PhotoBike Tour 15: Random Shots, and More Key West

Sometimes I’ll bike for hours and not even do a post, or I’ll take a million photos and use… three. It all depends on my mood, as I can morph from crazed enthusiasm to apathetic ennui in seconds. I think it has to do with sugar levels, endorphins, and cream cheese– whatever’s coursing through my system at any given time. Like, it’s not a good idea to load up on carbs before, say, a funeral Mass, because you’ll crash fall asleep just when the eulogy begins; you’ll wake up in the cemetery under a tree, wondering how you got there, and asking yourself who all those people are dressed in black? OH!

Sometimes I’ll take a photograph of something that profoundly affected me, and all sorts of captions, descriptions and references will pop into my head. And often, by the time I get home, I’ve forgotten everything. I’ll stare at the photo and wonder just where in hell THAT was taken. Luckily I have resorted to taking along a notebook and maps , though i am working on remembering to take along something to write with.

Here’s a shot of the altar at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, which is located on the grounds of the retirement village over in Slavia, an old settlement strung out along Aloma Avenue in Seminole County. This little brick church was built in 1939 and cost just under $7500. One of its stained glass windows depicts Jan Hus being burned at the stake for heresy. I avow as to how tragic and unnecessary that was. And the irony is that this Lutheran church belongs to a branch of Lutheranism called the Missouri Synod, which is very conservative and very close to Roman Catholicism’s sacramentals: hence the crucifix. It’s not that I’m particularly religious, but the whole topic of comparative religions fascinates me; I’m currently reading a book called Jews and Mormons– Two Houses of Israel, co-written by a Mormon and a Jew. It’s fascinating how they get after each other over fine points of doctrine and practice. Mormons believe that the indigenous peoples on the American continents are descended from Jews who took a boat over here in about 600 B.C. They also have a publication called The Pearl of Great Price, which includes alleged translations by Joseph Smith of things that were written on a traveling circus mummy’s papyrus wrappings; Smith calls this the Book of Abraham, and you can imagine what the Jewish guy must think about that.

I didn’t take the picture above. A reader of my blog sent it after I posted something about an old house I was trying to locate on State Highway 50 in Ridge Manor, north of Dade City. I remembered passing it a couple of times, but couldn’t remember exactly where it was. I always imagined it to be a decaying Southern colonial mansion, a leftover from the mid-nineteenth century, but it’s actually relatively new– just in not such great shape, but I was informed that the owner is attempting to fix it up. It’s a nice reminder of Gone with the Wind’s Twelve Oaks, which is where Ashley Wilkes lived. Scarlett O’Hara had an unnaturally strong erotic attraction to him– it must have been the sight of his blond frame straddling his horse– and also the scene of her first encounter with Rhett Butler. My favorite scene at Twelve Oaks is when Scarlett alights from her carriage on barbecue day, spies India Wilkes in a tacky brown velvet hoop-skirted gown, and trills “why India Wilkes! I just love that dress! I can’t take my eyes off it!” And India smiles her thanks, even though the two of them can’t stand one another. Then Scarlett sweeps into the house in search of Ashley, sees him with his intended, Melanie, and proceeds to slice and dice his fiancée with a series of backhanded compliments which have no effect on Melanie because she’s so GOOD.
Here’s an old brick building in Winter Garden,  one of my favorite areas to poke around in. That whole region south of Lake Apopka is crammed with history and remnants: Winter Garden, Oakland, Tildenville, Beulah, Killarney… it’s easy to get lost on the back roads and not see anything that reminds you of the 21st. century. There used also to be a migrant labor camp around there called Harlem Heights, but it’s gone.
Here are some power pylons marching through a field in rural Seminole County. If you look at this area on Google Earth, you can see a definite rectangular swath rammed through the area in order to support the power grid. They come very close to Saints Peter and Paul  on Old Howell Branch Road, and I swear you can feel these things humming and buzzing. Maybe that’s just my imagination; maybe I also stand in the yard late at night, waving a flashlight and hoping that the aliens come and take me away for a springtime tour of The Outer Planets. There’s one member of this household who believes strongly in Bigfoot; I’m not gonna say exactly who, but he always tells me that I’m going to look out the bedroom window one night and see one of those creatures staring back in at us.
Here’s a little barbershop in Goldenrod. It reminds me of the place I used to go to in Brooklyn, up the street and across Fort Hamilton Parkway. A guy with hairy arms gave haircuts, and he was eventually replaced by a dark Italian named Tony, complete with oiled hair and a mustache. I always thought he was going to tie me to the railroad tracks. I used to hope that I’d have to wait a little while so that I could sit and read the wrinkled magazines he had stacked on a little table. There were always copies of Playboy, which fascinated me. What I would do was slowly and sneakily try to hide the copy of Playboy inside a copy of Life magazine, which took a while to maneuver, and usually by that time the barber would be shouting “NEXT!!” But sometimes I was able to sit there and read, and I learned a lot from Playboy– most importantly that nobody looks good in a leisure suit, no matter how enticing the ads.
In Key West, this “peace bell” graces the West Martello Museum and Gardens. There’s a little plaque right there, saying something about peace and brotherhood, and so I felt compelled to pull the rope and ring that bell. Little did I know that they also ring that bell in order to let the volunteers know that it’s lunch time, as evidenced a few minutes later when the bell was rung by someone in charge and a calm stampede ensued; I had only succeeded in confusing everyone.
Here’s a place in Key West that apparently is “on hold.” It reminds me, actually, of certain houses in Brooklyn located in certain neighborhoods. Certain families have to live close to their business interests, and so the money is put into the house. After awhile there’s just so much you can do with the house, so they add things like marble balustrades, blue tile roofs, plaster dogs and dragons, and shiny, chrome fences. Soon these houses look like Chinese restaurants.
Soon I will be traveling to Geneva with Becky, and I’ve got to start my Polk County excursions as well though, with gasoline so expensive, I wonder how I’m going to do that. Polk County is HUGE, and there’s so much to unearth…

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.

Naked Jackie O, Andy Warhol’s Boxes, and MY Stuff

This week, a team of researchers, documenticians, and– I assume– forensics experts are sifting though hundreds of boxes of STUFF and THINGS that artist Andy Warhol collected over the span of his life. He started out making piles and messes in his apartment until there were no clear surfaces anywhere, until a friend suggested that he decant the contents of his daily gleanings into boxes and then seal everything up for posterity.

As we all know, posterity came early for poor Andy– him with the shock of white hair and eternally-bemused expression. Well, maybe not so much bemused as afraid. It’s like, very early on, he took a long look outside and then decided to become an Indoor Person, choosing instead to import those parts of the outside world that he could actually deal with, like Jackie O (a naked picture of whom surfaced in his stuff). Have you read his diaries? It’s like rooting around inside somebody’s underwear drawer after they’ve asked you to cat sit for a week. (I deny ever having taken part in something like that, and I’m sticking to my story.)

Reading about Andy’s boxes, and the tens of thousands of things he had salted away– including, but hardly limited to, leaky soup cans– I wondered what the world would do if, upon MY death, it was invited to sift through my stuff. Would my things end up on the Internet for legions of twentysomethings to remark upon ironically? Would they endlessly text one another regarding the contents of Box 43-B because the items spoke of a time and place that, for them, seemed like amusing bits of ancient history? Who can say? And I’m not really interested in the answers; I’m not interested in anything that people will say about me after I’m gone, because it won’t be colored by my perception of it all. Hopefully I’ll be somewhere looking at everything and then laughing uproariously at what I had to put up with for a few decades.

To save a little time, here is a sampling of what you can expect to find in MY boxes.

Joan Crawford 

BOOK: Joan Crawford, My Way of Life. Simon and Schuster hardcover, 1971. First Edition. 224 pages.  Dear Joan… she was her own best publicity agent, and this book attests to that fact. In it, Joan gives the details on how to achieve the near-perfect life- a life, I might stress, not unlike her own! It’s full of gems on subjects such as the nurturing of the manly ego:  “Make your husband talk about his work. Drag  it out of him, if you have to. But, you’re saying, my husband’s a cashier. How can I take an interest in that? Well, for openers, you might say, “Any holdups today?”     Color: “A red vegetable next to a yellow one looks unappetizing. Two white ones, like celery and cauliflower, look awful.”     Meat loaf: “I use two pounds of ground sirloin, a pound of ground veal, and a pound of sausage meat…thoroughly mixed with three eggs, a bottle of A-1, a good lacing of Worcestershire, a lot of seasoned salt, and finely chopped purple onion and green peppers. I hide four hard-boiled eggs inside the loaf  and before it goes into the oven I dribble over more A-1 and Worcestershire and seasoned salt so that a crust will form.”     And that is why Joan’s book is in one of my boxes.

Gestest FrogFIGURINE: Metal frog, stamped “Gestest.” Size about 2″ x 2″. Manufacture date unknown.  I acquired this frog during one of many childhood visits to the doctor for any number of ailments. Long story short: I was not a well child. At one point I must have decided that I deserved rewards for spending so much time in Dr. Gennarelli’s office– sort of a toddler’s version of Sky Miles.  This frog was given to me by Nurse Isabelle, who was tough and had lots of dark, curly hair under her starched white cap. (We loved one another.) I carried this frog with me everywhere, and one day Laraine Elder, her name should be preserved throughout eternity, took it and threw it into the depths of her garage. We found it months later, wedged inside a folded beach chair. And I just looked up “Gestest” online:  “A synthetic progestational hormone with actions similar to those of progesterone but functioning as a more potent inhibitor of ovulation. It has weak estrogenic and androgenic properties. The hormone has been used in treating amenorrhea, functional uterine bleeding, endometriosis, and for contraception.” Who knew?

Georgia Mud

 MUD from Georgia, dried; March 1974, Acquired on-site.  My friend Eugene is one of my best friends in all the world; I know him since high school, having been close to him since 1971. I learned many things at his house: how to drink coffee and stay up until 3 AM with him and his sisters while discussing the finer points of the Shangri-Las’ Greatest Hits LP; how to appreciate Newport cigarettes; and how to look at people through a lens that wasn’t necessarily rose-colored. I tended to trust everyone; they basically made fun of everyone. When his father Joe was en route to Georgia for a business trip, I asked him to bring me back a bottle of red Georgia mud. (I was VERY into Gone with the Wind  in those days.) And he did.


 Tara, the O’Hara Plantation in Georgia. Premiere issue in the Hawthorne Collectible Gone with the Wind  Collection. 5.5 x 4.5 inches. December 1994. The book and the movie REALLY influenced me, irrationally so, and I’ve written about how I threw a GWTW  party in college and made my sister Gina dress up as Prissy and serve my guests. When this little model appeared in an ad in Parade magazine fifteen years ago, I HAD to have it. Imagine… a model of Tara! There it would proudly sit, perched atop my television set for years to come. And while I was still basking in its glow, I received a mail offer for another  offering: a model of Twelve Oaks, Ashley Wilkes’ neighboring plantation house. (For the unschooled: Scarlett O’Hara nurtured a lustful crush on Ashley for many years, much to the detriment of her own happiness. Was it love? Probably not.) How could I own a model of Tara and NOT Twelve Oaks? Case closed. Little did I know that there were a dozen other little models in the series, all of which I felt compelled to buy. Oy! Things like Aunt Pittypat’s house… the saloon where Rhett Butler cavorted with Belle Watling and the prostitutes… Melanie and Ashley’s cottage… the train station … the newspaper office… the restaurant in New Orleans where Scarlett gorged herself after marrying Rhett… it went on and on. At that point in time I would have been loath to nip a series of anything in the bud; now I know better. Other than Martha Stewart Living magazine, I don’t horde anything. But thank God the series stopped, finally.

Shark's Teeth

 Bottle of sharks’ teeth. 1970-1995. The bottle I got at an antiques shop in Connecticut during one of those family trips to the New England coast; let’s just say that we saw a lot of women in Colonial garb dipping candles and working at looms, and a lot of blond young men in tight-fitting breeches brandishing their muskets. During that same vacation I found a 45 RPM copy of the Cookies’  “I Want A Boy for My Birthday,” which I played and pined over all that summer: ‘It doesn’t matter if he’s short or tall /  Just as long as he gives his all.’  Please. How ridiculous was that? Sweet, but ridiculous. Years and years later, when I started going to Venice beach with Kirk, the sharks’ teeth we collected went into this bottle. All you do is root around in the surf line, and you find plenty of teeth. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you find really big teeth, specimens as large as two inches. They wouldn’t fit into this little bottle, of course; I’d probably have to put those in Tupperware.


Italian Rock 

Some sort of Italian rock, millions of years old. Acquired 1984 along the Lima River in Tuscany.  Which is a lie. When my sister Gina and I were in Italy that year, our cousins took us down a vertical incline so that we could find rocks like the one you see pictured. Now, when your Italian cousins tell you “we’re going hiking down a vertical incline,” you don’t quite understand what they’re saying, so your sister puts on a dress and strap-on heels, thinking that she is going to spend a day eating lunch at the old family homestead perched safely atop  the vertical incline. WRONG. Down we went, me in my big saddle shoes and tight, stylish  jeans, but we managed to find a rock large enough to carry back up with us. Which I did, and promptly dropped back DOWN the vertical incline because the slim tree trunk I was holding onto decided to uproot itself from Mother Earth. My cousins felt so bad that they gifted me with the rock you see pictured. It has sat on a bookshelf for twenty-five years, occasionally giving off dust and often mocking me with the fact that my agility leaves much to be desired.

There are many, many other things in my boxes which the public might find fascinating, but I’ll have the luxury of not knowing. I’ll be in a place far, far away. To me, Heaven will be a big arena where we all sit, entranced, as the secrets to the mysteries of the ages are unfolded on giant screens: how the pyramids were built; how and why a few narrow parameters composed of just a few years suddenly exploded with discovery and thought; whether or not visitors from distant space landed in Africa and mated with the existing races to form modern man; and why Eleanor Parker  decided to take the role of Constance in Return to Peyton Place  when it seemed like it should have been played by Lana Turner, who originated the role of Constance in Peyton Place.

And those unforgettable movies will be in one of my boxes, too.