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 (, 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 Dalí 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, 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

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.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

St Pete 10

Sept 14 - 15, 2012

Sept 14
Oh boy - I rented a car and I took myself shopping.  This year I only brought a two-page list of things to buy (there have been years of four pages).  Most of the things I've already bought, but I still needed some clothes and shoes.

St Pete is laid out on a grid, so it's fairly easy to find my way around.  I passed through a sweet little neighborhood on 4th Street North with cute shops that I'd like to explore some more.

My focus (pun intended) this day was to find a place to order sunglasses.  I wear my polarized bifocal sunglasses all the time when I'm outside and driving, and my current pair are about 4-5 years old and scratched.  When I bought them, they had to be sent to the US to be polarized, so I figured I'd just buy them here.

I drove all around town, looking at frames and at the best deals.  The best frames were Maui Jim, an upscale brand I'd never heard of.  But for the price of one pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, I could get a pair of sunglasses plus another pair of clear, anti-glare bifocals that would help me drive at night, so practical me opted for the second choice.  They'll be ready in a couple of weeks.

Friday night I went to a potluck porch party in the adorable section of St Pete called Kenwood.  I've always wanted to live in this neighborhood, with its rehabbed 1920s houses, right off Central Ave, a happening place.  I was invited by Sandy, Judith's friend (we danced at First Friday), who has a fabulous apartment in Kenwood.  The people in Kenwood are tight-knit, and have all sorts of monthly activities and a newsletter.  They watch out for each other.  I met yet more, very nice people.

Sept 15
Happy Independence Day, Costa Rica!

This was another serious shopping day.  The selection in the US never ceases to amaze me.  If you live here, you may take it for granted, but I have been away so long (seven years) that whenever I come back I am awed by all the different stores selling a huge selection of everything.

I hit my favorite stores - TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross - and took my time trying on clothes.  I found a few nice tops, but I couldn't find any capris.  That's what I wear most days.

I had heard about Peltz, a chain of shoe stores that carries shoes in my size, 5 1/2, so I went there and was waited on by a very sweet and knowledgeable college girl.  I found a pair of shoes I liked, but they were size 5 and I needed them to be a little bigger.  She said she'd order size 6 from a different store.  As I went to take the right shoe off, I did something weird, and sort of fell out of the shoe.  And BROKE YET ANOTHER TOE!  Geez, Louise, this is the 13th toe I have broken, and the second time I have broken this particular one.  It's a good thing I've got another 6+ weeks before I go back to Costa Rica, because that's how long it takes for a broken toe to heal before I can dance on it again.  Meanwhile, I put ice and arnica on it, and am limping nicely.

This was Third Saturday, a night of walking around Gulfport to see art, art booths, and to hang out.  I saw my friend Karen's tables that she painted and tiled on sale at a new store.  I couldn't bring back a table, but I did buy a pair of purple and turquoise earrings.  And I saw Helen's paintings - she's very talented.

Neptune Grill, which is directly across the street from the beach and the Gulfport Casino, had live music.  I was lucky enough to get a stool at the bar.  Karen and her friend, Mark, who is in from Atlanta helping Karen move into the house that she just bought in Gulfport, joined me.  We had dinner and drinks and danced to the band.  I saw other people I had met in town.  Every time I go to Gulfport, I really, really like it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

St Pete 9

Sept 12 - 13, 2012

These have been relatively noneventful days, with no photos.  Being carless, I hung around the condo complex.  It's good to take a break from fun.  That way, I appreciate the fun when it does happen.

On Wednesday I caught up with things - recording my expenses, worrying about overshooting my budget, writing emails, talking on Skype and hanging out by the pool.  I actually can relax when I have to.  :-)

On Thursday I did more of the same, plus talked with some interesting women I have met here.  I confirmed plans for the weekend.  Mornings are no longer oppressively hot, so I walked in the neighborhood.  Yowza - there are some beautiful homes along the waterfront and canals.  I did the laundry.  I tried to vacuum, thinking that maybe I wasn't sleeping well because of dust, but I couldn't get the vacuum cleaner to suck, only spew out dirty air.  The property manager is supposed to stop by sometime to fix that and to take down the kitchen light fixture to replace a bulb.  With my lousy shoulders, I couldn't even turn the screwdriver over my head.

See?  Noneventful.

But the weekend is coming...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

St Pete 8

Sept 11, 2012

This is the first time in many years that I've been in the United States for the anniversary of 9/11.  I saw flags at half mast, and news stories commemorating the awful event.

Holly and I spent her last day here together.  She flies back to Salem, Massachusetts, tomorrow.  I hope to see her once more when I go back to Boston the end of October.

In the afternoon we went to St Pete Beach.  It was a little overcast - my favorite type of beach weather.  We brought our chairs right down to the shore and kept our feet in the warm water.  We have become pretty tan, and the sun is bleaching out the (dyed) color in my hair.

At night we drove over to Treasure Island to Sea Hags, a bar and restaurant that has a live band singing Motown hits.  We joined my Gulfport friend, Karen, and four other new friends.  Carol and I shared ahi tuna that melted in my mouth.  And we all got up to dance.

Monday, September 10, 2012

St Pete 7

Sept 9 - 10, 2012

Sept 9
For the last 32 years, I have been a Unitarian Universalist.  It's a liberal religion with no dogma, but with the responsibility of searching for my own religious truth.  There is no UU church in Costa Rica, and I miss being part of a UU community with like-minded thinkers.  So I was really looking forward to going to the UU St Pete church, where I went in December, and really liked the minister.

Today was the start of the church year, and a new minister was in the pulpit.  I was underwhelmed.  She mumbled and dropped the ends of her sentences, and her sermon was abstract and erudite.  Not the stuff to make a new congregation fall in love with.  I am going to look around for another UU church or fellowship.  But in the meantime, I saw the Spanish contingent - Luis from Costa Rica and Mike and Elena (she's from Nicaragua), whom I met in December.  They invited me to join them for lunch at an Asian restaurant.  And in the evening, we all returned to the church to watch a documentary on Mexican migrant workers in the US.  It was enlightening and I enjoyed the heady and intelligent conversation that followed.

Sept 10
The rental car was due back this morning.  I did some last minute food shopping since I won't have wheels again until Friday.  Then I let my GPS guide me to Enterprise Car Rental in Pinellas Park.  Then I got a ride to a nearby shopping center, and took myself to the movies.  I hardly ever go to the movies in Costa Rica.  I saw a new release ($8 matinee price) called The Words.  I'd give it one hanky, but I don't know if anyone who isn't a writer would enjoy it.  It was about a story within a story within a story.  Then I took a bus back to within half a mile of my condo (I had researched how to get back).  And jumped into the pool.  I like having a swimming pool 50 feet from the front door.  I lay on the chaise longue and grooved to Miles Davis on my iPod.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

St Pete 6

Sept 8, 2012

Enterprise has a special weekend deal:  $10/day plus tax for 100 miles/day.  Holly drove me to pick up a shiny black Dodge Avenger.  My first stop was Sam's Club.  I am not a member of Sam's Club, but when I stood in line with my year's supply of vitamins, the kind ex-Brooklynite in front of me agreed to use his card for me.

Times have changed.  At the self-serve gas station, I was stymied when the gas nozzle was too big to fit into the tank.  WTF?  Then I saw a second, narrower nozzle and used that.  Por qué hay dos tamaños - why are there two sizes?  Being completely lost and not having yet set up my GPS, I asked someone how to get to Tampa via I-275.  He said to follow him, so I did.

I arrived early for my 3pm acupuncture and reflexology appointment, so I stopped for lunch.  Holly had bought three Latin dance lessons at Living Social; it's like Groupon, I think.  She got a great deal, so I gave it a try, too.  I saw a special $35 offer for the acu treatment, worth $120 it said, and I booked it.  I haven't been sleeping well (some nights not at all), and I needed to change something, and I thought the session would help.

Driving around the neighborhood in North Tampa, I saw a restaurant that said "Soul food" - oh boy!  I nosed around to see what the other customers were eating.  One guy highly recommended the turkey wings, but there wasn't enough meat on the wings, so I got rib tips over rice, collard greens and cornbread.  How flavorful!  And for only $5.50!

I returned to Gulfport - it sure is convenient having wheels - for the opening of the art gallery at Domain.  Daniel and Mike (my former landlords) invited me.  Mike used to own Domain; now he works there.  I saw a few people I had met before, and met new ones.  Karen Love met me and we palled around for a while, talking with a talented artist who was into painting monkeys.  I was inspired to go home and make art from found objects.  In the picture, that's me sitting on the bench next to Karen.

St Pete 5

Sept 7, 2012

"Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa.  It was founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers and was populated by immigrants from Spain, Cuba and Italy." (from Wikipedia)  Today Ybor City is a nighttime party venue for young crowds.

Holly and I drove over to Ybor City during the daytime just to have a looksee.  It was pretty dead.  But we, of course, had a good time.  The cobblestone streets reminded me of Beacon Hill.  I had heard about Blue Bell ice cream and thought it must be pretty special.  It isn't.  There are a few vintage clothing stores there with clothes from the 20s in mint condition. There were several tobacco stores showcasing beautiful hookahs and charging $14.95 to smoke flavored tobacco.

One can eat well here, and choose from a big selection of restaurants.  We weren't hungry, but got lured into a newish restaurant called Carne Chop House because escargots were on the menu.  Holly had to have some.  Our friendly waiter, Jake, said there were eight escargots in the appetizer, just barely enough for us to share.  But when he brought the dish, there were only six, so he offered us a free dessert: rum caramel flan.  Plus he brought us crusty bread and garlic butter.  We were full when we left there, but impressed with the steak menu and want to go back.

First Friday in St Pete takes place the first Friday night every month.  Central Ave is cordoned off between 2nd and 3rd Streets for commercial booths, a band and dancing in the street.  We got there early enough to grab some seats on the sidewalk in front of a bar.  The band was great and featured a woman playing a saxophone and singing.  My feet would not stay still - I had to dance.  I called my friend Judith, another high-energy friend whom I had met in St Pete last December, to ask her to meet me here, and she was already on her way.  It was great to see her again, and to meet her friend Sandy. We all danced, mostly on the sidewalk, all night.  Thousands of people passed by us, and some of them stopped to dance with us before going on their way.  In a crowd like that, I often wonder if I will see someone I know, and I did.  Nigel, the Couchsurfer I had lunch with last week, recognized me, and sat with us for a while.  I danced a little in the street, and a few strangers came up to me and said I was a great dancer.  They should see me dance salsa!

Mr. Roboto, a life-size robot, remote controlled by someone wearing a Ferg's (sports bar) t-shirt walked by, and I had to have my picture taken with the robot.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

St Pete 4

Sept 5 - 6, 2012

Sept 5
I packed my backpack for an overnight and we headed south.  Holly had a Latin dance class in Venice and dropped me off at Steinmart to do some shopping.  When we met again, we stopped at a beach store called Splash and bought bathing suits!  We were overjoyed to find a huge selection so late in the season.  I got a two-piece and a one-piece.  Yes, this 62-year-old body still looks pretty good in a two-piece.  Except after I eat, when my stomach looks eight months pregnant.

Then we went to visit my friend Sandy, who lives on Siesta Key.  Sandy and I met after she sent me fan mail when I used to write an online column about living in Costa Rica.  I didn't usually encourage friendship with my fans, but there was something about Sandy that made me want to get to know her. Over the last several years, she has visited and traveled with me in Costa Rica, and I have visited her.  This time I was bringing Holly, and we stayed overnight in Sandy's lovely home.

The three of us got along well.  We spent a few hours walking on Siesta Key Beach and sitting around talking, then watching the sun set.  Every year this is voted one of the best beaches in the world.  The sand is finer than sugar, and is made of quartz crystals.  The water was water but a little wavy.

Sept 6
Sandy has worked in real estate for decades, and offered to drive us around Sarasota to give Holly an idea of different neighborhoods and house styles and prices.  I lived here and in Bradenton before moving to Costa Rica, so I got to see how much and how little the area has changed.  We ate lunch at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Miss Saigon, and I ordered my regular plate - grilled pork, egg rolls, rice vermicelli and salad.  Heavenly.

St Pete 3

Sept 4, 2012

For five years I have been looking for dancing shoes.  Shoes that turn on the dance floor when I do salsa and merengue.  Shoes that are cushiony and that feel like dancing on air.  I already have two pair, same design in black and in white, that I have had resoled twice.  When these give out, I'll be out of luck on the dance floor.

So it was a great day when I found a pair of dance shoes at a dance store called On Pointe.  The service was outstanding and the people were able to find a pair of 5 1/2 sexy, leopard-look shoes for me.  They're real dance shoes, with suede bottoms that I can't get wet.  They'll work great on a wooden dance floor; I just hope they'll let me turn on the ceramic tile floors in Costa Rica.  Holly found a pair of dance shoes, too, so were both excited.

Have you ever heard of strontium?  It's a mineral that makes bones stronger and adds bone mass.  A woman at the Gulfport Casino told me about strontium, and I wanted to check it out.  When I come to the US every year, I bring a list of things, including vitamins, to buy to last me the year.  I wondered if I should buy strontium instead of calcium.

We found a big health food store called Earth Origins (it's like Whole Foods but smaller).  The woman in the supplements section was very knowledgeable about strontium and everything else.  So much so that she lost me somewhere around saying that you don't take only strontium; you have to take it in an exact ratio with calcium and some other minerals.  Buying a year's supply of the pills she recommended would have broken the bank and filled the second suitcase that I am bringing home, so I decided to pass on the strontium and just get my regular calcium supplements.  Susan, watch for the delivery.  Ooh, this store had a little deli section and I got a small container of horseradish chicken salad.  Delicious!

No trip to Central Avenue would be complete without stopping at St Pete's biggest new and used bookstore, Haslam's.  I bought a Sudoku book (gotta do my morning Sudokus).  I'm going to buy other books from my To Read list when I go to the Goodwill used book store in Bradenton.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

St Pete 2

Sept 2 - 3, 2012

Sept 2
Since this condo unit is right across from the pool, and it is too hot for my morning walk, I'm swimming in the mornings.  I love being in and on the water, but I was never one to do laps.  Now I am, and I'm doing some arm exercises in the water that I can't do on land because of my bad shoulder joints.  I don't have to inch into the water because it's warm and inviting.

In the afternoon Holly and I went to the beach.  We're exploring different beaches along the Gulf Coast.  This time it was Treasure Island.  We lucked out and got the last metered parking spot at a beach access that was quiet and relatively uncrowded.  The waves were a little rough, but it was enjoyable dipping into the water.  I am becoming a brown berry, even using SPF 30.

After the beach, we both wanted fish for dinner.  We stopped at Crabby Bill's, and grabbed a couple of stools at the bar.  We shared the blackened grouper sandwich and a shrimp cocktail.  The mango margarita was just so-so.  I don't usually drink tequila (since a memorable/sick birthday night a few years ago), so this was an exception.  The sunset was phenomenal, but I had only my cell phone to capture it (I have to get my camera repaired).

Sept 3, Labor Day
Holly was born in the Catskills in New York, so is a Yankees fan at heart.  Of course, I am a Boston fan, and the two are always rivals.  Nevertheless, when Holly said she had never been to a Yankees game, which meant so much to her father, and that she wanted to see the New York Yankees play the Tampa Bay Rays, I said okay.

The gods were on our side.  We found a shaded, fenced-in, guarded parking lot for just $5, a couple of blocks from Tropicana Field.  The game was close to being sold out, but we were able to get $20 tickets with a great view up in the nosebleed section above first base.  As soon as we walked in the stadium, my friend Marsha from Gulfport, who gave me a ride home from Walmart on the very hot day, greeted us.  She is a volunteer host for the stadium.  It was so funny and weird for me to run into someone I knew, in a stadium of 34,000 people.

Tampa Bay beat the Yankees, which I was thrilled about, but we both had a good time.

We did a quick clothes change in the car, then headed over to The Pier in downtown St Pete.  From 5 to 9 there was a DJ playing Latin dance music.  Holly has taken Latin dance classes for four years, but only danced with a partner for the first time at the dance class two weeks ago.  I, on the other hand, am a Latin dancing fool, who misses her Sunday afternoon dancing frenzy very much.

The outdoor place filled up with Latinos from many different countries.  There were some gringos there who could dance, too.  Usually, Dolores and I are the only ones where we go dancing.  I missed listening to a live band; apparently around here, most of the Latin dance clubs employ DJs.

There were a lot of couples, and most folks were young.  I chatted up a couple of guys originally from Colombia, but when it came time to dance with them, they barely knew how to turn.  Turning is the most fun part of dancing!  I made the mistake of eating a juicy hamburger and fries there, so after, I didn't feel much like dancing.  Holly hit it off with a Puerto Rican guy and danced the whole time with him.  I met two women who love to dance and go to clubs most weekends.  Judith is a gringa and owns a big construction company, and Beatrice is from Chile and is self-employed.  We exchanged numbers, and hopefully we'll go clubbing together.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

St Pete 1

Sept 1, 2012

This is the pool across from my condo unit, with a view of Gulfport across the bay.

Agonizing heat.  And humidity.

The air conditioning in the condo went out in the early evening last night, right after I moved in.  The temperature inside kept rising.  I left two messages for the property manager, Nice.  She didn't call back.  I had two fans blowing on me all night.  I finally slept two hours.  I left another message for Nice.  When it reached 88 degrees inside at about 10am, I walked over to Nice's unit and banged on the door until someone answered.  She had been at a Blue Moon standup paddling event the night before until 3am and didn't get my messages.

Her husband came over to look at the A/C unit, but couldn't find the problem.  He did loan me a bicycle, though.  But it's too hot to even ride it unless I take it out in the early morning.  Nice said she would call someone to fix the A/C - on a Saturday of a long weekend.

Thankfully, Holly has an extra bedroom in her air conditioned house where she is house sitting, and offered it to me.  I packed for overnight and we took off for the Gecko Fest in Gulfport.

OMG - what fun!  It's the best street festival I've ever been to.  Many craft booths, different stages with music playing all day, hula hoops, people in costume, food (I had yummy collard greens with a sweet BBQ sauce), bars with misting fans to cool people off.

I was already suffering from heatstroke, so I hopped like a bunny between shady spots.  Ice cream helped cool me down, as did a beer at an outdoor bar where all the patrons were very friendly.  We sat in where my new friend, Stone, was playing drums for native American and cajun zydeco music.  I ran into people I had already met.  We shared a pressed Cuban roast pork sandwich.  And when the sun went down, we danced in front of the stage where the Urban Gypsies were playing.  They were great!

The gecko is Gulfport's mascot.  There are geckos everywhere you go.  This town could easily be renamed Geckoport.