About Charlie Hudson

Off with my combat boots and onto writing best describes Charlie my two careers. Born in Pine Bluff, Ark., and raised in Louisiana, I count myself as a military veteran, wife, mother, freelance writer, and author. What was intended to be a quick two years in the Army became a 22-year career instead, and somehow in the process, I discovered that I was an inadvertent pioneer by serving in several positions that had previously been held only by men. By the time I was in Desert Storm and later Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, women in leadership assignments was more widely accepted. My love of writing never left me though whether it is a short article that highlights an animal rescue group, penning the stories of a female police detective in the Florida Keys, or presenting issues about aging that Baby Boomers need to address, or working on a corporate proposal. When my husband, Hugh, also retired from the Army, we relocated to South Florida where we can both enjoy the underwater world in dive sites all around Key Largo. We do break away though to still travel, and especially visit the Washington, D.C. area where son Dustin is a professional dancer and lives with his wife, Samantha.

Another Memory Stirred….

There was a discussion about hunting and guns and I was trying to remember when I first learned to shoot. We did have cap guns and BB guns, but of course those don’t count. Daddy had a .22 rifle and a shotgun. He only hunted small game; birds, rabbits, and squirrels. Well, he did accidentally shoot a racoon one time and I don’t recall if we liked the stew or not. Anyway, I went fishing with him sometimes, but not hunting and that was probably because he was pretty intermittent with when he went.

It seems reasonable he would have taught us to shoot although the most distinct time I recall was going to a range with my uncle and cousins. I was on the ROTC rifle team for like one semester and did attend a match. I was never more than an average shot. As I’ve mentioned before, I was an “inadvertent” pioneer in the Army based on coming in as the Women’s Army Corps was being transitioned out. My first two years it was optional for women to qualify with the M-16 and .45 pistol. I didn’t hesitate even though a couple of my classmates chose to not fire a weapon. In light of the fact I went into the Ordnance Corps and weapons repair from small arms to artillery was part of our mission, we did of course have to fire as well as learn to repair them. Now when I say, “repair”, what that actually meant for an officer was to get a fundamental lesson in breaking down the weapon to see the parts and learn the most ordinary kind of failures. That was for pistols through machine guns and yes, firing an M60 and a .50 cal was an interesting experience. I had some difficulty with the Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) because my hands are small and the hand strength required to hold and fire was designed for the average-size male.

Intriguing Art…….

As I have mentioned, I’m heavily involved in the nonprofit Homestead Center for the Arts. We have up to 30 artists and they are in a range of amateur to professional and work in different mediums. A couple are former art teachers and one artist took up painting because her mother was adamant she quit smoking and she was looking for something to substitute. Anyway, a little over a year ago, a couple moved here for the husband half to take a job with the Florida City government. (Florida City adjoins Homestead and is the last municipality before reaching the Keys). Terre Rybovich was an established artist in West Palm Beach and they had quite a bit to relocate not to mention her losing her studio. She’s shown all over Florida, in NY, and overseas. She hoped there would be available space to rent, but we lost that capability several years ago when we lost the last art gallery. With their decision to buy and remodel a home in Redland, they only recently became fairly settled.

One of the aspects of restoring the Seminole Theatre was to dedicate its considerable wall space to the Artist in the Spotlight program. Although the program is run by the City, HCA artists are frequently featured and the exhibits change about every two months. Terre was scheduled for last March when everything was shut down. So, she’s the first artist to re-start the program. She and her husband described her unique art and the fact it’s really big, but I didn’t honestly understand until I helped them hang the exhibit last week. In essence, she takes a huge canvas, covers it with charcoal, and applies part or all of her body. She then decides what part to leave or add and often also adds a bird to inject some color. Here’s a link to her website to get a better understanding. (https://www.terrerybovich.com)

Oops, Lost A Week…..

I knew it had been extra hectic lately and didn’t realize I was days behind on posting. Yes, it’s the “usual suspects” as the popular line goes. Today will be only marginally better as I head out to cover a local event for the paper, but another thing I had lined up occurred yesterday instead. That, of course, wound up taking a few hours longer than expected even though it was a good deed. Anyway, among my tasks was getting the word out about the release of Idyllic Islands, now available on Amazon and B&N as well as posted to my website. I’ll get my copies in about another week; those I have earmarked for the ones who always receive signed copies plus a few extra to keep on hand for direct sales.

This is the fourth of the Chris Green books; the character I created in Shades of Truth and liked her so much I decided to spin her off into a separate series. That was why I featured her as the dual protagonist in Shades of Gold. I included a subplot to make it reasonable for her to leave Verde Key and go off on her own. I had already developed her character to be more of a “wandering type” and while not free-spirited, definitely more open to certain things than the character of Detective Bev Henderson. In fact,  when I wrote False Front (second Chris Green book after Deadly Doubloons) I did check with a friend and fan about Chris consistently entering into short flings. Not having been single for quite some time I wasn’t sure how that would play in my target audience. I was assured that didn’t mar her as a character. While a new interest isn’t quite the case in Idyllic Islands, there is a bit of a reflection about it as it applies to her relationship with Jeff. (No, I’m not going to say any more about that). This one is somewhat like False Front in that the clues to potential sinister events are not completely clear. Oh, and this is also a case where I actually made a major change toward the end based on my editor’s view. After you read the book, I’ll let you in on it.

Revisiting TV’s Northern Exposure…..

As I think I’ve mentioned, Hubby and I do most  of our workouts on the stationary recumbent bike. He uses his tablet to watch webinars, podcasts, etc., and I watch DVDs. Since I generally work out 6 days a week, that’s lots of CDs. I ran across the complete set of the 1990s TV series Northern Exposure and ordered it. We didn’t see the first season, and it ran back in the days before recording was available. We watched most of the episodes though although it took me longer to become comfortable with the quirkiness than it did Hubby. For those too young to remember, Cicely, Alaska has around 800 people, a mix of whites and natives. Basic amenities are available and the setting is beautiful. It is, however, in the proverbial middle of nowhere. Dr. Joel Fleischman, a graduate of Columbia Medical and a thorough New Yorker, did not come from a family who could afford medical school. In accepting funding from the state of Alaska, he arrives to learn his four-year commitment to the state will not be in Anchorage as he’d been promised, but in Cicely. The culture shock is the basic premise of the series which ran for six seasons. There is a range of characters and frequent mingling of native beliefs and practices to add to what are humorous, poignant, or philosophical/metaphysical aspects depending on the episode.

Not surprisingly, while Joel is the one most often taken aback by things he encounters and usually comes to view “ridiculousness and oddities” from a different perspective, at other times he is the one who helps steer people into a better decision or resolution of an issue. There were two episodes (haven’t gotten to them yet) that have stayed with me all these years. They dealt with different approaches to one’s view of death, and the powerful pull of external validation.  Like many series though,  you either have to watch it from the beginning or have some kind of primer to give you enough understanding to enjoy it to the fullest.

Variability of Visibility In Scuba…..

I was able to make my March dive although I did cut it close being the 29th. Hubby has been working multi-day stretches as it’s the time of year with “rolling spring breaks” where different parts of the country take off at different times. It’s always popular to dive here then, and of course some overseas destinations not yet open. That means divers who might go to the Caribbean are opting for Key Largo. Since Easter is early this year, that also means there will be divers and snorkelers who specifically want to go to the Christ of the Abyss site. I’ve posted before that it’s one of several statues placed underwater by the Cressi family in honor of I think it was a son who died. (They’re a big name in scuba equipment). I’ve forgotten how many statues there are, but it is a concrete robed figure on a rectangular pedestal with his arms outstretched upward set at about 20 feet deep. It’s used on many underwater ads for the area and is something to be seen. The drawback is because of being shallow and such a popular site, it’s usually crowded and often low visibility, as well as surge (which rocks you back and forth and can cause sediment to be kicked up reducing the visibility even more). Additionally, the actual reefs around it aren’t very good from a marine life perspective. Anyway, several people on the boat yesterday were hoping for the statue, but reports were poor visibility so Captain D broke the news and took us to one of the outer reefs.

Although the water is still cool, the visibility was excellent on both dives.  Since I didn’t see the small goldentail eel tucked into the rocks, there was nothing extra special for me. However, there were plenty of fish to include some of my favorites and a couple of older conch shells that had lost their colors. Even so, they still have the distinctive shape.

Juvenile Spotted Drum

Non-Grilled Fish…….

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I don’t grill as that’s Hubby’s domain.  He’s a propane guy by the way. We do also have a smoker which uses charcoal although that’s such an involved and lengthy process he rarely bothers with it. I take over when it comes to cooking fish stove top or in the oven.

We do a version of pan fried fish sometimes and I have been using almond flour because of lower carbs. My basic problem there is the tendency for sticking to the pan as I can’t ever seem to get the heat right on the first try. I’m about 50-50 on managing without making a total mess. Next up are dishes that I start stove top, then finish in the oven. I seem to have more success there as it doesn’t usually require turning the fish. My issue with that is a having to be really careful not to overcook as I constantly forget how quickly fish cooks. I rarely try to broil fish which doesn’t really make sense as the TV Chef Alton Brown says, “The broiler is an upside down grill inside your house” (or something like that). Perhaps the word “grill” throws me off.

One of the stove top preparations is Everglades style. Two firm fish fillets (mahi, snapper, haddock, hogfish, etc.) 1 shallot minced; 2 Tbs olive oil (lime flavored if have it); 2-3 Tbs butter; 2 Tbs capers, 2 Tbs Key Lime juice (can use regular lime juice); 2 Tbs rum, 1/4 cup chicken, vegetable, or seafood broth.Season fillets with salt and cracked black pepper or favorite seafood seasoning. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute minced shallots in olive oil until soft (3-4 minutes). Stir in capers, juice, rum, and broth. Melt butter in mixture and stir thoroughly. Add fillets, spooning shallots and capers on top. Cover and cook for four minutes. Remove cover and check to see if fish is flaking. If not, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for another three-to-four minutes. (You may need to add a little more broth if sauce is thickened to the point of sticking to the pan.)

If we do this only as a sauce to top grilled fish, there is no need for broth and it cooks over medium heat in five to six minutes. That’s 1 shallot minced; 2-3 Tbs butter; 2 Tbs capers, 2 Tbs Key Lime juice; 2 Tbs rum, 2-3 grinds cracked black pepper.

 

Week Zipping Past….

It seems as if I have once again allowed extra days to zip past without posting. This is another case of having a full schedule and then, oops – gee, can’t you fit in this one other task? Oh, well, I guess I meant two; or really I suppose it’s three, etc., Not to mention I’m trying to manage to get a dive in before the end of the month. Okay, with that said, I’ll move on to the topic of the day which is I managed to not get reservations for an Eagles Tribute band performance at the Seminole Theatre as I had intended. In all fairness, I tried to get tickets a couple of weeks ago, but with the reduced attendance capacity of the theatre due to on-going COVID restrictions, the on-line seating function wasn’t working. I even went by in person a couple of days later to no avail. Alas, when I tried earlier this week, the site was functioning correctly along with the notice the show was sold out.

However, there is a potential silver lining. It so happens there was another performance I was interested in, but it’s for Apr 2d, and as there are already one (now two) more events scheduled for April we have to attend, I passed on the Swon Brothers. I decided on them as our back-up: “The Swon Brothers became the first duo to make it to a season finale with the help of their coach, Blake Shelton on the hit TV show, The Voice. In October 2014, The Swon Brothers released their self-titled album and received a nomination for CMA Vocal Duo of the Year. Shortly after, in 2016, they released their EP, Timeless and spent the year touring coast to coast in the United States and Canada with Carrie Underwood on The Storytellers Tour.”

I’m sure we will enjoy them and the only potential drawback is Hubby has been teaching a lot lately due to the usually busy spring break crowds. He may have full day on the 2d which means a late dinner after the show instead of dining beforehand as I prefer. Ah well, that’s easy enough to handle.

Exciting New Cybrarium…..

The word may not yet be familiar, but Homestead now has one. The full article about the grand opening of the Cybrarium will be in next week’s paper. I have of course written multiple posts about how deeply I feel about the value of libraries. When government at different levels look to cut funds, unfortunately, they can be prone to view libraries as a target. Our county did cut back some hours a few years ago during a crunch and thankfully were able to restore them. Our library here has always been modest and in an older building, but the County has a robust program for getting materials from other branches so it wasn’t bad. A few years ago, the City Manager envisioned something much more ambitious with the intent of making the Cybrarium appeal to the digital generation.

The new building opened yesterday, bright and airy and nearly 24,000 square feet with two stories. “Regular books” are available, but also Virtual Reality capability, a Children’s Theater complete with a digital “wall” atop the stage to allow for special effects such as rain falling if that is part of the story/play.(Yes, they will have adult shows, too). Later in the summer, there will be a Book Mountain, which is a two-story high interactive sculpture where apparently a young astronaut will read books or talk about them or something (I’m a little unclear on this). Then there is the Steampunk area, complete with more books, art, displays, and a special lounge where they have 3-D printers.

While some older people may be a bit reluctant to enter initially, there’s no questions kids of all ages through teens (and of course their parents) are going to be drawn in. This is a City initiative and so people will need to have a separate card, but there is a reciprocal agreement with the County and everyone will still have access to the county library system.

Have a peak: www.cybrarium.org

No French Dressing in France….

I’ve written before about me being a “picky eater” according to some and growing up with basic Southern fare in small towns where ethnic cuisines simply weren’t available. Something like pizza wasn’t really on-hand either and that wasn’t something we had at home. In fact, I had my first slice a couple of months before my seventeenth birthday when I was at the summer school in Quebec. It was of course France in my senior year of high school where I was introduced to many different items even though I was no where as adventuresome as a number of my classmates. Our dining arrangements did mean I often had group meals which is how I ate duck and horse. In these cases as you can imagine, I frequently had extra bread or cheese and soup was usually a first course. An interesting note is that vegetable soup in France is not what we generally think of, but is instead a creamy soup of vegetables pureed and cooked with stock. It is delicious. As for salad dressing, oil and vinegar on the table was most likely or a light vinaigrette. They do not have what we call French dressing and I truly don’t know where that comes from. I was also introduced to a few Moroccan dishes. My first Indian curry was on a trip to England. Oddly enough my first time in a Chinese restaurant was much later in Germany as two of my peers discovered I’d never been in one.

German food does tend to be heavier than French, although similar ingredients are used in their preparations and no, I never developed a taste for sauerkraut. I was glad to learn about white radishes. The multiple variations of pork schnitzel were as much a comfort food as you could ask for, too. Germany was also where I truly learned about wines as I was still being a good Baptist when I lived in France.

Asking Forgiveness or Permission…..

Many, many years ago I and a friend wanted to do something that quite frankly would be utterly not allowed these days. (It was questionable then, too). So I had my first encounter with the phrase, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission because some asshole will always say no.” We went ahead and didn’t encounter an issue, but that was another of those “youthful indiscretions” that could have easily gone awry. (The details aren’t important) A recent local situation brought this memory to mind along with a common misconception about this phrase.

I have heard others cavalierly toss this out when faced with the sudden realization forgiveness might not be granted. People have a tendency to think their “initiative” or “boldness” will count more heavily in their favor. It very often does, particularly if the action results in something good. Even so, though, it can also lead to friction within a group as not everyone may be in the “forgiving” mode. The point though is it doesn’t always. At those few times I’ve witnessed the reaction of the one “not forgiven” the common reaction is one of disbelief followed by an emotional response of anger and/or pleading for reconsideration. (More about that below)

A boss of mine later expanded on the idea with his three “rules”. First, make sure what you want to do is legal. Second, think it through carefully and be able to explain your reasoning. Third, accept the consequences if things don’t go as planned. To reinforce the above paragraph, that meant prepare myself if the action/decision didn’t work out correctly or forgiveness was not in the mix. This is one of those life lessons that served me well and I passed it on to numerous subordinates during my career.