It's such a hoot to howl under the stars with passel of friends. We did just that last weekend when 35 of us went camping.
Young girls were in abundance as one of them was having a birthday.
We got things started by hiking to Biscayne Bay.
The setting sun was magnificent and
Mai was nice enough to photograph us.
As the sky dimmed we retreated to camp for dinner.
When one of the birthday girls got a splinter Dr. Phil was there to operate.
At the stroke of nine we set Bruce (a Christmas tree) on fire.
At dawn we were greeted by the sun, hot coffee, and a wide selection of delicacies. Croissants with Nutella is always a big favorite.
Dave demonstrated how to mix hula hooping with tree climbing
and a trio of birthday girls took over our van.
All kinds of good things happen when you go camping with friends.
The great thing is anyone can do it. Just reserve a group camping spot and tell your buddies to meet you there. Gather 'round the fire and soon the jokes, stories, and songs will rise like sparks from a flame.
Raising hell for a good cause, we love that sort of thing. That's why we were happy to join a thousand boisterous people last Saturday morning. We were marching in the "Free Lolita" rally in front of Miami's Seaquarium. We were protesting the continued captivity of their killer whale, Lolita. The Seaquarium's 7000-pound star attraction has had to jump, splash the audience,
and let people stand on her nose since Nixon was president. If she doesn't perform, she doesn't eat.
Lolita was taken from her Puget Sound pod forty-four years ago. She's been swimming circles in a concrete tank ever since. Doesn't this highly-intelligent creature deserve a break? Shouldn't she be allowed to retire to her home in Puget Sound? It might happen this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering adding her to the endangered whales list. If this happens, she could be reunited with her orca family in the Pacific northwest. Momentum for this grows. More people are refusing to visit places like Sea World and the Seaquarium. Films like "The Cove" and "Blackfish" continue to educate the public. They're learning that more orcas are turning on their trainers -injuring or killing them- to take out their captive frustrations.
Last Saturday Francesca and I had expected the usual fifty Miamians, who care enough about issues to go public, to show up. But when we rounded the bend on Virginia Key and saw a thousand excited hell-raisers, we were ecstatic!
They chanted and held signs saying, "Free Her Now!", "Your Greed Won't Succeed!" and "Forty-Four Years a Slave". Most were young and they came from all over, many holding "I Came From ______ to Retire Lolita" signs.
We had our own signs, a red hat, and an orange mask.
As the two-mile march ended, some of us lingered by the tourist attraction's entrance gate. We waved our hand-lettered protests and yelled, "Help free Lolita, don't go in!" at arriving tourists.
I thought of her swimming in circles just 120 yards away. I think she might have heard us. __________________________
We have our own Ansel Adams in Coconut Grove. Renown photographer, Clyde Butcher, now has a gallery here. "Silver Springs" by Clyde Butcher
Its official opening was tonight and we stopped by. The Clyde Butcher Everglades Gallery is located at 2994 McFarlane Road, a golf shot from Biscayne Bay.
Clyde was there to greet everyone...along with the gallery's director, Natasha Lopez De Victoria
(here with boyfriend, Grove wood craftsman, Giles Neale), Raymond Jungles and his wife, Gina, who moved back to the Grove last November, The Palmetto Avenue Ukulele Society,
And our new friend, Jordan, who had a 'stache that rivaled Clyde's photographs. Having someone as talented at Clyde Butcher exhibiting in the Grove is quite an achievement. It's enough to make most of us put down our cell phones.
Stop by. Enjoy Clyde's Florida photos and take one home for your living room. ______________________________________
Say it out loud, A-pa-la-chi-co-la. Enunciating these six syllables is almost as fun as visiting this town on Florida's panhandle. Apalachicola is like Key West in the old days. I went to the southernmost city with my family when I was a kid. Key West seemed so remote and desolate back in '50's, a million miles from Miami. I recall seeing "House of Wax" on the theater marquee and expected to see Vincent Price stalking the place. There were shrimp boats, faded buildings and few people to occupy them. We saw all that again in Apalachicola last week.
What a great place to walk. Many of the buildings date from the mid-1800's when cotton was king.
Now they're selling seafood, art, and a lovely, lazy lifestyle.
There was wabi sabi galore in these old buildings,
and on the sidewalks too. Let's not forget the oysters. While the slimy creatures have no appeal to me, they're what most people talk about. I'm told that Apalachicola's are "the best". Fishermen pluck them off the bay bottom with fifteen-foot tweezers. To keep them fresh, you've got to put them on ice.
DR. JOHN THE ICE TRIPPER Dr. John Gorrie, inventor of refrigeration, was one of my boyhood heroes. In the 1850's he was fighting a yellow fever epidemic. Dr. John noticed that the incidence rate decreased every fall and winter. He reasoned, " If I could 'change the seasons' (in essence, make a warm room cool) I might defeat this terrible disease". So, he invented a machine that created cool air. It did little to cure the epidemic but it made possible for us to have cold beer, slurpies, and artificial snow. I learned about the inventor in fifth grade Florida history and he stuck in my mind. When we saw a sign on Main Street pointing towards the "John Gorrie Museum", I got excited.
It was small but tastefully done. I learned that early refrigerators leaked a lot (like many of mine in my funky refrigerator days). Apalachicola could be the only place revved up about ice machines. We stopped to get directions from an old salt. Friendly-as-could-be, he pointed the way and said, "It's wonderful here. I stopped by thirty years ago and never left". As endless marsh grass waved slowly behind him he added, "You couldn't pry me outta this place!". Schedules to keep, we pried ourselves (not unlike like oysters) out of Apalachicola and began the long trip home. Twenty minutes later, passing Carabelle Beach, I spied a "World War II Museum" sign. I pulled a quick U'y and told Francesca, "We gotta check this out. We may never be in Carabelle again". She's so sweet to put up with stuff like that. We rumbled into the tiny town until we came to an abandoned middle school. Its parking lot was festooned with the garbage that surrounded the town's public dumpsters. Everyone dumps their trash there by day and at night, bears empty it. It was a unfortunate welcome to The Funky WWII Museum. When old soldiers die, what do you do with their faded uniforms, bayonets, and letters home? The Smithsonian has too much already so they end up filling the rooms of abandoned middle schools in places like Carabelle. The free museum had its charm, like the vet volunteers who sort of ran the place by ignoring visitors and talking to each other. We were okay with that. The place explained itself. Let me say it was clean, most of the artifacts were showcased, and you could touch the rest. You can't pick up the hand grenades at the Smithsonian. Francesca was an angel to put up with me to pretending to toss them at assorted imaginary enemies. We learned that all around us, 73 years ago, 150,000 soldiers had trained for the D-Day invasion of Europe. Carabelle Beach had stood in for the shores of Normandy.
One soldier's version of the D-Day landing complete with foil-wrapped balloons.
That infamous day in our country's history would have gone so much better if our brave boys had only oyster-men and garbage-eating bears to contend with. Remembering we had jobs to get home to, we drove out of The Forgotten Coast. We headed east and scanned the map for one more spring to dive into. ________________
Have you ever visited Panacea, Sopchoppy, or Apalachicola? That's okay, no one else has either. They are a part of what is called, "Florida's Forgotten Coast",the one rarely visited by humans.
Bears are another story.
It's a weaving of beaches, pine forests and islands southwest of Tallahassee (City of Politicians We'd Rather Forget"). Heading there last week we heard about the young girl was attacked by a bear in some forgotten town called "Eastpoint".A half-hour later we passed this sign. "Yikes!", we found ourselves passing through this 8-block burg with nothing but the thin skin our Toyota to protect us. We drifted cautiously past the Big Top Market where the unfortunate incident occurred. After the last bear warning sign we entered the causeway taking us four miles offshore to a safe enclave, St. George Island. The long string of sand must be like Miami Beach was a hundred years ago. Half of it is developed but the east half is ten miles of wild...sugar sand beaches, sloping dunes, and the occasional bundle of pines. It was our favorite place on this journey, far, far from the maddening crowd.
When we checked into the campground the ranger assured us that bears have never been known to hike to island on the four-mile bridge. They prefer to swim. We got through the night protected mosquito spray, large sticks, and our dog, Pi. At dawn we biked to the beach to welcome the sun.
The sand was quite firm so we agreed, "Let's ride!" Pedaling next to the surf was so fun we could not stop.
Francesca and I noticed many gifts from the sea
but nothing of the storm creeping up behind us.
Five miles later we reached the east end (see the tip of the map's arrow above), turned around, saw the dark sky approaching and yelled, "Yikes!". Rolling balls of blackness were threatening to cut us off from our home on wheels. We pedaled furiously determined to reach the closest beach shelter before the rain.
Falling short we then became determined to reach the closest clothes dryer after the rain. _______________________
Coming soon, Part Two, "Ambling Over to Apalachicola"