the moon and grass after the sun had set.