Louis G. Pol – The Traveling Dean

I began this blog in March 2013 because I wanted to document some observations about my travel experiences in India. As I reflect back on other travel taken prior to March 2013, I wish I had begun posting about my adventures in 2003 as I made my way to St. Petersburg, Russia, or 1992 during a trip to France and Italy, or in 1991 while travelling in Romania and Moldova. Oh, well…

I am the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (formerly Omaha University). I became the dean in August 2003, which means that at this point in time, March 2017, I have been the dean for nearly 14 years, a very long time in one place for a business school dean. The average stay for a business school dean is about 4.5 years. Prior to being named dean, I was a faculty member here, at Rollins College, and at Memphis State University, but not all at the same time. If you want to learn more about me, I am providing a link to my website http://cba.unomaha.edu/lpol. Also, you may wonder what I look like, so here is a picture.

dean-pol-full

As you can see, I am in my official dean uniform. The sculpture in the background is one created by Jun Kaneko. You should look him up.

My goal in regard to this blog is simple. I want to share my experiences with anyone who wishes to know more about the places I have visited. At the same time, if you continue to read, you will gain some insight into my opinions about the places I visit and the people I meet. From time-to-time, you will learn more as I offer comparisons of places, including those experienced before I began this blog. I will try to remain apolitical as I write about what I see, but I will fail at times. Keep in mind that it is March 2017, and remaining apolitical is most difficult.

Finally, I enjoy receiving your comments and corrections.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) Office

Normally, I do not write about short trips. I have never posted about travel that covered only 5 miles (a 15 minute drive). This is my exception. I promise not to do this again.

I was 70 years old on March 5, 2019, and I can no longer delay receiving social security income benefits in a way that is advantageous to me. Many of you know that for each year one delays applying for social security income beyond age 65, an additional eight percent is added to the monthly check. So, by delaying five years, age 65 to 70, a substantial increase is gained. That’s what I have done. However, the top age for delay is 70. So it’s time for me to collect. My decision to wait is based on my belief that I have hit the genetic Powerball and can expect to live into my 90s. My people live a long time.

Most of those filing to receive checks from the SSA can do so on-line. I can not. For the last 18 months, three different persons have tried to file for my benefits. How rude. Perhaps they thought I was dead. I try hard not to look dead. At the end of the last attempt to collect my benefits, the SSA and I agreed that I would only be able to apply for benefits in-person, given that the three fraudulent attempts were made on-line. So, the only way for me to begin receiving checks was to show up in the Omaha SSA Office, with identification in hand.

Omaha SSA Building

I arrived at the SSA office early, signed in, and got my waiting list number, even though I had a scheduled appointment, and sat down. My appointment at 2:30 pm was with a guy named Brian. I sat down in a black plastic chair. I knew that the chair was uncomfortable because I had been to the Omaha SSA office before. Settling into the chair confirmed that my memory was not faulty. I imagined sitting in the black plastic chair in the summer, my butt sweating, and wishing that my number would be called soon. In the winter, you don’t sweat, but the chair brings no joy.There were very few others waiting in the reception area. I thought the place would be jammed up with people given the date, January 28.  Perhaps it was the very cold weather that kept others home. Perhaps it is the chairs.

I had been in my seat for less than five minutes when I was called early to station 14. Detaching my hiney from that black plastic chair could not have come soon enough. I stood up, collected my file folder, and strolled back to station 14. I sat down in a different kind of uncomfortable chair.

Brian greeted me with a smile and asked me why I was there. He was seated behind protective glass. There was a small opening at the bottom of the glass for the purpose of exchanging documents. I guess he needed to be protected from those of us who might want our money right now, and insisted on it, or were not happy with the answers he gave to our questions. I told Brian that it was time for me to begin collecting my income checks. The period of delay was coming to a close because of my impending 70th birthday. Moreover, I could not go on-line to file for benefits given my record of having other people try to get my money. Brian had my file in hand. He already knew most of what I told him.

He asked me for identification. I was ready. I had my entire file of SSA letters (the ones that told me of the fraud attempts), along with my birth certificate, social security card, and passport. Just a short distance away in my wallet was my driver’s license, credit cards, AAA card, Medicare card… I slid him my passport, and he gave it a look. I told him that I had other identification, but he responded that the passport was good enough. I was disappointed. I expected to be asked for more. I wanted him to ask for more. I really wanted to show him my birth certificate proving that I was born in the Bronx.

He began his questioning with a warning about the penalties associated with untruthful answers. I told him that I would be truthful, wondering how many politicians filed in person. Then we began with the substantive queries. For the next six to seven minutes, he asked me if I was still working, if I was married, what was my wife’s full name, when was she born, did I have children living in my home, and did I have a dog (not that one).This was pretty boring stuff. Nothing about fraud, criminal records or conspiracies was broached. I was disappointed again. I wanted to earn my money. I wanted him to ask me questions that would make me think. Then it was over. I expected to be there a long time, but we were done in about 15 minutes. I was told that I would receive my first direct deposit payment the second Wednesday in April. Thank you Brian. You didn’t need a glass shield to protect yourself from me.

The ride back to my office took 15 minutes. However, my mind was in a different place. Filing for SSA benefits is a surreal experience. It means something bad has happened or that you have arrived at an age threshold. The experience makes you think deep thoughts. I started thinking about age, old age. How old is old? Is it 60, 65, or 70? Is it when for the first time you find yourself in the grocery store searching for a bottle of Mad Dog 20 20 and a case of Boost at the same time? Or, is it when you remember the Boost and forget the Mad Dog 20 20? Is it when you don’t work anymore because you can’t work anymore? Is it when the list of things you can’t eat is longer than the list of stuff you will eat? Does it start the day you stop eating Twinkies? Is it when you can no longer ride a bike safely? Or, is it when you sign up for social security income benefits?

The Trip I Did not Take and the Flood of the Century (Really) –The Non-Traveling Dean

My office phone rang at about 10:30am Friday morning, March 15. My wife, Janet, was calling me to let me know that if I wanted to be sure that I would get home I should leave the office now. I thought about her plea for a few minutes, packed my briefcase, jumped into my Highlander, and headed down the road. I live on the west side of the Elkhorn River and work on the east side. Normally, I leave our house at 6:30 am, and in about 25 minutes, I am in my office. It’s not a short drive, 16.3 miles, just a fast one. On Friday it took me 60 minutes to get home.

flood-before Elkhorn River

Flood Map

By the time I left the office, two of the possible four routes home were closed. The rapidly rising waters of the Elkhorn River made it hazardous to pass either way, thus the shutdown. I chose my next option, one that put me out just south of my neighborhood. There was a lot of traffic lined up to cross the bridge. I arrived home not sure what to make of all the hubbub. I had an eerie sense as I pulled into our garage.

The flood was upon us quickly. All of you with any connections to the outside world have seen the stories of rescue, property damage, and the loss of life as they played out on the national news. As I write this post a lot of water is running south on the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers to the Missouri and eventually to the Mississippi. In the days to come, these sad stories will repeat themselves again and again, but will originate from St. Joseph, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Lester Holt, Katie Couric, and Anderson Cooper will tell us again about the acts of bravery, and sacrifice, and also, unfortunately, the loss of everything, including lives.

Flooding

We overuse the term “perfect storm”, but in our case an alignment of three factors brought about this mayhem. First, we have had a very, very cold late winter. Bomb cyclones brought subzero temperatures that lasted for days, and more than one blow was delivered. Second, just a week prior to the flood we had a blizzard, leaving even more snow everywhere. Third, it rained a lot. In Waterloo, Nebraska where I live we had 3 inches of rain in 7 days on top of the snow. The rain and melting snow could not be absorbed by the frozen ground, and water ran downhill to the river. Underlying all of this is the significant change in climate our planet is experiencing.

Earth Moon

Flood stage on the Elkhorn River at Waterloo is 14 feet. On Saturday, March 16, the river crested at Waterloo at 24.63 feet. The extra 10 plus feet of water went everywhere. Homes, ranches, commercial buildings, humans, animals, highways, bridges, and cropland were not spared. I live on high ground and our home did not take any water. It was too close though, and when the river crested (I was not certain it had crested) I began to wonder what it would be like if the raging river water began to fill our lake and our home. Earlier on Saturday, we had seen a lake just one mile west of us begin to fill with Platte River water, the result of several levee failures. As the water levels rose and our neighborhood began to look like an island, I also wondered how we could be rescued in a short period of time if the water rose even more quickly. There are a lot of people who live in our immediate vicinity. It would take an armada of boats to get all of us out. There were not enough helicopters to do the job.

Rescue Boat

During situations such as this one, damage and loss of life happens involuntarily. That is, people, animals, homes and businesses do not sign up to be in the path of a flood. However, there are always exceptions to this generalization. As the flood waters were rising and even after the rivers had crested, many around us (we did too) became flood tourists. All of us watched and read the stories regarding this disaster, and many simply had to go and see what was happening. Cars, SUVs, Jeeps, and other vehicles could be seen all around the surrounding area. Most folks were careful and avoided roads that had “too much” water, or the flow was too fast. Some roads had warning signs designed to stop traffic. But, there are always exceptions, you know those idiots who want to live on the edge, see it all, and again try to prove that Darwin was right. Those folks don’t think at all about who else they might put in danger when they drive around the signs into higher water.

Road Closed

On Saturday at nearly 11 pm, I was catching up with the late news, responding to some messages that had come in, and otherwise dozing—it had been a long day. Black Hawk helicopters had been engaged in rescues throughout the day, but had shut down due to darkness, or so I thought. Then, I heard those very distinct rotors, and knew that they were back. As I looked out our back window, I could see a helicopter hovering. It turns out that some genius and a passenger had decided to do a bit of exploring, in the dark. They thought the signs that the road was closed did not apply to them. They drove in water at least three feet deep, and their circumstances became worse when they turned onto another road that had been washed out. That was it. They were stuck in fast water. A rescue boat was called out first, but it sank. So, two Black Hawk helicopters were finally needed to rescue all. The driver of the pickup truck was in rough shape when rescued. He was suffering from hypothermia. Did I mention that river water in March in our part of the country (it had ice in it) is cold?

This story is part of my travel blog because it includes a trip that I did not take. I was scheduled to leave for Fort Myers on Sunday, March 17. My only option to get back to the east side of the river was private helicopter. I chose not to spend $1,600 to take that ride.

When the Cranes Become Bison

We traveled to the Crane Trust in central Nebraska in the first week of March. We had made reservations well in advance, knowing that this was the start of the major viewing season of the Sandhill Cranes, Whooping cranes, and other birds that have been flying through what is now known as Nebraska for an astounding ten million years. Yes, we were going to have a close view of some of the estimated 500,000 plus birds that travel as much as 5,000 miles to migrate between as far south as Mexico and as far north as Bering Sea and Siberia.

Sandhill Crane

The Crane Trust is located about 150 miles west of Omaha, not far from Grand Island, Nebraska. The trust was created in 1978 as part of a court approved settlement over the construction of the Grayrocks Dam in Wyoming. The state of Nebraska and the Natural Wildlife Federation sued those constructing the dam, using the newly enacted Endangered Species Act as the bases for the suit. Construction of the dam altered water flow on the Platte River, thus putting in danger the migrating birds that stopped to refuel as part of their long journey. The trust was created, including all three parties, and a protected habitat was created. Today, visitors come from all over the world to watch this amazing gathering of bird species.

The Crane Trust

These are big birds. The Sandhill Crane stands 3 to 5 feet tall, with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet. However, it is a light bird, weighing only 6.5 to 14 pounds. The Whooping Crane is larger, standing 5 feet tall, with a wingspan of 7-8 feet. They weigh between 14 to 17 pounds. There are two other major differences in the birds. First, Whooping Cranes essentially eat-and-run in Nebraska, staying on the Platte River normally for 2 to 3 days. The Sandhill Cranes stay longer, as much as a month or more, using the time to increase their weight 15-20 percent—it’s a long trip.

The Whooping and Sandhill Crane

Our drive to the Crane Trust almost did not happen. It was snowing lightly when we departed from Omaha. The forecast for central Nebraska was far heavier and blowing snow. We talked about the pros and cons of the trip, and decided to go, leaving quite early as we anticipated slower driving. The speed limit is 75 mph, which means much of the traffic is normally at least 80 mph. We did encounter some heavier blowing snow, but our early departure meant we avoided the blizzard conditions that occurred along the route not long after we arrived at the trust. Note: In blizzard conditions, it’s always good not to go 80 mph. On the way home we came across a number of abandoned vehicles in ditches and in the median.

March Blizzard

We checked in at the trust and were driven to our cabin. The temperature hovered around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but the worst of the snow was east of us, thus the visibility was fairly good.  However, larger patches of the Platte River was frozen and few cranes were visible. They were hunkered down to avoid the worst of the weather. Our small group of visitors (several others had cancelled their reservation) was escorted out to one of the viewing blinds, where we were reasonably warm but observed few birds, none very close.

We returned to a central office and restaurant building for dinner. We were given two options for the next morning: go back out to the observation blinds before dawn, and perhaps, observe some cranes, or sleep later and be driven out to check out their relatively new herd of buffalo. And, the temperature in the morning was forecasted to be five below zero. Yes, we chose the latter, knowing that we would go out again (first week in April) to see the cranes. Some folks chose the cranes. I’m not sure that they saw much.

Bison

The Crane Trust began assembling their herd of Bison in 2015. Keep in mind that there were once an estimated 30 to 60 million of these noble animals roaming North America from Mexico to Alaska. Also, note that they were systematically slaughtered (it is known as The Great Slaughter), and for the last 150 years there have been very few bison in the wild. In 1889, 130 years ago, there were only an estimated 1,000 animals left alive, 85 of whom roamed free. Today, there are about 30,000 bison who roam freely. They are truly amazing. Imagine a 6.5 foot, 2,000 pound buffalo (that’s as large as they get) charging at 35 mph (top speed). Scary, but elegant.

I suggest that you plan to visit the Crane Trust. Stay long enough to see the birds and bison.

Wake Turbulence-Late Leaving LAX

I first learned about wake turbulence in 1986 while watching the movie Top Gun. You remember that flick, don’t you? It was wake turbulence (they called it jet wash) that resulted in the death of Goose. Maverick was doing some of his “pilot shit”, got too close to another aircraft in a simulated dog fight, went into a flat spin from which he could not recover, and ejected. Maverick was OK. Goose, on the other hand, smacked his head on the canopy as he ejected, and was dead when he hit the water.

Top Gun

The dangers of wake turbulence were not resolved during the hearing that ruled that Maverick was not at fault in the death of Goose. Besides, Goose went on to star in a TV series and has had a number of parts on the big screen. Today, pilots are very careful to avoid the wake produced by another aircraft, but sometimes they do get too close.

Top Gun Goose

Our flight from LAX to Las Vegas was late. In fact, we never boarded the scheduled aircraft. The incoming flight to LAX (our outgoing aircraft to Las Vegas) originated in Oakland in route to LAX. The 737 flown by Southwest got to close to an A380, notorious for its very large size and the substantial wake produced. I should note that the A380 is no longer manufactured. The rapid drop in altitude of the 737 that resulted from wake turbulence caused the drinks that had been served to jump out of their cups only to go back in the cups, for the most part. A flight attendant, who was not in her seat with a seatbelt on, was tossed around and broke her leg. Wear those belts, and tightly! She was shaken, and in pain. The LAX rescue squad was there on the spot to get her off the plane and under care as soon as the flight had pulled up to the jet way.

A380

The 737 aircraft was taken off line so that it could be checked out in case there was lasting damage. The crew and continuing passengers were transferred to a new aircraft, and that’s when we boarded. The through passengers gave us the full story of what happened. Some were frightened. A teenage lacrosse team thought it was great fun. The pilot was miffed; at least that’s how he sounded when he spoke to us about what had transpired.

Arizona, California, and Athenaeum

We were in Arizona and California in mid-February for our annual western swing to meet alumni and other friends as part of two University of Nebraska Foundation donor celebrations—in Scottsdale and Palm Springs. These are enjoyable events, especially as we meet with individuals and couples at scheduled breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The weather was much cooler and wetter than usual. We observed a lot of snow in the mountains that are just a short distance from Palm Springs, the most I’ve ever seen there at that time of year. In the Phoenix area, the cold temperatures tamped down the crowds at spring training workouts. We were there too early in the month to see any Cactus League games.

Palm Springs Mountains

The drive from Ontario, California (we flew there from Phoenix) to Palm Springs is more interesting every year. The uncharacteristic rain brought a lot of color to a normally bland and brown landscape. The green and yellow grasses and shrubs seemed to be everywhere, and the spring flowers were off to a great start. The wind farms west of Palm Springs continue to spread through the Coachella Valley. The most recent additions are the largest turbines in the valley, and top out at 160 feet. At the same time, more older models have been de-commissioned, and their non-rotating carcasses can be seen in the hills and floor of the valley. There has been a significant uptick in solar-generated energy production as were. Arrays of solar panels are now found on more residential and commercial buildings than ever before. Larger arrays are cropping up in the valley, often adjacent to the wind farms.

Wind Mill.Solar Panel Palm Springs

This years’ ‘special element’ to the trip involved lunch in Pasadena with a donor and his wife. We had not met them before. They are a wonderful couple, and have been married for 65 years! They live near the Caltech campus and invited us to join them at the Athenaeum, a private club located at the southern edge of the campus. The word Athenaeum comes from the ancient Greek name Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The Athenaeum in Athens was a temple where poets, philosophers, and orators gathered to read and discuss their work. The conversations at the Athenaeum and Caltech, I suspect, focus mostly on science, but I’m sure that philosophy and politics find their way into the exchanges.

The Caltech Athenaeum was made possible by a 1929 gift of $500,000 in form of stocks. Well, you might ask, did these stocks have any value after the crash? Answer: the organizers and donors were lucky, the stocks were sold prior to October so that they netted the entire $500,000. The club opened in 1930. The first formal dinner at the club was held on February 4, 1931. Three Nobel Prize winners attended the dinner; Albert Einstein, Robert A. Millikan, and A.A. Michelson. For a moment imagine what it would have been like to have attended that dinner and engaged in conversation. Poor Michelson died later that year.

Front Athenaeum

The Caltech Athenaeum is amazing for two reasons. First, it functions as a restaurant and gathering place for many of the brightest minds in the world. Small and larger groups can be found discussing the most important ideas of the day. Our alum recalled having lunch at the club one day and seeing Stephen Hawking at one of the tables. The second reason is related to the fact that the club functions as a small (very small) hotel. Those rooms are located on the second floor of the structure.

Inside Atheneaum

Perhaps some of you know that Albert Einstein was a visiting scientist at Caltech in 1931, 1932, and 1933, before he emigrated to the U.S. Where did he live? You guessed it, in a room on the second floor of the Athenaeum, but only in 1932 and 1933. Today select individuals can book the Einstein Suite in the Athenaeum. The suite is decorated so that it appears much like it did to Einstein, of course with modern amenities, e.g. HDTV, added. Click on the link to check out the suite.

In 1931, he lived in a bungalow south of the campus. We drove over to the bungalow at 707 South Oakland Avenue, and were surprised that there are no markings or signage to identify the significance of the house.

 

Einstein Bungalow

https://www.athenaeumcaltech.com/Default.aspx?p=DynamicModule&pageid=378384&ssid=295007&vnf=1

Flying back from LAX to Omaha most often involves one stop. This time it was back through our old favorite, Las Vegas. This is one of the very few places on Earth when you can play a Wheel of Fortune slot while eating a Nathan’s hot dog and drinking a beer.

Slot Machine.jpg

Denver, Nederland and Frozen Dead Guy Days

I was back in Denver in early January as part of our annual alumni event. The gathering is scheduled on the same evening as a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO)/ University of Denver (DU) hockey game. We collect up before the game in space rented at Magness arena, DU’s hockey barn, and continue to exchange stories during the game, particularly between periods. We had nearly 100 attendees this year, and many of them were graduates of our business school. It was an enjoyable evening filled with conversations among alums, some who were attending the event for the first time. Unfortunately, UNO lost to DU, again, but the loss did not prevent us from having a good time.

Denver CO

On all of our alumni/outreach visits, we schedule individual appointments with alumni and other friends (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and others), and fill up our schedule as much as possible. Now and then we have some unscheduled times, and in January we found ourselves with an evening without an appointment. So, we drove to Boulder to have dinner, and learned about Frozen Dead Guy Days, in Nederland, just west of Boulder. This years’ celebration is scheduled for March 8 to March 10.

 

Frozen Dead Guy Days has its roots in, you guessed it, a frozen dead guy. Bredo Morstoel was 89 years old when he passed away in Norway in 1989. For reasons not completely understood, his body was shipped by his grandson, Trygue Bauge, to Trans Time, a San Francisco- based cryonics facility where Grandpa Bredo was preserved. At the same time, with the help of his mother, Aud, Trygue worked on building a cryonics chamber in Nederland, Colorado. Why Nederland? Well, Trygue and Aud lived there. And, they had every intention of bringing Grandpa Bredo back as soon as scientific breakthroughs allowed for his reanimation. The body arrived in Nederland, and placed into the home version of a cryonics chamber, with Grandpa Bredo being kept cold by a steady supply of dry ice. No, I am not making this up.  Check this link. https://frozendeadguydays.org/aboutfdgd

FDGD pic 1

Grandpa stayed frozen for four years, while Trygue developed plans to design and construct a new and improved facility, one that would withstand all forms of disasters. Planning came to a halt when Trygue was deported by the INS, because he had overstayed the time period allowed on his visa. Aud then took over, but she got crossways with the Nederland City Council, and eventually was evicted from her home. However, Grandpa Bredo, in his frozen state, was allowed to remain in his shed under the care of some dude named Bo Shaffer. I’ll stop here with the details except to note that Grandpa Bredo now resides in a Tuff Shed (I haven’t seen The Frozen Dead Guy in any Tuff Shed ads, have you?).

FDGD pic 2

The celebration, now known as Frozen Dead Guy Days, was brought forward in 2002 as a way to re-brand Nederland’s spring festival. And, the festivities continue today. Among this years’ events to attend:

  • Grandpa’s Mall Crawl
  • Viewing of the “Grandpa’s in The Tuff Shed” documentary
  • “Call Me Ned” musical performance
  • Parade of Coffin Racers and Hearses
  • Coffin Races
  • Brain Freeze Contest
  • Frozen Dead Poet Slam
  • The Newly Dead Game
  • Screening of Frozen Dead TV Pilot

and

  • Frozen Fix-a-Flat

 

Nederland, CO

The PIE Calls Again

It was time to get back to Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg. The Fall 2018 semester was over, I had shaken a lot of hands at graduation, and we were ready to go back down south to visit my mother and be on the beach.

We again chose to fly Allegiant to the PIE (St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport). The direct flight is convenient and the cost is reasonable, although it flies only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We paid extra for seats in the front row, and I was in seat 1-A. That one has a lot of legroom in part because it is adjacent to the main cabin door. As I watched all of my fellow passengers board, I had some not-so-random thoughts. One thought was shaped by images of 737s past that had somehow “lost” the main cabin door. Should the pressure in the cabin change drastically, the door just a few feet away from me might be blown out and I would be the first one sucked out into the wide open. Think about that. I did.

The A320 had 150 passengers aboard. It seemed fairly new (it had that new aircraft smell) and our seats were right in the epicenter of the action. We watched the flight attendants working hard, together, and saw the kind of camaraderie that makes for a place fun to work. We overheard stories of past and present personal drama as well, probably things they really did not want me to hear. The show that came with seat 1-A was well worth the price. And, I was the first one off the plane at the PIE, the door still intact.

Allegiant Plane

Snagging a rental car at the PIE is a breeze. We were out of the airport quickly, soon heading west on Highway 60 toward the beach. There was little traffic, and we arrived at our destination in 20 minutes. We emptied the car, used the key code to get unto our rental unit, and headed-off on foot toward Frenchy’s Palm Pavilion, right on the beach.

It was after 10pm, and the crowd at Frenchy’s was small, but lively. Given that it was Saturday night, we were surprised that the turnout was so low. We’ve been there on Saturdays when the wait for the restaurant was more than an hour. The band that was playing focused on 60s-90s tunes. Four guys were playing songs that they grew up with, songs they have played hundreds of times. I hope they have day jobs. I’m not sure that they knew of any music from the 21st century, and the crowd did not seem to care. Audience members were drinking, a lot, dancing (kind of dancing), and drinking more, and probably thought that the lead singer sounded just like Tom Petty and Michael Jackson. He didn’t sound like them, and besides Petty and Jackson are dead. Perhaps I needed to drink more. On the positive side, people were just having a good time. We kicked back, had shrimp and grouper, and wandered back to our place.

When we first visited Clearwater Beach in 1989, the sleep options were a mix of hotels, motels, some quite old, and houses that had been subdivided into rental living spaces. Each subsequent visit was marked by a different small apartment-type of experience, as long as we stayed out of the better-known hotels, and condominiums. On this trip, we bunked in one of those subdivided houses, around the corner and up the stairs to a bedroom/living room, kitchen, and bathroom combination—perhaps 600 or 700 square feet in total. It looked and felt like a beachfront rental, a good quality to have. We were adjacent to a sand dune and could see the ocean, not bad given that a few hours earlier we were residing in a sea coast free environment. These kinds of places, which are gradually being razed and replaced by new construction, have character. The next time you head for the beach, find one of these places and stay there, while you still can.

 

Clear Water Beach

We had a fine visit with my mother and her husband Sid. My sister, Terry, was there for a few days as well. My mom gave me a new view of getting old, one worth repeating. She’s always dressed very well, and frankly looks marvelous, especially at age 90. I asked her about her days, time at the pool, dancing, and such and she told me that at her age she was having to spend half the day in what she refers to as maintenance. I’ll remember that one.

We also caught up with a friend of ours, Bob Miles and his friend Alex Sink. Alex had run for governor of Florida a few years earlier, and despite being outspent by Rick Scott by a huge margin, she nearly won. Both Bob and Alex are fun to be around. After dining at a neighborhood cafe, Bob took the three of us to The Straz Center for Performing Arts. Bob has four season tickets to the Jaeb Theater at The Straz, and we saw Amythyst Kiah perform. She’s a real talent. She sings and plays a mixture of folk, jazz, and blues. See her (view youtube as well) if you can.

The Straz

Much too soon, it was time to go home. So, back to the PIE and another ride on an A 320. We saw a number of familiar faces, folks who were on the flight to the PIE just a few days prior. This time, we were sitting in the emergency (exit) row, 14.  Remember this (if you sit in the exit row):

  • You can’t wear high heels if you are seated in the exit row and plan to push out the door (if there is a crash)
  • Don’t open the door if there are flames directly outside
  • Don’t open the door if the door is underwater (Why would I open the door in that situation?)
  • Don’t open the door if we are still flying (mmm…)