Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Earth Cruiser

About two weeks ago, I came out to find my rear tire on my bike flat. From the "flatness" of it, I knew that the tube needed to be replaced, not just needing air. With all the holiday hustle and bustle, replacing the bike tube took a back seat. This morning, it was on my list of things to do. After going through all my wrenches and sockets, unable to find one that would fit the nut on the wheel, I decided to bring the whole bike over to Chris at Beach Bike Rentals. He had replaced the tube for me once before, about a year and a half ago. I have been told by many (men) to learn to change it myself - that it's not that difficult. I have also been advised that Beach Bike is a "rip-off" - that any one in town would do it much cheaper. If I don't even have a tool to remove the wheel, I certainly don't have a tool to remove the tire. Besides, I will give Chris my business whenever I can; here's why.

I ride my bike to work everyday. It's a very short ride, and it takes me through the parking lot of Chapel by the Sea Presbyterian Church, which is right next door to Town Hall. Chapel by the Sea conducts a program they call "God's Table" which feeds the homeless. Each weekday morning, they provide showers, medical aide, breakfast and a bag lunch to area needy. This program is controversial because it does not offer any rehabilitative services, and according to some, encourages vagrancy on the island. Many of the "needy" take the free trolley from town to the beach, have free meals and clothing, and then trespass on many beachfront properties.
Each morning I bicycle past the "food line" out on the porch of the church. Each morning, I place my bicycle inside the front door of the Town Hall, where a small bike rack exists. One afternoon, I was leaving Town Hall, and my bicycle wasn't there. I called Lee County Sheriff's office and a deputy came out and took my information. I had the serial number, the bill of sale and all the paperwork for this bike, and gave the information to Deputy Schwing. George Schwing was born and raised on the Beach and knows it extremely well. He went to Beach Bike Rentals and asked Chris if he'd seen a bike that fit the description of my beach cruiser. As a matter of fact he had. Chris would often fix up bikes that the homeless would pick up out of the trash and give them a few dollars for it. Well, Chris said, ole Mickey brought in a bike fitting the description of my bike, and he knew it was too nice of a bike to have come out of the trash, figured it must've been stolen, and refused to buy it.

George is a smart cop. He got up about half an hour earlier than his normal shift time, went into Matanzas Pass preserve (which is behind Chapel and Town Hall) and there in the mangrove swamp was ole Mickey, sleeping like a baby - with my bike. George called me, met me at Town Hall, handed me my bike, and hauled ole Mickey downtown.

I am grateful to Chris for helping save my bike, so I give him my business. This morning, I took my bike over, and said I needed a new tube in the rear tire, and asked - if I were to leave the bike, could he - and for how much - repair the (missing) kick stand, chain guard, grease the chain, and basically give it a fix up. He put the bike on his stand, and quickly identifed a bad rear wheel. We talked candidly and frankly, and the bottom line? It's not worth fixing. "It's had a hard life" Chris said. I asked him if he could use it - he said he might be able to use the front wheel... I wished him luck and came home without a bike.


Of course I immediately logged on and googled Jamis Earth Cruiser and found the nearest dealer. I was ready to drive down to Naples, but it's Sunday, the sun is shining, all the tourists that fled the great white north are on Fort Myers Beach and traffic is horrendous. I think I will think about this for awhile. My brother, Ken's bike is here, and I can ride that while I decide what to do to replace my beloved bike.

May she rest in peace.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I woke today with the delightful knowledge that I have nothing to do today. That is I have nothing I HAVE to do today! It was a knowledge that forced a smile from ear to ear. I got up, took Gracie out briefly and poured a cool glass of white grape juice. Gradually I began picking up the pieces of ribbon and gift boxes that were scattered about. I put some opened gifts back neatly under the tree, and took the paper and cardboard out to the recyle bin. Lauren had given me a number of custom made CDs (she said, you play the same cds over and over! she's right!) and I'm listening to a mix of Norah Jones.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. Sarah came over at about 10:00 in the morning. We exchanged gifts while sipping coffee and eggnog. After all the presents were opened and explored, the girls went over to visit their father, and I walked Gracie and watered my garden. We were expected at my brother's house at 1:30 for dinner.

Compared to other years, it was a quiet gathering. Without my mother, it was very different. My brother from the east coast didn't come over, and my sisters and brothers from up north didn't call, but we were eight all together and it made for a nice dinner party. Mary Anne and Norbert outdid themselves! The table was beautiful in seasonal colors complete with pointsettia-style napkin holders and gold-rimmed plates. The first course was lobster bisque! Followed by ceasar salad (with anchovies!) with warm, crusty bread. The main course was surf and turf - lobster tail broiled perfectly, and filet mignon on the grill. Norbert is an expert griller. Baked potato with sour cream and chives and green beans and roasted red peppers rounded out the meal.

After dinner we strolled down to the beach to catch the sunset. Shortly after, friends and neighbors came by and we brought out the deserts. I made a black forest cake that looked quite festive on a pedestal cake stand. Mary Anne made a chocolate cheesecake with fresh strawberries, Ollie brought a flan, Nancy brought cookies, Wendy brought fudge and suddenly there were deserts all over the place!

It was nice to gather with friends. Nancy and Phil used to live just a few houses down from my brother's house. They moved into town probably 14 years ago. They have two daughters the same age as my two daughters. Although no longer "beach kids" their daughters stayed in touch with my daughters, and Phil and Nancy would come out to the beach on occasion or invite us into their house for special occasions. Now, their younger daughter and my younger daughter are roommates in Tampa and both attend USF! Nancy made the comment, "I'm glad we do this every year!" Having friends for Christmas desert, a tradition that my brother and his wife have carried.
Ollie, Mary Anne, Moi, and Nancy
Today is clear and sunny and warm. I should wash my car, but I think I will go to the beach and get some florida sun while opening the pages of a new book!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

holiday bling!

Got Her Bling On...

How much is that doggie?

Crazy Gracie....

and Michelle wishes all a Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas (from Delancy Place)

In December 1965 came A Charlie Brown Christmas, the most successful special in television history. In a simple story from Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz where Charlie Brown looks for genuine meaning in Christmas while Snoopy and Lucy revel in its glitter, the show defied convention by using real kids' voices, no laugh track, sophisticated original music and uncluttered graphics:"

No one was more ready than Charles Schulz to write a parable about commercialism when [his agent] Lee Mendelson telephoned one Wednesday in May 1965 to announce that he had just sold a Christmas show to Coca-Cola. ... He brought in Bill Melendez, the Disney animator who had earned Schulz's respect by not Disneyfying the Peanuts gang ... [by] changing their essential qualities, either as "flat" characters or as his cartoon characters. ..."[Schulz left] Lee and Bill to audition some forty-five kids, ages six to nine, then train the cast of seven principles, some of them too young to read ... [to deliver] their lines with startling clarity and feeling. ...

"Schulz loathed the hyena hilarity of canned merriment and rightly judged that an audience would not have to be told when and where to laugh; Mendelson countered that all comedy shows used such tracks. 'Well, this one won't,' said [Schulz] firmly. 'Let the people at home enjoy the show at their own speed, in their own way.' Then he rose and walked out, closing the door behind him. ..."On the subject of scoring and music, however, Schulz put aside his own tastes ... [and his producer hired] Grammy Award-winning composer Vince Guaraldi. The catchy rhythm of 'Linus and Lucy' ... became the centerpiece of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and eventually a pop music standard. But it was the slower, mixed-mood, improvisational pieces in Guaraldi's jazz suite, especially 'Christmas Time is Here,' that elicited the unarticulated emotions lying below the holiday's joyful surface. ...

"Lee and his wife had read Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Fir Tree' to their children the previous year, and when he suggested that the show somehow involve a comparable motif, [Schulz] seized upon the idea: 'We need a Charlie-Brown-like tree.' ... [And Schulz] insisted that the season's true meaning could be found in the Gospel according to St. Luke, and they agreed that the show would somehow work in the Nativity story. ... When the script was finished in June 1965, Lee Mendelson made a stand against Linus's recitation of the Nativity story, insisting that religion and entertainment did not mix on television. '[Schulz] just smiled,' Mendelson later wrote, 'patted me on the head, and left the room.' ...

"In a screening room at network headquarters in New York, two CBS vice presidents watched the show in silence. 'Neither of them laughed once,' Mendelson recalled. When the lights came on, the executives shook their heads and shrugged. 'Well,' said one, 'you gave it a good try.' 'It seems a little flat,' said the other. 'Too slow,' said the first, 'and the script is too innocent.' 'The Bible thing scares us,' said the other. The animation was crude--couldn't it be jazzed up a bit? The voice talent was unprofessional--they should have used adults. The music didn't fit--who ever heard of a jazz score on an animated special? And where were the laughs?"

David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts, Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by David Michaelis, pp. 346- 358.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I think that I shall never see...

Growing up, we always had a “real” Christmas tree, until after all the kids were moved out, and mom finally got her way with a “fake” tree. Now, with my own family, we always get a real tree. One year we even had a “Charlie Brown’ tree that we hauled home from the Ocala National Forest. It was a scrawny thing, but it was beautiful in that we’d tromped through the forest, over patches of crusted snow, to select, cut down and haul home our very own tree.

Each year, the tree buying exercise made me weary. My husband and kids had to look at every tree in every tent and then on to Home Depot and Target. I am particularly fond of the Frasier firs, with the short needles - they make a fuller tree. But other than that, a tree is a tree. So some years, I tried to get out of going tree shopping, but my husband would guilt me out. The first couple of Christmases after divorce, my daughters would go with me for the tree, and I’d basically stand there with the credit card and nod approval at whatever they chose.

Yesterday, Sarah was at doggie beach with her new pup, and Lauren was …sleeping. (When Lauren’s not studying or hanging with the boy, she’s sleeping.) So Gracie and I went for the tree. Earlier I had seen a Rotary Club tent set up selling trees, and decided to give them my business. They had a large inventory of trees, most all were still wrapped. I found the 6-7 foot Frasier firs, and stood wondering “what the heck do I do now.” A Rotarian came up and offered to help. I told him what I wanted, and he offered to unwrap any tree I wanted to see. I pointed to one, he unwrapped it and held it up. “All I care about is a straight trunk” I said, as he spun the tree for me to see all sides. “It’s beautiful” I said, “I’ll take it.”

I never did understand all the fuss everyone makes over picking “the perfect” Christmas tree. This tree is beautiful, a nice straight trunk, and full healthy branches. Just wait ‘til it gets its bling on!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On the twelfth day of Christmas

The cold front came through and the skies are crystal clear and the air is a crisp 56° at 10:00 AM. I will buy my Christmas tree today. I love the holiday season, but this year it’s really snuck up on me. I have bought few gifts; the bulk of my shopping remains. I asked my daughters what they want, and Sarah answered, “a boat!” . (well, I asked! What was I thinking…?!) I told her to talk to her father! “Boat” was Sarah’s first word: while other toddlers are babbling momma and Dada, Sarah was saying, “Boat!”
Lauren wants “to go somewhere.” She wants a trip - cruise, air fare - travel. She should be wanting new eyeglasses, new tires for her car, fix the CD player in her car, ….but those are all “boring.” She commented that she wants to “go shopping!” that she hasn’t been shopping in a really long time! What happened to the days when she and Kelly would go to the mall and come out with hands full of shopping bags!! I was quick to remind her that that was when she was in high school, and had a job! When you’re in college and DON’T have a job, mall trips are few and far between.
So today I will buy my Christmas tree. This will be a challenge with a new puppy. I have to constantly watch her to keep her from chewing things other than her toy and her rawhide. (Yesterday, after we’d been outside for a bit, we’d had lunch, and I was cleaning up the kitchen while she sat on the living room floor. She had a fresh rawhide and was busy chewing away at it. Then I heard a “crunch” that sounded nothing like a rawhide. I looked in to see my prescription sunglasses firmly in her mouth! ) So, Christmas bulbs and lights and presents under the tree may all be fodder for a teething puppy. We shall see!

mele kalikimaka

Mele Kalikimaka (A Hawaiian Song) with a Florida twist

*pronounced meh-leh kah-lee-kee-mah-kah

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
On a bright Floridian Christmas Day
That's the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Florida’s way To say "Merry Christmas to you."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bedroom Windows

I have two windows in my bedroom: on faces north, the other faces west. When I get out of bed in the morning, I slide back the outside layer of sheers to allow the sunlight to shine through. Each morning as I slide the shears, the same song pops in my head - the song is from a children’s program that my daughters watched when they were pre-school age.

Open up the windows
Listen to the wind blow
Pardon us, the Garden is where we’ll be
Come along
If you please
Sing a song
Bumble bees
Me and you, You and me
One big happy family
So you and us together
Happy as the weather
Spinning ‘round and up and down away we go!

This morning, remnants of a recent cold front lingered in the morning sky. As I drew back the shears over the western window, a different song sprang in my head:

A winter’s day,
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing through the window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock, I am an island.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Vet Visit

Gracie and I went to see Dr. Patterson today. She received her third and final set of "puppy shots" which included rabies. She's done with shots for a year, except when it's time to spay and micro chip, which will be Valentine's Day. She weighed in at 21.5 lbs., a gain of 5 lbs in a month. I think this vet is wonderful. I told him of my frustrations and "issues" and when I told him that things improved when I stopped training a dog and started raising a puppy, ..he liked that... After he finished examining her and prescribed the heartguard and frontline, he said that he is very impressed with Gracie, that she's an extremely healthy dog, her coat is beautiful, her muscle development is outstanding, and she is incredibly well behaved. He said often times he sees weim pups that won't even let him examine them - won't let him look at their teeth, their eyes, ears. He congratulated me on what a good job I've done (lol) and repeated how impressed he is! (Okay, so... I guess I'll keep her!). He said she'll probably be 60 lbs. at 10 months.

So, I guess she won't be going North anytime soon - at least not without me. I'd love to take her on a road trip. I got the rabies papers to have with me for those park and campground visits.