Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Time is Here -- in Florida

Last year I posted my piano rendition of one of my favorite Christmas pieces, It’s Love –It’s Christmas, written by the great jazz pianist, Bill Evans.  You rarely hear it performed in the tsunami of holiday music that overwhelms airwaves at this time.  Another favorite is Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time Is Here, much more frequently performed.  No wonder, it was written for A Charlie Brown Christmas special in 1965.  Although Guaraldi’s music will always be associated with the Peanuts Christmas specials, he was a fabulous jazz pianist and composer in his own right, tragically and suddenly dying at the age of only 47 of a heart attack or aortic aneurysm.

So, in the spirit of a Florida Christmas, I offer my own piano rendition, nothing like the master Guaraldi’s, but just mine.  The lyrics are by Lee Mendelson, the producer of the Charlie Brown specials, who just happened to hear Guaraldi’s "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" on the radio and sought him out to compose the music for the 1965 special, and the rest is history.

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
Families drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

And what would Christmas time be in Florida without the recent Boat Parade.  We had a view from the starting point at the North Palm Beach Marina, the parade preceded by fireworks.  Having had our most memorable Christmases in Connecticut, the contrast is, well, striking.

From Christmases past, this 1977 photo, Jonathan, Ann, me, our beloved Uncle Phil, and Chris…

A Happy and Healthy Holiday to All!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter "Down Here"

While the winter has worn on and on "up there" (where we used to live), it is no wonder the visitors and the traffic in Palm Beach County has grown this year.  I still miss aspects of our former Connecticut winters.  Being younger helped and I found much of it to be a pleasant challenge, splitting wood for our wood burning stove, even shoveling the snow, and getting to work on the ice-slicked roads.  The one thing I do not miss is getting up on a ladder to pour boiling water into our gutters and downspouts to keep them clear of ice as snow was melting on the roof during the day and refreezing at night. I remember one very bad winter storm in the 1970's when Connecticut closed all roads and threatened to arrest any driver other than essential health and official personnel.  The only problem is I heard the announcement while I was sitting at my desk listening to a portable radio; I had already decided to close the office but I had to find my way home without getting arrested!  (I wasn't.)

But that seems like another lifetime ago.  Now, instead, friends and family come here to visit.  No wonder.  And when they do, our boat and the waters of Lake Worth and Peanut Island at the Palm Beach inlet are inviting.  A couple of days ago Jon and Anna were visiting.  Here's a photo of Ann (wearing my cowboy hat) and Anna as we departed for the Tiki Waterfront Sea Grille at The Riviera Beach Marina. While we having lunch there, a fishing boat was tossing unused chum into the water attracting some powerful, predatory fish known as "jacks" and pelicans as well.  I thought this very brief video of a pelican balancing itself on the power cord of the fishing boat, the jacks menacingly swimming beneath, to be worthy of a YouTube posting.  Pelicans are among my favorite birds, funny to look at, but graceful when they glide only inches above the water.  They don't have an easy time coexisting with commercial fisherman (competition) or with recreational fisherman as pelicans sometimes get snagged by their hooks.  But this pelican doesn't look like it has a care in the world.

It was nice to have Jon run the boat as it freed me to film a little of the trip home, running north in the ICW part of Lake Worth with Singer Island and some of Munyon Island on our starboard side.  Having spent most of my life in the northeast gives me a special appreciation of these moments. Here's hoping for some warmer weather for our friends and family back where we used to call home!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Florida Xmas Redux in Pix

Normally this is a pretty busy time for us, sons Jon and/or Chris visiting, but not this year, they having other commitments.  So recently Ann and I took our boat up the Intracoastal, first to the Waterway Cafe where we tied up for dinner as the sun was setting and, then, after dark, further up the Intracoastal to view the Christmas lights such as the "modest" display below.

Earlier in the month we went to a party to view the Palm Beach Boat parade, this very brief video showing those Florida Christmas festivities.

Or how about an Osprey sitting high up a nearby tree positioned like an angel on a Christmas tree? 

Amazing, this is our 14th Christmas in Florida -- our first one pictured here.  Seems like yesterday.

As much as Christmases here have their own kind of high spirits, those we've left behind in Connecticut were special.  We were younger, our sons were growing, eagerly anticipating Christmas morning.  Those holidays were particularly unforgettable when it snowed, and we had the wood burning stove going, the crackling of the wood filling our family room with the definitive word that winter had arrived.  Shoveling the snow and walking the road when it was a winter wonderland are moments of the past which spring to mind, even while it is 80 degrees here.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is I'll Be Home for Christmas which was first released as a V-disk for our servicemen during WW II.  Here is my brief rendition in memory of my Dad who was serving when this was released, and those special years in Connecticut. 

And to all, a Happy and Healthy Holiday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Running Through the Jungle

That jungle is here. The U S of A. The conservative mind would like us to believe that we'd all be safer carrying a weapon (or at least, "feel" safer). When John Fogerty wrote (and the Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded) his prophetic 1970's, Run Through the Jungle, it was thought that, along with many of his other songs, the jungle he was referring to was Vietnam. Wrong. It was his plea, still unanswered, that some gun control sanity transpires -- here. The lyrics refer to 200 million guns -- then the population of the United States....

Run Through The Jungle

Whoa, thought it was a nightmare,
Lo, it's all so true,
They told me, "Don't go walking slow
'Cause Devil's on the loose."

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

Thought I heard a rumbling
Calling to my name,
Two hundred million guns are loaded
Satan cries, "Take aim!"

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

Over on the mountain
Thunder magic spoke,
"Let the people know my wisdom,
Fill the land with smoke."

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

Now, only forty years later, there are 300 million people who could be armed, locked and loaded. Wouldn't you feel safer?

And toward that end, in Florida we have "Stand Your Ground," Yeehaw!!!

With the tragic killing of unarmed Trayvon Martin, by a "crime watch volunteer," George Zimmerman, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" provision has proven to be the gun-slinging cowboy's best friend. This NRA supported measure says "a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." "Reasonably believes?" Does a hooded black youth give cause to "reason?"

Life imitating art? It conjures up the Bertolt Brecht play, The Exception and the Rule, a parable for these times, in which a merchant hires a coolie to help him cross a desert to close an oil deal, but near the end of the journey, when the exploited and abused coolie offers his boss some water, the merchant mistakes the gesture for an attack and shoots him dead. He is put on trial but acquitted as the court concludes the merchant did not know the coolie meant no harm and therefore the killing was pardonable. If the one with power kills, he may do so merely out of fear. One has to be armed to have that power and Brecht saw that as an issue in class warfare.

Let's escalate this insanity further. Guns in classrooms. The Colorado Supreme Court recently upheld a state law that allows residents to carry concealed weapons, finding that the University of Colorado's campus gun ban violates the "law." Colorado is not the only state with such a law and guns are not the only "approved" concealed weapons. In some states such weapons "may" include one or more of the following: Brass knuckles, Slingshots, Martial arts weapons, Knives, Swords, Spears, Daggers, Clubs, Electronic dart guns, Blackjacks, Sand bags, Razors. Sounds like a scene from West Side Story or Blackboard Jungle. Or something out of Medieval "Fechtbuchs." Including "sand bags?" Ouch!

My old college buddy, Bruce, who was the chairman of a high school English Dept. in Massachusetts, and also a Vietnam vet who knows first-hand the consequences of brutal gun force, was stunned to read Jeff Jacoby's March 21 piece in the Boston Globe, A Safer Society with Guns

With forced logic and anecdotal statistical evidence, Jacoby happily concludes that it is OK for students to carry guns, as "having a gun makes many people — for good reason — feel safer." Yeehaw!!!

In disgust, Bruce dashed off a letter to the Globe, but as his comments are steeped in sarcasm, perhaps the Globe thought it disrespectful and elected not to publish it. Legacy media ought to rethink its policies if it is to survive. Here is Bruce's response....

Thank you, thank you, Jeff Jacoby, for standing up for a student’s right to carry a concealed weapon. We’ve known all along that such sound arms policy would only make our schools and our nation safer, kinder and gentler. As a teacher, I have always advocated that my students be able to carry concealed weapons.

Though I live in Massachusetts where the benighted populace still prevents students from carrying concealed weapons or even visible ones (typical liberal policy that ignores the need we all have to defend ourselves in the classroom—Obama’s fault for sure), I can finally hope that one day I will be able to teach in Colorado. In the meantime, I can only hope that perhaps among my students are an enlightened few, who are courageous civil libertarians, carrying
concealed weapons in defiance of Massachusetts law.

I myself would like to be able to carry an M16 in the classroom or perhaps an M60 machine gun, and I dream of the day when this will be possible. To be sure, I would not be concealing those weapons but would be using my desk in the front of the room to mount the M60. (I note here that large arms carrying laws across the nation need to be changed. We vitally need to be able to carry automatic rifles and other large arms, locked and loaded. But that’s an issue for discussion at a later date.) As for myself, I could work out some camouflaging technique if we can get some reasonable laws passed for concealment. With columnists like you Mr. Jacoby
leading us out of the unarmed wilderness and with, I’m sure, the backing of the NRA, perhaps all students and teachers will one day be armed.

Thank goodness for the sound reasoning of the conservative voice backed by the statistics you gave us showing reduced crime and kill numbers in jurisdictions where people can carry. Thanks for not showing statistics from other pusillanimous societies that haven’t the courage or the manhood to carry. Who would want to know that those sissy societies don’t kill nearly as many men, women or children with firearms as we do? Thanks for knowing what in addition to weapons needs to be concealed. Thanks, and thanks again.

-- Bruce Rettman

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Day

It was brilliant and warm here on Jan. 1, 2012, a perfect day for venturing to our new go-to destination of Munyon Island on our boat where Ann, Jon and I had the beach pretty much to ourselves. Not much to do there but as it was a Sunday, we had the New York Times to keep us company, relax, and watch the yachts go by on Lake Worth. We decided to return home via the Earman River.

As our home is actually on an island, we have two ways of reaching Munyon, the northern route via the Intracoastal or the southern route via the Earman River. This screen shot from Google, showing our home (circled at the west portion of the shot) on the North Palm Beach Waterway and the Munyon docks (circled on the east), speaks for itself. Further east beyond Munyon is MacArthur Beach State Park on Singer Island and then the Atlantic.

Returning via the Earman we went past a man jet skiing with his dog. It was an absolutely perfect ending to our New Year's Day of boating, a Florida moment, bringing a smile to everyone's face.

But what would New Year's Day be without friends, other than man's best friend? Years ago half the day would be spent on the phone with friends but now there is email so I caught up with many via that route. Still, I have had a long standing agreement with my old friend and colleague Ron to avoid email on that special day so we had a marathon talk when I returned from Munyon. Naturally our conversation moved from remembering other colleagues in publishing, to the state of the industry (particularly the impact of eBooks), to politics, and finally to our families. His "kids" are doing well as are mine and we both recognize the truth of "you're only as happy as your unhappiest adult child." In Ron's case there are also grandchildren -- in Washington DC --and he is lucky enough to live fairly nearby in North Carolina.

I also "spoke" to my old friend Ray through his wife, Susan, as Ray was in the bilge of his boat all day repairing a generator. He and Sue spend the winter in Boat Harbour, Bahamas on their boat (which is their year-round home). We see them when they briefly visit on their way to or from the Bahamas and in Norwalk, Connecticut where we both live on boats during the summer.

On New Year's Day I also think about my dear friend and colleague Howard who died at such an early age more than three years ago. I used to speak to him on New Year's Day so that is such a void. He was a brilliant, talented person (click onto this link to see his superb carvings of a Manatee and Koala Bear), gone but always remembered by me. I also keep in mind, with great respect, another friend and colleague, Peter, who has now been out of my life, but not memory, for nearly twenty years now.

Finally there was some surprising news that arrived by email on New Year's Day. But first brief background information. My first job out of college in 1964 was at a division of Academic Press, Johnson Reprint Corporation. I was hired by the Vice President at the time, Fred, who was living with his partner, Michael. I remember when he hired me, thinking he's so old, 35. Ha. About six months later he also hired a "sassy dame," and she showed up at a New Year's Day party that Fred and Michael threw, I think it was Jan. 1966. She was wearing a backless dress right down to the tip of her derrière and believe me, even though I was there with my 1st wife, I took note as she moved to the music. Later she became wife #2 (Ann). So that little intersection of time and space changed my life and hers, thanks to Fred's astute hiring practices.

Here are Michael, Fred and me sometime after I had turned 35.

Well, Fred and Michael have stayed together all that time and, as Fred put it, they "finally tied the knot after 54 years," a civil union performed at New York City hall at the close of 2011! What better way to start the New Year?

Life is Company.....

Phone rings, / Door chimes, / In comes / Company!
No strings, /Good times, / Just chums, / Company!
All those / Photos / Up on the walls--
"With love." / "With love" filling the days,
"With love" seventy ways, / "To Bobby with love"
From all those good and crazy people, your friends!
Those good and crazy people, your married friends!
And that's what it's all about, isn't it?
That's what it's really about, isn't it?
That's what it's really about,
Really about!

From Company, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


This is a sort of maintenance, catch-up entry; odds and ends that need to be tied up.

First a follow up about the replacement of our home's roof. After a couple of weeks of delay, partially related to weather, the ordeal is finally over, somewhat anticlimactic as now when I look at the house, it seems like the new roof has always been there. But its guts are very different, with the underlayment and the Polyset roofing system designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The house might be gone but the roof will be levitating!

Now the rest of the house speaks to me for repair and upgrading, particularly exterior painting. The eves are a high priority as wood rot was replaced while roofing, and bare wood needs to be primed and painted. As some of the eaves are at a second story level, that will have to be done by a professional, but the rest of the house, in particular the courtyard and the courtyard walls, call out to me so I've slowly started to prep and paint. Elastomeric paint is very forgiving, allowing coverage of narrow stress cracks that would have to be filled otherwise. I thought I would despise painting and repairing, something I haven't done in some time, but I find it somewhat satisfying, and doable if I take it in small doses each day. Not the same feeling as when I was younger and routinely did repairs and even undertook larger scale projects on our homes, but fulfilling nonetheless. Maybe it's just being relieved that my life is back to normal after a year of health issues.

Next, I wanted to experiment with posting videos directly to this blog. Although I've posted to YouTube, this is new to me so I just filmed a couple this past week or so. These are not very remarkable, but they are mercifully brief.

The first was taken when Ann's friend, Arlene, was visiting from Tampa, and we went on our boat and up the Intracoastal to look at the Christmas lights. The Palm Beach boat parade was only a few nights before that so I thought most homes would be finished with their decorations, but that was not the case. Nonetheless, one of the homes in Palm Beach Gardens that has a fairly spectacular display, perhaps about a half mile north of the PGA bridge, had their decorations finished. The video is a little muddled as I was trying to steer our boat while filming with the other hand.

[Well, this first experiment failed. The video will not upload. Will keep trying but as the narrative is still valid, I am posting without the first video.]

Christmas in Florida reminds me of the Diane Arbus photograph "Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, LI." -- the sterile living room consisting of a couch with fringe hanging from the upholstery, a lamp, a clock that looks like a star on the wall, a TV set and an end table, with a heavily decorated, but unlighted, Christmas tree shoved in the corner with wrapped gifts under it. There is a certain sadness that Arbus captured and she would have had a field day in Florida during this time of year where the juxtaposition of Christmas decorations and tropical weather seems to have the same effect as her photographs of the bizarre. To the right is a typical December Florida scene, a Great Blue Heron sunning himself on our sea wall. It just does not say "Christmas!"

The next video might interest local boaters as the Munyon Island docks were just completed and it is a pleasant destination for smaller boats in the Palm Beach area, with floating docks, and an effective breakwater to protect boats from the wakes churned up by the larger vessels traversing Lake Worth north and south. Munyon Island itself was slightly developed to accommodate visitors to the docks with a few small pavilions and grilling facilities, as well as a slightly elevated walkway through the native growth of Munyon where it dead ends into a pathway which I followed only to be greeted by a spider the size of a B-29, so that is where my reconnoitering ended. But the tropical environment is lush on the island and well worth visiting. Here is a history of Munyon and of the restoration project.

We're fortunate to have such a facility so near us (ten minutes by boat) as well as the more elaborate ones of Peanut Island but Peanut can be crowded, particularly on holidays and weekends.

Besides occasionally adding videos to the blog, I want to begin to label the blog entries as I've written more than 250 entries in the four years I've been doing this and while there is search capability (upper left corner) and of course contents and images are searchable via Google et. al. as well, there is no structured index, something that bothers me as an ex-publisher. That is going to be an ongoing job and I'm not sure about the approach at this point but there might be some strange entries in the future to test the labeling capabilities.

Moving on to some family stuff, earlier in the year our son's friend, Jeff, was married and the wedding was sort of a reunion, five friends, boys we've seen grow up from the innocence of childhood, through the terrible teens, and now into manhood, each going their own way in life, but coming together as if no time had passed at all. Uniting them is the love of boating, water skiing and swimming as each grew up on the water, spent summer weekends out at "our" Crow Island and a part of their summers together on Block Island.

So today, this is the motley crew (picture courtesy of Jeff's Mom, Cathy)

and here they are in photographs from years ago:

Finally, one of my fellow bloggers, is "graduating," having used his blog to pursue a dream (starting his own mutual fund) and after several years writing about the market (and maintaining a "virtual" portfolio, providing complete transparency), his blog will be moving to a web site as his "Paladin Long Short Fund" has been approved by SEC (the proposed symbol, not yet approved, is PALFX) I predict Mark will be a very successful trader and offer him my congratulations, bringing his dream to reality -- yet another instance of how technology has been used as a fulcrum for entrepreneurship.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Home, Again

I usually write something about returning home after a summer on the boat and traveling but never got around to it this year. All hell broke loose upon our return, having to do some landscaping after another typical brutal hot Florida summer finally killed some of our original plantings, and, then (after committing to the landscaping), finding a leak around the eaves of the roof which revealed the roof underlayment was decaying (thanks, again, Florida!). While we could patch and fix for the next couple of years, ultimately the roof will need replacement. It would be only a matter of time before water encroaches the living space. So, now that new plantings are in around the house, we are starting a new roof. Bad planning.

In the process of getting four different estimates I've become an expert in roofing, underlayments, attachment methods, and tiles. Metal roofs are the vogue now in Florida, but I think they are ugly on some homes, including ours which has a Mediterranean look. So we are going with a Spanish "S" concrete title and 3M's Polyset roofing system. While the expense is substantial, the new roof will be beautiful and with hurricane protection to 150 mph.

So between landscaping, roofing estimates, the round of obligatory medical appointments, and volunteering to be the pianist during visitors' hours at a West Palm Beach rehab center, it's been a busy period. Nonetheless, there is always time for some good literature and in that regard here are two I finished at the end of the days and while waiting for appointments.

Ethan Canin's Carry Me Across the Water, is a gem, beautifully crafted with multiple converging story lines. The child of a Jewish immigrant makes his way to America with his mother, leaving behind his father who stubbornly stays, not believing what was coming, when the Nazis finally prevail in the 1930's.. His mother ultimately settles in Brooklyn, remarries the devout Hank Kleinman, from whom our protagonist August Kleinman derives his surname.

But the novel begins with Augie in his 78th year, a widower and father of three children, a man who pursued the American Dream through hard work, taking chances, and surviving WWII, the latter playing significantly in the novel. When Augie was a soldier he came across a Japanese soldier in a cave on one of the Japanese islands who has his own story, one that August becomes part of at the end. Meanwhile, after the war, August Kleinman becomes wealthy (a prevailing theme in Canin's work -- the juxtaposition of rags and riches).

Canin skillfully navigates multiple time lines, effortlessly leading the reader back and forth from Kleinman's childhood, to his long marriage to Ginger, often talking to her internally as he steers himself through those narrow cave passages when he was a GI, to his building a successful brewery in Pittsburg, and finally his declining years as he tries to make sense of his relationship to his middle child, Jimmy. During a visit with Jimmy and his wife and grandchild, he makes plans to go to Japan to find closure, for himself and for the family of the Japanese soldier. In the process, he is reconciling himself to his own mortality ("And the end is getting nearer. I know that. Don't think I can't feel it. But I don't give up. That's just Augie Kleinman. I always thought I had a secret that when the end came I would be ready for it -- that the grave would be a relief. But it turns out it's not that way.")

As with all fine pieces of literature, the characters are real, and their conflicts familiar. It is the way of life and Canin captures it poignantly.

In an earlier posting on America America by Canin, I said, "sometimes I felt I was reading a novel that was indeed designed by a teacher, but a VERY good one" (Canin teaches at the University of Iowa's writer's workshop)." Carry Me Across The Water is another example of a carefully executed piece of literature, a novella in length but packing meaning and emotion at every turn of the page.

I landed on this novel after more hilarity from the pen of Jonathan Tropper, enjoying his How to Talk to a Widower, cut out of the same mold of the others I've read by him, Everything Changes, This is Where I Leave You, and The Book of Joe. How many times can an author pretty much cover the same ground, the searching-thirty-something male adrift in a sea of Jewish family foibles and suburban females, married and unmarried and divorced or soon to be divorced, sexual predators at times. Here our protagonist is now Doug Parker who becomes a local newspaper celebrity writing a column about his status as a widower and his twin sister Claire's designs for him to snap out of his long-standing grief. Meanwhile he has to negotiate his younger sister's impending marriage, his father's erratic behavior from his stroke, a child from his deceased wife's first marriage, and his mother's matchmaking, not to mention the women who stalk him and, finally, the woman with whom he finally falls in love again.

In spite of Tropper covering well worn territory, he never seems to let it go stale and his humor never fails: "My parents may behave like they were abandoned in Greenwich and raised by WASPs, but when it comes to preparing meals, we are once again the chosen people." OR "I would come and sit on the lawn beside her grave and make halting attempts at one-sided conversation, but I just couldn't make myself believe there was anyone listening, and even if I could, talking to the grave never made any sense to me. If there's an afterlife, and they can hear you, shouldn't they be able to hear you from anywhere? What's the theory here, that talking to the dead requires range, like a cell phone, and if you go too far the call gets dropped?"

Besides the humor, there is Tropper the astute observer of human nature and of the suburban scene, reminiscent of Updike and Cheever in some ways: "...moving out to New Radford [the suburban setting someplace in Westchester] had meant becoming friendly with a different sort of man than my younger, drunker, wilder single friends back in Manhattan.....[They] were all husbands and fathers either on the cusp or already descending into the tide pool of middle age. These men were all adrift in an alien landscape of mortgages and second mortgages, marriages and second marriages, children, child support, affairs, alimony, tuition, tutors, and an endless barrage of social functions. And all of their living had to be squeezed into those few hours on the weekends when they weren't working their asses off to pay for the whole mess. I'd always assumed that the people who lived in those fancy houses in the suburbs were financially better off then I was, and only once I'd joined them did I come to understand that it's all just a much more sophisticated and elaborate way of being broke."

Furthermore, Tropper always finds a way to tug at your heart, and although he treads familiar ground, I say, bring it on.

So, our roof odyssey has begun, the ripping and banging reminding me of a giant dental procedure, and while I've made some progress with my reading list, the stack of books grows. The pictures below track the first couple days progress on the roof. If only I could read that quickly!