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…

PhotoBike Tour 14: Key West

Welcome to Key West!

We spent a couple of days here with friends this past week, driving down Sunday with two and driving back up Wednesday with two others. It’s good that everyone drives! Bill was generous in offering to drag my bicycle down so that I could roam at will, and roam I did. We also did a lot of walking.

Kirk took most of the foliage pictures; click on any of these to make them larger.

Here’s my bike– the one with the white basket– fairly jumping off the rack to get started…

This time six of us stayed at the Hyatt Windward Pointe, located at almost the very southeastern tip of the island. It’s far removed from where we usually stay– over in Old Town on the west side– but it was a wonderful change and, if I decided to bike around, I really had to work at it. And it’s breezy along the bikeway that rings the island, making for lots of strenuous exercise and rationalizations:

“Do I really need to have TWO Manhattans? Yes, because I can bike them off.”

“Do I HAVE to have another helping of spaghetti and meatballs? Yes, because I can bike it off.”

“Do I really need to have FIVE gin and tonics? Yes, because you’re on Duval Street and you have to bike all the way EAST, and there will go all those calories.”

Calories, schmalories.

Here’s a vew from our hotel room, looking south toward Cuba. If you squint, you can see Fidel smoking a cigar. Just across the road is the bike path, and less than a mile to the right is Smathers Beach. Just over the seawall you can see the older, collapsed seawall just below the surface of the water, and it’s become a reef: you see all kinds of fish and sea urchins.

Just to the west of the hotel, within walking distance, is the East Martello Museum. This is where you need to go to get a sense of the island’s history and quirkiness; it’s also where Robert the Doll lives forever. We didn’t see Robert this time, but we did pass the store on Duval Street which sells his likeness. I tried to photograph the display of Robert the Doll dolls through the window glass into the closed shop, but the reflection precluded that; it wasn’t until I got home that I saw that the dolls managed to allow themselves to be photographed onto the reflection of the street outside the shop window…

See the Robert the Doll dolls floating in the center of the picture?

Walking through town, Kirk likes to photograph every bougainvillea bract, every palm tree, every blooming tropical. He has an eye for color and composition, so feast your eyes on the following photographs as seen through Kirk’s lens…


OK, this one I took. These are Royal Palms.

Me and a GIANT Desert Rose.

I spent a few hours on the bike exploring back streets and neighborhoods that most people don’t explore. Me, I see an alleyway, I go down it. I talk to people, ask questions, and find things out. The Albury House, for example, is a house I’ve been obsessed with for twenty-five years. It sold at the end of 2010 after the last family member who lived in it passed on (Bonnie Albury). The house is now being rehabilitated and it’s been scraped clean of its termites and barnacles both inside and out. I almost got inside, but the construction foreman was just about to start a meeting, and I didn’t want to cause an imbroglio. Not that there was much to see inside: you can literally look through the house from front to back now.

Here’s the entry hall stairway, which generations of Alburys must have climbed since the house was built in the 1800s…

Because it’s 2012 and not 1992, most people are on a budget, and so the six of us decided to each spend a night cooking while we were there. The unit featured a full kitchen, though we had to have a new orange juicer AND kitchen stove swapped out; neither worked, and there were bags of oranges that Jon and John had brought to be squeezed, let alone their chicken and rice, spaghetti and meatballs (Jim and Kirk), and steaks and potatoes and broccoli (Bill and Karl) which were slated for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday suppers respectively. So, we didn’t spend a lot of time in restaurants, though I do recall a lusty and excellent breakfast at Two Friends Patio. We were also planning on meeting locals Susan Kent and DeVonna Howell for breakfast one morning at Flamingo on Duval Street, but the plan fell through and  instead I ended up having many, many rollicking cocktails with them at Aqua later the same day.

Entertainment one evening was provided by yours truly, lip-synching to the warblings of well-known and obscure girl-groups from 1963 and 1964, ably assisted by my background singers and dancers, who gamely invented stunning new choreography for each verse; Kirk slept through it all, which was a surprise considering we had You Tube cranked as high as it would go. It’s a good thing we were worn out before midnight, or we would have had to do a few turns to the Monkey Stroll.

One night we played Trivial Pursuit, which quickly degenerated into a raucous edition of Charades when it was decided that not many of us could answer anything that happened after 1970. I reduced myself to humming the alphabet at my teammates and then slamming the table when I got to the letter that formed the first word of the answer. “H I J K LMNO P!!”

Since we were located on the eastern end of the island this trip, I decided to take a good look around. For instance, while biking east along Staples Avenue, I came to a dead end; cars could not continue further because of a cut running from the salt ponds on the island’s north all the way through to the airport. Bikes could access a little bridge, however, and it’s here that I paused and had a look at the scenery.

And, looking down into that water, this man-made reef… anything to avoid dragging the grocery cart back to the store!

Following are a lot of houses I couldn’t resist falling in love with. Really– these places seem so cozy to me, and with a little TLC might actually be habitable for many more years.

On Solares Hill, the island's highest point.

This visit we toured the Eco Center, a free museum which features Keys wildlife, sea life, and flora. Aquariums and dioramas show you what’s at stake along the fragile island chain, and a movie in a dark little theatre helps put you to sleep after all that studying. Let me explain– it’s nicely air conditioned, the music is very Enya-esque, and the images are of divers, snorkelers, and fish of all kinds swimming slowly through their underwater world. It’s mesmerizing, and I almost couldn’t get up out of my seat when the movie ended. You stumble into a gift shop, though the thing that impressed me most was the tooled metal border running along the room’s circumference. It features turtles, fish, coral, and the like. Very nice.

When I went to take a photo out front, it appeared that an SUV had parked itself right in front of part of the mural; naturally, I bitched, leading Kirk to sputter ” I knew, KNEW you were going to say something!!”

Along with the hidden and the obscure, I like to re-visit some old haunts, just to remind myself that some things never change:

The West Martello Tower is the home of the Key West Garden Club, and is an amazing place staffed and maintained by volunteers. You can wander its nooks and crannies for hours, and the view from the top of the sweeping Atlantic is incredible.

On the grounds of West Martello Tower.

The Garden Club library at West Martello Tower. You can sit here in this cool brick room and look at old books devoted to horticulture. What was that old joke? Someone asked Dorothy Parker to use 'horticulture' in a sentence, and she replied "you can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think."

The Margaret Truman Drop-Off Launderette, catering to first ladies since, oh, 1800 or so.

Inside St. Mary, Star of the Sea. (Sancta Maria, Stella Maris.)

They open the side doors for cross-ventilation at St. Mary, which helps dry off your streaming head after biking frantically to Mass and forgetting that you're going to be dripping when you dismount and go inside.

St. paul on Duval Street, one of the city's Episcopal churches. It's gorgeous, and when you go inside and see the statues and the holy water fonts and the figural stained glass, you say "it's so Catholic!"

Steamship deco in the heart of town...

Colorful transport...

Two full days go by fast, but if you drink a lot of coffee and Diet Coke you’ll manage to stay energetic enough to traipse hither and yon and up and down and along, though my feet were hurting all day Monday; I think that was because of all that choreography on the unit’s tile floors. When you’re performing, you’re only interested in pleasing your audience, not thinking about how your feet are going to hurt.

Jon and John drove us home via Jensen Beach, where we picked up John’s mini pinscher from his dog sitter, and Max was the most well-behaved dog in the universe. Not a bark did I hear, and my Claritin prevented any allergic flare ups because, if I had started to wheeze, one of us would have had to be left by the side of the turnpike…and it wasn’t going to be Max.

Jon picked up more oranges for squeezin' in Jensen Beach.

Can’t wait to go back !

PhotoBike Tour 13: Leu Gardens and Winter Park

(Foliage photos by Kirk… click on them to make them BIGGER.)

 See those beautiful plants? It’s a raft of bromeliads that were for sale at the Leu Gardens Annual Spring Plant sale today. Kirk rounded up a bunch of people to go “in the morning, early, so we can find parking,” and I do recall a voice at 8:30 saying that he was on his way, that he would let me sleep, and here’s your coffee. See ya later!

[Codicil: I’ve been up very late this week watching episodes of Downton Abbey on Netflix. AND I’ve had a lot of organizing work to do as well… so this morning maybe, maybeeeee I was a little tired.]

I knew there would be questions– where’s Jimmy? Sleeping in?– and I still have enough foolish pride left in me to care when people get the wrong idea, so I got on my bicycle and biked from our house to Leu Gardens. Not bad! The weather was perfect today, and the traffic was fine until I hit Corinne Drive coming out of Baldwin Park– then I had to contend with yupsters in their giant SUVs as they spedpastmeTHISclose while at the same time talking on their phones and tending to Madison and Yasmine in the back seat. I’m just saying.

Leu Gardens has bike racks set up to the right of the entry building, allowing the cyclist a short walk back to the main gate, or you can access the Gardens by going into the building and then taking the first left. Immediately, you’re in the Gardens’ famous acreage, and today was a most perfect day for a plant sale. The two young guys who were handling the area of the parking lot where the bike rack was located could not have been more accommodating, even laughing at my lame joke regarding valet parking, and that I’d be back to claim it at 2 PM… here’s the key. ha! And one was quick to say he’d start a tab for me after I asked “and now where’s the bar?” When one can bring smoky cocktail banter to a botanical site, then one is very fortunate indeed.

There was some phone drama regarding the coordinating of five people and their whereabouts, but that was easily addressed. I myself had to traipse through crowds looking for my posse, going on nothing but directional markers like “we’re at that house… near the ferns… past the roses.” WHICH house, WHICH ferns, WHICH roses? I did find everyone after all, and there’s nothing like catching up with friends while your ankles are being grazed by double-wide strollers: “So how’s work DAMMIT, OUCH.” The stroller brigade was out in force, which always leads me to wonder: how does one pair of parents with a double-wide stroller manage to link up with all seventy-five OTHER pairs of parents with double-wide strollers? All seventy-six couples and the 152 kids plant themselves in the middle of busy sidewalks, comparing ice cream likes and dislikes, discussing cupcake recipes, and relating how well little Chutney is doing in Advanced Ballet. And the mothers are just as chatty.

But I digress; it was too beautiful a day for anxiety, so I soldiered on. I knew Kirk would be using up megabytes on photographing the offerings, and so I must credit him with the shots of flowers in this blog entry. Scavullo couldn’t have done better.

The specimen below is a young Royal Palm. They really don’t thrive in our area, and reputable growers will impart you that important information. It’s just too cold here for them, and you’ll often see dead Royals gracing what was obviously a very recent landscaping job. They belong in South Florida, or in warmer climate pockets (you’ll find them on Merritt Island).

And here’s another grand palm, the name of which escapes Kirk at the moment, regardless of the fact that one is practically TRIPPING over identification signs while wandering through the Gardens. I’m just saying.

And here are some more flowers and things, one of the things being a koi fish (upper left). They’re basically large goldfish, which you’ll sometimes see in Asian restaurants swimming in picturesque pools. I always like to get the hostess’s attention, point to a koi, and say “that one, please.”

Some roses, below. One of the vendors showcased a selection of old-fashioned specimens, some of them considered rare. I spotted our friend Mark there, and started over to say hello, but ran into someone else I knew and said hello to him first. Hug hug, kiss kiss, and then back to finding Mark, who had suddenly disappeared. Then one of the vendor assistants asked me, in a Mrs. Kravitz voice, “is there a particular rare rose you’re looking for?” and I said “yeah, one called Mark,” and she said “I don’t think we have one by that name,” and I said “I’m kidding, Mark is actually a person.” Can you imagine the rollicking time you would have had with me today? Your sides would have been splitting.

Below: Kaffir Lilies, and a beautiful red Amaryllis.

After a Diet Coke AND a bottle of water, it was time to thread my way back home before it grew too hot. Rather than just go home the usual way– Corinne, Baldwin Park, Lakemont, Aloma– I decided to take a back way, just to see what I could see, like this old beauty on the corner of Azalea Lane past Mead Gardens (the pictures are by me from here on):

And, my favorite house in all of Winter Park, this time in color. (I blogged Winter Park’s beauties in black and white here recently.) It was built in about 1897 and it’s amazing that it’s survived for this long on the busy road it’s located on. Today I actually walked all around the house taking pictures, but the front displays this grand lady’s finest aspect.

 Instead of dealing with 436, I went north on Lakemont because there were a few streets to the east that I wanted to explore. I wanted to photograph Lacy Shadows, which used to be an old folks’ home decorated with beautiful wrought iron lace work on its two stories. (A woman I know who worked there used always to refer to it as “Shaky Laces.”) Lacy Shadows is gone, however; that was a disappointment. And of course the lot is for sale…

Now, I knew there was a vast nothingness situated between Lakemont and 436, but I wasn’t prepared for this. It’s part of Crane Strand Swamp, a wetlands area that’s hard to find if you don’t know where to look. I knew it was here, but hadn’t even seen it from this vantage point just a block or so east of Lakemont Avenue. Interlachen Country Club is built on this, and much of the Tanglewood subdivision (Lake Howell Road south of Howell Branch Road), along with a lot of development you see on 436 between Howell Branch Road and Aloma Avenue.

And just past here, on Little Lane, you’ll find the entrance to a development that apparently is in limbo or won’t be happening any time soon. Beyond the locked gates is Crane’s Strand, and an asphalt road leading to two cul de sacs surrounded by swamp. It was to be called Winter Park Preserve. A billboard right here says “Build Your Dream Estate– Last Large Parcel of land in Winter Park.”

Then, almost home after a short ride through Tanglewood. A rather exuberant house features this Bel Air parked outside, which is just about the color of my 2003 Ford Focus. I think this car is from 1961, which would make it over fifty years old. Can you imagine? I’m over fifty years old, and I’ll bet I’ve had more oil changes than this Bel Air.

Next… I’m planning on exploring the inner creases of Polk County. There’s lots going on down there in the way of obscure sites and villages: ghost towns, phosphate plants, spooks, and the like. I can’t wait!

PhotoBike Tour 6: Winter Park in Black and White

Today was SO hot that I knew I should have started biking way earlier than I did. But I left the house at 11:45 and it was like walking into a wall of soup– and not gazpacho. More like boiling pea soup. So you go slow– two-wheeled ambling rather than racing, which is impossible to do in this town anyway what with the traffic and the thousands of parked landscaping and delivery trucks crowding the streets during the day. “How nice and quiet it must be when you bike ride,” people say to me. Wrong. I am serenaded by an orchestra composed of lawnmowers and those damned exhaust-belching, shrieking leaf blowers.

Today wasn’t so bad. I went west into Winter Park, mostly along the Aloma-Osceloa-Brewer-Fairbanks route, and then the little streets over in Hannibal Square. Here are some shots which I decided to post in black and white, just to see what some of my the sites look like when the hot sun bleaches all the color out of them. And then, some things still with us from the past are made to be seen in black and white…

This very old house is on Aloma Avenue, built in 1901. I hope I don’t jinx it by showing it because it seems like the sort of house that the town likes to tear down to replace with a little cement palazzo. (There are no historic districts in Winter Park.)


 I’ve always loved this house on the Aloma-Brewer curve. Built in 1926, it’s being gutted by the current owners; only a few exterior walls are standing.


 Here’s another ancient beauty. It’s at the south end of Bonita Drive. Originally called Eastbank, it was built in 1883– one of the oldest homes in town.

The central areas of Winter Park are laced with canals connecting the big lakes. The boat tour takes you along some of them.

A tiny gem from 1935 on Osceola Court.

All Saints Episcopal (1925).

A church in Hannibal Square, the traditionallyAfrican-American west side of Winter Park.

A house in Hannibal Square, from 1902.

Looking out across Lake Virginia from Dinky Dock at the south end of Ollie Avenue.

On Osceola Avenue, just near the end of the bike ramp that plunges off Brewer hill. From 1935.

Much more respectable these days, this beauty from 1899 was owned by a tax evader / drug smuggler sometime in the 1970s. To get this photo, one has to bike down a short stretch now marked “Private Drive.” One of these days I am going to be set upon by the hounds!

A view toward the chapel at Rollins College, from Lake Virginia.

When I returned home and started looking up the facts on some of these houses, I found a lot of brochures I’d been saving. A little booklet that the Junior League produced in 1980 features a lot of historical buildings that are no longer around. While I realize that the bulldozers of progress roll inexorably on, I also lament the permanent, irretrievable loss of those beautiful structures.

PhotoBike Tour 5: Deeper Inside Brooklyn



The Sunset Park Neighborhood-- 43rd. Street, 400 Block

The borough of Brooklyn opens up like a lotus flower when you rent a bike. When I arrived, I contacted a bicycle store in Bay Ridge that featured hourly and daily rentals, though there was no indication about longer-term rentals; I was interested in at least a week, with the possibility of extensions.       

My Florida-honed sense of decorum and politeness evaporated as I marched the three avenues and one street to the bike shop, and soon I was negotiating a weekly rate with the owner. Times are hard, I know, and so we both decided they were very appreciative of my business– and I was proud to have negotiated the final rate with my Florida-honed sense of decorum and politeness; I should be running BP.       

The first journey I made on my bicycle was to see my friends Carol and Matt on Carroll Street. I was always charmed that Carol lived on Carroll Street; she is an accomplished artist and very humoresque blogger (see at right) and the woman I bonded with in art class back in Brooklyn College circa 1976.  (I was taken with the fact that her art supplies locker in Boylan Hall was boldly labeled CAROL’S LOCKER!!!!!!! ) She also had braids and an attitude. Soon we were disco-ing in Manhattan with abandon, and then I moved to Florida; she still hasn’t forgiven me.       

When I was a kid living on 72nd. Street in Bay Ridge, anything below about 39th. Street was considered off-limits. There were myriad reasons why, some legit, some not so much; the fact that there were really ancient neighborhoods out there always intrigued me, and I would bike right to the edge of the perceived danger in those days, with my little Instamatic, and i’m glad I did because I still have all those shots of 1960s-1970s Brooklyn.       

Early on a Saturday morning I biked to Carol and Matt’s in time for their stoop sale, which is a garage sale for people who don’t have a garage. Carol’s sister Alice arrived with her son Jimmy and THEIR wares, and can I tell you that Alice got a parking space right in front of their building?  This is virtually impossible; later on, the neighborhood association presented her with a plaque. I assisted with the sale under Carol’s orders, depending as she did on my years in retail merchandising. I enjoyed the cajoling and kibbitzing with the locals– what’s so cool about Brooklyn is that everyone on the block knows just about everyone else– and talks to them !    


Brooklyn is riddled with architecture, unique among American cities. I myself am a frustrated architect– I wanted desperately to attend Cooper Union after high school, but my marks weren’t good enough. So I live vicariously through the designs of the men and women who preceded me. Here are some of their creations:       

The Parachute Jump at Coney Island

 The Parachute Jump terrorized a couple of generations of daring beachgoers when it was installed here after its tenure at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. You’d sit in a canvas seat, rise a few hundred feet into the air, be brought to the outer  edge, and then you’d plummet to the bottom; presumably, the chute would open, preventing you from spending the rest of your life looking like a pizza. I never went on it– I was too young– but plenty of people did, and lived to tell about it. But we always watched the greasers and their screaming, beehived girlfriends from the safety of the hot sand when we visited the beach.       

 Here is Regina Pacis Catholic Church, also affiliated with St. Rosalia Parish. It’s on 65th. Street, a major thoroughfare, and so it’s riddled and crossed with wires. The church features a statue of the Virgin Mary whose double crown was stolen in the 1960s; the neighborhood Italians held prayer vigils around the clock for its safe return, but it was only until an anonymous, veiled threat was posted in the newspaper that they were returned. It’s a beautiful church; if you are over fifty and your first name is Bernadette or Filomena, chances are good that you were either confirmed or married or waked in Regina Pacis:  


Regina Pacis-- Queen of Peace

Here’s another Catholic church– the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is the centerpiece of what was originally a heavily Irish parish. My friend Donald was sent to his final rest from here, and the organist played overwrought and sentimental hymns during the funeral Mass; all I could think of was that dear Donald would have preferred Donna Summer and the Hughes Corporation, or even Giorgio Moroder (“From Here to Eternity”) but I didn’t have anything to do with the musical arrangements.       


 Bay Ridge, once home to a huge Norwegian population, has like one shop dedicated to the presence, and of course I went inside. Nordic Delicacies carries all sorts of things Norwegian, and I bought Nordic Kirk a teacup, some powdered soups, and napkins festooned with the colorful flag. There was a magazine on display, whose headline I voluntarily translated for the lady behind the counter– a large-font bevy of twenty-somethings bleating “WE LIKE OLDER MEN!”  And the elderly lady responded “yah, especially ven dey have money!”       

Nordic Delicacies

I spent a couple of days in Staten Island with my sister, and Mom came with me one day to use the pool. Here are Gina and Mom:       


And here’s a shot of Gina being VERY gorgeous and happy:       


 Gina indulged me one day when I asked her to drive with me to Rossville, an area of Staten Island that features a ships’ graveyard as well as an ancient cemetery. While I was clambering among the weeds, she called Mom: “Now he’s rummaging through a cemetery!” And Mom told her, very seriously, “that’s what he likes to do.”      

The Dead Boats of Rossville

And here’s the Blazing Star Cemetery at Rossville, with this grave marker dated 1789:     

The Dead People of Rossville

 One day I biked to Gravesend, an area of southern Brooklyn that was settled by the Dutch in the 1600s. A house owned by Lady Moody, who established the colony, still survives, though the elevated subway runs directly through the center of the ancient Gravesend grid:     

Lady Moody's House (circa 1643)

And here is something rather fabulous, nearby:     


 Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway now features a bike path, though you have to cross many heavily-trafficked streets while biking. Here is one of the more monumental synagogues built along this major boulevard:     


Ocean Parkway goes all the way south to the Coney Island area, though I diverged and took Ocean Avenue which led me east of Coney, into the neighborhoods of Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach. Here’s a view across Sheepshead Bay looking out towards the Island. I went with Mom one day to Jordan’s restaurant and seafood store; we had lunch and then brought home lobster tails for supper. That’s what we do: while having a meal, we discuss the meals-to-come.  


 Back in Bay Ridge, here are a couple of very old houses typical of the neighborhood:     


 Nearby Stewart Avenue features another vista of old Bay Ridge:     


  An ancient (1892) warehouse along the old Bay Ridge waterfront, actually considered Sunset Park these days; I wonder what they did here? I love neighborhoods like this; I was the only one around, just me on my bike, but felt strangely secure.     

At the right you can click on earlier posts regarding my Brooklyn visit, with lots more pictures.      

  Next… Manhattan with Carol !     



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!