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…
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PhotoBike Tour 1: Slavia

It was still sunny (hot) and dry at noon today, and so I decided to take the bike trail east to Slavia. There’s a little Lutheran church I wanted to photograph and, as usual with me, I got talking to people when I thought was simply looking for some solitude.

  The bike trail heading east.

The bike trail heading east; it ends apruptly at Aloma Avenue, so you’ve got to cross the road and pick up the sidewalk, or continue in the bike lane. After a few miles you’ll end up in downtown Oviedo, where you can pick up the Cross Seminole Trail.

St. Luke the Evangelizer Lutheran Church, Slavia.

St. Luke the Evangelizer Lutheran Church, Slavia.

After wandering inside, I was greeted by a gentleman who suggested I check in with the office– no doubt he thought I was some sweaty intruder, but I introduced myself and shook hands and was soon given carte blanche to explore. An older gentleman appeared in the new sanctuary and gave me a verbal tour of the stained glass windows in there, referring to notes that he pulled from his wallet. As I was leaving, a Ms. Cooper gave me a brochure detailing the history of St. Luke’s.
Below is some etched stained glass in the chapel– that’s the Moravian Jan Hus at the stake, and Martin Luther with his 95 theses.

Jan Hus and Martin Luther

There’s also another little church south of here in Jamestown, an African-American community established in about 1900 by Benjamin and Esther James. There’s a plaque mounted in front explaining the village’s history. You can bike through Jamestown further east until linking up with Walker Road, which then ambles and dead ends amidst some modest little houses which are across the road from some not-so-modest houses– all of which seem to have giant pool enclosures.
The church in Jamestown.

The church in Jamestown.

This was a good day of bike riding: I love getting away from everything and just disappearing for a few hours, even if today I ran into a group of very nice Lutherans who wanted to share their history with me. And that was fine.