Spider On Art

I have always noticed Public Art.

I will say that in this case it’s a welcome art installation that works exceptionally well at night.  Art that Functions is a difficult dance to do well.

In front of Gables Wilton Park on Wilton Drive, there were once these blank spaces.  They begged to be filled.  Someone there decided that the thing needed was some lights.  Lights are great in Urban or Suburban environments, you never know what you will find.

Broadly, or what may find you.

They had the idea to put up light boxes.  Big rectangular boxes to break up the lines of the columns of the buildings.  Something to add to the aesthetics of the place while shedding light on the night.

Sure, they could have just put up a couple lights on a pole but where’s the creativity in THAT? 

Instead of having just a big white block in front of the building that would detract, they filled it with what reminds me of holiday wrapping paper or perhaps wallpaper.  It isn’t rigid geometric lines, there is some texture and irregularities to it to keep it interesting, and the “wallpaper” is crumpled a bit.  The crumpling added a certain something to it to catch the eye as you walk by at 5:25AM, or whenever you are in the area.

All of that was a while ago and it has had time to settle into the environment.  Florida itself has acted on the art but it has remained remarkably stable in the punishing UV that we have here.

The environment has been moving in.  We live in an area that if you drop a seed, it will grow, and wildlife lives here with you, despite whether you like it or not.  Coyotes in Boca Raton, Iguanas blocking toilets, Black Racer Snakes in the garden, Cuban Brown Lizards on the windows, and Geckos keeping down the pesky mosquitoes that are everywhere.

I could do without the mosquitoes, truly.

In the case of the big orange square, er, rectangle, a large spider has made it its home.  There’s just enough of a gap in front of it that a spider had strung a web there for the last week or so and is getting visibly larger each day.  Spider, go eat those bugs!

I’m sure someone will squeal at it and either knock the web down or worse, but for now it greets the day with eight legs, eyes, and who knows what else doing its spidery business, decorating art for all passersby.

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Ginger Flowers in the Parking Lot

Walking around town at all hours of the day, I expect to see new things in random places.

I’m one of the first to notice when a neighbor does something to their property like adds new lights or has a bit of fun with landscaping.  I’ll notice when a new car shows up, or a business gets ready to open before most will.

It’s all a part of getting out and exploring your environment.   Get out, enjoy the world, and see what is around you.  It’s a requirement when you have a dog.  If you don’t take your dog for a walk, frequently, more than once a day, you’ll have behavior problems, guaranteed.

Besides, you could use a little time up from the keyboard or the couch.  I know I could.

This particular morning, my body woke me up at 5AM.  Just like a Swiss Watch, I’m up at 5.  I have no explanation for it other than I started getting up early when I was competing on inline skating races in Philadelphia and the habit stuck.

Throwing on clothes, the dog’s harness, and loading my pockets with bags and other needed things, I entered the predawn darkness.

We walked through the regular places in our regular routes when we came upon the Gables Wilton Park.  A rather large and well kept upscale apartment community here in Wilton Manors.  It has always looked as I would expect an apartment complex to be for what it is, and how it is marketed.  The buildings are immaculate, the plantings are interesting, and the grounds are clean. 

Pretty much like you’d expect.

They have much the same plants you see everywhere in South Florida, and set in the gardens in pretty much the same manner.  Low maintenance, and I would expect low water use plants, kept in neat rows so that maintenance workers can get to everything.

I couldn’t but I’m quite a lot taller than your average landscaper.

One of the things that was planted was some ornamental ginger.  I don’t know if the stuff is edible, but it is the same plant that goes into my cookies when I make ginger snaps.

I’m used to seeing them all over town.  They’re a pleasant plant for ornamental use, they don’t seem to spread, they don’t overgrow, they’re not invasive, and they’re about knee high. 

What I didn’t expect was the flowers.  I’ve never seen them bloom before.  I guess I’m still getting used to being in South Florida and the tropics, but this just struck me as being a bit novel.  Not odd, simply new.

The flowers weren’t overly scented, my own weak nose didn’t smell anything at all.  They weren’t large, the inflorescence was about the length of your hand.

Just novel.  A nice change of pace.

I made sure that Rack didn’t water them himself, and we wandered on about our business making a mental note to get a picture of the things later when the light was better.

So that’s what your ginger looks like before it gets turned into snaps.  Tasty!

Watching The Sunset

I haven’t ever done the Sunset At The Beach thing.  I’ve usually got too many things going on at Sunset.

I’ve seen many Sunrises.  Seeing that I’m up early in the morning, and at this time of year it can be as much as two hours, I can watch it rise over the street or over the neighbor’s Gumbo Limbo tree, just over that way.

But Sunset in January is when I’m out walking the dog. 

One evening, for some strange reason, I started getting phone calls on that walk.  This wasn’t like when I was the Chief Technical Officer for the consulting firm.  Those late walks I would spend in a long distance phone meeting most nights.  Holding someone’s hand, giving guidance, and directing a company that would later fade away. 

Interesting way to spend your nights, managing a company, and trying to save it from itself.  Try that while walking a dog through a major shopping and tourist area.  It was a challenge.

But this night the calls were a bit more mundane.  I was holding hands again.  It all got a bit too hectic when I got the second call after two texts.  Rack and I hadn’t walked more than two blocks.  We usually do a mile at that time of night. 

Why not take advantage of the lay of the land?   I sat down at the Gables Wilton Park, on the bench, under the overhang and watched the goings on as I reassured someone that their business plan was sound, they were doing the right thing with their employees, and there really wasn’t much more to say.

Gathering myself together and petting Rack, I noticed what he was watching.  Usually he’s quite afraid of the traffic noises but for some reason he was more calm.  While he was seated against my right leg, he wasn’t shivering.  This is a dog that will shiver if I drop a spoon on the floor.

You have to listen to your dog.  Trust in Dog.  They know what’s going on even if you’re too busy with your own and others problems.

It was a good spot to watch the sunset.  Instead of going out to the ruckus of the drive immediately, I took a well earned breather.  We got to sit there until the sun set low enough to be annoying to me, then went on our way.  After all, people travel from other nations to be in this same city that I walk my dog, so we may as well enjoy it.

The Story of Our Holiday Lights

What do you do with a typical South Florida home?  Mid Century Modern, built in 1968, 1200 square feet?

I mean for the holidays.

When I think of holiday lights here in South Florida, I think of some of the usual things.  Rows of palm trees wrapped with the same color lights to look like the Parthenon columns.

Ionic?  More like Washingtonia.

If they’re done right they look like fireworks.  Right up the trunk and out each frond to send lines of light out to the compass points.

My palm tree isn’t that tall yet.  The one that insisted that it gets to grow in my irrigation line got too big to stay there, so I moved it out front and planted it in the island.  The Bottlebrush tree that I keep expecting to die hasn’t given up the ghost and I refuse to kill a tree.  Maybe next year.

But we did what everyone else did here, trace out the line of the house in color changing LEDs, hang icicles, and call it done.  There are thousands of these houses in South Florida, and in December, many of them look just like ours.

The funny thing is that I didn’t expect us to go through what we did to get the silly icicles in the first place.  Our original lights were subtle.  They would color shift through the spectrum and lined the roof line of the house.  But since we were in a mall up in Pompano Beach, I was shopping.  I ended up in a discount store and spotted their holiday lights display.  They were just put out at that moment so I texted Kevin and asked him if he wanted to look.  He found four boxes of these things and called it done.

It wasn’t.  We got the lights up and needed at least one more set.

Going back to that store was fruitless.  They had been sold out.  Cue one of those mad dashes all over the county looking for more of those stores and more of those lights.  At the third one of the chain he got bold.  Asked the person there if there were more and got the standard “Only What’s Out There”.  That doesn’t work with us, we had him go into the back.  When he was gone, Kevin spotted more of them just out of reach.  Once that person got the ladder, Kevin had the last two boxes.

So we’re set for next year when we end up not being able to find a string of the silly things.

Much better than driving all the way down to a questionable part of Hollywood, FL, looking for cheesy LEDs in a discount store!

That white burning bush out front has it’s own story.  The Gables has a large apartment complex here called Gables Wilton Park.  It’s here for the long haul, well built and sturdy, it looks like it will outlast most of the people I know.  They put up a lot of LED lights over the years and decided to put up something that I found rather nice.  It’s an artificial tree that has a white LED in a flower on the end of each twig.  Being white LEDs, it puts out a lot of light on their property and it actually looks pretty realistic.  The flowers remind me of the Crabapple and Cherry Blossoms that were growing all over the place in Cherry Hill when I was a wee brat.

We looked into it and found that they have a “shrub sized” tree.  Got two of them, sunk them in a concrete planter, and wired the one up in the little rock garden by the front door.   Ooooh, Glowy!  The thing actually lights the house up by itself, and only uses about 2 watts of power at mains voltage.  Great for security.  When the holidays are over, that will remain there lighting the path and the carport for years.

I’m glad we looked into it.  We still don’t have a clue what to do with the second one, but I think it will probably go out back for lighting near the pool.  Maybe down at the deep end near the Utility Easement.

After all, isn’t that what everyone needs in South Florida?  A Burning Bush by the Pool to scare off the predators?

Holiday Date Palm at Gables Wilton Park

When you move your traditions to other places, sometimes they don’t quite get translated well.

The European Pagan tradition of decorating a pine tree with sparkly bits and pieces of fruit got moved indoors in the early Modern Period.  People started fires with their trees when they added candles to them, and with electricity we got those big C7 and C9 light bulbs that would trip a circuit breaker these days. 

9 watts per bulb.  100 bulbs per string.  Add a couple strings together and you’d have enough power drained to run my entire house these days when the A/C isn’t on in February for that one week it’s actually COLD here.

Luckily we’ve got LEDs now.  I have a table top tree that got decorated with a string of about 10 white LEDs that runs off of batteries for a couple of weeks at a time.

Yes, Rechargeable batteries.  I’m not stupid, you know.

But move that same tradition to the tropics and frankly Pine Trees are a bit thin on the ground.  The Norfolk Pines we have here are a bit too large to cart inside, and the ones that aren’t will be soon enough.

So outdoor displays here put to use what we have here in abundance in South Florida.

Palm Trees.

Now, look at them critically for a moment.  They look like a broom or a bottle brush you used to clean out the jars before you reused them for canning.  A mop of fronds at the top and a long tall empty trunk.  Not much shade when you stand under them. 

In fact, I find myself standing on the North side of the trunk more often than not to catch shade before the light changes.

But there are some holiday decorations that work well with these beasts.  They can be really quite cheery when done right.

Wrap the trunk with a long string of lights and you end up with a barber pole.  Most people stop there and call it done.   There’s a rather nice row of them here in Wilton Manors in front of “The Gables”. 

That’s Gables Wilton Park to give it its official name.  

A row of about 12 to 15 palms of about 15 to 20 feet are growing along Wilton Drive.  They’re wrapped in pure white LEDs.  If you stand in just the right spot you get an interesting picket fence effect of glowy goodness.

But they did what is probably my favorite decoration.   On the corner of Wilton Drive and NE 21st Street there are a pair of Date palms.  You know, the edible things that we all like that have to dry and cure for their sweetness? 

They wrapped the trunk like a pure white barber pole then ran the lights out on the fronds.  Now at night in the pure dark the fronds sway lightly in the breezes coated in light.  Makes for an interesting effect, I’ll say.

It can’t have been easy.  The fronds on a Date palm are very stiff and covered with spikes.  They’re a good 10 to 15 feet long so the spikes can be more than six inches at the base, and since that is all standing parallel to the ground, they can most likely be used for lumber instead of thatch.

Yes, it’s a sturdy plant.  You can actually catch some shade under it.

But if you stand under it and look up you see a starburst of fronds.  Line that starburst and you end up with a rather nice fireworks display that doesn’t go away with an “Oooh!” in a breath or two of time.

Luckily I get to see this in all sorts of times.  Early walk in pitch darkness, or in the sunset hour.  Either way, it’s a welcome addition.

Gables Wilton Park Statue – Interior View

I have to say, in my own experiences, the Gables Company have held true to their word.

When we heard that a defunct nursery in the heart of the Wilton Manors Central Business District, right smack dab in the middle of Wilton Drive, was going to be “redeveloped”, we wondered what they were going to do with it and would it “Fit In”.

We were told that they were going to make Wilton Manors home. 

So far, everything I have seen, they have absolutely made Wilton Manors home.  No reservations.

I worked with the local staff in order to use some of their then un-rented commercial space as temporary gallery space for the Island City Art Walk.  They agreed and liked it so much that it was later used as temporary space for events such as the Stonewall Exhibit during the street festivals, space for civic and political functions, and I want to say some temporary commercial space – although don’t quote me on that last one, I could be wrong.

All of the Wilton Drive spaces have finally been rented creating jobs and business opportunities for people here in the city.  There are one or two spots open on NE 21st Drive facing City Hall and Hagen Park, and it will be interesting to see who moves in there.  I’ve heard comments about one thing or another but nothing first hand, and I am looking forward to see what develops.

A while back they started working on the sidewalk.  It had developed stress cracks so they pulled up the concrete.  At the same time, they put up a large circular plinth.  We had fun speculating what would go there for a while.  When it all cured and the sidewalk was put back, it wasn’t empty for long.   Some large decorative pots were placed on the spot.  It was obvious that it was temporary since LED lighting was there and some curious bolts had appeared.

Bolts.  You know, something you’d lash something to in a hurricane?   They were there for the Long Haul, nothing would rip them up.

Then it appeared.  A large art installation.  They were making their home more beautiful.  This was piece of four long tapered columns holding up a large sphere made of metal poles.  All in a deep rust colored finish, it appeared on the plinth, and was lit at night.  Really quite a nice display.

Of course I got involved.  I looked at it thinking there has to be a good angle to get a picture of it.

It taunted me.  Standing along the Drive, there was something in the way.  Either a trash can, the intersection, some part of the building that didn’t quite fit.  I couldn’t figure out just what was the angle.  The electricity wires just irked me and while I am good enough at Photoshop to ‘shop them out, that wasn’t the point.

I had a light bulb moment go off in my head.  How about inside?

Yes.  It worked.  Having a rather good cellphone camera that is as thin as a magazine helped too.  I was able to put it on “Voice Shutter” and yell at it “Capture” as political candidates stood on the corner waving signs at traffic and gaining a few random voters.  I’m sure people were wondering why I was yelling at the statue, but they didn’t ask.

It’s not the kind of picture that you could do with a traditional camera.  The spaces inside are much too small to fit one.  It was just a matter of luck that my camera was thin enough to slide inside and I had the Voice Shutter on it.

But finally, I got my shot.  Now I can clear off those other 40 or 50 pictures that I took before my head cleared!