Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Edison and Ford Museum at night

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had adjacent winter homes in Ft Myers, FL.

On the grounds there is a museum about the inventions of both men

Though i have issues with Edison my inner geek tingled
at the sight of his lab
and these huge incandescent bulbs.
Just how big are they? you ask.
bigger than my head, by a lot

Despite the basic cool factor of the museum Dad, Shirley and I actually went for the lights
The Edison house has been completely restored and the Ford house is in process.
Everything was lit and decorated for the holidays.
It was a nice way to spend the evening.

It was a Gulf-coast Christmas

I spent the week of Christmas on the Gulf coast of Florida, which - like any place - has its very own character. Where i was visiting is the central Gulf coast between Sarasota and Ft Myers, specifically Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota Counties. For those of you who have never been there, it is a mixture of lush swamp and palm forest

interspersed with areas that are completely overdeveloped

All along the landscape there are deed-restricted, age restricted, gated communities with names like Harbor Isle, Pelican Perch and Herons Glen that try to lure homeowners with beautiful walls, gates, fountains and even waterfalls at their entrances.
My mom lives in Holiday Park and my dad lives in Tara Woods.
These places are like tiny enclosed college campuses without the classes. There are pools, shuffleboard and tennis courts, boccie and horseshoe pits plus bingo, bridge, pinochle, poker, canasta, yoga, pilates, water aerobics, ceramics and computer classes. Happy Hour is nearly required. You can be in the Men's Club, Women's Club, Grandmother's Club or the Activities Board. There are clubs and events to celebrate different states and regions of the continent (i say that instead of country cause there are lots of Canadians) since no one is originally from Florida - they are either snowbirds or permanent retirees. I mean my parents have WAY better social lives than me; there is always something going on. You don't have to leave the park except to buy groceries or go out to eat at 2pm for the Early Bird specials.
Most people get from one side of the park by walking, biking, riding these awesome giant tricycles or driving golf carts.
In fact it isn't uncommon to see this in a parking lot Both of my parents resisted the golf cart phenomenon, but after Dad shattered his hip earlier this year his girlfriend Shirley insisted on getting one.
These communities are the kind of places where everyone waves at everyone else and there is more gossip than high school. Plus i have never seen as much yard art anywhere else in the world That would be frog lovers on a bench, 2 single frogs, a frog in the back sitting on something i can't quite see and of course a frog playing croquet all under one stand of palms.
It is mind boggling.
The residents put the same sort of effort into decorating for the holidays; i think that they really throw themselves into it since the weather doesn't feel like Christmas at all. It is funny to see light-up polar bears nested in the greenery, santas tucked behind pink shutters and snowman everywhere:

Not only do the residents go whole hog, so do the parks. They light up their entrances and roads. At my mom's place there are these crazy lights and sticks that look ridiculous in the daytime
but are really cool at night

At my dad's place the park floats similar trees (though much larger) in their ponds.
Of course, since it is Florida if you try to photograph the decorations during the day you just might catch a glimpse of an alligator sunning itself
Celebrating the holiday is still pretty much the same in my family (besides having to do it in 2 different houses now), but the location does manage to exert its influence on traditions like smaller artificial trees and perhaps the gaudiest stocking ever made.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

we join our program, already in progress

So i'm back in Maryland, but still have a few days before i go back to work.
Florida was good and i have a bunch of pictures which i will share in blog-sized bites over the next few days.
But first - an adventure!
Last night (Monday) my friend Matt picked me up at the airport around 7pm; he'd had my car all week as he is home from CA for the holiday, carless and my car would have just sat all week. Once we got back to my apartment it was decided that an adventure was in order.
Sometimes i just get something stuck in my brain and lately i've been thinking about Lucy the Elephant. Several years ago when Rob and Rachel were still dating they took a trip to the Jersey shore and returned with pictures of a building shaped like an elephant.
Last night i decided that i wanted to see it. Matt and i weren't sure exactly where she was was or whether she would be lit at night for me to take a picture, but were we to be stopped by such details?
Off we went.
Only to get through the tunnel and realize i didn't have my license - yikes; now that is a detail that could stop us. So it was back to the apartment, retrieve the license from my carry-on and back through the city.
It was a nice night for a drive : really clear and not much traffic (except for the pesky construction right before the Delaware Memorial Bridge which took almost 25 minutes to get through). We played a fun New Jersey driving game called Count the WaWas (14, in case you we wondering).
There were many things that during a day trip we would have stopped to photograph, like the giant rocking chair and the pyramid of tires, but given the ambient light we passed on by. Finally as state route 563 (can you believe that the road that leads to a giant elephant is my favorite number?!?) dumped us in Margate [formerly South Atlantic City] we spotted the water tower that told us we were in the right place.
I knew she was somewhere near the water so we went to the south end of town and then drove north until we spotted Lucy

The pictures don't really capture how huge and surreal she is; of course the fact that the town was completely deserted cause it was 2am on a Monday night/ Tuesday morning in December might have added to the sense of non-reality.
The sign clearly said she was open, but as Matt shows us her gate was locked up tight. And yes,that is what people look like if they hang out with me too long : been up for over 20 hours, jacked up on caffeine and BBQ potato chips and freezing cold  
Where're your gloves, goofball? This isn't California.
If you'd like to see better pictures of what Lucy looks likes in the daytime, Rob has pics posted on his website here, at the bottom of the page (interesting note, in Rob's pics her toenails are red, white and blue, but this morning they were green and white - i wonder how often they pedicure her).
We then drove up through Atlantic City with me pointing out the streets that are on the Monopoly board (Matt hadn't known that the game is based on Atlantic City) and what color they are coded in the game.
Then it was south to Dover, DE to drop him at his dad's house and then back over the Bay to home in time for bed at 6am.
I like not having to go to work.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How's YOUR weather?

The gulf coast of Florida is having unseasonably warm temperatures - it is gorgeous here:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The Nikiverse has temporarily relocated to warmer climes for the holidays. There might be updates or there might not be. I hope you had a lovely Solstice, are enjoying Hanukkah, have a merry Christmas, enjoy a restful Boxing Day and/or celebrate a joyous Kwanzaa. See you soon.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Disturbing decor

I get that people like to personalize their holiday decorations; i mean, i too have purchased golf balls dressed like Santa for my dad. But is it my imagination, or is the holiday niche decor even more over the top than normal this year?
I was shopping along, humming Winter Wonderland, minding my own business when i was confronted by the Dog Nativity:

Yikes! I mean some people love dogs, but really? I really have no problem with non-religious celebrations of Christmas, but if you're gonna celebrate Jesus' birthday dontcha think it should have a little more dignity than poodle and chihuahua angels?
And the most horrifying part is the PRICE
(despite it's audacity, i'm sure Kathy is heartened to see that the saviour is a Westie)
I really thought it couldn't get any scarier than that, until just 2 hours ago when i came face to face with the basketball player nutcracker:

What the heck is that about?
What is with his hair?
Who would buy that?

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Did you know that i collected Pez dispensers? Are you surprised? Starting a long time ago i would get Pez in my stocking at Christmas or my Easter basket. About 10 years ago i began buying new ones for myself : characters that i loved or ones that seemed unusual. Slowly i acquired a great number of the little candy holders. When i considered buying characters i didn't even like just because they were new releases i realized i had to stop cold turkey - no more Pez dispensers for Niki. When i moved i considered getting rid of the entire collection, but i just couldn't. I weaned out some doubles and boxed up the rest. I have done well with my resolve to not buy any more - that is, i had done well until recently. I usually go through the drive thru, but i walked into Chick Fil A one day and saw this a top a register : How could i resist the Chick Fil A cow in Pez form? For goodness sakes it even says IT HAD TO BE MINE!