My 600th Blog: Lat. 24 N./Long. 81 W.

[Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter. Located at the Hemingway House Museum, Key West, Florida. Photo is mine.]

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be.

~~Ernest Hemingway

I am sitting in the air-conditioned Monroe Country Public Library (Key West Branch). It’s quiet, cool and has a WiFi that takes no prisoners. I chose this place to celebrate the posting of my 600th blog. (Confused? See Title.)

So I posted my first real blog on July 18, 2012. It was an excerpt from my first published novel Standing Stone (2012). I was totally unsure as to whether I had the energy and ability to write real content. In truth, only a year before I had very little idea what a “blog” was. I’m still learning. If my math is correct, that’s close to eleven years ago. I was sixty-four years old. When I’m sixty-four, I probably thought at the time, where will I be in eleven years from now? It wouldn’t be telling lies if I said that in my most dazzling dreams, I’d still be pounding on the keys of my laptop (actually, today I’m using my iPad) and trying hard to amuse and inform and entertain. Time will tell if I’ve succeeded.

What follows is a short list of the various places and topics I’ve written about in the years after 2012. They are scatter-shot…in no particular order. Just a quick look back:

I’ve told you stories of Adirondack Trolls, my frustration with snow, ice and sub-zero weather, thermometers that never run a battery down. You’ve heard of the joys and hardships of living in Big Bad New York City. I’ve reposted a true story of my father’s youth, “Coal for Christmas” every December (does that throw my count of posts off??).

I shared my joys of visiting my daughter, Erin and her husband and my only grandchild, Elias from Orting, WA. You’ve read numerous complaints about my bad back and the health issues I’ve had (including my diagnosis of leukemia).

I wrote of my love for the desert and our wandering in Death Valley and the Mojave. Numerous tales were written from England, Ireland, Portugal and Paris. I told you how I celebrated several birthdays in recent year (i.e., when I turned sixty-eight, Mariam and I walked sixty-eight steps along the nave of Wells Cathedral and paused to kiss).

Sadly, I wrote too many posts of sad farewells of my family…and my very best friend of over sixty years, Greg Stella who passed in July, 2022. Rereading those posts still make me cry.

I’ve concocted outrageously silly stories of the demise of or moral failure of our favorite cartoon characters like Popeye, Dennis the Menace and Mr. Peanut.

I’ve shared ghost stories and posted ghost photographs (leaving you to be the judge of the real and the fanciful).

I wrote numerous recollections of my childhood sweetheart, my family home in Owego and my time-warping walks down Front Street in my aforementioned home town.

I described how, on a beautiful autumn afternoon (or was it in the spring?) of helping a cemetery caretaker dig a grave for a woman I never met.

There are many posts that told you of my love of the poetry of Bob Dylan. I even wrote a pre-death eulogy for him.

I’ve tried to celebrate my love for my wife, my children and my grandson. I told you how sad I got in Bruges, Belgium, Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and along a footpath in England.

I have played with different writing styles like noir and meta fiction. I’ve written short short stories.

And I did it all for you, my readers. I never wrote anything cruel, hateful or boastful. I was honest with you. I respect those of you who took a few moments out of your busy lives to read my efforts. Scrolling this page, I see that there are too many “I’s” and not enough “you”. I apologize.

I will close this rambling post with a photo and a microscopic story:

[The famous Key West Kapok Tree. Photo is mine. Taken by Mariam Voutsis.]

Legends about about the Kapok (native to Indonesia) Tree. One belief: The Devil entrapped a unwary carpenter inside the tree because he had the temerity to carve out rooms in the ginormous trunk. Another: The Tree is said to grow into the heavens (it is known to grow up to ten feet a year).

The Tree has many uses. It is soft so artists use the wood for carvings. It is used for dugout canoes and…caskets.

Good-bye for now. The beach beckons.

Be kind and never let anyone to be lonely or forgotten or be invisible.

Paradise Lost

[Sculpture from the MET. Photo is mine. Sadly, I failed to record the sculptor.]

No matter where you’re going it’s the wrong place.

~ ~Tobe Hooper

[BEFORE YOU CONTINUE: This blog post is not, in any way, an attempt to denigrate any staff, employees or anyone else who made every effort to make our short vacation enjoyable. Further, from Big Mama (that’s what her name tag read), to the housekeepers and food servers, they were more than helpful, friendly and eager to please. Any negative comments that follow are directed at the physical facility and the misrepresentations by the Travel Agency that apparently ran the raffle, that I won, that got us to the Bahamas. Think of this post as a kind of Yelp review.]

It’s a good thing I wasn’t even thinking about marijuana when I passed through Customs upon our arrival at Freeport in the Bahamas. I would never had made it through. But I wasn’t so I did. Once we stepped outside and into the warmth, I was very tempted to cross the taxi lane and peruse the souvenir booths. I had my eye on a “Tropical Shirt” or “Hawaiian Shirt” that had a color that made my eyes water. Your gaze needed to rest on the coconut trees to get any relief. Without even a chance to haggle the woman dropped the price to $25.00. I was sorely tempted, trust me. But I already own a respectable collection of those ‘retro’ shirts back home in New York. So I kindly declined and went back to where Mariam was guarding our luggage. I looked out at a few rusting sailboats and fishing boats. But before I knew it our taxi was pulling up to the curb. The taxi was loaded to capacity and we were off to our Resort hotel.

[Yet another stamp in my passport to brag about. Photo is mine.]

We stood for more time than I would have liked to get our room key. Then across the lobby to Big Mama’s desk. She was the concierge at the Taino Beach Resort & Club. I was handed the ferry schedule that would take us to Port Lucaya, where the shops and restaurants were located. We had a restaurant on the property but after being informed of the hours (11:00 am to 7:00 pm, with the last orders taken at 6:30. Lights were out at 7:00 pm.). I haven’t eaten dinner at 6:00 pm since the late ‘50’s, so it would mean stocking up on junk food from the hotel lobby to see me through the night. The hours the shop were somewhat unclear, because every time I went down to grab a bottle of fresh water, I was often met by darkness and locked doors.

But to return to Big Mama and our check-in and orientation: She keep telling us and everyone else about the necessity of having bottles of water. That was all I needed to hear. The red flags went up. I recalled a very good friend and former teaching colleague telling me about how he (even after many warnings) ordered a gin and tonic in Istanbul, Turkey with ice. He developed a case of Giardiasis. Let just say it was a nightmare for him and something that stuck in my mind.

So I mansplained to Mariam that it was only to be bottled water, even to wet a toothbrush while we stayed. It was only after a Google search to the World Health Organization that I learned that tap water in the Bahamas was safe.

Next, Big Mama snapped a wrist band on the two of us. Since there were only a relatively few people around, I wondered why the band? I thought of the following reasons:

—Glass Bottom Boat Excursion

—Deep-sea fishing

—Snorkeling

—Ocean swimming

—Capsizing

On that level it all made sense. But the band reminded me of the last overnight stay at a hospital. Wearing it around the Resort, I felt like an escapee from Bellevue.

[The infamous band. Photo is mine.]

I’m now looking at my watch. It’s 4:14 pm on Tuesday. We’re in a Marriott Courtyard in Fort Lauderdale and I so want to get to the roof-top pool and bask in the 82℉ and read.

So, I’ll speed things up a bit.

We arrived at Room 210. We opened the door. We saw what was essentially two single beds…not true singles, but not double. There were no beach/palm tree paintings on the wall. In fact, there was nothing on the wall. I went into the kitchen and flipped on the light. I opened the cabinet that contained one wine glass, one bowl, one coffee cup, two plates and zero utensils. I checked the bathroom. The water was loudly dripping into a tub with no stopper. I saw my soaking bath fly out of the Venetian blinds. I was momentarily conflicted. Should we accept this and tough it out or should we try to locate another room…or another hotel? I thought: We seasoned travelers and we are adaptable. The the housekeeper left. I flicked the switch on the wall. Nothing. There was no light in the living area. I even pulled the chain on the ceiling fan thinking there was a light up there. There was indeed a light, but the bulb was dead. I ran after the housekeeper who, after looking my panicked eyes, went to another room and returned with a table lamp. I hope the occupants of that room weren’t as needy as I was concerning light.

It wasn’t long before Mariam and I discovered that we were in WiFi Limbo.

Mariam: “I think I remember Big Mama saying that the WiFi was only available in the office, by the pool and in the restaurant. We did have a signal but it was so weak, a slight breeze would blow the WiFi signals out through the Venetian blinds.

We made two trips ($16.00 r/t) to Port Lucaya. The ride was a tediously unbearable six minutes long. On Sunday evening, we visited Port Lucaya for the last time…mostly for two reasons: To have dinner at a civilized late hour and to mail three postcards (one to a friend in the City and one to Brian and one to Erin). We’ll be back home planning our next trip before they get their cards.

So that’s about it. Our voyage back to Florida on the Margaritaville-at-Sea went uneventful save for last night howling nightmare I had. But that’s another story for another time.

I did love the beach at our Resort. Beautiful sand and that sea color I’ve never seen on any artist’s palette. I just wish the Travel Agency had been a little more honest about what we were getting into. Their descriptions were not outright lies. Rather they were grossly misleading and overstated.

We saw a young couple standing outside the office on our second day.

Me: “Enjoying things, so far?”

The Man: “We saw our room. We’ve booked another hotel.”

Me: “Really?”

The Man: “It’s a case of I worked too hard to settle for this.”

I took his point. But I lacked the energy to move out of a house that was very slowly burning down.

[Taken a few hours ago in the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard on N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. I have no idea what it means but I’m sure it has to do with sex. Photo is mine.]

Don’t Be Fooled By Trompe-l’oeil

[Illustration source: Google search. Artist Erik Johansson.]

Why did Van Gogh become a painter?

–Because he didn’t have ear for music.

~~

Whenever my artistic girlfriend is sad, I let her draw on my body…

–I gave her a shoulder to crayon.

~~

I used to do fine arts, until I decided I didn’t like arts.

–Now I’m doing just fine.

~~

When you’re colorblind in an art gallery, every thing is a pigment of your imagination.

~~~

So, as I was saying, I came close to being arrested by the Art Police (Security) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) about two weeks ago. What, you may very well ask, were you doing? Trying to find a cavity in Mary Magdalene’s molar in the Medieval Hall? Did you haggle over the $17.00 glass of wine in the Balcony Lounge? Unwrapping a mummy? Or did you try to slip a halter top on Andromeda in the Sculpture Hall?

Actually it was none of the above.

I had spent more time admiring the newly restored and painted statuary in the Greek and Roman Art Gallery. It was awesome to see the statues in living color. I felt like Marcus Aurelius in flannel-lined jeans. We lingered until Mariam pointed out that she thought there was another exhibition I had mentioned. Yes, I said. There is something about Cubism and something or other on the second floor. I checked my Apple Watch. We had forty-five minutes before we were due at the Balcony Lounge for S. Pellegrino, Chardonnay and Hummus with Pita. We had time. The walk would be good for me. I needed the exercise. We headed for the escalator.

On the way, Mariam pulled out the exhibition folder and said: Here, is this it? It’s called Cubism and the Tromp…I stopped on a dime. Wait, I said. Trump? I’m done here. Let’s go home…No, wait, she said. It’s called Cubism and the Trompe-l’oeil Tradition.

I told her the only French I knew was to say “Zwei bier, bitte”. I had so find a bench to sit. I was shaking. I thought it you said…C’mon, she said. It’s not anything political. I felt relieved. A few minutes later we entered Gallery 199. We walked slowly through the rooms, absorbing the ambience of artistic…art when I spotted something on the wall. I walked over. It was framed (!). But something wasn’t right. There was a nail sticking out. I stared. No, there are several nails sticking out. I glanced around for the Security to alert them to the danger of someone snagging a sweater or a Polo Golf Shirt on those dangerous nails.

[Notice the nails. Photo is mine.]

Upon closer inspection I was astonished to see that it was only a painting of a nail. My tension eased. Besides, the Security Guard, whose name tag read: Richard, was chatting up the red-head Security Guard from Gallery 201, (name tag read: Amber. He was making headway.) I stood back. This was something else indeed. I walked back the first room and read the writing on the wall. Whoa. This was Trompe l’Oeil. I scratched through my fanny pack for my French Phrase Book. It meant the eye deceives. Suddenly, a memory flashed before me. I remember a poster I had back in the early ’70’s. It was M. C. Escher, perhaps one of the most famous graphic artists in a long time. It was all coming back to me…

I returned to Gallery 199 and looked for more. I saw a painting from half-way across the room. I swear it looked like something was painted on wood. Wait, I thought. I assumed that artists used stretched canvas to paint on. Moving closer I was amazed to see that it was a painting of wood on canvas. I was feeling dizzy. This was awesome. This was really fun to look at.

[Indeed. Wood painted on canvas. Photo is mine.]

This was heady stuff. And there was more:

[I wanted to open the curtain a little more. Boy, was I fooled. Photo is mine.]

I felt Mariam pull on my sleeve. Look at that one, she said. I looked. Whoa. I’d better get over there and keep all that stuff from falling on the nicely polished hard-wood floor.

[Fooled again…Photo is mine.]

The painting above impressed me the most. Notice the comb interacting with the leather strap. This was not an exhibit I will easily forget. We walked through a few more rooms. I checked my Apple Watch. Time for hummus at the Balcony Lounge. After paying the bill (large enough to choke a horse) we made for the main exit doors and. There’s a yellow, Mariam said, let’s hurry and get it. I slowly descended the grey granite steps and walked to the cab, passing a saxophone playing the blues…in the rain…on glorious 5th Avenue…under a leaden sky…in the Greatest City in the World.

I was secretly hoping that cab was really there…and not just painted on the pavement.

~ ~ ~

I am sad to say that I lost my M. C. Escher book sometime in the last forty years. (I think it was a Tuesday). In the meantime, I’ve been busy trolling the Internet. Talented street artists have done some mind-blowing work with 3-D visual arts. Here are just a few examples: Enjoy…

[Park Bench. Artist: Julian Beever. Bored Panda.com]

[A common theme in this genre, fear of heights. Source: Google search. Bored Panda.com]

[Source: Google search.]

[Source: Google search. Artist: Erik Johansson]

[Source: Google search. Paste magazine]

[A living room rug to die from for. An advertisment from Tempu.]

[The shower is especially dangerous. Tempu]

A final word to my friends and readers: I apologize for not providing a full description of the artists at the MET. I don’t think I ever forgot my Moleskin notebook before that day in the Museum. The two ads were photos of iPad images. Tough to do. If you’ve enjoyed this post, ‘like’ it and move on with your life…which is, I’m sure, far more interesting than the musing of someone who can barely paint a brick with a brush from Ace Hardware. I never had an art class until I moved to NYC in the early ’90’s. Well, actually I took a six-week Screenprint and Etching course in Poole, England during my year in the UK. Full disclosure: My etching of Durdle Door in Dorset…I did it the way I saw it. But, it will print in the reverse.

Oops, I’ve done it again.

I will leave you with Escher’s most famous pieces. I believe it’s called Waterfall. Find a book about all this. You’ll love it.

[Artist: M. C. Escher. Source: Google search.]