Well, it’s done. Two & a half years at USF & it’s all over. That doesn’t seem like something that should have snuck up on me but it’s a weird feeling to suddenly have this chapter of my life closed.
I’ve been applying for jobs but haven’t gotten anything yet. Maybe I’ll go on a road trip.
In other news, I watched a bazillion bats fly out of a huge bat house at Fort Cooper State Park. There were also two owls hanging out there obviously waiting for the bat smorgasbord to begin, which must be really stressful for the poor bats but was really interesting for me.
Irma turned out not to be nearly as big of a deal in West Central Florida as they kept telling us she would be. In fact, the biggest problems we had stemmed from the total mismanagement of the shelter we were in.
We were supposed to be in the elementary school but they had too many people showing up so we ended up in the high school without anyone ever telling the Red Cross we were there so we had no access to the resources they were bringing in. Because we were the overflow section they were winging it, sticking people wherever, applying the rules here & there when they felt like it. I guess after days of telling everyone to get out they didn’t actually expect anyone to do it. It was pretty amazing on Sunday morning, with this monster storm bearing right down on us, all the hundreds of people who started showing up, a lot of them totally unprepared with no bedding, no cages for their pets, pretty much nothing.
They only had regular coffee so everybody drank that & sat around talking ALL. NIGHT. LONG. making it pretty much impossible to sleep in the echoing gym.
At one point an older lady came in the side door of our hall & said she just wanted to let us know that they were bringing four dogs through. Someone asked if they were bad, and she said yes, two are aggressive. Then a younger woman came & said she was bringing “four bad dogs” in. They brought them through to one of the locker rooms because these people were too stupid to bring cages, but by then the whole hall was in an uproar because nobody wanted to be anywhere near these dogs. They brought in someone who I think worked for animal control & was there to keep tabs on all the dogs, who then decided because these people had aggressive uncaged animals, they should get a whole locker room all to themselves! As they were moving around the younger woman said that the problems were because “people don’t know what aggressive means” & something about the dogs getting up in your face. OK, if you think that an “aggressive” dog is one that “gets up in your face,” YOU’RE the one who doesn’t know what aggressive means! Somehow these people had “made arrangements” with animal control the day before, something none of us with well-behaved, controlled dogs had been able to do. The complaints continued until the Animal Control employee brought in a Sheriff’s deputy & told him he would have to deal with it because she’d been yelled at all day. Eventually the people left with their dogs, according to the younger woman they were leaving because her mom (I guess the older lady) was freaking out “because somebody had to open their big f***ing mouth” ummm…yeah, that was Y’ALL, when YOU BOTH described your dogs as aggressive! The rest of us probably wouldn’t have noticed if YOU hadn’t said it!
An older couple in one of the other locker rooms moved all their stuff out into the hall, including their dog, an unassuming cocker spaniel, because I guess there was a two-year-old in there SHRIEKING & they just couldn’t take it anymore. Around lockdown time the Animal Control employee who had been so nice to the people with the big mean dogs got after them for having their quiet smallish dog in the hallway & argued with them about it before finally threatening to call the deputies back down! The lady said “yes, bring them down, they can kick me out but I’m not going back in there!” Eventually they moved them & a couple of other people into the locker room vacated by the mean dog people, including one woman who had been sleeping in the hallway but moved her dogs out of the room with the two-year-old. I can’t even imagine having a kid so out of control that people in a disaster situation don’t even want their DOGS around him/her.
They kept saying that all pets had to be in their crates & everyone had to be in their camps by 6 because they were locking things down to keep everyone safe, OK fine. They locked the pet hall (which you had to go outside to get to) so nobody could go in but never actually stopped anyone from going outside. People were allowed to go out & smoke, but nobody could so much as visit their pets, never mind take them outside or even walk them up & down the hallway, so they were locked in their cages for 12+ hours for basically no reason except It’s The Rules. My mom’s dog is a tiny, elderly, quiet poodle who stuffs easily into a sleeping bag & doesn’t move for hours at a time so we got one over on the mean Animal Control woman & kept her with us all night.
They made us gather all of our stuff up at 2:30 in the morning to run through ankle-deep water in an open walkway in the middle of the hurricane to the cafeteria because after 5 hours of pouring rain someone finally noticed that the water in the courtyard wasn’t going anywhere & was about to come pouring into the hallway where we were trying to sleep. The people in charge were out there digging around up to their knees in water trying to find the drain & get it unclogged, which they finally were able to do before all the people in the gym had to be moved.
Finally, around 6 am, we were in the eye of what was then a minor storm that was rapidly breaking up & people were frustrated enough that they wanted to just get out of there. The first announcement was that they couldn’t stop us from leaving but they couldn’t say for certain if it was safe for us to do so until the deputies had had a chance to go see what the road conditions were like. A little later another announcement said, essentially, that it was safe outside so we should gather up our crap & get out. I think they were as sick of us as we were of them.
The one gas station in Hernando that actually had gas had a line from the pumps, around through one of the stalls of the car wash next door, & about another half-mile down the road, which is pretty amazing since it looked like that before the storm too so I have no clue what everybody did with all the gas they were buying then. That was the only time I actually saw anything close to violence – somebody tried to cut the line & the people behind them ran them off.
Once we got a look at things it really seemed like Irma just made a mess. Some trees & power lines down, the occasional metal overhang roof peeled back like the top of a tin can, but it didn’t look like anybody’s houses had flooded or blown away, at least not on the inland halves of the counties I drove through. There are still a lot of people without power, but the worst real damage I saw was a number of large trees down in a yard around the corner, that was likely because of one of the mini tornadoes Irma was spinning off rather than the hurricane herself. My mom’s yard was covered with twigs & Spanish moss, a situation quickly remedied by hiring a couple of neighborhood teens to rake it all up. Temple Terrace was largely untouched, my neighbor said the ducks that hang out in our complex’s pond had a great time in the storm.
I certainly have no desire to do the storm shelter thing again after this ridiculous experience. There’s probably a lot of other people who were there who will be more likely to try to weather storms at home now too. So thank you, overzealous newscasters desperately trying to make yourselves interesting & county officials who don’t know how to organize anything properly. Thanks for that.
My shelter experience & aftermath of the storm can be read here.
Most of you probably know that we’ve been watching Hurricane Irma barrelling at us for the last week or so. I was going to ride out the storm in my mom’s house in Hernando, figuring with the path she was taking she would have slowed significantly by the time she got so far north. Then she decided to swing to the west & pummel Tampa instead of Miami. We can’t drive north because the entire population of Florida is already out on the roads and taking a direct hit from a Category 2 hurricane in a manufactured home isn’t really an option so we’re in a high school gymnasium for the duration.
It was a total zoo getting in here, literally and figuratively. We came here because it’s a pet-friendly shelter so my mom’s dog and a couple hundred other pets are here, stacked in their crates in a hallway around the corner. We waited in line for an hour to get her registered, alongside many other barking dogs, yowling cats, and even a handful of screeching parrots. Then we had to take her to another building because the first one was full, and send her away with some guy because the new pet area wasn’t ready for the public to be in yet. But I’ve seen her since & she’s alright, aside from I’m sure being very confused & trying to bury her food so the dogs in the cages around her can’t get it.
Besides being in an open gym with a hundred strangers this isn’t so bad. They’re feeding us 3 meals a day, there’s wifi, & we have air mattresses to sleep on. It’s kind of amazing how many people are here thinking they’re going to sleep on the hard floor with only a blanket under them. Little tip – air mattresses, flashlights, batteries, bottled water, & bread all fly off the shelves during a disaster, to the point where they are totally unavailable, so stock up early.
Every store I’ve been to the shelves are picked clean of emergency supplies. I’m not totally sure why, since most people have perfectly good tap water to fill containers with & generally buy more than one day’s worth of food at a time, but I guess panic begets panic. In one Winn-Dixie I was watching people snag cases of water off of a couple pallets they’d just put out, then when I wandered back to the meat section I found gallon jugs of water that everyone was ignoring.I heard stories about trucks getting mobbed when they brought more water to the stores & somebody getting stabbed for gasoline. There’s a bunch of National Guard people here at the school so things shouldn’t get too crazy. See you on the other side!
The Sarasota Chalk Festival is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, except for being held in Venice. Every year artists gather from all over to create incredible, temporary works on a side runway of the little Venice airport over the course of a single weekend, alongside local food vendors and musicians. This year’s theme was Love & Peace, so there were many hearts and peace signs, peace hand gestures, several appearances by the Beatles, lots of lion & lamb symbolism. Some of the work was based on classical art, some was original, but it was all amazing. They start on Friday so I went on Sunday figuring they’d have a lot done by then and they did, but most were still working which is really the point. The festival is more about the performance than the end product.
Also during the festival have 3D pavement paintings; these are done in a distorted style that gives them a three-dimensional aspect when viewed from just the right spot. Bring a fisheye lens if you have one, if not, they usually had tripods set up with little fisheye viewer things that you could look or photograph through to get the effect. The artists will even let people walk out onto the pieces to have their pictures taken within the art.
Entry cost $10 for adults, $5 for students and was free for kids under 13. They also sell multi-day passes but I don’t remember how much those were. Besides the professionals there was an area where anyone could draw and the little kids were having a lot of fun with that. The only complaint I had was that it was crowded, go early or even on Monday if you can swing it and don’t mind not seeing the artists actually working since I think they’re basically done by then.
St. Petersburg is one of a handful of pretty little cities out on the peninsula between Tampa Bay & the Gulf of Mexico. With beautiful beaches & palm-lined streets it’s been a tourist destination since the beginning of tourism.
The Museum of History is on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier, which juts out into Tampa Bay & is currently closed for construction. It’s a small but interesting museum, $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $9 for children, military, & students (this was the first place I got a discount with my student ID!). Their permanent exhibits include an Egyptian mummy, general area history, aviation, a few signs about pirates, and for some reason two rooms filled with nothing but autographed baseballs. When I went in April they had a shipwreck exhibit on that showed models & artifacts as well as the technology involved in finding the wrecks & retrieving small bits from them.
Model of the paddlewheeler Republic. The screen behind has an interactive program to explore the wreck through videos & high-res photos.
Just around the corner is the Museum of Fine Arts ($17/adults, $15/seniors/military, $10/children/students), which holds many works from some of history’s greatest artists in its permanent collection. After viewing ancient pieces from all over the world, I found myself in the presence of three genuine Monets. Unlike most art museums, they welcome photography in their permanent collections.
Shiva as the Lord of Dance (Nataraja), Anonymous.
Standing Horse, Anonymous.
Grey Hills Painted Red, New Mexico, Georgia O’Keeffe.
Gathering at Church Entrance, Richard Hall (left). Apollo and the Cumaen Sibyl, Carle van Loo (center).
Precious Moments, Leon Bonnat.
Shepherd and His Flock, Charles Jacque.
Road to the Village of Vetheuil, Snow, Claude Monet.
House of Parliament: Effect of Fog, London, Claude Monet.
Springtime in Giverny, Afternoon, Claude Monet.
Florida Landscape (Saint Johns River), Thomas Moran.
The Joy and Sorrows of Mary (Life of Christ), Anonymous.
Returning Home, Anonymous.
Portrait of Augustus, First Emperor of Rome. Anonymous.
Every year in January horse drivers & jumpers come to Ocala from all over the world to compete at Live Oak Farms. It’s become quite a festival, they have food trucks, vendors, even the Budweiser Clydesdale were there, all hooked up doing laps around the show ring. It was a lot of fun except for the woman sitting next to me during the jumping saying “You can do it horsie! Oh that’s OK you’ll do better on the next one!” It was the horse show equivalent of those people who talk to the characters during movies.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my absurd love of fairs. Maybe it’s my Midwest upbringing, but I LOVE FAIRS. All kinds: local, county, state, whatever. I love everything about them. I love baby animals and prize-winning chickens and little kids showing pygmy goats. I love gussied-up llamas and livestock judges waxing poetic about cows and fancy horses with braided manes. I love midways and overpriced rides and smells of awful fried food and obnoxious barkers trying to get people to play their ridiculous games. I love expo halls full of craft booths and tables covered with handouts about bugs. I love handmade quilts with ribbons pinned on them and dioramas with model trains running around the edge and forestry exhibitions of endangered animals. I love ugly but lovable elementary-school art projects and musicians demonstrating mountain dulcimers. I love samples of local honey and displays of exotic fish and barns full of rabbits.
Cracker Country, the only living history museum in Florida.
A tiny, old-timey baseball game.
I have no idea what this is. I just call it the ‘Murica room.
Teeny tiny cows.
Teeny tiny goats.
I just really, really, really love fairs, and the Florida State Fair is one of the best I’ve been to. I saw the Budweiser Clydesdales, fed a butterfly, and watched a woman weave cloth with a wooded loom. I tasted ice cream some guy made as part of a demonstration to get people to buy some contraption or other. I found out that Florida has a special kind of horse called a Cracker that does a funny little trot and saw a kid get hauled over to a hay bale by a goat he was trying to show. I watched people feed carrot sticks to giraffes. I spent seven hours looking at wooden clocks and bonsai trees and recycled yard art. It was great.