October Trip, Day 3……

Okay, I generally post only about my trips in these situations, but I am going to deviate from that. It was a good day visiting with my dad and sister. On the other hand, after the longest gap since 1997, my new novel, To Play on Grass Fields, is out. I need to explain about this book though. It is very different from any of my others. As I mention on the website, it is darker, more intense, and has a strong political tone. The easiest way to explain it is if you ever read and enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, you should be okay. That is not to say it is anywhere nearly as long or has the making of a classic, but merely to give an idea of what it is like.

I developed the idea for the book more than twenty years ago when I was in Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy in the waning months of my career. I retired soon after returning from that deployment in a coincidence of timing, not because of. The position I held while in Haiti gave me insight into some discussions I would not have ordinarily had. Those conversations and my own observations stayed with me and I struggled with how to articulate what I wanted to present in the book. Now, as with most novels, while there are absolutely true elements woven in, it is written for drama with what is referred to as “literary license”. Therefore, revelation about the incident in the Caribbean should not be taken as literal.

If this book does not appeal to you, don’t worry. I do intend to have Shades of Deception, the new scuba-themed novel out in Jan or Feb. If I can ever figure out one more sub-plot to Small Town Quilting Treasures, I will have that out next summer.

Oh, I did have my catfish meal which is a “must” when I come back to Louisiana.

Sorry, I was going to upload the cover of the book, but am having computer issues. (That will ne explained in my next post.)

October Trip Day 1……

I normally take this trip early in Oct to be with Daddy for his birthday. There were complicating factors this year and my brother and sister-in-law were there for the actual day to celebrate the 93rd. I had already made my decision to go later and while my sister had planned to be there for the event, she hadn’t planned on Hurricane Harvey. The flooding was less at their place than many others, but still a couple of months for repairs and being displaced (not to mention the terrible mess). She and my brother-in-law arrived last night in Louisiana and I will join them tomorrow afternoon. The last three trips back I haven’t had the chance to see the branch of the family that lives about 2 hours south of Daddy. I’ll head that direction as soon as I get the rental car and catch up with however many cousins show up at my aunt’s house. It might be quite a few if the normal group is around.

This trip has been one where everything was terribly jammed all week and I couldn’t prepare the way I wanted. That mean last night was late for me and although the 5:00 a.m. wake-up is normal, that usually comes with an earlier bedtime. Ah well, so it goes. No significant delays in the first flight and the second leg looks okay so far. I won’t have connectivity again until tomorrow evening so am dashing this off before I head to the gate. More to follow of the adventures.

When You Don’t Have Galleries…..

Pink Mangroves by Mimi Dickson

I was an infant in the first town we lived in, but it was the third one I can remember that was large enough (and that wasn’t huge) to have an art gallery or two. As it turns out, there are more there now although that isn’t the actual subject of this post. People who come to Homestead are a bit startled to see we have no galleries. There were some and during the real estate bust, a number of properties closed or changed hands and one of the impacts was to lose the galleries. Notwithstanding the fact I do buy lottery tickets, we still haven’t found that individual with a couple of million dollars to come in and open a gallery. It is difficult for local artists and in response, one of the Council members established an “Artist in the Spotlight” Program several years ago. An artist is selected and has a two-month exhibition. It was hosted by the Community Center which is a nice facility. After the historic Seminole Theatre re-opened, they installed a very nice hanging system and the exhibits are held there. A number of artists in Homestead Center for the Arts have been featured, and in fact, we will have three in a row spanning August through January. (The painting in here is currently on display.)

One of the excellent restaurants I’ve posted about (Chefs on the Run) has always displayed local art and as of last week, the Capri Restaurant (which also has Pub 935) joined in. The back room, known as the Gallery Room, had photographs and paintings, and I had noticed they seem to have been there for quite some time. We engaged in a discussion and I had not realized the owner’s mother had been one of the founding members of the Homestead Art Club. The Art Club had declined due to different factors and one of the HCA members revived it a few months ago. Membership is flourishing and they have now entered a partnership to display art and have a new exhibit every three months. Neither of these options is ideal as the artist has to be contacted for a sale and that reduces the chance for “impulse buys”. On the other hand, their work is  displayed to the public and they can take pride in seeing it. And yes, sales do get made. By the way, if you do happen to know of anyone looking to open an art gallery, this could be the place.

The New Seminole Season Begins…

Well, began is the correct word. John Popper of Blues Traveler was the headline last night to an appreciative crowd. I had never heard of Katrina Woolverton, but she was the opener and quite good. She was on for a while, then we had intermission before the main act. One of the things with older performers is they logically cannot do too many vocal numbers consecutively, so you get a fair amount of talk in between with background of how a song came to be written or people who were of particular influence, etc. That does provide another dimension to the show and at least we were spared any political thought.

The show had been planned for some time and the Rotary Club decided to join in and make it a benefit for Hurricane Irma Relief. A number of other businesses, Lorenzo Ford, Center State Bank and my apologies to whomever I forgot, contributed to the evening as well. I haven’t heard the results yet, but from the way things were looking, there should have been a nice sum collected.

We had thought about having dinner after the show and I’m glad Hubby suggested burgers at Lucky’s beforehand. We didn’t actually leave the theatre until 9:30 which would have meant 10:00 or later dining. Even with having a snack beforehand, that makes for a very late meal for me. Since it was a Sunday, there would also have been a limited choice of places still open. Anyway, it was a good kick-off to the season that has several other shows we are interested in. Everything is listed on http://seminoletheatre.org

New Name, New Chef, Etc….. (Oops)

I guess I forgot to actually post this which explains the gap over the past few days (Sigh, it’s been hectic)

It’s always a shame when you have a restaurant in a good, or at least decent location that can’t seem to make a go of it. I’ve posted before about the historic Hotel Redland’s restaurant, excited about the changes that unfortunately didn’t last. I am more optimistic this time though as it is now the City Hall Bistro and Martini Bar with the same website of https://www.hotelredland.com

The new chef and manager, Enrique, has a distinct vision he seems to be carrying out in phases. He’s originally from Boston and has been in Homestead at two other restaurants before taking this step. They are open for lunch Tues-Sat and for dinner Tues through Sunday. They are in the upscale dining range with the well appointed dining room although people still tend to sit in the bar. There is the Tapas and the regular menu and two options for Dinner for Two; one paella and one referred to as a “Tomahawk Steak”. You need to read the description of that substantial meal.

The new menu is pared down from the previous, yet provides the “something for everyone” approach and so far, everything has been delicious. Unlike before, the menu is easy to read and the service is definitely improved. The exterior of the hotel with the wonderful wrap around porch has also been freshened and will be quite inviting once the temperatures drop a bit.

I admit I haven’t had a martini yet, so I can’t vouch for that part of the name. They will be working with the Director of the Seminole though to develop a before and after theater option. We’re hoping for the best for them so we can once again promote another excellent dining choice for Homestead.

A Hectic Week Ahead….

Yesterday was more disrupted than I intended, but so it goes at times. With the initial recovery well underway here, Hubby’s efforts are being focused on Key Largo. Horizon Divers where he works is ready to go as soon as people can start coming down. The Middle and Lower Keys took the brunt of Irma and their recovery will be prolonged, although we’re not certain of what that means time-wise. The Upper Keys, down through Islamorada, are still restricted with a “boil water” order among other things. The complex where HD’s dive operation is includes the restaurant Shipwrecks and that’s what the HD crew is helping with. It’s high 90s and intense humidity so the physical work required for cleanup and repair is pretty draining. Access to the Keys is limited to residents, business owners, and recovery personnel, but the intent is to be ready as soon as visitors can return. How many will is yet to be seen.

In our community, there were so many events that had to be postponed between prep and recovery this will be a hectic week as we sort through what can be rescheduled and how to do that. Power has mostly been restored here, but there are still shortages in the grocery stores and people whose property was severely damaged are dealing with that. Something as simple as if a restaurant wants to open, not having staff back means “normal operations” can be impeded. School is starting back today and that is an indicator of routines beginning again. It will probably be another two-three weeks though before we can be genuinely considered as recovered.

Why I Love Entrepreneurs….

When I retired and it became painfully obvious I was not going to make an income from writing, I did what most retired military officers do in the D.C. area and went to work for a company involved in Department of Defense contracting. Since we were in a position to where I just had to make a respectable salary rather than as much as I possibly could, I had the flexibility to go with a small, nimble company founded by an entrepreneur whom I grew to greatly admire. Actually, two of them since the company started with either five or seven individuals (I don’t recall the exact number). I’m sure the other founding members were also great, but I mostly dealt with the two. Anyway, even though I chose not to move up much in the company, I was fascinated with how things came about and listened carefully as they expanded literally to the point where they had to sell because they were, “too big to be small and too small to be big”. In essence, in the world of government contracting, there are a lot of “set-asides” for smaller companies. Once you reach a certain size though, you no longer qualify for those contracts and you are thrust into competition with the really big guys. The genuine ability to compete against them is extremely difficult and so the most practical option is hold tight until one or more of them take notice of you and make an offer to buy you out. There are all sorts of considerations, but it’s something that happens all the time.

Anyway, that was a very interesting lesson in the real world of business. Coming closer to home, we had lunch today at the Redlander Restaurant at Schnebly’s  (https://www.schneblywinery.com). They are a fantastic example of starting small with a niche market and expanding in a reasoned fashion. For those who may not be familiar with them they make wine from our local tropical/exotic fruits. They began with what was basically a modular building as their tasting and sales room. They grew to a beautifully landscaped property with a wonderful large room that added a restaurant. During the process they also branched out to brew beer on the property and opened “The Tap Room” which is quite large and serves 18 beers. They are an event place as well and are always coming up with new ideas. They are family run and it’s a pleasure to watch each new venture.

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.

Following Up In All Fairness…..

I can see why everyone has been raving about “Hairspray” at the Seminole Theatre. The talent of the large cast was terrific. I’d had one of my terrible bouts of insomnia in the wee hours of Saturday and left last night at intermission, but there was no question as to the quality of he production. As it was the first go-round for the Seminole Players, it has certainly set a high bar for Community Theater.

Last night was a sell-out crowd as have been a couple of other performances. This was the first time there have been as many dates set and all were well-attended. I don’t know if they can capture the data, but I heard several people in the lobby mention it was their first time to be in the Seminole. I went into my pitch of course and one gentlemen gave me his card and asked me to email him with more information.

What If Works Theater and Film, one of the longstanding members of Homestead Center for the Arts, will be doing “Driving Miss Daisy” Oct 20th and 21st and although WIW is a separate entity from the Seminole, this play is also cast with community members. A nice trailer was recently posted to http://www.whatifworks.com

With this being the third season of programming, there is at least more data about what people are responding to and that is helpful. There have been surprises both ways with shows that didn’t resonate that were expected to and others that were very popular that hadn’t seemed as if they would draw much of an audience. There is no doubt as to the hard work that goes into the Seminole and I do hope this is the year it hits its stride so to speak.

 

 

Part of Why Newcomers Get Confused…..

I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but when people first move here, driving around can be confusing. Everyone assumes with GPS tech, you just pop an address in and be all set. In some cases, that is correct. The first thing though is there are two sets of street designations; one is the county and the other is the municipal. Since we are south of the main part of the County, their numbering is quite different. For example, NE 8th Street is the local designation and SW 312th is the county. That also happens to be Campbell Drive, so when you get an address from someone, it will depend on which numbering system they are accustomed to using. Now, let’s say you are given the county number which is what most of the GPS systems are programmed with. You are going along and suddenly the street deadends into a field. This is because we still have a lot of agricultural lands and the street may very well pick up again on the other side of the large multi-acre field. The GPS system doesn’t realize that more-or-less straight line doesn’t actually exist as a road.

The other problem is you may have a  19th Ave, 19th Drive, 19th Place, 19th Street,19th Terrace and 19th Road. This is why when someone gives you an address, you have to be certain of the full address. If you are casually told, “Oh, we’re on 19th”, you’re likely to be in the wrong place. As you can imagine, delivery people can become quite frustrated.

Trying to manage all this in the dark is especially challenging and there are stories to be told by even people who have lived here for a while. In the agricultural community, streetlights tends to be limited and you often cannot read a street sign without literally getting out of the vehicle and using a flashlight. These are all things you get used to, but it does take time.