Cummer Attractions

In celebration of Pi-Day, Leah and I scored theater tickets to the national tour of Waitress, presenting at Times-Union Center in downtown Jacksonville. Wanting to take advantage of fair weather, and never having seen Jacksonville during daylight hours, we decided to make an afternoon of it by visiting the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens located in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood, a short distance from our evening venue.

entry

And it was well worth the trip.

statue (2)

In 1902, Arthur Cummer joined his parents, Wellington and Ada at their St. Johns River homestead, and built a half-timber English Tudor style house for Ninah, his bride. Arthur and Ninah began collecting art soon after.

Only the designated Tudor Room remains from the original house, so “the public at large may enjoy some insight into the personality of the owner.”

Cummer study

A series of interconnected museum wings are separated by a courtyard paved with terra-cotta tiles from the Cummer’s old roof.

courtyard

The original Cummer collection plus acquired collections of paintings, sculptures, and Meissen porcelain fill fourteen galleries, span 3200 years, and range from:

2100 BCE… 

frieze

to 100 CE…

1 AD mosaic

to 13th century…

religious art

to 17th century…

European Renaissance

to 18th century…

GW Gilbert Stuart

to 19th century…

Ponce deLeon in Florida

…to contemporary artists like Harlem Renaissance sculptor, Augusta Savage, whose work is currently exhibiting in the Mason Gallery.

Augusta Sanders (2)

Following Arthur Cummer’s death in 1943, Ninah wished to establish a “center for beauty and culture…[for] all of the people” on the residence grounds.

live oak over gardens

Upon the widow’s death in 1958, the estate and gardens were granted to the DeEtte Holden Cummer Museum Foundation. Soon after, buildings were demolished (with the exception of the Tudor Room) in favor of a state-of-the-art museum that opened in 1961, followed by a detailed restoration of the property’s Italian Garden…

garden under repair

the Olmstead Garden…

English garden

and the English Garden–

English garden1

all of which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 for outstanding “American landscape design in the first four decades of the twentieth century.”

As northeast Florida’s largest and most significant museum and arts education center housing over 5,000 works of art…

archer

the sky is the limit.

BTW…the show was a tasty morsel about a bittersweet topic.

Used Cars

On the third day of a four-day affair, the 1-mile approach to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel was thoroughly congested. In addition to stand-still traffic, an unbroken chain of cars akimbo were parked on both sides of the grassy shoulder.

A steady stream of walkers of all ages easily out-paced my Ford pickup on the way to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, north Florida’s premier destination for car connoisseurs–and in some cases–car collectors with deep pockets. They have come from around the world to claim bragging rights for owning many of the rarest sporting and cruising motorcars worthy of six to seven-figures.

Welcome sign (2)

We mastered the final quarter-mile in 30 minutes. Once past the event entrance, we took a quick right and followed the signs that led us to a string of ad hoc neighborhood parking concessions charging $40 for the day. Fortunately, as I approached the first backyard turn-in, a couple was just claiming their vehicle–leaving an open spot for me.

“Are you kidding?! I’m not paying that kind of money for a parking spot! That’s highway robbery!” announced Leah to me. 

“Is it any cheaper down the road?” Leah called out to the attendant/mansion owner.

“It’s the same, but if you’re willing to walk back about 20 minutes, you might be able to park somewhere for half the price,” he offered, “but you need to make up your mind ’cause there’s traffic piling up behind you.

I turned into the lot.

“Location, location, location,” I declared.

The sunny skies were a blessing and a curse. The weather was perfect for strolling along the 1st, 10th, and 18th fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island…

on the fairway

to gaze at more than 400 classic and exotic automobiles.

fountain (2)

However, the owners who were standing guard over their prized possessions were invariably hard at work, answering questions, overstating their cars’ value, and forever polishing away the glaring fingerprints of so many gawkers-turned-touchers.

volvo door style

A full representation of cars from every manufacturer was mostly categorized by brand, ranging from Datsuns…

Datsuns

to Porsches…

Porsche Sea

with occasional support provided by corporate tents and stages…

Rope around the green

showcasing concept cars…

Silver Arrow

Silver Arrow wheel

Prototype 10

Infiniti 10

steering wheel detail

elite production models,

Carrera GT modelCarrera GT

and vintage heirlooms.

Mercedes V10 (3)

BMW 700

There were novelties…

junk in the trunk

coockpit

clean and dirty

steamed-clean engines to admire…

Porsche engine

Bugatti racing engine

1930 Cadillac V12

and glorious paint jobs to behold…

Pink Panther

hexagons

car body

6 lite Porche

But most enjoyable was sitting on the sidelines watching a parade of auctioned vehicles…

antiques

Horch grill

as they were being polished,

yellow

and preened…

1930 Cadillac (2)

by teams of attentive handlers in white gloves…

Chrystler

before facing RM Sotheby’s gavel. According to the auctioneer:

Leading RM’s string of 19 individual million-dollar-plus sales and claiming top honors of the 2017 Amelia Island auctions was a striking 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Cabriolet, one of only three examples sporting rare coachwork by Vanvooren of Paris. Offered for public sale for the first time in its 80-year history, the highly original Type 57S sparkled under the auction lights during Saturday’s sale session, commanding $7,700,000. Just moments prior to the Bugatti’s sale, a well-known 1929 Stutz Model M Supercharged Coupe, one of only three supercharged Stutzes in existence, proved demand remains strong for great American Classics at auction, selling for $1,705,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $1/1.2 million. The strong sales price represents a new record for a Stutz at auction.

Friday’s sale session was also one for the books, with the Orin Smith Collection generating $31 million in sales with a 100 percent sell-through. A wonderful showcase of RM Sotheby’s expertise and capabilities in handling private collection auctions, the sale represented the first time RM has hosted a Friday evening sale at Amelia, and provided a fitting tribute to a man beloved by the Amelia crowd, drawing a packed sales room. The group of 63 vehicles was headlined by a stunning 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet Series III “Tipo Bocca” at $2,145,000. Other notable sales included:

  • the 1956 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe, just two registered owners from new, shattered both its presale estimate of $700/900,000 and the previous auction record for the model at a final $1,683,000;
  • a superbly restored 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Special Newmarket Permanent Sedan soared past its $1,000,000 high estimate at a final $1,237,500; and,
  • 1966 Aston Martin Short-Chassis Volante, the very first example of just 37 built, sold for $1,705,000.

The power of ‘no reserve’ exhibited at Friday’s Orin Smith Collection sale was witnessed again on Saturday with terrific results achieved for a well-known private collection of 10 sporting cars. Highlighting the group, a dramatic two-tone red and black 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Frua Coupe Series III, much-admired by enthusiasts during preview, provided one of the most intense and lively bidding contests of the weekend, eventually selling for $2,365,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $1.6/2.2 million. From the same collection, a 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.0 eclipsed its pre-sale estimate of $900,000 – $1.1 million to storm into the record books at a final $1,375,000 (an auction record for the model). Also commanding strong bids were a spectacular 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, which realized $1,358,500, and a stunning 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Coupe, which brought $1,100,000.

Other noteworthy sales of RM’s 2017 Amelia Island event include:

  • the 5,694-mile 1995 Ferrari F50, originally delivered to famed heavyweight Champion boxer, Mike Tyson, sold for an above-estimate $2,640,000;
  • 1938 Graham 97 Supercharged Cabriolet, exquisitely restored by RM Auto Restoration, set a new benchmark for a Graham at auction with its strong $770,000 final price; and,
  • ending Saturday’s sale session on a fun note, a 1963 Meyers Manx—the original dune buggy—doubled its pre-sale estimate to sell for a record $68,750.

Collective sales for 135 blue-chip entries generated nearly $71M in sales–producing a record high in the event’s 24-year history…

Cadillac hood ornament

…and at prices that would make a hood ornament blush.

 

 

Colorful Cozumel

A display of vivid Christmas colors continues to shine brightly throughout Isla Cozumel during its holiday aftermath. But wait a Mexican minute! 

centro ornaments (2)

The holdover decorations from Christmas past are not an exception to the rule, 

holly decoration (3)

because Cozumel’s sun-drenched colors are omnipresent and everlasting, no matter what time of year,

centro square

or time of day.

carousel and clock tower

Consider the remnants of Mexico’s sacred Day of the Dead celebration that still prevail around town,

coca-cola calaca

with calacas (skeletons)…

floral bug

engaging tourists and shoppers at every turn along Avenue Rafael E. Melgar (named after one-time appointed governor of Quintana Roo)…

i scream

…with whimsical retail marketing, 

snorkel calaca

and characteristic Mayan flourishes.

tattoo calaca

Holidays aside, Cozumel colors are as transparent as the azure waters that lure destination divers,

diver' fountain (2)

or apparent as the tropical breezes that sweep through lush palms,

tropic seas (2)

and adamant as cruise ship passengers,

carnival cruiser

who return religiously…

san miguel stained glass (2)

san miguel parish

chabad

ark.jpg

to experience the culture,

villa dolores

coral mural

mayan culture mural

the hospitality,

dive shop

and the cuisine:

casa denis exterior

Culinary cognoscenti have been enjoying authentic Yucatan fare at Casa Denis since 1945.

casa denis placemat

Three generations of the Angulo family have been serving locals and international travellers alike…

casa denis kitchen

with a mi casa es tu casa sensibility,

casa denis interior

using fresh ingredients at reasonable prices.

casa denis dinner

Yet for all the expected colors surrounding this island gem…

seaweed, sand and chaises at sunset

some things are best expressed in black and white!

overfishing mural
Overfishing by Jack Fox (South Africa)

Palatka Pride

On the surface, Palatka, FL appears to be an antiquated town that time has left behind. As the county seat of Putnam County, there is legal commerce aplenty,

Putnam County Courthouse1 (2)

but Main Street bears the battle scars of a once-vibrant retail scene.

Offices for Rent

Far too many vacant store and empty sidewalks along St. Johns Avenue suggest that downtown Palatka’s panache has been replaced by big-box retailers like Wal-Mart (only three miles away)–jokingly confirmed by a hand-painted directional crossroads sign…

Walmart sign

beside an empty storefront.

In fact, it would seem that much of Palatka is FOR RENT…

Kiddie Kampus

or simply un-rentable…

Texaco Service Station

Palatka sits on the west bank of St. Johns River offering strategic access into Central Florida, which is what made Palatka a once-thriving pre-Civil War trading post after land-hungry American settlers eliminated the Seminoles, driving them west of the Mississippi.

Bird's-eye_View_of_Palatka,_FL (2)

Equally important to Palatka’s economy at the time was its mild sub-tropical winters–extending farmers’ growing season and making the area a popular tourist destination for the hoi polloi, whose wealthier counterparts enjoyed a luxury haven in nearby, coastal St. Augustine (read The Poshest Campus in America, and Otto’s Collections).

Unfortunately, a historic fire in 1884 and deep-freeze in 1894 sealed Palatka’s fate as a favored destination, as most tourists migrated South. The city rebuilt, and eventually re-emerged as a manufacturing hub, with Georgia Pacific currently holding title to the largest private sector employer.

But what of downtown today for its nearly 11,000 residents, and how can they possibly compete with St. Augustine to the North, Orlando to the West, and Daytona Beach to the South?

The city, when considering its redevelopment needed a gimmick–something to breath new life into it.

Dragon on a roof

It needed a serious makeover, or maybe some divine intervention.

St. Mary's Church

Driving traffic back to the beat of the city was important. The Bingo Palace added some well-deserved blue-collar cache and shabby chic to the area,

Bingo Palace1

and preserving Angels Diner for future fans of Guy Fieri has also become a go-to venue.

One look around the interior of Angel Diner, and it defies the gravity of its standing as Florida’s oldest diner.

Angels Diner exterior

By any law of nature, it shouldn’t be standing, but this tin-skin dive is a testament to the wire and glue that seemingly holds its walls from caving. Stepping through its Hobbit-like entrance is like being transported back to a time when shiny greasy spoons offered up Happy Day burgers and shakes, while we listened to the jukebox soundtrack of our Growing Pains.

Angels Diner interior

Leah and I shared a hefty order of Fish and Chips. The check came to eight bucks, and it was tasty! 

fish and chips.jpg

A walk around downtown after our meal left the impression that Palatka is much like a collection of rusty charm pieces; although it boasts a historic district with a melange of classic architectural styles, it’s still fighting to remain relevant.

While there is ample nostalgia here, and a story to tell of old Florida, perhaps all that’s really needed is a broom and a fresh coat of paint.

Enter the Conlee-Snyder Mural Committee in 1998, which has opted to:

…accurately depict the historical, cultural, and natural riches of Palatka and Putnam County in larger-than-life murals.  In sharing these pictorial renderings with visitors and citizens, appreciation of the heritage of the community will be enhanced and developed.

The city’s plan of commissioning a plethora of tribute murals over the past twenty years has given rise to a tourism rebirth, notwithstanding the city’s longstanding and dedicated art scene and attention to local culture.

Arts Center

Self-described as the City of Murals,

City of Murals legend (2)

Palatka now boasts a swath of bright colors depicting lively time capsule markers, and always helping to defib drab building back to life.

What follows is a photo essay of just a few of them in no particular order:

William Bartram
William Bartram, c. 1774

on South Third Street at St. Johns Avenue

Wildlife
Putnam Treasures 

on South Seventh Street at St. Johns Avenue

Tightrope Walker
High Time in Palatka, c. 1872 

on South Seventh Street at St. Johns Avenue

Those Who Have Served
War Veterans Memorial

on North Eighth Street at St. Johns Avenue

Palatka Station
Old J T & K Railway Station, c. 1886

on City Hall, Reid Street at North Second Street

Native Flowers
Putnam County Wildflowers

on South Third Street at St. Johns Avenue

Mary Lawson Hospital
Mary Lawson Hospital

on Ninth and St. Johns Avenue

Hiawatha
Night Passage, c. 1884

on North Fourth Street at St. Johns Avenue

Harlem Nights
Harlem Nights in Palatka

on North Seventh Street at St. Johns Avenue

French Balcony
Bygone Days, c. 1880

on South Fifth Street at St. Johns Avenue

Cowboys on the River
Cattle Drive to Paynes Prairie, c. 1930

on North Tenth Street at St. Johns Avenue

Columbine
Battle at Horse Landing, May 23, 1864

on South Third Street at St. Johns Avenue

Billy Graham
To God Be the Glory, 1937-38

on South Fourth Street at St. Johns Avenue

Bill Pearce Highway
Senator B.C. Pearce

on St. Johns Avenue between North Tenth and Eleventh Streets

Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley

on South Eleventh Street at St. Johns Avenue

All Hotels Depots
The Putnam House, c. 1891

on North Second Street at St. Johns Avenue

Other merchants have joined in, beautifying the exteriors of their retail establishments…

Peace mosaic

with mixed messages.

Pizza Boyz

After canvassing the town with my camera for the afternoon, I dropped my work façade,

3-D Saloon.jpg

knowing it was definitely time for a drink!

 

The Poshest Campus in America

In 1888, Henry Flagler of Standard Oil fame opened the Hotel Ponce de Leon (a.k.a the Ponce) in downtown St. Augustine to the delight of many fortunate Northerners, who eagerly took up tropical residency in one of 450 rooms during the winter season.

Ponce de Leon Hotel panorama

The elaborate Spanish Renaissance design was designed by the renown firm of Carrère and Hastings, with terra-cotta flourishes provided by Emmanuel Louis Masqueray.

exterior detail

Construction consisted of poured concrete over a coquina base–a new-fangled technique that laid the groundwork for future prominent buildings throughout the country.

Hotel explanation

Louis Comfort Tiffany and Company was responsible for the interior design, using the ballroom ceiling as an inspired palette for his signature “Tiffany blue”,

Mantle (2)

and an anchor for a complement of Austrian crystal chandeliers.

Parlor Chandelier

For three and one-half months and the princely sum of $4,000 ($100K by today’s count), Flagler’s pampered guests enjoyed uncommon luxury for their time, which included private bathrooms, building-wide electricity supplied by Edison’s on-site DC dynamos (another first for a hotel), gourmet meals, and nightly entertainment.

Upon entry through the Beaux-Arts gateway,

entry and statue

guests would cross the courtyard gardens past the playful sundial fountain

sundial fountain.jpg

adorned by twelve spitting terra-cotta frogs.

spitting frog fountain (3)

Guests would continue through the hotel doors…

entrance (2)

to gaze at the legendary rotunda:

The grand entranceway of the historic Ponce de Leon has been called the most elegant room in St. Augustine. The ornate Rotunda has captivated guests and visitors since the debut of the hotel on January 10, 1888. Richly decorated, the three-and-half story dome displays spectacular murals by George Willoughby Maynard and brilliant gilding that warms dimly lit spaces.

The Rotunda is the pivotal point of the Hotel Ponce de Leon’s floor plan, the crossing of the main north-south and east-west axes. In this central location hotel guests arrived, departed, socialized, waited for their carriages, or strolled to other areas of the hotel complex. The Rotunda linked the private guest room wings…to the public spaces of the hotel.

Rotunda

At the first floor level, eight caryatids (robed figures of women) carved in oak support the 80-foot dome and shape the octagonal plan of the Rotunda. Around the ornate wooden pillars, mosaic tile floors, marble and dark oak baseboards, large fireplaces, and gilded walls create the exotic atmosphere of this room. Hidden from view is a structural dome piercing the rooftop that shields a solarium. Originally balconies accessed from the solarium hosted tropical roof gardens and a breathtaking view of St. Augustine. In 1893, lion heads with electric lights were added at the mezzanine level.

carved column

On the plaster walls of the dome at the second floor level, noted muralist George Maynard painted eight elaborate female figures representing the four elements – Fire, Earth, Air and Water – and the four stages of Spanish exploration – Adventure, Discovery, Conquest and Civilization. Around these principal figures are many layers of symbolism, rendered by Maynard in meticulous detail. In 1897, ten years after their completion, Maynard reproduced these murals in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

Rotunda explanation

Presently, the ballroom at the west end serves as an orientation facility for guided historic tours and a ceremonial setting for faculty,

parlor left

but also houses a selection of relics from a bygone era in an adjoining parlor,

Parlor right

with an emphasis on fine art,

mural

and family life.

Flagler family

At the north wing of the hotel, the cavernous dining hall commands attention for its opulence and splendor.

Dining room panorama

Ten barreled bay windows are panelled in Tiffany stained-glass,

Dining Hall explanation

and believed to be part of the world’s largest private collection–making it worthy of safeguarding by forming a sandwich of bullet-proof glass on the outside,

Tiffany window

and unbreakable acrylic on the inside.

[Diners sat beneath a quad of]…graceful angels that represent the four seasons, and a majestic Spanish galleon under full sail–an artistic rendition of the ship that brought Ponce de Leon to Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth.

Dining room ceiling

[Again], the majestic ceilings were the work of George Willoughby Maynard, the nation’s foremost muralist of the time. Full-length female figures were the focal point of this room. The ceilings hold Spanish crests and coats of arms intermingled with colorful proverbs.

DR ceiling detail

The hotel was commandeered by the federal government during World War II, and used as a Coast Guard training facility. When the building was decommissioned by the Coast Guard after the war, hotel operations resumed, but sales and travelers were never as robust as before.

The Ponce made history again on March 31, 1964, when the dining room was chosen by black students from Richard J. Murry Middle School as the site for a mass sit-in, which ended in police violence and arrests, ultimately resulting in Senate passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Ponce closed its doors in 1967, only to reopen the following year as the centerpiece of the newly endowed Flagler College, where the newly restored Ponce continued its service to historic St. Augustine as a residence hall and campus cafeteria for freshman girls.  

Flagler College (2)

Presently, tuition, room and board totals $30,000, which in the scheme of things, seems like an unlikely bargain at today’s prices for yesterday’s glamor. 

(The building was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and was awarded National Historic Landmark status on February 21, 2006.)

 

Wise Guys

It’s been one year since our visit to Mt. Rushmore, and what could be more American than re-posting this episode on Independence Day…

There’s no better way to celebrate the 4th of July, than a trip to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Sure, the crowds were large; that was to be expected. But once the cars were garaged, the pedestrian traffic was easy to negotiate. And with everyone looking up at the mountain, the Presidents’ faces and intentions were never obstructed.

GW

Jefferson

Roosevelt

Lincoln

It was also a time to celebrate family. There were plenty of kids riding in strollers, hanging from moms in carriers, or balancing on dads’ shoulders. Generations of families–many of them immigrants–had gathered to pay homage to the principles of freedom that make our country a beacon for the oppressed and downtrodden.

Seniors were being escorted through the Avenue of Flags by their grandchildren. Extended families organized group pictures at the Grand View Terrace, unified by their love of democracy and their reunion T-shirts.

All expressed awe at Gutzon Borglum’s grand vision and remarkable achievement–the transformation of a mountain into a national symbol visited by approximately 3 million people every year.

long shot

The 14-year process of carving the rock began with dimensionalizing the Presidents’ portraits through Plaster of Paris masks, on view at the sculptor’s studio-turned-museum.

Sculptor's Studio

Additional exhibits detail the construction of the memorial, and the tools used by workers, like the original Rand & Waring compressor, which powered the jackhammers for all the finishing work.

compressor

A little known fact is that Mt. Rushmore was once intended to be a tribute to the “Five Faces of Freedom,” but funding ran short when the Congressional appropriation approached $1 million during the Great Depression. Hence, the unfinished carving of the Great Ape to the right of Lincoln serves as a reminder that we are never far from our true ancestors.¹

Planet of the Apes

No less ambitious, and equally as impressive, the Crazy Horse Memorial is a work-in-progress located 16 miles away in the heart of the Black Hills–considered sacred land by the Lakota people.

Crazy Horse LS

Conceived by Korczak Ziolkowski in early 1940s,

crazy horse model (2)

the memorial, when completed will stand 563 ft. by 641 ft. across, and is expected to be the largest sculpture in the world. Already, the completed head of Crazy Horse measures 60 feet tall…

Crazy Horse CU

…twice the size of any of the presidents at Mt. Rushmore. While the first blast was conducted on the mountain in 1947, the current prospects for the memorial are to complete the outstretched arm during the next twelve years. There is no completion date available for the finished carving, which has been financed entirely by private funding since its inception.

Mt. Rushmore was created by a Danish American. Crazy Horse was created by a Polish American. And visitors to both destinations manifest the melting pot that has brought us all together as Americans. It’s our diversity that makes us strong, our ambition and determination that makes us great, and our compassion and sacrifice that make us whole.

These are the values reflected from the faces we’ve immortalized in stone. Yet, we would honor them more by living according to these principles.

Happy Birthday, America!

fireworks1

¹ Just kidding, but the photograph is real and has not been retouched.

Dynamic Panoramics

Every so often, when visiting many of the iconic vistas across America, I’d struggle to capture the overwhelming awesomeness of the landscape around me.

Grand Canyon NP
South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

Framing the image through my viewfinder frequently posed a tremendous challenge to adequately represent the expansive angle of the surrounding landscape.

Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon, TX

That’s when I knew it was time to put down my Lumix and pick up my phone.

Mount Victoria, Banff NP
Lake Louise, Banff National Park

By turning to the panorama feature of my Samsung Galaxy S8,

Johnson Ridge, Mt. St. Helens National Monument
Johnson Ridge, Mt. St. Helens National Monument

I found a tool that brought me closer to recording longer distances.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley NP
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

By instantly and seamlessly stitching successive shots with integrated photo-manipulation software,

Iceberg Pass, Rocky Mountain NP
Iceberg Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park

I found another way to express the world around me.

Shenandoah Valley
Blue Ridge Mountains, NC

Panoramas provide an opportunity to share multiple perspectives simultaneously,

Horseshoe Canyon, Drumheller
Horseshoe Canyon, Drumheller, Alberta

gathering as wide an angle as the scene allows–

Watermark Vista, Capital Reef NP
Watermark Vista, Capital Reef National Park

–eliminating the frame lines and expanding the aspect ratio to maximum effect.

Rainbow Trail, Valley of Fire
Rainbow Trail, Valley of Fire, NV

When used appropriately,

High Bluff, Redwoods NP
High Bluff, Redwoods National Park

whether in color…

Great Smoky Mountains NP
atop Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

or black and white…

Mount Rushmore National Monument
Mt. Rushmore National Monument

there is no better way to establish a field of infinite view without sacrificing the integrity of the image.

Badlands NP panorama
Badlands National Park

Conversely,

Bald Butte, Cypress Hills PP
Bald Butte, Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

a case can be made for showcasing the apparent aberrations and distortions that can arise from difficulty interpolating the multiple parallax points across a scene,

Cinder Cone Crater, Lassen Volcanic NP
Cinder Cone Crater, Lassen Volcanic National Park

thus creating something unique and/or imaginary.

Athabasca River, Jasper NP.jpg
Athabasca River, Jasper National Park

For instance, flattening a circular garden path…

Mable's Rose Garden of Ca'd'zan, Sarasota
Mable’s Rose Garden of Ca’d’Zan, Sarasota, FL

or warping a linear edifice.

Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, AR
Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, AR

Additionally,

Cedar Pass, Badlands, NP
Cedar Pass, Badlands National Park

by stepping away from the camera,

Bryce NP, Amphitheater
Amphitheater, Bryce Canyon National Park

and freeing oneself from the single-mindedness of staring,

Bryce NP, Yav Point
Bryce Canyon National Park

focusing,

Bryce NP, Queen's Garden
Queen’s Garden, Bryce Canyon National Park

composing through a viewfinder,

Canyonlands, NP Crater
Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park

a feeling of liberation arises,

El Capitan and Cathedral Mountain, Yosemite NP
El Capitan and Cathedral Rock, Yosemite National Park

which can also deliver a moment of greater clarity of vision…

Waterfowl Lake, Jasper NP
Waterfowl Lake, Jasper National Park

and kinetic connectedness to the photograph,

Grand Tetons NP
Grand Tetons National Park

as the body slowly rotates to encapsulate the scene.

Rainbow Curve, Rocky Mountain NP
Rainbow Curve, Rocky Mountain National Park

What follows is a retrospective of panoramic images of some of my favorite places,

Painted Desert, Petrified Forest NP
Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park

in an attempt to convey the diversity,

panarama scenic canyon (2)
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park

and beauty of wide-open spaces across America,

Olympia NP, Hood Canal.jpg
Hood Canal, Olympic National Park

albeit,

Athabasca Glacier
Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefield

with a word of advice:

Lake 4, Jasper NP
Lake 4, Jasper National Park

Although this post can be enjoyed on a mobile device,

Painted Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt NP
Painted Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

many of the images are rich in detail,

Olympia NP, Olympic Peninsula
Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park

and are best viewed on a larger screen…

Navajo Knob, Capital Reef NP
Navajo Knob, Capital Reef National Park

to better take advantage of the breadth,

Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper NP
Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park

the scope,

Moro Rock, Sequoia NP
Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park

the scale,

Louise Lake, Mt. Ranier NP
Louise Lake, Mt. Ranier National Park

and enormity of the subjects.

Joshua Tree, NP
Joshua Tree National Park

Also,

Bearhat Mountain & Hidden Lake, Glacier NP
Bearhat Mountain & Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park

my apologies in advance to those who are downloading on slow networks,

Gooseneck Overlook, Canyonlands, NP
Gooseneck Overlook, Canyonlands, National Park

for the generous number of photographs with large data files…

Forest Canyon, Rocky Mountain NP
Forest Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park

may make it seem like an eternity before everything eventually loads.

Garden Wall, Glacier NP
Garden Wall, Glacier National Park

But such is the case when shooting a photograph.

Custer Battlefield National Memorial
Custer Battlefield National Memorial

The virtue of patience…

Bryce Canyon
Yav Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

is ultimately rewarded…

Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest NP
Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest National Park

by the satisfaction of knowing that the final image can finally be appreciated.

Brokeoff Mountain, Lassen Volcanic NP
Brokeoff Mountain, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Mount Airy, NC

When I was eight, it was thrilling to be able to watch television. It was 1960, and as America’s new favorite past-time, television had quickly taken over as the modern recipe for family togetherness.

Early television programming came from only three channels (NBC, CBS, ABC), so the networks’ scheduling had to appeal to as many home viewers as possible to attract sponsors’ advertising  dollars needed to fund the show.  Usually that meant finding a personality with versatility and broad appeal, and crafting a show around their persona.

Aside from notable comedians (Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, George Burns, Jack Benny, Groucho Marks), variety stars (Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey), and singers (Perry Como, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland), movie actors were also drawn to television with an opportunity to increase their audience. Yet few would cross over with the success enjoyed by Andy Griffith.

entrance window

Already a star of stage…

destry Rides Again.jpg

and screen…

No Time for Sargeants swag

A Face in the Crowd poster

Andy Griffith easily transitioned to sitcom television as a guest star on an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, playing a country bumpkin sheriff who arrests Danny Thomas for running a stop sign in Mayberry.

Mayberry Courthouse

jail keys

The Andy Griffith Show pilot ran on CBS later in the same year, where Andy reprised his role of sheriff,

Sheriff shirt

often playing straight man to a host of characters…

Mayberry cast (2)

Goober hat

who worked and lived in a fictionalized town patterned after Andy’s beloved hometown, Mount Airy, North Carolina, where today, the Andy Griffith Museum shares space with the Andy Griffith Playhouse,

museum and playhouse

bringing fans from across the nation…

the odd couple

to follow the career of Mt. Airy’s favorite son, and enjoy a collection of memorabilia,

Take a Stroll with Andy

The Taylor House

Matlock

dedicated to a cultural icon.

Andy at sculpture dedication

Whenever I watched The Andy Griffith Show, I’d pretend being Opie Taylor (Ron Howard), Andy’s son,

The Taylors

walking hand in hand with Pa, down to the Fishin’ Hole,

Andy and Opie going fishing sculpture

while whistling the show’s familiar theme song:

sheet music

There would be lunch at Snappy’s…

Snappy Lunch

and a haircut at Floyd’s…

Floyd's Barber Shop

before heading back home, where Aunt Bee would be frying up the catch of the day for dinner.

comic book cover

Without sounding too utopian, life seemed simpler in 1960. Looking back, our role models were wholesome, our families were intact, and civility was practiced in earnest.

How many of us Baby Boomers yearn for the nostalgia we remember from classic TV, before the innocence was shattered by the assassination of JFK, and television brought us closer to the horror and tragedy that’s so commonplace today?

Chihuly’s Twisted Garden of Glass

What’s to see when in Seattle?

Seattle skyline.jpg

There’s no need to wheedle,

concentric zigzags

When tourists flock to the very top

blue vines

of the steeple called Space Needle.

World Fair Needle

But in the shadows down below,

orbs and wands

there stands a garden made of glass–

garden sprouts

where colors reign and forms arrange

shell bowls

to entertain en masse.

amoeba glass

Sophisticated patterns blown

Chillully ceiling detail

from molten globs of flexible fire

lotus detail

Illuminating worlds unknown

canoes

to ponder and admire.

garden

Details reveal a melting pot,

bowl detail

a tints and hues collision

rim bend

explodes to form a twisted star,

twisted cones flower

and match Chihuly’s vision.

Front End Smiles

The automotive industry has a lot to grin about, and they put it on display for all to see at the 118th edition of the New York International Auto Show, showcasing over 1000 cars and trucks from around the world at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Javits Center

Conventional wisdom affirms that mid-week crowds are typically thinner than weekend crowds, but judging from the sea of people milling through manufacturers’ exhibits, the blustery New York weather seems to have driven most tourists indoors to gawk at gleaming metal and polished plastic.

Online ticketing expedited entry access, however, there was a brief hold-up at our security clearance gate when a customer refused to surrender his pen knife to a yellow-shirted official.

“But it’s just a penknife,” he asserted. “Do you really think I’m a mass murderer carrying a blade that’s smaller than your pinkie?”

Like his knife, he had a point! But the security supervisor poured acid rain on his parade and confiscated it anyway, overruling his protests.

Eventually, we safely entered the cavernous space…

welcome

only to overdose on a melange of oversized banners and advertorials covering all makes and models, with curtains of graphics and gargantuan walls of hypnotic lights coalescing into dizzying displays of one-upmanship.

Once we got our bearings, we targeted the pedestrian brands, for as much as this was an opportunity to regale in the glory of all the shapely models present (as well as the cars they were pitching), Leah and I were on the hunt for a new car. It was time to say goodbye to our Honda Civic Hybrid–who was showing her ten-year tenure after 130,000 miles–and “kick the tires” at a one-stop shopping venue like the car show with the notion that we might meet her worthy successor.

While navigating through the different brands, it became very clear that the array of chiseled lines and sculpted edges of each steel-coated body acts as a magnetic lure to onlookers, in the hopes that physical attraction follows the initial subliminal or emotional response.

Hence, each brand had its own legion of followers. Many were merely window-shopping. However, there were hundreds with more serious inclinations, who were infected with a seat-adjusting, knob-twisting, radio-tuning, steering wheel-gripping, and backseat legroom-testing fever that left long queues by the sides of the cars and trucks, as make-believe owners feature-fucked their way through the vehicle.

Of course, there was also a corps of car counselors available to cover all questions asked of them: “What’s the fuel economy? What’s the warranty? What’s the availability? What’s the cost? What’s the show discount?”

Virtual and augmented reality’s fingerprint was all over the show. Ford offered high-tech headgear tethered to microprocessing for a flight over an imaginary landscape of tomorrow’s transportation network. Dodge staged a roadster drag race challenge through a simulation windshield, complete with whiplash acceleration vibes synchronized and transmitted through the seat and steering wheel. Chevrolet incorporated dynamic movement and 360° engagement by throwing VR drivers up and down and around a test track with the wind in their faces. And Nissan employed a smartphone app and cardboard origami to build a viewer that thrusts the user through the internal combustion of their VC-turbo engine.

glasses.jpg

In keeping with the technology theme, auto companies were eager to email brochures, but almost always had oodles of glossy brochures for the taking, which made sponsor-driven shopping bags a hot commodity. Hyundai and Toyota were the giveaway gurus, providing popular blue and red totes for the asking…until there were none.

Such was our luck after accruing an armful of stuff that could no longer fit our coat pockets. After visiting a number of surrounding company information counters, Toyota reassured us of a mid-afternoon delivery. Fortunately, our good timing was rewarded with a couple of red handbags before they quickly disappeared. Yet we couldn’t help but covet State Farm’s flattering, complementary shoulder bags worn by many hands-free car insurance enthusiasts.

As we moved through two levels of automotive mania, and contemplated the contours of carchitecture, it was reassuring to watch the happiness on people’s faces–their smile an irrational testament to the prospect of owning a new dream car–as they engage the navigation software to plot a course to the poorhouse.

Likewise, it seemed that the cars were grinning, laughing, howling and roaring back at them too. Gotcha!…

…with miles and miles of beguiling smiles!

My Word!

It’s always a pleasure returning to DC’s National Mall…

mall (5)

where I like to keep an eye on my tax dollars by walking through the Smithsonian museums…

Smithson remains

to inspect the work being done by museum curators on my behalf.

nave (2)
Smithsonian Castle Commons

Aside from being a great depository of great aeronautical history at the National Air and Space Museum…

Spirit of St. Louis
donated by Charles Lindbergh

or interpretive history at National Museum of American History…

WE BUILD
Horatio Greenough

I’m always inspired when browsing through the Hirshhorn.

dry fountain
Gordon Bunshaft–Hirshhorn Fountain
rockface and car
Jimmie Durham–Still Life With Spirit and Xitle

where I get a chance to meander beside the curvy gallery walls, as I contemplate Mark Bradford’s updated Civil War cyclorama detailing Pickett’s Charge

Pickett's Charge panels (2)

or introspect on a retrospective of the 80’s, where everything is rele-vent again…

ON VEND DU VENT
Haim Steinbach–ON VEND DU VENT
SILENCE=DEATH (2).jpg
Gran Fury–SILENCE=DEATH
stripes
Jenny Holzer–Inflammatory Essays

or think deeply in the basement, where I’m reminded by Barbara Kruger’s BELIEF+DOUBT installation that words matter…

Belief

Bad Day

FORGET

Men's Room1

Women's Room

…and can make a difference…something I’d rather be doing.

Chapel Hill

There’s a triumvirate of college basketball competing in the middle of North Carolina, with rival sectors drawn by Duke’s Blue Devils at Durham, and North Carolina State’s Wolfpack at Raleigh, but completed by the Tar Heels of Carolina in the bucolic setting of Chapel Hill.

Campus map

In fact, consolidated ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) championships by the three powerhouses represent 48 titles out of 64 seasons, for a 75% margin of victory. Even now, as I write this, Carolina has defeated Duke 74-69 to compete against Virginia for its 19th ACC Championship and a place at the NCAA Championship table.

With a long legacy of league leadership, Leah and I concluded that a look around Chapel Hill might offer some insight into Carolina’s dominance.

Holding up the world

The campus was abustle, as classes were winding down in anticipation of Spring Break, and time was running out for research papers due by March 9th.

Clock Tower

We wound our way around to the sports complex where the public address system at Kenan Memorial Stadium blared a recitation of upcoming Tar Heel dates for Spring sports, which piqued our interest. Perhaps we could find the answers to some of our questions here, so we entered the Charlie Justice Hall of Honor.

Choo Choo

We were overwhelmed by the floor to ceiling showcases of memorabilia, photographs, trophies and historical artifacts detailing the history of Carolina football. As I positioned my camera to my eye to capture the glory days of Lawrence Taylor, I was suddenly greeted by the authoritative voice of an attendant behind a long arc of a desk who demanded to know our business.

“Uh, we were looking for access to the stadium, and though it might be through here,” I suggested.

“There is absolutely no photography allowed in the building,” she insisted. “Especially when the athletes are in the weight room.”

At the end of a corridor lined with decorated Tar Heel helmets on one side, and an assortment of NFL helmets on the other, was a glass wall offering a view of several oversized students pressing, curling, squatting and deadlifting 250 pounds or more.

I put my camera by my side. “If you could just tell us how to get to the stadium, we’ll be on our way,” I back-pedaled, not wanting her to think I was spying for a competing organization.

Pointing, she offered matter-of-factly,” Through those doors, and takes the stairs to the left of Choo Choo.”

We mounted the stairs, filed past security’s bag search, and entered a cavernous oval overlooking the first level.

Kenan Memorial Stadium

On the field, the Denver lacrosse squad was completing drills before their opening scrum with the Tar Heels.

lacrosse

When the match began, the 63,000 missing fans could not drown out the rap and disco music excerpts that echoed throughout the stands. Leah and I left with the score tied at 1 after 17 minutes of playing time, and with no greater appreciation for rap and disco music.

Denver v NCU

However, we did fall in love with Patrick Dougherty’s installation of weaving whimsy…

signage.jpg

as we passed the front lawn of UNC’s Ackland Art Museum…

Step Right Up installation

on our way to the truck before the meter timed-out,

Step Right Up installation1

which served as a visual metaphor for the intricacies of basket(ball) art of a different sort.

With rain forecasted for most of the following day,

Letterman's Lane

we decided to take our investigation indoors where it mattered most.

Museum entrance

Inside the museum, we had the run of the court,

exhibits1

dodging and weaving around interactive exhibits detailing every aspect of the game…

exhibits

that contributed to the success of a program that became a pipeline to the NBA!

Tar Heels in the NBA

When gauging the quantitative results of the team, one need not look any further than the volume of awards.

trophies

And if all-time National Championships were a deciding factor, Carolina has seven.

National Championships

Only Kentucky with 8, and UCLA with 11 have more.

Yet aside from great coaching (Dean Smith and Roy Williams have contributed to the second highest all-time winning percentage at .739) and recruiting amazing talent, Carolina also has the X Factor–

Jordan.jpg

–arguably the greatest player to ever play the game–and the museum has devoted a shrine of artifacts in his name.

Michael Jordan

Most illuminating are correspondence letters from Coach K…

Duke letter

and Dean Smith…

letter

that directed Michael Jordan’s path and launched him on a career that would shatter records and inspire a new age of athletes…

2017 Champs

to become future role models in their own right and not much of a secret after all.

It Takes a Village of the Arts

A neighborhood of kaleidoscopic colors awaits the visitor who ventures from Sarasota to back-yard Bradenton for some down-home art…

Vota sign

on the other side of the fence.

Gecko fence

A cluster of artists-in-residence studios and workshops…

Art Junkies

SLOW

closed Gallery

located within early 20th century cottages and bungalows…

painted house

share the narrow city streets…

street art

with colorful galleries…

Fun Girl Art

Village mystic

Happy Valentines Day

amusing gardens…

garden panorama

odd garden

imaginative beasties…

Alien seat

Bits and Pieces

Stego beads

and popular eateries…

Arts and Eats

covering thirty-six acres of mixed-use development,

map

and creating the largest artists’ haven amidst the palms of sunny Florida.

metal palm (2)

Originating in 1999 as a non-profit guild representing local Manatee County artists, theirs is a mission to build a community where artists live and work while enhancing quality of life and creating a harmonious environment.

Notably refreshing, Divine Access Gallery specializes in contemporary folk art,

Divine Excess1

filling each room of the house with whimsy, kitsch, and funky artwork…

Ying Yang mantle

Freida shrine

voodoo kitchen

wall art

Bathroom

that captures an aesthetic worthy of eclectic and uncustomary collections.

trash cans

Centrally located, it’s a short stroll from the Riverwalk, the ballpark, and downtown Bradenton.

VOTA map

Get there by bike…

adorned bicycle

or by car.

Art car

But by all means, just get there.

The Ringling Museum of Art

John Ringling was one of the early 20th century’s most prolific collectors of art, and his Museum of Art, opened in 1931 has become his true legacy. Soon after marrying Mable in 1905, the Ringlings became avid collectors, acquiring paintings, furniture and tapestries from the estates of other established patrons of art. In 1924, the Ringlings met Julius Böhler, a prominent Munich art dealer, and developed a long-standing relationship that would ignite the Ringlings’ growing interest in collecting art.

The Ringlings had been traveling through Europe for years and had fallen in love with Baroque art. In 1925 John hired architect John H. Phillips to design and build a museum on his Sarasota property to house his ever-growing collection.

What Phillips designed was a U-shaped pink palace with 21 galleries to house Ringling’s treasure trove of paintings and art objects, highlighted by a collection of masters that would eventually include Velazquez, El Greco, Van Dyke, Veronese, Tiepolo, Gainsborough and Rubens.

Paired perfectly with the Renaissance-style of the Museum, the Museum of Art’s Courtyard embodied the ideals of the Renaissance garden.

museum gardens

Its long loggias…

garden arches

shimmering walkway

marble reflections

…flank a central courtyard that features an impressive group of early twentieth-century bronze and stone casts of famous Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque sculptures, among them, at its heart, Michelangelo’s David from Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

David

Ringling hoped that by building the Museum he would make Sarasota a cultural and educational center. To achieve his vision he began buying comprehensive collections with prestigious provenances, beginning with the purchase of three rooms complete with furnishing, paintings and architectural finishes from the Astor Mansion and a villa in the Tuscan countryside.

He also purchased four tapestry paintings, oil on canvas, by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens from the Duke of Westminster. Today these magnificent paintings welcome you as you enter the Museum’s gallery, and are the foundation of the Museum’s extraordinary Baroque collection.

Rubens info

Paul Rubens Hall

Rubens paintaing

Between 1925 and 1931, Ringling acquired more than 600 Old Master paintings from the Late Medieval thorough the 19th century. His purchase of Rubens’ Pausias and Glycera was considered so significant that Art Digest reported on it.

Pausias and Glycera

In 1928, Ringling made another significant acquisition that was to form the core of his classical antiquities collection: 2800 objects of Greek, Roman, and Cypriot antiquities from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Excitement about his collection was growing in art circles; the New York Times did a full-page article about the purchase, praising not only the collection, but the Museum and its surroundings as well.

heron pedastol1.jpg

cypress and moss

The Depression and local real estate market collapse contributed greatly toward Ringling’s financial demise. It’s been reported that Ringling died in 1936 with only $311 in the bank. Although Ringling bequeathed his museum to the people of Florida–hoping to establish Sarasota as a cultural beacon–his creditors and legal wrangling would delay the settling of his estate for a decade.

Funds were poorly managed and the endowment Ringling left languished and barely grew. The Museum was only occasionally opened between 1936 and 1946 and not properly maintained. Gradually, the care that the buildings required were either put off or handled piecemeal.

But while the Museum struggled with a lack of finances, a series of Directors continued to foster its artistic growth, most notably A. Everett (Chick) Austin, Jr. the charismatic former Director of The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut who became the Museum’s first Director and Curator in 1946 and served until his death in 1957.

Today, thanks to continuing community support, the Museum has increased its gallery exhibition space. And under visionary leadership, the Museum has increased its artistic relevance, and national prominence by showcasing emerging talents in the international arts community.

glass form

credenza

sculpture (3)

Under Florida State University’s stewardship, the Museum of Art has exciting plans for new acquisitions and exciting exhibitions and programs, finally fulfilling John Ringling’s dream of delivering a great cultural center to Sarasota citizens.

Note:

Quotes are courtesy of Ringling Museum of Art

The House of John by Mable

Charles Thompson, manager of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (later acquired by the Ringlings) had built Palms Elysian along Sarasota Bay by 1893…Palms Elysian (2)

to bolster his initial purchase of 154 acres for $1650. Thinking that Sarasota could be a great destination for the winter circus season, and a worthy land development opportunity, Thompson persuaded John and Charles Ringling to explore the area in 1911, and convinced John to purchase the home and 20 acres of waterfront property from mutual friend and General Agent of New York Railroad, Ralph Caples, who only three months earlier had acquired the estate from Thompson. By then, Palms Elysian had become a showplace of a home in an area surrounded by log cabins and fishing huts.

John and Mable continued to winter at Palms Elysian through the 1920s, with John and Charles becoming more involved in Sarasota real estate speculation and development, scooping up Bird Key, St. Armands Key and Longboat Key, and owning as much as 25% of the entire Sarasota area.

It was time to replace Palms Elysian with a home befitting the thirteenth wealthiest man in America.

John and Mable’s extensive travels throughout Italy provided her with plenty of inspiration for their proposed palazzo on the bay. Gleaning architectural details from Doge’s Palace and the Bauer-Grünwald Hotel in Venice, Mable turned her drawings and notes over to leading New York architect Dwight James Baum for a cohesive design, and commissioned Owen Burns to build Cà d’Zan (House of John, in Venizzi dialect), a 36,000 square foot Venetian Gothic-styled residence where Palms Elysian once stood.

Construction began in 1924. Every aspect of the building, inside and out, was painstakingly overseen by Mable–from the terra cotta mix and the tile glaze, to the decorative furnishings and flourishes of modern living during the Roaring Twenties.

All the while, John Ringling’s investments (entertainment, real estate, railroads, oil, and cattle) had amassed a fortune of $200 million, and landed him on the cover of Time Magazine.

Time Magazine cover (2)

Cà d’Zan was completed and fully furnished before Christmas 1926 at an astonishing cost of $1.5 million ($21 million today). With 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms, the Ringling’s new home featured a crystal chandelier from the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Florida’s first residential elevator by Otis, an Aeolian organ with 2,289 pipes built into a wall rising two stories,

covered courtyard

and an 82-foot-high tower with an open-air landing and a high-domed ceiling.

terra cotta frieze

A similarly-styled gate marked the official entrance to the opulence of Cà d’Zan and The Ringling estate,

Ca'D'Zan signpost

where Mable would greet her celebrity guests–the likes of Will Rogers, Jimmy Walker, Flo Ziegfeld, and Billie Burke.

gate thru glass pavilion

Their stroll continued through lush gardens punctuated by Italian statuary,

heron pedastal

past Mable’s rose garden,

rose garden and banyans.jpg

Mable's Rose Garden

and down the pathway marked by a zodiac compass mosaic,

compass mosaic

until they reached the jewel on the bay.

estate view

Leah and I elected to tour the mansion in two parts, with a small group guided by docents who led us through four floors of fresco art, enormous Italian Renaissance paintings and tapestries, French Baroque furniture, and the Belvedere tower.

However, interior photography was not allowed. I felt like my hands had been tied.

I would have liked to photograph the deep tub in Mr. Ringling’s bathroom–with both freshwater and saltwater taps–carved out a single slab of Sienna marble to accommodate his 6′ 2″ frame.

Consequently, I have no image of the equally impressive 16-foot long German Silver sink installed in the kitchen pantry as a measure of protection for Mable’s oversized collection of Lenox bone china and hand-painted pottery displayed in the many pantry cabinets.

I was also miffed that I couldn’t capture the coffered ceiling of smartly painted Florida pecky cypress in the solarium amid the jeweled tones of the Venetian black glass skylights.

And it was disappointing being unable to record the light flooding through the windows that wrap around the 4th-floor guest bedroom once preferred by Will Rogers, which set the paneled walnut ceiling aglow.

However, with a climb to Belvedere Tower and the photo ban lifted, the lens cap came off, and I was free to enjoy the expansive 360° views…

Belvedere Tower

across Mable’s lush gardens,

gardens with pool (2).jpg

and over a rooftop clad in antique Spanish barrel tile from Barcelona buildings personally salvaged by John Ringling and cargo-shipped to Miami.

rooftop (2).jpg

Legend has it that John Ringling would walk his guests to the top of the tower to show off his Longboat Key land holdings as far as the eye could see.

bay view from Belvedere Tower

I must have lost all track of time while shooting to my heart’s content, because when I finally put my camera down, I noticed that I was standing alone, and the tour had moved on without me.

Down the spiral stairs I ambled,

Spiral stairs and water.jpg

only to discover the tower door locked from the inside. I pounded on the iron-clad door in vain, eventually realizing that nobody could hear me. I considered my limited options: I could look out over east side of the tower, hoping that I could be discovered from below…

front with tower.jpg

…nah…or I could try Leah’s cell phone, and hope that she’d taken it off vibrate. It rang and rang and rang…

9-1-1 was another consideration, but quickly discounted when Leah finally answered on the fifth ring.

“Hello? Why are you calling me?” was all she wanted to know.

“Take a look around you. Do you see me anywhere?” I started.

“No, but I figured you’re off taking pictures somewhere ’cause that’s what you do,” she intoned.

“Well not this time,” I revealed. “This time I’m stuck at the top of the tower with the door locked, and no way of getting down. So do you think you could manage to alert the docent or security, and maybe they could find their way up here to rescue me,” I mentioned calmly.

“I’ll see what I can do. Bye.” and she was gone.

An extra five minutes on the tower landing, and I was still enjoying the view. But when five minutes turned to ten, I called Leah again to make sure I wasn’t being punished or forgotten. This time she answered right away.

“Hi. Remember me?” I was 100% sarcastic.

“I don’t know what to tell you. They said they were on their way,” she quasi-sympathized.

Moments later, I heard the door unlatch. The door swung open, and there was our security escort together with the guide–both looking relieved and embarrassed.

“I’m so sorry,” stated the docent. “I don’t know how something like this could have happened. In all my years of running tours through this house, this has never happened before. Thank goodness, you’re alright,” she gushed.

I followed her down four flights of stairs, with security only steps behind me, probably watching closely to guarantee I didn’t get lost. The tour was officially over.

I rejoined Leah at the back of the palazzo, where we sat for a few minutes on the inlaid marble terrace looking out across the water,

marble terrace

and imagined Mable being rowed around the bay in her authentic Venetian gondola, while contemplating her next trip to Italy.

But her time at Cà d’Zan was brief and bittersweet. She would only have three years at her beloved retreat before succumbing to Addison’s disease with complications from diabetes in 1929.

Although she lived to be 54, for Mable it was la dolce vita.

 

The Greatest Show on Earth

For anyone who ever wanted to run away and join the circus, ground zero is located in Sarasota, FL, where a legacy built by John and Mable Ringling continues to simmer in a culturally rich pot that still stirs the imagination.

It’s hard to believe that Sarasota, once a sleepy fishing village on the Gulf Coast of Florida at the turn of the 20th century, has become a shining example of shimmering glass towers and manicured mansions on the bay,

bay view.jpg

and a cultural capital of fine and performing arts in America–

Van Wezel

born from a prophecy envisioned by circus impresario John Ringling, and fueled by The Greatest Show on Earth.

train poster

However, after 146 years of touring across America, the curtain has come down on the entertainment extravaganza, and the big top has folded forever after its last show on May 21, 2017.

According to Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the circus could no longer compete as the spectacle that had endured for so many generations. Plagued by prolonged battles with animal rights activists, rising operating costs, and children more enamored by super heroes, the circus had lost its lustre and cultural relevance.

Fortunately, for those of us who still remember the taste of roasted peanuts, and the sweet smell of cotton candy wafting in the air, a visit to Ringling Museum of the American Circus…

building entrance (3)

provides a venue to a bygone era, when the thrill of the circus parade would send spirits soaring, and unrelenting children reigning havoc on parents, until they were promised tickets to the latest and greatest show.

fun mirror

Established in 1948 by Chick Austin, Jr., Ringling’s first museum director, the circus museum displays Ringling memorabilia from the time the Ringling brothers purchased the Barnum and Bailey act in 1907.

The collection features beautifully carved circus wagons,

music wagon1
Harp and Jesters Calliope Wagon, circa 1915
music wagon
Griffin and Venetian Bandwagon, circa 1907
lion wagon
Hagenbeck and Wallace Lion Tableau Bandwagon, circa 1904-1905
elephant wagon
Elephant Bandwagon, circa 1906
music wagon2
Italian Percussion Bandwagon, circa 1915

props…

cannon truck1a
Zacchini Repeating Firing Cannon, circa 1960s

posters…

sideshow stage

and costumes…

Emmett Kelly's Weary Willie clown shoes (3)
Emmett Kelley’s Weary Willie clown shoes, circa 1942

donated from local circus families, who eventually resettled in Sarasota after John Ringling moved the Circus Winter Quarters to town in 1927.

Winter Quarters (3)

Winter Quarters1 (2)

The museum features elaborate animal carvings, past…

tiger sculpture

and present, with active carving studios onsite for miniatures…

workbench

and life-size creations.

carving studio

But the shining star of the show has to be the newly refurbished train carriage, named Wisconsin

John Ringling's Pullman business office

a customized rolling office and home of grand design and furnishings built by Pullman,

Pullman banner

which allowed John and Mable Ringling to criss-cross the nation, always in search of fresh talent and new acts for the big top.

The Ringling Museum of the American Circus features a rich folklore that honors the performers of a Golden Age, and celebrates an iconic American institution once hailed as the Mecca of family entertainment.

 

 

 

The museum is also a testament to five hard-working brothers born in Iowa to German immigrants, who rose from the ranks of penny actors to build a circus empire that lasted long after John Ringling’s death in 1936 until its recent demise…

and sadly, has become just another blip in the timeline of American amusement.

 

 

 

Variations on Junk

We were breezing through National Park Highway with the winds of Rainier at our backs,

Mt. Ranier

heading through Ashford, WA on the way to Mt. St. Helens (see: Beauty and the Beast),

Mt. St. Helens1

when the sight of a 17-foot grazing giraffe (Aspen Zoe) craning over a split-rail fence caught our attention,

giraffe (3).jpg

causing us to catch a second look.

giraffe head (2).jpg

The open field before us provided a perfect pedestal for oversized sculptures.

garden overview.jpg

The allure of a hidden sculpture garden amid the cedars and firs of the Cascades was galvanizing, and had us hooked.

Big Fish.jpg
Oscar–18-feet long by 12-feet high

We felt magnetically drawn to the magical monstrosities, and compelled to turn into the gravel driveway for a closer look, sharing the parking lot with The Angel from Hell.

motorcycle on a truck.jpg

The gatekeeper was generous, allowing us passage,

driftwoody (2).jpg

and we were free to roam through Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park for a small donation. 

I turned to Leah, pointing to the bird…

toucan

“Check it out. Toucan get in for the price of one!” I mused.

“Your jokes are a bit rusty,” she retorted.

“True,” I countered, “but at least I beaked your interest.

We paused at our first fish-out-of-water encounter to admire the mechanical calculus of mashing a gearhead, cogs and sprockets together with a wheel here, and a drain cover there, and accented with a fan blade for a fin, and a saw blade for a snout, wrapped around an exoskeleton of grating.

“How many horseshoes do you think it took to fabricate the skin?” Leah wondered aloud.

seahorse profile

We stepped around for a different perspective.

seahorse.jpg

“Why don’t you ask the artist,” volunteered a robust woman wearing a calico print apron and approaching us from the porch. Indicating afar with her pointer finger, “That’s my husband on the tractor out there, just about finishing up the front yard cut. He’d be happy to meet-cha by the garage, cuz he loves talking about his art.”

Dan Klennert was hungry for conversation, and passionate about his process of collecting junk.

Dan Klennert portrait

He walked us through the nerve center of his creative cocoon, where all things junk were separated according to subject and size, and stacked in stalls that reached to the rafters.

There are scores of “works in progress” scattered throughout the warehouse that originated on the whim and inspiration of a stray piece of driftwood, or the basin of a wheelbarrow, or the rotary cage of a lawnmower.

Dan is a junk whisperer of sorts. As he sifts through new collections of scrap that he regularly inherits from area farmers and ranchers, he gets a “tingle of inspiration” when he comes across something special.

“This here’s gonna be a whale,” Dan claims, showing us the sweep of the bough with the sweep of his hand. “And this eagle I got started on, I’m still waitin’ on the perfect piece that gonna be his wings.”

“I grew up in a small town called Crookston, MN,” he recalls, “and as a kid, I loved to draw. When I was seven, my family moved to Seattle. That’s when I started pulling my red wagon around the neighborhood, and collecting things from junk piles. I wasn’t much of a student then, but Friday was always my favorite day of the week, because Friday was art day at school.”

Dan became a mechanic by age 22 and learned from a foreman “how to glue two pieces of metal with a welder.”

“I found a way to put together the two things I loved most, scrounging and art,” confides Dan.

Leah and I continued our tour of the property, where the playful…

stallion (3).jpg

and the whimsical…

dinosaur

intercepted with the spiritual…

crucifixtion (3).jpg

the arcane…

wheel

and the carnal…

Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve

But it’s safe to say that Dan Klennert has found his Eden on earth. His four-acre niche has given him a place to park the variations of a mechanical mind that melds an anchor to a sprinkler to imagine a snail, as he earnestly nudges the nuance of ex-nihilo–creation out of nothing.

Note:

WPC–Variations on a Theme

Mystery Blogger Award

With awards season upon us, and with many of the nominations coming before the close of 2017, I would be remiss if I didn’t nominate my favorite blogs before 2017 becomes just another check-writing mistake in 2018.

My qualifications to judge are simple. As a current recipient of the Mystery Blogger Awardit’s my obligation upon acceptance of the award to perpetuate the award, and nominate my successors. Yet, in so doing, there is a laundry list of rules that one must adopt to achieve compliance, which I will address as they appear, according to the originator:

RULES

1) Put the award logo/image on your blog:

mystery blogger award


2) List the RULES:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

3) Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog:

I am grateful to The Campervan Man–One Man, One Van and No Plan for discovering my blog and introducing me to a wider audience through his nomination. The Campervan Man rides around in a restored VW bus, reminiscent of the kind my college roommate once owned.

I fondly remember Steve Weill’s VW cruising up Bethesda Avenue at 2 am until we reached the edge of Chevy Chase, where the “All Night Bakery” would serve fresh-baked raisin bread meant to satisfy every stoner’s most discerning palette.

As for the Campervan Man, “Fanny” was personally designed and rebuilt to carry him to distant places where part-time work often interferes with full-time travel.


4) Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well:

The Mystery Blogger Award is the brainchild of Okoto Enigma, a fellow blogger who believes in building community by recognizing and appreciating the blogging achievements of others.


5) Tell your readers 3 things about yourself:

With my avatar standing at a virtual podium before my fellow followers and nominees, I’d like to accept this award and offer my posthumous thanks to Helen DeFrance, my English AP teacher for the ignominious distinction of failing me in her Seniors’ English class 47 years ago because I overslept for the AP exam.

“My mean sister played a prank on me by turning off my alarm,” I explained, but Ms. DeFrance responded to my well-crafted and creative excuse with stinging rebuke. “You’ll never amount to anything!” she scorned, presenting me with a scarlet F scrawled across the front of my bluebook, which consequently disqualified me from any high school graduation academic awards.

Of course, her mean words and lack of empathy shattered a nerve, which later fueled my burning desire to be the best professional writer that I could be. And so, if I could exhume Helen DeFrance, and confront her for her audacious attack on my adolescent behavior and fragile ego, I would thank her for not mincing words, and providing me with the impetus to tell my story many years later in a way that no AP English exam could ever score.


6) You have to nominate 10 – 20 people, and

7) Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog:

My nominees–in no particular order:

The Loyal Brit Wit is a language enthusiast who flexes her word muscle in a variety of styles.

Widowcranky offers an unusual angle on twisted art, and a twisted angle on unusual art.

Chasing Patches is a quest on water as Streaming Thru America is to land.

Mehar Gandhi specializes in poetry with a knack for visual imagery.

floatinggold mixes creative writing with creative ranting.

smotheringfools showcases esoteric art with heart.

The Nostalgia Diaries features therapeutic reflections with insightful impressions.

A Walk and a Lark shares a passion of the great outdoors, one step at a time.

Michael Stephen Wills tells a story with pictures and words that’s more than the sum of his parts.

Joshi Daniel has an eye for eyes that captures the subject and lures the viewer into a visual conversation.


8) Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify). Questions selected by the Campervan Man:

1. Mountains or beaches? I am a fan of both, and find it impossible to pick between the two. Therefore, I select a hybrid…

beaching (2)
Lake Tahoe–my favorite mountain beach in the Sierra Nevadas!

2) What is your favourite word? First of all, “what” is not my favorite word, and I dislike being told that “what” is. However, I am a huge fan of “and”!

3) Where is your favourite place in the world and why? My favorite place on the planet is home. The fact that I’m traveling in an Airstream for one year means that I’m always home, albeit at a constantly changing address of my choosing.

4) If you could invite two people in the world to dinner, who would you invite? Given a choice of any two “people”, I would invite God and Satan. Then I would sit back and watch the sparks fly.

5) Would you rather fight 100 hamster-sized lions or 1 lion-sized hamster? Neither, as I’m a firm supporter of animal rights,

5 Questions I would ask my own nominees are:

1) Which part of yourself would you change if you could and why?

2) What’s been your most creative Halloween costume to date?

3) Given a choice, would you rather work four 10- hour days, or five 8-hour days?

4) What’s your favorite holiday and why?

5) If you threw a Black Stone into the Red Sea, what would it become?


9) Share a link to your best post(s):

While I’ve written many favorite posts, I’ve also created several under-appreciated posts written earlier which I’d prefer to showcase in this forum.

The Saga of Sinbad

A Hole in the Head

Living with Less

Knock, Knock

Joshua Tree–the Album and the National Park

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Fire in the Hole

Beauty and the Beast

Blue Icing on the Cake

An Olympian Apology

Happy blogging, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

 

 

Cross Beams

Life on the road can be unsettling to the soul, so from time to time–when passing through towns and cities–we’ll randomly take our time to wander through a variety of houses of worship for a healthy dose of salvation and inner peace.

As we’ve wound our way across America, several sanctuaries have stood out for their historical significance, stunning architecture, and their integration into the communities they serve.

The chapel of the Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as the Alamo, was founded in the early 18th century as a Roman Catholic mission along the San Antonio River,

exterior choir

and distinguished itself as the Shrine of Texas Liberty, commemorating the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836, when a 13-day siege ended in the Mexican army’s victory over 189 Texian soldiers.

lone star flag

Originally, the compound was intended as an education center for America’s Indians who converted to Christianity,

compound.jpg

but, ultimately the Alamo became a fortress of New Spain militiamen after the Franciscan missionaries abandoned it in 1793.

interior1

In 2015, the Alamo was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

profile


While exploring Big Sky country around Helena, Montana, Leah and I visited the Cathedral of St. Helena,

cathedral exterior

a Roman Catholic parish patterned after the Gothic form of Votive Church in Vienna, Austria,

buttress (2)

and distinctive for its 59 stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

nave

Nearly destroyed by an earthquake in 1935, the cathedral was restored to its original design after three years of reconstruction.

rose window

The interior was gilded in time for the Cathedral’s Golden Jubilee in 1959,

lights

and included in National Register of Historic Places in 1980–giving the residents of Helena something to crow about.

rose window perch


Romanesque architecture defines the exterior of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, completed in 1914,

cathedral ext

and attributed to patron Saint Louis IX, King of France.

ceiling of the Narthex (2)

However, the interior reflects from a Byzantine style rooted in soaring domes and mosaic art.

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Installation of the Cathedral’s mosaics–which adorn almost every decorative surface of wall, ceiling and dome–began in 1912 and was completed in 1988.

depiction of Pentacost

Twenty different artists collectively inlaid 41.5 million tessarae tiles of 7,000 colors, covering 83,000 square feet, making it the largest mosaic collection in the world.

depiction of Easter

Pope John Paul II designated the Cathedral a basilica in 1997, where it acts as the mother church for the Archdiocese, and seat of its archbishop.

Historic Bay


In stark contrast, the Cadet Chapel–a multi-faith house of worship–soars heaven-bound at the Air Force Academy campus located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

chapel exterior

With 17 upright wings on edge, and piercing the sky at 150 feet, the Cadet Chapel is a stirring example of modern American Architecture.

chapel 2xt (2)

Constructed mostly of aluminum, glass, and steel,

chapel alter (2)

the main sanctuary is home to an Air Force Academy demographic that is primarily Protestant.

chapel int (2)

However, the lower level of the structure houses chapels and prayer rooms for Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Orthodox Christians.

lower level chapels.jpg

The Cadet Chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Twenty-five Year Award in 1996, and was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2004.

stained glass ceiling


Also reflective of modern American architecture, and an homage to nature in its purest form is Thorncrown Chapel, nestled in the Ozarks of Arkansas, on the edge of Eureka Springs.

Exterior

Constructed from the same Southern pine indigenous to the site, the chapel is so integrated into the landscape that it stealthily stands camouflaged by its surroundings,

camouflage

and represents an inside/outside sensibility, with Arts and Crafts flourishes.

pews and lights

Thorncrown Chapel was named a National Historic Place in 2000, and received the Twenty-five Year Award by the American Institute of Architects in 2006 for design of enduring significance.

crossbeams


The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia is a Roman Catholic sanctuary built in the French Gothic style, and was dedicated in 1876.

St. John exterior

Twelve years later, fire gutted the interior, leaving behind only the walls and towers.

reference sign

Overcoming adversity, the church community quickly rebuilt much of what was destroyed, and resumed inside services in 1900,

alter

while interior decoration continued for an additional 13 years,

pews

to restore the stained glass and organ loft to its original splendor.

pipe organ

Embedded in Savannah’s Historic District, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was awarded landmark status by the National Park Service in 1966.

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Lastly, in our effort to somehow balance the preponderance of churches and chapels we’ve toured, we visited Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue in the Historic District of Charleston, South Carolina.

exterior

Kahal Kadosh is notable as the country’s second oldest synagogue, and the oldest in continuous use. Established in 1749, Kahal Kadosh grew into America’s largest and wealthiest Jewish community by the end of the 18th century.

historic landmark

A new vision of American Reform Judaism originated at this site in 1824 after parting ways from its conservative Sephardic origins.

1st temple (3)

After Charleston’s fire of 1838 ravaged the city and destroyed the synagogue, a new Greek revival style was adopted for the new structure, with rich interior ornamentation,

Greek Revival

reminiscent of Greek temples.

peeling ceiling

Jewish services, according to reformist rituals and practices, were now conducted in English, with a new emphasis on organ music, and women were encouraged to participate with men on the main floor, breaking with a long-standing tradition of separation and isolation in the sanctuary balconies.

pipe organ (2)


The rich history and diversity of religion and protected religious freedoms in America cannot be overlooked as increased debate centers around self-centered interpretations of our Constitution’s First Amendment.

Moral outrage and hubris abound as politicians and public figures drape themselves in stars and stripes, while preaching to their flock from behind protective glass with handfuls of stones at the ready.

A reckoning of biblical proportion awaits us if we cannot ascend beyond our intolerance, and let each other live as we would have others let us live–in peace and without judgement.

Amen.

Museum of Mirth, Mystery, and Mayhem

Looking for something different to do on a rainy day in St. Louis? Any list of indoor activities should include a trip to the City Museum,

City Museum

the brainchild of Bob Cassilly started 20 years ago in an abandoned shoe factory and warehouse, that’s since been converted into a nail-biting, four-story jungle gym and rooftop amusement park created from repurposed mechanical and architectural relics.

During our visit, parents were either on the sidelines watching their kids wear themselves out, or trying to keep pace with them, as they maneuvered through a zany, life-size Chutes and Ladders game board, extending through multiple levels.

slide

what's upstairs

The bottom floor hosts a nautical and woodlands theme of crawl spaces…

water world

beluga

with several points of access to a mezzanine food court,

staircase

while higher floors highlight an intricate cave system, ramps with rope swings, and warped walls to exploit one’s inner American Ninja Warrior.

sharp pencil

Collections abound, with floor to ceiling showcases of pinned insects, and walls of archaeological finds;

collection

architectural assemblages of friezes, cornices, and gargoyles;

faces in the wall

gargoyle

edifice crown

Otto’s Robotorium of whimsical futurama;

robotorium

silly robots

and assorted oddities and eccentricities that defy classification…

bizarro train set

electric chair

big underpants

Despite its 20-year run, the City Museum is a work-in-progress, with new and imaginative play environments under construction.

creating a castle

Protected by a Serpentine Wall outside the museum space,

snake perimeter

the MonstroCity rises into a winding array of caged ladders and walkways that meanders through a jet fuselage,

plane tube

a castle turret,

turret (2)

and so much more, before leading to a pit of dodgeballs.

ball pit

Unfortunately, the rooftop, replete with a Ferris wheel, an enormous praying mantis, a domed rope swing, a pond and a dangling yellow school bus was closed due to inclement weather.

bus off the building

There is so much to explore at City Museum (including a flying circus), that it’s impossible to be bored. In fact, the interactive experience is so profound, that critics might consider it overload.

As a retired special educator who’s embraced the Vark model, I salute the City Museum for challenging children of all ages through a r