Happy NY Primary! (This entry has nothing to do about elections.)

Not much new to report on the Cuba front. The news is repetitive: the U.S. embargo/blockade (depending on the source) poses problems, as do Obama, the Castros, and American tourists. Learning Spanish is slow and somewhat steady. I can blame some of my lapse in my writing on time spent studying.
Presently I’m working on a blog about two of my Safety Harbor neighbors who will soon open a coffee shop on Main Street. I found them on a hunt for coffee with Brenden at our first Third Friday celebration, less than a week after we moved here.
Less than a week after we moved here we were in search of a cafe to sit and use the internet we lacked at our temporary place and indulge in our preferred addictive substance. Less than a week after we moved here we ruminated about how on earth it could be that in this picturesque downhome American’s American town constituting just a handful of blocks transected by central Main Street, home to a majestic willow tree so old, wide and grand that it must now be held in place by wires and protected by a black wrought iron fence (and which has become the face of many Safety Harbor postcards and t-shirts), a library, a fire department, a marina, a chamber of commerce with maybe two employees, and a gamut of almost 100% locally owned businesses, restaurants, and bars, the only coffee shop is a Starbucks. It couldn’t be. I’d accepted that life would have to go on without New York pizza, but life without a mom-and-pop coffeeshop? Fugghedaboudit.
Kent and Logan Runnells are not mom and pop, but father and daughter, and they will soon become my coffee patrons so I am forever in their debt. Meeting them less than a week after our devastating realization, and a little over a week after I decided to start blogging again, was as as energizing as coffee.
As a writer, the only vice that plagues me more than too much coffee is overbearing product anxiety. It took a couple of months for the Runnells and I to orchestrate and interview, which we had almost three weeks ago. In between work, Spanish, other necessary studies, and baby Nola, I’ve been pecking at this thing since the day after posting my last blog. So there you have it: my most recent excuse for a delayed publication.
April 2016.jpg

And that’s Sunday

On Community

January 17, 2016
Sunday
Life in a waterfront community is something special. Today we experienced a sunset at Howard Beach Park.
Howard Sunset

Around 5:40pm

Birdy Sunset

5:50pm-ish

Yesterday we watched the sunrise, sittin’ on the dock of the Bay.

Marina Sunrise

Safety Harbor Marina, sun breaks at 7:23am

We sunned ourselves on the white sand of Clearwater Beach in the afternoon. It was sunny and in the 70s. I got a tan. It’s January. The locals are urging one another to “stay warm” during tomorrow’s 50 degree cold front. It’s snowing in Virginia and rigid in New York. *cue Handel’s Messiah*
Last Sunday I had a most epic thrift store adventure. Gone are the days of $30 thrift shop tees. Hello, $5 Banana Republic! Living room set for $75? Yes please.
On Tuesday I enjoyed clam chowder for under $3. Two lovely men in tropical shirts gave Brenden and me all kinds of information on the area. (See my review of Mid Peninsula Seafood here.)
We’ve taken an apartment in Safety Harbor, an intimate water town atop the St. Pete peninsula. Every Friday they have an ordeal called Third Friday, wherein all 200 people who live here gather on Main Street. The street is blocked off so vendors can peddle their wares. I’ve been to many a generic street fair where fried corn, street meat, cell phones, karate lessons, knicknacks, handmade jewelry and just plain junk are peddled. This is not that.
Third Friday Sign

Welcome!

Every vendor is local and unique. Two guys behind a hot fryer deliver Disco Donuts topped with cinnamon, powdered or rainbow sugar. A lady who hates the heat and goes north every summer sells jewelry made from spoons. Two young people give information to prospective Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers.
As you’ve noticed, the tone and purpose of this blog has taken a different direction. Dear nieces and nephews, you are the primary reason I write this blog. I want it to be interesting to you. Listening to me list off stuff I’ve done probably gets old, which is part of the reason I stopped writing. The other reason was of course Cody’s death. It is time to move forward.
I’m making some changes. Instead of just telling you what I’ve done and where I’ve been, I want to show you by sharing stories of the communities I explore. Soon I will be adding profiles of people who, in my opinion, make their community special. Make what you will of that word, community. Whether I’m writing you from VA or NY or FL or ZZ, I am always in a community.
What a packed word, community…
Everyone has a different definition of community. I’ve enjoyed living in a community, but to be a part of community is to belong. To me community means interconnectivity. Cohabitation. Contribution. To belong to a community is to add to its richness. To support it’s success. Here on a Friday night, between the coffee makers and dog treat bakers on a ten-block Main Street that terminates at a Marina on a Third Friday evening, I feel confident that I am closer to the dream of belonging to a community than ever before.
But don’t you even think my adventures are over. Honey, I’ve only just begun…
Noosa

Making friends with the Noosa lady. Noosa is the best yogurt, by the way.

Guns don’t kill people: Bad intentions do.

Dear kids,

Gun-speak and political lingo fly out as you all are barely in high school. (Except you, Henry.) When I was in fourth grade, a suicidal high schooler blasted up his school and killed teenagers whose worst fault was probably snakiness. (Not to say that this isn’t bad. Snaky people suck, but that’s not really a good reason to kill someone.) When I was 16, some crazy person crashed [Virginia] Tech’s happy-go-lucky atmosphere. A few months ago, some evil man rolled up into an elementary school and eliminated over twenty childhoods and futures. All of these things have culminated into a nasty political debate about gun laws and gun control.

Like many others, I think this debate is a waste of focus, time, and oxygen. No matter what, weapons will still end up in the hands of people with bad enough intentions and fierce enough will to harm. Today, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. Many injured. Several dead. Politicians everywhere are shaking their fists to the left or to the right about guns, but what about violence? Isn’t that the bigger issue?

If not guns, there will be bombs. If not bombs, there will be fire. If not fire, there will be stones. Maybe instead of focusing on just one weapon that can be used to actualize hate, maybe, just maybe we should ALL focus on the moral climate of our community. This probably will not involve politicians, given that politicians are usually the most a-moral group of jerks out there. Instead, it needs to involve us at every second of every day.

Open the door for others. Smile when you make eye contact. Acknowledge the stranger in the elevator: s/he is no more invisible than you. Say “bless you” when someone sneezes. Listen up when your friend comes to you with a problem. Don’t interrupt others, but speak up when it’s time. Please and thank yous. Wave people through at stop signs. Make the slightest, most subtle differences that culminate in cohesive community. 

I’m not sure what is the point or main takeaway of this note. These are just my thoughts. Do with them what you will. Just remember that a single smile or kind word to a person on the edge could inevitably save lives. Because violence only arises from hatred, and hatred is bred from meanness and lack of consideration– lack of community.

Love,

Aunt Cat