It’s Official………

Mystery of the Last Olympian is scheduled for a Feb 2016 release.

Mystery of the Last Olympian is scheduled for a Feb 2016 release.

I can finally give details about the non-fiction book I’ve been working with. Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic can be seen at the dedicated website, http://www.mysteryofthelastolympian.com

The book is scheduled to be released in February, but we have started pre-publication sales because the huge, international scuba tradeshow is in Orlando next week. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me and when Richie Kohler (from the book, Shadow Divers and the TV show, Deep Sea Detectives) asked me to co-author, I was thrilled. We’ve been on an ambitious timeline because 2016 is the centennial year of Britannic’s sinking. In a nutshell, everyone knows Titanic. There were actually three Olympic Class Ocean Liners built – Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic. They were the largest ships ever built (at the time), but two of the three met tragic fates. Britannic, the final Olympian, was nearing completion when WW I erupted. She was converted to a hospital ship and on her fifth voyage, an explosion ripped into her and she sank in less than an hour. This was twice as rapidly as Titanic and after a number of modifications had been put into place to strengthen her. Fortunately, they were inbound for the 3,000 ill and wounded passengers that would have otherwise been aboard. As it turned out, only 30 men were killed and among the many ironies of the ship, Violet Jessop, a young stewardess, had also been aboard Olympic and Titanic. She survived both disasters.

The ship sank to a depth of 400 feet in the Aegean Sea and her location was entered incorrectly into the official record. As underwater exploration advanced, it was Jacques Cousteau who found her again. He and his team made some daring dives, but it was another twenty years before scuba and submersible technology made further exploration possible. Beginning with the famous Dr. Bob Ballard (the man who located Titanic), there have been a series of expeditions by teams; many of the members pioneers in scuba. Each team uncovered different clues and in 2003, they thought they understood what caused the rapid sinking, but they didn’t have quite enough proof. In 2006 they came very close, but the expedition was shut down due to a major misunderstanding. In 2009, Richie Kohler and Richie Stevenson succeeded, but a tragic accident halted the expedition and the film they’d taken didn’t turn out. This past summer, Richie Kohler and three other individuals were finally able to go back and achieve what had eluded them for so long.

The three-part book takes you through this entire journey. The California, UK, and MA trips I blogged about were all for research for the book. Meeting people I had seen in documentaries and knew by reputation has been great. I can now answer any questions you might have, so fire away if you wish.

Something So Cool…..

This is one of those situations where it isn’t exactly a “tease”, but I also can’t use names because it was an incredibly kind and generous gesture, but the individual does not wish to be identified for what will become apparent reasons. I heard about it not long ago and in a time when there’s a lot of bad news, a heartwarming story is nice to share.

Although Homestead has grown significantly in the past ten years, it is still a small town in many ways and unlike some of the communities to the north of us, this is not the place of many multi-million dollar homes. There is a very active youth soccer league thanks to a great number of dedicated volunteers who give of their time. A couple of years ago, one of the teams won whatever the category was they were in that would allow them to compete in a championship out in California. The kids were thrilled, but realistic. Airfare for the team of 12, plus coaches, and chaperones was simply too much to ask of their sponsors and that’s not the sort of money you can raise with car washes.

One of the volunteers had a connection with a major airline and thought – Hey, why not ask? Not surprisingly, the answer was, “We’re sorry, but with the volume of requests that we receive, we have a policy to not provide free airfare for these projects,” (or something along those lines). You can understand that position – how do you say yes to some and no to others? However, a senior individual became aware of the situation and while in total agreement with the policy, the individual said that taking care of the request as a private person was permitted. That’s right – this individual promised to cover the whole cost of airfare if the team could manage the rest of their expenses. That part was doable and no, Disney didn’t write this story so the team didn’t win the championship. They did go to California, however, and had a great experience.

How A Day Gets Changed…..

Snooks in Key Largo

Snooks in Key Largo

First, my apologies for my lapse in posting. I’ve been significantly involved with the HCA Celebration of the Arts event that we had Friday evening and then Saturday which was to be my catch-up day turned out to be different than I had planned. I had invited a friend to come down for Happy Hour to be followed by dinner and an overnight stay since fairly large quantities of wine are the norm for these visits. As it turned out, there was a special two-part event at the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada (http://www.divingmuseum.org)

Bob Croft, who has been called “The American Father of Free Diving” is down along with his delightful wife of sixty years, and he was doing a book signing in the afternoon and a lecture Saturday evening. I couldn’t change plans for the evening, but I contacted my friend to see if she wanted to come down extra early, have lunch in the Keys and go with me to the book signing. The exact “where” of lunch was to be determined, although my friend’s preference is to always dine on the water if possible. Traffic was pretty jammed and there were a couple of drivers who were complete jerks (although I referred to them in other terms verbally), so we stopped at Snooks Bayside since by that time it was well past my usual noon lunch hour. It was hot of course, but a beautiful day and we were under an umbrella. We lingered in a pleasant lunch, then headed to the museum. That of course took longer than I’d thought, but it was thoroughly enjoyable and while traffic was better coming back, it was after five-thirty when we arrived at the house. And that is how a day gets completely changed, but on the other hand, it was a very nice change.

Celebrating the Local Arts…….

Thanks to the East Everglades Orchid Society for helping us have a thriving orchid.

Thanks to the East Everglades Orchid Society for helping us have a thriving orchid.

We’re not quite two weeks away from the Homestead Center for the Arts Annual Celebration of the Arts. For those of you intimately familiar with HCA, bear with me while I share the news with those who might not be.

Friday, May 15, 2015 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., we will have a reception and awards recognition at the Villages Audubon Club House, 1851 South Canal Drive Homestead, FL 33035. The cost is only $10/person and will include light refreshments and door prizes. The theme this year is, “Come Meet Actors, Artists, Authors and More!” The reservation form can be found at the HCA website of http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com and you can pay by check or cash. (Sorry, we haven’t gotten to the PayPal or other options stage just yet).

The format for the event will be a lot of fun and members of most of the affiliate groups will be on hand to happily tell visitors about what they do and how to become involved in local arts and culture. A sampling of those groups are: The Children’s Art Gallery (they teach adults, too), the East Everglades Orchid Society who can help you learn everything you ever wanted to know about orchids, the Homestead Community Concerts with their upcoming season, the Lamplighters Writers Group with the different times that they meet, the South Florida National Parks Camera Club with the exciting things they have planned, and the always fascinating South Florida Woodturners Guild who not only preserve the beautiful craft of woodturning, but they do so with recaptured local woods.

When people ask, “What is there to do around here?”, many are not aware of HCA’s more than two dozen groups that are dedicated to promoting arts, culture, and our unique environment. Come join us and spread the world through your social media contacts.

 

What A Performance……

No photos, I’m afraid, but the performance of Victory Road last night as a collaboration of the Bowen McCauley Dance Company and Jason and the Scorchers was terrific. Loud, mind you,  but as high an energy level as you could ask for and it met all our expectations and then some. Not having been familiar with the band’s music, it was a genre – “punk rock meets country” that works well and the lead guitarist and Jason were the two on-stage while the other band members were in the orchestra pit. I didn’t ask the direct question, but I imagine that was something new for them. The show featured fourteen pieces with the dancers and then Jason and the band did two more as encore.

Although Lucy, the founder and director of the company, had collaborate with popular regional bands before, this was by far the longest production and I think the first time with a band that has an international following. The story line was of the small town boy that strikes out to follow his music, leaving behind those he loves and knows. The rejections, the success, the traps of drugs and booze, the final emergence of getting it all together. It is a familiar story to anyone who has ever had the dream and broken through all the obstacles that deter most people.

As someone said during intermission, it’s hard to know how Lucy is going to top this, but she’s pretty creative and it did stretch the dancers’ boundaries. We’ll have to see what the future brings.

You Just Never Know Who You’ll Meet…..

Artist Monique Richter Working on a Mural

Artist Monique Richter Working on a Mural

Goodness, the past few days got away from me. Saturday was spent doing a couple of different things, one of which was attending the grand opening of the Islamorada Brewing Company that I’ll post about later. In the process of this, there was a muralist working on the back wall in what will be the main brewing area. We happened to catch her when she came off the ladder and what a fascinating discussion it turned out to be. Monique Richter of Facebook https://www.facebook.com/richter.art.7, has been a water lover all her life. She currently captains for a private yacht and specializes in murals. In taking a peek at her Facebook page, the “About” section provides more detail and I’ll give you a peek if you want to check it out.

“Many local artists look to the water for inspiration, but few have gone to the lengths — or indeed, depths — Monique Richter has in search of creative guidance.

Armed with an innate love of art and an enviable skill with a wide range of watersports — surfing, wakeboarding, wakeskating, freediving, and spearfishing — Monique has traveled extensively to feed an insatiable passion for her chosen muse. She’s traveled as a professional wakeboarder for competitions all over the world, to places like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Europe, the Caribbean, and South and Central America, and recently worked as a first mate aboard a sport fishing boat that through the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Cuba”

It was a delight talking with her and I’ll post later this week about the actual Brewing Company and how much fun that was.

Not Exactly Being A Proud Mama……

Victory Road Piece

Victory Road Piece

For those that have seen this clip of a peek at the rehearsal for the upcoming Bowen McCauley Victory Road performance 10 & 11 April at the Kennedy Center, I apologize for being redundant. I say this isn’t exactly a “proud mama” post because it isn’t about our son dancing in the show as much as it is about Lucy Bowen-McCauley, the founder of the dance company and how this show came about.

If you happen to be new to the blog (and welcome if so), our son entering the world of professional dance came as a very big surprise and not without a number of concerns. He is both a member of the dance company and also Ballet Master for the Fairfax Center for Ballet Arts where he teaches.

Lucy is quite possibly the most astute individual that I personally know when it comes to how to keep a small dance company going strong for almost twenty years now and win continuing accolades within the region. Aside from her sheer talent and a driving passion, one of the things that she does is incorporate live music into her performances, even if it’s a single instrument such as a cello. She has also forged relationships with local symphonies and the dance company will sometimes be a part of a symphony’s program. Victory Road is the other side of that coin where she collaborates with a band that has a following. She choreographs pieces to their music and thus fans of the dance company and of the band attend the performance. Jason and the Sorchers have a wide appeal (apparently) and they were excited enough to want a longer show than she usually does. It has been over a year in the making and we are really looking forward to it. Here’s the link to the preview: https://vimeo.com/121897980

Art and Cars……

R.JacksonArt working on a piece from a photo

R.JacksonArt working on a piece from a photo

In the actual category of “thinking outside the box”, Natalie Prieto and Carlos Franco of the Children’s Art Gallery at Cauley Square are hard to beat. They can find ways to incorporate art into almost anything and they are completely devoted to making life better through art in many mediums.  So, Natalie goes into Armstrong Ford in Homestead to buy a car. In the way that happens, conversations flow during the process. As luck would have it, Armstrong Ford has a large covered area where they do special promotions throughout the year such as holiday sales and so forth. Well, if you can do that, why not an art exhibit featuring cars?

On Saturday, March 7th, the artists and car guys came together and it was an excellent combination. Painting and sculptures were on display, the local artists were available to talk with people, and I’m not sure how many unsuspecting customers dropped in and were surprised to find themselves in the middle of an art exhibit. If you haven’t been to Cauley Square lately, do stop in and see what all is going on. (http://www.childrensgalleryartscenter.org)

Forgot to get the artist's name on this one.

Forgot to get the artist’s name on this one.

New Farmer’s Market On The Way……..

The Verde Community Farm & Market will open March 2015 near HARB.

The Verde Community Farm & Market will open March 2015 near HARB.

 I had the pleasure of being placed next to a delightful gentleman at Homestead’s first Eco Fair that was held Saturday in Losner Park downtown. I need to digress for just a moment because of the connectivity of Verde Community Farm Market and the Chapman Partnership. Chapman is an organization that I have great admiration for. They are a private organization that does remarkable work with the homeless through partnership with a number of different municipal, county, state, and federal programs. They have established a model that many like minded organizations have come to see, but that is a separate post.

Among their other efforts, there has been a plan to expand a farmer’s market in conjunction with a CSA and a farm-to-table café. Mr. Bill Squire was the gentleman set up in the tent next to me and he had some of their beautiful produce as well as the promotion for what they will be doing. It not only has all of the things that people who enjoy Farmer’s Markets are looking for – Certified Organic items, CSA option, commercial kitchen and special event venue – it is in an old emergency services station close to the Homestead Air Reserve Base with plenty of parking. Best of all, it is staffed predominantly with individuals from the homeless shelter as they learn skills they can build from. The entire operation will be open next month and I’ll do a follow-up post once they are in full swing. In the meantime, you can check them out at: http://www.verdefarmandmarket.com

Guest Blog To Warm Your Heart…..

I enjoy being able to share pieces that you might not otherwise run across and Marie Wagner sent me one that falls into this category. I met Marie last year during the Homestead Book Fair and even though they didn’t stay in the Florida area for long, we had some good experiences together. They had lived in Alaska for many years and Marie’s photographs are lovely. In this case though, she became involved with a project that is truly heartwarming. I will now let Marie “tell” you about it.

From Marie: Participation in art can fling open the windows of the spirit and allow the nurturing rays of imagination to flow into the minds of children with disabilities and people recovering from trauma. Anyone stuck in the doldrums can be lifted and inspired by art.

Birds, butterflies, turtles, the majesty of nature; all are inspiring subjects that start the creative juices flowing. Chugach Arts Council just completed a collaborative project with Pinecrest Gardens and VSA FL to create a beautiful book of children’s art featuring the beautiful flora and fauna at Pinecrest.

The mission of VSA FL is to ensure that people with disabilities can learn, participate in and enjoy the arts. The mission of Pinecrest Gardens is to enrich the lives of the community through cultural arts, education and the sustainable management of its public garden. Together, VSA FL and Pinecrest Gardens are working to incorporate nature and the arts in a safe and accepting environment for all children.

VSA FL’s Teaching Artist, Yvette Cotera, and the Pinecrest Gardens Educational Coordinator, Lisa Toy, teamed up in 2014 to create an all-inclusive educational arts program open to kids of all abilities. This was the first collaboration between VSA FL and Pinecrest Gardens. The tangible result was a collection of wonderful art work by the children as a result of their time and study of plants, animals, and insects in and around Pinecrest Gardens in South Florida.

Chugach Arts Council connected with the two groups and compiled a collection that features art from 4 projects, Florida Butterflies, Migrating Monarchs, Hummingbirds and Pollinators and Turtle Island. Artist and author, Marie Wagner composed an original poem to accompany the art. This charming book of art is available through Pinecrest Gardens or online at:

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/823017

TIP for viewing online: Click on the GRAY / Preview tab at the base of the cover image to view ALL pages online

May you be inspired and uplifted by the experience.

Marie Wagner, Chugach Arts Council, Executive Director

http://chugachartscouncil.org/