Tuesday, January 13, 2015

the amazing facts

so this morning I started my second of three classes this term.  this one is called

Sarasota is truly the capital of the arts scene of the “Culture Coast” of Florida. In this course, we’ll explore Sarasota’s rich artistic heritage through class discussion and field trips.  We’ll learn about the birth of the Ringling Museum and John Ringling’s vision for Sarasota; visit the Ringling College of Art and Design and enjoy the creative energy of its students; discover the Towles Court artists’ colony; take a backstage tour of the Sarasota Ballet; visit the Palm Avenue galleries and talk to the owners; and tour backstage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and view their extensive art collection. Some of our explorations may involve entrance fees not covered by the course fee, and our meeting time may be adjusted for our visits to the Van Wezel, the Sarasota Ballet, and the Palm Avenue galleries.

along the way some folks have wondered how we ended up here- in the Sarasota Bradenton area. most know that my family has had roots here for all or part of their lives since the 30s and honestly it is possible that even before that my great grandfather had been coming here because this is where my grandmother met her future husband and where her brother settled when he married a local gal...

and while that may have been enough to get me to head in this direction when I tired of Chicago winters, it would not have been enough for my hubby--- however, he WAS impressed by the arts scene and the culture available in the area.  

painting - Kathleen Carrillo

as you know we have been regular theater goers at the Asolo and the FSU Rep and have participated at local wine events including the 1500 person extravaganza they call "Forks and Corks" (tickets sold out in three minutes this year.) and the Wine Walk to Ca d'Zan at the Ringling Museum.  the restaurant scene here (while no Chicago) is no slouch for a small city of less than a tenth the size of Chicago.  

So  I shouldn't have been too surprised by some of the numbers I learned this morning but still they are pretty mind boggling for a town this size...

last year when we did Forks and Corks I picked up a copy of Sarasota Magazine and they featured an article on attracting newcomers to the area-  and here is the scoop - right on the cover- 

No, that is not our two bedroom condo on the cover of the magazine- LOL- we live a bit more modestly but enjoy the same opportunities in the arts and culture scene here as the owner of that home does... that's the beauty of living here half the year - oh yeah - that and the fact that we completely missed "Chiberia" last winter and that today is sunny and 79*....  the blessings are abundant!

tomorrow class three (this time with Phil) on: how ethnic minorities influence the majority of American music 1900-1950... so stay tuned for more on that - and reports on our activities this coming weekend in Miami with daughter Angela, the famous lingerie designer!

Monday, January 12, 2015

first day of class

so off I went on the first day of school- no plaid skirt, no knee socks, no saddle shoes... I didn't wear flip flops but I could have- it is warm today.  I found my class room with no problem and pick the primo seat - center - on the aisle- back row of two rows...it's a small room but when we got started every set was full! I would estimate 25 people... about 40% men and 60% women.

the "professor" comes to us with a background of newspaper reporting and as an author of books...including the upcoming one on Florida maritime history - surprise surprise this is material that will form the basis of  the book- and I am sure it is useful to find out what questions people ask so that answers to such inquiries can be included in the book....

after a few housekeeping announcements we got off on our subject- these are jottings I made during the lecture and a few added items from some follow up I did in order to get a few illustrations-

Florida maritime history is controlled by the geology of Florida.  The Florida geology is unlike any of the north american continent- the entire peninsula apparently broke off from Pangea and floated across until it smashed into the land mass that we know as North America... so Florida is actually geologically speaking a part of north Africa (from the area of Morocco to Dakar).  The rest of the story of Florida is about the trade winds- which come across from north Africa and blow tropical wind and water into the Gulf of Mexico - which is clearly a limited basin and because water has to go somewhere - it circulates out of the Gulf and creates the Gulf Stream from the southern tip of the peninsula of Florida where it scours a deep trench off the northern coast of Cuba and rounds Florida in a similarly deep trench up along the east coast.

why is this important? because during the ice age when much of the earth's water was locked up in glaciers and the sea level was at its lowest...some 600 feet below where it is today.  The boundaries of the Florida land mass were extremely different on the west coast (not much at all on the east coast) - The Gulf Stream has discrete and clearly defined boundaries and it creates its own weather (especially worth noting if you are a navigator on the seas).  For millennia the only way to get around on water was by sail, oars or poles... and the earliest civilizations on the peninsula were at water's edge- hence given the geology- the places to look for remains of the inhabitants of the area would be along the edges.  And if you are following along here that would be in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico or along the area of southeastern Florida where the drop off in the ocean created a stable coastline for thousands of years. Our current coastline dates from roughly 5000 years ago.  

one of the few places where you can find remains of human habitation on the Gulf Coast is at Little Salt Springs. another is at Horr's Island (from about 3200 years ago) where there is evidence of oyster catching and net fishing for vegetarian fish like mullet and seasonal fish for other species .  Nearby there was another settlement at Key Marco (south of Marco Island) where evidence indicates the use of catamaran style canoes (two hulls lashed together) and sails, as well as other maritime technology such as block & tackle for hoisting heavy loads.

the Calusa natives that inhabited the area sailed to Cuba (per early European settler testimonial accounts) before their population died out decimated by European diseases and enslavement.  They may have even traded with Meso-America (as evidenced by gourds used for water vessels and for floatation of fish nets) By the time of Columbus there was definitely canoe based trade around the Gulf.

Canoes in their earliest form currently found in Florida were dugouts made by burning single large tree trunks.  A huge cache of these canoes was located near Gainesville on the lake bed of Lake Newman. This find has canoes dating as far back as 5000 years...

here are some things I found on the Internet-

The first people probably entered the Florida peninsula around 13,000 years ago. As the global climate warmed and continental ice sheets melted, the sea level rose, reaching its modern level round 5,000 years ago. The archaeological remains of the first Floridians who lived along the coast are now submerged by the sea and in springs and rivers. From the time of the first people, the sea was an important source of food. Fish, shellfish, and crustaceans were plentiful along the coast and in the bays and rivers. People came to rely on dugout canoes for water transportation. The oldest canoe found in America, 5,000 years old, is from Florida. More than 80 canoes recently were discovered in the lake bed of Newnan’s Lake in Central Florida after a drought caused the water to recede.

Benjamin Franklin was the first to make a map of the Gulf Stream, and his insights, gleaned in part from Boston whalers, helped American captains beat the British competition (at least until everyone caught on).  Most of the waters that enter the Gulf Stream system first have been driven westward across the Atlantic by the Northeast Trade Winds. In the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico the current is gradually narrowed, and its velocity increases to more than 4 miles per hour as it passes through the Straits of Florida. As it turns north between Florida and the Bahamas, the Florida Current flows at a depth of some 2,600 feet and then follows the continental slope beyond the edge of the shelf. 

and here are a few illustrations for the above narrative-

in this first one we see the distinct edge of the shelf along the coast near Miami where the Gulf Stream has scoured out the deep channel- versus the sand filled areas along the west coast - and understand why the west coast beaches rule!

this one shows the same phenomenon with Cuba's north coast-

various illustrations of the former shoreline before the sea level rose to the current land mass borders about 5000 years ago...

you can see the various native tribes in this map-

and here is a demo of how dugouts were "fabricated" back then- through well defined burning techniques-

so there you have a synopsis of the info I learned today in class- tomorrow a different class and maybe more factoids to discover--- will always keep you posted!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

sadly, another fail

so last night we made a reservation at a highly rated (by Trip Advisor) local restaurant.  we went over the menu on line and had high hopes for an excellent meal... the chef was a James Beard finalist some time in the past (not clear) and the place was nearby so we thought we would check it out.

we arrived at 8:12 -  and things started badly when our reservation for 8:15 was not honored until 8:37... then we waited several minutes for anyone to acknowledge our presence at the table and even longer for wine glasses to make it all the way from the serving area two tables away - we even saw our server walking around with the glasses in hand to several other tables (distributing and picking up checks for payment and processing payments etc) all the while we are waiting for glasses for our wine...

the high note of the evening was when we had a brief and very pleasant conversation with the chef while waiting for a table, as he noticed the wine we had brought to accompany dinner and we discussed winemakers we knew in common from the wine growing area of the wine we brought (an older American wine- despite the fact that our cellar is heavily French we do have many wines from other wine regions of the world)

the woman at the front desk couldn't care less about the fact that she wasn't honoring the reservation times only apologizing when she finally deigned to take us to a table- and the server when informed that our experience had not started well, did apologize but by rote- although I didn't really blame her - she wasn't the one who took the reservation and then didn't keep it...(a la Seinfeld)

we finally ordered and the food began to arrive-

I started with a wedge salad and Phil with the BBQ shrimp (New Orleans style)

sadly the salad was swimming in a vinaigrette by the time I finished- so - seriously over dressed... I think Phil was pretty happy with the shrimp but said he was expecting it to be in the Pascal's Manale style (perhaps the most famous BBQ shrimp place in NOLa)- and it wasn't....

we followed with the Pork Shank for Phil and the Muffaletta flat bread for me and "toasted garlic fries" to split...

Everything LOOKED great- but Phil did not care for the pork preparation which tasted weirdly of vinegar (in the style of sauerbraten I think) and while I liked my muffaletta flatbread I thought there could have been just a tad less olive spread (which made it quite drippy and I ended up with a number of those drips on my shirt- LOL)  As for the fries - I think the basic fries may have been good but this preparation had them coated with some buttery flavor and they lost the desired crispy texture traditional "frites"  should have..

we left some of everything we ordered on the plates- but not entirely due to the food not being exactly to our tastes- but in part due to the fact that we wanted to try a couple of desserts- which ended up being comp'ed by the front desk lady (a very nice move on their part) for the wait. But which didn't make up for the reason the wait was so long-

so the dessert menu- and our choices - the beignets and the mousse-

while not "to die for" they were both very good and to my mind the best part of the meal-

our wine- an older Pinot made by our buddy Rollin Soles in the era before he left Argyle for his own winery Roco--- this wine was still fruit packed and seemed very young - we probably should have decanted it - because it opened up nicely over the course of the meal - but showed as a bit simple when first in the glasses...

so we agreed that if the food had been amazing we would have had to give the place another try but it just didn't quite meet expectations and on top of everything there was a group of FOURTEEN in the middle of the dining room (wearing farm implements logo caps inside on a Saturday night- res ipsa as we say in law...) so that was our one foray to the world of Derek's....

on a more happy note- earlier in the day we had put together the wines for our weekend in Miami to visit with daughter, Angela & her guy, Lee and our brother Larry and cousin Michele...

we have an Italian dinner planned for night #1 and French night #2 and gastro pub for night #3-

the Italian night (OK so we aren't huge Italian white fans...LOL)

the French night-

an 02- C-M Morgeot from Marc Morey

and a 1990 Beaune Theurons form Jadot-

and a Sauternes from Angela's birth year! 1988!

then the final night - a grab bag because the menu at the gastro pub is all over the map-

more on the family get- together when we return from Miami- meanwhile classes start tomorrow for those of us enrolled in "adult education" LOL- details to follow....