Pokemon Go and Grief Therapy

Poor little angel
Poor little angel

Candidness is one of my attributes, for better or worse. Lately, we’ve suffered through one tragedy after another. The month of May brought a horrible experience with a dog bite on the face of my one-year-old granddaughter at her great-grandmother’s funeral.

We’re still working through those scars.

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Christina Grimmie

June 11th brought the murder in our town of an aspiring musical artist, Christina Grimmie.

Before the shock was over, June 12th, this was followed by the horrific assault on a nightclub wherein forty-nine people lost their lives to a deranged killer, at a place called Pulse. A place my daughter and son-in-law had been fifteen minutes before the first shots were fired.

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Forty-Nine Pulse Victims

Then a young child was snatched from his mother’s hand by a vicious alligator and killed.

Mom and Lane
Mom and Lane

July left us heartbroken when a young man who was staying with us RIP Gabrieland successfully turning his life around was involved in a dirt bike accident that took his life and all the joy he had brought into ours.

Times have been really tough. It’s been a lousy year. But there are good things on the horizon. Naked Alliances, my new crime novel, is on track to be published in late September. I’ll start working with my publicist soon for pre-marketing and the release. There are lots of folk helping in the background to make this happen and to you I am truly grateful.

After Gabriel passed away, I was inundated with grief. Not even able to get out of bed, I lay there and cried for two weeks, not accomplishing much of anything and wallowing in self-pity. Feeling like I was heading full thrust into a bipolar depressive episode, I needed a diversion.

Enter Pokemon Go.

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Yes, a simple game, but one that gets you out of your house, into the sunshine, and around other people enjoying themselves and working together to have fun. I have met people of all ages and from all backgrounds while playing this game. It has brought me out of myself and helped me grow as a person. My Pokemon Go Florida FB group has been an inspiration. There are some wonderful folk in this state.

Yes, I’m still grieving, but I’m not isolating myself, and I’m not obsessing over the worst of things.

Sitting in city parks, I have had deep and meaningful conversations with young people, Gabriel’s age and younger, as well as many much more mature and wiser that I am.

I’ve seen some videos of angry people. I understand that people find it irreverent for folk to be gathered together playing games at certain memorials. I get that. I also get that most of these folk, me included, would have never known about these memorials in isolated places had it not been for the game. I have stumbled upon fabulous places I never knew existed.

It is very simple to write Niantic and have pokestops removed from such places as war memorials. It is NOT necessary to go out trying to pick a fight with young people, assaulting them, punching them in the face, and destroying their property. These young people are finally outside seeing their world, exploring their communities, instead of being closed off in a room somewhere doing much of nothing.

From what I have seen in the many places I have visited these past couple of weeks, players are respectful, taking their trash with them, quietly playing the game, focused on their phones. I’ve not seen any drinking or rowdy behaviors at ANY of the parks. People know not to trespass, and it’s not necessary. The app allows you to touch the screen to bring the pokemon to you rather than you going after it, but some people didn’t know that in the beginning. And new people taking up the game are still learning.

As with anything new, there have been some stupid people driving while playing, not staying aware of their surroundings, and some nasty folk taking advantage of people playing. That’s sad, but for the most part it is a happy thing and loads of fun.

I’m suffering from allergies and a severe head cold at the moment, else I’d be out playing today. Instead, I’m home checking my IV stats and culling my pokemon characters so I have the very best specimens to work with.  It’s something I can mindlessly occupy myself with, steering me away from the dark recesses of a troubled psyche.

Say what you will about the game and the “stupid” people out chasing pokemon, but for somebody who has never understood the allure of athletic sports, fantasy football, and the fortunes in taxes spent on places to play them, and one who has never been able to get into chasing little white balls across pastures with a club either, I’m quite content to enjoy my augmented reality game. For me, it has been a Godsend.

Help Me Name This Character

When I was working for Hospice in the year 2000, I had an assignment that involved delivering morphine to a guy in Hallowpaw, Florida. With a town name like that, you can imagine the characters who live there.

Hallowpaw is a little village that sits out on a swamp in the middle of nowhere about forty miles south of Orlando.

It was pouring rain that day and I drove down a long sandy road with cypress swamp on either side to get to the address. When I arrive in front of the tiny makeshift shack, I turned onto a drive that was flooded in places and wondered if my car would make it out.

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Sitting on the front porch was a huge Haitian man of about four-hundred pounds, give or take a few.

In a foot and a half of murky coffee-colored water, I took my umbrella and waded, in my three inch heels and stockings, to the front steps.

A pillar of smoke rose from his head and I noticed he was smoking a doobie the size of a Cuban cigar, the fragrance unmistakable. I stepped up onto the porch, introduced myself and took a seat across from him. It was then that I saw the two foot alligator on a leash that he held in his hand. It lay quietly on the floor a few inches from my wet feet.

He was jovial, but obviously in pain, wincing with every move. I handed him his bag and he told me a couple of swamp stories and I was on my way.

A couple of months later I was in Washington, D.C. attending a luncheon hosted by Elizabeth Dole’s  secretary, where I was asked to describe a day in the life of a Hospice nurse. Hospice was a relatively new concept in this country at that time. We were trying to get political support.

The day I met the Haitian man came to mind because it was a full day. I had to leave him, go home and shower, and be at the top of the Winter Park Towers to give a presentation to a bunch of doctors and suits on the benefits of Hospice services and the feasibility of instituting an inpatient suite of beds in their facility. Next, I had to meet with a family in their home to process an admission of their dying family member. Those appointments took me from sunrise to way after sunset. I thought that day offered a comprehensive overview of what Hospice nurses do.

First lady: Did you call the police and report the illegal drugs?

Me: No, I was there to deliver his morphine. I doubt if anything he was imbibing in was anymore detrimental to his health than his disease or his narcotics.

Second lady: Did you call the Humane Society or Animal Control about the alligator?

Me: The man was dying. If he found some pleasure in entertaining himself with an alligator while getting high, who am I to wreck his fun.

They didn’t seem at all interested in my day beyond the flaws they found in that situation. I guess those stuffy, high society ladies had never seen the real Florida.

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I told you about this man because I’m thinking of working him into this book, Naked Malice, as an ancillary character.

He was a storyteller and I’m certain he knew all the secrets the swamp could hold in his area. I need people who know secrets of the swamp for this story. I mentioned him in Red Clay and Roses, but I really want to bring him to life in this next book. I’d like the old man to be immortal. I can’t recall his name. Any suggestions?

He was Haitian, so I’m thinking something with a bit of Creole French, but also need something that suits his quirky character or swamp life.

Book Two in the Naked Eye Series Sprouts Wings

Being introduced to Social Services at a very early age as a result of entering the foster care program, I have always had an interest in social issues.

With my debut novel, Red Clay and Roses, I focused on the inequalities of people living in the Deep South during the 1950s-60s, Women’s Rights, and Civil Rights as I told the stories of a black family and an independent, high-spirited white woman and her relationship with an African-American man who was in medical school and became very active in the Civil Rights Movement.

For a long time, I pondered over how my social issues of interest could be written into genre specific novels. Historical fiction was not conducive to current issues, except by virtue of how it is that current issues came to be issues at all.

I read across many genres and have always loved a good crime novel. But what is “good” to me may differ from what is “good” to you. I enjoy the witty comedy of crime that is characteristic of Serge and Coleman in Tim Dorsey’s work. I love the way Carl Hiaasen integrates current issues and history into his eco-thrillers and crime stories along with humor. Randy Wayne White fascinates me with the historical elements of place and time and contemporary elements of technology and current events. Tim Baker keeps me amused with his iconic justice for Florida weirdo criminals. They are more than crime novels, they are adventure stories. Not gritty noir, not hardcore city streets…but regional crime fiction that illuminates the unique culture that is Florida.

With this in mind, I set out to write my first crime novel, Naked Alliances. My goal was to write a Florida regional crime fiction novel that addressed the social issue and crime of sex-trafficking. I chose a private investigator as a protagonist because they have the unique ability to sometimes skirt the law to accomplish their goals, yet have boundaries they are governed by. (Though, sometimes, my P.I. oversteps these.) Richard Noggin is a bit naive, and a bit scattered, but both brave and intelligent, in his own way. I wanted him to have a female co-protagonist who was strong, smart, and skilled…but not necessarily traditionally feminine. Brandi, a transsexual exotic dancer, who was a cop briefly, and served time in the military as an E.O.D. Specialist, became his sidekick.

I’m not a comedian, but wanted there to be opportunity for subtle humor, while keeping the social issues and crimes serious. To that ends, I’m quite satisfied with book one in the Naked Eye Series.

Naked Alliances should be released this September, if all goes well.

In keeping with Florida themed social issues and crime, I have completed the outline of my next book, titled Naked Malice.

Richard Noggin, P.I., a gambler, sets out to investigate the suspicious death of his investment partner and friend, Milton Rexrode, in Vegas, but another death at the Reedy Creek Kennel Club and Card Room raises his suspicions that another investment partner is guilty of murder. But when a string of young Seminole men in the 3320 member Seminole Nation die under suspicious circumstances, and the Federal agents investigating rule the deaths accidents, Council Elders fear these are crimes against humanity in a conspiracy to commit genocide.

Each and every Seminole man, woman and child receives a check of from $7000. to $150,000 per year from the tribes’ gaming industry and non-gaming enterprises. The tribes have quickly gone from poverty to immense wealth over the past three decades. With a new generation that has never lived in the thatched roof chickees of their ancestors, or suffered the deplorable conditions of reservation life in the sixties and seventies, new problems arise as they receive distributions that lead the young people to believe they do not need to go to school or work for a living. Crime, excessive gambling, financial irresponsibility, and drug and alcohol problems threaten the existence of their culture. This is the skeleton that forms the basis of my next crime novel.

Huge efforts are being made to bring the youth back into the fold and keep the nation and its culture intact.

The Seminoles were not originally a single tribe. They were an alliance of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia natives that banded together in the 1700’s to fight the European invaders, including people from the Creek, Miccosukee, Hitchiti and Oconee tribes. Later the alliance became even closer, and today the Seminoles are a united sovereign nation, even though their people speak two languages and have different cultural backgrounds.

I really want to shine a good light on the Seminoles. In recent years, they’ve taken a lot of heat for irresponsible fiscal management, and I’m trying to use the story to demonstrate the positives that are coming out of their progress.

Ten Rationales for Atypical Florida Criminals

Florida is notorious for it’s crazy, whacked-out criminals and bizarre news headlines. Almost everybody has heard about Florida Man…

If you haven’t, you can read all about him here: Tremendous Things Florida Men Accomplished this Year.

And another run down here catches quite a few more: Year in Florida Man 2015.

He’s not one guy. He’s the beginning of many of the bizarre news headlines that come out of Florida or other places where Florida Man has visited.

“Florida Man Throws Alligator into Wendy’s Drive Thru Window”

“Florida Man Tries to Rob Liquor Store with Dead Sting Ray”

“Florida Man Arrested in Utah After Calling 911 Eighty Times to Report Chicken McNuggets Shortage”

“Florida Man Breaks into Jail to Visit Friends”

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But he’s not alone. He’s in the company of quite a few Florida Women as you can see here: 50 Most Insane Florida News Headlines of All Times.

And if you would like to keep up with the latest, you can follow @_FloridaMan and @_FloridaWoman on Twitter.

Other states have weirdos, but Florida seems to produce them quicker than feral cats multiply. Why?

Let’s look at the possibilities:

  1. The weather is too nice to stay in school, so ignorance is rampant.
  2. Intense exposure to sunshine fries brain cells.
  3. Governor Rick Scott refuses to accept Federal aid for mental health.
  4. Sand in their underwear causes constant irritation.
  5. There is more alcohol consumed than water.
  6. There is meth in the salt shakers.
  7. Other states give their criminals bus tickets to Florida upon release.
  8. Pesticides and herbicides from all the golf courses have warped their DNA.
  9. Lightening causes an altered acceptable level of reality.
  10. Our jail cells are more comfortable than our affordable hotels or homeless shelters.

I’m not sure if any of my theories are correct, but I’m positive it’s never going to change. These bizarre criminals are getting younger and younger. Since 2011, there have been three stories of teens dressing up as physicians and working in hospital E.R.s and CCUs, even OB/GYN clinics and getting away with it for months…not days, but months.

How do we let this happen?

Seriously. We’re as messed up as the criminals.

What’s your theory?

A Little Progress After a Very Emotional Week

It’s taken a good week to clear my head after the tragic shooting. How close to home it was – I nearly lost my daughter and son-in-law, my grandchildren could have been parent-less – in ways that would have changed my life dramatically. I keep the deceased in mind, but I also keep reminding myself that two-hundred seventy people there that night lived. It has changed my life. I went to the vigil downtown at Lake Eola. I felt surrounded by compassionate people, yet feared the very crowd there to offer support.

Vigil

I already have some social anxieties. I despise small talk with superficial people. Small groups of twenty or thirty don’t bother me, but crowds of hundreds of thousands make my knees weak. There were over 50,000 at the vigil. We were on the far side of the lake, but could still hear the speakers and the music. The music touched me deeply and made me cry. But I wasn’t the only one. I’ve never seen so many people in one place crying so many tears. To hear the talk, it wasn’t simply the forty-nine lost, it’s the direction of the nation that makes people sad. And then, there were the many tears of joy in seeing so much support.

Today, I am back at my computer and working on getting my files resubmitted to CreateSpace. I’ve chosen a template, though it wasn’t ideal, I think it will work. The fonts for the suggested “Mystery/Thriller/Suspense” genre called “Edgy, Bold and Unexpected” were way over-the-top and looked more like sci-fi. I went with one under “Modern, Clean and Contemporary”. I’m not impressed with the scene break fleuron, three small blocks. I won’t have chapter titles, just large numerals placed off to the right side of the chapter pages. Under this package, you’re not allowed to change anything, substitute fonts, fleurons or lay-outs in any way.

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I liked the lay-out and fleuron best under one of the “Edgy, Bold, and Unexpected”…but the fonts were all wrong. The “Steelfish” font of the option I liked best was just too futuristic.

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I guess it’s trade-offs to get it done as simply, affordably, and painlessly as possible.

I’m only allowed one interior image, so I’m using my Book Imprint image on the title page. I won’t have an author photo. I use my initials to publish in order to prevent people from instantly being turned off by a female author. No need to have the author image there. Anybody wants to know, they can go to my author page or see my image on Amazon. My bio is a bit generic, but I do mention my husband.

My husband is also mentioned in my dedication this time. He’s been super supportive.

I have a special acknowledgement, then there are more acknowledgements in the back.

I’m waiting now for a couple of endorsements from other authors who have read the book. Those will go on the back cover, or front cover depending on what the cover designer has to say. He’s eagerly waiting in the wings. Of course, I have to acquire the page count and specs from finishing the interior before he can make the spine to the necessary specs.

I submitted interior files to CreateSpace, but had a blank page with the words “blank page” written on it. They rejected it and told me to correct it. Hmmm…I was like, “You can just delete that and move on?”, but apparently the file owner has to make all the changes with this package. I had some page breaks to add also. Hoping this one goes through.

It’s progress.

The nice thing is that I am finally to a point with this where I feel comfortable starting the next project. I’m torn between two stories as to which to produce next. One involves an ecological issue concerning Reedy Creek (a man-made creek Disney started when draining swamp land) and murder and the other missing persons. Either book will carry over some on-going material from the first book. Though the missing persons story seems like it will be more fun to write, the ecological issue/murder really takes precedence in the story arch.

As things are falling into place with Naked Alliances, I’m feeling a strong sense of relief. It’s been a long haul. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

We are Orlando. Let us Grieve.

I’ve lived in the Orlando area since 1997. From a small town in GA, when I came here, I spent my first three years closed up in my little house, afraid. I was scared to venture out beyond the confines of my little world. I came from a place where everyone knew each other’s name and I had dozens of friends. Here, there were only strangers. I made a few friends at the resort where I was living and they insisted on taking me out to see the city.

 

I fell in love with the beautiful city. Each enclave offered its lakes and parks, alfresco cafes, and night spots. At thirty-six, with a good career in nursing, single, and an extroverted personality, I made a world of friends. These were people with all sorts of backgrounds, from millionaires to paupers, every race, creed, culture, and gender imaginable. The diversity was part of the beauty of it. The people were warm, accepting and caring, always treating each other with respect. Beautiful people accepting me without question. So many people from so many places.

 

There were a couple of neighborhoods I was warned to stay away from because I was told crime was rampant and it wasn’t safe. I didn’t venture there. I went to “safe” places. I went to clubs like Blackfin, Sky Sixty, Cactus Club, Pulse, The Peacock Room, Embers and Tabu. These weren’t “gay” clubs, but due to the fact that Orlando has high population of LGBT people, the clubs were frequented by a variety of people. Yes, you heard that right, Pulse is not a gay club. It is an Orlando Nightclub…like dozens of others, where gay and straight people mingle, share hopes and dreams, talk about life, dance and drink, socialize, and come to know that we aren’t so very different.

 

We don’t ask people what their sexual orientation or gender identity is before we take the cab they’re driving, before they bag our groceries, pour our drink, take our food order, assign our hotel room, draw our blood, prescribe our medication, or sell us a house. It’s not something we think about as we go about our daily living. It doesn’t matter. We come to realize that we are them and they are us.

 

We live, play, work, and socialize together, and we are safe, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity. We are around beautiful, accepting, loving individuals who support each other. That’s the Orlando I have learned to love.

 

The traffic is awful, the city is crowded, particularly in winter, crime creeps out of the ghettos from time to time, the bus schedule is terrible, we can wait over an hour for a cab—as  a city, it has its share of problems—sexual orientation and gender identity do not factor into Orlando’s list of problems. To the contrary, we’re all working together to resolve any problems we have in this city.

 

I’m a grandmother now, no longer out in the clubbing scene. My children are in their thirties. My daughter and son-in-law have reached maturity here. Their friends are as diverse as my own. My son-in-law works downtown at various restaurants and has become acquainted with many.

 

Saturday, June 12th, was my son-in-law’s birthday. I agreed to keep the grandkids so they could go out on the town to celebrate. The three kids were to spend the night with me. Daddy and Mama went to a scheduled concert. They love music and dancing. After the concert they took a cab to SkySixty and danced a while. They went to Pulse, as it was a mere half mile from their home.

 

They arrived at 1:00 am. They had a couple of drinks, but the dance floor was crowded and the Latin Reggae was loud. I had texted them that my grandson was crying for his mama and daddy. They both got on the phone to console him. They decided not to stay for last call. They left and stopped by Walgreen’s on Michigan on the way home. Their receipt reads 1:55 am.

 

Sunday morning, I logged onto FaceBook and saw the breaking news. I dropped my coffee cup and grabbed the phone. I had not heard from my daughter since that phone call after 1:00 am. I called her number. It went straight to voice mail. I called my son-in-law’s number and it, too, went to voice mail.

 

I got into my car and drove the ten blocks to their house and banged on the door. No answer. I called my husband in tears. He told me to come home. I sat for hours waiting to hear something while the kids slept in the next room.

 

At 11:30 am I saw a FB post from my s-i-l saying they had been at Pulse 15 minutes before the tragedy. I called again and finally reached my daughter. She was home safe and had not heard me knocking. Her sleep had been disrupted by the helicopters flying overhead all night. She was unaware of what had happened at Pulse only minutes after they had left until her husband told her. She rushed to my home to hug her kids…to hug her kids like so many weren’t able to do that morning. My few hours of wondering and waiting are nothing compared to the despair of the hundreds that never made contact, they will never see their loved ones alive again.

 

My s-i-l and daughter had seen the man in a dark shirt and pants who looked out of place, off by himself, sipping a drink. Not mingling with the crowd, not dressed like the crowd. He stood out to them. He calmly scanned the room as if he were waiting on someone. They remember the faces of people talking, laughing, dancing, and having a good time.

 

I was saddened, but felt relief at the same time. How dare I?

 

Gratitude mingled with a darker, deeper pain than I had felt in my entire life.

 

Today. Another day that many won’t be able to share in.

 

Today. Through the tears, the eyes of Orlandoans speak to each other now of shared pain, loss, deep sadness, disbelief — and support. We’re sharing our soul with the world.

 

The eyes meet, and there is an instant and undeniable bonding. Family, friends, acquaintances, total strangers on the street, people sitting in a McDonalds, seeking guidance in a house of worship, in line at a blood bank, dropping flowers at a vigil, delivering pizzas to volunteers around hospitals, mayors, cops, people just out wandering because they don’t know what else to do, journalists…all of us.

 

We look at each other, and we know. We’re in this together: our flesh, our blood, our very lives; even now, the fear that someone we know, or the possibility that we already know of someone we know, was ruthlessly, meaninglessly, terrifyingly, tragically attacked when a man entered a nightclub with guns and shot and shot and shot.

 

It’s personal here.

This is so unexpected.

 

Not the attack. I think every American wonders today if they’ll be in that school or theater or office or post office or church or nightclub when that guy, heavily armed and bent on horror, enters. We all knew it could happen here. We might in our wildest nightmares never have thought it could be so awful. But the sad truth is, it was no surprise.

 

What is so unexpected is the widespread phenomena we’re witnessing of ordinary Orlandoans speaking to each other through those eyes, past the tears, with that look that says, we’re in this together.

 

“So, where are you from?”

 

We’re from here now, baby, Orlando, the City Beautiful. The City Sad.

 

And that soul, yeah, it’s here. How else could a simple nod make strangers feel like brothers and sisters? We’re in this together.

 

From Kissimmee to Sanford, Bithlo to Clermont and especially in the neighborhoods of the city proper, the Soul of Orlando is baring itself.

 

It’s tough yet open, forced to be dynamic and flexible because of all the new people arriving, because of the need to make close friends quickly with people from anywhere, and of any background. It’s willing to embrace people it did not know, and new places and new things.

 

Yes, Orlando is a city of theme parks and hotels and restaurants and all kinds of touristy things. They’re not for Orlandoans. They’re where Orlandoans work. That maid in the hotel: she might be from Puerto Rico. She might have lost her son Sunday morning. And if so, when she’s done making beds, she’ll go home to her little house in Azalea Park and cry, just as she did all day Sunday. That waiter in the restaurant: he might be from a small town in Arkansas. He might have lost his partner or spouse Sunday morning. And if so, after he’s done serving $30 steaks to conventioneers on expense accounts, he’ll go home to his bungalow in Thornton Park and cry. That Cinderella: she might be an actress from Chicago. She might have lost her best friend Sunday morning. And if so, when she’s done smiling for pictures with a hundred more children who need only for her to smile, she’ll go home to her apartment in Dr. Phillips and cry.

 

With luck, their neighbors, the bank tellers and office managers and appliance salesmen whom the out-of-towners will never meet, will come over with casseroles or bottles, hugs and tissues. They all are bound by the Soul of Orlando. They are Orlando.

 

So America, just talk to us like we’re humans, not votes. We’re just flesh and blood, as you can see. 

 

The talk from the local leaders when they’re not saying the obligatory things about the facts of the case, when they’re talking about what they really want to talk about, it’s about Orlando togetherness, and community. It’s talk about how the community came together with nourishment, water, and blood…and most significantly, love.

 

It’s not just words. It’s balm, from one Orlandoan to another.

 

Some other people, mostly from out of town, already are making the Pulse nightclub massacre about issues such as radical Islamic terrorism, the need for gun control, open carry, immigration, hateful things about gays, red meat for the partisan base, and, ultimately, elections.

 

To them, we Orlandoans say, with no due respect whatsoever, STFU. More politely, that means, stop. Please. And the lieutenant governor of Texas can go to hell. Trump and Hillary can go to hell…already pledging to attack Isis, when there is no evidence that Isis or Syria was involved in the design of this attack. Yes, the killer had influences. He was psychologically deranged. We all have influences. Don’t use them to be like him.

 

Orlandoans are not ready for any of that yet. The rest of America might be, but the rest of America is not Orlando, where we’re in shock, where we’re hurting in a way we could have never imagined. America, we just need you to give us a moment.

 

Let us grieve for a while before you make it about whatever it is you want to make it about.

 

This is a community mourning 49 dead, 53 wounded, and more than a million hearts with holes in them. It’s a lot of partners and spouses, family and friends, co-workers and neighbors of the dead and wounded, who need nothing more than support. And it’s the rest of us grappling with what we can do, whom we can help, how we can be there for all the rest, and how, in the meantime, we can address these holes in our own hearts. Because we’re all Orlandoans now. A nod’s a good start. A hug. A tissue. A shared cry.

 

And we know it won’t end there. Maybe for the first time, for the worst possible reason, we know:

We are Orlando.

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Leaving the World Behind

Nothing is more satisfying than getting away from the rush and crush that is city and deadlines. Most of my deadlines are self-imposed, but the pressure is heavy just the same. My best inspiration comes from getting out into the spaces that are quickly being overrun by modern society.

We took off with the boat for the Gulf Coast.  There’s a certain sort of serenity and peace that sweeps over you when you find yourself miles away from civilization and surrounded by nature that is usually unseen and often taken for granted. Like this huge sand bar at Big Pass off the coast of Siesta Key.

Our friend, Gabriel walking on water.
Our friend, Gabriel, walking on water.

My husband spent his teen years here on the Key and it was pleasantly nostalgic for him and for me to share in his history there. We netted a few dozen soft shell blue crabs, which are in season now. They are scrumptious when lightly battered and deep fried. This next pic is the $10,000,000.00 house that was built on the lot that his father’s old house was bulldozed off of…funny thing is…you don’t need a ten million dollar house for the same glorious views you can get if you have a boat. There are a few 1950s hold-outs tucked between the $20,000,000 mansions here and there.

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The RS told us stories of his youth, streaking across his college campus, making the front page of the local paper and becoming airborne in his VW bug when topping a hill, only to fine the cops sitting at the foot of the hill when he landed. Willful and wanton reckless driving was the charge (following a few dozen more) that suspended his license and had him riding a bicycle to college, thirty-six miles round trip, for the rest of the semester.

Many days he pulled his little skiff out to the sand bar and spent time alone absorbing the splendor of spiritual moments in tune with greater aspects of our universe…internal and external.

A couple enjoying the view and some quiet time on Big Pass Sand Bar
A couple enjoying the view and some quiet time on Big Pass Sand Bar

We’re hoping to be able to leave Central Florida and move closer to the Gulf Coast when the RS retires. We try to spend as much time as possible over that way. There have been some nice stays in top-of-the-line resorts, but our favorite thing to do is to find a little affordable waterfront hotel with no dress code and a quaint dockside marina where we can park the boat and chill for a few days with no worries.

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Meeting up with a good friend for lunch at Star Fish Company Restaurant 

I look forward to days when the grandchildren are a little older and we can take them out and share the splendor of the area before it’s all spoiled. It’s getting harder and harder to find such places in Florida. Old World Florida is slipping away beneath the concrete of condos and high dollar establishments as New World Florida smothers the best the area has to offer.

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People pay big money to leave the massive condos for dinner tours to watch the sunset, and it’s becoming more challenging to find a spot to watch it undisturbed by all things modern and convenient.

June staycation Sarasota 2016 034

Sometimes giving up conveniences is just the prescription you need to get your head and your heart in order. But I have to admit, it’s nice to have a well tricked out boat with GPS and a depth finder.

E-Cig Forum Porchers Odyssey I

Upon return from week-long vacation with the vapers who literally saved my life, getting me off the stinkies, I had about 1000 emails. Needless-to-say, I couldn’t get to everyone, but I scanned through them all and commented where I could.

We had a blast with a group of sixteen that had gathered from around the country to share a house on Anna Maria Island. We had never met in person. I took a friend from Texas that we were hosting, and who had never seen the ocean, to the Atlantic before we joined the group. It is such a joy to see the world we take for granted through someone else’s eyes. We sat in Breakers Restaurant looking out over the ocean while we dined, sea breezes wafting through the windows.

She was a hoot. Afflicted with severe RA, she was determined to get in the water. We stepped with trepidation through the sand. Then she turned to me and said, “Hold my stuff.” With that, she marched straight toward the water on a mission. I didn’t try to stop her. It was a lifelong-long dream.

After crashing through the surf, a wave finally yanked her down and the smile on her face was worth a thousand sorrows. She swam and rolled in the water until the waves brought her back to the beach. I knew I couldn’t get her up by myself, but that’s what hard-bodied life guards are for…so I fetched her a couple. Another reason to smile. 🙂

The next day we joined the group in Anna Maria with our boat. I would have never expected to meet up with the most wonderful crowd that showed up at the Odyssey. We enjoyed their company immensely. The laughter, great food, awesome stories of more than a dozen lives shared, and the hugs touched me deeply.

Turquoise water, tropical breezes, sun, and fun is over for now, but the memories will live in my heart forever. It was an incredible, fantastic week and smiley was with us all the way while people marked things off their bucket list.

Odysssey I 083
En-route to Parasailing Adventure
The entire motley crew.
The entire motley crew.
Me waving good-bye
Me waving good-bye

A Naked Alliances Christmas

We’re getting close to Christmas and I thought I would swing by and check on my two leading characters from Naked Alliances, Richard Noggin, P.I. and Brandi, an exotic dancer. When I left them around the end of October, they were dining at Harbor Lights restaurant admiring the yachts moored on Tampa Bay.

Richard’s gay neighbors, Dave and Steve, decorated the palm tree in their front yard. I’d like to point out why palm trees don’t make good Christmas trees down here in Florida.

palm tree-christmas
Are words needed?

~~~

Brandi knocked at the door of the coral pink cottage in Thornton Park, her military-green canvas messenger bag slung over her shoulder. She rested the fir tree against a post. Richard opened the door in his boxers with a beer in his hand. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Who were you expecting? The date who likely stormed out when you undressed?”

“What’s the tree for? I don’t do Christmas.”

“This year you are.” She hugged the tree, pushing her way through the door. “I could use some help with this thing.”

“I’m allergic,” he said.

“And I’m not backing down. You’ve spent a week, since our four week vacation at the Lagoon, shut up in this house feeling sorry for yourself and we’re going to have Christmas.” Propping the tree against the living room window, she pulled back the blinds, went out onto the porch, lifted a cardboard box, and returned to the living room. “This is Christmas stuff I borrowed from the Parliament House.”

“Oh great, bobbles made from boa feathers and glittered, butterfly eyelashes.”

“They’re shiny and sparkly.”

“So are Harley parts.”

“Don’t be such a spoil sport and grab yourself a few.” Standing the tree upright, she forced it into the stand she had brought with her.

Richard slugged back his last swallow of Miller Lite, set his can on the coffee table and reached into the box, pulling out a wrapped gift with his name on it. “Awww, you shouldn’t have done this.”

“You can open it now or put it under the tree.”

“I haven’t gotten a Christmas present in years.”

“It’s nothing, really, just a little something to lighten your mood.”

Richard tore into the paper, opened the box and grinned ear to ear. Snapping open the case, tears welled in his eyes. Trying not to blink, he reached into the case. “A golden Desert Eagle, 50 caliber, hand cannon, and she’s a pretty girl. This is too much.”

“I thought you might need a replacement for Desiree, since you had to feed her to the alligators. Do you really think that was necessary?”

“More than necessary.” Grabbing her around the neck, he pulled her close and kissed her cheek. “I did a bit of Christmas shopping for you, too.” He opened the coat closet door and pulled out a monstrous-sized bag from the Millennial Mall. “Haven’t had time to wrap it though.”

“You didn’t!”

“I did. I have to confess I didn’t know my way around the store, but I asked for the best.”

Brandi snatched the bag, looked inside and screamed. “It’s a leather, large-frame Prada tote. I’ve never owned a real purse before. It’s beautiful. For a guy who doesn’t do Christmas, you did it quite well.” She slung the bag onto her shoulder, pulled the purse close and sniffed it.

“It was the biggest they had and the lady tells me they’re quite fashionable. I know how you like to have all your necessaries with you, and they do come in handy.”

Brandi grabbed him around the neck and squeezed. He winced, but hugged her back as best he could.

“You’re the best boss ever!”

“Partner, the best partner.”