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.
And it was well worth the trip.
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.”
A series of interconnected museum wings are separated by a courtyard paved with terra-cotta tiles from the Cummer’s old roof.
The original Cummer collection plus acquired collections of paintings, sculptures, and Meissen porcelain fill fourteen galleries, span 3200 years, and range from:
to 100 CE…
to 13th century…
to 17th century…
to 18th century…
to 19th century…
…to contemporary artists like Harlem Renaissance sculptor, Augusta Savage, whose work is currently exhibiting in the Mason Gallery.
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.
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…
the Olmstead Garden…
and the English Garden–
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…
the sky is the limit.
BTW…the show was a tasty morsel about a bittersweet topic.
“Let’s get this shuttle moving!” shouts a middle-aged surfer dude in an orange muscle shirt at the volunteer driver of the tram parked curbside at the farthest reaches of Anastasia State Park’s parking lot by the beach.
“First of all, I’ve got plenty of empty seats to fill, with plenty of people still on their way. And secondly, you should have thought about getting here earlier pal, ’cause I been here since 5:30 transporting people to the concert. So stop complaining that I’m the one who’s making you late!” the driver retorts.
“Well asshole, I have no intention of missing the opening number because of you,” he bellows.
“You’re welcome to get off my ride anytime and call an Uber if you want, but otherwise, I suggest you shut the fuck up, and sit the fuck down, and wait patiently like the rest of these folks,” the driver threatens.
According to Joe and Jenny, who had come from Gainesville in celebration of their 10th wedding anniversary, the passengers on the tram were stunned into silence after this fiery exchange. The moment Leah and I took our seats on the tram, the mood seemed unusually somber for a group of mostly baby boomers who were on their way to attend a sold-out performance of Steve Miller Band with Peter Frampton at St. Augustine Amphitheater.
This was to be our maiden concert at the amphitheater–having purchased tickets over three months ago–knowing that we were taking a chance with the rainy summer weather, but choosing to risk it all for just a few hours of iconic rock and roll nostalgia.
At last the day had come, and despite the iffy forecast through late afternoon, the overcast sky had held firm, and it wasn’t long before we were on our way, barreling along the service roads…
to the back door entrance of the amphitheater.
It was 7:05pm and the opening power chords of Something’sHappening were already resonating through the thick air. We bypassed the crowded concessions…
and settled into our seats…
under the big top…
to lose ourselves in Frampton’s guitar licks.
From the start of the evening, Frampton established a smooth repartee with his exuberant audience–thankful for the fans who’ve stuck with him through thick and thin.
At 72, Frampton has seen his share of sunsets in your eyes and lines on [his] face, affably referencing his musical longevity during the interludes between songs, and reflecting on the passage of time through his career–from his chart dominance to his subsequent free fall to his eventual resurrection.
The devotees in attendance who may have missed the ’70s, seized this downtime as the perfect opportunity for a bathroom break, but not without escaping playful ridicule from Peter..
“I wish I could pee. I really do,” quipped Frampton. Now I can only pee on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday… with the help of Flomax.
He’s willingly traded his teen-idol, cascading hair locks and bare-chested pop star status for a musician’s bald/bold appreciation of his instrument, and aptly demonstrated his guitar prowess throughout his set list:
Lines on My Face
Show Me the Way
Black Hole Sun
(I’ll Give You) Money
Baby, I Love Your Way
I Want You To Love Me
Do You Feel Like We Do
But the literal centerpiece was Black Hole Sun–“the best song [he’s] never written”–performed as an instrumental from the 2007 release of his Fingerprints album that garnered Grammy acclaim.
As if channeling Chris Cornell on the anniversary of his birth, July 20,
Frampton commanded the stage with a mindful intent of demonstrating his guitar virtuosity,
and he deftly acquitted himself in the eyes and ears of his audience.
And when the last shred had been wrung from his beloved Gibson, the crowd let him know how much they were with him and how much they cared.
After a half-hour intermission to reset the stage, the evening continued with Steve Miller and his band.
With a few exceptions, Steve Miller’s set list mimicked his multi-platinum Greatest Hits album, spanning the mid to late 70’s, and nobody in the crowd was disappointed, because they had come to sing along and Dance, Dance, Dance.
True Fine Love
Living in the U.S.A.
Take the Money and Run
I Want to Make the World Turn Around
Wild Mountain Honey
Dance, Dance, Dance
Fly Like an Eagle
From his early overture into blues-infused rock, to experiments in psychedelia, to a catchy collection of counter-culture anthems with mainstream melodies, Miller captured the songbook for a new generation of America in flux.
Midway through his set, Miller evoked a memory from 1965 that took him from San Francisco to New York for a performance of The Mother Song on NBC’s Hullabaloo with The Four Tops and The Supremes.
As Miller recounts, the $250 he earned from the gig gave him the confidence to shop for a new guitar at Manny’s Music, a cherished, legendary music instrument store located in mid-town Manhattan. Unfortunately, he discovered there was nothing he could afford. Rejected and dejected, he headed for the door, whereupon he discovered a cluttered barrel of buried guitars standing neck up with a posted sign: “Your Pick–$125.”
One guitar called to him–a 19-string sitar-guitar that he had to have. Along the way, Miller explained some of its unusual features: spool-like knobs, 3 pick-ups, and a mirror on the backside.
Of course, after 53 years it’s still in his possession, despite an offer of $125,000 from a bigwig music producer. This tale has been repeated at similar events for years and years–with fluctuating asking prices–but the audience was hooked on every word and ate it up.
“Whadaya think? Should I consider selling it?” he petitioned the crowd.
Naturally, the crowd answered back with a resounding, “HELL NO!”
Miller put the instrument to good use in a soulful rendition of Wild Mountain Honey.
Thereafter, with each new tune, the audience responded with greater enthusiasm and a deeper appreciation of his classic hits.
The band returned with a raucous 4-song encore (if you consider Threshold to be a song rather than an intro)…
And in an instant, the show was over. We were transported back to the here and now–no longer celebrating the soundtrack of our salad days from high school or college, but always reminded that “time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.”
Ironically, I spotted the belligerent surfer dude from before, who had embarrassed himself aboard our tram. Folks were filing past him to the exits, yet he seemed frozen in place–as if locked in a trance–holding onto a past that he was so impatient to embrace.
Traditionally, every professional team sport in America routinely celebrates a season midpoint known as the All-Star game….except for football. And for the most part, these exhibition events typically showcase the finest talent of the league franchises, usually selected by fans and coaches to honor the athletes who have amassed the season’s best stats…except for football.
Instead, the NFL currently slips its All Star game (called the Pro Bowl) between the Conference Finals (which determines the winners of the AFC and NFC) and the Super Bowl. As for talent, after excluding football’s best players heading to Super Bowl LII (Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots), player selection for this year’s Pro Bowl has been determined by fans, players and coaches in equal parts.
Pro Bowl enthusiasm among hand-core fans has flagged in recent years, now that warm and fuzzy football has replaced hard-nose hitting on gameday. The NFL punted the problem to the Players Association, who conceded that members may voluntarily decline to play due to injury concerns. But the league tackled player indifference by raising the stakes and incentivizing competitive play, with $64,000 awarded to every player on the winning side, while losers receive $32,000.
Thankfully, only the Super Bowl remains, before football passes the sports mantle to hockey, basketball, and the Winter Olympics. Fortunately for me, a very laid-back sports fan, uneven internet access and poor TV service from coast to coast prevented me from following the colossal collapse of the New York Giants (3-13), a four-time Super Bowl champion, and a perennial contender.
Nevertheless, with the Pro Bowl temporarily relocating from Hawaii’s Hula Bowl to Orlando’s newly renovated Camping World Stadium…
I decided to treat Leah to a last day of football. However, neither of us was counting on a day of downpours.
Rain was a constant interruption throughout the game–from the moment we arrived for the opening snap…
to the time we returned to the parking lot with minutes to play, and the AFC squad advancing to the goal line for an eventual 24-23 win.
In between, there were a few things to cheer about.
And then there was football, too.
The Pro Bowl was a game of two different halves, with the NFC holding a 20-3 half-time lead, capitalizing on dominant drives over darkening skies.
Meanwhile, preparation for half-time festivities devolved into occasional swordplay on the sidelines,
However, sword order was eventually restored after Dancing with the Stars winner Jordan Fisher emerged…
and took the makeshift stage for ten minutes of coordinated music and mayhem,
eventually finishing with a flourish.
When the game resumed, it seemed as if a different NFC squad had taken the field,
allowing the AFC to roar back under increasingly sloppy conditions.
Naturally, the biggest score of the day occured at the concession stand, when food vendors raided my wallet for $32 in exchange for a cheesesteak, fries, Coors Lite, and a bottle of water.
But despite the puddles and the pouring rain,
we put on our game faces,
and managed to convince ourselves that all of this was time and money well spent.
Leah and I sat in beautifully hand-carved, yet wildly uncomfortable rattan chairs over a Mexican buffet breakfast that could best be described as Meh-ican. Sitting across the table from us was Ricardo, a familiar host and representative of the developer, who was writing upside down with his Mont Blanc pen, while presenting all kinds of facts and figures about the local hospitality game.
“40,000 hotel rooms in Cancun and 40,000 hotel rooms in all of Riviera Maya stretching from Puerto Morales to Tulum,” he regaled, “and here we are, at Tres Rios, right in the middle of this amazing paradise.”
Ricardo was finding his groove. He was flashing pages of a promotional real estate magazine and rattling off stat after stat as he actively drew a map of the Quintana Roo coastline on the backside of a resort brochure. For every detail added, Ricardo would reinforce his point by circling the Riviera Maya caption at the top of his masterpiece, until it resembled a paddleboard floating on a cartoon sea. With bold retraces and multiple underscores from his pen, he emphasized the unprecedented low, low prices that wouldn’t last unless we acted today!
Ricardo’s presentation was polished and professional, needing only one new breath of air every five minutes or so to sing the virtues of founding membership privileges, and the accorded rights and benefits granted to ground-floor go-getters who were willing to take advantage of a great deal when they saw one.
Ricardo has been honing his razor-sharp delivery skills for the past 25 years, having moved from Jalisco in search of an opportunity, and finding sponsorship with the Sunset Group, a controversial band of land speculators and developers from Mexico, who have since built four resorts from Cancun to Playa by selling timeshares to curious vacationers who couldn’t resist the notion that a Mexican vacation would fulfill their sun-starved lives.
Hacienda Tres Rios has become their biggest venture to date. Once an active Nature Park, the preserve fell on hard times after the devastation of Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and ultimately closed. In exchange for the right to convert the dormant property into a resort, the Secretariat of the Interior secured a commitment from Sunset Group to restore the mangrove habitat and preserve the original eco-park concept.
Ten cenotes (some fresh water, and some brackish) are scattered throughout the property, with miles of bicycle paths carved into the jungle, providing access to swimming and snorkeling, while a short hike to Cenote Aguila offers a chance to kayak or snorkel down Rio Selva to the sea.
Subsequently, steps have been taken towards self-sufficiency: with completion of a mangrove and orchid nursery, a water desalination plant and inverse osmosis system, solar panel installations for sustainable energy production, and a local farm-to-table concept that cultivates flowers, fruits and vegetables for all resort restaurants. Sunset World has transformed Tres Rios into Mexico’s first green resort years later, and is now the standard-bearer of all future hotel development in the vicinity.
As members of a sister resort in Playa del Carmen, Leah and I were invited ten years ago to inspect the property at Tres Rios and sample the spa hospitality. We returned the same evening to enjoy a Mexican fiesta on the beach, but not before we were spritzed with organic mosquito repellant, which really seemed to keep the bloodsuckers away. It was great fun at the time, and seemed like an experience worthy of repeating.
Subsequently, Ricardo and I negotiated on a one-bedroom suite for a one-week share that for many different reasons has been visited only four times in the past ten years.
Today, the Sunset organization prepares to finance Phase Two at Tres Rios, promoting luxury interval ownership, and beyond (future development of single unit residencies, and a marina with ocean access), so Ricardo sits across from us, giving his all–dazzling us with his artful cartography and adroit calligraphy–with every intention of leveraging our single week of ownership into a one-month obligation, which will help to defray the cost of the elaborate June Quinceañera his daughter has been planning for nearly a year.
But Leah and I never had any intentions of upgrading. Never. We were there for the sole purpose of exchanging our two hours of attendance for an hour of spa treatments. While our massages are presented as a gift for our precious time, realistically, it’s little more than a simple lure that’s part of a much larger marketing strategy.
It was a monumental match of wills: Ricardo’s relentlessness versus our resilience. After an obligatory walk-thru of the newly appointed model apartment (which was roomy, luxurious, and fashionable) we moved through a display and awards room to reach an open conference room populated with small tables surrounded by high-back leather chairs. This was to be the setting for Round 3. While the chairs were more comfortable, the air temperature inside was rather chilly, prompting a request from Leah for a blanket before she bolted.
When Ricardo sensed that things weren’t going his way, he called for an assist from Patrick, his manager, who from gracious introductions revealed himself to be a 40-year old Irishman with a Mexican accent. The sales pitch devolved even farther after he further explained his unusual heritage: his Irish father met his Mexican mother while vacationing. They subsequently married; lived in Dublin until Patrick turned four; and under duress from his mother, his father returned to Mexico, where Patrick was schooled and his parents eventually divorced, although on good terms.
His father currently lives in Ireland, where he crafts granite fountains with Mexican stylings, and has sold one of his designs to Bono for his home on Killiney Hill. The conversation turned to our love of U2’s music, our mutual excitement of seeing them entertain live on stage, and Patrick’s fascination with my look-alike appearance to Bono.
Out of the corner of my eye, I knew that Ricardo was defeated. Unable to participate in our repartee, he sat silently and sulked, perhaps wondering if he could ever recover. I signaled to Patrick that we were passing on the offer, and just like that, the transaction was finished and so was Ricardo’s energy.
In a last ditch attempt to win the sale, he severely undercut his original bid. And like a Hail, Mary pass floating into the endzone, he threw in all kinds of extras with no charge to us, but we stood strong; we would not be swayed.
In the end, we shook hands as friends–Ricardo, the fallen gladiator, vanquished in the sales arena, and me, the victor with my wallet still intact.
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 Award, it’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:
1) Put the award logo/image on your blog:
2) List the RULES:
Put the award logo/image on your blog
List the rules.
Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny question (specify)
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 Awardis 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.
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…
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.