Monday, December 31, 2007

Caution, Alligators!

So Saturday ending up being a pretty eventful/adventerous day for the two of us. Our friends' Candi and Andy decided to take us on a little bike ride through Payne's Prairie south of Gainseville. After bouncing on the bed like a child, my extreme annoyance worked well in getting Ariel up at 9am and on the road. By 10:30am, the four of us were pedaling adjacent to Payne's Prairie. Within five minutes I saw about 3 wild turkeys. The excitement of spotting them would have lasted me all day until Andy pumped up the jam and took us to a succesion of sinkholes with this plaque protecting the entrance. Ariel and I were pretty freaked out by the sign, but even more so when we saw a pile of bull alligators wading in the water while some sunbathed on land.

Northern Florida and the whole state of Georgia is suffering from a serious draught. Notice the sinkholes are pretty low, filled with black, evil looking brackish water. To make things even more morbid, we got word that the alligators (due to a low food supply) have been resorting to canibalism.

Here is a photo of a Blue Heron. The picture does not justify the size of this bird. I would have snapped a closer picture but he wasn't stoked on us hanging around his tree and quickly flew off.

After pedaling a good ten miles, we came across this look out onto Payne's Prairie. This shot defines why I love Florida so much. Beautiful expanse.

After our bike ride we headed out to the "Treehouse" (Ariel's parents). In route we found this creepy looking goat on the side of the road behind a fence. He was not interested in me but seemed to have the hots for Ariel. Check out that wild tuft of chin hair...That's the epitome of a "goatee."
-He Said.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My parents are ruining my cat

Matt's been pouting for the last week because I haven't posted anything (I guess my first post didn't count). I reminded him that I don't have any stories to tell b/c 1) I'm not a good storyteller and 2) I never go anywhere save for the grocery store and school. I could regale you with stories about students who don't do show up to class and turn in gibberish for essays and then grumble when they see their D ... but, really, does anyone want to hear that? But, Matt reminded me, don't you have a cat who's always doing uncharacteristic cat things, like play fetch or Sudoku? I groaned, I'll be a crazy cat lady! I don't want to be that girl! Matt just sighed, and I felt terribly guilty that I was ruining his blog. So I'll try.

How, you ask, are my parents ruining my cat? Because they spoil him rotten! Don't get me wrong, I certainly appreciate them watching him while I visit Matt in Tampa, but not only do they let him stay up all hours of the night (dire consequences for my sleep schedule), but they also feed him about 300 treats a day. Each. And one thing I love about my cat is how skinny he is b/c he looks like a goofy little Barbie horse galloping around the house. Will he still be able to play fetch and gallop if he's a big fatty?

Master Marmalade, before his visit to my parents' house:

Master Marmalade, after a 5-day stint at Chez Gunn:

But I guess that's the punishment I get for not giving them grandchildren.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Back in 2001, I spent three semesters in class (as a non-degree seeking student) deciding if I wanted to start graduate school. By the Spring of 2002, I decided to take an indefinite break to concentrate on my new career (which included plenty of travelling with my bike--I couldn't ask for more, really). But, through that period of time, the desire to go back to school has haunted me. That was the case until this past Fall when Ariel discovered that USF offered a graduate program in Florida Studies. Like a kid in a candy store, I jumped at the opportunity to mill around through the study of Florida's people, places, literature, and history--I've always wanted to figure out why I love this damp, humid, sometimes unbearbable swamp state.

Now, the Fall semester has now come to a close. It ended last week as I finished my first Seminar paper on the history of Sunken Gardens in St. Pete (an amazing botanical garden that was initiated in 1903). The project took about 25 hours of research and 57 hours to write (How do I know this? I'm a nerd and kept time). Yesterday, to experience some closure, Ariel and I dropped by the park briefly to take some photos. I brought my video camera along (not really the best for still shots)and took some wide angle photos to capture sections of the park's vast foliage. If anyone is in the area and would like a tour, I now know an absurd amount of information about this place...
Ariel and a Bismark Palm.
Behind me is a row of 104 year old Cuban Royal Palms.
Across the street from the Gardens is Crescent Lake and this amazingly huge Banyan tree.
Crescent Lake.

-He said.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Alcohol: The instant best friend factory.

Today was the Profile Racing (my job) holiday party. Once the food was laid out, I indulged in veggie sandwiches, piles of chips with cranberry salsa, soy nog, and the abstaining from alcohol for my 30th year. But while I ate, many of my co-workers got hammered, which is always enjoyable to watch.

Today is the only day out of the year where we don't fight like a dysfunctional family. The more beer that was pounded, the more cordial everyone becomes.
This is Scooter. He loves to insult my existence daily from 7:30am to 4pm. But today, even though he's raising his fist at the camera in anger, we're good buddies at about 5 beers down his tubes.

This is Jack, our head machinist. At about 7 beers, he's glassy eyed and loving dispite his usual complaints about my work ethic. And in between giving me hugs today, he actually kissed me on the cheek and picked me up like his new bride on wedding day.

Four days off. I'm not complaining. Back to the grind of receiving plenty of invective on Wednesday.

-He said.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Before Ariel posted her first entry

She went through and copy edited Matty's posts. That one detail sort of sums up her entire personality.

(Note to Matty: I didn't shorten either of them--imagine the restraint this required.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Highwaymen... is this a coincidence?

She said that I should take off early Sunday morning from Gainesville so I could make it down to the Florida Antiques show at Sunken Gardens in St. Pete. About 10am I took off, making it to the Gardens by about 12:30. Walking through the doors, I passed 4 of the original Highwaymen artists showcasing their work. One, Roy McClendon, sat in the corner. A little, wrinkly and very modest old man, he received my barrage of questions. And in his modesty, my compliments on his work always made him point his finger at his son's pieces instead of his own. His son's beautiful, much more detailed work was a mere fraction of what McClendon, Sr. had to offer. Not only in form and ageless beauty, but in price. At a steep $800, I had to pass on McClendon's work.

Instead, I bought a pictorial history of the Highwaymen. Check out some of their art here: This is a shortened version of their story:

In the late 50's, a group of African American high school kids near Ft. Pierce, Fl. were recommended by their art teacher to be mentored by a well known landscape painter in town. For the next year or so, the kids were taught art and then sent on their way to practice the painting of picturesque scenes of East Florida. As time went on, the kids got a little older and a little better at this genre of painting so they set out for the shoulder of US 1. And as the highway shuffled tourists down the booming Sunshine State, tourists began buying their art as souvenirs of Florida. Everyone took a liking to the art, so much so that at $10 to $25 a pop, it was estimated that the highwaymen (about twenty total) sold 50,000 to 200,000 pieces over twenty years. But as the '70s rolled in, and technology replaced nature, these paintings (which critics feel had a large impact on the success of tourism in Florida) were tossed up into the attics by those who had forgotten the magic of Florida's sub-tropical oasis.

Fast forward to 1994. Some dude announces the Highwaymen as a unique phenomenon in the art scene. So people start pulling the pieces down out of their attics and before you know it, by 2007, originals are going from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. The highwaymen craze was put into full effect.

So I, a couple weeks ago, had a decision. Buy: 1. original, or 2. a representational book. I'm on a budget: choice two is a better option.

I leave the antique show, enamored with these artists, hardly able to wait out the trip home to flip through my new book of edenic scenes. The next afternoon, I go riding at the skatepark really late. On leaving at 11pm, I noticed that I had missed 7 calls from Ariel. So I call her back immediately expecting the worst. No emergency--luckily--instead, she tells me to call her mom as soon as possible. I hesitate because of the hour, but in anticipation of a surprise, make the call. Tacie answers and begins to tell me a story of her thrift shopping in Ft. White, Florida. On milling through the piles of forgotten stuff from forgotten people, she stumbled upon 5 paintings of "scenic, Florida art." The lady at the counter wanted $30 for the lot, unfortunately Tacie only had $20. But, the clerk, wanting to get rid of them, settled for $20--fortunately.

So Tacie brings home five pieces of art and calls Ariel to let her know about the find. Ariel, remembering my episode of enthusiasm about the highwaymen a day prior, asks Tacie to read her the signature. It's W. Daniels, who happens to be one of the twenty Highwaymen, the brother to Johnny Daniels (the most prolific of the gang).

Tacie was calling to let me know that one of the pieces was mine... Here it is above. Am I going to sell it? The money wouldn't be worth the years I'll be able to repeat this story of coincidence. Instead, I've got a proud place for it in my dining room. Thanks, Tacie!

First Post: White is the new Black.

She said that it is imperative not to wash whites with colors. But is it really?

In 2003, I saved up my pennies and bought a house. Not a good one, it was actually pretty shabby. To cover up the "shab" I decorated it with "Shag." Let me rephrase that, I painted my whole house in Shag colors (bright blues, reds, and greens) and accented it with his art. Go here for a sample: Find the most rediculous print, and that was my house.

In the back of my house was a little shed. It was actually more like an outhouse with a washer and dryer. On opening the door to do my laundry I would have to fight off wolf spiders. No joke. Big ones. With egg sacks on their backs. In that room was where I learned how to do laundry. It was scary for me. Every turn of the knob could mean sudden disaster. Cold, warm, hot water? Lights, colors, darks. Small, medium, full load? Too many decisions. But I pulled through, and every wash came out just fine. For four years since, I've been successful in executing the art of laundry. You might call me a laundress or a launderer? I'd take that as a compliment. Until last night...

As 2008 creeps on the horizon, white shirts have become the new black. I remember telling myself years ago that I'd never wear a white shirt again. Well, I was wrong-I picked up two white shirts recently. Well, they were white until I decided to prove Ariel wrong. I thought to myself, do whites really need their own wash? Of course not, its a myth--bang! My two new shirts in with the colors. Turn the knobs: Medium load, color option, hot water and the washing machine starts washing.

A half an hour later the washing alarm screams done. I put down my coffee, run and open the door, and as if I didn't know the outcome, my white shirts are a faded light blue. Now, the white shirt trend I was to jump on, failed.

But, as I have done in the past with ruined shirts (blood stains, dirt stains, or sweat stains from riding), I fold them up and put them in the closet to be worn the next day.