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Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Venice Diaries XII

As promised, our recent activities have been local.
We did get up to Siesta Key to have lunch at The
Lobster Pot. Things change in five years. The
restaurant is much the same, but it is now a small
entry in a large concentration of eateries with open
air verandas.

The Cape Cod motif is gone, though we did chat
briefly with the proprietor, whose parents owned
and operated The Lobster Pot in Provincetown.
And I did have a grouper sandwich, while Barbara
ate a Maine lobster roll.

Siesta Key is a trip in itself. I wouldn't recommend
it to anyone over 30 during the season. The beach
is huge, and so are the crowds. Night life must be
considerable. So are the beautiful young things,
who might compete in the bikini contest posted in
a nightclub. Lots of young families, too, with small

We attended a presentation in the historic train depot
of Venice on Saturday, where Barbara's cousin was
one of three ladies portraying Bertha Palmer. After
her husband, Potter Palmer, died, Bertha bought most
of Sarasota County in the late 19th century, and then
sold pieces to various developers, while urging the
extension of the railroad to Venice. When we lived
at 1366 N. Dearborn in Chicago, during the war, the
Potter Palmer castle was still on the shore.

Fate, or as I prefer, the hand of God sometimes is
evident in our lives. At a St. Mark's parish breakfast
on Sunday, I introduced us as Barbara and Patrick from
Cape Cod. Across the table was a couple from West
Barnstable. And we promised to get together in the
fall. When we discussed our present rental here, they
told us about Bay Indies, where they stay.

So we decided to check it out. For various reasons,
attempting to rent again from the cousin would not be
indicated. Bay Indies is a huge mobile home park
with a pleasing appearance and strict standards. Each
building is on a pocket-sized lawn facing the street,
much different from the conventional image of a trailer
park. We left our names for the possibility of renting
in January through March next year, God willing.

We will be out for dinner early tomorrow night.
Barbara is taking me to Outback, my choice.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Venice Diaries XI

Our drive from Venice to Wellington on the east coast of Florida
was a breeze. Florida Route 80 runs directly from Fort Myers
to Southern Boulevard in Palm Beach County. It is mostly four
lane, with a short stretch pending expansion. We passed from
the Mexican town of LaBelle to the black town of Clewiston
at the foot of Lake Okeechobee. We could not see the lake
because it is dammed all along the south shore. Then through
a wide area of agriculture, so flat and treeless that you could
see the curvature of the earth.

Arriving for a late lunch, we began a hectic whirl of activity which
is standard for Sue Millard. Including a high school friend of
Barbara's from Pompano Beach, we were treated to a seafood
dinner at a black storefront restaurant. It has been discovered
by the white elderly residents nearby. They all looked like
immigrant progeny from New York and New Jersey. This in
contrast to the vacationers on the west coast who are mostly
cornfed midwesterners. Lots of Canadians there, too.

Next day, we went first to the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach
to see the exhibit of Tiffany lamps. Barbara had just read a book
about Clara Driscoll and the women who designed and made the
lamps around the turn of the 20th century. Awe-inspiring, these
expensive artifacts were the rage among the rich during the early
uses of electricity in the home. Revisited some of the rooms in
Flagler's mansion. He was an original "big oil" man along with
Rockefeller. Barbara's husband, Winston, was distantly related
to John D.; the name gets people's attention. She still uses
Barbara Rockefeller as her name.

Sue then took us to The Breakers for lunch. When we tried to
go in there three years ago, we were turned away. It was a treat
to tour the place as her guest. Then to the Four Arts Center of
Palm Beach for a fabulous exhibit of art and artifacts of the
Wild West from a private collection. Ending the day with dinner
at Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant (obviously), which has
a pictorial display of Italians and Italian-Americans that is
impossible to descibe.

When we drove back the next day, the transition between the east
and west coasts is sharp, mainly in the sudden emergence of trees
and groves in the west. Having sampled both coasts, we prefer
west by far -- except for the crazy pollen. If we come down next
year, Barbara plans to get allergy shots before we leave. The
rest of our stay will probably be spent in local activities,
although I would like to have lunch at The Lobster Pot on Siesta
Key. It is a Cape Cod derivative which I found on a previous

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Venice Diaries X

A potpourri:

The Venice Theater put on Avenue Q in their small theater,
so we had to see it again. And it was just as good a
production as what we saw at Cape Rep last summer,
including a couple of numbers not seen before.

Energetic young people again made the muppets come alive.
The part of "Christmas Eve" was played by the same
Japanese woman who was in the Cape Rep cast. It is the
rare show that you become sorry that it ends, and wish
for more.

Friday the sixteenth, we drove across the Sunshine Bridge
to St. Petersburg, to have lunch with Roz and Charles
Jacobs, old friends of Barbara from Woodcliff Lake, N.J.,
who also have a house near Tampa. We toured the Fine
Arts Museum first, small, but well-organized with some
good American pieces. We always do museums. I had
been there before, five years ago, and recall a poignant
event which occurred in an empty gallery.

Lunch afterwards at a restaurant on Bay Shore Drive.
The St. Petersburg waterfront is still as beautiful as I
remembered it -- a model of civic improvement. We
window-shopped the area, and entered several shops,
not including Bruce Watters, the jeweler.

On Saturday, we accomplished one of Barbara's greatest
wishes on this trip: a visit to the Southgate Mall in
Sarasota, to shop at CHICO'S. Having been to Chico's
several times, I can state that they specialize in making
real women look good. That was followed by soft
ice cream at the Nokomis Orange Grove, an authentic
grower and major tourist attraction.

We will drive over to Wellington on the East Coast on
Tuesday to spend a couple of days with Sue and Frank

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Venice Diaries IX

A day in the Myakka River State Park was spent in seeing
and exploring primitive Florida. Situated just east of
Sarasota, it features a "wild and scenic river, wetlands,
prairies, hammocks, and pinelands." We might call them
savannas and jungle.

In the first series of photos (see link below) we are on a
nature trail through a dense forest of palms. They are huge,
compared to those in commercial areas. Then we ascended
a "canopy walk," giving us a picture of the density of the
forest, and a view of its extent. Apparently, that's what
Florida looked like centuries ago. No wonder the Seminoles
were never defeated by the white man.

Then a visit to the usual commercialized visitors area where
we had a surprisingly good lunch of fresh, local grown
ingredients. Having seen the land close up, we opted for
the ride around Lake Myakka in a large air boat. Like those
that tour the Everglades, it has a very shallow draft and is
propelled by a huge air propeller in the stern.

The lake is very shallow; one could walk across it. Not a
good idea, as an estimated 1500 to 2000 alligators, large
and small, populate its waters. You may see some of them
in the photos, forming an escort to our boat. Surprisingly,
people paddle rented canoes and kayaks all around the lake,
right alongside the alligators. I guess they are careful not
to tip over.

There were some flocks of birds near the dam. We walked
out to see them, but my photos do not illustrate them well
enough. Not being a birder, nor having Peterson with me,
I can only recognize the egret, the roseated spoonbill, the
white pelican, and the black vulture. There is supposedly
a better spot for bird-watching, but by that time we were
surfeited with nature and wildlife. In the last two photos,
we look like we are ready to depart!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Venice Diaries VIII

What a glorious (and exhausting) day in Sarasota yesterday!
I expected the traffic on Sunday to be a little easier -- wrong,
everyone was going somewhere. Still, we made the center
of the city (It is a real city), in an hour, early enough to park
across the street from the opera house. Then time for a stop
at a restaurant serving genuine gelato, better than the house
in Venice.

The opera house is a lavishly remodeled movie theater,
looking exactly like a provincial opera palazzo in Italy.
I was especially interested in seeing "Otello," because it
is one of Verdi's best, and is rarely performed. The acoustics
were not perfect, but the house is small enough to project
every note to the far reaches. We were in orchestra center,
about two-thirds back from the stage.

The leads, Otello and Desdemona, although a little porky in
stature, were sound in every way: timbre, pitch, tessitura.
Otello is not easy on the tenor, who has to sing with full
power thoughout the opera. The fellow playing Iago needed
to learn how to act; he sang all his arias flat-footed, knees
together, facing the audience. Beautiful sets, which drew
applause at each scene change.

I noticed in the program that Suzanne and Henry Foster
were listed, and pictured, as Season Sponsors, which
probably means heavy hitters. We were friends with them
in Brewster before Mom died, sharing an interest in the
Brewster historical society. I knew they spent the winter
in their home on Longboat Key. Suzanne was trained as
an opera singer and performed in some regional venues.

Roger and Mariarosa Rockefeller had invited us for dinner
after the opera, at their condominium on Longboat Key.
That was very nice and much appreciated, including the
attendance of a cousin of Roger's (and Barbara's husband,
Winston) whom Barbara knew. The condo complex is
a gated high rise right on the beach, to which we had to
be admitted by a lengthy procedure of identification.

On the way home, we decided that living in such a place
would be like being in a prison. I characterized it as
a "project" for the well-to-do, with a whole bunch of
equal "projects" nearby, lacking only graffiti and drug
dealers. A couple of days earlier, we looked at an
apartment complex just to see what was being offered.
Although nicely appointed, Barbara said it would be like
living in a closet, good for one person, maybe.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Venice Diaries VII

With Roger and Mariarosa Rockefeller (Barbara's brother-in-law)
we explored the Marie Shelby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.
Situated on a spectacular point overlooking Sarasota Bay, the
house and its gardens became a major attraction years ago. The
house itself looks like Tara, and is now a museum.

Shelby Gardens specializes in tropical plants (no surprise) of
worldwide origins. A separate greenhouse contains an orchid
collection. On the grounds are hundreds of different species.
Most impressive were the banyan trees from Asia. Many visits
would be required to study them all. I liked the little
bonsai collection, too.

In the pictures below, you may get some impression of the
display. One photo is of banana trees with bunches of bananas
growing. That was a first; I had never seen a real banana
tree before, even when I was in Panama City, Panama in 1973.
Some of the large shrubs looked like they could grab you if
you got too close.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Venice Diaries VI

Venice Diaries VI

Photos at: https://picasaweb.google.com/116843928190236062311/2012PatrickSFloridaTrip

Getting to jetBlue Park in Fort Myers was a breeze. About 60 miles south down I-75
to an exit near the airport, then a short drive to the park where legions of yellow jackets
waved us into parking. The new spring training facility for the Red Sox is a gem! This was
the first game to be played in the park. It is a small replica of Fenway Park on the field, including
the ricochet corners and the fabled Green Monster. The latter has "monster seats." Like Fenway,
the seating is very cramped -- not for the obese!

The Red Sox were playing a day-night doubleheader, first with Northeastern U., then
with Boston College. These are traditional games where the score is meaningless.
As expected, the Sox hit the Northeastern pitchers like batting practice. Only a few
of the starters were in the game we saw, namely Lester, Gonzales, Pedroia, Ellsbury,
and McDonald. Substitutes who were trying out for roster spots came in frequently.

It didn't matter to us what the outcome was, or who played. We just wanted to see
the new park, to sit in T-shirt and shorts on March third, to hear "Sweet Caroline"
on the PA system. Barbara has been wearing a surgical mask when outdoors to sift
out the pollen. Downtown Venice had a huge arts show today, so she looked like
a tsunami refugee as she toured the booths with Tippy and me in tow.