February 18, 2010

The View From My Window: Last Day

*sigh* This is the bayfront as viewed from my convertible, with Island Park visible through the trees.

Still too cool for comfort, I put down the top and turned on the heat. I had lunch on Island Park with a dear friend who was on his way from Cleveland to Naples. He took the time to stop here so we could visit for a couple of hours.

This trip has been filled with adventure, but the best part has been—as always—seeing friends and family. I've done some visiting with Interweb friends that never found its way on the blog this time, but if you're anywhere near where I'm going to visit, I would love to see you too.

This evening I will be on my way back to loving friends and family in the frozen north. More snow due tomorrow. *sigh*

February 17, 2010

The View From My Window: Day Ten

Mote Marine Laboratory on City Island, Sarasota

This Wyland wall was one of his early murals, for the then-new location of one of the premier oceanography laboratories in the world. They moved here from humble digs on Turtle Beach when tidal forces threatened the building near the gulf. Currents were carrying away the sand decades ago; now they have sealed the gap—Midnight Pass—between two keys which have become one. One can only adapt with the tides.

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The View From My Window: Day Nine

Siesta Beach, Sarasota

Siesta Beach faces the gulf on Siesta Key, a barrier island off southern Sarasota. The sand is made of quartz silica and is the quality of confectioners sugar. It squeaks when you walk on the dry stuff. The white crescent is one and a half miles of sugary sand. When I lived here I walked the length and back in the dry sand three times a week. I haven't exercised regularly since. How do you compete with this?

I've been hanging about, eating in tiny cafes with friends and family. It's been wonderful and I'm already aching from the thought that I have to go back to the cold and snow soon.

February 15, 2010

The View From My Window: Day Eight

Lido Beach at dusk

It's cold for Florida (60s), but it's snowing again back home. I'm hanging out at the house with my sisters and parents, just taking it slow and easy. We ate at the Main Bar today, established in 1954 and still the same menu I've always known. Great food, great service.

February 14, 2010


Just call me "sir." Because, once again, I've been mistaken for a man. As I sat with my family—including two sisters who look a lot like me these days—the waitress asked for my order.

"And you, sir?"

What is this? You thought I was kidding when I posted my doppelgänger picture, didn't you? Well, I did too. *sigh*

The View From My Window: Day Seven

My back yard in Sarasota

Today's high of 65° will be the warmest day of the week before I leave on Thursday. But there's sun and green plants and family. It's all good.

February 13, 2010

The View From My Window: Day Six

Sunset between Ft. Myers and Sarasota

There's a reason they call the stretch between Ft. Lauderdale and Naples Alligator Alley:

On Alligator Alley, I saw egrets, herons, an osprey, buzzards (turkey vultures to you non-Floridians), spoonbills, and, of course, gators. I finally had to pull over—like a bunch of other tourists had—and take some pictures of the wildlife posing for us.

February 12, 2010

The View From My Window: Day Five

Leaving Key Largo

Due to high swells, the reef was off limits again today, so my instructor took me to the lagoon where resides the Jules Undersea Lodge. Originally an underwater observatory located in Costa Rica, the structure has been permanently installed in a 30-foot-deep lagoon in Key Largo. Since I'm not a lodge guest, I could peek in the window and go up into the entry port but not inside. Not much excitement for me at 30 feet, but they were expecting new guests that afternoon. (Guests must dive to the bottom and enter through the underwater port. My instructor Andy is an employee for the marina and associated laboratory.)

The bottom of the lagoon was much like the inlet in that it was covered in silt. But the site owners had brought in some cannons, anchors and other sights of interest that also attracted fish. The recent freeze killed a lot of the fish, but some were returning. I saw a few bright fish, among them bass and sheepshead. A lobster was hiding under one of the supports to the lodge. Andy led me to a pile of rocks and motioned me to look through an opening about a foot in diameter. It took me a minute to realize that I was observing a resting shark, about six feet long. Andy told me later it was a nurse shark, known for its passivity. In the middle of an open area, a small puffer fish sat trying to go unnoticed. When we approached, Andy pointed at it. It puffed up and drifted away. Do you know how hard it is to laugh with a regulator in your mouth?

We were in the water until we got too cold to stay. I am now certified to dive. Again. Interestingly, both of my open water tests—40 years ago and this week—were in lagoons. All of my earlier experience was in Florida rivers. So technically, while I have dived, I have yet to dive in open water. One of these days.

I went back to the hotel to rinse the salt water off and check out. Rather than stay another night, I found a cheap room back in Ft. Lauderdale, where I sit while it rains gently against the window. Tomorrow I head for home in Sarasota.

February 11, 2010

The View From My Window: Day Four

Bahia Honda State Park

Today was too cold to dive (62° with wind), so I had it all to myself. I drove a couple of hours south to Bahia Honda State Park, a tiny island on the main highway about 45 minutes north of Key West.

The choice for me was people or no people. You can see which way I went. I won't have many chances for silent moments with the land and sea, so it was an easy choice. Key West will remain a destination for another time.

Tomorrow, bright and early, we'll take a boat to the reef for two dives. I can't take pictures since I'm demonstrating skill mastery. Next dive, I promise.

February 10, 2010

The View From My Window: Day Three

Key Largo, Florida

Weather (64° and 25-knot winds) kept everyone away from dive class—except me. We were to start in the pool and spend the afternoon on the reef. Swells from the wind quashed the reef option, and since it was just me, we decided to customize my lesson.

I'd had prior experience, so we skipped the pool altogether and used the inlet you see pictured from my hotel room. It was very cold, so we each had two wetsuits on. It worked out well. The inlet is nothing to remember: mostly barren, murky bottom, occasional fish and a few jellyfish. We finished in an hour (after classroom review of two hours) and called it a day.

Tomorrow's too cold, so I'm finishing up on Friday morning. Tomorrow? I have several options. We'll see.

February 8, 2010

The View From My Window: Day One

Indiana, the morning I leave for my annual trip to Florida.

Indiana is expecting eight more inches of snow with blizzard conditions, beginning about the time I land in Fort Lauderdale. I'm really struggling to hide the smile.

February 7, 2010

Verbatim: Big Favor

Ben has an account online for buying games with my permission. He texted me from school.

Feb. 4, 2010 11:14 AM
IOU 15. Explain l8er

Feb. 4, 2010 11:42 AM
Can I ask you a big favor

Feb. 4, 2010 12:02 PM

Feb. 4, 2010 12:15 PM
Can I have 5 dollars cuz I bought a game and made a mistake buying it. BUT I’ve learned my lesson on impulse buying and I’ll do research b4 I buy anything

Feb. 4, 2010 12:18 PM
How does giving you $5 fix things?

Feb. 4, 2010 12:19 PM
Cuz I badly spent 5.

Feb. 4, 2010 12:21 PM
But then I pay for your mistake. That doesn’t seem right.

Feb. 4, 2010 12:27 PM
I know but I was looking in games on my PSP and I saw a game that sounded like Snood and I thought I’d really want that and it’s not at all what I want. But the reas

Feb. 4, 2010 12:29 PM
on I’m asking 4 a bailout is that decision will haunt me every time I pick up my PSP

Feb. 4, 2010 12:37 PM
So you want it to haunt me instead? Tell you what: you can work it off with a chore.

Feb. 4, 2010 12:38 PM
Hm. I’ll accept that. What job

Feb. 4, 2010 12:40 PM
Let me think about it. I’ll get back with you.

He shoveled the drive and had the five deducted from his pay.

February 3, 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges has a slow, easy way that has served him well for most of the roles he’s portrayed over the years. He came to my attention in “Starman” and I’ve enjoyed watching him ever since.

Even with impressive support from versatile Colin Farrell (in what really amounts to a cameo role) and great chemistry with beauty Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bridges is the reason to see “Crazy Heart.”

Bridges plays country legend Bad Blake, mentor to Farrell’s country star Tommy Sweet and now a has-been relegated to playing in bowling alleys to support his drinking habit. Bridges doesn’t have quite the nuance that Colin Firth portrays in “A Single Man,” but nonetheless this role warrants the nominations he’s received. His character’s struggle with the ultimate consequences of the choices he’s made makes the audience nod in sympathetic understanding.

Once again the writing leaves something to be desired; gaps in the plot leave us guessing the reasons why Blake descends to such depths in his drinking. Clues from the interview with journalist Jean Craddock (Gyllenhaal) tell us a little about his many marriages and former partnership with Sweet, but I suspect that the book by Thomas Cobb would reveal the mysteries left unanswered.

The movie features a small role from Robert Duvall, one of my favorite actors and one of the film’s many, many producers*. Both Bridges and Farrell—whose casting was an interesting surprise to me—do a decent job singing country tunes that are easy on the ears.

Ultimately, watching Bridges evolve and find his redemption makes “Crazy Heart” a worthwhile reason to spend the money and the time to see this in a theatre.

*Nine producers? What’s up with that?