Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 28 January 2008

Last Day in Venice

Mrs. Phred arrived safely.

She liked the roses.

Her luggage went to Cincinnati without her.

But the airline delivered the bags on Wednesday.

She liked the way I had cleaned the RV and shampooed the carpet.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Carnevale di Venezia

Venice, Italy

Sometimes I think that Mrs. Phred has the luck of the Irish in visiting foreign places just during major celebrations and events.

Carnevale means "farewell to meat" and arises from the somewhat debauched masked fertility celebrations preceding Lent. The tradition appears to be an answer to Tampa's Gasparilla.

I talked to Mrs. Phred on DSL this morning. She says the Carneval lasts a couple of weeks. People dress up when they please. Some come from out of town. That's so Italian. What wonderful freedoms they take. I'm not sure I've ever seen two Italian toilets that flushed exactly the same way. What lovely people.

Venice Carnival masks fall into several categories:
- Commedia dell'Arte masks are based on traditional characters like Harlequin and Pierrot.
- Fantasy masks are figments of the maskmaker's imagination, although they may be inspired by historical designs.
- Traditional Venetian masks such as the white volto half-mask with nose cover and its variant, the "plague doctor's" mask with its phallic beak. (According to tradition, the beak was intended to protect the wearer from being infected by the plague.

Carneval was an excuse to mingle and, in some cases, to trade sexual favors without fear of recognition or retribution.

Carnevale almost disappeared when Napoleon's troops brought an end to the Venetian Republic in 1797. In 1979, the tradition began a comeback.

Gasparilla Day

Tampa, Florida

The first time I actually went to the Gasparilla parade was 1964. I took my Harley down to the parade route and tried to pick up girls. I was unsuccessful.

This year I park in the parking garage in the Channelside area. Dozens of new condominiums have blanketed this area during the housing bubble/mortgage fraud crisis of the last five years. It used to just be the docks, a very run-down area.

I walk though downtown and over the river to Bayshore Boulevard, about 1.5 miles. The crowd appears to number at least a million and there are lots of vendors selling beads, Italian sausages and beverages. A number of rock bands are set up along the parade route with huge sound stages to provide mass entertainment.

About 1:00 PM I make cellphone contact with a group of my former students and we go into the reserved bleacher area to watch the Parade. The parade takes five hours as pirates, rough riders, gauchos, Caribbean cowboys, firefighters, high school bands and other freaks parade down Bayshore.

We only see two young handcuffed men being whisked off to jail in a golf cart. They are bloodied and bruised. Apparently they had been fighting. Otherwise, the crowd is intensely good-natured, screaming happily and hoping to get beads from the pirates. As the day and the drinking wear on, the crowd on either side of the street also begin to throw beads to each other.

Two of my former students (Jeff and Soche), now both 50 years old are still mischievous. As the marching bands approach they yell "TUBA" and attempt to throw beads into the tubas.

I don't remember Soche. He tells me he made two "F" grades and two "A" grades on my tests. He says I sat beside him while he took the 4th test. He says I told them what would be on the tests. I did believe in outlining specific learning objective for each chapter. I thought it was good educational theory.

Ann-Marie Mezzetti was there. She is 50 now too. She reminds me every year of my prediction for her at age 20 that she would be a fat Italian mother. She points out that she's still lovely and shapely. I tell her that I did her a favor.

It's a happy crowd. Years ago there was only one very exclusive Krewe of pirates. They were the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla: bankers, lawyers and other community leaders who spent this one day swigging whiskey and firing off cannons and pistols. Now there are dozens of Krewes of every ethnic persuasion and sexual orientation. It's grown into a monster.

Mike and Steve are there. They've been our great friends over the years. Lots of camping trips and lobster hunting weeks in the Keys.

A good time was had by all. It was better when we had the house by the parade route and they all came back to party after the parade, but time moves on. I pick my way though the debris and broken bottles to my car. The clean-up effort begins the instant that the parade ends.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Gasparilla Looms Large

Tampa, Florida

Mrs. Phred checked in today from Ravenna and Bologna. I'm looking forward to her return. She sends pictures every night.

Mike and Steve are two of the former students that have been closest over the years. Steve has tickets for me for the Gasparilla parade in the morning. Pirates invade Tampa this time every year. The whole town wakes up, starts drinking Saturday morning and arise with a Sunday headache after a day of beads, bacchanal and bare breasts. Meanwhile the pirates invade again...Argh, matey...

Sometimes the lady sheriff’s deputies get pissed off and pepper-spray unruly eight-year olds. That always gets the attention of the press.

I decide to make contact again today and attend the celebration...

I took Polaroid’s of my students in 1978 so that I would know them by the 2nd class meeting. I asked them to complete a 3x5 card. Both Mike and Steve helped us with our old home after Mrs. Phred read all the cards and noticed that they both were union carpenters from Philadelphia. They worked on our house, usually starting work about suppertime when the steaks were on the grill. THey helped with the wooden screens.

Mike came to see me in the 80's with a story about a large coffee can full of white powder in a shipping container from England. He is agitated and tells me about a customs agent was digging though the coffee can white powder with a knife. Mike sniffs the powder and thinks coke. I tell him to call customs and report a suspicious substance. After he does that, his boss is deported to England in handcuffs and Mike gets a no-money-down chance to buy the factory.

Steve has been attending Gasparilla at my house since 1978. Steve is a Vice-President for a major national restaurant chain. Not his first chain. Steve was a student busboy when we first met.

Gasparilla took place about a block from our old house. I always enjoyed painting window screens and talking with passersby rather than going down to the parade. Mrs. Phred is sending me pictures from Ravenna and Bologna in Italy. I questioned her today over DSL and found that the photographer was mostly her sister, Jil. The tomb picture in Ravenna is not Dante, But I will pretend that it is. He’s in there somewhere.

Gasparilla starts tomorrow. The thing about hanging around here in Sarasota is that the weather is great, but there’s not much happening worth a blog. I work every day as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. I do minimum wage accounting work for my leader, Amy. As a volunteer, they omit the wages and give me coffee.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Split Picture

Sarasota, Florida/Venice, Italy

It’s been a slow day. I’ve been trying to repair a broken plastic hinge on the refrigerator door. The epoxy I’m using is JB Weld. I’m inspired by the testimonial of a man who saved his company $20,000 by using it to repair a cracked block on a D-8 caterpillar bulldozer. Last time they gave us a new door under warranty. This time I decide to spend $2.13 on epoxy and do it myself.

Mrs. Phred sends me pictures of her lunch. It looks better than what I had today.

There’s a mystery guy in one of the pictures. Probably he’s a gondola driver.

I remember a trip to Venice with Mrs. Phred some years ago. I dress in a sport coat with nice slacks and shoes on the advice of my German friend who says that if I wear jeans in Europe, I will be treated like a GI.

It works. A man with a shiny wooden motorboat spots us as marks and offers us a free ride on a wooden powerboat. We cruise the canals end up in Murano amid the glassblowers where I buy a $500 blown glass vase, which is now in our storage unit.

We leave the glassblowers expecting a ride back. But after I buy the vase, I’m informed that we need to take the water bus back to Venice.

It's raining here tonight. The neighbors have taken down their awnings in anticipation of high winds. The epoxy worked.

This is a three-day weekend. Habitat for Humanity has a holiday on Monday to observe Doctor Martin Luther King Junior day.

Tu sei l'amore della mia vita. Buon divertimento e la fretta indietro.
Buona notte.

Friday, 18 January 2008

On The Road

Venice, Italy

Mrs. Phred landed in Venice about 3am this morning, Eastern Standard Time. This is the first time she’s left me alone when I wasn’t working. She sent some pictures.

I hope to have an agenda put together for our next trip by the time she returns. I’d like to plan where we are going on the eight-month trip that will begin March 2nd, but not when we will be there. Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, Canada, California, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York...

We looked at some homes this year, but decided that if we want to travel eight months and spend four months in a tennis RV resort in Sarasota, a home makes very little sense right now.

The geology of new places is fascinating: lakes, sink holes, hot springs, glaciers, moraines, mountains, rivers, calderas, bayous, fumaroles, beaches, deserts. The wildlife is a bonus: bison, deer, seals, orcas, javelinas, goats, antelope, eagles, bear, moose, wild horses and wild burros...

What really seals it are the people you meet on the road:
- A state park ranger who breeds albino corn snakes for fun and profit.
- A blue-eyed Mormon mechanic who tells you about his mission to Chicago while he drills out a battery cable.
- A fat ugly biker in leathers with a poetry book in his back pocket who tells you about the local National parks.
- An 80 year-old couple with a 40-foot motor home who spend all their time fishing.
- A meth freak who is working on the high steel of Las Vegas’ highest building. He resents the press that the Indians get for being high steel workers.
- A Nevada cop who busts us for not wearing helmets. He is amused by Grandma and Grandpa on the motorcycle and lets us go after serious questioning and a license and registration check.
- A policeman in Mesilla, New Mexico who cruises the ancient square and makes the sign of the cross each time he passes the church.
- Earl, the 86 year old bicyclist, heading to Miami from LA in the south texas desert.

But it’s not just the people or the geography. The history is also interesting. You learn about things like:
- Cochise’s mountain stronghold.
- Poncho Villas last incursion into the US.
- Jefferson’s home.
- The Presidential libraries.
- Where Lee surrendered.
- The Alamo.
- Dealy Plaza in Dallas.
- Billy the Kid’s jailbreak location.

Then there are the works of man:
- The magnificent architecture of Chicago
- The Edmonton mall and indoor water park
- The blown away properties in Mississippi and New Orleans
- A tractor museum on South Dakota Interstate.
- The Route 66 museum in Oklahoma.
- The Very Large Array radio telescopes in New Mexico.

And you can find things to do on the road:
- Hiking
- Kayaking in the ice fields
- Scuba diving
- Fishing for salmon and halibut
- Tennis on municipal courts
- Museums
- A zydeco band in Louisiana

Anyway...that’s the plan...2008 will be another travel year.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Marie Selby Sarasota Botanical Gardens (and more)

I get a red dot on the map of the world on the right side of this page whenever someone accesses this blog. If you click it, it gets a little bigger. One dot has me really curious. It's the one up on Hudson Bay in Manitoba...maybe the town of Churchill?

Who can this person be, I wonder. Young? Old? Man? Woman? Whoever it is, the dot is growing so they are coming back. Drop me a response, person from Hudson Bay...tell me a little about your life...(that also applies to anyone else, even Iceland).

I can remember when going to a botanical garden or eating broccoli would not have been high on the list.

The Marie Selby botanical gardens had a nice collection of psychedelic flowers. Many of them had adapted strategies for eating insects. One actually traps rats and small birds.

I've rented the cowboy movie "3:10 to Yuma" which was just released on DVD.

Mrs. Phred is leaving for Venice on Thursday. I shall miss her.

The stitches came out today. My right eyebrow is still drooping over my eye. The doctor says he cut some nerves. He's hoping they will grow back in the next six weeks. If not, he will make a few new slices and pull it back up.

I quote Oscar Wilde to the doctor. "A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's is her work of fiction".

Oscar Wilde's tomb in Paris has an angel on it. The angel once had a penis and testicles, but these were broken off and kept on the cemetery curator's desk for a number of years and ultimately disappeared.

We've been to that cemetery often enough. We feel no need to return.

My grasp of words is slipping. I've been trying ....Oh...that's remember what these special types of flowers are called all day....

Monday, 14 January 2008

Under the Cherry Tomatos

Sarasota, Florida

I get a call in the afternoon. Mrs. Phred has lost her glasses again and also locked the keys in the car. She gives me directions and offers to stand in the road. I emphatically tell her to stay out of the road and stay by the car. I cruise the parking lot and locate her car full of groceries, but she is nowhere in sight. I wander the perimeter of the shopping center and finally find her by the eight-lane road. She searched the stores and found her glasses under the cherry tomato section.

I ask how she loses her glasses in a department store since this is about the 10th time I can remember. Turns out she only needs the glasses for distance and takes them off and hooks them on her blouse to read labels. I get a mental image of her loading the groceries in the car, looking for her glasses and then locking the door with the keys in the ignition to go back to find her glasses.

Biologists up in Iceland dredged up a 405 year old clam. It was the oldest known living animal. Unfortunately, they killed it while counting its rings.

In 1953 they gave us a publication called the Weekly Reader in elementary school. I remember reading the article about Edmund Hillary climbing Mt. Everest. As many as 118 climbers have since reached the peak on a single day.

Mrs. Phred has packed a suitcase with things her sister has requested that are hard to find (zip lock plastic bags, mushroom brushes, tasers, snore guards, salted nuts, cotton balls, etc.) or very expensive in Italy. I find her and a friend trying to weigh the suitcase on our bathroom scales. They want to avoid the $100 weight penalty. They find it impossible to position the suitcase in a way that allows them to read the weight dial. I pick up the suitcase and stand on the scales then subtract my own weight. They are both bemused.

The stitches on both sides of my head come out on Tuesday. I already have new skin cancers to see the dermatologist about. The swelling has gone down enough to allow me to see out of both eyes so I played some tennis yesterday.

A man has his RV parked close to the tennis court. The ball goes over the fence and bonks his RV (probably not the first time). He comes out with a knife and stabs the ball repeatedly, murdering it before throwing it back. Security makes him move out immediately. His spot is empty. I'd like to have it. I think I would have used a potato cannon to return the ball, rather than just disfiguring it with a knife...bad form, old bean...