December 6, 2008

November 19, 2008

Around here

I traded in my Mustang for a Ranger. The pony was pushing 10 and starting to manifest intimations of mortality. There were just a few Rangers for sale at the dealer, I was surprised to find. Seems the little 4-cylinder classic is moving, albeit slower than in years past, so I got a pretty good deal. There were rows and rows of F150s and their bigger siblings. My first fuel-efficiency calibration on the new truck revealed an mpg score of 22 in mixed driving. About the same or a little better than the Mustang. The scooter gets close to 100.

Inspired by one of Uncle Zoloft's comments, I sprang for the pickup as a companion for Firefly, my main wheels now, which I can load on the Ranger, as a means of extending the scooter's range... and other truckin' tasks. Then it's on to some nearby town for a little leisurely and aimless exploring. I wouldn't be surprised if this agreeable pair of internal combustion companions were my last.

I generally have only a secondary interest, on these outings, in a place's claims to fame... its Opera House or Big Bridge. What I like most is cruising around the neighborhoods, the back streets, local parks and beaches, habituations of commerce, soaking up everyday life, taking in novel variations of the mundane. Living near affluence makes for a nice ride, the endless tree lined streets and waterfront enclaves. At first it posed a challenge to me as a photographer. What can one say about the pleasant? Eventually I got over it. Turns out there were a few things to be said after all.

Along the way, I'll stop at a fast-food place for a burger and coke, a pizza stand for a slice and a beer... quietly reveling in the joy of the readily available. It's an off-the-shelf life for me. On these treks the spirit, and my monkish temperament, join to appreciate, and sometimes bless, the world they see. I don't linger, indulge entanglement. Though in practice the meaning of those terms for me is more intuitive than not. You play it by ear, by heart, play it as it lays...

November 16, 2008

Sandcastles 2008

I stopped by the Fort Myers Beach 22nd annual sand sculpting competition last Monday, the day after the event, and after everyone had gone home. I didn't do the big shoot I did last year, but a few of the entries caught my eye. A classic iteration of the theme was nicely rendered in the sculpture above.

A modernist spiral... reminiscent of the deco mood that swept Florida in the 1920s and is still prominent in places like Miami.

A topical piece on the recent federal bailout of the credit sector... a gruesome touch was achieved with the wire 'hairs' sticking out of the banker's shoulders and bald head. I deeply suspect that crusty old villains all have at least one extra-long errant hair growing out of a shoulder.

First place went to Paris Vacation by Thomas Koet. Wonderfully articulated, the punchy piece reminds me of a retro travel poster or a pop-up.

Fort Myers sand is said to be exceptionally suited to sculpting - fine textured, dense, like buttah. It's amazing what some of these international masters can coax from the sand with just a few tools, skill, and a lot of imagination.

November 13, 2008

Mosquito control

Almost a decade ago, I worked for one of the beach newspapers. The pub was between cartoonists, so I volunteered to come up with a few while the paper sought applications for the gig. My sense of humor didn't always go over that well. Here's one I called 'mosquito control.'

November 10, 2008

Slice / 4

The boy got spooked... after scaling a limb too far. He was quickly helped to safety by his friends. No questions asked.

November 6, 2008

That was the night that was

I watched the returns come in on election night with campaign volunteers, first at Paula's house, with my canvassing partner Cathy. Paula was nervous and depressed, after I'd told her earlier in the day about Rachel Maddow's pessimism. She was tired, having canvassed the neighborhoods every day for weeks. By nightfall there was something about the finality of the polls closing in Florida that suddenly lifted my spirits. I had the strongest feeling, that I couldn't explain, that Obama had bagged the elephant. Exhausted, we had collectively skipped a final assignment to "keep voters in line" at one of the precincts, but speculated, punch-drunk, from our couches in front of the TV about how that was expected to be accomplished. Money and candy were discussed. I suggested tasers.

After Pennsylvania went blue, I left Paula and Cathy, in considerably better spirits, and headed for a local sports bar to meet up with my friend Stu. We go way back. Stu and I had goaded each other into volunteering, but it was really Stu who got the ball rolling. Cathy was worried that the scene at the bar might turn into a brawl. But it turned out that the local democratic club had booked the second floor, so it was an Obamalama party. I joined Stu and his wife and son at a booth which, like all the other booths, had its own flat-screen TV. Stu and Nancy were drinking tequila, I ordered a beer.

It was wildly fun to flame the republicans, loudly and in public, and root for Barack as each new flip, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, splashed across the big screens and people cheered and hugged. The sense of moment was palpable, and seemed to concentrate and heighten everything. Then suddenly the dominoes were falling all over the map, including those big blue ones right up the west coast. The rest, as they say, was history.

Today I went for a "long long ride on my motorbike." I was ready.

A sweet park on a small basin where blue crab and yellow-fin can be netted and hooked. There's a charcoal grill, as in most parks. I've had lunch here with visiting family. Or I'll drop in with a coffee and a New Yorker, or nothing at all, and just watch the water for a while.

November 5, 2008

October 30, 2008

October 28, 2008

Give change a chance

In the last days now before the election, the race in Florida is tightening as predicted. We've been seeing more Obama lawn signs - those, that is, that have escaped the epidemic of sign theft. One couple that we talked to on Saturday had lost their Obama sign to theives the night before. They were livid, of course, and we were all left to wonder about the motive behind it: by stealing the signs, the vandals think... what? That they're making the candidate himself disappear?

The evangelical-controlled republican party has been rife with superstition for some time now. Ballot initiative 2 in Florida for instance, would not only constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage, but also "the substantial equivalent thereof..." No government-recognized domestic partnerships. This over-kill initiative is so mean-spirited that none other than Jeb Bush lambasted it when its petition fell short four years ago. The goal of this measure, it seems, apart from the usual ploy of baiting conservatives into the voting booth, is to deter divine displeasure, and somehow save heterosexual marriage. The 50% divorce rate, like the 9/11 attack, can be traced directly to the nation's growing acceptance of homosexuality, you see. But as one unmarried straight couple we met, who had voted against the measure, pointed out, it puts them and their family in jeopardy too. One sign I saw in Naples said "Vote No on 2. Save our families." But in the fundamentalist-imagined universe, health care benefits, pensions, civil rights in general, are extended only to those who are permitted to submit to the proper state-sanctioned religious ritual.

One crusty duplex we visited turned out to be a "bad address." The former tenant had moved out. The old lady who greeted us at the door, surely a woman with little more than social security to sustain her, upon seeing our Obama buttons snapped "Get off my property!" Superstition, apparently, or "the substantial equivalent thereof" trumps everything in the minds of some... including their own self-interest. Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas?", though already a little dated, is a good primer on the phenomenon.

The quirkiest encounter was toward the end of the day on Saturday. One of our last calls was on somebody named "Ono." Imagine our surprise when we pulled up to the house and there, stretched between two trees, was a huge home-made Obama sign saying "Give Peace A Chance." The guy who answered the door, who turned out to be a volunteer, had made the sign. But he wasn't Ms. Ono. He didn't know Ms. Ono. Turns out she was at another address that we'd already logged as "moved."

The thing that surprised me the most on these treks into the neighborhoods I thought I knew, were the number of contacts on our list that were "bad addresses." Apartments, condos, and houses which, once approached, turned out to be empty, abandoned, foreclosed. Houses I thought were neighbors. And that, as I look around the city, is the legacy of the last eight years made sadly tangible. Empty houses, uprooted families, properties gone to weed. From modest apartments to solemn McMansions. Not even a dog to welcome or warn. Nobody. Nothing.

In normal times, I'd favor a somewhat divided government but not this year. The old guard has to go. I'd like to see Obama and Biden, should they win the White House, get the support in congress they need to take the country in a new direction. Give change a chance.

October 17, 2008

Boo who

I've been busy canvasing for the campaign. It's been a good, if exhausting, experience. I'm glad I finally connected with the local democratic organization.

Amid neighborhoods sprouting Halloween lights and apparitions, the door-to-door has been a hoot. At this hour the mood of the McCain camp is generally withdrawn and grimly hunkered-down. The Obamans are hopeful and quietly exultant. What remains of the undecideds seem to have qualms they can't quite articulate.

The Halloween demographic is varied too, and oddly reflects its human counterpart...

October 14, 2008

October 11, 2008

October 9, 2008

Joe Biden in Fort Myers

As some of you know, I volunteer for the local Obama campaign. Last night vice presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden came to Republican stronghold Fort Myers for a standing room only rally at Alico Arena on the FGCU campus. I've always liked senator Biden... bright, articulate, a really decent guy with a refreshing and comprehensive grasp of the issues. "Depth" was the word that kept coming up to describe Biden's performance in the v.p. debate.

The crowd at the rally was diverse. Seniors, boomers, families... but young folks and students seemed to be the dominant presence.

In a striking contrast to republican v.p. hopeful Sarah Palin's marching band/cheerleader-laden show at Germain Arena on Monday, the democratic candidate's appearance at the university was an issue-driven, no-frills, informative event, and evoked enthusiasm with ideas rather than with the hype and smears that have come to characterize the republican candidates' campaigns in the final weeks of the race.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson warmed up the crowd...

Senator Biden takes the stage to a rapturous standing o.

Biden is always at ease, though passionate, a seasoned statesman. You get the feeling that he can't be thrown off balance... he speaks from his heart and mind. They're connected. He has a good voice. The senator's talk was characteristically issue-oriented and addressed the economic crisis, health care, education, and foreign policy, among other things. Citing McCain's benefit-taxing healthcare plan, Biden repeated his debate zinger that McCain's plan is "the ultimate bridge to nowhere." Somewhere in the crowd an infant yelped. "I don't blame that baby for crying," Biden quipped.

Citing presidential candidate John McCain's much-vaunted image as a maverick, Biden pointed out McCain's record of unflagging support for the Bush administration. "That's not a maverick, that's a sidekick."

In a swipe at a McCain strategist's recent statement that if the campaigns "keep talking about the economy, we lose", Biden said that the American people, and the Obama campaign, are not about to "turn the page" on the crisis, as the McCain camp had hoped, until they elect a leader who can "write an end to the story" that we can live with.

Noting the recent downturn in tone coming from the McCain camp, Biden said that the republican candidate was trying to "take the low road to the highest office in America, and we can't let that happen."

A standing ovation erupted when Biden talked about ending the misbegotten war in Iraq and bringing the troops home.

Recent polls indicate that swing-state Florida has edged into the Obama column.

October 4, 2008

September 29, 2008

Untitled 2

the last of the lobsters
have fewer aspirations
asleep until the day after
my ultramarine dream
yoga is avoided on principle

the voluptuous tourists
coughing awake
an intangible dawn

all fall down

September 27, 2008

Two shoe

This little sonata of red white and black reminds me of the colors in a checkers game. I've noticed that close friends, especially the women, often somehow manage to color-coordinate.

September 24, 2008

Leapin' lizard 2

Liz tagged along to the post office yesterday. On the way back, she jumped off at Brew Babies, which reopens for the season next week. Maybe she's doing some pre-season reconnaissance.

September 23, 2008

Swing times

This home made little red swing has seen better days, but perhaps it's happy to be retired. I came across it on my ride. Its delicate construction suggests that it was made for a small child. But rather than being used up and broken, it seems to have been simply abandoned instead.

My favorite swing as a kid was a rope that someone had hung from a massive old tree on the bank of a creek in the woods. "The Rope" as it was know by the neighborhood kids was a favorite hang out, no pun intended, a touchstone of local kid society. Trysts took place there, and fights, first cigarettes were smoked, first kisses stolen or given, and many a tale was told in the dappled shade around its totemic knots. And many a thrill-ride, launched from the bank, ended in the creek.

I came across this variation of the theme a few years ago on one of the canals in an undeveloped precinct of the city. The trunk of the gracious old tree from which it hung was ribbed, far up into its leafy depths, with a ladder of nailed-on boards. I stumbled across the place again a while back, I don't know how I found it. The path was weedy and the clearing obscured. The rope was gone. The stairs were gone. Only a few broken remnants of the little dock remained. And the tree... silent now, reclaimed, forgotten.

September 19, 2008

Four Mile Cove

Eco Preserve, an old favorite on the Caloosahatchee River, is where I go to unwind and taste the four flavors of meditation: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The boardwalk threads through a 365 acre state wetland preserve. There's a bit of wildlife, but what I like is its densely detailed, yet unchanging walking-in-space walk. It's a good foil for rambling along in one's thoughts.

A leaf pierced by a reed when it fell to earth, or was driven by a fateful gust... so too our hearts, 
driven and felled.

Floating pavilions in the cove await kayak and canoe

Flowers drift in the wake of a memorial.
"There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning; they're leaning out for love, and they will lean that way forever, while Suzanne holds the mirror..."