Goodbye Justin Flippen, Mayor of Wilton Manors, Rest in Peace

Weird how things happen rapidly.

We were sitting in the living room watching TV. An old I Dream Of Jeannie rerun. Silly little plot about Jeannie getting locked in a safe that was going to be sent to the moon. Completely implausible.

I heard from the other side of the room:
“Uh Oh, this is bad.”

What happened?

“Justin had a heart attack. We don’t know if he’s made it through or not.”.

No, can’t be!

It turned out that he didn’t survive.

He was out driving his car and we actually had an address where he had the attack, 4500 block of Andrews Avenue. Strange little detail that entered my mind, it was down to the house number. That in itself felt rather incongruous.

Now I keep thinking about driving down that way. No reason to do that, I know where it is, just off Prospect near the “Good Hardware Store”. Ace may be the place with the helpful hardware folks, but they can’t bring Justin back.

He was a politician, the Mayor of Wilton Manors. A commissioner before that.

Mind you, I have run into politicians over the years, Justin Flippen simply did not “act like a politician”. He wasn’t the kind of person who when you talk to them you feel like you are talking to a wall.

Justin seemed to genuinely be interested in what you had to say. I guess you can’t really get away with that detached feeling in a small city of almost 13,000.

He had a bright and sunny air about him. You would speak with him and somehow you would feel like all of his attention was turned to you and the rest of the world was secondary.

So “bang” just like that, our friend Justin is gone.

He wasn’t the one that I would have expected to have gone first. At 41, he was way too young to go. As they say, it is the first heart attack that is most likely to kill you.

We will go on. The event gives us pause to look at our own health and ask if that could be you. Do you exercise too little? Is your diet too full of salt and fat? Or are you at risk from a stroke or some other issues?

Don’t know. I’ll personally look into that myself, it’s overdue.

Justin, thanks for being here, and a friend. I did appreciate every time you went out of your way to talk to me.

He would ask how things were here in the neighborhood from time to time when he spotted you. If he spotted you, that was expected. He was that kind of guy.

I’d spot him chatting at one of the bars here in town, not holding court but making sure he was in touch with the people there. He’d stay informed that way and be better at being Mayor.

So now he’s gone, and we’re all scratching our collective heads.

Way too soon.

Goodbye Justin Flippen, you were a friend, and you are missed by many.

Bamboo Poles At The Back Of The Pool Or What To Do When It Gets Too Close To The Powerlines

Years ago at this point, probably about a decade, we went off to a Bamboo Nursery.

People in Asia love the stuff.  It’s used heavily in construction, cuisine, art and so forth.  I figured I would have a ready supply of Bamboo to do oddball things with it.

But this particular bamboo we brought home from the nursery has quirks.

We planted it further back, but over the years, it’s gone closer to the pool and readily drops nearly indestructible leaves into the pool.

As it matured, it has gotten thicker.  It started out smaller than my smallest finger, and was a clumping bamboo the size of a bucket.  Since we took the SUV to the Bamboo Nursery, we were able to stick the rootball in the back of the car, and have the greenery stick into the front of the cabin.

I remember riding back from Palm Beach County with my arm draped over top of it so the way home could be seen.

Now the thinner than my finger stalks have gotten thicker than my thumb, maybe two fingers wide.  It has gone from being a maximum of ten feet tall (3m) to growing taller than the highest supply lines on the electricity easement behind the house.  I’d say it’s at least 30 feet (9M) and growing.

We noticed, then panicked since you are constantly looking over your shoulder in South Florida at the next hurricane season.  Those two stalks had to be cut down.

We did, and laying next to the pool I realized it was longer than the 32 foot (9m) length of the pool.  Even if my math here is being a little off, my estimates stand.

Since the stalks we cut were too nice to throw away, I cut them into roughly 6 foot tall, shoulder length bits.  One of them is a handy Me Sized length and I am taller than 6 foot by another four inches.  (193 cm in new money).

But what to do?

At this point, I made an accent pot since putting plants at the back of the pool was a great idea until Hurricane Irma knocked my cactus into the deep end and all over the back of the pool.

I had a strawberry pot that I wasn’t doing much with other than collecting dust.

I Know, Let’s Put Together One Of Those Accent Pots!

Basically it’s the least I could do.  I cut them with the electric saw to roughly the same length and stuck them there, at the back of the pool.  I will water them as much as I watered the cactus, which is to say, Not At All.

The leftover bits are going to be chewed up by my parrot Oscar, and there are two little lengths that will be shot glasses once I sand them smooth.

Or maybe not.  At least they won’t create a circuit-to-ground from the high voltage wires!

If I had a dollar for every joke i told wrong… To get the other side.

South Florida is an interesting place. It’s a place that teaches you to dig deeper than the surface. It definitely changes as you live here longer and really learn about things here.

I guess that can be anywhere that you move to, away from where you grew up. After all, my little pond near the house in Cherry Hill NJ had a car tire sized Snapping Turtle pulled out of it by my neighbor Johnny and I caught snakes bare handed in Mrs Alderfer’s Shrub once.

If you do dig, for example here in my back yard, you will hit ground water at around ten feet.

I may be the highest property on my block.

Yes, we all do know our elevation down here.

When you’re a tourist driving around town, too slowly in the fast lane and too fast in the slow lane, you will see a lot of really beautiful lakes and rivers. The Canals that drained The Swamps look inviting, but we see a lot of things in those canals that don’t really belong.

Like Tourists and their cars from taking that curve just a wee bit too fast.

It’s a bit like Hippy Star Trek. Paradise, yes, but it has some very dangerous aspects to it.

Swimming pools are better. It is a rare day we don’t have a Rip Tide warning on the beach, but my 32 Foot by 16 Foot pool never has one.

Stay out of the lakes and canals unless you can go very fast.

It’s not important that you are faster than the Piranhas, just that you are faster than the next guy.

This next little joke explains it pretty well.

While sports fishing off the Florida coast in Key West, a tourist capsized his boat. He could swim, but his fear of alligators kept him clinging to the overturned craft.

Spotting an old beachcomber walking on the shore, the tourist shouted,

“There wouldn’t by chance be any alligators in these waters?!”“No,” the old man hollered back, “haven’t been any for years!”

Feeling relieved, the tourist started swimming leisurely toward the shore.

About halfway toward shore he asked the old man, “Say, how’d you get rid of the gators, anyway?”

“We didn’t do anything,” the old man said. “The sharks got ’em.”

New Black Ice Trail at Pompano Airpark

They have been working on this since April.  Planning stage was of course, before that.

But, it’s finally at a point where it’s interesting.  It being the trail at Pompano Airpark.

The entire trail is 4.5 miles plus another mile or so on the south side of the park that parallels the main trail.

For a Biker, that’s a bit of a short run.  I used to get in 50 miles in a workout which just was a logistic nightmare, imagine going 11 times around this little loop for a weekend excursion.

I’m surprised when I see joggers running the entire trail in the heat we get here, but then again I used to run 10K at Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania so I shouldn’t second guess someone else’s workouts.

Walkers do segments of this trail as well.  Some even the entire trail.

I have even seen a few, very few, skateboards but this isn’t really their thing.

Well good for you folks, it’s a good workout.

Why is this exciting enough for me to ramble on about it?

Why is this just so totally Droolworthy?

Think about skating in a rink.  If you’re on the old school quads, it’s on a rink.  Polished floors of either wood or concrete.  Flat as a plank, smooth as a pancake.

Or the other way around.

Point is that it is a very specific sort of a place.

Inline skating is done outdoors.  Usually on some truly horrendous surfaces.  Sometimes on city streets.

You really can’t skate on streets in South Florida.  The cars will hunt you down for sport.  Trust me, it has happened more than once to me.

There is a scene of skating at the beach.  Personally, I can’t see that, but admittedly I have a different goal when I am out.  Way too crowded, the surface is either textured concrete or bricks.  Can’t get any speed out of that.

Now, consider Endurance or Distance Skating.  I used to skate 33 miles, three times a week, all at 15mph average for my workouts.  Can’t really do that here.

However with this trail, I can do some distance.  That 4.5 mile loop I was talking about.

 

The City of Pompano Beach decided it was time to resurface the trail.  I’ve skated on worse but I won’t argue it could easily have been justified.  I certainly won’t miss the divots caused by subsidence at the Four Mile Mark or those repaired strips under the pavement in the second mile.

They’re all gone.

It’s currently 2.5 miles all in one trail, plus an extra “bonus” mile on the other side of the south side of the park.

But it is smooth.  I mean SMOOTH!  As smooth as some rinks I have skated.  Polished.

Oh sure, it’s flat as a pancake just like the rest of South Florida up to Titusville.  I’ve forgotten what it is like to skate on a hill since I moved here.  But this is like stepping onto an interstate highway after driving off road for so many years.

Must have been.  Every time I checked my heart rate while I skated it last, I was up above 180 BPM because I was skating so fast on it without thinking.

 

So if you do come to South Florida looking for a safer place to skate than at the beach, bring a lot of water.  They do need to get the water stops sorted out.  A part of the improvements is to add restrooms at the beginning of the trail at NE 10th and Federal Highway.

Besides, that sun is almost directly overhead and in our humidity and heat it gets difficult to make that run between the too few water stops.

But you will enjoy it.  How often do you get to skate black ice for 2.5 miles uninterrupted.

Now when they do the other two miles of the trails, it will be rather nice until the sun eats that asphalt away.

Banana Leaves With A Side of Sparkle

6 months of Desert, 6 months of torrential rain.

That’s our climate.  I did see a map once that said that Fort Lauderdale and coastal Broward County are considered a Rainforest Climate according to the Koppen criteria.

It never freezes here, but it gets damn close.

The rains just finally opened up this week.  They got so strong and so commonplace, even though they’re late, that my dog is going through Panic Attacks going out at night.

I will say that it’s probably due to the combination of Rain, Thunder, and Fireworks that happen this week.  If I had a place way out away from everyone, we would be there.

The nice thing is that when you get up in the morning, the world is washed clean.  You have the streets scoured of anything that was killed on them over the last few months, the dust runs off to the soil, and the air smells cleaner than usual.

Where I am, 2 1/2 miles or about 4 K from the ocean, there isn’t much pollution coming from the east.  What we do get are dust clouds from the Sahara Desert.

Seriously.

As in every time I take the Jeep out I have to hose it down.

As in I just spent an hour dusting the room divider of that stuff.

Going out into the morning makes you see why things are green and lush.  My plants are loving this weather.  I’m liking going out after a rain storm and seeing temperatures edging down towards what passes for cool here.

The plants are dusted clean, and usually there’s a mist covering their leaves.

That is what caught my eye.  I was walking around my yard picking up things.  In the corner of my eye, my Banana Tree sparkled this morning.  Like one of those cartoons when you see things cleaned and you hear “ping ping PING!”.

The leaves were misted with tiny jewels of water droplets.  Each droplet catching the light like a band of that reflective paint.  Some bending the light and giving me a show.

I’ve said it before, if you look, you can even find beauty in your own back yard and in your own pots.

In this case, I caught it, even if it did have to be enhanced by the sun in the golden hour after sunrise.

Taking a Break From Windsurfing on Eight Wheels

I have a couple very hard and fast rules.

Never in the rain.

Never in the damp.

Never if the wind was more than a 20 MPH gust.

Call that last one 30 KPH for the metrically endowed.

I had a routine that I fell into back in the days when inline skating was hot.

Which was to say that everyone, their grandmother, and their dog was on some sort of wheeled contrivance at the time.  Yes, the wonderful time that was the 1990s.

While many of us found ourselves on inline skates, others looked upon it and laughed.

I used it as a sport.  Big time for me.  Most of my dry and calm weekends were spent with my cruising skates on.  I’d be wearing a groove in the trails in and around the fabled city of Philadelphia and all the way out to west of Valley Forge.

I say groove because it was about 30 miles per workout.  Lord, Europeans, I can’t Math… 1.6 Times 30, er… I make that 48 K’s give or take a meter.

Peak was 54 miles in a single morning, 200 miles in a week.

But Geography is your friend sometimes.

The trail, Schuylkill River Rails to Trails trail, or similar was built on an old railroad line.  That means that the road was flat with a one degree rise or less for the most part and along the river.  Oriented on a Northwest to Southeast direction it also was in a valley.  That focused the wind down along the river.  It was always windier in the valley than it was just outside of it and if the wind was right, you could skate out fighting the winds and use that same wind home to Windsurf back.

I did that often.  I fell into the habit of bringing along two liters of water, about 400 calories of snacks, and looking forward to that mid workout rest in Oaks, PA right over the Perkiomen Creek.  It was a hangout there and you’d meet up with us regulars.  Bikers would continue out to the Reading (PA) trail, or stop with us and chat for a while.

This was where I had met up on the way back with a Deer that stopped me dead in the

middle of the trail.  Just West of Valley Forge in a beautiful forested area before you hit the big power lines, it spotted me, I spotted him.  He was just off the trail, moved to the middle of it, and approached.

Yes, a Deer.   Came to visit me.  Looking in those big brown eyes, I said hello, and asked “what would you like to do?  Feel like a bit of a run?”.

It did.  With that wind at my back, a clean trail, I started off.   The buck joined me and we trotted along for about a solid mile, er, K and a half or so, toward the water stop at Valley Forge.  He veered off and watched me go on my way.

The rest of that ride was very gently downhill and very gently breezy.  I windsurfed back to the parking lot just within the city of Philadelphia where the trail turned to gravel towards Manayunk and Center City.

Freaky huh?

While it has to be one of those “things were just right” occasions in Pennsylvania for me to be able to windsurf, especially with a torso tall tawny buck trotting along for the ride, here in South Florida it is much more commonplace.

The trail at the Pompano Airpark is laid out in a slightly more than a mile per side square.  We predictably get a wind off the ocean here.  East To West.  That means that you windsurf one side of that square, are cooled on two sides, and get to battle the winds on the fourth.

I’ve been known to peak out at about a 20MPH (30Ks) on my skates, especially with the winds at my back.  It’s a broad back, I have to have a broad chair, and my favorite Poang Chair is as wide as I am at the shoulders.

Got the picture?

The trail is best done heading West on the southern side of that square to give you a boost from the breezes on the first leg to give you a good Warm Up Mile.  This particular day, winds just below my own speed limit, I managed to stand bolt upright instead of the more normal racing skate crouch to avoid the wind.

I captured that wind and flew down the trail.   Really all I had to do was get going and it was a free ride toward that western edge and the 90 degree turn that I had to brake to get around.

Falling on skates is not fun, I’ve done it too many times.

Luckily the wind was just a bit more North of West that day, and I got a boost out heading northbound on that second leg.

Sitting on the bench I had just enough of a runner’s high to smile at what I had just done.  It was a second hop actually, this was my second time around the square, and come April, that second mile on the park would be closed for repaving.

Looking back, south, at the scene it was what I consider heaven.

You see anywhere I would travel to since I started skating in 1992, I would plan to take the inline skates with me.  Most of these trails are about a car lane wide, split down the middle.  Nondescript grey asphalt, and a great place to get a runner’s high.

Hence the smile.

Not a bad place to sit in the sun and enjoy a half liter of water before getting up to finish the last lap.

Getting my heart rate down from cruising at 173 BPM, to about 140, I stood up and thought I could refill the water at the three and a half mile water stop before heading home.

A good day on skates is better than just about anything else I can think of.   No wonder why people are coming back into the sport.

In Florida, If Car > Iguana, and Buzzard > Iguana, then Buzzard = Car?

Welcome to Mutual of Florida Wild Kingdom where Native Species sometimes win out.

Once upon a time there was a pristine land where Puma roamed free and nary a hibiscus was found.

This was South Florida.

Then “we” moved in and changed things.

A few “swamp rats” of various kinds moved into the land that was dry enough to support us.

People.  We changed the place.

We have all put a heavy thumbprint on the land, no matter which group of people you are referring to.

Clearing the land to allow for homes of various ilk.  Then someone got the bright idea to drain the forests and the river of grass to create more land.

Sure, it worked but when the North emptied out into the place after the Second World War and the invention of practical air conditioning, we brought what we thought should be in this climate.

South Florida is an artificial landscape.

Those Palm Trees we plant everywhere don’t belong.  Nor do the Hibiscus, the Orange Groves, and the Bottle Brush Trees.

Most of this stuff comes from Asia and Australia.

We also brought our animals.

There are roving packs of dogs and cats, of course.  Large amounts of Razorback and other feral hogs living in the forests.  There are flocks of parrots that visit from time to time that chatter at me and mine while I am out working on the swimming pool that does not belong, either.

Someone got the foolish idea that having an Iguana as a pet would be great until they started escaping.

These green dinosaurs run all over the place eating up the plants that we brought with us like they’re candy.

You can’t share with an iguana, don’t even try it.  They won’t leave your hibiscus or your orchids in peace, if they can get to them.

Every so often one of these creatures meets up with a car.  They run at full speed across the streets in front of my house looking for choice bits of plants.

Until, Crunch.

Then you get to watch them as they move onto their next existence.

After they finish thrashing, they’ll become food for whatever animal chooses to visit.

In the case of the last one, it was a buzzard.  It had just about a six foot wing span when it landed.  Or rather I should say when they landed because they’re quite skittish.  Once one gets there, another tries to run it off so it can get to the choice pieces of Iguana before the other and they trade off.

Not a problem for me, I’m all for the Buzzards, after all they belong.  Green Iguanas do not belong in this ecosystem and anything that gets rid of them I’m all for that as well.

Even if it is a Ford or Goodyear and it ends up on my neighbor’s driveway.

Fascinating to watch.  If you have to watch a dinosaur get eaten, may as well be on your neighbor’s driveway!

I’d just rather not clean up after it all.