Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sunset and Sunrise


I'm cleaning out my picture file so I can start some new stuff after a week off.  I found these just floating around, never posted,  and thought they were rather nice.  They were taken maybe a month ago during a sunset walk on Indian Rocks beach.  

Notice how the light changed in just a few minutes between the top and bottom pictures.  It was quite dramatic.  When I was at Shawshank getting to a beach was pretty easy.  But now, up here in Bedlam it takes a major commitment to drive through a busy arterial street and maybe you will be lucky enough to find parking.  No fun.  I will say that I am wanting a beach day before I travel to Northlandia - one of those all day affairs with cooler, Bloody Mary's, a cigar or two, camera, warm water and people to look at.  


A couple of these were posted last week, I think, and I was just dumbfounded by the colors.  Glad I made it to see this one.   Some wise person said something about the key to success is simply "being there".   Can't say I've always been there on a lot of things, but I certainly was on these. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Causeway In the Morning, Just Because

A couple weeks ago I went out to the Causeway since I had not been there in a long time.   It was early morning - around 4:30 and thought I'd take the camera just in case.  Nothing much was going on, but I took these anyway.  Nothing to write home about - oh wait, I am writing home, aren't I?  Anyway, here are a couple pics I took on a lonely early morning jaunt over to a walkway over the Bay.  

This is looking east from Clearwater.  That's Tampa over yonder and someday, perhaps soon I'm going to walk all the way across and back.   

This is where boats are supposed to go when traveling under the walkway and the adjoining roadway.

Another picture with me more than halfway across the walkway.  You may ask, "Are there other people around?"  Sometimes.  Once I was taking pictures of the sky in the morning and there were three young fishermen.  Once in a while there are walkers and occasionally a bicyclist.  Tonight there was no one except once.  I was taking pictures on a "jut-out" area and when I turned around there was a guy and his girlfriend right there.  Kind of startled me at first.  But, no, generally at this time of night people are few.  

The walkway is on the right and the roadway is on the left.  

There must have been some kind of thing going on down the walkway because those are cop lights in the distance.  

Another shot of the boat pass-thru.  I just liked the red reflecting on the water. 

And finally, another shot of Tampa in the distance. 

Thanks for joining me again this morning.   

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits

Tuesday Tidbits

Just your typical Florida family SUV.  On the left a yuppie sticker we have all seen picturing the family members.  In the middle a Save The Turtle emblem and on the right your average family assault rifle sign.


One of my regrets is being so dependent on my Polaroid camera for years.  It was expensive to take pictures.  I now wish I'd had a film camera and taken a 100 pics a day.


Nestled in the greenery on the patio at Bedlam.  Tough to tell but it is a frog.


One need only look at the past couple weeks for evidence of media bias, or at the least, a kind of lop-sided slant on things.  Thirty people were killed and 100 injured by suicide bombers in Belgium and the news was wall to wall coverage for three days. 

The next week seventy women and children are killed with 300 injured by a suicide bomber in Pakistani and it barely makes a ripple in the news.   


Norah and I were out on the tennis courts chasing tossed tennis balls when this guy flew overhead.  It is not uncommon.  We are close to the airport and the Coast Guard has a fleet of planes there.  Most days they fly around on the same path - probably practise.  


My cabin in the woods has been sprayed for pesky bugs that seem to take over when you've been gone for awhile.  Noticed a couple spiders when last there.  All set for a future return fairly soon.  There's one out front that the exterminator took care of last week. 


Did I mention that Bridge of Spies was very good?  If I did it bears repeating.



And finally, today, a lesson in perseverance and overcoming our problems.  This guy was outside a Five Guys taking handouts in the form of french fries from patrons.  Sometimes you just gotta make the best with the hand you are dealt.  Or in this case, the one leg.  Just remember, he may have been a little hobbled on land but when he flew it was with an unmistakable grace. 


Sorry readers, but it's been about three months so I will likely take next week off.  Brace yourselves.    

Monday, March 28, 2016

Morning Has Broken

In a mad dash from where I am now in Clearwater all the way down to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, which, according to Google maps is 14.2 miles and tales 31 minutes,  I made it just in time for this sunrise.  

Something I have learned is that there is a "peak moment" to any sunrise and sunset that lasts not minutes but seconds.  A few seconds too early or a few seconds too late and the optimum time to snap is lost.  

These are just three pictures within the seconds of peak beauty.  Remember, I don't have Photoshop, Lightroom or any other super-duper editing program.  It was a mad dash to get down here this Saturday morning, but well worth the effort.  These are just stunning - no kudos on my part, the camera did it.  

I have more that I will post later, but I found putting 10 pictures on a page rather dilutes the magnificence of it all, so I'll give them to you in small doses.  Better to soak up nature's palette.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Flashback Friday

Rituals play an important role in the life of any entity, as well as in our personal lives.  Even the simplest of morning tasks, making coffee and reading the paper is a ritual which brings stability and continuity to our lives.  Likewise, organizational rituals.  Organizational rituals provide a forum for discussion, a welcoming of new employees into the tribe, a safe environment to express oneself, and if the boss is there, a place to establish the "why" and "therefores" to policy.  

One of the rituals of our work place was to unwind on Fridays.  When I first started at MDH we met after a long week at the Whistletop, a corner bar on Simmons street in G-Burg.  A bar is still there but it is no longer called that.  I'm not sure what it is called anymore.  The owners were Fred and Norma.  He was erudite - kind of an old school bar owner who could converse on almost any subject a customer might bring up - a knowing presence.    It wasn't a fancy place, but it was dark - an environment to keep the week's dealings with rowdy kids and their parents at bay.  The Whistlestop was where baseball great Jimmy Foxx would drink his demons away.  Mary Davis in those years was small.  We only had two people on a shift - maybe a total of 10-12 employees.  If there are any photos of a Friday in this place I am not aware of them and by all means I'd love to see them.   

We'd sit at a circular table and discuss things at work, policies we liked, rules we didn't, the kids, approaches to detention, the state of probation and the administration, all while the administrator drank with us.  It was where my buddy Mike, husband to Probation's Pat, riffed a tale of my conception on the side of a barn that is mentioned even today in some circles.  It is where a local bum/drunk would wander in with only a two word vocabulary, but seemed perfect, "Goddamn right!"  We'd ask him all kinds of things, many inappropriate, and always he'd answer "Goddamn right!"  Eventually we'd ask him if he wanted a beer, and he'd answer, for his efforts, "goddamn right" and get them for the rest of our stay.   Bob M and I whenever we see each other still, crinkle up our faces and in unison say, "Goddamn right!"  It was where Becky S., poured a beer in my crotch in protest of something I said.  And yeah, I remember what it was.  

Left to right: Pat J., Alan A., Robin L., Bob M., Gayla M.

The Whistlestop was my favorite.  Back then we were all Counselors, just out of college and starting our careers.  We had a camaraderie and an affinity to our jobs, our boss, and to each other.  We didn't make any money and the cook drove a Lincoln while the rest of us kept our wheels together with spit and duct tape.  But things change.  Fred died and that was the end of the Whistlestop.  Closed, pending sale of the estate.  When it reopened it wasn't the same, they spruced it up.

Our rituals moved around through the years - sometimes the group was smaller - we had kids to raise.  Our schedules changed, too.  Sometimes we met after our 2nd shifts.  The Corral out on Grand was popular for a few beers before they closed down at 1:00.

Shangri-La briefly held our interest but Bigfoots came along and we tended to drift over there.  This was where I met Mike J. for the last time.  It was this time of year - I was alone, and feeling depressed for some reason.  And as we all know, feeding depression with lonely beers just makes it worse.  He sidled up next to me and all of a sudden the bad was gone.  We talked like guys do, laughed, signed charity shamrocks.  There is no medicine like being with a friend.  In nine days Mike would die of a heart attack in Chicago.  25 years ago exactly.  

We eventually started going to Cherry Street Brewing Company for our Fridays.  This was the place to go in G-Burg and we'd run into most of the city's elite, so we had to step our behavior up a notch or two.  We weren't just fresh out of college anymore.  We were veterans now.  Even these weekly beer-fests reflected how things had changed.  We now had probation personnel join us,  they were now part of our universe.  The Mary had expanded, from six counselors to 20. Support personnel.  We needed a bigger table.  Besides that, we had families now - kids to go home to.  We had careers that needed protecting.  No longer did we suffer under any illusion we could escape and go elsewhere.  It wasn't like it was 25 years earlier at the Whistlestop: if we said or did something stupid on a Friday now, it could haunt us on Monday.  And anyway, we were older now.  No longer just out of college and still wearing our bubble.  We wore our veteran status like chevrons on a sleeve.  We were now, in some cases, the administration.  Examples to establish,  comportment to display.  We no longer just kids  counseling kids, but rather the embodiment of an organization, an ideal of court officers.  

But the ritual was still there from earlier years.  The need to belong, to have the power to achieve and be respected,  the freedom to make choices, and ability to have fun.  Those four items in the last sentence still direct me in some ways.  Those are the basic four needs of an individual as postulated by William Glasser, author of Reality Therapy, which was the program used by we counselors to our clients all through my years at The Mary.  Just as true today as it was when I first stepped in the place for the first time on Halloween night in 1977.  

We all have rituals.  Morning rituals.  Nighttime rituals.  Day off rituals, first day of baseball rituals.  One ritual that followed us all those years was to meet on Fridays and have a sense of belonging, of community.  I wonder if they still do?  I wonder if they think their work is of the highest calling?  I wonder if they think they are representing anything bigger than themselves anymore?  Man, was I ever lucky.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Right after Norah and her Daddy made a great huge bubble, another kid took the sticks and rope and tried his hand at it.  It was a good one.

It hovered, undulating majestically in mid-air and started to float.

Like a poltergeist with a mind of its own, the bubble rose as if to escape the surly bonds of earth, rising in a last ditch effort to seek purchase above the fray. 

But the Bubble Master, with a prescience of mind in recognizing the possible horror of an encounter with a human, rushed to pop the offending orb.  


And once again, the order of the universe is restored.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Walk - 2

Today we will finish the walk at Moccasin Lake Nature Park we started last week.  It was an uninspring place - mediocre at best compared to other parks I've been to down here.  But it wasn't without some charm.  

One of the charms was this old fashioned water tower and power plant.  The place uses wind for power and the tower for its water. 


Spread out over one of the trails was this plein air art group.  Personally, I would not have set up on the trail so that hikers would be gawking at my painting.  Especially when you have as little talent as what I saw walking by.  Lord, the egos painters have!

This little fellow was basking in the sunshine, no doubt feeling quite secure.  I'm sure Mama was close by somewhere hidden ready to rescue should the need arise.  

And this is Moccasin Lake.  Close by is Route 19, the River of Death.   The sounds of traffic diminished the serenity of the scene.

One of the many boardwalks that you take along your hike.  Unlike Sawgrass where the walkways actually protect you from hidden critters (we heard a gater growl once) these protect you from burrs.  

In all of the nature parks the old moss covered Oaks are inspiring.  

The place prides itself on its bird rehab services.  We all have to have a hook to hang our coats on.  

So long Moccasin Lake and thanks for all your good work in helping injured birds and keeping the developers away from more condos and apartments.  And although the place was just average (or less), any time you hike is a good time.  Nature, relative quiet, and away from city stuff is always preferable.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits

Political press secretaries, campaign managers and surrogates do nothing but shovel BS.  When they are on TV yapping you'd be better off doing a lump exam on your testicles.  


Word was received this week of the continual slide into oblivion of the Mary Davis Home.  They have, at present 10 kids, no cook and no programming.  When I left we averaged 35-38 kids, had 2 full time cooks and some type of program for each kid.  

It seems the place has come full circle: when I first started there we averaged 10 kids, we did all the cooking.  Actually it is worse now than then, since we at least had a counseling program way back then.  Apparently the reason is funding.  Probation departments don't have the funds to place kids there, opting instead for cheaper home detention.  

It is sad to see and of course, with Illinois, finding funds for such things will be hard indeed for the foreseeable future.  My sympathies to the staff: I harped endlessly about how great it was to work there because where else could you truly have the opportunity to change lives.  The pay wasn't too hot for the majority of years I worked there but I always got some consolation that in the 1000's of kids I came in contact with, perhaps a few may have changed their lives for the better having been with us for awhile. 


Casual Thursday


I'm going to tell you  a little story here.  It's has a sad ending.  But up until the end it is a fun one.  On Fridays if I have the afternoon off, like I did last Friday, I walk an hour up to where the current Mrs. Blythe parks her car at work.  It's a good walk and generally I enjoy it.  After I get to the car, I drive a short distance where I pick up Norah at the Kid-A-Rama VPK school.  From there we go a short distance to a Dunkin Donut where we have a treat.  Norah enjoys the strawberry with sprinkles and I get a couple of glazed mini balls.  

Norah always wants chocolate milk that she never finishes and I have a white milk.  

The bill always comes to $5.42, which seems expensive to me for a donut and half and a couple milks.  But its their shop and they can charge what they want.  It's no big deal because we are having fun on a Friday afternoon.  

After that we head on over to the 6 story office building to wait on the current (never more accurate than this election season) Mrs. Blythe to get off work.  There we ride the elevators up and down and invade the mucky-muck office lobby's.  When we have pennies we toss them down to various floor window ledges.  We also like the stairwells for their spookiness.  So that's what I do on Friday afternoons when I have them off, which isn't as often now that I babysit Alfred. 

What is the sad part of the story?  I handed the young clerk at Dunkin' Donuts $6.00 and he was unable to make change.  I stood there while he fumbled with his cash drawer - picking up this and that coin - hesitant and finally he said he was sorry.  He grabbed some coinage and I said just put it in the tip jar.  Now I'm no math wizard but given enough time I would have come up with change amounting to .58 cents.  Frankly, I doubt if I see him when I get another chance to do our Friday thing, but, gee, an education is a valuable thing.     


How starving do you have to get to pick up seaweed for a snack?


Cheech and Chong

Screech and Dong

(I take full credit, or blame, for this little funny.  It came to me on Saturday - and is not Facebook inspired.  If you see this anywhere else, they stole it from me.  I'm thinking of making T-shirts.  Naturally, if you are Hillary fans or Bill fans I kind of apologize, but its more hollow than sincere.) 


Can't wait till I head up to Northlandia to spend some time in my cabin in the woods.


And finally, Norah and I went swimming last Sunday morning for the first time since Winter.  A bit chilly, but just fine once you got used to it.  She is, I swear, half fish.

P.S. Norah wanted changed when we got to the car so I put my phone on top of it.  When I got back to my Norah's place I noticed no phone and returned to the pool area and retraced my steps.  Panic mode set in.  Kenzie called and a nice man answered and said he saw it fall off the car and tried to wave me down but to no avail. We went into St. Pete to meet him at a Wawa where I was reunited with my phone.  Note to self and others: There are still nice people around.


Monday, March 21, 2016

With A Little Help From Daddy

My patented "wordless" posts are usually born out of laziness.  That and quite often the pictures themselves tell the story far better than my meager abilities to corral the language.  Today's post is the latter.  I can do the set-up:  at the Farmer's Market one vendor was hawking a giant bubble maker.  Two sticks and some rope.  Drew, Norah's daddy, helped her make a nice giant bubble.  One need only look at the expressions to get the whole story.    

And there you have it.  A special daddy-daughter moment, captured in pictures.  How cool is that?  Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Flashback Friday - Seven Years

This is a repost of a March 28, 2009 entry.  This Sunday marks the 7th anniversary of Missy's passing.  My heart was broken that day and all attempts to fix it have failed.

Missy wasn't much of a dog. She was ungainly when running. It wasn't so much a run as a lopsided chugging. She also wasn't much of a looker. She had these tufts of hair coming out of her paws that made her look like some kind of canine leprechaun and her coat was a sprinkling of gray on black mixed with brown. Her tail and butt had a wispy mane that had to be cut every so often that made her look downright ridiculous. Her character also had some flaws. Her idea of adventure was a long nap. If asked to do something outside the routine she would handle the stress by relieving herself. Riding in the truck was a major emotional pull from her normalcy that evoked shivers and nervous salivating. She was a veritable spigot. I always used a towel for her to ride on, not to catch the hair but to sop all the drool. 12 years ago or so, did I mention she was a mutt of unknown origin or species, she wormed her way into our lives. And I mean literally. But I digress. Nancy and I (mostly me) had wanted a dog. With two small kids and a big house I wanted one for pleasure and company. Nancy wanted one for security and protection. We tried a couple dogs but generally our search was unsuccessful. One got off the leash and was run over (no one seemed really disturbed by it). One was so wild and dumb we took it back after a week or so. OK, we tried, did our best, and decided to forget the whole thing. 
That is until Mackenzie wanted one. My previous attempts pretty much did me in: too much work, and trouble. Guess I got that out of my system so I decided: no more mutts. Kenze was around 11 or 12 and started working on her mother. Smart girl. Nancy could never say no to the kids, so one day, Kenzie got her Mother to go with her to the pound. I didn't know it yet, but we would soon be getting a new member of the family. It was Saturday if I remember correctly. I gave them both pleading reminders that I would NOT be the sole feeder/walker/poop cleaner of anything they brought home. I think I also gave them a final desperate “command” NOT to do what they were Hell-bent on doing. As they were pulling out of the driveway I was on the front steps, and according to family lore, weeping in defeat. 
When the car pulled up after rescuing this prize, out bounded this year old scrawny Aussie Shepherd mutt with worms, irritable bowels and a seemingly skittish fright of large male humans. OK, so it didn't like me, that's OK because I didn't want you either. After we got the ground rules laid out with the ladies, such as who will feed it(Mackenzie said “I will.”), pick up after it (Mackenzie said “I will.”), bath it (Mackenzie said “I will.) and take it to the vets (Nancy said “I will”), I decided that my role in this will be minimal. That was akin to Captain Smith saying, “...what can that little iceberg do to this unsinkable ship?” Oh, and she had worms...bad. 
This pathetic excuse for a dog was named “Missy” and it wasn't long before I was spending an awful lot of time with this mutt. I thought the name was too prissy. I envisioned this dog as a mighty hunter, a fierce defender of the family, a majestic reminder of the truly great dogs of history like Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin and Old Yeller. She was de-wormed and began to display a good appetite, a trait that she sustained all of her life. It soon became apparent that we didn't own a hunter, defender or majestic Lassie. What we had was a very very nice dog who barked, or rather yodeled, at something and then came running to me for protection. Her motto was, “When In Doubt...Pee”. She didn't like car rides, adventure, or the mailman. Oh yes, she barked at the doorbell, strangers and the moon, but for the most part she was a peace-loving mutt who preferred food, naps and walks.
She was never put in dog-obedience because she didn't need it. Rarely straying from her yard she was self-taught and self-trained to stay close to home. Occasionally neighbors would tempt her with fish or other scrumptious canine cuisine, and off we would go trying to find her but for the most part she did her business and then sat on the front porch waiting to be let in. 
The years passed and if I was on the main floor she was my shadow. I could only escape her if I went upstairs (she was too scared to navigate the steps, I guess), or down to the basement. She honed her particular behaviors (begging, yodeling, shedding) to an art. She was on a diet for years and also developed a heart problem that necessitated the reduction of strenuous exercise. We played tag, she fetched sticks, we played hide-and-seek, and seemed always to spoon with me when I watched TV on the floor. 
People ask where the time goes. I know where it goes. Each day we get up and begin navigating the the course of the day to get the maximum pleasure while obeying all the rules of job, family and life's necessary obligations. If we are lucky we go to bed at night having won the fight with as few scars as possible. One day after another, fighting the small battles and usually navigating around the icebergs that float in our way. There is no big plan, no master scheme...just small everyday things that either give pleasure, or give pain. Missy was one of the small things that came into our lives and gave me pleasure. Her big brown soulful eyes, her herding me away from the others so she wouldn't have to share, her constant companionship and loyalty that made her pretty darn majestic after all. 

“...As you got older you moved around more slowly. Then,
one day, old age finally took its toll. I knelt down and patted
you lying there, trying to make you young again. You just 
looked up at me as if to say you were old and tired and after
all these years of not asking for anything, you had to ask me 
one last favor.
With tears in my eyes I drove you one last time to the vet. One
last time you were lying next to me.
As the vet led you away, you stopped for an instant, turned 
your head and looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for
taking care of me.”
I thought, “No. Thank you for taking care of me.”
Old Ann Landers Article

One last word of farewell, Dear Master. Whenever you visit
my grave, say to yourself with regret but also happiness in 
your heart at the remembrance of my long happy life with you.
“Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.” No matter
how deep my sleep, I shall hear you, and not all the power
of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
Eugene O'Neill

A friend stopped by the other day and he was feeling very 
blue. “I had to put old Tuff down.” he explained. “It broke 
my heart to do it. I'll never forget the way he looked at me.
But it was time and I think he knew it.”
Tuff was a good dog,” I agreed. “He lived a long time 
for sure.” 
“Fifteen years,” he replied. “Found him when he was a pup.
We had a lot of good times together. I'm sure gonna miss that 
It was a soulful tale, told from the heart and made me want
to cry; 'bout a man and his dog, an' best friends and parting, 
about having to say “good-bye”. 
He wrapped old Tuff in a blanket, he said, and buried him
under a tree; on a hill overlooking a sunlit meadow, where
the wildflowers bloom in the spring. 
Place became hallowed, a good dog lies here, 'though his
spirit still romps and plays; green be the grass above thee,
friend of my better days. 
After a while he fell silent. And so we sat quietly. Lost in 
dreams of times gone by, of dogs and long summer days. 
Bill Campbell

Good bye, Missy, old friend, and thanks for everything.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Return To the Market - 2

Let's finish this Market thing I went to with the family a couple weekends ago.  Nasty crowded, with all manner of things going on.  

One of these days I'm going to try one of Ken's sausages.  It smells great and I do love the stuff.  They were doing a brisk business this morning.

One of a few musical attractions.  The didgeridoo guy and this more traditional singer.  

Bob Marley wannabe here on the accordion.  Oompah!

My favorite vendor is this guy who fashions stuff out of metal.  Pretty neat stuff.  And usually reasonably priced.  But he doesn't take cards, only cash.  Who carries cash anymore?

This young guy is awaiting his caricature portrait.  

Cute, cute, cute.

The main musical attraction at the Market.  

And finally, back up in the garage to get the Hell out of that throbbing mass of people I spotted this, this, this abomination of a paint job.  Whoever thought it would be nice, even on a mass produced new Dodge, was sadly mistaken.  It looks like regurgitated raspberry smoothie.  I got in the car, and sped away to a less congested place, as my blood pressure dropped and my breathing returned to normal.  Maybe the Market again when there isn't the crowd.  Note to self:  avoid crowds. Whew!