Cognitive Dissonance


March 30, 2022, Weeki Wachee, FL- The hapless individual, wearing a health agency tee shirt, began to clutch the area just below her rib cage. Her nurse friends got a chair and had her sit down, while they summoned a team to offer a higher level of care. Those in the waiting area made sure that she did not fall out of the chair, in the interim. Her pain did not abate and within twenty minutes, an ambulance arrived and took her to a larger facility.

The psychologist Leon Festinger offers the theory that much disbelief that interferes with a person acknowledging what is clearly taking place in front of him, is the result of cognitive dissonance-the distinction between normative unfolding of events (“business as usual”) and a drastic, wholly unexpected changed sequence of events, which is nonetheless real.

It took me a few seconds to look past the tee-shirt and see only another human being in acute distress. Yes, my guard was up for her safety until a proper team gathered around her and off they went to hospital. I relayed the gist of this incident to others without, of course, identifying so much as the location of the facility. My presence there was only to get a few stitches removed, from a procedure that was done two weeks ago. That matter took mere minutes. The poor lady’s husband arrived on scene and was likewise driven to her hospital by a close friend of theirs. Their ordeal may well have taken hours, perhaps much longer.

The cognitive dissonance that is vocalized by “It can’t happen here!”, is again and again being tossed in our faces, by a system that is collapsing, in one way nor another-and is being replaced by a structure that is both ground up and side by side. There is a top down element, but it is not the sort that the once dominant forces think they want. Those whose mantra is the above statement cannot but be increasingly confused by all that seems to be happening around us.

I am more certain that many of the changes we see will redound to the betterment of the human race. Those that don’t do so will likely bring changes in other ways, that will be to our betterment over time. We could discuss this all night, but it’s time for this one to rest.

A Gram-tastic Hostel and Twin Bayside Gems


March 29, 2022, Spring Hill, FL- I sat patiently on one of the rock benches outside the Dali Museum, whilst a budding model was having a short photo shoot on the limestone pillar that is one of the building’s supports. Once it was completed, her photographer came over and asked if I would be so kind as to take a photo of the two of them and their male friend. I agreed, and as they were delighted with my photograph, a couple of shots of me at the rock pillar were taken. Thus was a memorable encounter with Kellie, Tyler and the model, who wouldn’t give her name. It is always a joy to encourage young people in their endeavours, however these may look at first glance.

The day began in the one and only hostel dedicated to the memory of the one and only Gram Parsons. The rock/country music fusion pioneer, so bedeviled in his personal life, like so many musicians of the 1960s and ’70s, still casts a giant shadow on the music scene, forty-nine years after his death. Like the man himself, Gram’s Place is eclectic, over the top and leaves an indelible impression.

The Flying Burrito Brothers were an offshoot of The Byrds, organized professionally by Gram and a fellow Byrds alumnus, Chris Hillman. Gram worked with this band from early 1969, until mid 1970, freely admitting he was a bit on the lazy side, while still coming up with amazing material, when he was so moved.

This take on a Bob Dylan song captures both Gram’s talent and his nonchalance. It also foreshadows his passing.

You just never know what you might find, on the grounds of this fascinating hostel. It’ll rank as one of the best places at which I’ve ever stayed. Luxury is nice, but authenticity rules!

It was soon on to downtown Tampa. Parking my vehicle in a spacious lot, I set a loop that took in the city’s Riverwalk, went over a bridge across the Hillsborough River and through Plant Park (named for Henry S. Plant, a railway pioneer) and the University of Tampa. The city was in a fairly relaxed frame of mind, into early afternoon.

In January, 2002, a teenager, Charles Bishop (nee Bishara), crashed a stolen Cessna into the Bank of America building. He was the sole casualty of the crash. He left a letter, claiming to have been inspired by al-Qaida.

Tony Jannus, a 25-year-old pilot, transported a former mayor of St. Petersburg, and a bag of mail, on the nation’s first commercial flight, across Tampa Bay.

This large complex was once a hotel, operated by the entrepreneur, Henry Plant. It became the University of Tampa, in 1932. The steel minarets were regarded by Mr. Plant as a symbol of majesty. They are a point of pride for the city and for U of T’s students.

Once back across the river, it was time to head to Tampa’s sister, St. Petersburg-named, on a coin toss, by Peter Demens, a Russian immigrant, after his home city. Had the coin toss gone the other way, “St. Pete” may well have been named Detroit.

Brigadier General Kosciusko, who cam from Poland to assist the Continental Army in America’s War for Independence, also sought freedom for enslaved Africans, and bequeathed funds for their education and training, after emancipation. Alas, this wish of his would not be met, even in rudimentary fashion, until the 1860s.

This sculpture by Vic Payne is found in various cities. It does capture the spirit of St. Petersburg, as much as it does any other city. After a lovely day in the “Florida Twins”, I was ready for the quieter clime of Spring Hill, an hour to the north.

Lake O


March 28, 2022, Tampa- The boaters, bicyclists and joggers were out in force, on Sunday night. Not so, the swimmers. Lake Okeechobee has been something of a sink, for pesticides, over the past half-century. It is a matter of expedience, for the sugar industry and other agricultural concerns-with only passing interest in the welfare of their neighbours on either coast. Fort Myers, on the Gulf, gets much of the toxic release, but Palm Beach isn’t spared either. More consistent watchers than yours truly point out:

I can see where this body of water could easily be another bonus for Florida, if the will to correct archaic views on the processing of sugar and the disposal of toxic elements were in place. The berms would have to come down, and jetties/marinas built, over a decade of correction. We have seen cases where people in Belle Glade, on the south shore of “Lake O” and Pahokee, on the north shore, became terribly ill from the presence of waste that got into their drinking water. That aspect has been somewhat corrected- Big Sugar can’t have its workforce debilitated. The plagues that hit both coasts, though, with algae blooms off Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Port St. Lucie, in recent years, have scarcely been addressed.

I spent about six hours in Clewiston, on the southwest corner of Okeechobee, just long enough to see the effects of the current malaise on the populace. As in any community with a naturally salubrious environment that has been ravaged, (Gary, IN and Niagara Falls, NY also come to mind), there is fair measure of civic pride, just below the surface. The manager of the motel, where I stayed on Sunday night was effusive in telling me about the places “where the action is” and was outside in the evening, hosing down the parking lot-just enough so there was no runoff. Lake Okeechobee has a trail encircling it, which ought to be an integral part of a tourist and hiker-infused economy.

A Treasury of Fragrance and Colour


March 27, 2022, Naples. FL– Not long ago, I made contact with a man who has the same first and last name as me. This Gary Boivin is Assistant Director of Naples Botanical Garden. The emphasis in this exquisite facility is on the sights and smells of tropical plants from all corners of the globe.

For this post, I am going to let the pictures tell their own stories. Here are a dozen of the best.

Though I did not actually meet my eponym, I have to say this body of work, the efforts of nearly a hundred people, is well worth an extended visit by anyone who finds self in Southwest Florida.

Aunt Grace’s Homeland


March 26, 2022, Naples, Florida- The sweet-spirited young woman was glad as heck, that someone entered her family’s small cafe, just as she was opening the door to business. I felt like royalty, being welcomed as if I was the first soul in years to stop by. It didn’t hurt that she had a gorgeous smile and a barely concealed measure of confidence. When I ordered coffee and a piece of fry bread, (a staple among the Miccosukee, as well as among First Nations people around the United States and Canada-a testimony to the creative use of worm-shot flour, back in the Nineteenth Century.), J placed the order for the bread and turned to her uncle and me, admitting that she only knew how to use a Keurig. Uncle D was nonplussed, and calmly showed his teenaged niece how to make coffee using a drip system. Her coffee was superb, as was her mother’s fry bread.

These are the extended family of my late Aunt Grace, who left Big Cypress after World War II, and never returned, even after leaving her husband. Gracie was content to raise her five children and work as a waitress at a discount department store’s lunch counter, until she died a few years back, at age 90. She was pleased when I went to work with other First Nations people, though. She was quiet. but firm in her assessment of things- much like young J.

The Miccosukee are a southern branch of the Seminole, who came to central and southern Florida in the 1700s, and are the branch of Seminole who managed to elude Andrew Jackson’s forces, when he was appointed military governor of Florida, in 1821. Today, they live along the Tamiami Trail and in sections of the Everglades and Big Cypress natural preserves. No sane United States official, today, would recommend moving these careful stewards from the Federal lands. South Florida is rightly viewed as a proving ground for our species’ commitment to conserving water and all other living natural resources.

I spent about an hour in Osceola Panther, as Uncle D’s small village and store are called. Here are some of the scenes from the store and along the Tamiami Canal outside.

Another hour was spent, up the road, at Big Cypress National Preserve, which offers extensive programs to educate the public on the intertwining topographic areas of savanna and wetlands, which comprise most of southern and central Florida.

Here are a few scenes of everyone’s favourite swamp creature: The alligator.

The heat became a bit enervating, after noon, when I found myself dealing with the hyper-energy of Naples, southwest Florida’s southern anchor community. Here, I found that I had returned to suburbia, intense high-speed traffic and people who had scant patience for one another. After a brief preliminary visit to Naples’ excellent Botanical Garden, I rested, took in a Baha’i planning session and rested more.

A Thousand Magic Steps


March 25, 2022, Miami Beach- “Key West is exactly right there!”, the little boy announced to his family, whilst looking over at the high rise apartments west of South Pointe, this city’s simultaneously trendy and well-preserved public park space/avant-garde neighbourhood.

I hope he gets the chance to see the real deal, while admiring the ever amazing range of a young imagination. South Pointe, about a thousand wonderful steps, end to end, presented a vibrant range of human activity-an example that would be well emulated by Floridians, and others, whose commitment to the car culture is rapidly reaching its limit. I was glad to have been able to walk there from the hostel in which I have been staying. The group of youths with whom I made an outing to Key West, yesterday, were off at a music festival and attending parties, but they had done this walk and enthusiastically recommended it to me.

There were many people swimming, playing beach football, fishing, catamaran racing, jet skiing and speedboat racing. Then there were the gymnasts- one young lady managed to balance herself, handstanding while supported by her male companion, who helped her shift position and weight, for over eight minutes. She easily outlasted three young men who were inspired to do their own handsprings and somersaults.

I admit to having been rejuvenated by a delightful small meal at Tanuki Japanese Restaurant, where I was served by five different people-four of whom seemed to be in competition to see who could be the most solicitous. (The world-weary manager of Bikini Hostel, where I am staying, thinks this is true, across the board, in Miami Beach.) The meal was lovely, despite the semblance of hustling.

It was sweet to see the full mix of humanity, from laid back surfer dudes to ladies and gentlemen dressed to the Nines, all within a quarter-mile radius of one another. All were just enjoying the wonder that is South Florida’s original “party beach”. (I am one of those who remembers “Surfside 6”, with Troy Donahue, Diane McBain and a young Mary Tyler Moore.)

South Pointe has lost none of the charm it exhibited on that show.

Hemingway’s Haunt


March 24, 2022, Miami Beach-

This is not Papa Hemingway’s house. We never got over there today, but it comes close. This home is representative of the more modest homes in Key West, laid back but every bit as modern as any community in the United States.

Six of us came here, for a three-hour visit, which of course was extended to five hours-once traffic delays resulted in our Noon arrival becoming a 2 p.m. affair. We stayed in Key West proper until 6, then made stops for a couple of ladies to swim at Smathers Beach, as well as at the Southernmost Beach in the Continental United States and for my friends to get a drink at the Southernmost Bar in the Continental United States. We topped the day by taking in the sunset at Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key-home to Key Deer, a mini deer that is only found in the middle Florida Keys. We did not see any deer.

We did enjoy butterflies, though, and two raucous flamingos. One butterfly landed on my broad-brimmed sun hat and another on the shoulder of one of the ladies. I will share a photo of my butterfly attempted-hitchhiker, when it is sent me by my friendly photographer. Here, in the meantime, are the flamingos.

Here are a few scenes from the Southernmost Beach in the Continental United States.

Next is Smathers Beach, east of Key West.

Key West is a one-of-a-kind experience, even with a five hour drive from Miami.

Facing Down Machismo


March 23, 2022, Miami Beach- The belligerent man demanded I leave the small gathering, to which I’d been invited by a fellow hosteler from Nigeria. The angry one’s tone was fueled by alcohol, but was rooted in machismo. His whole premise was that no other man (other than the African gentleman, whom he somehow did not view as a threat) should be present at the table, whilst he was socializing with four women.

He correctly stated that a man my age had no business “romancing” women young enough to be my daughters, or granddaughters. That’s where the righteousness began to fray at the edges. He himself was old enough to be the father of two of the ladies.

Machismo is a false flag, rooted in insecurity. When he saw that I was not moved by his anger, a thoughtfulness, rooted in surety, took hold of the man, and he apologized profusely for his earlier outburst. It helped that the ladies, one of whom was, and remains, not inclined to be friendly towards either one of us, were a bit put off by his vitriol.

I long ago turned my back on machismo, and embraced a more genuine and fulfilling sense of masculinity, which is rooted in the same personhood as femininity. The hopes, dreams, legitimate aspirations of all are to be cherished and supported, regardless of any outward trappings that house a human’s spirit.

With that, I simply close with a scene of a Miami Beach sunset.

Heroes and Legends


March 22, 2022, Vero Beach- The above title is also the first building one enters, at Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex, in Merritt Island, FL. Heroic figures aplenty are presented, visually and audibly, at this intensely captivating and informative science center. To be sure, having grown up in the classic period of the Space Age’s inception, I have my share of those who I hold in very high regard: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Krista McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Eugene Cernan, even Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov. My heroes, in general, are both male and female, of all ethnicities and skin tones-and it does not matter that I, a heterosexual cisgender white male, hold this view. Heroism is about character and achievement.

My first hero, my father, would have turned 95 today. He worked in aeronautics his entire adult life, so to visit Kennedy Space Center on this particular day was a sublime blessing. He held the astronauts in high regard, as well, admitting to being a bit overwhelmed by all the science that the increasingly complex business of space was encapsulating. I do think he would have thoroughly enjoyed this place, though.

Several whooshes of cold air and descriptions of rocket launches later, I walked out to Rocket Garden, where those vessels that launched so many legends into space are exhibited, at least by type.

Suitable mention was made of the works of fiction that stimulated so many minds with thoughts of space travel, from the 1920s to the actual inception of successful space flight. These stimulated many young people to seek training and careers in the inchoate field of astronautics. Among them were all those we know today as astronauts-both men and women, and so many astronomers who foster and guide the space travelers.

There has been so much heartbreak and tragedy coming out of the Space program, as there is in any novel and complicated operation. Three jarring events stand out: The 1967 explosion which killed Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee; the deaths of the seven crew members in the Challenger explosion of 1986; the launch time deaths of seven crew members in the atmospheric re-entry explosion of 2003. They underscore the fact that many failures take place, in all phases of research and implementation of aerospace work.

Project Apollo was the stuff of the greatest sagas, even of conspiracy theories that say the moon landing never happened. It was Gemini, the intermediate step between earth orbit and the moon missions, that deserves equal billing. Eugene Cernan, the first person to walk in space, described his experience: His blood pressure hit as high as 170; He lost 13 pounds in 2 hours; the heat shield on the module reached 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, making egress and return to the capsule a tortuous affair. The work of the Gemini pioneers has made all the difference going forward, from Apollo through the shuttles and Space Station era.

My last stop at the Space center was the Shuttle Hall, at which a hundred people at a time were treated to seeing the Shuttle Atlantis, retired in July, 2011, after logging in over a million miles.

There are many things that can unite people of all backgrounds and viewpoints. The exploration of space is a field with which anyone can identify. Space, like the Earth itself, belongs to all of us.

“Another Day In Paradise”


March 21, 2022, West Melbourne, FL- The day began and ended with the above comment-from two different motel employees: A handyman in Brunswick and a desk clerk here in West Melbourne. Part of my whole reason for being here in the Southeast is to discern how ordinary people are faring, under the blend of libertarianism and laissez-faire economics that is taking deeper root in this part of the country.

I have no issue with any given practice of government when the average person, across ethnicities and genders, is not made to suffer or be left out of a climate of prosperity. So far, I have seen people in places like Brunswick, Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach and Daytona Beach doing fairly well. I have seen a few people in Cape Canaveral and here in the Melbourne area who are not. Much depends on the local economy, but state and Federal policies also impact us.

My first stop in Florida, this morning, was American Beach, on Amelia Island, Florida, once a vacation place for African-Americans, during the days before desegregation. The country’s first African-American millionaire, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, established the beach for just this purpose, in 1935. His work was carried on by his granddaughter, MaVynee Betsch, carried on his work of preserving the beach and its Historic District, until her death in 2005. American Beach remains a National Historic Site.

In between visits with family, my focus is on the broader society. Fernandina Beach, the main community on Amelia Island, is Florida’s northeasternmost town. It was the site of a brief battle between American revolutionaries and British troops, in 1777. The area was then controlled by Britain, as the Territory of East Florida. Although the British retained control of the town, there was significant damage done by the Revolutionaries.

Today, Fernandina is a comfortable, bustling holiday place. It was helped, early, by the establishment of Florida’s first Atlantic to Gulf Railroad, from Fernandina to Cedar Key.

After a gyro (pronounced JY-ro, in these parts) on pita, at 4th Street Deli, it was time to see what was up at Daytona Beach International Raceway- as NASCAR is a good barometer of how mainstream America is faring. The Raceway was closed. It’s not racing season, and it is Monday, to boot. Mainstream America was at Buc-ee’s, though, buying scrumptious brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, and a mix of travel essentials/trinkets. I picked up a brisket sandwich-and some rub-on sunscreen, to compensate for the sunblock I left behind in Arizona.

My last stop of the day, before arriving at my lodging, was the city of Cape Canaveral-now primarily a shipping port. The slowness of the recent supply chain difficulties, themselves partly arising from the Coronavirus Pandemic, seems to have affected the town, though I saw commercial traffic somewhat steady this afternoon. The Kennedy Space Center, west of Cape Canaveral, may be an early morning stop, tomorrow, and may offer a better sense of how the community is faring, given that Canaveral has been intertwined with America’s efforts in the Cosmos.

It’ll certainly be another day in paradise.