PhotoBike Tour 3: Oviedo

My buddy Linda mentioned this morning how beautiful it was outside when she went walking her dog Lucy, and that inspired me to take a nice, long bike trip. It’s been very hot here in Central Florida, as you all know, but I’ve been doggedly making little bike tours of Seminole County so that I can stay limber and keep my heart from turning into American cheese.

You gotta determine where you’re going, I’ve discovered, or else you wind aimlessly through the streets of Eastbrook subdivision, deploring the state of people’s garages. I decided I would go out to Oviedo, which is about ten miles from here on the Trail. The Trail actually ends around at around Mitchell Hammock, but you can negotiate the sidewalks after that. Drivers, I’ve found, are very friendly. I tend to grow confused at intersections that involve more than one light, so what I generally do is push the buttons on the signal poles, mutter an Ave Maria, genuflect, and then hightail it across seventeen lanes of traffic; Ive been cursed at in nine languages so far. Actually I jest– I’m very careful at this stage of my life, and wisely refrain from antagonizing people who are negotiating three thousand pounds of steel.

Look at this photo of the Greeneway overpass– it reminds me of those etchings of ancient Roman ruins that the English “discovered” in Italy when they all stampeded to the Continent for their Grand Tour.  “Turn ’round, Cassiopeia, while I sketch these phalli.”  This overpass is relatively new, but I like how it already resembles a scenic ruin:

Ruins 2

Past here are some new houses which don’t seem to fit into the landscape. I suppose you could ignore them, but what happens is that you’re usually assaulted by the sickly sweet scent of clothes dryer exhaust pouring from vents– you know, that heated smell from fabric softener sheets, which is vomititious and impossible to ignore:


Downtown Oviedo is kind of congested, traffic-wise, for a small town; that’s because all sorts of roads come together there, and you experience another confusion of lights and signals and crosswalks. They’ve even gone and muddled things up further by jamming a traffic circle in the midst of things. Americans are genetically indisposed to things like traffic circles. Even four-way stops drive us to distraction– have you seen how the residents of Baldwin Park act at four-way stops? Incredibly imbecilic!

But a short distance from all this is Lake Charm, and a grand lady of a home:

Lake Charm

I called Kirk from here to say where the hell I was, and of course my cell battery was depleted. I don’t even know why I carry that thing around.

When I got to downtown Oviedo on the way back, there was a large rooster in the road; I guess I could have written “cock,” but that would have been horribly sophomoric:


In a way, Oviedo is still very much a country town, and this proves it. I made sure not to get too close to  him; I’m afraid of most farm animals. One time in Key West we got off the bus from the airport and started walking the block to our hotel; I was soon surrounded by chickens and too afraid to move.

Here’s a neat little house on Lake Jesup Road, south of town. I could live here, reading and writing and painting, but not raising chickens.

Little House

And here’s all the mulch you could ever want, mountains of it on Mitchell Hammock Road:


I could smell it from across the road, warm and earthy and a little bit spicy. That’s the great thing about biking all over– you get to smell things. When you pass a stand of soughing pines in the breeze, the whole atmosphere seems mentholated, or like a clean kitchen. Sometimes when the land is low and swampy, you smell sulphur and rotten things. Who knows what’s decomposing out there in the forest? You don’t want to go looking.

Another great thing about biking is that you’re away from distractions. It’s just you and your bike and the air. You feel strangely removed from everything as it passes by to the left and right. The right brain takes over and you start free-thinking, and it’s amazing what all that blood pumping through your body and brain can do. I get a lot of my best writing ideas when I bike. Do I ever remember to carry a notebook? Of course not… I should, now that I’ve trained myself to wear a little backpack. (ID, a few bucks, a useless cell phone, and a camera.)

If anyone ever wants to join me on one of these jaunts, say the word!


Dogs and Cats I Have Known


I have intimated in these pages about the effects that animals have had on my poor wrecked body: the allergies… the asthma… the dry humping; not for me the cuddly puppies and kittens that everybody ELSE in the world seemed to be enjoying. Even John, Jean and Judy (the Catholic school versions of Dick and Jane) had pets– Puff the cat and Spot the dog cavorted across the pages of my first grade reader, leaving neither dander nor stains behind to vex their sickly readers.

It was determined early that I was allergic to dogs and cats after a protracted series of allergy scratch tests performed by Dr. Gennarelli (and Nurse Isabel) and then analyzed at Dr. Horace Greeley’s Laboratory on Clinton Street: “One Block from Borough Hall Subway Station”  was the cry. Little bits of allergens had been pricked into my Q-tip-like arms until the areas either turned red, grew itchy, or sloughed off. It turned out that I was allergic to chicken, mixed cheeses, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, oats, bananas, grapes and raisins, hops (beer), tea, household dust, mixed grasses, ragweeds and cocklebur, and mixed trees. I still have the report, dated October 12, 1960; I was 4 years and 2 months old and it’s signed by Horace Greeley himself. (His son Norman carries on the tradition.)

When I got older, the allergies got worse, and I was taken to Dr. Grolnick (and Nurse Cohen) on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. This time it was patches, and I looked like a quilt for a doll bed by the time they got through with me. The results were even more glum: all of the above, plus most hair and fur bearing animals, and chocolate. Chocolate!

Thus began the long series of Easter Sundays which featured the Bunny bringing me white “chocolate,” while everyone else got the standard brown– yet coveted mine, because it really did taste so much better.

I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post the day I came home from school to discover that our dog Bow Wow had been sent “to a farm.” His official name was Toby, though my grandfather called him Canino– “Little Dog.” He was actually my mother’s dog, but lived with my grandparents after it was determined that he was making me sick. We had fun times, though. Bow Wow would bark from somewhere in the house, and I would run looking for him on my chubby legs. He’d suddenly dart in front of me from under a table, and I would trip– SLAM– onto the hard floors. Nice Little Dog! I wonder what they made him do at the farm… pull a plow? Herd sheep? Guard the hen house?

Even with Bow Wow gone, I still had to deal with other dogs and cats who lived on my block. I could never get too close to them because I would break out in hives and start wheezing, but I still had to live with them if I was to play outside: this was Brooklyn, and there wasn’t a lot of room. (And I wasn’t allowed to cross the street until I was seventeen.)

Prince lived next door with Mr. Milazzo. Prince was white, and sported a big chrysanthemum tail that always showed evidence of his most recent bowel movement. Mr. Milazzo, who was so old he was mummified,  walked this dog constantly. In Winter they would arrive back from their trips to McKinley Park, each heavily marked with snowballs that had been lobbed at them.

Max, a German shepherd, lived two doors down with the Andersens. I was terrified of Max because German shepherds still had that lingering World War II Nazi dog reputation, and the Anderson children were half German, so there you have it. Max barked and snapped at everything and everyone all day, and I steered clear of him. Luckily he spent most of his time in an enclosure above a garage.

Tiny WAS Tiny, one of those rat-like dogs who never grow bigger than a loaf of Wonder Bread, and his bark was probably worse than his bite– though I never chanced it. I can’t tell you how many times Tiny would corner me in Edward and Tommy Jones’ yard, not letting me move an inch until my friends called him off.

Holly was my other grandmother’s dog. I spent MANY wheezy Sundays over her house, often relegated to the front stoop or the back yard while everyone celebrated indoors. Do you know what it’s like to have your Christmas presents handed to you through the basement window? “This one’s for you, Jimmy! And don’t leave the wrapping paper on the steps!!” One time we four kids filmed a family movie, and our sister Lois played Holly. Ever imaginative, Lois tucked black socks over her ears and used a third sock as a cool tail. We have film of her loping across the living room sniffing us in our various disguises. If this was ever leaked to You Tube, we’d all be arrested

Sa-Soo was Aunt Terry’s little dog; I would always say “shouldn’t her name be SASSOON, like the hair designer?” And she would fix me with that Aunt Terry face and say “it’s Sa-Soo.” I don’t remember much about Sa-Soo except for the fact that she always seemed to be followed by a cloud of shed hair.

Montana is Lois and Mike’s Yorkshire Terrier. I take Claritin when I visit her; she takes umbrage when she visits ME because I can’t have the dog in my house. Enough said.

Beauty was a black and white cat who belonged to the family who owned the Launderette up the corner. We never saw her much– she lived mainly on a windowsill above the store and hardly ever came outside, so I was safe.

Smoky was a gray cat that belonged to Laraine’s grandmother, and I actually named him but never really got credit for it. Mrs. Small  didn’t like me much as a kid– I know, hard to believe!!– yet started calling the cat Smoky after I suggested it. This was almost fifty years ago; get over it, Little Jimmy!

I had to be content with reptiles: the pathetic turtles from Woolworth’s in their ovoid plastic environment decorated with one sad palm tree; four salamanders named for the characters in To Kill A Mockingbird– I kept them in a giant brandy snifter filled with water, and they swam and swam and swam and SWAM for their lives for days until they finally all drowned, exhausted! I was from Brooklyn- how was I supposed to know that I should have provided them with a rock to rest upon; and a little frog that my sister Gina murdered after it leaped from her palm, his hind leg snapping after having gotten stuck between two of her fingers. (She folded him back up and placed him back into his tank, thinking I would never notice.) (PS This was the same sister who once enquired “when Jimmy dies, can we get a dog?) I’ve had parakeets, too– I was more afraid of them than they were of ME.

If I want pets, maybe I should just raise oysters.

Farmville Follies on Facebook


You know how sometimes you just sit at the computer with a cup of lukewarm coffee at hand, idly clicking on your Favorites and checking eMail every three minutes? “Oh look! New mail! Somebody likes me !!” It’s a stream of consciousness sort of thing: you’re neither creating nor destroying– you’re simply THERE, at one with a buzzing pile of silicon and pixels which have somehow been recreated into something that we think is vital. (I mean, you STILL need a phone to dial 911.)

Facebook, as I’ve mentioned in these pages, is a sort of addictive medium in which you can spy on your friends’ doings, mainly because they’ve bothered to post minutely about what they’re actually doing: “I’m making toast … trouble… lasagna. I’m home now… sleeping now… awake now. I’m tired… sleepy… comatose with ennui.”

It doesn’t stop there, however; to keep you even more firmly lashed to its moorings, Facebook has contracted with, the makers of Farmville, to offer its pastoral charms to the masses. Now you can be a farmer without ever having to step in anything gushy, or even leaving your city apartment.

I’m still trying to figure out the point of it all, but basically you start out with a piece of property that you plant crops on. Then you harvest and sell them for more than you paid. Then you buy MORE crops, and the process repeats itself. You can gain more farm coins and credits by buying into the $$$ offers that Farmville partners with, but so far I haven’t had to go that route. (Has anybody? I’d like to know!)

Yes. I’ve managed to plant fields of wheat and squash and artichokes, and have then been able to sell them all at a profit. Right now I’m waiting for my wheat to ripen so that I can sell it all and then invest in even MORE cotton than I’ve already got planted. I’ve always wanted to be Ashley Wilkes! (Scarlett O’Hara was in lust with him, but he probably had sour stomach and sties– it WAS 1861, after all. Who was healthy then? I ask you.)

The thing with Farmville is that your Facebook friends who are also involved with the game begin to send you things: trees… cows… chickens… and the occasional black sheep. The cows and chickens give milk and lay eggs, respectively, helping you to accumulate points so that you can buy even MORE animals and crops. It’s like a Ponzi scheme for the Ma and Pa Kettle set.

And there must be hidden tricks or something: my second cousin Lisa intimated something about harvesting crops even more quickly by having your Farmer character stand on a bale of hay. So far I have not been able to make that happen. Maybe I have to press Alt or something? Who knows? As it is, when it is time to harvest, my little farmer avatar runs up and down the furrows frantically, magically turning ripened crops into coins… which I can then use to till fields… which I can then plant with even MORE crops. It’s endless. I actually wake up at 6 AM wondering if my crops have turned to mush, which is what happens when you forget to harvest.

It must satisfy something in my city-bred brain, because the closest I ever got to farm life was when I came home from school one day, looking for our dog Bow Wow. “Oh, we took him to a farm,” I was told. “He’ll be happier there.” Hmm. He’d seemed perfectly happy peeing on fire hydrants and chasing waterbugs down the alley… but who was I to question? I was only seven years old. “We took him to a farm.” Yeah, right… you mean he BOUGHT the farm!

A word about the Farmville farmer avatars: you can design them to your liking, and I swear that each and every one of the 35 million– yes– players has manufactured an avatar in his or her wishful likeness: mine has a full shock of blond hair; a little pug nose; fetching ears; a puckered smile; and a wiggle in his walk. That’s on a good day. When I really have an attitude, and crops to get in before dark, my avatar has a beehive; Harlequin glasses; a mole; fishnet stockings; and a cigarette dangling from its mouth. “Get the damn chickens outta my way,” I snarl. “I got artichokes to bring in!”

And all so I can buy and sell more  artichokes.