Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 - 2016

As promised Existing In BFE will be taking a few days off for the Holidays.  The entire staff wishes all the readers contentment, prosperity, patience, health and wisdom for the New Year.  We are going to need them.  

Year In Review


2015 was a year where I put my money where my mouth was.  I bought a cabin in Emerald City where I can escape the rigors and strain of Florida.  But it came at a cost:  I am now, for the first time since my early MDH years going paycheck-to-paycheck.  What this means is any event requiring expenditures results in a loss of funds, and not replaced.  Balancing the intake and outtake has created a bit of mental strain and if outflows exceeds intake, then the cabin will have to be rented or sold. But I can say without equivocation that I love my trips up and the cabin is perfect.  It houses Miss Frump, my motorcycle and the truck.  I am within walking distance of Mark and Holly, both whom I adore.   I wonder why they are looking at houses?   Hmmm.

My Cabin In The Woods
(Not really)

2015 was the year I sold my Henderson rental house.  When it was rented out obviously the place allowed for increased monthly funds, but when it was empty dealt a pretty good blow to the accounting books.  All in all, I took a pretty good loss on the place and happy the place is gone.  The ongoing water problem in the basement created far more sleepless nights than the place was worth.  We move on. 

Where my cabin is, Emerald City
(Not really)

2015 was the year we had nose surgery to take care of some polyps.  If I'd known the total out-of-pocket costs I would have removed them myself.  The total cost of the surgery was $93,000 and my cost, well, you can probably figure it out.  Certainly not worth the cost.  A few shots of whiskey, a box cutter and magnifying glass would have saved me a whole bunch of money.

Miss Frump and I made it to a couple car shows and she showed well, having earned two trophies.  I took several cycle rides with neighbor Tim and a few solo trips and believe that if Ponce de Leon had had a motorcycle, he would have definitively and contentedly found the fountain of youth.

So 2015 was kind of typical:  unequal measure of good and bad.  In this case more good than otherwise.  My ability to touch base with Northlandia has enhanced my world. But everything comes with a price. That is life, I guess.  

My Mets went to the World Series which made September, October and parts of November thrillingly fun.  It was not really expected either which made the whole thing more like a dream. 

But the center of my universe remains Norah.  She is growing up in the most delightful ways.  My friends continue to make me marvel at how lucky I am.  My kids continue to carve a piece of the world for themselves and make me proud.  All in all a damn great year.


The best of both worlds.  I'm gonna try and ride this horse till I fall off or the horse falters, frothing and exhausted.  The New Year holds some mystery.  

The entire family clan down here have leases till August her at Bedlam By The Bay.  We could all move once again, I could simply go North, the kids could move elsewhere or we could all land in the same spot again.  Who knows. Where will I be after August?

I didn't paint much this year - a failing that aggravates me to no end.  This must be rectified.   I am presently in the employ of my daughter who has hired me to watch her kid(s) until I travel to Northlandia again.  I hope to get up to Tybee once again, perhaps in February, and we still have a tentative bike trip in August.  To paint more, to be a better friend, to embrace the joys of wherever I am will be the cornerstone of this year.  What will happen?  The unexpected always rears its sometimes unwanted head and the only constant is change.  I'm a lucky guy.  So come on 2016 - give me your best shot.  

We will return on the 4th of January.  Happy New Year Everyone. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas




                     NEW YEAR

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Santa Comes To Seaton

I have written in the past how the Seaton Presbyterian church has played an important role in the Blythe family.  Not for its precepts or devotion to faith sadly, but in the stages of growth.  This was where we boys were acolytes, participated in Youth programs, I married in this place and our father's funeral was here.  

And so it has been a long time but we also were part of Christmas programs and plays here when we were wee tots.  This was back in the days when the place would be packed with locals and they would have their children sing Christmas songs or enact nativity plays. Brother Philip was in one when he was a kid and kept his eyes closed throughout so no one would see him.  It was after one such program that I received one of my greatest gifts from Santa, a stuffed bear.  

It was, then, with great anticipation that Mark and Holly said there was going to be a Christmas program at the church while I was back in Northlandia.  I marked it on my calendar.  

Turns out it was not a church program after all.  It was the Seaton Community Club using the church for their purposes.  The pastor played out the nativity scene all by her lonesome, a single act evidently devoid of any decoration or music.  Sadly, times are tough for the church as the crowds are no longer there and the number of kids who attend and could participate are lacking.  So what we ended up with was a rabble of sorts.  A twisting, heaving clump of kids and parents darting in and out without much purpose other than to sing this one twice, it seems.

Off in the distance I heard an emergency vehicle. Soon, with eager anticipation and transfixed gazes towards the door - the Great Man enters without so much as a Ho, Ho, Ho, or a Merry Christmas.

Yes, hard times have befallen the Seaton Presbyterian church.  I didn't revel in the nostalgia I was hoping for.  Once they sat Santa down and the line of kids descended on him, I arose with such a clatter and left.  

As I was approaching my truck I could hear toward the South of town a pack of coyotes braying in the distance.  Everything changes. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

After 2,200 posts, we are announcing a new Existing In BFE  format for 2016.  After several years of Monday thru Friday posting,  I have decided to post when I have something to post.  Tuesday Tidbits and Flashback Friday's will remain as weekly constants.  Not so constant will be the remaining day's posts.  Sometimes I don't do anything, so why struggle to fill a day with inferior posts?  Don't worry, loyal readers, it's not the end, just a revision. 


More people have died in the streets and homes of America from guns since 2012 than all the people who died in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq or Afghanistan. 


Spotted at Publix grocery store in Clearwater.  I don't know where to begin.  A school bus with a shed attached, as well as a porch area in the back.  Hard to imagine this thing is even roadworthy, let alone street legal but there it was.  I would have liked to get a little closer, but with dark hooded guys walking around, I decided to stay out of the way, except for my little iPhone.  


I remain a free agent, politically speaking.  At this point it is easier to point to candidates I would NOT vote for.  

  • Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz attended a "religious freedom" gathering put on by a Colorado pastor who preaches that homosexuals should be punished by death. No way. 
  • Rand Paul has some strange notions he learned from his perennial loser daddy's lap. No way. 
  • Donald Trump is entertaining and all that. I get it. He speaks from the hip and says things that appeal to our lesser angels, but behind the desk in the Oval Office made from the HMS Resolute, I don't think so.  Bluster. Buffoon.  Bully.
  • Ben Carson, neurosurgeon, motivational speaker and inveterate fibber, no. 
  • Rick Santorum. Google his name. No, don't Google his name. Just read his ideas. 
  • George Pataki. He looks like he is constantly constipated. That would drive me crazy for 4/8 years. I'm not interested in his ideas.
  • Just this week six Republican candidate endorsed legislation in their first 100 days that would give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against gays.  Under the guise of "religious liberty", Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee and Santorum would allow the singling out of a group to be discriminated against.  In clear violation of the Supreme Court.  Why stop there?  Why not make them wear pink rainbows on their clothes so we can more easily direct our scorn.  Its not without historical precedent. Wow.  This is progress? 


Cubs fans are understandably thrilled with their team for 2016 and for stealing Hayward from their arch rivals the Cardinals. Just be aware that seasons are littered with teams that were purchased.  Just ask Theo.


Star Wars. Ugh. Is it all over yet? I didn't get it then, I don't get it now.


Mark and Holly rang the Salvation Army Red Kettle bell at Wal-Mart last week.  I'm proud of them.  


My reunion with Norah was just as heartwarming as you can imagine.  I am loved.


On December 8th, four days before my flight back to Florida, I mailed a package to my Clearwater address. Inside the box was some Christmas gifts, my camera and two lenses, and my blood pressure and cholesterol medications. I mailed it that early so I could take some Geminid meteor shower shots that peaked two weekends ago on the 13-14th. I was a bit disappointed that i noticed walking out of post office that estimated delivery date was Monday, the 14th.

I recall telling Mark that I probably screwed up - I wouldn't have my camera in time.   He told me I should have shipped UPS - they are cheaper and faster.  

As I write this on Wednesday the 16th I have not received the package and was informed through my tracking that after sitting in a St. Pete post office for 2 days it is en route to original post office and arrived in Des Moines.  The post office has also informed us that the address was correct so any error is theirs.

So after it arrives back in Emerald City, will it cost an additional $35.00 to re-send it to me?  Hmmm.  USPS - never again.

ADDENDUM: As I add this on Tuesday, the 22nd, there may be a break in the case.  The package has left the Des Moines area and has returned to the state of Florida.  Updates on my 15 day   missing package on nest week's Tidbits.


I might be willing to consign my soul to everlasting Hell if I could have this baby sitting in my garage. Forever is an awful long time but it may cool me to remember the first time I'd pull that gorgeous piece of art into the Railroad Days car show runway and the looks from the crowd.

By the way it is a 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K. 


Just tonight as I write this (6 days before Christmas) I just got an unexpected and whopping bill from my anesthesiologist for my nose surgery.  This is an unbelievable bill.  Frankly, the cabin in the woods purchase was predicated on two things: 1) a reasonably smooth financial year, and 2) the Henderson place subsidizing the venture.  Unfortunately neither has it been a smooth year and I no longer have Henderson for support.  Frankly, the whole thing looks creaky at this point.  This may have been a one-and-out deal.


Ending on a lighter note. Norah had her first Christmas show at her VPK school last Friday. The moment she saw us in the back of the room and she is about to start waving to us is captured in this blurry iPhone picture.

Monday, December 21, 2015

On My Nightstand Now

Sometime this past summer, while in Muscatine having lunch during a bike ride, Neighbor Tim asked me who my favorite actor was.  I immediately said Spencer Tracy.  He seemed genuinely surprised.  I don't think he was talking old school, but a bit more current than a guy who won his first Oscar in 1937.  He went on to say his favorite was Tom Hanks and he thought I would say him as well.  Who can argue with Hanks?  If you are still unsure after Philadelphia and Saving Private Ryan, catch the last 10 minutes of Captain Phillips for perhaps the best acting I have ever seen.  Nope. Can't argue with Hanks. 

But there is something about Tracy, too. I have liked him for years and years. Tried to name Kenzie Spencer but was overruled. About 5 years ago I got a gift certificate from Barnes and Noble. I was aware of James Curtis's Spencer Tracy A Biography that had just been published a year before. It seemed only natural that I'd buy this and keep it on the shelf in eager anticipation. I decided to take it to my cabin in the woods in Emerald City to read and, coincidentally, I started reading it from the first night on my first visit and wrapped it up a couple days before my last stay there.

At just a page or two over 900 pages, this was no short reading experience. It was, like one might expect from a biography, chronological, to a fault. Starting with his birth from a middle class Catholic family in Milwaukee, it traced Tracy's life through his stock acting days, through each movie and his convoluted, and life-long marriage with Louise and 30 year affair with Katherine Hepburn, to his last film, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner in 1967.

That film along with Boys Town, both Edison pictures, Bad Day at Black Rock, State of the Union, Adam's Rib, Judgement at Nuremburg, The Last Hurrah and Inherit The Wind and I think we have a film compendium that exceeds Hanks. Add Fury, The Old Man and the Sea, Captains Courageous, Father of the Bride, Tortilla Flats and many many others, and you have a full body of work. Two Oscars and nine nominations ranks him at the top for acting performances.

But what was Tracy like when he wasn't acting.  Frankly, he was often a mess.  An alcoholic binge drinker he was a problem for the studios and they usually assigned an employee to be with him so he wouldn't start drinking.  He could go years without anything then fall face-first into a week-long bender.  He was insecure, riddled with guilt because his son was born deaf and he thought it a punishment from God.  He had numerous Hollywood affairs.  At one point late in life a friend brought him a picture of many stars seated in one spot.  You might have seen this picture once, it was MGM's attempt to get everyone one in a single picture.  All he could do when he saw it was move his finger from female star to the next mumbling "her", "her", "her".

And then he met Katherine Hepburn.  Here we have a strange transformation.  Kate was a progressive, strong, independent lady who whenever she was with Spence would completely change to submissive, adoring protector.  

They called him the Pope.  George M. Cohen called him the best actor he ever saw.  Bogart, Gable, Crawford, Cagney, Ford and Widmark all claimed he was the best of their generation. There are several methods of acting, but Tracy developed his own.  Lets call it the Tracy method.  It was simply a natural style.  Hume Cronyn said this. "His method seemed as simple as it is difficult to achieve. He appeared to do nothing.  He listened, he felt, he said the words without forcing anything."  It was listening and reacting skills.  In truth he practised his lines and his reactions meticulously before each performance.  

He died young but looked 20 years older.  He was only 67.   His heart was congested.  He suffered other ailments and too many drunken binges took its toll and he died 17 days after completing Guess Who's Coming To Dinner.

I am still an admirer of Tracy.  The book didn't change that, he was just like the rest of us - too this, too that.  But those soliloquy's in his films, it's like writers tried to give him at least one long speech per film just so he could stretch his wings.  Go watch the last 10 minutes of GWCTD, and then watch Hank's Captain Phillips.  Two consummate pros at work.  

The book was a thorough if often dry account of a mountain of information.  Curtis doesn't spend much time in evaluating or examination: he simply included all the info.  Would I recommend it?  I wouldn't not recommend it: reading almost any biography is worthy of time.  I'd like to tackle The Wright Brothers next.  Do I know more about Tracy, yes.  DO I really really really know Tracy now.  Can't say that I do.  The book neither enhanced him nor diminished him in my eyes.   

The best line in the book concerned Kate Hepburn.  When Tracy's daughter wanted to seek out Hepburn after Spence's death to get more insight on his Dad a relative said to her, "Watch out for Kate.  She'll knock you down just so she can pick you up."

Postscript :  some things I didn't know or learned.

1.  In the early days when you signed on to a film it was your responsibilty to get your own clothes.  The script would tip you off on all the different scenes and changes, but it was up to you to get them.  Exceptions were made for costume dramas.

2.  In all the films that called for a hat Tracy used the same one throughout his career.  

3.  Out of respect for his wife, Hepburn didn't go to Tracy's funeral.

4.  His car for the last 10 years was a '58 Thunderbird.

Tracy with deaf son, John

5.  The Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles was created by Louise Tracy, Spencer's wife, after their son John was born deaf.  It was and still is a leading center for diagnostic, treatment and education for deaf children.

6. He fought his weight his whole life.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Marj's Original Christmas Cards - Part 2

The original Christmas cards my mother made every year growing up continues today.  Again, like I said yesterday, I can remember the assembly line-like process of of making the patterns, cutting the felt, gluing, drawing and putting a recent posed picture of the boys and dog.   The dining room table would be full of these boxes, stacks of reindeer, sprinkles, ink bottles for quite a while.

I can remember, too, one unfortunate incident involving a particular year's picture taking.  Presumably I was responsible for the destruction of the pictures when I opened the camera while the folks were gone, thus exposing the film.  Needless to say, Marj was very upset and I recall the dread that ensued from that event.  I thought Christmas was going to be ruined and that Santa would never find me, or even worse, that I would be placed on Santa's "Naughty List."  I think it is safe to say, Santa did find me.  

I also recall using George Washington's line when interrogated by Marj, thinking it would save me from harm, "I cannot tell a lie, it was me."  I thought she would applaud my honesty, when in fact, this only escalated my problems.  Only later did I learn that old Georgie was a liar.  I should have blamed the Wombie.  And just where was the supervision, anyway?

Archie still participating in the pictures.  Great old dog. 

Damn long-haired hippies.  Looks, sadly like Archie has passed away by this time.   I remember the morning - It was summer and I was heading out to Uncle Ed's for work and noticed Archie on the front sidewalk in obvious discomfort.  Marj called Doc Kingry and he came over to administer a shot.  Sometime before I had built a wooden box to put her in, and Doc, good guy he was, dug a hole and placed her remains by a tree int he back yard.  Mind you, she was the only dog we had as kids, so it was a tough time for us.  Excellent, pooch, she never ran away when outside and I recall she would be waiting in Arminta's yard waiting for us when we got off the bus every day from school.   

Unfortunately I do not have these cards in chronological order and, there she is, Archie, reappearing.  Phil broke his foot either playing basketball or in an auto accident, I'm not sure.  

My other brothers, no doubt, have more cards preserved and maybe someday, I'll get a glimpse.  I only have these, so it'll have to do.  As usual, you can click on the picture to enlarge.  These cards are a lasting tribute to her creativity. 

People don't do things like this anymore.  Cards have become a thing of the past, and although I still get some every year, the number is no where like it was in the 70's.  Perhaps it's a generational thing, maybe the cost, maybe people have just moved on to other forms of media.  There is no denying the personal touch of a handmade card with this year's newest picture of the kids, that made what Marj did, stand out amongst all the other cards, which makes a blanket Facebook "Merry Christmas" seem so impersonal.  Progress isn't always enchanting.    

Thursday, December 17, 2015

St. Petersburg Yacht Club Car Show - Part 2

Okay, so the Bentley's and the Roll's were pretty neat.  How about some good old American iron at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club car show?  

Why, of course.  Come along and walk with me.  

How about perhaps the most gorgepous looking thing I saw today? This is a 1957 Dodge Custom Royal. As long as a city block, 2-door with fins 3 stories high and large chrome bumpers weighing a ton each. Do I exagerate? Maybe a wee bit. Garish late 50's car with everything discernable styling add-on possible.

This wasn't a drivers seat, it was a cockpit of a rocket. 

Such beauty. This folks, to be indelicate, is like a stylist's orgasm: complete, shuddering, satisfaction to excess. Maybe rivaling this in its pretensiousness was the '61 Imperial. But for sheer automobile perfection, this wins.

I love the hood mascots they put on these cars in the 20's and 30's. They were actual works of art in their own right. I thought a few years ago to start a collection of hood ornaments but the price for these in good condition is pretty high.

For old school, this 1935 Cadillac Series 21 is awefully stylish and classy. I love the paint scheme on this one. I'm not sure if they were ever painted this way in reality, but this sure looks nice.

Falling through the cracks in the years of big muscle was this 1964 Mercury Marauder. Big car examples of this type included Ford's Galaxie, Chevy Impala and Pontiac Bonneville. Great big cars with throbbing engines. See me do Tim the Toolman's "Arr, arr, arr."

Military stuff is popular with a lot of folks, not so much with me. I appreciate their utilty and don't mind them being in shows, but I'm not really drawn to them. Where do you get stuff like this?

Bob Hoskins, our maintenance man at Mary davis Home, and Korean Conflict vet, always wanted a Jeep with a rounded front fender. This isn't one of them, but I bet it would still catch his eye.

I will always be a fan of the old Volkwagen Bugs.  I had two of them growing up.  They were cheap to buy and almost maintenance free.  Today they have appreciated in price that is astounding, considering they made gazillions of them.  I took a picture of that interior in the top picture mainly because I remember it.  The perforated seats and sparse features was pretty neat.  Of course I would have loved the Beverly Hillbillies truck had that been my only option.  

Cute little 1966 Sunbeam Tiger. There is no way I would want to try to get in and out of this thing nowadays but I'd be glad to store it in my garage. And maybe try to take it for a spin every so often to keep it greased up. With the top down. And maybe to a car show just so i could grab a trophy for the owner. Just a little a service I would provide for free.

Neighbor Tim sent me some pictures of an AMC Pacer he saw in Sterling last week. I'll get those posted one of these days. I told him you never see them or Mavericks or Pintos at car shows. I take that back. Here is a 1970 Ford Maverick in perfect condition. These were a dime a dozen back then, but rare and worth a lot today.

Tis the season to be jolly and walking around a car show in Florida.  This red Corvette was decked out in a seasonal Christmas moose.

We parked about a mile or so away and got absolutely drenched with the walk back. It rained hard and I would have been finbe with it but I had my camera to protect. I must say that it was fun walking in the rain like a kid again.

I got a T-shirt from the event and will try to make it again next year.  Nice stuff out here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Last Saturday Mackenzie graduated from St. Petersburg College with a bachelor's degree in Management & Organizational Leadership.  Back in my day they just called it Business.  I can't wait till she has the opportunity to get me organized.  

Because we live in a day of Internet and streaming, I had the opportunity to see the ceremony in my cabin in the woods in Emerald City.  Therefore, I gathered family around at 8:30 am and we watched up to the point of her walking across the stage and receiving her diploma.  Then we high-tailed it downtown to the local watering hole, Beer Bellies, where a proud and beaming father bought the house a round.   And yes, there are locals seated at bar stools at 9:30 in the morning. 

In what turned out to be the first party in the cabin, pastries, cappuccino, and coffee were on hand for the assembled guests. 

I used my laptop to dial in the ceremony.  

Guests included S-I-L Holly, Wombie Mark, S-I-L Patti and her companion, Bailey. Funny thing was: the march across the stage was not alphabetical so we really had no idea when she was going to appear. So we were chatting away and then, all of a sudden we heard the Dean say, "Mackenzie Blythe". Seven or so years of studies culminating in a walk across a stage and then it was over.

This is Beer Bellies at 9:30 am on a Saturday. No need to snap a picture of those down there, but I was able to get Butch, the barista and server, and ex-Seatonite, who was more than willing to fix Bloody Mary's for a couple of us, but then we opted for good old cold beer. (I'm sure our new grad wouldn't dare use a grammatically incorrect and woefully run-on sentence like that.) The tab was reasonable, and the euphoria of the moment was such that we decided to stick around a while. This was travel day after all but the plane didn't leave till 5:17 pm so we felt quite comfortable in staying a bit and soaking up the glory of individual success and accomplishment. Congratulations, kid, now go manage and organize this screwed up world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

When legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he still practiced at 90, he replied "Because I think I'm making progress."


How long has it been since Robert DeNiro was in a serious movie?  He seems to be in every forgettable rom-com these days.


I had threatened to take a week off when I returned to Floriduh to get organized, but its December and Christmas time. I need to continue so like a punch-drunk boxer I will wobble a bit on my feet but stay in the ring, at least for now.


Ayla, aka Alfred.  Almost human.


Well, I'm back in Floriduh after almost a month in Northlandia. I did everything on my list, failing in a couple things. My little cabin in the woods in Emerald City is just about perfect. My fingers are crossed that I can keep living this two-state solution for the foreseeable future. 


I have landed a job. I will be sitting Ayla/Alfred starting December 21st for an indefinite amount of time. Apparently she is happy with my work sitting Norah - that or my price is right. Back into the breach once more.


And then there were none...


Here is a scene duplicated almost in every small town in the Midwest. It is a funeral procession down Main street in Emerald City. The procession is turning toward the cemetery. I want you to notice that cars going in the opposite direction have stopped out of respect for the deceased, somebody they do not know. I saw it every so often in Seaton growing up.  It is a small town thing.  I do not know if they do it in the Quad-Cities but I can tell you most definitively that it is not done in big city Florida.   In fact, down here, cars don't/won't even slow much to allow emergency vehicles through intersections.  Much too busy, in a hurry and cosmopolitan for that sort of thing. That is why this scene warmed my heart.


Poor Iowans.  They have all those political commercials every day, the Hawkeyes and they're crazy over cruz and Trump.  Hard to imagine that at one time their motto was "Iowa - A State of Minds".

This is an unretouched, non-photoshopped enhanced picture I took of a sunrise with my iPhone in Northlandia.  Amazing.  Just an amazing sunrise.