Recent Read: A Florida State of Mind

Florida stateFlorida! The land of sunshine, beaches, Mickey Mouse, and Disney World; it’s the happiest place on earth, or so it likes to bill itself. Florida is also the land of hanging chads, gator wrestling, 17-foot pythons, uncontrolled urban sprawl, low paying jobs, a history of violent colonization, and real estate con men; land swindles were so common, Hollywood satirized it in the Marx Brothers film, Coconuts.  Florida is the land where the Outback Steak House is considered the best place to eat, and Fried Gator Tail is a delicacy.

Florida was weird from its early beginnings. Spain was the first to try and colonize Florida but found the unfriendly hot and humid weather as well as the hostile Native Americans overwhelming. The Spanish government gave way to the Government of the United States which after multiple wars and battles forced most of the Native American population to move west.

Florida does have its good side too; the winters are mild, if non-existent. Many beaches are pristine, that is if you don’t mind seasonal red tide, and you can thank Floridian born John Gorrie for air-conditioning. You can also thank Florida for Faye Dunaway, Tom Petty, Jim Morrison, Wesley Snipes, authors Carl Hiassen, Judy Blume, Lisa Unger, and many others.

While other states can try and claim the number one spot for strangeness (California?), Florida consistently ranks number one. The most recent stories about weird Florida alone since I read this book involves the Mayor of New Port Richey, and his immediate replacement both were arrested within a month of each other, and then there was the woman crossing  I-95 naked, dodging cars as she attempted to retrieve her dog,

Author James D. Wright explains the good and the bad in his new book A Florida State of Mind. As Wright points out, Florida likes to bill itself as the happiest state in the country. In truth, depending on the survey you look at it ranks between twelfth and twenty-fourth. Wright lays out an entertaining history of the weirdest state from its earliest days right up until the 21st century. The book is nicely laid out in chapters dealing with its history, growth, politics, tourism, and the environment. An entertaining read on a subject that is never boring.

Note: I received an ARC from St. Martin Publishing.

 

 

Images From Lake Apopka

Lake Apopka is approximately 30 miles northwest of Orlando. It’s the 4th largest lake in Florida and has a fantastic 11 mile drive around the lake to view and enjoy the state’s natural wildlife. One note to keep in mind is the wildlife scenic drive is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Gators at Lake Apopka-3044

Red Winged Blackbird - CW-3167

Heron Reflection -2786

Green Heron - CW-2986

Eagle is Landing-3247

Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival

Just the other day my wife and I went to The Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival at Pier 60. I believe this was the third year we attended this event. Every year there is a different theme. Last year was a Celebration of Musicians which you can see here. This year’s theme is  Celebrating America. The eleven sculptors come from all over the world. The artists do not use molds. It’s all done using brushes, utilities tools and other instruments.

PierIMG_0863

Mount Rushmore

TurnMt. Rushmore-3797

Salty Fishermen

Fisherman-3755

Wall Street

Wall St-3779

Edgar Allan Poe

Poe-3760

Abraham Lincoln

Lincolm-3807

Louis Armstrong and Charley Patton

Louis Armstrong and Chalrey Patton-3774

Holiday Road

Roadside Attractions-3769

Lighthouse

Lighthouse-3751

Route 66

ROute66-3808

Monroe and Chaplin

Onroe and Chaplin-3745

Casey at the Bat

Take Me Out to The Ball Game-3772

America’s National Parks

Natl PArks-3764

Recent Read: The Deep Blue Good-by

The DeepThe master of Florida noir, John D. MacDonald was admired by writers like Stephen King, Lee Child and Dean Koontz among many others. MacDonald’s most famous character was Florida’s dark-knight Travis McGee.  In his first adventure, there were 21 books in the series, McGee willingly helps out, he called himself a “salvage consultant,” a young woman recover illegal funds her father stole and smuggled back home during the war.  His fee is fifty percent of what he recovers.

Travis’ methods of getting information are not always, I guess you can say legal. In this book, he strips one drunk guy, ties him up in a shower, hits him with cold water to sober him up, and then with hot scorching water to get him to talk. That said, McGee can be introspective, philosophical, sometimes cynical, and does have his moments of charm with women. Florida isn’t all fun in the sun.

 

Pelicans at Sanibel’s J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR

Earlier this week my wife and I took a short trip to the Naples area  of Southwest Florida. Included was a short day trip to the Ding Darling WLR on Sanibel Island where we were greeted by a small pod of Pelicans. Here are a few of my photographs.

 White Pelicans2-1492

White Pelicans5-1485

White Pelicans-1490

White Pelicans4-1458

Entwined-1484

The Wrath of Hurricane Irma Comes to Florida

hurricane-irma-track-as-of-saturday-sept-9-2017

 It’s been a stressful week for everyone in Florida lately and it has been getting worst with each passing day. This morning, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a category 4 with wind gusts up to 130mph. Last week, it was on course, according to hurricane trackers to head up the east coast. However, as the week went on, it has continuously moved in a more westerly direction and is now creeping up the gulf coast side of the state. My wife and I, and our cats, live just north of Tampa and are now almost in the storms projected path. At best, we are hoping that Irma weakens as it travels on land and gets down to a Cat. 3, even better a Cat. 2. We can only hope.

All week we have been making plans: buying non-perishable foods (healthy, and not so healthy stress relief stuff, stocking up on water, batteries, etc., and putting up shutters, thanks to some amazing help from my neighbor Larry.  

Rollo Hunkering downWith the outdoor furniture in the house, Rollo has hunkered down and taken shelter from the storm.

Currently, it about 1:30 PM and the rain bands have picked up. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. Irma is the first Category 4 hurricane to hit Florida since Charley back in 2004. It’s also the first time that two category 4 hurricanes (Irma and Harvey) have hit the U.S. back to back. Dubious distinctions to say the least.

Fortunately, we are far enough away from the coastal waters that we do not have to worry about storm surge which is expected right now to be 5 to 9 feet. Many folks like to live right by the water. I understand that, it’s beautiful and serene, but there are risks. It doesn’t take a category 4 or 5 for storm surge to come rolling into your neighborhood and home. We are not that far away from the ocean but just enough to be out of any flood evacuation zone.   

For us here, the weather folks are predicting the worst part of the storm will arrive later today and continue overnight before things begin to improve on Monday. Hopefully, without much or any damage.  The entire state is under Irma’s siege. It’s a massive storm leaving nowhere in Florida safe from its wrath. 

One final note. Today (September 10th) is generally considered the “peak” of the hurricane season. Hopefully, it quickly goes downhill from here, but it last until November. Floridians stay safe.

    

Lucy of Largo

Lucy Screech Owl-CW (1 of 1)Last week we took a drive down to the George C. McGough Nature Park which includes the Largo Bird of Prey and Exploratory Nature Center. Inside the Nature Center, at the front desk, we were introduced to Lucy, a Screech Owl who has become the Center’s official greeter. Visitor’s love Lucy and I got the impression Lucy liked all the attention she receives.

Lucy Up CLose (1 of 1)Unlike the other birds of prey at the center, Lucy is completely healthy. So you  may be asking, what is she doing at the center? Why isn’t she out in the wild? Well, according to the  volunteers we spoke to, Lucy was stolen as a chick from her nest by someone who decided the owlet would make a good pet. She was so young, her eyes were still closed at the time. When she eventually opened her eyes, Lucy’s first sighting was that of the human who took her from her natural home. This person began posting photos on their Facebook page which was discovered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The owlet was confiscated and the individual was given a hefty fine. Lucy, who only knew humans,  could not be released into the wild. She taken to the Largo Bird of Prey and Exploratory Nature Center where she is happy being among her own kind….people.

Lucy Number3 (1 of 1)