Sunday, October 28, 2012

Massachusetts 39 - Finale

Oct 27 - 28, 2012

Oct 27

When I looked out the window this morning, I thought it had snowed.  Fog blanketed the street and the effect was eerie.

Susan loves to cook and I love to eat.  We make a great team!  For breakfast she made banana walnut French toast with Micky's homemade blueberry jam as a melted sauce.  I had seconds.  OMG - that was so yummy!

Susan put a tiny witch's hat on Maggie, their 12-year-old Pomeranian.  She looked so adorable I had to take a picture.

Mel loves everything to do with flight.  He has his private pilot's license and flies remote control helicopters.  Here he is working on a mechanical problem, flashlight in mouth.

Halloween is a BIG holiday in Salem, Massachusetts, the Witch City.  There are dozens of stores and museums that cater to witches, death, zombies, etc.  During the entire month of October, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city, many dressed in costume. 

Susan and I drove to my friend Holly's house in Salem.  Holly is the friend I made in Gulfport in September.  Holly drove the three of us to downtown Salem and parked in her friend's parking space right downtown in the middle of all the action.

We were not in costume, although Holly wore a black hat with a veil.  We walked down Essex Street, a pedestrian mall, and passed thousands of people.  I took a picture of what we thought were supposed to be three warlocks, whatever they are, and Holly snuck in the photo.  We visited briefly with my New Hampshire and Costa Rica friends, Fred and Elaine, who had their Tico Arts booth of wooden puzzle boxes made in Costa Rica.  Holly bought a wooden lobster puzzle box as a gift for her sister.

Susan and I were in sensory overload, and hungry, so we stopped at the first restaurant we came to, an Asian one.  We rested up, got fortified and hit the streets again.  We walked down to Pickering Wharf.  And then we saw the most wondrous thing:  seven rainbows in the sky.  It was incredible.  My camera couldn't capture them all.  People all around us were looking up.  We wondered if they had to do with the monster storm, nicknamed Frankenstorm, that is headed this way.


Susan always makes me what I want to eat, and this trip I told her I wanted a lot of vegetables.  When we got home, Susan made yet another delicious meal: shrimp with kale, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes over angel hair pasta.  We all got in our jammies, ate in the sun room and watched The Avengers.  It was an excellent stay-at-home night.


Oct 28

Susan made another fantastic breakfast: an egg, cheese and spinach casserole.  And Mel made a Dunkin Donuts run for us. 

Today may mark the end of my three-month trip to the United States.  I was supposed to fly back to Costa Rica on Tuesday, Oct 30, but because of the monster storm that's coming, I changed the reservation to today.  I fly from Boston to Newark at 3pm, then leave Newark at 6pm for Costa Rica.  I don't know now if that Costa Rica flight is going to take off.  I may end up spending a couple of days at the Newark airport.  I hope that is not the case, and that I arrive home safely tonight.

I have had a wonderful time, made new friends, enjoyed time with old friends, ate great food and got to know new places.  I am grateful for every kindness that has been shown to me.  This trip was the right thing for me to do.






Friday, October 26, 2012

Massachusetts 38

Oct 25 - 26, 2012

Oct 25
After one last visit to George, I drove over to Karen's.  I waved goodbye to Gulfport as Karen drove me to Tampa International Airport.  I flew to Miami then to Boston.  My good friend Susan picked me up as she usually does, but didn't for my first two trips into Boston in August, and it was wonderful to see her.  I think of her home as my home away from home.  A nice hot meal was waiting for us.

Oct 26
Susan and I started our day of outlet shopping the way we usually do - filling up first at Dunkin Donuts.  I enjoyed my first and only chocolate glazed donut during this trip.

There are still colorful leaves on the trees.  I took a picture of my old church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading.

There's a new outlet mall in Merrimack, New Hampshire, so we went up there instead of to the Wrentham Outlet Mall, which is further away.  I had already bought everything on my US shopping list, so I was looking for NOTHING.  Susan and I shop well together.  She bought some things, and apparently I had to buy just one more sleeveless blouse that will be fun to dance in.  After a Dairy Queen ice cream swirl, we drove home.  Susan had made one of my favorite meals:  eggplant parmagiana.  Oh geez, it was delicious.

Friday night is movie night.  We all got into our jammies, and ate dinner in the sun room.  Susan checked out early, so Mel and I watched Casino Royale.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

St Pete 37 - last in Florida

Oct 24, 2012

Today is my last full day in Florida.  I'm organizing my stuff and packing.  Tonight is my last swing dance at the Gulfport Casino. 

Karen gets in tonight.  Tomorrow morning I bring my leftover food and her car to her, and she will drive me to Tampa International Airport.  I'll fly up to Boston for the third time this trip, and stay with my good friend, Susan, and her husband, Mel, for five days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

St Pete 36

Oct 23, 2012

Tuesday is Fresh Market day in Gulfport.  First I stopped at Karen's and brought in her mail, then I drove downtown.  This was my last Fresh Market day - actually my last daytime in Gulfport - and I wanted to say goodbye to some of the people I met, like Sandy, Daniel, Mike, Helen, Nancy and some others.  Helen Mullins was on the porch of BES, painting a scene from the street.  Here she and the painting are in the photo.

Then I stopped by a small apartment complex owned by Olga, a Russian woman whom I befriended several weeks ago.  Her property is next door to Daniel and Mike's place, where I stayed my first ten days in Florida, August 21 - 31.  That seems so long ago now.  Olga and I chatted a bit and said our goodbyes.

Back to the condo to do my final loads of laundry before I pack and head up to Boston on Thursday.  Tomorrow is my last day in Florida.

Monday, October 22, 2012

St Pete 35

Oct 22, 2012

I had an interesting astrology reading today by an esteemed member of the First Unity Church, Peggy Sandin.  She's been doing readings for over 40 years.  I used to be very close to an astrologer/therapist who was a great inspiration in my life.  I could tell that Peggy is very knowledgeable in giving readings, and in fact, she spent several hours preparing for my arrival.

I still need to process what she said, so without giving much away, Peggy was in agreement with the two psychic readings I had in Costa Rica before I came here.  You two know who you are.  I am on the right path; big changes are coming my way; I need to let things unfold and be grateful.

Then I stopped by The Booklovers' Cafe to say goodbye to Irene, the woman who did Access Technology on me a few weeks back, a process that lets go of old thoughts and behaviors.  Big changes are in store for her, too, and it will be interesting to see what paths our lives follow.

I know this sounds vague and maybe even woowoo, but I feel very good in the confirmations Peggy gave me and in believing that this trip has been the right thing to do.  Still, all will be revealed.

I thought the excitement of the day was over, but George called.  He was riding his bicycle along Clam Bayou and was a few minutes from my house.  It just so happened that I was cooking chicken stir fry and brown rice for two meals, so I invited him over.

After he left, I had a great Skype conversation with Debi, then another nice conversation with Jimmy, a guy I met at church who lives between St Pete and Escazu, Costa Rica.

And finally, Dancing with the Stars!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

St Pete 34

Oct 20 - 21, 2012

Oct 20
These days are lovely - sunny and bright, low 80s, but it's getting cooler at night.  George and Vivi rode their bicycles from Gulfport to St Pete Beach while I drove over and met them at Bongo's, a beach bar.  George kept my beach chair warm while Vivi and I walked the beach and got to know each other.  She's a lovely person and I am glad I have met the two of them.  We got a table at Bongo's for dinner and to watch the sun set.

They rode their bicycles back to Gulfport while I drove back there.  The town was hopping with music and dancing.  My first stop was at The Pen Inn, where a Motown group was playing.  I danced with Brady, the tall black guy from swing dance night, and talked a while with Winnie, whom I had met at Gecko Fest.

Then I crossed the street to the Tea and Me courtyard where the Urban Gypsies (band from Gecko Fest) was playing.  Vivi and George were already there and dancing up a storm.  We all danced for a while, and grooved on the versatile music.  I recognized a woman, Kathryn Marge, whom I had met at a shoe store in St Pete last December.  She's an avid dancer, too.

I was tempted to walk down to On The Rocks, where another band was playing, but I was told it was very smoky, so I headed home.  I had danced enough.

Oct 21
 
Today was my last day at First Unity Church.  What a wonderful church community I have found, with an outstanding minister, Temple Hayes.  During the service, three dogs that Temple and others rescued from the streets of Brazil, were introduced.  They had been flown from Brazil and already had adoptive families in St Pete.

After the service, Linda and Ron Miller and I went to Under the Moon for lunch.  This is a famous restaurant on Beach Blvd in St Pete, facing the water.  Linda and I met 9 or 10 years ago when we went to Temple's Spirit of Life Church in Sarasota.  They followed her up to First Unity in St Pete.  It has been great to reconnect with Linda and her husband.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

St Pete 33

Oct 19, 2012

This was another laid back day.  George came over in the afternoon and we hung out on the shaded veranda by the pool, overlooking Clam Bayou.  We watched mullets (fish) jumping in the air.  Someone said there were dolphins out there today, but we didn't see any. 

In the evening I drove over to Horan Park on St Pete Beach to listen to music.  I shlepped my red beach chair to the concert venue, only to find that it was all old people there.  I know, I know.  I am an old person, and I've got Social Security to prove it, but I just don't feel like I fit in with people who look older than me when I'm listening to music.  I wanna get up and dance, shake my booty, but no one was doing that.  So after five minutes, I got up and left, and bought a $3 cheeseburger (fundraiser for the fire department) on my way out.

I went home and watched Shark Tank, which I love.  I haven't slept for two nights, so I had a little red wine, which I never drink at night because it gives me hot flashes and keeps me from sleeping.  I figured that if I was going to be awake again, I might as well enjoy a little Pinot Noir.  Then I took a Tylenol PM, which I've been taking with no effect, and went to bed.  I guess the combination of a little red wine and the Benadryl in the pill worked, because I slept almost 11 hours.  Gracias a Dios!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

St Pete 32

Oct 18, 2012

I am so grateful for the loan of Karen's car, even though the air conditioning is broken.  And I can't figure out how to open the sunroof.  And it was close to 90 degrees today with bright sunshine.

With the windows wide open, I drove down to Bradenton to get my new debit card that was mailed to me.  Jim and I visited for a while.  Then I headed over to the movie theatre to meet Sandy.  She had left her favorite pillow at my house the other day, and I brought it back to her. 

We saw an amazing film: ARGO.  I highly recommend this movie, unless you can't take suspense.  This is the true story of the six Americans who hid at the home of the Canadian ambassador during the Iran hostage situation in 1980.  Ben Affleck directed and starred in the movie, and he deserves awards for both achievements.  Not knowing, or at least not remembering, this part of the hostage situation, I didn't know how the movie was going to end.  I won't give it away, but I was drained at the end of the movie.  Two other women who saw it said the same thing as they were leaving the theatre. 

I drove home and had to spend an hour at the pool to recover.  The movie was THAT powerful.

St Pete 31

Oct 17, 2012

I have made the most wonderful friends in Gulfport.  Karen is going to Atlanta for a week to support her daughter in the 60-mile Breast Cancer Awareness Walk, and she offered to let me use her car during her absence.  I was very touched by the offer.

George picked me up and brought me to Karen's house to get the car.  I followed him back to his office for a chiropractic adjustment.

Even though I had wheels, I needed to stay in the condo and do some things.  Another friend loaned me her sewing machine and I made some primitive repairs to clothing.

The big event of the day was swing dancing.  Geez, I love swing dancing!  The class starts at 7:00pm.  Sam, the instructor, starts with the basic step each week for newcomers.  I got there at 7:30 as he was showing a new step, which he does every week.  Then I danced my fool head off until 10:30 - that was late for me.  A friend I had met, Stone, who is a drummer in a Cajun-Zydeco band, stopped by to see me for a few minutes.  He knew where to find me.  He knew I was leaving soon and wanted to say goodbye to me.  Sweet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

St Pete 30

Oct 15 - 16, 2012

Oct 15
I got the house clean for my guest.  Sandy from Siesta Key came for an overnight.  As most of my friends know, I am not much of a cook.  It's not that I can't cook; it's that I have trouble thinking of what to cook.  Karen gave me a simple menu: saute garlic in olive oil with spinach and fresh tuna and put it over brown rice.  There's a fabulous fish store in Gulfport and I went there to get tuna chunks, which are about a third of the price of tuna steaks but are the same meat.

When Sandy arrived, we spent some time by the pool, overlooking the bay, sipping pinot noir.  Ah, life is good.  Then I made dinner, and we settled in for one of our favorite shows, Dancing with the Stars.  This season, winners from previous seasons are competing, so the dancing is superb. 

Oct 16

This morning I introduced Sandy to Gulfport.  Today was the Fresh Market - the sidewalks were lined with booths selling arts and crafts, food items, and fresh produce.  I saw many of my new Gulfport friends.  We walked down the city pier, which I've been wanting to do.  It was a glorious day - sunny and warm with a light breeze.

We sat outside to have a tasty lunch at Tangelo's.  First Vivi stopped by on her bicycle to chat, then her partner George stopped by on his bicycle.  Every time I go to Gulfport I feel like it's home.  I think I know more people there than in Grecia.

We stopped at Karen's because I wanted to show Sandy Karen's house and studio, which are coming along really well.  Geez, I still have not taken a picture of her house.  Karen bought it in a short sale one month ago and has been working hard to fix it up.  I'll miss Karen's housewarming party.  She's asking for cuttings of plants that she can start in her yard, so I chopped off a branch of a plumeria bush and will go plant it in her yard while she's gone next week.

St Pete 29

Oct 13 - 14, 2012

Oct 13
Even though I had a car, there wasn't anywhere I wanted to go, so I hung out by the pool.  I met a couple from Cape Cod who keep a place here.  He had a strong Massachusetts accent.  Do I sound like that?!

I didn't have anything planned for nighttime, either, so I called Karen and she was up for going to a beach bar for dinner and drinks and listening to music.  We went to Sunset Beach on Treasure Island and started at Caddy's.  The Paul Anthony Band was great!  They played oldies that we knew.  The club sandwich was just okay.  The sunset was spectacular.  I took a picture just before the big red sun was about to set. 

Then we went across the street to Ka-Tiki, where another band was playing.  Someone asked me to dance, but he didn't know how.  Karen offered to take a picture of a group of people, and one guy rewarded her with a beer, then came over and talked about how much money he had and how generous he was.  We called it a night shortly after that, but it was fun to spend an evening by the beach.


Oct 14
This was my fifth Sunday at First Unity and I was still moved by the service.  The focus was on the interconnectedness of life (which is a UU principle as well).  At the end of the service the children came in with some animals - mostly dogs and one bunny.  The animals seem to be hiding in this picture.





Friday, October 12, 2012

St Pete 28

Oct 11 - 12, 2012

Oct 11
I turned the car in early, so I hung around the house.  Nigel, the guy who wants to have extensive dental work done in Costa Rica, came over to pick my brain again.  This was the second time, and there's nothing left to pick now.  We sat by the pool enjoying the lovely day.


Oct 12
Friday - I rented another car for the weekend.  I love the weekend specials: $9.99/day plus tax.  I headed down to Sarasota for a lovely sail in Sarasota Bay with Ron on his 32' Island Packet.  He put it on autopilot going away from Marina Jack's (where he docks his boat) for a controlled sail at under 3 knots.  Then coming back with the easterly wind, we got up to 8 knots.  Woohoo!  We were moving.

Captain Ron

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

St Pete 27

Oct 10, 2012

I rented a car first thing in the morning, just for the day.  The people at Enterprise are so nice.  They know me and I know them, and they know that I like to drive the Dodge Avenger, so they give it to me whenever they can.

I headed south to Bradenton where I had to get a legal document, and while I was there, I stopped in to see my ex-husband and visited a short while.  He had just received my voting ballot.  I voted straight Democrat for the candidates, but then he had to explain to me the confusingly-written proposals.  Since I don't know what's going on in Manatee County, Jim made recommendations for me and I went along with them on the ballot. 

In Sarasota I returned some merchandise that I had bought, and stopped at a health food store for some awesome horseradish chicken salad.

I made it back up to Gulfport in time to play a round of cribbage with Karen, Marge and Marty.  Then I drove up to Visionworks to pick up my new and improved sunglasses and clear glasses.  The prescription feels right now.

Home for a quick nappypoo, and then I'm going swing dancing.  Woohoo!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

St Pete 26

Oct 8 - 9, 2012

Oct 8
Bob and I drove along the coast to Madeira Beach to visit John's Pass Village.  It's a quaint area devoted to touristy stores.  I've been there a couple of times, and I thought Bob would enjoy it, and he did. 

Kilwin's, a great ice cream and fudge shoppe in Sarasota, has a branch on the boardwalk here, so we stopped and had some of each.  Ice cream and fudge didn't go well with Bob's beer. 

Then we went to downtown St Pete Beach to the movie theatre.  We were going to see Moonrise Kingdom, but the worker there said the sound quality was bad, so we went across the street to a bar where the people were friendly.  Back at the condo, Bob made spaghetti sauce that was very good. 

Oct 9
Bob took off this morning.  In the afternoon, George rode his bicycle over with Chinese food to share.  We spent a couple of hours by and in the pool, talking about marketing for his chiropractic practice and life in general.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

St Pete 25

Oct 7, 2012

Great day!  I took Bob to First Unity.  Bob is not a church-goer, but he enjoyed the service, as did I, and we're both going back next week.  Rev. Temple was amazing, talking about respecting the elderly, and not allowing barriers to hold you back from what gives you joy in life.  It was a three-hanky service for me. 

Linda and Ron Miller, who used to go to Temple's (and my) church in Sarasota, and Bob and I went out to lunch and had a wonderful time getting to know each other.  We're going to try to make it down to their place in Sarasota for dinner next week.

The Gulfport Ramblers (Stone, Larry and Maureen) played Cajun Zydeco music at the big pavilion on Gulfport beach from 5-8pm.  Bob and I brought a picnic dinner.  I knew a lot of people there from swing dancing and from meeting them around Gulfport.  Stone taught me how to dance to the music, and Laurie taught Bob.  There are so many free events to enjoy here!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

St Pete 24

Oct 6, 2012

We took a day trip south to Bradenton and Sarasota, where I used to live.  I thought Bob would enjoy the Red Barn.  It's a huge flea market that sells clothes, food, tools, jewelry, sunglasses, kitchen stuff and just about anything you can imagine.  A woman wanted to give me a nonsurgical facelift on half my face so I would buy her products for $250 to do the other half.  She is my age, 62, and looks it, while I look a lot younger (thanks to my genes and my active, healthy lifestyle, I think).  So I passed on that.

Then we went to the $2 movie theatre to see Robot & Frank, a funny film with a poignant ending that reminded me of my father and his dementia.  We took a ride past the house that Jim and I built in 2003 and lived in for two years before I moved to Costa Rica.  The palm tree in front is huge now, and the landscaping looks overgrown.  I'm glad I don't live in that sterile neighborhood anymore.

The ride home with all the windows open was a joy.  The land in Florida is flat, but the sky is immense and has beautiful cloud formations.  The sun set just as we came off the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

St Pete 23

Oct 5, 2012
We hung out at the lovely pool.  I even took a little nappypoo.  I'm sleeping better at night, though not the entire night.  And now I can even take a short nap in the afternoons when time permits.

Bob and I went to the First Friday street party in St Pete.  Because Romney was at The Pier (close by) at the same time, mucking up the downtown traffic on a Friday at rush hour, we parked across from Grand Central Station, whose local name is Central Plaza (who knew?), and took the 50 cent trolley to downtown.  We got a build-your-own burrito, bought a couple of beers, and set up our camp chairs in front of the same bar as last month.  There was a good band that played rock n roll, heavy metal and blues.  Sandy and Judith stopped by for a while (see photo).  Mike, a guy from my swing dance class, and I danced for a while, practicing the steps we have learned.  He comes down from Spring Hill - over an hour away, just to dance. 

Somehow, I lost my old favorite prescription bifocal sunglasses.  I feel like I lost a friend.  I am waiting for my new glasses to be made stronger; they should be ready sometime next week.  In the meantime, I am wearing my old clear glasses, minus an arm that I broke off when I stepped on them, with clip-on shades.  I need something to protect my eyes from the sun.

When Bob's foot had had enough (he hurt it at swing dance class), we lugged our chairs to the trolley stop.  We just missed a trolley back to Central Plaza, so we had to wait at Williams Park for the next.  According to a cop I talked to last December, this park is feared even by the police because of the criminal druggies who hang out there.  Bob and I weren't afraid, though, being the San Jose survivors that we are.  A nice black woman hung out with us, and kept saying how bad the park was.  A drunk came by and sat next to me.  I didn't think anything of it, but Bob told me to go sit somewhere else while he sat next to the drunk and gave him his bottle of water.  The trolley finally came and we went back to get the car, which thankfully was still waiting for us. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

St Pete 22

Oct 4, 2012
This was a busy day.  Bob dropped me at the Sea Breeze for my beauty salon appointment.  I had me a grand old time talking with the ladies about Dancing with the Stars, and celebrities, and lots of different things.  When I came out, Bob said I looked five years younger.  :-)

Then a visit to George, my chiropractor and friend, took away my migraine.  My C2 was out, and it was such a relief to feel painfree again.

For lunch we stopped at Smokin' J's BBQ and shared a pulled pork sandwich and potato salad made by the guys in the picture.  It was very good, and inexpensive, but Brady's was better.

We made a quick trip to the Tyrone Square Mall so Bob could get a SIM card for his cell phone.  Then I had time for a 10-minute nap before we went to play ping pong in St Pete Beach with Kay.  We picked up George along the way.  We were all sweating after only 1 1/2 hours, but it was great fun.

Then we all went directly to the Pen, the Peninsula Inn, where Daniel plays DJ and Mike plays bartender.  Because it had rained and was still wet outside, we sat at a table in the front, outside under the roof.  It was very relaxing and enjoyable.  I chatted with people I had met, and made new friends:  George's sister Maggie and her husband Paul, and a single woman, Ruth.  Karen met us there, so we had a big table.  I only danced a little bit inside with Cindy and Judi because I was starving.  The food there is very good.  Bob and I shared a chicken dinner with sweet potato fries.  I even had a margarita (oh no - tequila!).  George and I did a little swing dancing on the veranda.  We all said we'd see each other on Sunday evening when the Cajun-Zydeco band plays at the pavilion on Gulfport beach.  Bob is falling in love with Gulfport, just as I am. 

These are some painted palm tree pods, hung on a wall.  I think they're pretty.  Karen and Carol paint them, too.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St Pete 21

Oct 2 - 3, 2012

Oct 2
This was a nothing special day.  I woke up with a basilar artery migraine.  Aleve made it bearable for most of the day.  I did laundry, finished cleaning the condo, talked to friends on Skype. 

Bob's plane was delayed, but he got here just fine.  I made a home-cooked meal for us:  meatloaf, baked potatoes and green beans.

Oct 3
Day 2 of the migraine - for joy.  The day started out with rain, so I didn't walk.  Sleepyhead has to adjust his internal clock so he wakes up earlier so we can fit more playtime into the day.

We went to Enterprise to pick up a rental car, then we went to Denny's for a breakfast lunch.  Bob was obsessed with having breakfast at Denny's because of a commercial he had seen a couple of days back.  We shared eggs, bacon, hash brown and French toast.  I had to admit it was really good.

Wednesday is cribbage day, and since it was raining, we didn't play at the beach; we played at Karen's house.  Karen taught Bob how to play, and I played with Marge and Marty.

Then we drove around Gulfport and I showed Bob this quaint little town with old Florida style houses and bungalows. 

After a quick nap back at the condo (for me; Bob was on his computer), we went to the Neptune Grill for taco night, then walked across the street for Swing Dance Night at the Gulfport Casino.  Bob learned the basic steps from 7-8pm, then the dancing started.  I had a blast, as usual.  Bob got tired and had to sit out a few dances. 
 

Monday, October 1, 2012

St Pete 20

Oct 1, 2012
It's October already?!  The weather is nice here.  I think it was in the low- to mid-80s today.  It's still humid, but I think I'm getting used to it.

The left lens in my new sunglasses and clear glasses is too weak.  The glasses were made correctly, but the prescription from my opthalmologist at CIMA was either incorrect, or my sight in that eye has worsened since my May appointment.  So I brought the glasses back to Visionworks, paid for another eye exam, got a new script, and Visionworks is going to replace the left lenses free of charge.  That is nice of them.

I just drove around with the car, stopping to buy vegetables and taking advantage of a nice day to be outdoors.  Then I came back to the condo and started cleaning it.  I have not cleaned a bathroom in over seven years.  I've had a maid do it.  There are a lot of different cleaning supplies in the condo, but I didn't know what to use for what.

Tomorrow my friend, Bob, arrives.  He's my go-to guy in Grecia for whatever ails my house or car.  He's very knowledgeable and a fun person to hang out with.  He's going to stay here for two weeks while I show him around St Pete (thus my push to clean the place).  The dining room table has been covered with the jigsaw puzzle I've been doing; I had to finish it today so we'd both have someplace to eat.  The sign in the middle says, "A bad day on vacation still beats a good day at work."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

St Pete 19

Sept 30, 2012
This has been a weepy day for me.  I went to First Unity this morning, and the service, especially Temple's message about just being in the world (I'm not even going to try to summarize) had me in tears.  I ran into a couple I knew from our old church in Sarasota, who followed Temple to First Unity in St Pete.  It was great to see them again.  They make the 40-minute drive up most Sundays.  I am meeting and remeeting more and more nice people.

I went to the Booklovers' Cafe where the owner, Irene, did a hands-on practice on me, somewhat like Reiki, but not.  It's called Access Conciousness (http://www.accessconsciousness.com/), and it's a way to release beliefs that block energy so a person can move forward in different areas of life.  Irene was recently trained to teach and do the technique, and she graciously did it on me.  Her white cat, Pinky, laid down on top of me and stayed there, purring, the entire hour or so.  I shed a few tears during that process, too.  We'll see what the results will be.

Having slept only a few hours, I was dog tired, but I stopped at Karen's to play four rounds of Rummikub with her, Kay and Linda.  I did not win, but I was a good sport about it.  Really, I was.  They were going to play Sequence, a game I really love, but I just had to go home and rest. 

St Pete 18

Sept 29

Many of the museums in St Pete are free today, and I wanted to go to the new Salvador DalĂ­ Museum.  I found my way there, parked at a free, meter-less spot, and walked a few blocks to the museum.  The line was going to take 45 minutes, but I was game.  Then I heard someone say that it was free only for residents of Pinellas County.  That was confirmed by a guard, so I left.  :-(  Even though I'm staying in Pinellas County, the only ID I have says Manatee County, just south of here.

So I drove to Gulfport in search of The Gabber, a weekly newspaper that tells about all the social goings-on.  Daniel, my former landlord, had asked me to write a blurb about how much I liked Gulfport, and it was going to run in this week's Gabber, along with my profile picture that he lifted from Facebook (we're friends). 

On my way to the center of town, I saw a friend, Marsha, standing on a sidewalk talking to a gardener, so I parked the car and went over to her.  She invited me into her home, and we sat and visited for a while.  Marsha is the one who drove me home from Walmart on a very hot day, and the Tampa Bay Rays employee (not a volunteer as I had thought) I ran into at a game.  She's a hot ticket.  When she was in her 40s, she adopted a Chinese baby girl, who has just graduated from high school.

Still in Gulfport, I stopped in to see Karen, who had participated in a mini-marathon in the morning.  She biked, swam and um, something else - each for a mile, I think.  She is fixing up her home that she just bought, and the apartment behind it.

 
Tonight Karen and I went to the Tangerine Blues Fest - a free, outdoor blues festival on Tangerine Avenue in Gulfport.  
The music was just so-so, but Brady's pulled pork sandwich melted in my mouth, and the frozen, chocolate-covered, coconut-sprinkled banana was good, too.  Brady, also known as Mr. I Got 'Em, when he cooks and caters soul food at events, is also an occasional swing dance partner.  He's a little tall for me, 6'6" at least, but he dances well.  I saw fellow dancing fools Judy, Michele and Cindy, whom I had met and danced with at the Gecko Fest.
 
 

Friday, September 28, 2012

St Pete 17

Sept 27 - 28, 2012

Sept 27
The two highlights of my day were talking to Jasmine and going to lunch with Jimmy.  I met Jimmy at First Unity on Sunday.  He has a condo near St Pete and also lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.  We drove along the beach route, from St Pete Beach, through Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Shores Beach, to Indian Shores.  I think that's the right order.  The entire shoreline is one beach after another, most of which are not viewable from the road because high- and low-rise vacation rentals block the view.  We stopped at The Pub, and I had delicious coconut-encrusted mahi mahi over a caesar salad.

Plans for ping pong fell through, so I watched TV.  Grey's Anatomy and Scandal started their season tonight and I loved watching the shows.  Scandal is fast and smart, with excellent acting. 

Sept 28
George came over and picked my brain about getting some dental work done in Costa Rica.  If anyone else reading this in the US needs dental work, you should know that it is significantly less expensive with very high quality in Costa Rica.  I had a root canal two years ago for $250, and instead of adding a crown, the endodontist built up the tooth with resin for an extra $100.  I've been told that a root canal and crown in the US would cost about $1800.

Then I spent a couple of hours waiting at Enterprise for a rental car.  This time I got liability insurance.  The last few times, I just prayed that I wouldn't be involved in an accident.

I drove to the waterfront in St Pete (so lovely), and met Matt, a nice guy from plentyoffish.com, an online dating site.  I don't usually go for tall guys (he's 5'11"), but I liked his profile.  He's from India, is Catholic, but spiritual, too.  He had to leave early to go to work (he's training to be a private investigator), and I thought about going to a bar, but I decided I'd just head home and rest up for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

St Pete 16

Sept 26, 2012

I'm enjoying my morning walks now that it is turning a little cooler.  The oppressive humidity only comes out in the afternoon for a little while.  The rest of the time it is very pleasant here.

Karen came over this afternoon.  We sat in the shade by the pool, overlooking the bay, and played cribbage.  She won one game and I won one.  In between games, we lounged in the pool.  Geez, is this the life, or what?

My chiropractor friend, George, who lives a five-minute walk from the Gulfport Casino, offered to drive over here to St Pete (4 miles away) to get me to bring me to Swing Dance Night.  What a sweetie!  He picked me up early so I could attend the class, and then he and his girlfriend, Vivi, who know how to dance swing, came for the public dance (see photo of them).  I had a blast!  For once, there were more men than women.  People don't believe that I've only sat in on three swing dance lessons.  My years of Latin dancing have helped me tremendously.

Also at the dance, I met two UUs!  There are so few of us, what are the odds of my meeting two other Unitarian Universalists at the same dance?  Both Emily and Laurie said they go up to the UU Clearwater church where there is a dynamic minister from India.  George asked Laurie to take me home from the dance since it was on her way, so we got to talking, and that's how I found out she was a UU.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

St Pete 15

Sept 24 - 25, 2012

Sept 24
Somebody stop me from buying more clothes!  My car drove to Bealls, one of my favorite stores, and I picked up a pair of white shorts and a bra.  In the afternoon I stopped downtown St Pete at White House Black Market, another favorite store, but nothing fit.  Next door at Chico's, though, I found a pair of black capris that had my name on them.

Most of the afternoon was spent at the First Unity Church.  I attended services there the last two Sundays, and I like the energy, the people, and most of all, the minister, Temple Hayes, who was my minister at a Religious Science church in Sarasota.  Temple met with me for over an hour today, answering questions that I have about religious beliefs and how the Unity church might fit my needs for spirituality and community.  I don't know if I can make the leap from Unitarian Universalism to Unity, or if I even have to think about changing labels.  These two months in Florida are a fact-finding mission for me, and I'm gathering a lot of information.

Sept 25
My friend Karen bought and has moved into her first house in Gulfport and I went to see it - without my camera, dang.  It's open and airy, with good ventilation, and a building in back (bodega/apartment), and a spacious yard.  It's a 15-minute walk to downtown.  She got a very good deal, and is fixing it up herself, with a little help from a friend who drove down from Atlanta with her stuff that was in storage.  Buying used furniture here is big, and she has made some major finds.  Her forte is decorating, and she knows what colors to put with what.

Tuesday is Fresh Market Day in Gulfport, and I expected a farmer's market.  There may have been one, but all I saw were craft booths.  I just had to buy a pair of red earrings (only $7.50).  I visited with Mike and Daniel, the couple who rented me their guest cottage), who had just come back with 25 others from Gulfport on a Carnival cruise.  I like these guys a lot - they're so down-to-earth and helpful.

In the afternoon, I stopped at a couple of art-making places to gather information.  The St Pete Clay Company offers classes in hand-building and wheel-throwing (two terms I learned today), and Valerie, the teacher, showed me around.  I've always wanted to make something artsy with my hands, and clay has some appeal.  Then I went to a unique place, Painting with Fire Studio.  The owner, Barbara Lewis, demonstrated how she makes torch-fired enamel jewelry.  It was fascinating and looked easy.  I could make my own earrings!  You can look her up at www.paintingwithfirestudio.com.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

St Pete 14

Sept 21 - 23, 2012

Sept 21
I just hung around the pool and the condo until later afternoon, when Enterprise picked me and then I waited around their office for a couple of hours for a rental car.  Waiting, as many of you know, is not my forte.

I took a big risk at night.  My new friend, Anna, said, "Let's go to Simone's Salsa" for a class and to dance.  So I drove to Tampa - at night.  It took me about 50 minutes. 

I don't usually drive at night in Costa Rica because:  there aren't dividing lines on the roads; there are deep gutters and steep falloffs on the sides of the switchback-curvy roads that I can't see; the roads are poorly lit; and I have poor depth perception.  I would like the freedom to be able to drive at night in Costa Rica, but I stay home for these reasons. 

But Florida has brightly-lit highways!  With white and yellow lines to show where you're supposed to drive.  And big signs.  So, equipped with my GPS, I took off at 8:15pm for Tampa.  Along the way, it rained.  Actually, it poured buckets.  I followed the lights from the car in front of me.  I prayed.  And I got to my destination.

I took the free tango class, and found that I liked it a lot.  I wore my new dance shoes and they were fun and light to dance in on the wooden floor.  Tango requires a very strong male leader.  My leader was medium-strength, and so I did what I always do when my dance partner doesn't lead right - I led.  But he told me to let him lead (he sounded just like a tico, but was gringo), so I did.

After the class, there was a dance.  Once again, the salsa was some sort of dance I have never seen.  I tried to follow the guy who asked me, but I was a failure at it.  After seven years of dancing and loving salsa, and being pretty good at it in Costa Rica, I had to admit that I'd have to start in a beginner's class here.  Someone did ask me for a bachata, and I got all excited because I can do that and it's mostly the same here.  I ended up leaving about 11, and finding my way back, and more easily because there was no rain.

Sept 22
I had a follow-up appointment with Dr George, the chiropractor.  My backside was so much better, even after dancing, although I had some muscle problems in my legs, possibly from my new dancing shoes, or my new tennis shoes, or who knows why.  I ended up spending 2.5 hours with George.  He worked on my legs, and we talked and talked and became good friends.  He and his girlfriend, Vivi, are into swing dancing, and go to the Gulfport Casino on Wednesday nights.  I want to go next Wednesday, but it's not a night that I have a rental car. 

My two new pairs of glasses were ready at Visionworks, and I picked them up.  Chaka was so helpful in helping me pick out the frames.  I got new polarized sunglasses and new anti-glare clear glasses (to help driving in Costa Rica at night).

At night, my new friends Sandy and Judith invited me to go to Sloppy Joe's with a group of their friends.  Sloppy Joe's is on Treasure Island beach, and I watched a great sunset.  Apparently we were celebrating Helen's birthday, but I didn't know it.  I liked all the women at our table.  There are such nice people here in St Pete.  I know, I keep saying that about St Pete and Gulfport.  I am fortunate to be finding some really nice people.  After dinner, we walked on the beach (wowee - what a lovely feeling, with the seabreeze, just delightful) and tried to light paper lanterns that are supposed to be whisked away into the starry night.  But we couldn't get the flame to burn so our lanterns never took off.

Sept 23
I went back to First Unity Church today.  Temple, the minister, pointed out the guy who asked about me last week.  As soon as I saw him, I recognized him.  His name is Jimmy Moriarty, and he lives in Escazu, Costa Rica, and attended the Unity church in Santa Ana when I used to go.  He keeps a condo in Florida and goes back and forth during the year.  It is a very small world.  Temple also introduced me to several people she thought I would want to know.  First, her lovely partner, Beverly.  Also a woman named Bonnie (originally from New Hampshire) who clicked with me right away.  An astrologer, Peggy, who is going to do my chart in October, and a few other people whose names I can't remember.

I had packed beach stuff, so after meeting half the church, I went to Indian Rocks Beach.  It's pretty far north, almost to Clearwater.  After Friday night's foray to Tampa in the dark and rain, I figured I could find my way to Indian Rocks Beach.  The first order of business was eating, so I stopped at Crabby Bill's (it's a chain) and had half of a yummy caesar salad with blackened salmon.  There was just too much to eat.  Then I put on my bathing suit and walked across the street to the beach.  I love just lying on the sand, listening to the waves.  I know I'm not supposed to bask in the sun, and I couldn't reach my back to put sunblock on all over me, but I did enjoy my time there.  I asked a young guy to take a picture of me.





Thursday, September 20, 2012

St Pete 13

Sept 19 - 20, 2012

Sept 19
I nursed my butt today.  I iced it, and swam, and read I Feel Bad about My Neck by Nora Ephron.  At the end of the book she talks about the inevitability of dying.  And then she died in real life.  It was bizarre reading her words, knowing what was going to happen to her shortly after the book was published.

Sept 20
I had lunch with a Couchsurfer from St Pete.  John recreated himself by becoming a CNA, Certified Nursing Assistant, as his most recent career after retirement.  He gave me the idea of becoming certified in something and finding a job in a different industry, but I realized I don't want to be a CNA.  He's an interesting guy, a Filipino who moved to Florida from Seattle. 

My new friend Kay picked me up and took me to her place on St Pete Beach to play ping pong.  I love ping pong!  And she does, too.  So we played two sets at her house - she won both.  Then we went over to the St Pete Beach Recreation Center and played two more sets.  I won both.  Then we played doubles with a couple of more expert players.  My team lost, and hers won.

We worked up a sweat, and went to The Salty Rim for dinner.  Then she showed me around Treasure Island, and drove me home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

St Pete 12

Sept 18, 2012
I returned the rental car to Enterprise in heavy, driving rain, and got a ride to the cute, comfy Booklover's Cafe on Central Ave, in an area of adorable boutiques and restaurants.  I got to talking with a volunteer there, George, and the owner, Irene, who also work with the homeless.  I could see some opportunities to make a difference there: helping the homeless, and offering my old personal essay and therapeutic writing courses.

My new friend, Anna, from Couchsurfers drove down from Clearwater to meet me, and we took off on foot for a Thai restaurant.  We spent an enjoyable two hours sitting, talking, exploring life issues and bonding.  She gave me a ride back to my condo, and I gave her a couple of books for her reading enjoyment, including the wonderful The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that I had just finished reading.

I've been relatively healthy during this trip.  Poor sleep that is getting better, and an off-stomach that is probably due to a change in diet or a parasite I've picked up in the US, but no cold, no weakened immune system.  Today, though, I hurt my sacroiliac when I twisted and bent down.  This was a re-injury from a run-in with a chaise longue that I had several years ago in Aruba and that took eight weeks to heal back then.  Today I had sharp pain and it was difficult to walk, lie down, sit - it just constantly hurt.  I was without a car, and I didn't know what to do.  Then I remembered meeting a chiropractor at the Gecko Ball (and seeing him at a swing dance class).  I found his card and called him.  Dr George Zarillo was sweet enough to make a house call with his portable table.  He massaged my backside and adjusted my SI.  He also found the injury from when I fell out of the shoe last week, and adjusted that area, plus my neck, which always needs adjustment.  I've been icing the SI since last night.  I was hoping to go Latin dancing this Friday night with Anna and/or my two other friends from The Pier, but I'll have to see how quickly I heal.

Monday, September 17, 2012

St Pete 11

Sept 16 - 17, 2012

Sept 16
When I used to live in Sarasota, I went to a new age church called Spirit of Life.  The minister was a dynamo who spoke from the heart and inspired us all.  Her name was Temple Hayes.  She left our little church when she was called to be the associate minister at First Unity in St Pete.  At some point she became the senior minister there, and I had the privilege of sitting in on her service today.  She is better than ever, and the full house roared with delight and appreciation at her "sermon", which was more like a conversation, without any notes.  Temple and I hugged and she gave me her cell number.  The next time I rent a car, I'll meet her and we'll catch up.  I like the energy at her church, and the people are a diverse mix of ages and colors.  I want to ask her how I can get over the mention of "Christ" since I'm not a Christian.  I know that others there feel like I do, and if I can hear the word without going into a tailspin, I'll be happy there.

From St Pete, I shopped my way south to Sarasota, stopping at my favorite Goodwill Bookstore and Bealls for clothes in Bradenton. I made it down to Marina Jack's in Sarasota harbor by 4:15, and met Sandy in the parking lot.  My friend Ron had invited me for a sunset cruise on his Island Packet, and said to bring a friend.

Unfortunately, it rained from 4-7pm, so we sat around drinking wine, munching on snacks, and talking with friends of Ron and Jennifer's.  Then the friends left, and we set sail.  It was a lovely night and we got up to about 3 knots.  I love love love being on the water, and miss sailing.  Jennifer made a yummy orzo salad, and we had shrimp, and did not go hungry.

Sept 17
I stayed overnight at Sandy's on Siesta Key, and headed up to Bradenton to visit Jim, my ex, in the morning.  I thought my absentee ballot would be there, but it wasn't, so we drove over to see when it would be mailed:  Oct 5. So I'll still be here when it arrives at Jim's, and I'll be able to vote.    I did pick up the latest letter from the IRS (long story).   Then we had a nice lunch at an outdoor restaurant on the water.

I'm glad I brought my GPS from Costa Rica, because I would not have been able to find the obscure little IRS office in St Pete without it.  I had paid some back taxes for three different years, and the IRS screwed up and applied all the payments to one year.  It was impossible to get it straightened out from Costa Rica.  One day I was on hold with the IRS for 1 hour and 45 minutes and then the power went out.   So I checked, double-checked and triple-checked the amount that I still owed (only $21.26) and paid it.  I hope that is the last of that.