Tuesday, March 24, 2015

baby in the cradle

How odd.
I've discovered something that's NOT on Wikipedia.

Do you remember CB radios? They were popular with truck drivers before there were cell phones, allowing truckers to talk to each other while they were driving. They'd share weather and traffic info, alert their fellow drivers where the cops were set up with their speed traps, and if someone had trouble, a CB radio call brought help. When Burt Reynolds' movie, "Smokey and The Bandit" hit movie theatres across the country in 1977, CB radios became popular with mainstream America and the CB culture was born! Got that, good buddy?

I had been living in Key West for nearly seven years when Reagan's recession hit in 1983 and I lost all three of my jobs, one at a time. It was a desperate time for me. I didn't want to leave Key West. I loved it there. I wasn't a world traveler, so, I didn't know where else I could go and find work. I'd been playing around with the idea of Fort Lauderdale; I'd been there a couple of time with my girlfriend and it had a good vibe. But, you don't just up and move when you have a child. You have to plan and prepare. I wasn't yet smart enough to understand this, so I drove to my mother's in Virginia and left my daughter with my mom while I figured out what I was going to do. We agreed it would only be for a few weeks.

It was on that return trip to Key West that I learned about "baby in the cradle."

I was driving a 1977 Toyota Celica, like the one in the picture. From Key West to my mother's home in Virginia was a 13 hour ride, and, back then, I could handle it, stopping only when one of us had to go to the bathroom. It was me, the kid and our dog, and we made it to our destination without incident.

I stayed over for two nights, leaving my mom's right after dinner on the third day for the return run, thinking I could get through the Carolinas and Georgia and well into Florida by morning. Traffic late at night was mostly tractor trailers hauling freight. There weren't that many tourists driving to Florida back in the early 1980s; nothing like it is today. Disney World and Spring Break were folks' main reasons for coming to Florida back then.

I thought I was making really good time when I hit South of the Border at the NC/SC state line just after midnight, so I pulled into a Burger King for a cup of coffee and a bathroom break for me and the dog. I also bought her a hamburger. And, no, she didn't get the bun or the pickle; just the burger! When we'd finished our break, I got back into my car to head out, but it wouldn't start. It was definitely a "what the fuck" moment. Here I was, a long way from home with a tiny amount of money and no idea what to do.

I sat on the curb next to my car, the hood up, talking to the dog, trying to figure out what my next move was. I was grateful that it was night and there weren't a lot of people around. I was able to have a good cry. I'd been sitting there for a while when two guys came out of the Burger King and asked me what the problem was. I told 'em my car wouldn't start. The taller of the two walked over to his big rig and brought out a tool box. The other one, puffing on his Marlboro, poked around in the engine. It took them just a few minutes to diagnose my problem. The tall one said, "Your alternator is shot."

When I asked what that meant, they explained to me that they could get my car started, but, the battery wouldn't charge and I wouldn't be able to run my headlights. They suggested I wait until morning and return to my mother's in Virginia. They were clear that trying to drive to Key West without headlights was a risky thing to do. (Yes. I was foolish enough to think I could do it.)

I remember quietly crying and thanking them for their help and watching as they packed up their tools. The tall guy walked over to his truck, and the Marlboro man walked around behind the Burger King.

I watched as the tall one pulled his rig out onto the highway; then, he pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. At the same time, the Marlboro man came around from behind the Burger King in his rig and stopped right in front of me. I was still sitting on the curb with the dog on the leash. Mr. Marlboro jumped down from his cab and walked toward me.

He asked me if I was a fan of "Smokey and the Bandit."

Well, of course I was! Who wasn't?

Then he asked me if I had a CB radio in my car.

I did. My handle was "Lady Blue."

Then, he explained to me what they (he and the the tall guy) could do. He asked me if I knew what "baby in the cradle" was. I didn't. Then he explained it.  I could drive my car in between their trucks without my headlights. They were going to Jacksonville, planning to be there come morning, and if I could keep up, this was what they would do for me.

I don't know why they were willing to help me. To this day I cannot tell you why these two men would help a weepy woman with a dog. But, they did. And, I was very grateful.

I asked the Marlboro man if I could go pee and, before he could answer, I handed him the dog's leash. I didn't know how long it would be before they stopped, but, I had consumed a cup of coffee and I needed to tinkle before we hit the road. I was definitely in.

Driving your car between two big rigs is intimidating. Under normal circumstances, when you hit your brakes, your car stops within a few car lengths, based on the speed at which you're traveling. A tractor trailer needs a lot more of those 'car lengths' to come to a complete stop, so there's no messing around when you're riding in the "cradle." I spent the night listening and watching and maintaining 70 mph.

I will admit that the first hour or so was a bit harrowing. If you've ever driven through Georgia via I-95, there is one long stretch that's just forest on both sides of the road for as far as you can see. Somewhere in that stretch of road I began to feel comfortable. They chatted it up on the CB and every now and then they would call out to me. I was so overwhelmed by their kindness that I didn't know what to say most of the time.

We stopped at a truck stop around 5 AM, about 30 miles from the Florida state line. They started talking to me about stopping a good half hour before we ever exited the highway. It was the hardest part for me, maintaining speed and distance, slowing down slowly while watching behind and in front. But, I did it. Or, THEY did it!

They bought me breakfast, waited while I got gas and we got out on the road that one last time. As we crossed the Florida state line, the sun was coming up and they got chatty on the CB. They began explaining to me what was going to happen when we got to Jacksonville, that they would be exiting the highway and I would continue on my journey to Key West. I remember telling them I wished there was some way I could thank them. And, I remember the Marlboro man saying, "Get home safe. That'll be thanks enough."

It's been a really long time since I thought about that trip from Virginia to Key West. A single memory, frozen in my mind. So, when it surfaced recently, as old memories are prone to do, I Googled "baby in the cradle." I was truly surprised that there was nothing at all. Not a single entry.

Since that time, I have loved and respected truck drivers. I'm the one who slows to let them pull over in front of me on the highway when no one else will. And, I'm the one who gets mad (and, blows her horn) at people who cut in front of big rigs. Those idiots need to spend a night in the 'cradle' to teach them a lesson! Although, these days, you probably won't see that happening. Too many cars, too many people and way too many regulations. And, lots of highway patrol officers.

Wherever the tall guy and the Marlboro man went, whatever they did after that night, I'm sure their good karma followed. Lucky for me those angels were on duty that night. They kept me safe and helped me get home. Thank you, both.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

homelessness

I read the local newspaper almost every day. The (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel. And, I'm talking about the actual newspaper, the one that's delivered to your front door. Not the digital version. There's just something about the newspaper ... the way you hold it up to shut other folks out as you read the news or the comics or the obituaries. There's a melody to the rustling paper as you turn the pages. Sometimes I even get a whiff of the ink used to print the paper and I like that.

There have been a lot of stories in the "Local" section of the news this past year about the homeless situation in Fort Lauderdale. The groups that feed them on the beach have been targeted because feeding the homeless people at the beach interferes with the tourists' perception of paradise and that is contrary to the Fort Lauderdale mayor and city commission. They think it should appear that life in south Florida is all sunshine and rainbows so everyone wants to come here. Which is exactly why the homeless come here. It's warm. And, someone will feed them.

Last week, I left my office to get a sandwich. I got caught by the traffic signal and so, had time to sit and watch what was going on at the bus stop there on the corner. There's a bench and there is usually a couple of folks waiting for the next bus. I am an avid people watcher, but, on this particular day, there was this woman ... she was wrapped from head to toe in a rather stylish combination of fashions and she walked in circles around the bench, talking to someone unseen by me. There were people waiting for the bus, but they had clearly distanced themselves from her. 

As she repeated her path around the bench, I noted there were several shopping bags leaning against the bench, clearly filled with this woman's few personal belongings. I watched in fascination as she walked around and around the bench and I wondered to myself how a person could be this way, how they could repeat this walking around the bench over and over. I wondered how long she had been here. I grabbed my camera and fired a couple of shots.

Then, the light changed and I went to Burger King.

Later the same day, a little after 4:30, I headed back toward that traffic signal. There is a gas station on that corner and I was on "E" for empty. I pulled in, parked next to the pump, swiped my ATM card and set the pump to fill my tank. And, as I leaned against my car to wait, I saw her.



The woman. Walking in circles around the bench. Still. Four hours later. So, once again, I grabbed my camera.

I don't know much about homeless people. I am deeply saddened by families who live in their cars, a type of homelessness that no one talks much about. I see people sleeping in the bushes sometimes on the back side of the bus station. And, I know the local police often find homeless individuals hiding, sleeping, peeing and pooping in the beautiful landscaping we have here in sunny, south Florida. It seems these folks have little regard for the other folks around them, though. This lack of respect makes it hard for me to have sympathy for them. Why can't they just get a job and get their life together? What's so hard about that?

You see, the thing is ... I know how hard it can be. I've watched my brother struggle with issues that caused him to be homeless just two years ago. He's in a group living facility today, working day labor and just getting by, but he still hasn't found a full-time job. I often wonder if there is a connection between those two things? The homelessness status and getting a job?

I wish I knew.

They are not going away anytime soon. Not until it's warmer up north. Then there aren't as many of them. Especially during the summer. They come back, though. When it gets cold up north, they head south and a lot of them like Fort Lauderdale Beach. I don't think they're here for fun in the sun, though. I think they come here just to keep warm. It's a good thing the sunshine is free, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

the color blue

I love the color blue, like the blue skies we see often here in Florida.
I often take pictures of the blue skies and the puffy white clouds.
I have blue eyes and I love blue jeans. 
I don't feel blue very often, but I love blues music.
My favorite Joni Mitchell song is titled, "BLUE."
The summer skies are a different shade of blue than in winter.
At the beach, there are a multitude of blues, the sky and the water ...
Then there's the blues of the Florida Keys, a one-of-a-kind place for sure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thanks for the memories ...

Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, who topped the charts in 1963 at age 16 with her epic song of teenage angst, "It's My Party," and followed it up with the hits "Judy's Turn to Cry," and the feminist anthem "You Don't Own Me," died this week. She was 68.

This loss is personal. She was 16 years old. I was 13 and I knew every word to "It's My Party." One of her later hit songs, "You Don't Own Me," became my anthem! I remember telling my parents 'you don't own me!' when they wouldn't let me do what I wanted. To make matters worse, I couldn't tolerate boyfriends telling me what I could wear and who I could be friends with, so I would use the lyrics to declare my independence. It might be why my boyfriends came and went so quickly back then!

"American Bandstand" was a TV show that came on at 4 o'clock in the afternoon in the early 1960s and my girlfriend, Betty Ann, and I were faithful fans. As high school freshmen, we were desperately seeking who and how we were going to be. We watched Bandstand for hairstyles, makeup, clothes, and shoes as much as we watched to listen to the latest tunes and learn the dances. For that half hour each day, we would dance around the living room in our sock feet, and share beauty tips and gossip. It's what teenage girls did back then. That was our social media, I guess!

Lesley Gore was a guest, singing her hit song, "You Don't Own Me," and I remember so well how envious Betty Ann and I were of her hair. We desperately wanted our hair to "flip" like that, but me being a blonde and Betty Ann being a red head, we were burdened with fine, straight hair that would only flip for a half hour, regardless of how long we wore those damned curlers or how much hair spray we used!

Eventually I figured out which hairstyle worked best for my hair, but, oh, what a lot of work that hairstyle was! Using big plastic rollers with the pink plastic pics to hold them in place made sleeping a real challenge. To find a comfortable position where a pic didn't poke was a nightly ritual. And, I did this every night, Sunday through Thursday. After all, I had to keep up appearances! That's what high school freshmen did in my day! It wasn't just about being smart (although that was very important) ... it was about what you wore and how you wore it!

One other reason why I am taking her death so personally has to do with mortality. Hers and mine. 

With only a few years difference between us, it has given me pause to consider how close I am to the end of my life. Yes, I have longevity in my family ... my maternal grandfather lived to be 110 ... so, there's probably a longevity gene floating around in there somewhere. But, still ... none of us knows how much time we have left. None of us know this, not even those diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Yet, when a friend dies ... or someone we've known all our lives as I've "known" Lesley Gore ... well, it makes me think.

I won't dwell on it. It's not my style to linger on things I have no control over. I live very much in the here and now, but, occasionally I do ponder the future. I've learned so much in this life, yet, I still don't have answers when I need them, so, I know there's still a way to go to obtaining real wisdom.

Goodbye, Lesley. We loved you. Thanks for the memories.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Saving the art gallery ...

Some days you just go along and everything is fine. Then, one day, someone sends you a note and says, "Hey, you might want to check this out." Lemme tell you. It's a good thing I did.

I went to the City Commission meeting on Tuesday night. I had written my little 3 minute speech. I had a beef, but, I'm working very hard at being diplomatic. It's quite challenging for a big mouth like me, but, I'm getting the hang of it.

I think.

The speech pretty much says it all. It took two minutes and 59 seconds to deliver it to the mayor and four commissioners ...

Tonight you will review a Staff Update on Lanier Parking. Under “unfinished business,” item d.2. on the report, is to “Remodel the Woman’s Club building” to accommodate the parking office. The estimated cost to do this “remodel” is $60,000.

I urge you to consider striking this item from the list. Here are a few reasons why, in no particular order. 

No. 1: I am certain this was NOT what the Woman’s Club had in mind when they deeded the property over to the City in 2011. It has served as a cultural center for nearly 50 years and it is on a path of resurgence to continue to serve as a cultural center, which is evident in the cultural activities that have been held there since July 2012.

No. 2: To remove the kitchen would SEVERLY limit the ability of the Woman’s Club building to serve as a rental facility. Generating revenue is essential to longevity of the building’s use as a cultural space. One of our Big Hairy Audacious Goals is to create a “small,” unique, art-filled space for rentals, including business seminars, art workshops, bridal & baby showers, family reunions and more. Not everyone needs a huge hall that will accommodate 200 people. However, the absence of a kitchen would essentially put the building out of business as a rental.

No. 3: I have been the biggest advocate there is for preservation of the Woman’s Club building since I first identified it as an underused public building, for everything from keeping the jalousie windows to preserving the bead board on the walls. I suspect the Historical Society will support me when I say that to violate the integrity of the building to create an office is a crime against historic preservation. The Woman’s Club was built by none other than Al Hagen, himself, and his wife was the club’s first president. There is historical significance in the building and it would be heartbreaking to see that destroyed to accommodate people paying their parking tickets.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. 

Of the five options offered for consideration in the report, I was surprised that moving Lanier Parking’s office into the City Hall building wasn’t on that list. City Hall is close to the parking lot, provides ample parking during daytime business hours, the comings and goings of staff and visitors to a parking office would not be disruptive to other activities like they would be for, say, an art gallery, and the fiscal impact could be negligible. The City wouldn’t have to build anything or remodel anything. I don't know everything, but, it seems like a real no brainer to me.  As a taxpayer, it’s my money you’re spending, and I’m all for economically sound choices. Please. Choose wisely. Thank you.

if you build it, they will come
When the 'Public Speaking' part of the meeting closed, I went outside to speak with a friend before heading home. "Unfinished Business" was at the end of the agenda and it was late. We weren't outside two minutes and a man came out and said, "You better get in there. They're talking about your kitchen." My friend and I raced back in and took our seats as one commissioner commented that he was "very opposed to this idea."

One down. Four to go.

The next commissioner said he agreed with the first commissioner. Then, the mayor suggested other ways they might address the issue, which was to reduce parking costs and find a suitable place for the parking office. He was in agreement that the Woman's Club wasn't a suitable place.

Then, our newest commissioner ... well, let me just say I never heard him say he was opposed to using the Woman's Club. He did say he thought it was "important" for the parking office to be close to the parking for the Arts & Entertainment District (with so many bars and restaurants and not yet enough ART). As soon as the city posts the video from the meeting, I want to listen, again, to what he said. I believe this man has an agenda that isn't necessarily in the interest of the tax paying residents.

The last commissioner, the only woman on the panel, agreed that the Woman's Club should be taken off that list. When she spoke, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Four of the five heard my plea.

Now, I don't know if what I said had any influence on their decision. Usually politicians already have their minds made up about agenda items before the meeting even starts. Perhaps they had each decided beforehand that this wasn't a good idea. Regardless, I'm so happy they agreed with me.

And, tonight, Friday, the 13th of February, is the opening of a new show at the gallery with a delightful artist who is also a long time friend. She says she's bringing cupcakes and twinkies.

Hey! I'm ready!




Thursday, February 12, 2015

it's a wonderful life




I could be handy, mending a fuse
when your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me
when I'm sixty-four?

Second verse of the song by the Beatles





I had a fantastic birthday weekend. I took Friday and Monday off from work and did some things. On Friday, I mostly puttered around the house. I like puttering and I am a good putterer.

Saturday, I started my birthday morning at Jazzercise with a Personal Touch class with Darlene. It's a personal trainer kind of environment, but instead of one-on-one, it is a small class with the focus on technique and strength building. We do a lot of core work. It seems a strong core is really super important. We did a lot of planks. A lot. Planks are hard. I am much better at puttering.

Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with a wonderful doll friend and his partner. We sat in his "workshop" surrounded by dolls dressed in his 1950s inspired fashions and drank wine and talked about dolls and love and life. It was deeee-lightful!

He made for me a miniature of the first Barbie Dream House. You can see Poppy Parker holding it in the photo there ... and there was a sweet, pink cupcake and a sweet card to make me feel sweet. It worked!

Saturday evening my darling husband took me out for dinner at an exquisite Thai restaurant I had never been to before. I asked him if he'd brought his girlfriend there. LOL! He's so funny! He goes along with my teasing because he knows I'm so terrible at it!

Sunday was a very laid back kind of day. DH did the grocery shopping, I did the laundry and we napped. My girls came over for a vegetarian dinner and mango key lime pie and they brought me flowers and made me feel special. My brother gave me a lovely gift of a stainless steel anchor with gold trim on a black cord. I put it on immediately and love it! He said I'm his anchor and a few other people's as well. I wonder if that's a good thing ...

Monday I helped a gifted artist install her one-woman show in our little neighborhood art gallery. She's interesting as a person and fascinating as an artist. She's created wonderful collage filled bird cages that are delightful and thought provoking. She uses such odd materials to create her art ... everything from vintage books and papers to store receipts, fabrics, photos and rusty metal. You just never know what you'll find in one of Janet's collages!


Now, it's hump day, the temps are falling and it's chilly by south Florida standards and we're going into a 3-day holiday weekend. You never know what might happen! So far, it's been fun being 64!


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Let the wild rumpus begin!


When I get older
Losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine?
Birthday greetings?
Bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me?
Will you still feed me?
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older, too,
And, if you say the word,
I could stay with you ....

First verse of the song by the Beatles 


Some people make resolutions for the New Year. I'm not one of those people. I make resolutions on my birthday, which is a very good day to have a birthday, by the way. It's just far enough past Christmas that I never got cheated on gifts. And, it's far enough before Lent and Easter, so I never got cheated on gifts. (I still feel bad for those folks whose birthdays fall between December 24 and January 2.)

This year the theme is "When I'm sixty-four."
So, here is a list of the things I will accomplish while I'm sixty-four:

1. Print a book filled with 64 photographs by me. I will title it, "When I'm sixty-four." I hope it will be mostly portraits of people I know, but a few cat and dog photos will probably sneak in there.

2. Whittle my voluminous doll collection down. I have too many, my collecting habits have changed, and it's time to sell and give away at least 64 of them, sending them off to adventures with others.

3. Write 64 blog entries. Sounds easy, doesn't it? There are 365 days in the year, which breaks down to one blog entry every 5.7 days. That's more often than once a week, you know. Sometimes I have weeks go by when I can't think of anything to write about, so this one will be a real challenge. I need a good challenge though, so let's have at it, shall we?

Three things is enough, I think.
Besides, I still have three more days until my birthday!

Let the wild rumpus begin!