The View from Inside of a Tropical Mayberry

I am involved in this City.   I have always said that I wanted to live in a small town, get involved, learn about my neighbors, do my own thing and help out where I could.  I guess I watched Mayberry on TV too many times but the idea of being able to go out to the river and fish and walk all over town, get intimately acquainted with everyone on the way seemed like the way to live a life. 

I never picked up a fishing pole in my life, but it is nice to know that I could.   The kids down the block go out to the Middle River, two blocks away, and have Family Time there fishing and have some success while doing it.  I watch the entire family, from the smallest to Mom and Dad walk past the house on the weekends using an old red wagon full of bait and fishing gear on their way down to the river spend some time and walk past the house on the way back home.  They almost always have a cooler with them, so I can imagine that this is their own little weekend picnic lunch. 

These folks are intimately involved with the upbringing of their children.  It truly is the way it should be, children get so much back from having parents take an active part of their lives.  Better than being parked in front of the TV watching old cartoons or playing the latest game on the console, these children are going out and seeing what life is about. 

I know I won’t see this scene today since their pickup truck rolled past the house early with the Air Boat in tow.   They will go out to the west side of the county and float around for a while doing some more fishing and having some family time, Mom, Dad and the boys enjoying the Florida Sun out in the Everglades.   This is more of the Journey being worth more than the Destination, but it is nice to know that people still get out and see the natural side of life. 

South Florida is densely urbanized.  In this part of the county, there are more than 6600 people per square mile.  Once you get past the western expressway, the Sawgrass, the urbanization abruptly stops and the River of Grass that is the Everglades begin.   Since that is a heavily protected environment, there will be opportunities for people to get out and experience it again in the future.

I used to have a river that ran past the house when I was small.  I’d get out and go exploring every so often, find myself by The Pond or back in The Swamp looking for frogs or turtles.  I didn’t have a very clear idea of what I’d do with them when I caught them so generally I’d just annoy them by moving them out of their home, take them to mine, then release them out by the river before nightfall.  We couldn’t eat any of the catch from those polluted waters so we didn’t bother fishing. 

I am glad children still do that sort of thing.  It makes me feel like my childhood wasn’t that out of the ordinary.  If you listen closely you may hear someone whistling a tune with a 10 year old boy walking by, fishing pole up on his shoulder as he heads back into town…

The Light’s On and Somebody’s Home – Picture

Can’t you just hear the 3 year old kid next to you tugging on your pant leg…

Mommy?  Why is that light on?  Its DAYTIME!

Specifically it was almost 6PM, rush hour.  As you can see, it was a brilliant blue sky, a bright South Florida afternoon.

So why is it on? 

Yeah, Kid, I was getting to that…

See the City of Wilton Manors was able to get these new “people centered” light poles put up on the Drive.  From Five Points down to the South End at Richardson Park, we have these beige poles that remind me of a Art-Nouveau-Repro light standard from the 30s brought back to date.  They’re all Metal, so they’ll stand up to the South Florida Weather, the lights are not your standard bulb, and they are much nicer looking than those evil looking Highway Lights that are all over the place. 

You know the Highway Lights that I’m talking about – the ones that were used as a design for the Martians in War of the Worlds in the movie back in the 50s?  I see those lights and my mind thinks they can come alive at any moment and shoot sparks at something to make it glow red then turn to dust… BOO!

These are lower, designed to make the light go where we are, to light our footsteps and show where we are to the traffic.  You know, since this is South Florida, it makes us a better target…

Maybe not but they work very well.  Three hours later, I was walking Mrs Dog past the Gables of Wilton Manors and noted that the sidewalks were very nicely lit, there were much fewer “dead zones” and the colors were truer than the ugly yellow Low Pressure Sodium Lights that we grew used to seeing in cities.

The light has been on for the last few days, and they were all on this morning.  The reason is that they’re all in their burn-in period.  They are required to be to make sure we don’t have any that just don’t work or are not installed correctly.  The ones that I have seen are all turned on.  

When the period has ended and they’re “normal”, they will all turn off at dawn, back on at dusk.  The sensors are set to save us some electricity in our bills as well as the bulbs being higher efficiency than the usual White lights.  They look like they could be a Halide or High Pressure Sodium lamp, but I haven’t been told.  The color rendering is excellent at night, we all don’t look like weird ghosts.

Another feature is that they’re centrally metered.  What you didn’t realize is that most cities pay an estimated bill.  Count up the number of lights you have, multiply it by a factor and pay so much.   That works if you use the old ugly lights but our new pretty lights being so high efficiency will save us money by our only paying for what we use.

One last feature – the bulb sockets are normal “Edison” sockets like the one in the table light next to you… if you don’t have a florescent light everywhere like I do.  This means that in 5 years when LED lighting becomes cheap we can unscrew the old bulb and put in a fancy-schmancy light bulb that will save us even more. 

That is why it’s on little girl.  We’re all happy now.  Lets go walk home, ok?

Thoughts on a Pelican

In South Florida, we have a number of papers.   The Miami Herald is the big one, it used to have a national reach especially on South Florida News and Latin America Affairs.  This was the paper that was referred to when I lived in Philadelphia when ever someone wanted to report on serious news down here in South Florida.

The Sun Sentinel is the big paper in Broward County, heavily reporting on Fort Lauderdale and South Florida, but it has a distinctly “Second City” feel to it.  Lately it has been depending on the Wire Services so much for news that I have to question if it would not be easier to go to or one of the other web pages and get national news directly.  It reports heavily on Fort Lauderdale and Broward County but if you live in a smaller city, I’ve found it is not all that helpful. 

Personally I tend to get more information from the BBC on national and international news, I skim the headlines in the two papers above online, and then settle in to read local news in a weekly paper here, The Pelican. 

Yes, I did speak of a weekly newspaper in the same breath as I did when mentioning my lifelong news source, the BBC, and the two big gorillas on the local news stand, The Herald and the Sun-Sentinel.

After moving here, I got quite involved in Politics as a volunteer.   As I have said to two successive Mayors here, the reason I go to Wilton Manors Commission Meetings is that it is entertaining and informative.   In my typical irreverent manner, I have said that it is more entertaining than watching TV, especially on a Tuesday Night.  I record everything on my Digital Personal Video Recorder anyway so if it comes into the house, I can time shift it and watch programming at my own schedule freeing me up to be involved. 

TV Viewing and Entertainment aside, There is a LOT of information that is given in the Commission meetings here.  I sit in the front row clicking away on my Zaurus, typing into a text editor some horrifically spelled notes in some high level of detail getting the information down.   It is helping me get to my goal of 366 days of consecutive pertinent posts here on – that anniversary is September 13, 2010 if you’re counting.

In the same crowd is the reporter for the Pelican, Michael D’Oliveira, taking notes down on a steno pad.  I’ll look over from time to time and am usually rather surprised that he takes very sparse notes, relying on his memory to get some quite in-depth articles out for the publication, on Fridays, while I’m sitting there acting more like a stenographer banging away furiously and ending the evening with sore thumbs when I’m through.  Apparently, his memory for this subject is better than mine.

Michael has an excellent view on the way things are working here.  I’ve seen him in multiple city meetings, such as Commission, Planning and Zoning and others.  He also does this for some of the other smaller cities in the county that the Sun Sentinel slights.  Pompano and Deerfield get significant coverage as well as Oakland Park and Lauderdale By The Sea. 

We get a lot of free papers here in Wilton Manors, some of them are just “Bar Rags” and not worth the effort it takes to pick them out of the stands.  Others vary from being catty nonsense to somewhat informative.  I will say that due to Michael’s efforts, the Pelican is a Must Read for anyone who lives in or cares about Wilton Manors and nearby cities.

Now, if they could just get this paper online…

Thanks Mike, I’m looking forward to our next chat.

Rollerblading on Schuylkill River Trail Review

Looking at this picture, its not a very pretty scene is it.   To me that is a view of fun.  What you’re looking at is a section of the Schuylkill River Trail in Conshohocken PA.   

This trail runs roughly from the Art Museum in Center City Philadelphia at the Rocky Steps for 22 miles out through Conshohocken, Norristown, and Valley Forge to the Perkiomen Creek Trail in Montgomery County, PA.   I skated that trail for about 10 years, and a total of over 20,000 miles to date.   

The trail is continuous through the length and is a jewel for the region.   I was fortunate enough to be close enough to skate a segment of it whenever I wished.  No cars, few intersections to worry about, very few bad spots with gravel.   This was 22 miles of Black Ice.   There were a few rough spots where there was a sharp incline or a curve, and one hill in particular that was at a railroad style incline for about a mile.  That was my definition of fun, skating down that over 15 miles per hour with some Armin van Buuren “A State of Trance” podcast DJ set running on the head phones on a clear crisp day with little wind.

One of the days when I get back to Philadelphia, my plans are to drive back to my old parking area and skate this section again.   The trails here are nowhere near as long and comprehensive as this.   The best one I’ve found in Broward County was at Pompano Airpark and that one is only a 5 mile loop.  Every time I get a chance to speak with someone in command of a Parks and Recreation budget I put my two cents in for a “multipurpose asphalt paved trail of a minimum length of a mile”.   Why not?  It’s worth your life here to try to cross the street on foot let alone on Rollerblades 8 or 10 wheels.