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It's your world. I just live in it.

Jul 16, 2016

Change, the only constant


Wrong again. Why did I think life on Alligator Creek would always be the same? Nothing is ever the same. I'm not saying things always get worse, or that they are, but they do always change.

For one thing, Thea Bella and her mom are here with us this summer. Thea is now seven and is, as always, a delight though she manages to kick my ass nearly every time we play Sleeping Queens.

Great Blue Heron
& the old man by the sea.
On the other hand, Sonny has been gone since the 4th of July. That changes things. He was Alligator Creek's version of middle-aged Florida Man; a 50 something guy who, after countless misadventures, had been basically living on his parent's screen porch . . . for years. When he got going with his wild stories of the past or absurd plans for the future, whether on the phone or to his mom, the whole neighborhood could hear him. It didn't seem to bother him so what the hell? It was fun listening. Is he gone for good? Who's to say?

On the other hand, I happy to note that the great blue heron and the old man are both still around (see photo from a couple of years ago).  I saw the old fellow on the ferry to the beach. He still goes early and leaves by noon. The great blue heron is a little harder to catch up with but the other morning I saw him fishing along his usual lonely stretch of beach.

As for the squirrel scene, since a hawk got Frida a few years ago, I keep that on the down low, no more all day peanuts. It's safer that way. I put some nuts and seeds out in the morning and that's it. It took awhile but eventually one squirrel discovered them and was my only guest for nearly a week, then it was two, now sometimes four or five come by briefly in the morning.

Jul 9, 2016

Evening

Evening on the Gulf
Reflections on Alligator Creek

Jul 8, 2016

Somewhere in Texas

One more from the road.

Molly on the road
Molly

Jul 4, 2016

Uncommon ground

Can you transcend the uncommon ground?

Can I jump?



Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar is one of the Culturunners, a group of 10 Middle Eastern artists exploring the ideological boundaries between the US and the Middle East. More here.



Jul 3, 2016

Trump jacked on "cheap speed"?

Rumors abound. Makes sense to me. No matter what, the guy is whacked.

Source


Jul 1, 2016

Alligator Creek

Frieda Kahlo's palm tree is taller now. That's good news. Last time we were here it had been so neglected, I feared it would be dead by now. And being taller, most of the fronds are above the roof line. They're out of view but rustle more in the wind. It's a nice sound.

Molly & Swami on screen porch
Molly and Swami on the screen porch.

And pops isn't dead either. We saw him this morning. He's looking skinny and spry as ever. And, again today, Sonny and his mom are back screaming at each other. He's big with the, "OH MY GOD! OH MY GAAAAWD! SHUT UP . . . knock this shit off!" He's got a cast on his arm. A drunken brawl or slip? Maybe Mom whacked him with a broom.

God, I'm awful.

Life on Alligator Creek 1
Life on Alligator Creek 1

So, life at least on this little spot on Alligator Creek is same as ever. Comforting. Swami, Molly and I are in the screen porch. Is it "in" or "on"? 

The cause of why

Day five - Tallahassee to Alligator Creek - 340 mi.

Swami watching the Ibis

Good to be back on Alligator Creek. Sonny and his mom are still living across the street though we suspect Pops may have died and, when we pulled up, there was a huge flock of young Ibis grazing between their yard and ours. We stocked the house with food and saw some friends and now we're tucked in for the night. Funny, but sitting for five days in a car watching the miles flash by was exhausting. Tomorrow Kristiana and Thea arrive.Woohoo!


Day four

Day four - Shreveport to Tallahassee  - 649 mi.


Roadside pancakes for dinner

Flat, flat Florida.


Jun 29, 2016

Roadside oil rigs

Day Three - Amarillo to Shreveport - 551 mi.

Roadside oil rigs
metal dinosaurs in the
hot Texas morning.

Jun 28, 2016

Amarillo by nightfall

Day Two - Flagstaff to Amarillo - 608 mi 

 Flagstaff was fine, another Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. 

Land of the free
Land of the free

Don't mind us, wild things. Just passing through.


Texas afternoon
Texas afternoon

I feel sorry for the residents of Amarillo. In spite of the beautiful sky and having a gigantic wind farm nearby, Amarillo Texas sucked. Perhaps we put too much emphasis on dinner but, after another long day on the road, it's very important. So here's the deal. Don't eat at the The 806, a cafe, lounge, and bar with music at night unless you feel like lounging because, above all, The 806 is a 20-something lounge.

Amarillo's 806 Lounge
we lounged an hour in the far right corner of the big couch

We waited an hour for what turned out to be little more than, as M. Lee put it, a bread sandwich. He  reviewed it on Happy Cow with a titled, "Unspeakably bad and lame". My cheese sandwich wasn't so bad but the diet coke was flat and warm. On the other hand, his "bread sandwich" which was thin bread smeared with a thin veneer of hummus—super lamebut the guy working his ass off behind the counter, probably his first job, was a nice kid. And we did manage to escape before the music started.

Jun 27, 2016

Roadtrip - Nevada to Florida - Day One

Day One - G'ville to Flagstaff - 664 mi

Are you ready?

There are two types of travelers in the world; which one are you?

     Source: Cooper Canyon Review by Sarah Cooper.

As one mefi commentator put it:

"For our honeymoon, Mr. Machine made a three ring binder with a detailed itinerary for each day, including not just attractions to visit and where we were staying each night, but also the mileage we would need to drive each day, alternate routes, alternate attractions in case of bad weather, options for eating, and places en route to buy souvenirs and snacks. It was more than 50 pages long for our two week trip, and was organized in a three ring binder and tabbed with section dividers.

"He sent the word document to his parents, so that they could admire it, and their first (loving) comment was that he had a typo on the first page."
-- joyceanmachine -- courtesy of M. Lee

Day One
Day One
- shortcut, outback Nevada -

The road is always a risk, best laid plans and all that but actually the grueling shortcut turned out to be one of the best parts of the day.  We saw wild horses and donkeys grazing in the desert hills plus several coyotes andlaterone jackrabbit scampering through the sagebrush.

Wild horses in Nevada desert
Wild horses in Nevada desert

The temperature was 108° by the time we got to Vegas and lunch at Sweet Tomatoes buffet. It was freaky sitting a table away from a couple of macho idiots exercising Open Carry. By the time we crossed over into Arizona, the temperature had climbed to a sizzling 116°.


Jun 24, 2016

Here and gone

We returned from London on the 14th, spent a week in Portland and now we're back in Nevada for a couple of days. Sunday we leave for Florida. As usual, we're driving. And, as usual, M. Lee has already booked the motels and loaded the GPS with the addresses of the restaurants where we'll have dinner each night. You don't want to hit town after 12, 13 maybe 15 hours on the road and still have to find a place to eat, especially if you're vegetarian. We're not fussy though. A salad and baked potato will do just fine.

So, here's to the "heartland".....


Hicktown from Aldean Army on Vimeo.

But just for today, good to be home. Home—a strange and special place.

Jun 21, 2016

Happy strawberry solstice


source: National Geographic

I was delighted to hear, via my son and daughter-in-law, that tonight is the summer solstice and full moon and that this conjunction hasn't happened since 1948. Wow!

I have a tradition of noting the solstice and equinoxes but I thought it was yesterday and didn't even know about the moon. We've been back in America for about a week but I must still be a bit jet lagged. This is a happy reprieve.



Jun 5, 2016

Quick catch up

We've been in London now for three weeks and I've barely made a note. The emphasis of this visit has been the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. We went eight times, about four hours a visit, and saw everything. We've seen most of it before but after all the art in Italy, where the Renaissance began, we needed to take a another look at the Renaissance art there. So, done. And yes, it was different, more in context for one thing plus I had a better idea of who and what to look for.
Anyway, no time to go into details right now. I need to save my battery for Hampton Court. At the moment we're on the Overground headed there for a second look at well. For one thing, I want to get better photos of Henry's kitchen. Its fireplace alone is big enough to live in.

May 29, 2016

May 27, 2016

RIP Hanako

So sorry. Rest in peace, beautiful one.

Despite years of international outrage at Inokashira Park's treatment of the elephant Hanako and repeated offers to relocate her to an elephant sanctuary, Hanako passed away this week. She died the same way she spent her life ... alone in the zoo's concrete prison where she lived alone for 60 long years. She never felt grass, or dirt or had the comfort of the company of her own kind.

Hanako, forgive us.
source

One commenter wrote
: "some people who were interviewed a while back said Hanako should stay in the zoo because they liked going to see her...selfish is the kindest word I can use..."


May 26, 2016

Comment senction 05.26.16

Trump is a vulgar, self-obsessed billionaire who's new game is to see if he can buy the Presidency. That's it. He loves the game. He is on no one's side but his own and will say and do anything to win. Oh he's a charmer but, once he's got you, he's already moved on. Now he owns the Republican party. Too bad guys. You lose. Should he win the election, we all lose. Bush gets credit for stirring up the Taliban and the birth of ISIS. Trump would top that.

May 25, 2016

Elizabeth Warren takes down "small insecure money grubber Donald Trump"

The truth is a beautiful thing. Thank you Elizabeth.

May 23, 2016

Pig in a Bentley

We've been in London for about a week now and today we went for a lovely five mile walk beside the Thames.  Passing through a segment of a riverside park we met a woman on an outing with a gigantic, black and white, long haired pig and a little white dog. The pig was happily munching what looked like delicious spring grass and the dog was running around investigating everything. I'm not sure if the man leaning on the nearby black Bentley was her husband or her driver but he also smiled when I complimented her on the pig.

May 14, 2016

Day trip to the past

The way we travel, it's normal for us to walk miles in a day and get back to our apartment late. By that point, I don't have the time, energy or inclination to do a proper post, hence I usually end up writing little or nothing about the wonders we see.

Road to Ostia Antica

Our recent visit to Ostia Antica, a huge archeological site about 30 kilometers from Rome, was no exception. It was a 12 hour extravaganza of wonders.

Temple figure at the oldest crossroads
in Ostia Antica

Archaeological sites and museums are our downfall. We linger and this is where it gets complicated because, when I linger, there is suddenly so much to see... and so much to learn that I didn't know I want to know.


Disturbing
Mithraeum of the Baths of Mithras
Ostia Antica

For example, archaeologists date the beginnings of Ostia Antica in the 4th century BC and mark its high point in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. At that time it had around 100,000 inhabitants.

Fresco remains

That makes the Ostia Antica of today a 2000 year-old Roman ghost town. How can we rush though a place like that? And, undoubtedly, we're not the only ones who have enjoyed lingering there.


Tavern at the crossroads
complete with shady characters.

Certainly residents, seafarers, traders and perhaps even a few pirates have lingered and enjoyed convivial conversation in the tavern at the old crossroads across the street from that headless naked guy. And probably many of those people went over to the communal latrine later for another good long chat.


Swami surveying Ostia Antica's 24 seat communal latrine.

But all things pass and Ostia Antica was finally abandoned in the 9th century though that didn't stop pirates from repeatedly sacking the place during its decline. Even the sea and Tiber river eventually moved away leaving the town landlocked. Then, six hundred years later, Cardinal Giulliano della Rovere, the man who later became Pope Julius II, showed up on the scene.

Typical floor in Ostia Antica

He was known as the fearsome warrior Pope. Those who crossed him payed the price, sometimes with their life. He is also the Pope who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. But as a Cardinal in 1483, della Rovere began a major renovation of a centuries old Papal castle located just outside Ostia Antica and took many tons of marble from the city for his project. I guess that counts as recycling.

Marble arch to the Castle of Julius II at the end of day.

A little went for decoration but most of the marble was crushed, along with the history it represented, plus lime to make mortar to hold the castle's giant stones in place. About a hundred years later, after an extraordinary flood, the Papacy abandoned the place. It was a prison for awhile, sat empty for a couple of centuries and was finally restored in the 19h century to exhibit the first findings from the excavations at Ostia Antica. We noticed it as we were heading back to the train after our very long day but, naturally, went over to have a look.

Cat in his garden by the castle

I didn't start out with the intention of going into all that. This is the problem with visiting a place like Rome and its suburbs, if there even is another place like Rome and its suburbs. Nearly every little thing represents at least a thousand years of history. Fascinating, yes, but a very sticky web to quickly navigate.

European crow on an ancient marble column

Even Ostia Antica, stripped to the bone a thousand years ago, and possibly the most poorly curated major archeological site on the face of the earth, was fascinating. We dragged away.



May 6, 2016

First impressions

Rome

Side chapel in a Roman basilica

Rome is a strange place. For all its wealth, pomp, power and fabulous history, my first impression is that it's a mono culture living off its past. Of course, we've only been here a week and I'm speaking from the impressions I've gathered as we explore the street level of things so I'm probably totally off. In any case, it's an amazing place, an overwhelming place and I'm delighted and grateful to see it.

Facing the past
Museo Nazionale Romano

May 3, 2016

Make haste slowly

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Lee describes the historic center of Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance, as a world suspended in amber. It's a perfect description. In 14th century Florence, the merger of Church and secular wealth, power, ruthlessness and creative energy became a flash point transforming western civilization. The Florence of today is the standing record of that fusion suspended in time for all to see.

Reliquary belonging to House of Medici
Florence, Italy

We stayed in Florence for two weeks, exploring treasures from both the Renaissance and Medieval periods. The city is full of world famous paintings, sculpture and architecture by men such as Brunelleschi, the oldest of the the founding fathers of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello, Titian, Michelangelo, Botticelli and others. Lisa del Giocondo, the woman Michelangelo painted as the Mona Lisa, lived and is buried in Florence.

Pulpit from which Galileo was first attacked for his ideas - 1614
Galileo
was first denounced from this pulpit, an event which
culminated in him being tried for heresy during the Inquisition.
Florence

Galileo and Michelangelo are also buried there. Dante, however, is not buried there. In 1302 he found himself on the wrong side of a political conflict involving the Pope and in 1315, refusing to pay the fine, was condemned to permanent exile from his beloved Florence or be burned at the stake. In 2008 the city council of Florence passed a motion rescinding his death sentence but thus far the city of Ravenna refuses to give back his bones.

Dante & Eagle outside Duomo - Florence Italy
Dante and eagle outside the Duomo
Florence

Otherwise, Florence claims many honors. According to wikitravel, Florentines reinvented money, the gold florin which became the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages". Florentine bankers also financed the first route around Africa to India and the Far East. The Americas were named after a Florentine, Amerigo Vespucci. Florentines also pioneered the use of the vernacular, thus ending the use of Latin as the common language. They invented opera and Ferdinando de' Medici made possible the invention of the piano through his patronage of Bartolomeo Cristofori, a harpsichord builder from Padua.

Michelangelo and his "biscuit" nose
When Michelangelo was an apprentice a rival
punched him in the nose "mashing it like a biscuit".
It remained that way the rest of his life.
Bargello Museum - Florence Italy

As for me, the unfinished sculptures Michelangelo were especially powerful, his abandoned figures half-released from the stone. Initially I assumed the unfinished pieces, the rough work, were done by assistants but, when I mentioned this to Lee, he said Michelangelo did most of the work himself, frequently working through the night and, when he did rest, often slept in his boots and clothes. That impressed me and so I read up on him. His biographer Paolo Giovio wrote that "Michelangelo's nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him." Various biographers describe him as solitary and melancholy although he did love one man, Tommaso dei Cavalieri

Florence morning - Italy
Festina lente
(make haste slowly)
Motto adopted by the House of Medici.
Florence morning


Apr 16, 2016

Italy at last

Florence, Italy

We've been skirting Italy for the last year and saw Roman's ruins and its influence everywhere, Turkey, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, England, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, I mean Czechia. Just yesterday the Czech Republic officially announced their country's new name, Czechia. And when people say Roman, they are referring to Italy in the overall, aren't they? Italian art, sculpture, architecture. At least as influence. So finally we are in Italy. In spite of the fact that I had great expectations about this place, in spite of the fact that we've been working up it it for the last year, it has not disappointed me.

Door from, or it is to, the past?
Yes, around the Mediterranean giant palaces and cathedrals remain that were built when Rome was the center of the Western world, isolated grandeurs, World Heritage sites, but here in Italy that style was a way of life. But I've said enough. I'm not a historian and I don't have the time to research every word I write so ... enough. Florence is amazing ... but the internet here, or at least in our neighborhood, sucks.

Even Project Fi, Google's international phone network, is weak in our neighborhood. Project Fi worked even in Czechia's tiny Český Krumlov, but not here. In spite of its great past, seems Florence Italy is a technological backwater. It's maddening.

Also, it's been hard to find oatmeal at a decent price. That, of course, drove M. Lee (the oatmeal fanatic) to look up the history of oatmeal in Italy. Seems you could easily get it 30,000 years ago. The first evidence of humans eating oatmeal was discovered in a cave in Italy. I hope I'm wrong but, at least so far, Italy seems like an oatmeal backwater as well.

Italy also sucks when it comes to getting a big giant American cup of coffee. Europe in general doesn't do coffee like we do coffee so no suprize that even in this lovely airbnb place the "big" cups hold about two sips. I say big but only compared to the other regular size cups, the thimble size espresso cups.

I don't complain. I just report. All in all, Florence is fabulous.

My morning cup of coffee