Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tidbit Tuesday

1.  This is Tim Minchin.  I know nothing about him and I understand he is Australian.  He looks a little creepy but I guess musicians need some kind of freak-on to be remembered by if the songs bomb.  It is a strange song.  Politically incorrect (not always a bad thing) and religiously untethered, BUT, it has a great message of family, and safety, and love.  

Its a song called White Wine In the Sun. You may be tempted to end your Minchin experience at a number of places but hear it through and you will be surprised at how well you like it in the end.  

2.  My physical therapy continues with some amazing results.  My range of motion has increased and level of pain has decreased in the past 2 weeks.  I am still experiencing pain at the outer ranges but I can now comb the right side of my head and putting on a belt is now much easier.  

Eddie, my humorless therapist, is pleased with me and we are starting some strength exercises this morning.  The above picture is a clandestine picture of the place and the receptionist who is a bit less dour than the rest of the employees.  

The room is complete with the rack, limb stretchers, caning sticks, thumbscrews and pillory.  The only time I see these therapists grin is when one of us gives out a muffled sound of pain.  

3.  Here is wishing everyone a safe New Year's.  I suspect, if the past is any indication, that I shall be in bed long before the opening bell.   

Monday, December 30, 2013

Good Morning Vinoy

Up early Saturday morning (4:00 AM, December 28th) and I knew I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep.  A few days ago I missed the prettiest red morning as the sun was rising and figured I'd go down to the Vinoy and see if I could get it today.  Sadly, it was too cloudy but took some shots anyway.  Some are familiar sights but how can one tire of such scenes?  Here, then, are a few pictures of a gray chilly morning in Saint Pete at the Vinoy Resort and Park.

My first shot of the morning and I left my flash on from previous shooting during Christmas.  At first I thought it was a bad one, but upon second viewing, it might be OK.

This sculpture lies in the heart of the southern part of the Vinoy Park.  It is simple, elegant and is called the "Truth" sculpture.  It was created in 1980 by Rolf Brommelsick.  

It was about 5:15 - 5:30 AM.  The boats along the marina in the foreground and the skyline of the city in the background.

If one wanted to stay in the fanciest hotel in town they would pick the Vinoy.  A room that has no view starts at $199 and one with a view of the Bay starts at $240.  And that was just an ordinary weekend rate in January.  I checked for Memorial Day weekend and, yes, the rates are higher.  Someday it would be nice to do just to say you did.  Anyway, that is the supposedly haunted Vinoy Tower all lighted up in red.  

Picture of downtown and the fog-enshrouded tops of the buildings.

No outing to the Park is complete without at least one shot of the now-deserted and lonely Pier.  

This is a park area off of the Pier.  Seldom used, and little activity in this one.  

The Truth sculpture again this time with apartment towers in the back, some decked out with Christmas lights. 

The wind was whipping pretty good this morning and the water was choppy.  

Shot of Beach Drive, and Straub park is on the extreme right and on down is the Museum of Fine Arts and then shops and restaurants the closer you get to Central Avenue.  Clear on down is the Dali Art Museum, where the guards wear tuxes.  

The boats all parked in the Marina, with one owner's festive lighting.  

The beautiful gold Christmas tree in the ballroom of the Vinoy Resort.

One condo owner at the Vinoy decorated their iron wrought fence.

The city is now coming to life.  This area is a favorite for joggers.  But still able to get out in the middle of the street to snap pictures. 


These cameras cannot overcome stupid or sloppy photographers.  I thought I'd try a fancy timer shot: put on a 10-second timed delay and then jump in front to be included in the shot.  What I miserably failed to understand was, first, who wants to see me, and second, that the camera was focused on the skyline and therefore, any object would be unfocused in the foreground.  

I learned, therefore, to be more thoughtful of you viewers; to stay behind the camera and in this case, anyway, a blurred me is far better than a me focused.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Flashback Friday

This is a re-post from last year's Flashback Friday.    

This is a Christmas photo showing us Blythe boys in our natural habitat.   I just want to point a few things out.  That is my grandfather Dick (Leonard Westlake) sitting on the couch.  He was the cool one who was full of fun and mischief.  He would egg us guys on then claim innocence when Marj would have to intervene.  He worked for Sinclair Oil Company and after leaving Ponema was transferred to Quincy.  This picture was taken a couple of years after he lost his wife and our grandmother, Mona.  He drove Mercedes because he admired their engineering, and would eventually come up and live with us until he went to the Aledo Nursing Home.  He would live another 17 years after this picture was taken.  

Next, look at that tree.  You don't find those in your corner tree lot.  I'm not sure where they found this one, but it is huge, wide and took up all of that corner of the living room.  This tree was also flocked, spray painted in the garage and left to hang from the rafter for a few days.  Marj was an artist at heart and decorated her trees with simplicity and color coordination.  None of that all color stuff for her.  A white flocked tree could take on more beauty with only blue balls, or green.  Same with the lights.  And no artificial trees, either.  The house had to smell of pine.  She didn't flock her trees every year, and I suppose the decorating trends made it either too much work or out of vogue.  But it was nice while it lasted, and it was different, and it was impressive enough that I still admire the white trees I see in at target every year.  I'm going to get me a white flocked tree one of these years, but it'll be artificial and already lit.

Behind the tree was a closet that was a kind of mini-library.  A full set of an encyclopedia as well as the recurring yearbooks that showed up annually were in there.  When that Yearbook arrived it was a special day.  I'd pour through it from cover to cover. Placed on shelves were also novels and other reading material.  It was also storage, for our clandestine fireworks, too.  Pop bottle rockets mostly, but some Black Cat's too.      

We boys had a couple of mandatory traditional things to do during the holidays, too.  The Levine's usually had a small egg nog and finger food get-together with the neighbors, and we'd trundle, and sometimes bundle on over there.  It was just a couple houses down, so no problem.  For awhile there, we were forced to be in a church play - one year bro Phil kept his eyes closed throughout so no one would see him.  Dork.  Then on  Christmas Eve night, when the parents were asleep, we boys would wake each other up and head out to where the tree and presents were.  We would sit or lay next to the presents, the room lit by the street light.  We would just chat, mostly about what we thought were in the presents.  Some were obvious, others harder to figure out, and sometimes, just sometimes, we would think that maybe others were placed somewhere else, hidden from frantic fingers and too eager imaginations.  Marj was a trickster sometimes, and very often this was the case.  A momentary hush and emotional electricity when all the presents had finally been opened, wondering if there wasn't a second wave waiting to be unearthed from the bowels of a closet somewhere.   

We would also have "Unofficial Counts".  On the days preceding Christmas and especially on Christmas Day itself several counting of packages was required.  Lists of total presents for each family member would be made.  It was important to be in the lead, or at least close to the lead in number of presents.  Why, I don't know.  Later on, the Unofficial Counts would be made with caveats that more would be coming when other family members would arrive.  My own solo tradition once I left the house was to return on Christmas early in the day, have a big breakfast with the folks, and lounge in anticipation of the other brothers and their families arriving.              

Another tradition took root when I started working in Galesburg.  Herb and the brothers would come over about a week before Christmas to shop.  This was the hurried final crusade to get everything in order.  It was always a bit desperate, ideas exchanged,  approved or not, and then the act of purchasing.  After this dance had been performed, always with great mirth, we would head over to the Pizza Hut on Henderson St. to have some beer, pizza and congratulate ourselves on our brilliance.

We also had a somewhat unusual protocol that evolved at some point.   Rather than the free-for-all opening and ripping of paper and presents, we created the spotlight unwrapping method.  Gifts were delivered to the recipients and then one by one we would go clockwise around the room and watch as each person opened their gifts.  This was deemed appropriate so everyone could see what people got and the giftor/giftee could properly exchange thanks and any other comments worth noting.  It also prolonged the ceremony to a point where several breaks in the festivities were given for stretching ones legs, bathroom breaks,  going outside for fresh air or to confer with others on whatever was important at the moment.  

Back to the picture, behind Phil is the fireplace that the folks would start using more regularly when they converted it to gas.  To this day I long for a fireplace.  Had one in the old Victorian in G-Burg and by God, hope to have another one again.  Nothing like it on a cold snowy night.  That and an electric blanket.

But laying next to that darkened tree in the middle of the night, after Santa had arrived, surrounded by the bliss that is presents and by the smells of great food having been prepared,  there was a kind of magic, a wonderment of childhood.   We three...quietly walking down the hall in a darkened home,  talking quietly about tomorrow's possibilities, silently gazing on this bounty, and this tradition would continue until we were no longer living in the house.  I remember thinking as I crawled back into bed to await the morning, this was the greatest of days and praying it would be OK one more year, that everyone would be safe from harm,  that we, and this, would last forever.   

Christmas At the Blythe's

Thursday, December 26, 2013

There But By the Grace...

Having just returned from my pseudo-tradition of hopping on my motorcycle and heading uptown on Christmas morning,  I was struck by my sheer dumb luck.  I worry about where my forever home will be, my shrinking pension, my bum shoulder, and well, what's going to become of me when I grow up.  

These 600-pound gorillas shrank to insignificance when I noticed the night denizens of Saint Petersburg.  Every town has them of any size.  It is an army of people who live on the streets, in Bum Paradise (Williams Park), Gulf-side benches, and wherever the homeless and disengaged spend their time.  These people are not to be confused with the panhandlers who make more than I do who were forced out around here, and all moved over to Tampa.  

These are ladies and men whose life circumstances have created a demographic profile of folks on the lowest rung of the class ladder of America.  No addresses, no Internet, no documents, no social or legal contract with any entity, other than with themselves.  


While cruising around the traffic-less streets in the heart of town at 5:30 AM I saw a fellow rummaging around one of the trash receptacles.  He shuffled over to it like he had a bad leg.  No need to hurry, of course, he had all day to search.  There were no lines at the trash bin and with it being a holiday, no one would come by to pick it up.  

I saw another guy walking across the street slowly, no place to go really, I guess.  He had in his hands two bags which probably contained all of his worldly possessions.  He paused briefly before stepping on the sidewalk as if to ponder - right or left, as if that would make all the difference.

I also saw a woman pulling a wagon with two young children in it.  Mind you, it was 5:30 AM, in the chilly morning.  At first I thought maybe she was heading to some one's place for an early Christmas get-together.  I wanted to get her picture pulling the kids so I turned around and had to go down a couple blocks to get back to where I thought she would be.  But she wasn't.  I felt relieved that she had perhaps made it to where she was going and the kids were safe in a nice warm downtown apartment.  But when I started up again she was heading back from where she was heading before, and I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that she was simply on the move.  No where to go, no place to park, she and the kids just endlessly riding the empty sidewalks of downtown.  No where to go but "around".  

I didn't take any pictures for a couple reasons, the first is it simply seemed terribly rude and invasive.  Mental health is an issue with many homeless and they are people, not a tourist attraction.  I don't need to be yelled at if spotted, and I don't need to steal a moment of street desperation.  It just doesn't seem right.  I have instructed my family that there will be no pictures of me when I am dying. There will be no photographic evidence of the ravages of disease.  I imagine taking pictures of these people is somewhat similar. 

This isn't a political rant.  I know about the disparity between the have's and have-nots.  There has always been disparity.  There have always been the homeless.  And there are a thousands of reasons why.  Education, chance, lack of opportunity, squandering resources, addiction, motivation, fright, illness and luck all play a role.  And various derivations, thereof.  But when I examine my life, and see the relative goodness of it, played against a backdrop of normal worry and concern, I feel damn lucky.  Lucky to have had all the chances, lucky to have had all the resources, lucky to have had the familial support, lucky to have had the career, and lucky to have had the luck.     

I then hopped back on the bike and headed home.  Home.  It may be rented, and it may be in God-forsaken Florida, and it may be dubbed Shawshank, and it may be not what I consider my final residence, but it is home, nonetheless.  And while I get inside from the early morning chill, and head to the coffee pot for a cup and smell the smells of Christmas food cooking,  I think of that guy rummaging through the trash.  The wet empty remains of beer cups, the wrappers with old cold cheese and mustard,  the things that are stuck inside trash bins that one wouldn't want to linger too long thinking about.  And I think of those kids.  Riding in a wagon on Christmas morning when everyone else is in bed dreaming of fun things ahead, going no where, just "around".      


Wednesday, December 25, 2013




Christmas Trees - 2013 Edition

 The Bartons

Drew, Kenzie and Norah Blythe

The McCutcheon's


John and Jen

The Stage's

Patti, Amy and Bailey

Mark & Holly
I had some technical problems with this year's picture they sent so I put on the 2012 version, instead.  Too bad, because this year's looked really nice in the dark.

I just can't get into it so 2 small trees will have to do.  Oh, and that little one on the left:  it has snow flocked on it…my favorite.

The Godsil's Tree and Special Guest Elf,  Dorie

The perfect winter picture.  The Barton's home.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Largo Lights - Part 3

Final post of the great Christmas light display at the Largo Botanical Gardens.   This is about the only thing I have experienced that almost…almost gets me in the spirit of the Holidays.  Gee, Christmas sucks in Florida.  I see in the stores seasonal stuff that normally would be kind of comforting amidst the snow up north.  I saw a tea that was a winter type thing and the picture on it was a sleigh rolling along in the snow.  Down here it would be rather irrelevant if you sipped in the normally 85 degree summer or the 75 winter temperatures.  Either way its real tough to get the warm cozy wintry feeling down here.   My neighbor planted petunias yesterday and I was so hot I almost turned on the air.  Next year…next year…!   

This concludes our stroll through the phenomenal Largo Botanical Gardens.  So very pleased you could join me.  Christmas nears, so to all my loyal readers - enjoy the Season.