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March 2 2017Europe 1956
I found the Irish poor but kind and London wet but jolly and theater in both places good. Paris was wet too but in a melancholy way, and the waiters in cafes so snooty you could starve if you didn’t correctly pronounce the nasalized vowels.
The Dutch were hearty laughers but without much humor. The Danes had humor and were cheerful and spoke excellent English. The Germans had no humor but were busy building gleaming new cities. Around the gaming tables of Baden Baden they jostled the pound-shy English asking: “Who won the war?”
So when I had been through these places and done my duty to monuments and museums, battlefields and cathedrals, it was August before I got to Venice. It was hot in Venice and the canals and close-built buildings made it stuffy. I took a room at the air-conditioned Bauer Grunwald and ate my dinner on the terrace watching the flaming sun drop over the Grand Canal.
For two days I walked crowded streets and crossed over little bridges or took Diritto boats to the beach at Lido. At night I sat in cafes of San Marco’s and listened to the orchestras and sipped wine. Then I took a train to Rome and changed for one to Naples. Then a bus to Sorrento.
I got to Sorrento on Sunday evening and found a hotel on a shady street that curved off the square. The hotel was cool, the rooms white-washed and clean, and underneath tall trees there was a patio that looked out over the bay.
Six waiters served me dinner there, and afterwards I walked back to the square and down the steep switch-back street with flowers hanging over the wall to the pier where boats came and went to Capri. There was a band playing and a lighted Ferris Wheel and the boat offices were crowded with people and children laughing and shouting.
I walked out on the pier and tried out of darkness to find Capri. I stared into the blackness but could see nothing. I threw my cigarette into the Bay of Naples and walked back up to the square where I sat in a sidewalk café lit by strings of little lights and sipped a bottle of Tuborg.
In the morning I took the boat to Capri. It was a warm breezy day and the boats were filled with tourists. I had met a lady in Venice who told me to skip Capri. She said tourists had ruined it for those who remembered Capri as it was before the war.
I didn’t ask what war. Capri has been under attack ever since Tiberius built his villa there. Attila and the Huns, those dreadful Goths and Vandals. This August morning I found myself in another barbarian army mustered at the funicular ready to begin the assault
A battalion in sport shirts, thirty-five millimeters strapped over shoulders, chest bandoliers with film. Like the Goths, we brought our women clutching bags to carry away the loot. The cable cars made their slow grinding climb to the top. We exploded from the cars, storming the little plaza to sack the cluttered shops. The natives put up feeble resistance.
March 16 2017
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Now is a good time to clean out your bird feeders and nesting boxes
If you still have your poinsettia, even if the leaves have fallen off, you can cut it back to about 5-6 inches. Fertilize it, and keep the soil moist, it will send out new shoots. Keep it in a bright spot and when danger of frost is past, put it outside in the sun.
It is good to hear the birds singing in the morning. More birds will soon be returning, so it is time to clean out the nesting boxes. Open them up and use a putty knife to remove all the mud and debris. Scrub it out with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Rinse well and leave them open to dry.
When cleaning up the yard, leave some small twigs, grass, hair and short pieces of string or yarn for the birds to use building their nest. Leave the leaves and debris under the shrubs. The new leaves will soon hide it. There are insect eggs that will hatch and provide insects and larvae for the mother bird to give protein to the baby birds. Also the birds could find nesting material. Some birds like the dandelion seeds to line their nest. Also empty the bird feeder, wash and dry it and put fresh seed out for then. Scrub the bird bath and give them fresh water. If the water will be too deep, you can place a short stick in it so the bees can get a drink.
When the crocus are blooming, the ground has warmed enough that the roses are breaking dormancy and you can see where to prune by the emerging buds.
It is tempting to apply mulch now, but that will keep the soil under it cool. Wait until May, when the soil has warmed to apply your decorative mulch.
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Published Feb 15, May 15, Aug 15, Nov 15
by Jim Bennett • email@example.com
March 16 2017
‘Is Naples Really Number One?
WHEN JUDIE AND I lived in Naples, Florida, from 2004-2007, we were exposed to a culture far different from anything we had known. Lifestyle, demographics, and economics were all unfamiliar.
Naples is located along the Gulf Coast (“Platinum Coast” as the Naples Board of Tourism labels it) approximately straight west from Miami.
This week, Naples is busting its buttons. For the second straight year, the city has been chosen the “happiest, healthiest” community in the U.S., according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. “Naples has surged past other top-ranked metropolitan areas by getting high scores across the board,” says Dan Witters, research director of the scoring organization.
“Naples does a lot of things right,” according to Witters. “Residents there report having good physical health, feeling proud about their community, enjoying good relationships and liking what they do each day.”
This might be true for the rich and retired, those who reside in luxurious, gated golfing communities, who park themselves on white sandy beaches, who can indulge their appetites for upscale restaurants and high-end shopping.
And if we were talking about the City of Naples proper (population 20,000) this might all be true. Opulent mansions hug the Gulf Coast for miles, many of them sitting empty several months per year. Wealth? Yes. Absentee wealth? Yes again.
Fine hotels and dining are a way of life. According to Wikipedia, “Naples is one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S., with the sixth highest per capita income in America, and the second highest proportion of millionaires in the U.S. Real estate is among the most expensive in the country.”
BUT THE survey is referencing the Naples Metropolitan Area, which has a population of 343,500. It is essentially a large, congested city, the result of very rapid growth over the past 25 years and short-sighted planning.
There is much wealth here as well, most of it evident in the miles and miles of exclusive private golfing communities, most of them walled off for privacy. A revealing statistic is this: The area has 75 golf courses, but only two or three are public.
It takes legions of service sector workers to keep the many manicured golf courses in pristine condition, clean the thousands of hotel rooms, landscape the grounds of condo complexes, and staff all the fancy restaurants.
Most of these are Hispanic. Like other “border” communities, Naples has a Hispanic community representing many countries—Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Cuba, and others. Many of these workers are illegals, but employers looking for cheap labor and no back talk don’t care much.
Early each morning, hopeful workers (women as well as men) gather at the corners of mall parking lots, waiting for supervisors and foremen to pull their trucks to a stop. Some get lucky; most don’t.
There is no manufacturing in Naples. Jobs are non-union, including those in road and building construction. Roofers make scarcely more than fast food workers, and like their Big Mac counterparts, work without insurance coverage. An economy without a viable middle class and much absentee wealth is essentially third world.
To make matters worse, the Gallup-Healthways Index also includes Marco Island and Immokalee as part of its urban package. Marco, the largest island of Florida’s Ten Thousand chain, is a playground for the privileged with its miles of spectacular hotels and post card beaches. The community itself is prosperous but modest, with a permanent population of some 16,000.
But Immokalee? Although occupying a northwestern corner of Greater Naples, it’s almost like a trip to Haiti, so desperate is its poverty. Populated by transient migrant pickers (think peppers and tomatoes), the godforsaken town has residents living in dirt floor shacks in many instances. The town’s median family income is $22,000 per year, according to 2015 numbers. Immokalee’s beating heart is a Seminole gambling casino.
AS WE might expect, Naples’ massive Hispanic population means struggling schools. And there are plenty. Of the seven large public high schools, only one is located in the City of Naples proper. Florida has the ill advised and often demoralizing policy of assigning a letter grade to each public school, based on students’ standardized testing performance.
Schools in Naples, with such a significant ESL population, often receive grades lower than C. Naples is sorely lacking in higher education opportunities as well.
Sports fans in town are out of luck. A few years back, the community tried to lure the Cubs to town by promising to build a state-of-the-art spring training facility. But it was all a pipe dream consisting of some prototype drawings of a ballpark and adjacent fields on empty property where no sport facility of any kind had ever stood.
Even the dog racing (a “sport” I abhor) and airport are inconveniently located (due to strangling highway traffic) well to the north in the community of Ft. Myers.
Sublime winter weather? Sure. But the nation’s healthiest, happiest city? Naples is a one-eyed Jack, and as Marlon Brando said in the movies, “I’ve seen the other side of your face.”
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington
March 16 2017
Every kid in the early 60’s wanted a bike. Not just any bike but rather a brand new 26-inch Schwinn “Mark IV Jaguar” bicycle. However, with a price tag of $84.95, a new one was out of the question. But what boy could not dream of one day owning such a bike complete with front and rear carriers, stainless steel fenders; chrome headlight and horn, 2-tone saddle seat, lavish chrome trim and whitewall tires. Not to mention that it came in my favorite color—red.
But it seemed to me that if I could not buy a bicycle of my dreams, I would find something that I could afford and it would have to do. As luck would have it I happened to come across a neighbor that had one that he wanted to sell and for a price of $4.50. What a bargain I thought. Yes, it needed some work, such as a new coaster brake and one of the tires was flat and in need of a paint job. All of which I knew that I could repair and repaint.
Thus, with a full head of stem and $4.50 lighter in my pocket, I got to work disassembling the entire bicycle piece by piece. With parts strewn about my father’s garage, I looked over most of my earthly possessions or what was left of them. Once upon a time it had been a beautiful 26-inch red Schwinn “Wasp” with a heavy-duty cantilever frame and black balloon tires. It was often called the “Newsboy’s Special” as its name implies. I think that the seller had been a newspaper boy as I remember seeing a newspaper bag lying on the floor of the front porch of his home.
But upon attempting to repair the flat tire, I quickly learned from the attendant at the Standard station that the tube was beyond repair and that a new tube was needed. The local hardware store did not have any 26-inch tubes in stock and a trip to the new K-Mart in Bloomington had lots and lots. I also picked up some spray paint, but not red as they were out of stock, but some was coming on the truck Friday. It seems that whenever I want something it will always be on the truck the next Friday.
The restoration was nearly complete when I discovered that the metal portion of the coaster brake was missing (I eventually got another one), but I could still ride it without one. This turned out to be a mistake as bike and rider went out of control while rounding a curve and overturned, damaging the front fender and twisting the handlebars. With the front fender now removed and the handlebars returned to the proper position, I was back in business. What a day, and of course riding around that first night with only the stars above illuminating the landscape I felt like I was the “coolest” kid in town! But some day... some day that “Mark IV Jaguar” might just be hanging from the ceiling of my garage like all the rest of the memorabilia that has been collected over the years.
Till next time…john
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