Sunday, June 29, 2008

Crossed Oars with Life Buoy

For a long time we have wanted some oars on our back yard fence. The oars and the life buoy in the photos below were birthday gifts to Jack and Ken from Joan, Billy, Kim and Beth. Thank you all very much.

Crossed Oars with Life Buoy

Everything is attached with hooks and latches so in case of hurricanes they can be easily removed and stowed in a safe place.

Crossed Oars with Life Buoy, close up

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Circus Comes To Town

[On Friday night we went to the circus. Jack offered to review the performance for us and I thank him for doing such a thorough job of it. The following are Jack's comments.]


Disclaimer: I have been associated with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, on and off, for around (gasp!) forty years. I am not on their payroll but have done various writing jobs for them, the most recent in 2006. Still, believe me, these comments are not designed for the Ringling press kit but are just my honest opinions.

Circus logoFriday night, we drove down to the Pensacola Civic Center to see Ringling's 137th Edition (the Red show), entitled "Bellobration" in honor of its star, the brilliant daredevil clown Bello Nock. We arrived about an hour before show time to observe the "All-Access Pre-Show" which invites audience members to the arena floor to "interact" with performers and animals. The audience enjoyed it but the pre-show lacked the cohesiveness and spirit that's stimulated by an inspired host -- I am thinking particularly of how brilliantly Jon Weiss conducted this event for several years on Ringling's Gold Unit.

As the circus proper unfolded, I had a hunch it would be an excellent experience. That mood was in the air. I wasn't disappointed. The previous edition, "Circus of Dreams," was quite a mess. Looking back, I consider it now as the transitional show. For that one, the producers Kenneth Feld and Nicole Feld did away with the time-honored three-ring format by opening up the arena floor, adding a giant TV screen and incorporating a storyline into the circus.

I left last year feeling quite a bit let down. Sure, I am all for modernization and innovation. It's lethal to stay stuck in the past. But the "Circus of Dreams" just didn't cut it. Happily it appears that many lessons were learned from that experiment.

Bello Nock"Bellobration" gets it right. From the elegant black and white opening to the blasting human cannonballs finale, it's real circus all the way. As the title would suggest, the show is framed around Bello Nock. He appears throughout, displaying skill and daring on a sway pole and the giant revolving "wheel of steel." He also presides over a funny interactive bit with kids from the audience. (Real "townie kids" or "ringers?" I can't say for sure) and appears repeatedly on pre-recorded clips on the giant screen. Bello is a consummate performer at the top of his form; a seventh generation circus star who's a joy to see in action.

Aside from Bello, I was not impressed much by the show's clowns. They seemed disjointed and generally not very funny. One semi-amusing gag called "Dancing With The Clowns" is about all I remember.

Greatly enjoyed the tiger presentation by the Chilean trainer, Taba. He puts his Bengal and white tigers through their paces with skill and humor. More than once I was reminded of the style and persona of the immortal Gunther Gebel-Williams. And, that is praise indeed.

For an old circus hand like me, another fascinating part of this year's "cat act" is the steel arena which descends from the arena ceiling. It's a major logistical innovation that is brilliantly realized. (Getting the cage up and down in the midst of a show has always been a noisy, labor-intensive nightmare. But, for Ringling, not anymore.)

The Aguillar Brothers do an excellent, polished turn on the high-wire. Ringmaster Ty McFarlan performs well and sings the original score nicely.

There are liberty horses, dogs, flying trapeze artists, Chinese acrobats and many other things included that spell circus. A (mostly) live band adds to the overall excitement. It is a well rounded package and the audience seemed to love every minute.

Close-ups on the giant screen, provided by a roving group of camera-people, are a notable addition. The concept is realized more fully this year than in its debut season in "Circus of Dreams."

For the past few years, one of the stars of Ringling who doesn't get his name above the title is lighting designer Peter Morse. The Felds have invested many millions of dollars in lighting instruments and controls. Using this equipment to the fullest, Peter employs every lighting trick in the book and then some. The look and effects are often stunning. It amazes me that the show as performed in a small market like Pensacola looks as good as it did on opening night in Madison Square Garden a year and a half ago.

I had a great time at "Bellobration." If it comes your way, you'll miss a delightful treat if you don't join the party.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Skopelos on the Bay -- for Lunch

Skopelos on the Bay in Pensacola, FloridaFor my birthday Jack said he would take me out to eat anywhere I wanted.

I picked lunch at Skopelos on the Bay. It's on a cliff high above Pensacola's Escambia Bay. They are open for lunch on Fridays only. So that's your one chance each week to enjoy the view -- in daylight. For dinner they are open Tuesday through Saturday, and there's a mid-day Sunday brunch.

The restaurant has been around Pensacola since 1959 and is run by Gus and Nancy Silivos.

Skopelos on the Bay has fresh local seafood, great steaks and many dishes with decidedly Mediterranean flavors -- and, of course, a wonderful Greek Salad. I had a Greek-style fried flounder and Jack had their crab cakes. Both were very good. The service is attentive but relaxed. There are many rooms and an outdoor patio so even when there are lots of customers you don't feel like you are in a crowd.

Across the street is their chrome and formica Scenic 90 Cafe with its art deco decor and menus that promise, "Excellent Food & Snappy Service." And they have both.

For weddings and other special events there's Nancy's Haute Affairs Catering.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dracaena Fragrans (Corn Plant)

My how you've grown!

Corn plant, June 2007Maria and Bill gave us a corn plant in June 2007. The photo on the left was taken then. It seemed pretty big when we got it -- about 4 feet tall. The other day I noticed it had really grown a lot in a year. I didn't realize how much until I found this photo from 2007.

Below is a photo from June 2008. Whatever we are feeding it seems to work.

Corn plant, June 2008

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Summer Day at Pensacola Beach

Snow drifts in January? Or white sand beach in June?
Yesterday we drove over to Pensacola Beach for lunch. After we ate we drove down Fort Pickens Road. The beach is famous for the sugar-white sand. It's so white it can look like snow. The photo above may look like winter in New England, but it's June in Northwest Florida. The temperature was 95 degrees (35C).

Pensacola Beach's water tower We ate at a favorite beach restaurant, Flounder's Chowder House. It has indoor/outdoor dining and a view of Quietwater Beach and Santa Rosa Sound. The decor is funky seaside kitsch. There are lots of huge stuffed fish all around. A real shrimp boat is in the parking lot by the entrance. Over the tables inside there are dozens of old out-board motors clamped to the roof beams. All this and the food and service are really good too.

Jack got this photo of the classic beach ball water tower on Pensacola Beach.

Big Fish Decor

Santa Rosa Sound at Flounder's

On the Beach at Flounder's Chowder House

Monday, June 02, 2008

May 2008 Cruise -- Photos from Carnival Glory

Here's a link to the photos we took on this Carnival Glory cruise.