Seaside, Florida 2007

Has it been 10 years since I roamed the New Urbanist streets of Seaside, Florida? It has. Did a whole week’s posting about it, including Seaside, Florida Part 1 and the Last Photo Series of Seaside. Hope the recent winds and rain didn’t cause the place too much harm.

I stayed in WaterColor during that visit, a newer planned community next to Seaside. So close, in fact, that it’s an easy walk between the two.

Near Sideside, FloridaSideside, FloridaAlmost immediately Seaside offered up pleasant buildings to look at. These were along County 30A, which ran between the town and the Gulf.

Sideside, Florida

Sideside, Florida

Other structures were further into the town. In this case, commercial.

Sideside, Florida

Near the beach.

Sideside, Florida

Water’s edge near Seaside.

Sideside, Florida

The easily walkable brick streets of Seaside.

Sideside, FloridaEasy mainly because there was no one else around. I wrote at the time that “I saw only one or two other pedestrians, a couple of bicyclists and one car drive by in the hour or so that I spent on the streets, looking at things and taking pictures.”

Even the golf carts were idle.
Sideside, FloridaThere’s no golf course around that I know of, but such carts would be a good way to get around a town this size. I expect things are a lot busier starting around November and finishing in around April. Perhaps only the die-hard Seasiders stay for the sticky summers and the thrill of hurricane season.

I took a close look — zoomed it on in — at the last picture and saw that the house’s name (Seaside houses have names) is Apple Pie A La Mode.

September Pause

Back to posting again around September 17. Constitution Day. Maybe I’ll have finished the Federalist Papers by then.

It might also be warm again. A distinct October-like coolness has settled on northern Illinois since Labor Day.

Saw a cherry picker in the neighborhood recently. The man atop the equipment was repairing a street lamp that had gone a little funny. Not out, just flickering from time to time.

cherry picker

Why a cherry picker? Why not apples or lemons? And why do careless or unscrupulous researchers cherry pick their data? Why not grape harvest it?

Speaking of fruit, completely by chance down an Internet rabbit hole recently I came across the Citronaut — the first mascot of Florida Technical University, which eventually became the University of Central Florida. He’s an anthropomorphic orange wearing a space helmet, dating from 1968.

Florida produces citrus and shoots men into space, so it must have seemed like a bright idea. For a very short time. Says Wiki: “After one year, students petitioned the Student Government to establish a new mascot for the university.” Poor old goofy Citronaut was ignominiously dumped. You’d think he could have gone on to shill Tang or something.

The thought of Tang led me to another Internet rabbit hole. Eventually I came across the Tang Pakistan page. Is Tang popular in Pakistan? Could be. At least it seems more advertised there than its country of origin.

The About Tang page is in English, and includes such sentences as: “Being the king of flavours, its fruity and refreshing taste wins millions of hearts every day. Be it family gatherings, group studies, play days or summer struck – Tang is the Neverland for everyone to indulge, lift their moods and bond together to share good times.”

Not a peep about astronauts.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I watched The General on DVD. I’d only ever seen clips of it. It’s one of the most kinetic movies I’ve ever seen. Fittingly, with locomotives chasing each other and Buster Keaton all over the place, doing his own stunts. Funny stuff. I’m glad a movie more than 90 years old can still be so amusing.

Some scenes were flat-out amazing. Best known, probably, is when a locomotive causes a trestle to collapse, precipitating the engine into the river below. As I looked at that, I thought, that looks awfully real, not like a model. Turns out it was a real locomotive shot falling into a river (like the train fall in Bridge On the River Kwai).

Sean Axmaker writes in Silentfilm.org: “For the scene in which Johnnie sets fire to a bridge to prevent the North’s engine from crossing the river, Keaton had [set designer Fred] Gabourie construct a stunt trestle designed to collapse under the train’s weight. It was the only sequence that did not use existing track and it has been called the most expensive single shot in silent film history (Keaton biographies put the cost at $42,000).

“It is certainly the most expensive that Keaton ever executed. He had only one shot at the scene and ran six cameras to capture the spectacle. The engine that plunged into the river was one of the doubles used to stand in for the working engines and it rested there in the water, rusting away for 15 years until it was hauled out for salvage in the scrap drives of World War II.”

Later I looked up the female lead in the movie, Marion Mack, a one-time Sennett Bathing Beauty. She got tired of being in movies around the time talkies started, and lived a long time after, until 1989, including a career as an Orange County real estate broker. As for Glen Cavender, an original Keystone Cop who played antagonist Capt. Anderson, he lived until 1962. He seems to be an example of one of those actors that didn’t transition well to talkies, though he kept working.

The actual leader of the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase was James J. Andrews, a civilian scout for the Union Army. Things didn’t turn out well for him, since the Confederates hanged him. He lost out posthumously, too. This from Wiki: “Some of the raiders were the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor by the US Congress for their actions. As a civilian, Andrews was not eligible.”

You’d think Andrews should get something, even now, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the Congressional Gold Medal, which go to civilians.

One more thing about a movie. Recently I happened across this video on You Tube.

It’s a remarkable bit of editing to go along with Elmer Berstein’s justly famous, magnificent Magnificent Seven main theme, right down to Steve McQueen’s smile in the last frame. The video featuring the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is also worth a watch.

The Salvador Dali Museum Bench

On April 2, 2005, we visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. As wordy as I was before I published pictures at BTST, I didn’t write much about the place. “Housed in a mid-sized, appropriately modernist building, the Dali Museum is all Dali, all the time, as it should be,” was one line. I also considered how the museum came to be in central Florida.

As far as I can tell, I didn’t take a picture of the building. I did take a picture of bench on the grounds. Lots of people have taken pictures of it.

Salvador Dali Museum benchI didn’t realize until I read more about the place today that the Dali has been in a new building since 2011, and apparently the bench was moved to be near the new structure. I don’t remember whether the giant Dali mustache was there in ’05. You’d think I’d remember a thing like that, but memory is a eccentric thief, taking things you’d never expect.

Regarding the new building, the museum web site says, “Designed by architect Yann Weymouth of HOK, it combines the rational with the fantastical: a simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the ‘enigma.’

“The Enigma, which is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a twenty-first century homage to the dome that adorns Dali’s museum in Spain. Inside, the Museum houses another unique architectural feature – a helical staircase – recalling Dali’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule.”

A Forgotten Thread About Florida, Remembered

Posting again on Tuesday. Memorial Day’s a little far ahead of Decoration Day this year, but because of the flux of the calendar, Memorial Day will drift back to May 30 next year (and in ’22 and ’33, just to look ahead). I didn’t realize it until recently, but Sen. Daniel Inouye was eager to return Memorial Day to May 30, introducing resolutions on the matter repeatedly until his death.

Warm again after a couple of ridiculously cold days. It wasn’t freezing — that would be beyond ridiculous, into the insane — but I could see my breath yesterday. Today I sat on my deck in the pleasantly warm air.

I don’t look at Facebook constantly, but when I do, odd things pop up sometimes. Today the system reminded me that “Six years ago, you posted this.”

My first thought: I’ve been using Facebook for more than six years? Tempus fugit.

ApalachOystersThe comment I posted then, along with a small scan of a postcard I’ve reposted here, was: “The best fried oysters I’ve ever had, at the Apalachicola Seafood Grill, Apalachicola, Florida, May 2009.”

My old friend Dan, a resident of Birmingham, Ala., these days, replied: “The Grill has been there for as long as I can remember. I can remember going there 40 years ago. And, as I recall, if you like flounder, they do an incredible job with it as well.”

It’s still there, if reviews on Yelp, Google+, Urban Spoon and the like are to be believed. Good to know.

I answered: “I need to explore Miami more, but I’ve pretty much decided the panhandle’s my favorite part of the state.”

Geof Huth then chimed in: “Hey, that picture reminds me of a postcard I received recently.”

Dan: “By comparison, Miami is soulless.”

I’d say Miami has a really different kind of soul. Pending further investigation.

One more comment from me: “Postcard? What a coincidence. Rich F. got a card just like it, too, since he used to serve discount oysters to me at an oyster bar in Nashville.

“Miami Beach sure was interesting, but you have to like art deco.”

Dan: “and shell pink…”

I might still have that postcard. I have a box of Places I’ve Been Cards, started more than 10 years ago. Back when I worked downtown, I had my own office — an increasingly retro concept; I’m glad I don’t work in an open floor-plate office — and I thumb-tacked a few cards on one of the walls, a couple of places I’d recently been. Then I put up a few more. And then even more. The only commonality was that I’d been to the place. It got to be a few dozen eventually.

When I had to leave that office, I took all the cards down and boxed them. Since then, I’ve added to the collection with cards upon return from a place, mindful always to have a few extra, and with cards I find at a resale or antique shop representing places I went before I stared collecting cards.

Storm of the Century

I found Burmese Days at a bookstore not long ago. Once I finish rereading Homage to Catalona, which I’m close to doing, I’ll read that for the first time. It’s a wonder that George Orwell escaped Spain with his life in 1937. How close the world came to never having Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm and the rest.

What have we missed because antibiotics weren’t quite good enough yet to save Orwell in 1950? The man might have written for another 30 or more years. To modify a line of Tom Lehrer’s, it’s a sobering thought to realize that when Orwell was my age, he’d been dead six years.

Actually, I’m taking a detour from Orwell to read a book I chanced on at the library the other day and couldn’t resist, Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, by Willie Drye (2002). I’m pretty sure I first heard about that storm watching Key Largo. Lionel Barrymore’s character mentioned it, at a time when the hurricane would have been still fairly fresh in memory, as Katrina is for us.

“On Labor Day in 1935, a hurricane that produced the record low barometric pressure reading of 26.35 inches hit Florida’s upper Keys, destroying virtually everything in its path,” the Publishers Weekly blurb cited by Amazon says. “In his meticulously researched work, Drye gives a vivid, detailed account of the storm’s approach and impact when it made landfall. Drye was drawn to the story of the unnamed hurricane not only because of its intensity, but also because it killed nearly 260 World War I veterans who were building a highway as part of a federal construction program.”

So far it’s pretty good. The book even has occasional funny asides, something you wouldn’t expect. For instance, Key West as a modern tourist destination was largely invented during the 1930s, to help it recover from the Depression but also the contraction of the area’s ship salvaging and natural sponge businesses earlier in the century. The Florida Emergency Relief Administration led the effort to clean up the town and its attractions, hiring a PR man named E.M. Gilfond to handle publicity.

“Gilford and his staff, which included talented graphic artists, launched a nationwide advertising campaign to lure tourists to Key West,” writes Drye. “When the visitors arrived they were given a booklet published by the Florida ERA that included a map of the city’s attractions.

“The effort was a rousing success. About 40,000 tourists visited Key West during the 1934-35 season, and the city’s income from tourism increased by about 43 percent…

“No one had bothered to confer with Ernest Hemingway before putting his house on the maps handed out to visitors. The author’s home was listed as attraction number 18, and a fair number of those 40,000 tourists tramped onto his property and peered into the windows of his home or gawked at him from the sidewalk as he tried to relax on his porch with a drink and a cigar. One especially bold visitor opened the front door of Hemingway’s home and marched into his living room as though he were walking into a museum.”