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Monday, August 26, 2013

My blog for 8/26/2013 The Essence of Florida

Hurricane Charley had its stage five eye on Punta Gorda, Florida on Friday the 13th, August 2004 when it pounced on the community of 14000 people, blasting apart the roofs of 80% of the homes in the tiny gulfside town and tearing every leaf and branch from the trees.

It was almost exactly a year later that my husband and I drove down to visit our friends whose whole condominium building had been ravaged irreparably.  Another friend had found a temporary place for them, so they'd moved thirty-five miles north to Sarasota, Florida  for six months to live in a six-hundred-square-foot model condo that they’d shared with a construction office crew of two during the daylight hours.  They purchased another condo back in Punta Gorda that had been under construction and was finished six months after the storm passed.  It had not yet been decided whether their old building could be rebuilt.  A year later the situation remained the same.

Day one of our visit was a tour of their demolished town.  The older buildings had simply been razed and the downtown resembled a tooth-challenged sad old man with piles of crinkled junk shoved up into heaps.  Whole city blocks adorned with stark concrete pads remained treeless and lifeless.   Newer buildings had chunks bitten out of them, as if an impossible monster had slashed at them from one side of the street to the other.  Crews of laborers numbering from ten to fifteen brown bodies flocked to first one house’s roof, then to another, like so many ants building a nest.  Many houses simply had stacks of barrel tiles perched on top of their homes, waiting for somebody to set them.  Many sat sadly with their damage, just waiting.

Day two we traveled south to into the low country swamps of Everglade City, delineated by tangled, twenty-foot high mangrove plants and placid slow moving water..  The Tamiami Trail turns from south to east right at that point and amazingly, we found that low varies in its lowness.  Inches of altitude determine which way the water runs.  River channels of brackish water snake in a twisting maze running down to the sea.   We couldn’t see where it came from because there was nowhere to stand high enough.  We couldn’t see where the ocean was either, for the same reason.  Flat took on a new meaning for me.

Just a couple of turns off the Trail, we found airboat rides, right where they were supposed to be (ride cost: $30 per person.)   Let me first say that an airboat is actually a smooth-bottomed boat about twenty feet long with a strut frame rising from its back end that supports a giant six foot tall upright fan. The captain sits in the center of the boat on a raised barstool in front of the fan.  Two three-person seats face the front of the boat, and as we were seated, two adult pelicans flapped in and arrived on the bow edge by air mail.  They were HUGE.   The sun was hot, the air was sultry and the atmosphere was right out of a Louisiana bayou picture book.  Wooden docks with shrimp boats, fishing boats, pleasure boats, dinghies, dotted the beginning of the fifty-foot wide channel where we began our journey.  Further up into the mangroves, the docks and their boats disappeared and it was just us and the wilderness ahead through almost a green tunnel of shrubs.

Airboat Captain, Dennis, suggested strongly that we use the earphones provided.   It was an excellent suggestion when we ceased cruising and began charging up and down the channels.  The ride had the feel of a motorcycle from my past life, without the use of a helmet.  Speed seemed to be a priority and we jetted smoothly along into a lagoon until Captain Dennis stopped the boat right where two eyeballs appeared to be floating on the river.  Those eyes surfaced an inch when they saw the captain and seemed to be attached to a black log, complete with dark bark.  The log squirmed toward us and waited.  Dennis launched into a story about Everglade alligators, there not really being a question of extinction after all, or else the little devils are extremely prolific.   Whatever the cause, there are thousands of them today.  They grow at the rate of one inch per year until they're eleven feet long, when the rate slows.

At two feet away, Captain Dennis tossed the log (alligator) a fish, then grabbed its head and turned it so we'd have a better view.  He said he'd been bitten a couple of times.  We agreed there was a high probability factor involved, and rolled our eyes.

We stopped along one bank to visit a gang of three wild pigs, that looked like they also knew about Captain Dennis, or at least Captain Dennis’ fish tank.  Wild boars scarfing up dead fish is not a pretty sight.

After making our way further into the maze, greeting another alligator and speeding forward, we happened upon two manatees undulating away from us, doubtless dodging airboats.  I’d often wondered how woman-starved lonesome seamen could have misinterpreted manatees as mermaids, those sirens whose voices sang out to lure sailors to a rocky grave.  But, when I think about it, some of the Renaissance painters depicted women the same way Reuben did—round and firm and fully packed.  If that was considered a beautiful interpretation, I suppose the sea cows weren’t really much different to a sailor forty days at sea.

It was an altogether remarkable ride and we were one hundred miles north again by nightfall.

Punta Gorda Isle is unique for its canals.  Picture Venice, Italy only very tiny and with houses instead of hundreds-of-year-old buildings.  Essentially, every house has a canal in their backyard where there is a dock for each owner’s boat.  One motors out of his canal into another, then another until he reaches Charlotte Bay, where he has access to the open gulf, the Atlantic Ocean and parts beyond. This presumes he won’t get lost and wander aimlessly for years, skulking around the channels.  Some people live as much as two hours by channel to the bay. 

The wind came up the following day and there just happened to be our friends’ thirty-two foot sailboat tied right in their backyard.  The day went together like jam and peanut butter.  We waited until four o’clock to motor the necessary forty-five minutes of channel to pick up the sunset over the bay.  Dinner had been stocked in the cuddy cab below decks, the bimini cover was overhead and we were stoked for a sail.  After a quick lesson on sheets, lines, the tack and sails, Captain Terry headed us into the wind, raised the canvas and cut the motor.  We took off in a skate on top of the water that leaned us to starboard in a silent glide.  I hadn’t realized a sailboat travels at a list at all times.  The only time we were upright is while we were under motor.

Very shortly, a group of dolphins bounded into arches next to us, evidently on their way to somewhere important.  They didn’t stop to chat and passed us like our thirty knot speed was a standstill.   

Because of the steady breeze, we didn’t have to tack back and forth to keep wind in our sails, but kept a steady heading for about fifteen miles across to Pine Island on the other side of Charlotte Harbor.  How can I express the elation of being swept along with the wind for six hours that day?  We witnessed a rusty-golden sunset over the harbor which ushered a full moon up that night. If you’re going to have a magical day, you simply must have your moon full.   To be in the right place at the right time to see creatures we have never seen, to feel feelings we have never felt adds a dimension to life we would have missed in our ignorance. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My blog for 8/25/2013 The Duck Pond

We went looking for a real bathtub, since the one we have is a pretend one.  It has feet and is made for a princess who really doesn't care if she gets clean or not.  The husband has been known to get stuck in its narrowness.

Of course after so many years without a real tub and with so many options on the market, we very quickly made our way to the jetted tubs.  Problem:  There is no jetted tub made that will fit in the optional space unless we remodel the bathroom.  So we looked at free standing tubs--but they have no jets at all, only very girly champagne bubbles.  However they do fit into the allotted space.  What can be the use of them is more than I can see.

Ergo we merged over to the hot tub store.  The hot tubs of substantial size are the same price as the bathtubs of useless bubbles.  And they come with ducks.  Not only that but the ducks come with sunglasses.  Of course one can't put a hot tub inside the house unless one wishes to grow their own mushrooms, but our house is constructed so that it's actually closer to go outside to a hot tub than it is to walk into the bathroom's bathtub (which by the way is very good for blowing the dog dry with a hairdryer after her bath in the shower.)

And the hot tub has jets for every ache.  You don't have to wait for the hot water to come up from the basement.  You don't have to waste the water by draining it after every bath.  And you really can do some aerobic exercises in it as long as they're the sitting down kind.  Mostly there is no chance the husband will get stuck in it.  And did I mention the ducks?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Second blog for 8/24/2013 Chattahoochee Dead

I've been informed the new book will be released in September.  So now I'm trying to get Auraria Dead back in Amazon at about the same time.  Boy is that a way to humble such as I.  Only three weeks and the cover is now duplicated.  A computer nerd could have done it in two days.

I am excited about the new book.  I love the cover with the parrot on it.  Michaeleleah Tristram designed the cover for me and she's now hard at work to get the thing redrawn and finalized.

I am seriously searching for a computer literate person to help me with marketing, in case anybody out there knows of one such person.  Also if anybody can put me in touch with a book club so I can visit them and have a signing.  Of course, those book clubs I've previously visited are already on my list to contact about the new book.

I shall keep you informed of any progress that might actually happen.

My blog for 8/24/2013 Backyard War

There's a daily war in our backyard, complete with kamakazies, zeros, fighter jets that run into each other and a constant state of stress.

There are two fillup stations, and six jets, neither of which may be allowed to land at the same time.
We make the fuel, dye it red and fill such syrup into the stations which hang across the backyard patio from each other.

The hummingbirds don't hum, they chatter warnings as they dive into one another--I bet their tiny beaks hurt their foes.  They use the syrup to fuel their insatiable running speed, but, we understand, they actually do eat little bugs they find in the bush.  Of course there would be no food if there were no transporter.

Apparently they are getting ready to head south across the Gulf of Mexico and take just 18 hours to get across.  That's an awfully big expanse of water and that's a very tiny bird doing the flying.  But they make the run twice a year for up to ten years. 

And after all my years I saw something I hadn't seen before--they stick their beaks into the feeder holes and then pull out, and their itty bitty tongues stick out for just a second as they retract them into their beaks.  They come with their own straws to suck both the fake stuff we supply and the nectar obtained from the flowers around the area.  I had no idea.

Too bad they're just like people and each wants to keep a feeder to him/herself.  There is a ring-necked male and his mate (who isn't allowed to sup with him either) and a green iridescent male with his buff color mate.  A ruby-throated male runs among them and I presume the plain yellow-buff one is his mate. 

Each jets to a feeder, sticks his/her beak into a spout, then jerks it out again to dive bomb another foe.  It makes me wonder why there are so many little bitty perches around the feeder when only one is needed.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My blog for 8/6/2013 The republishing experience

I'm going to have to republish Auraria Dead in order to keep it in Amazon because my contract with the publisher expired.  This is a sad story for me, because I have no concept of how to do this--it will be essentially self-published and this self must take baby steps and ask foolish questions to find out how it must be done.

Create Space is a branch of Amazon--the self-publishing branch.  They of course assume I know what I'm doing with their digital requirements, font sizes and magic widgets.  But of course I don't.

So far I've managed to get Auraria Dead a second ISBN# in my name instead of my publisher's name.
I've managed to get the text into a format I hope will be accepted by Create Space.  I've somehow been signed up for several sites I didn't know I wanted that exploring Create Space had tagged to my emails.  All I have to do now is figure out how to use them, and of course, whether I wish to use them.  As you all know, getting unlisted on a site is much more difficult than getting listed.

As for the new book, Chattahoochee Dead, a preliminary cover has been developed (at least in my mind).  I have the main drawing, (thankyou Michaeleah Tristram) with the parrot, the idea for the lettering, the series note at the bottom of the page and am honing in on color.  Those are the hard parts so I feel good about them.  I want to get the design finished so I can order preliminary postcards to announce the coming date of publishing when I know it.

I shall keep you informed.