Irma Cleans Up

I have too much outdoor stuff. In twelve years I have accumulated Florida stuff. Huge plates and bowls full of shells.

Shells seem to multiply

Plants, orchids, and more than one garden gee-gaw on a stick. Hanging bells, pelicans and sea urchins. One ceramic head. About eight bird houses and the hooks and poles to hang them. Aqua Adirondack chairs. Iron plant stands I intend to paint. Growboxes for peppers and tomatoes.

My plants huddle together

Succulents in tera cotta planters. A staghorn fern. A table and six chairs. Ceramic lanterns and decorative driftwood. And gnomes. Lanai gnomes, not garden gnomes. My husband is opposed to public (yard) gnome display.

Brought inside, gnomes enjoy reading

I know that I have too much stuff because we recently had to prepare for an oncoming hurricane named Irma. Since we have no automatic shutters, everything had to be carted inside before we affixed our aluminum accordion shutters (which are a total and complete pain in the butt), necessary for protection from all flying objects. Coconuts are a big worry, for instance. Roof tiles are another hazard. And there are multitudinous trees and other debris the wind can carry.

The dreaded shutters

Once you get the shutters on the windows and doors (with nuts, bolts and sweat), the house is dark. You have no way to see what’s going on outside. The living space is filled with outside stuff, accompanied by the little lizards and things that came in on the plants. Also, you are exhausted from moving and worrying.The power is still on, and the broadcast weather people are earning their keep and then some. We know by heart when the next update from NOAA is due.

And then the power goes out and you rely on battery operated devices, like radios and flashlights. It’s really dark now. Irma’s getting closer and now everyone from the governor on down tells you to get the hell out. It’s a mandatory evacuation. We are in Zone A, come to find out, and that means a possible storm surge of ocean water way over our heads, which means trouble. A surge, as I understand it, is when the hurricane is positioned in such a way that it sucks the water out of rivers and the Gulf and then throws it back, and anything in the way in inundated. Big time. It should also be noted that most Floridians live in one-story homes.

I try to think of what to take. Not much, some sentimental jewelry, papers, our cell phones and the new puppy. We had to hurry.

We evacuated to a friends’ home (fellow birders are REALLY nice people) in Zone C. There was power. We glued ourselves to the TV news. Irma was a very big girl, and we were scared. Then they called for evacuation of Zone B, again because of potential storm surge. Another birding family moved in. We were 11 humans—with 4 dogs and 2 cats.

The gang of 11

As the storm approached. the dogs were in crates, the cats in separate rooms, and the humans ranged in age from 4 to 70. We retreated to interior spaces—the hall and utility room. A prayer was said.

Lo and Behold, Irma hit land and moved east, consequently, for us, she spent her fury on wind rather than hurling sea water around.  Lucky, we all agreed, scarcely believing it could be true.

Meanwhile, Our evac home had no shutters, but it was built tough, with a deep overhang and an industrial grade roof. Slowly, we crept out of the hall (our safe spot) and watched as rain and wind pummeled the forest and backyard pond. Palm trees bent to the ground. Cypress rocked back and forth. Pet ducks took cover and seemed oblivious to the storm.

We all survived, and thanks to the storm surge fizzle, there was lots of rain water but no salt water. What can you say? Surviving is the important part. Clean-up and water and power loss and the hot humid hell that follows are bad, but you are alive. You stand in a cold shower and appreciate life.

And I really, really, really am getting rid of stuff. Just as soon as I can find it.


Twenty Things I Saw at the Beach This Morning, Illustrated


Lots of sea weed and grass
Six empty beer cans.
Colored sea pork

Sea pork


Ant highways

Ant Highway

Mangrove propagules waving in the surf like eels
Metal finder man
Coyote tracks
Crab holes

Fiddler crab hole

Bleached shells
Poop-like sponge


Fly fishing man
Fruit, especially apples
Plastic water bottles
Horseshoe crab shells
Upside down sea stars

Sea star



Two dead fish, including one head


The Secret Revs and a Surprise


                                         Radiator Art

Our former neighbor, Joerg came for a visit last week. He is German, works for Mercedes, and is incredibly friendly. He loves Americans and Florida. As a birthday treat, we took him to the Revs Institute in Naples. To be honest, we had never heard of the Revs Institute, but another friend, who couldn’t get in during high season, said it was an exclusive car museum known only to car lovers. (It’s been open to the public since 2014.)
“Interesting,” I said to myself, “a museum that actually turns people away.” The Revs is only open three days a week and you need a pre-arranged ticket based on time of entrance. Walk-ins are out of luck.  I immediately wanted to go, because nothing means more to Americans than rare and exclusive places or things.

                      The Revs Institute of Naples, Florida

The Institute itself is a big gray building in a quasi-industrial area of Naples. It looks as if there are no windows until you enter and see that the windows are in the back. Gray, black and silver predominate inside and out, and the staff, many of whom are volunteers, are very friendly and helpful. There are three floors of cars, and big, wonderful black, white and sepia photographs everywhere.

              Geronimo’s Cadillac, one of the pictures featured at the Revs

We took a two-hour guided tour, and our guide, Carl, hardly stopped for breath. There are about 100 cars in the museum, and each one has been carefully curated because it tells a story or is famous in some way. There are cars demonstrating how the auto changed the world, many racing cars, a lot of Porsches and some just plain neat looking cars.

When race cars were like bullets




...and car grilles were grand









The collector/owners, are the Collier family and many were collected by Briggs Cunningham. Amazingly, all the cars, except one, which is fiberglass, are used on the road and sometimes for racing. I have no idea who drives them, but many have a historic plate that says “horseless carriage.”

Jeorg took a lot of pictures. So did everyone else. The museum was cool and soothing, and if you really know and love cars, you could spend a day or more there. Many of the older cars and even the race cars are beautiful. Many exposed motors also were displayed, although I failed to appreciate them. Much of what Carl said was over my head. For instance, a very famous car, the 1939 Mercedes W154–the Silver Arrow, had twelve cylinders in vee formation, double overhead camshafts, two Roots-type superchargers 2962cc, with 483 hp at 7800 rpm.

I just like the way old cars look., but it reportedly could go 190 miles per hour.

                                     The famous Mercedes-Benz W154/39 142


                                                  Sometimes it’s even raced

After hours of ooing and ahhing over cars, We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant called Spanky’s Speakeasy, after one of the characters in the 1955 TV show The Little Rascals. Unlike the sleek, crisp Revs Institute, Spanky’s is chock full of all kinds of old-time memorabilia, and it has been in the same location for over 30 years.

        Spanky’s ladies room decor

When it was time to pay the bill, the waitress provided a pen, which was the biggest surprise of the day.
It was blue and silver at proclaimed “SUNY Canton Alumni.” (This pen was a long way from its upstate New York location.) My Mom, who died several years ago at age 93 in Florida, was a 1940 Canton alumna.

     A long way from Canton, N.Y.

The waitress had no idea where or when she got it. Two days earlier, I had received some photographs and documents from my cousin—including my mom’s diploma and yearbook. And now I have a pen.

Life throws you memories when you least expect them.

Car in the wall at Spanky’s


Nxon's second

When Nixon took the second oath as president, I attended his outdoor inauguration.  We lived just a few blocks away from the Capitol.  There were shiny new ‘No Parking  Inaugural’ signs on our street and we took them as souvenirs. For some reason, we thought we could become rich on political memorabilia. We were young.

Walking home after Nixon’s ceremony, I tripped and fell.  As blood spurted from my knee, I thought to myself, “This is an omen.”

Thirty-three years later, on Inauguration Day 2017, I backed my car out of the garage and hit my husband’s car, which is always parked in the driveway. As soon as we heard the metallic thump, I knew it was omen time.

(I’d like to say right up front that my mishaps MIGHT have something to do with impeachment, but these are different times, and we no longer call Washington home. I suspect the political climate where I live in Florida could still be pro-Nixon.)

Of course, Nixon’s lies did him in.  Truth won. Those were exciting times to live in Washington.  During Watergate, we got up at the crack of dawn to read The Washington Post. I repeat, we got up BEFORE DAWN to read a newspaper!

Make no mistake about it, other presidents have failed to tell the truth. Eisenhower about the U2s, Johnson, when it really made a difference in Vietnam. Clinton, about sex, George W about Iraq , and Obama about health care/keeping your own doctor. Reagan just seemed to be an actor reciting a script, waiting for applause. (At least he had a script, the present president seems lacking in either Reagan’s charm or scripting).  Oh, and on Reagan’s watch, we sold weapons to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. To Iran.

In my vision, Ike wore his General’s attire

Is it any wonder boomers like myself are cynical? I mean, Eisenhower lied?  When I was little I thought the general himself sat on a flag pole and looked out over the country to see how things were going. My mom said I was convinced of this, although I wondered where god sat.

Now,  many year later, I am depressed and fretting. Nobody’s on the flag pole and there is no waiting for the friendly ‘thunk’ of the morning newspaper.  I can get all the news I want whenever I want it.  I don’t even have to get up in the morning, I can get it while I am in bed. Perhaps that’s the problem.  We have our choice — rumor, hearsay, solid reporting, so-so reporting, biased reporting, and even lousy reporting. And someone in the White House, once again, with no firm grasp of the truth. Long ago, I was a reporter too. I get it. But the First Amendment rocks, and now I read what I want, starting with The New York Times and The Post.

Some of the new lingo leaves me puzzled, however.  New words like pivot, double down, surreal, equivalency, normalize and my favorite phrase, dog whistle, must be decoded.

Divot caused by pivot

Pivot, for instance, rhymes with divot. I bet when you pivot hard you could cause a divot. It makes a mess.

Double down has to do with Blackjack. Same thing as never apologize, just make a bigger bet and keep on talkin.


Lobster Telephone 1936 Salvador Dal? 1904-1989 Purchased 1981
Lobster Telephone 1936 Salvador Dali

Surreal drives me crazy.  If you fail to understand or are surprised by anything at all, it’s surreal.  Salvador Dali is absolutely whirling in his grave, and probably loving it.

Normalize speaks for itself. Someone in the White House needs it, apparently.

Equivalency implies that all things can be equal.

And false equivalency means comparing things that are not alike. That came up in the campaign. As in, mention one’s sins, mention the other’s, and OMG they are both equal, and we are all doomed. Really?


Which brings us back to dog whistle. I looked this one up, and I still am not sure, other than dogs, who can hear one. Is it a secret threat, or a secret message?

When our son first learned to read, tabloids attracted him. Waiting in the checkout line, I had to explain. “Why,” he asked. Why indeed?

Fake news seems to be whatever you don’t agree with. That’s a simple definition, but I’m not into it.

Alternative facts are the ones you agree with if you don’t agree with the true facts. And, as my journalism prof told us, there are no true facts. Just facts.



I tell you, it’s surreal. Really.



Dear President Obama

whitehouseDear President Obama,

Before you leave office, (and also to relieve my stress about the current election), I want to thank you for being President in such turbulent times. When you took office, things were so bleak I had my doubts about the state of the nation because of the financial meltdown. I am sure I couldn’t, in a million years, imagine what that was like for you. dreamsfrom

One of the reasons I voted for you was because I loved your book, Dreams From My Father. “A writer, ” I thought to myself, “this is going to be really cool.” Then you got stuck with all that really important financial stuff, and I thought, “not fair.”

Throughout your Presidency, I came to appreciate your positive presence. Frankly, when I read your second book I thought you might be a bit naive about politics. I worked on The Hill for members of Congress in the 1970s, as well as a newspaper reporter, and I must admit my jaded attitude and general skepticism has worsened as I have gotten older. But you still seem to believe in the audacity of hope. And for that I thank you.audacity

Without compare, you are the coolest President ever. The Press Club dinners you attended, and especially your riff on Donald Trump were as funny as any comedian’s. Further, you are not afraid to sing, dance or poke fun at yourself. You are not afraid to be sad nor are you afraid to act like a dad. Dr. Suess would be proud. Me too.

You and Michelle are a fantastically classy couple and I take a Mom-like pride in how handsome and beautiful you both look all dressed up, representing our country. dressedup

And your daughters are very impressive too, just in the fact that they seem fairly normal and grounded. That’s an achievement anywhere, but in the White House, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is to preserve family life.

I also cannot envision having a job where I was opposed at every turn and compromise was ruled out simply because the goal was to thwart. That would drive me nuts. Constant criticism all the time, even hatred—I don’t know how you stand it. But you have, and for that I think you deserve thanks so big there is not even a word for it.

Most recently, preserving land and habitat, namely, the Papahanaumokua Marine Monument, the Katahdin Woods and Waters and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monuments (and others) makes you a hero in my eyes. I volunteer at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and treasure time outdoors, especially watching birds. Habitat preservation is close to my heart. Thank-you.


Pacific Marine Sanctuary
Pacific Marine Sanctuary

These are just a few of the things you deserve thanks for, but I can only list so many. I am sad you must leave the Presidency, but you may have mixed feelings. I hope it has been worth it for you personally and for your family. Certainly, all Americans owe you a giant heap of gratitude for even taking the job.

May the next stage of your life bring you much joy. Write, reflect, and remember, many Americans like me offer our thanks. And we will miss you as our President.oniononion_logo