Monday, October 31, 2016

SPIFFS Folk Fair

Happy Reformation to all good Protestants out there!  My sister Gloria informed me that the Pope is meeting with Swedish Lutherans today, maybe there is hope that we will come together yet after 500 years since that day when Martin Luther sparked a revolution against the Catholic church and posted his 95 Theses.  One can only hope.  John and I celebrated Reformation Day by attending a concert given by the Clearwater Bach Choir, members of Peace Lutheran Choir, and the Florida Symphony.  They gave a wonderful musical rendition of Bach's Cantata No. 80 ("Ein Feste Burg").
Speaking of coming together and settling differences, the St.Petersburg International Folk Festival Society celebrated 42 years of diversity last Saturday.  There were many booths where one could buy wares from around the world.  The one above has products from Africa.
Our grandson Nathan was feeling a bit under the weather and not happy shopping.  He was, however, diverted from his aches and pains enough to sit and clap to the music of different groups from around the world.  The dancers pictured above are from Eritrea, a small African country on the Red Sea which has 9 different cultures and languages- and we think that we have problems with diversity?
Around noon there was a break from the music and dancing for a parade of nations.  Many nations from around the world were represented, above are people from Mongolia. 
Our grandson Nathan most liked the red dragon carried by a group representing China.
After the parade there was a naturalization ceremony for 44 people from 20 countries.  Feeling their joy and celebration of this occasion gave me pause to wonder why anyone would not be pleased to welcome them into our country.  We have been blessed within our borders and should be willing to continue accepting diversity in our country- that is what makes our United States awesome!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Clearwater Beach Chalk Art Festival

Fall is here for those of us residing in Florida.  No, not many trees are dropping leaves or changing color, but the daytime temperatures are now more tolerable and nights are definitely cooler!  We have visited one Fall Festival complete with a pumpkin patch, but it is still not the same.  Last Saturday was another beautiful day, John and I knew we had to get out and do something.  I could have stayed inside cooking for the luncheon which I was to serve after Clarissa's baptism the next day- but it was time for John and I to get to one of the many festivals going on in the area.
We drove over to Clearwater Beach and immediately, upon arriving, we encountered traffic jams.  Parking spaces were also limited.  We wondered what was going on- until we noticed a volleyball tournament on the beach, derby car racing in the downtown area, and someone informed us that a stone crab festival was happening further up the coast.  John thought maybe it was spring break time  (see how messed up we are about the seasons down here?).  My better guess was that the snow birds are returning.
John is always good at conversing with people, so I got the scoop about the chalk festival.  Artists who wish to compete submitted the size of their drawings, and whether they wanted a white or black background.  The background was then painted on the sidewalk with tempura paint.
The picture above was my favorite.  The expression on the child's face is priceless.  That artist is a professional, who travels and chalk paints sidewalks around the world.  Another artist is a graphic designer by trade. Not all were professionals and one young lady had a collection pot out as she is saving for a college education.   The youngest was fourteen years-old.  She was working on her picture, shown below.  The artists had until Sunday afternoon to complete their pictures, at which time the winner would be decided.  I turned in my vote before I left.
The three dimensional pictures were quite interesting.  John posed for the one below.  There was a spot marked for where he was to stand, but he did not quite bend down far enough to reach the straw.
Some of the artists were not participating in the contest as they were drawing advertisements for restaurants or resorts, as you may notice in the picture above.  There were about 37 people participating in the contest,  and their paintings ranged from the weird and grotesque to the charming and cute.  There were also pictures drawn of Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, and Muhammad Ali.
Pictured above is our granddaughter.  No, she is not one of the aforementioned men.  Clarissa's baptism day was another wonderful day.  She slept through the ceremony, but was all smiles afterward.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Historic Columbia South Carolina

As I had written previously, our time in Columbia was challenged by Hurricane Matthew and the fact that it was for some businesses  a holiday weekend (Columbus Day).  Those facts did not deter us.  When we could not get anything done pertaining to my brother's estate we checked out the more popular tourist stops.  Columbia is the capital of the state, so we drove over to the state house.  John and I had seen it on our other visit to the city but my sister Gloria had not seen it.   Because of the hurricane it was closed on Saturday.  Despite the wind and a bit of rain we still walked around the capitol grounds.
In a previous posting I wrote about the statue of George Washington which stands on the capitol steps, but I did display a picture of it.  The statue was purchased in 1858 and placed inside the state house.  During the Civil War it was brick batted by soldiers from Sherman's army. It was not repaired, in 1887 it was moved outside on the grounds, in 1907 it was placed on the capitol steps.
Also on the capitol grounds we found the statue of a man who, it was noted on the monument,  was a United States Representative, Senator, Governor, and Supreme Court Justice.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt also gave him a title as "Assistant to the President" during the time he was in office.  No other man has ever served in all those capacities.  Interesting that until that day I had never heard of him!  The signage on the monument indicated that he was "most distinguished of his time".  The man was James Byrnes who lived from 1879 to 1972.  We learned more about him when we visited the Mckissick Museum which is on the University of South Carolina campus- the only museum opened on the Monday we were in town.  We also wanted to tour some historic homes while we were in town, however none were opened.  We did a drive around town anyway, searching them out.
The Woodrow Wilson home is noted to be an "important link to the United States' most pivotal era- the United States Reconstruction" after the Civil War.  Dr. and Mrs. Joseph R. Wilson, parents of Woodrow Wilson, lived here only a few years during the President's teen years.  It is South Carolina's only presidential site.

The last historic home I want to show here was once the temporary war home of General and Mrs. Chestnut.   They entertained Jefferson Davis and his staff here in 1864.   Jefferson Davis, President of the CSA, addressed the citizens of Columbia from the front steps.  This pretty much concludes what I have to write about our weekend in Columbia-  we thought that we would have to extend our time in Columbia through Tuesday because we were told that  the Probate Court building was not opened on Monday due to the holiday.  We had nothing better to do than to check out to see if that fact was correct.  Surprise!  Apparently that information did not apply to county buildings.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Columbia's Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

My family thought it rather strange when they received a text from me which said that John and I were at a zoo.  It does seem like a strange place to be when our business in Columbia was to take care of my brother's estate.  However, it was Sunday and official offices were closed.  It was finally a sunny day and not a time to tour museums (all were closed anyway because of Matthew).  The zoo parking lot was almost full.  A staff worker at the zoo said that this was a record attendance for them for this time of the year.  Many evacuees from other parts of the state were still in town, not planning on returning to their homes until Monday.
We came to the zoo because of the botanical gardens located within the park.  Walking by the Koala Knockabout though, we just had to stop and look at a pair of koalas.  It seemed that they were a baby with its mama.  She can not be seen in the picture above because she is gripping the tree on the other side.  I was just happy to get the picture of her baby- so cute!
To get to the gardens it was necessary to take a tram.  Ordinarily it would have been possible for us to hike along the Saluda Rver trail to the gardens, but it was closed because the storm knocked tree limbs and other brush over the path.  If we could have taken it we would have seen the ruins of a old mill, as well as the granite abutments of a covered bridge which the Confederates burned to stop General Sherman's army during the Civil War.
Within the gardens is a formal garden with a main canal which divides the garden in half with fountains.  In this walled garden is a labyrinth of "secret" garden rooms.  Pictured below is the knot and textured garden.  It is the most formal area within the walled garden and highlights a combination of textured plants.
  My favorite part of the formal gardens is called a Purple Wall, something quite different which I have not seen in other botanical gardens.  The plants here feature one color primarily.
 Lastly I have to mention another unusual area of the gardens which is called, appropriately enough, the Animal Garden.  Here plants are displayed which have animal names- names like lamb's ear, shrimp plant, elephant ears, pelican flower, fleabane and beebalm.  Guess you get the idea.  Pictured below is the bamboo zebra plant.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

In all of our years of being on the road hurricanes never crossed our path.  Seems like this is our year to experience them! We had just  encountered Hurricane Hermine in September and in the past week we had some interesting experiences with events pertaining to Hurricane Matthew.
 My brother Glenn passed September 16th.  This was a brother estranged from the family for about 40 years.  When my sister Gloria suggested that we meet her in Columbia, South Carolina to pick up his effects from the coroner, as well to meet Glenn's roommate, at first I thought the idea a bit ridiculous.  After considering it further, I concluded that I would like to get a glimpse into Glenn's life which he had kept hidden from us.  I think that John was ready for a road trip, he readily agreed to go.  And it so happened that the week which we had planned for our trip was the time when Hurricane Matthew was going to strike the coastal areas of the southeast!  We left last Thursday, thinking we would miss the storm as it was to arrive on the eastern coast of north Florida Friday afternoon.
Our trip of 500 miles, which should have taken about 9- 10 hours, instead took about 14 hours because of the hurricane.  Getting out of Florida was even a issue.  In the town of Brooksville it was slow going as a road was blocked  due to the fact that a corvette had run under a bus.  Fortunately no one was injured.  In southern Georgia we encountered more traffic jams-people were leaving the coastal areas (as Savannah).  Most fortunately many cars were going southwest, and we were going  the opposite direction.  We had planned to take interstate 95 but, fearing it would be congested, we took back country roads through Georgia.   That was very slow going as they were only two lane roads.  Stopping for gas took time also as there were long lines at the pumps.  In the larger towns we saw signs posted that all motels were full.  Thankfully we had motel reservations in Columbia- if only we could get there!  Later in the day we noticed police cars gathered along the evacuation routes and convoys of utility trucks.   Highway lanes into Columbia had been changed- going only in one direction into the city and away from the coast.  Such changes made it quite difficult to get to our motel, we wandered for awhile before discovering that the road to our motel was open - highway signs indicated wrongly that the ramp was closed! 
We made it finally to our motel, quite late.  On Friday Columbia had some wind and rain.  The Congaree River (pictured above) was close to flooding its banks.  Strong winds brought down large trees in the area, but that was the worse which the city experienced.  Our motel was filled with people who had fled the coastal towns of Charleston as well as Hilton Head, South Carolina.
 We had been told by the coroner of Lexington County that schools, and businesses would be closed on Friday because of the impending storm.  We took a chance anyway and were very fortunate to find her in her office.  She told us what she knew when she arrived at Glenn's house to pick up his body
(he had died a natural death from cancer).  She had met a neighbor as well as Glenn's roommate.
Later that day we drove to Glenn's house, pictured above.  His roommate is standing outside the building.  Over the years we corresponded with Glenn by mail and he shared all he had learned about our lives with Dave.  We were quite surprised how much he knew about us!  Despite Hurricane Matthew we had a wonderful time in West Columbia learning about our brother Glenn.  With Dave we visited restaurants which he and Glenn frequented.  We met waitresses who were willing to talk with us about our brother, as well as other people who knew him.   Fortunately Dave had a shoe box of Polaroids taken by Glenn over the years which he passed on to us, they also have provided us with snippets of Glenn's life over the years when he refused to see us.