Scuba Related…..

A modular design for an artificial reef created and provided by Walter Marine of AL

Thursday, Sept 14th, I’ll be doing a presentation on Artificial Reefs in Key Largo based on my book, Islands in the Sand: An Introduction to Artificial Reefs in the USA

Since the book came out in 2009, I needed to update a few things for the PowerPoint show. One of which was to check on a guy, David Walter of Walter Marine. I’ll explain. First, artificial reefs for those who might not be as familiar are a variety of items that rest in the water and attract marine life which take up residence and create a reef complete with coral, sponges, fish, etc. The marine creatures don’t mind that it isn’t a natural rock formation – it provides shelter and over time, marine growth increases. The most spectacular artificial reefs tend to be shipwrecks, but there are lots of others. Many are underwater by accident, but the planned ones are the focus of the book. Again, taking a massive ship like the 510-foot USS Spiegel Grove, prepping her and sending her to the bottom is a huge effort that takes years of planning/work and lots of money. There are, however, way cool and smaller options.

Every other year, the big scuba trade show is in Orlando and the year I was doing intense research for the book coincided with the DEMA show. I was able to talk with several people involved with artificial reef work, one of whom was David. I have previously posted about Reefball (TM) that is a non-profit organization. They create modules that can be deployed to create a reef based on what size and shape is desired.

David, who as he explained always liked to figure things out for himself, did a few projects with them and then decided to establish his own business. (www.reefmaker.net)  (Note: not sure why, but the website wasn’t loading when I wrote this. It was fine the other day.)

Anyway, back to David. He played around with designs and materials and it was fascinating to talk to him. I popped onto his website the other day to see how he was doing and he quickly responded. His business has expanded and he sent me the photo here. The uses for his products have also expanded and it’s nice to see. (I will acknowledge there are opponents to artificial reef work and they are certainly entitled to their opinion.) I love the entrepreneurial spirit and I love a good artificial reef, so I hope Walter Marine continues to thrive. By the way, the lovey fish along with the jelllyfish in the photo is a type of triggerfish.

A Different Kind of Motorcycle Place….

Okay, not travel-related precisely, but I do think I have a few motorcycle followers who might travel this direction. Here’s the deal and it’s seriously cool. K&G Cycles opened a few months ago in Florida City. (http://www.kandgcycles.com) It’s more than 3,000 square feet of space selling all sorts of parts and accessories and a state-of-the-art service center. The motorcycles there are a mix of vintage and other, but “Dr. G” doesn’t actually sell motorcycles.

You can read the entire history on his website, but loving motorcycles led him into a fascination with vintage motorcycle restoration. More than merely tinkering, however, he’s won multiple national awards. His enjoyment wasn’t limited to vintage machines though and in 2006, he established K and G Cycles as a customer-friendly on-line business. He carefully selected the right kind of people for his staff and spent more than a year in creating the website to be as responsive as he envisioned. From that initial beginning, he  expanded their motorcycle parts and accessories offerings to more than 500,000 items and represents products from over 700 manufacturers as well as all major motorcycle parts and accessories wholesalers.

There were a lot of calls asking if he was going to have a full-service store in addition to the website. Although his staff had also posed the question, making the leap from on-line to a store was not a decision to be taken lightly. Two major elements came into play. As any realtor will tell you, “location, location, location” is key. The “where” was an ideal piece of property in Florida City. One of the representatives of a major supplier added this to the mix. “If you open a store, you know you’ll be the only one between Cutler Ridge and Key West.”

“Dr. G” knew if he was going to step onto this path, it would be with the people he trusted. He gathered them for a discussion and to ask for their input about the store’s design and function. He developed the drawing, turned to a builder he had used for other projects, and by Spring 2017, K and G Cycles Motorcycle Service Supercenter opened their doors to eager customers. Service, retail, and the impressive on-line offerings enable him to confidently say, “If you can’t get it from K and G Cycles, it’s probably going to be really hard to find.”

And, as icing on the cake,  if you read the post a few weeks ago, Joe’s Famous Burgers food truck us set up in the parking lot. Okay, maybe the middle of summer isn’t when you want to eat outside. You can do take-out though.

A New Non Profit……

There is certainly no shortage of worthy non-profit organizations to give to. A few years ago I did a post about how at some point we all have to choose to not give to some we might want to, because we simply can’t add another one to our list. As an aside, a friend of mine once made the comment that she had stopped giving to any of the “big” charities because she was involved in local causes where she could see the direct result of what she was helping with. At any rate, in the writing I do for our community newspaper, one of my primary focuses is the many area non-profits and the heart-warming stories of what they do. (And yes, some of the people they help can come with heart-breaking stories)

When I was recently contacted about a new group, Brightseasons Foundation, I was a little unclear as to their goals and during the interview for the piece for the South Dade News Leader, I was delighted to learn about them. The article ran in yesterday’s (well, Thursday’s) paper although it isn’t posted on-line yet. Their website is http://brightseasons.org and they are just getting established as a group. There are 27 women on the board (yes, guys are also volunteers) and their purpose is to give a “hand-up” in situations where other assistance might not be available. There are examples on the website, so I won’t steal their thunder and do invite you to check them out if you want to have one of those “feel good” moments.

If you’re local, you might know someone who needs help, and if you’re not local, you may know of similar groups.

A Delightful Concert…..

Followers of the blog know I ‘ve been part of Homestead Center for the Arts (http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com) for quite some time now. There are almost two dozen Affiliate members within HCA – those are the structured groups devoted to arts and culture. Those are groups like Homestead Community Concerts, The Children’s Art Gallery and Center, etc. We also have two committees within HCA; one for the Bea Peskoe Lunchtime Lecture Series and the other for the Music Series (MuSe). In general, we have four lectures per season (Oct-April) and 3 MuSe events. Last night we had three wonderfully talented students from the Frost School of Music down from Miami. Miclen LaiPang was on violin, William Locke, cello, and Jonny Cruz, piano. I do not profess to “know” classical so I can’t speak knowledgeably about their selections other than to say it was a terrific concert. Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, Liszt, and Saint-Saens were featured.

Aside from their sheer talent, their stage presence was impressive. When we have classical music, we try to hold the events at City Church because the acoustics are so well-suited and the three young men agreed. We will see about having them again in the not too distant future. Hubby couldn’t attend last night so we don’t have cool photos. I took a couple with my phone and for whatever reason, the email I sent myself hasn’t worked. (Yet again, frustration with my lack of tech ability.) Anyway, I know how hard these guys must have worked to achieve what they have and their parents (and perhaps siblings) have no doubt made sacrifices of money/time to help them. I also know how proud they must feel when they watch them perform.

Women in Agriculture…..

I attend different community events and today was one of those annual gatherings you don’t find in every part of the country. Well, actually, you might these days. As I have mentioned before, the modern history of deep South Florida only dates to the late 1800s due to a lack of roads and the difficult environment of thick foliage, heat, humidity, bugs, and snakes. Once Henry Flagler extended his railroad, getting goods to markets was improved and big packing houses were commonly seen close to the tracks. The large agricultural area here is still “hidden” from many people in Miami who don’t realize the sheer number of acres being grown. And the face of agriculture has changed over the decades. Small family farms have never been easy to keep going and there are new challenges for multiple reasons.

With that said, twelve years ago the Dade County Farm Bureau Women in Agriculture Committee looked closely at the statistics of agriculture in our region and realized numbers backed up something they already knew – women were a significant force in local agriculture. They had the first annual luncheon to publicly acknowledge a woman who made special contributions for that year. These are women who farm along side husbands/parents or in some cases, start their own business. They participate in programs like Ag in the Classroom, helping plant gardens at schools, are advocates for agricultural issues and much more. I didn’t know until today that more than 36% of our farms are owned by women. Today’s honorees were in fact a mother and daughter representing the 3rd and 4th generation of a family who came south in 1917 to plant their first local fields. Although the mother did marry into the farming family, the daughter started with chores and responsibilities at an early age and plans to continue with the family tradition. Right at 100 people were present today at Schnebly’s Winerary and Brewery which is the perfect setting for such an event. It was a delight to be surrounded by these strong women, and yes, there were men there as well.

Silver Sort of Sparkles….

Okay, silver doesn’t tend to have the actual glow of gold or sparkle like diamonds, but in this case, it definitely has a special sheen. The particular silver won’t ever hang around my neck or that of most people because it belongs to an Olympic silver medal. Several years ago, someone contacted the South Dade News Leader, the community paper I wrote regularly for and still contribute to occasionally. They told the editor there was a kid who went to their church who was a great gymnast and could possibly make it to the Olympics, but even more so, the family had a wonderful story. I was sent to see what the deal was and it was one of those heartwarming situations that makes you want to cheer. At the time, Danell Leyva Gonzalez and his parents, Maria Gonzalez and Yin Alvarez, didn’t know how far Danell could go as he was working through the competitions for an eventual shot at the Olympic team. I was so impressed with them, I did a post for the blog after I wrote the article for the paper. This is a family that left Cuba with nothing when Danell was a toddler. Both Maria and Yin were national gymnasts, but for them, life away from Communism was more important than their own glory. They were finally able to open a gym in South Miami where a huge Olympic banner hung. Their point was it does take a certain level of talent, but determination and the willingness to work hard with the proper coaching were more important than belonging to a prestigious program. As Danell grew and honed his skills, he did indeed make the 2012 Olympic team and brought home a bronze medal.

Fast forward to this year when my husband looked up from the paper and said, “Hey, your guy just missed making the Olympic team, but one of the other guys was injured so he’s back on.” I knew immediately which “guy” he was talking about. Perhaps it was Fate stepping in, perhaps not, yet Danell has won two silvers this time and I’m not certain what other events are on the schedule. For him, his family, and his country, these are proud moments. You can Google him and watch the video clips if you want to see his terrific performance.

It’s Not Taking a Chance on Chance…..

Okay, I was interrupted in writing this post and I can’t resist a good pun. We, as in the Homestead Center for the Arts (HCA), put together a special committee to work on an exciting project. They’ve been working very hard and it’s time to share the news. This is the centennial for the National Parks System and with Homestead being the Gateway to the famous Everglades and the less well-known Biscayne Park, we have a special relationship with them. For those who may not have been there, Biscayne Park is mostly underwater, but sitting on the boardwalk with a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise is a great view for we morning people. Anyway, there are obviously a lot of different things being done to celebrate the Centennial and based on a recommendation from one of our favorite park rangers, HCA has booked the ensemble Chance to perform Friday, Oct 21st at the Seminole Theater. Chance has played in many National Park settings, internationally, and on public television and radio. Their music is categorized as Urban Chamber, but think Celtic crossed with folk and a dash of country mixed in. They pay special tribute to John Muir, who is more well-known for his work with the Western parks.

Concert tickets are $35 each and went on sale last week. There will be a limited seating cocktail party before the concert also for $35, but there will be an opportunity to speak with the group after the concert as well. It’s going to be a wonderful evening and I would urge everyone to go ahead and book their tickets as soon as possible. You can go to either the HCA website or Seminole Theater. http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com and http://www.seminoletheatre.org or if you want to hear the details about the group, their website is http://www.chanceworld.com

If you have friends or family who come seasonally or visit occasionally, I recommend you talk to them about coming in time to share this experience.

Even More Fun Than I Expected…..

In promoting the Seminole Theater (http://seminoletheatre.org), we have mostly attended concerts, although I would have liked to have been in town when the What If Works one-act plays were performed. (Check out WIW as an affiliate member of http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com)

Anyway, the terrific Seminole Director was contacted by a member of the WLRN Radio Theater organization a few months ago about having a SciFi Summer after the regular season ended. Like many people, I wasn’t aware the Public Broadcasting WLRN had a Radio Theater component and I’ll get to that part later in the post. Although I never heard the radio drama, War of the Worlds, I had heard my grandparents and parents talk about it. The way the presentation at the Seminole was described was intriguing in that the “broadcast booth” would be on-stage and as the audience, we would be seeing inside as the historic broadcast took place. In reality, it was a bit different, and indeed even more fun than I expected.

The director came on stage to explain the concept and urged everyone to stay for a bit after the performance when they would elaborate about the production and take questions. The script they were using was the original with the customization of changing the location to Florida instead of NJ as written by Orson Wells. The marvelous sounds effects expert, absolutely vital to radio theater, not only had his array of equipment, he had cue cards for the audience. We were to be prompted with “Applause, Crowd Noise, and Scream.” The lights dimmed and we were all set for a thoroughly entertaining evening. Another slight variation was the actors did have some movements and costume additions to allow for visuals for the audience which of course wasn’t necessary back in the day of radio theater when no audience was present.

During the post-performance session, we learned the company has revived many radio dramas and adapted numerous movie/play scripts to the format. I knew the second part of SciFi Summer was to be Plan Nine From Outer Space (called the worst movie ever made). I had told Hubby I wasn’t going even though he said he wanted to. I will now be buying tickets for us both because I am a total convert and look forward to any future events with WLRN Radio Theater at the Seminole.

 

An Interesting Coincidence……

“Okay, why would someone who is assigned to Hawaii come to Key Largo to get their scuba certification?” When Hubby is notified about an upcoming class, he’s provided as much background as is available, but in some cases, that isn’t much. In some cases, details get a bit mixed up, and when he was told there were some Navy guys from Hawaii he would be doing an Open Water Certification for, that seemed odd. Open Water is the basic step in certification and there are dive shops all over Hawaii. However, once he learned the situation, it not only made sense; it is a particularly cool  story because of a professional connection.

For starters, the individuals are in Key Largo to receive critical training for something else and the timing was right for them to dovetail scuba classes with that training. Okay, sure. The professional reason they’re taking scuba is because they are members of a unit called Joint Task Force Full Accounting. This isn’t a well-known unit in general, but they do make the news periodically. When you read or hear a story about the long lost remains of American military being located and returned home, in all likelihood, JTF Full Accounting is involved. Their mission is to follow every lead and physically go around the world investigating missing service members and recovering the remains whenever possible.

Their capability is fascinating and while military personnel of all services (that’s the Joint part) rotate through the unit, there are civilian experts who have been there for years. They are forensics and other experts such as in military equipment. Based on their experience, they can take scraps of metal or pieces of fabric and determine what type of aircraft or uniform the items came from. The teams from JTF have been up in mountains, deep in jungles, and in tiny villages where planes might have crashed or wounded servicemen might have died and been hastily buried. As technology advances and more places in the world are accessed, there are increasing discoveries of information about missing military personnel. Being scuba certified comes in since some of those missing includes personnel who perished underwater.

Neither Hubby nor I have been personally involved in a recovery, but a good friend of ours was with JTF Full Accounting while we were in Hawaii and we had the opportunity to learn details about their work. For some families, they vaguely knew where a member was lost, but the resources to pinpoint and bring the individual home did not exist at the time. For them, even decades after the loss, to have that loved one honorably returned to them is incredibly important.

Painting Parties…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of “Painting Parties” or even where it really got started, but it does appear to be a trend. It’s especially nice to see that the two great ladies of Art for Good seem to be doing well with them. Let me explain a bit if you’re not familiar with either. I’ve posted about Art for Good (https://www.artforgoodusa.org) previously and yes, they are an Affiliate Member of Homestead Center for the Arts. Suzanne Moe and Marcela Noriega are truly awesome women and to quote from their website, “Here at Art For Good we believe art can help integrate community, build self-esteem and promote mutual respect. We recognize art and creative thinking as valuable tools to find solutions to social problems in our community and to benefit society.

We invite and inspire people to be agents of positive change by staging fun art events and activities which bring community together for the common good. These events help raise awareness and funds for Art For Good projects and programs.”

Of course they accept straight out donations, but their Paint Parties are growing in popularity and they fall into the category of being what I call a, “Fundraiser with the emphasis on Fun“. The concept is remarkably simple and the party is usually held in a place where wine (or your preferred beverage) can flow along with the paint and laughter. You start with a blank canvas and an image to work toward. You don’t need to have ever held a paintbrush to be part of the fun and you might surprise yourself as Suzanne and Marcela give you pointers. They hold private and public events and three public ones are scheduled for 6, 19, and 21 July. The price is around $30 per person, but that varies depending on what food and drink are included. Pop onto their website for details.

If you’re looking for something interesting for the summer, I highly recommend checking  this option out.