The Ocala Tower of Prayer on Highway 484 south of Ocala. I passed this going home from Mount Dora last spring, and meant to take a picture the next time I went that way. But returning from my father's funeral in Eustis over Thanksgiving weekend, I didn't want to stop on the busy road near Interstate 75. Back in Tallahassee, I took a screenshot of it in Google Street View.
I keep returning to this picture of a sun-bleached house trailer with a wheelchair ramp. I can believe that God might be found there, as in a barn in Bethlehem. It reminds me of novelist Frederick Buechner's character, Leo Bebb, with his Church of Holy Love, Inc. in Armadillo, Florida.
I have always felt affection for one-off, "mom & pop" churches: the tabernacles, temples and ministries of Truth, of Praise, of Miracles, that you find especially in the South, down country roads and in strip-mall storefronts. Maybe because my own call to faith as a boy was so solitary, neither encouraged nor sanctioned by any fellowship. Just me and Billy Graham. What a long, long road it was to Rome.
Earlier this summer I took a call from a woman in Texas. She wanted a copy of an article from our microfilm of the local paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, to give her husband for Father's Day. He had played football for Leon High School. He cherished the memory of a game against local rivals in which he had been part of the winning play. An article about the game with a photograph including him had appeared on the front page. "It's all he ever talks about", she said.
The trouble was, she didn't know when the article was printed, or even who the opposing team had been. 1990 or 1991, she thought. Normally this would not be nearly enough to go on, but I was moved by her love for her husband, and said I would try to find it. We do have an index for those years.
There was nothing in the index. Coverage of high school sports is spotty, space being mainly devoted to professional and college sports. And schedules of high school football teams from 1991 are nowhere online. I e-mailed her that I couldn't get it to her by Father's Day, but that I would try anyway. Maybe she could give it to him on another occasion.
I trolled through two football seasons of microfilm, which took about six hours over a couple of weeks. I did actually find a story that included a small photo of her husband playing, but she said that wasn't the one she was talking about. I found the stories for the games against Leon High's two rivals, Godby and Rickards, for both years. None of them were even on the front page of the sports section, and none were accompanied by a photo.
The story wasn't there, I reported, wondering if it had been in the school paper. She actually showed up in person some weeks later, possibly in town for other reasons, and looked at the microfilm herself, with the same result. Would she ever tell her husband about her futile search for confirmation of his golden memory? I have a feeling that the story I found was the one, burnished and magnified in her husband's mind over the years.
You would think I had learned my lesson, but a few weeks ago, I did it once more. A man called from Boston, wanting a story from 1991, again, (is it a "25th anniversary" thing?) He had boxed with a local high school club in a state championship in St. Petersburg, and had won a "novice" title. The newspaper had printed a story with a photograph. He wasn't sure of the date, possibly May or June.
Nothing in our index. I searched the St. Pete Times in Newsbank for boxing stories. I found a story about a tournament in January '91 that even mentioned his club, but there was no corresponding story with photo on our microfilm. I looked dutifully through May and June, Nothing. He thanked me for my effort.
The one conclusion I can draw is that if people don't know when their story appeared, they may not be accurate in other particulars. I could detail a number of other such searches I have made over the years. "Fishing" for a story on microfilm is almost always a waste of time. It's better to suggest that they have their library borrow the microfilm for them to search.
It has been a couple of years since I've worked a Springtime Tallahassee Saturday. The annual festival starts with an early morning run. Being close to downtown, yet having fairly quiet streets, our neighborhood around Myers Park, a forested, upland area, is where local runs often are mapped.
This morning's run made my planned route to work, to avoid downtown road closings, impossible. I found myself forced onto Apalachee Parkway toward the capitol, onto Monroe, our "main street", (which would be the parade route later), and west on Tennessee Street to the library.
It was at least as quick as my planned southern "back way", and more entertaining. I observed a conquistador and his lady waiting to cross at Tennessee, looking for their krewe.
Parking my Vespa near the staff entrance, people waited there for the Friends of the Library book sale to begin in the garage. As I stowed my riding gear, the doors rolled up and volunteers came out, placing extra trays of books on the concrete.
It made me think how for me, books are like the air I breathe. I have free access to all the books I want, to the point that wanting to actually own them would be like trying to swallow the ocean. I'm largely content to let libraries own them. But I can remember when book stores and book sales drew me that way, when I lived on the periphery of the book world.
I was working with Susan E. today, always a pleasure. Susan and I are the senior librarians in adult reference, "old hands". Susan brought up the newspapers. I fetched the zippered bank bag with our store of change, counting it and swapping a $20 for some $1's and quarters from the print station coin machine.
I noticed an empty microfilm box at the desk with a note to look for the missing reel. Newsweek, 1985. I thought it might still be in one of the machines, and I was right. It had been wound all the way off its reel onto the receiving reel of the machine. The empty reel lay next to the machine. I rewound it. The machine's printer also showed a jam, which I cleared, and the paper tray had been changed to a different alignment, which I restored. I then noticed that the other of our two old viewers needed resetting and unjamming. A sheaf of copies solid black with toner sat to its side with another reel of film. The printer had a sheet of paper stuck to its rollers from toner. I had the depressing feeling that if I were not there, things would go completely to hell.
Would it make me feel better if they did? More likely, things would just bump along the way they always have. Did we really put a man on the moon?
I have been gone for a while, so you will not know that I entered DROP in February. What this means is that I am technically retired, though I may work up to five more years, while my pension payments accumulate in an interest-bearing account. You have to apply for DROP at age 62 or 30 years of service, and I turned 62 first, so it was now or never.
On top of which the main library recently celebrated its 25th anniversary in its present location. I am the only one left who was there when we moved in from our cramped space in the old Northwood Mall. I still have the t-shirt. It was a huge success! Throngs of people showed up. It wasn't about memories, it was about what the library means to people now and every indication is that it means a lot. A vote of confidence and appreciation.
Listen to me, reader, saying the right thing. DROP and the anniversary were a lot to digest psychologically. I'm still working on it...
The day was quieter than usual, as it had been the last time I worked a Springtime Tallahassee Saturday. We used to get people coming in to use the restrooms, but not anymore. Possibly the number of portable toilets has been increased. I am guessing that Sunday will be busy, as people take care of business put off today.
We went to Mule Day on Saturday, near Calvary, just over the Georgia line. I have never been to Calvary, and I still haven't, since Mule Day was held in a field outside of town. It was essentially a harvest festival. Demonstrations were given of the milling of corn and the grinding of sugar cane for syrup. People could be seen carrying stalks of sugar cane.
Sugar cane and cane syrup are not foreign to me. My father used to cut a stalk of sugar cane into bite-sized pieces for us to chew. My mother served cane syrup on our pancakes and waffles.
There were not a lot of rides for children at Mule Day, but the mother and child at the bungee ride were having a blast.
Here is a sort of "choo-choo train" that doesn't require tracks. Are the cars made from oil drums?
Arrangements of silk flowers for cemeteries. Lots of the usual things were on offer: clothing, crafts, baked goods. I've never before seen cemetery flowers for sale at an event like this.
The Cairo High Marching Syrupmakers majorettes! Having been in marching bands, I have a weakness for majorettes.
The parade began with the procession of the flags.
Many vintage tractors were on display. Two men behind me remembered them all.
Mule-drawn wagons with splendid harnesses rolled by. The mules do actually make a "hee-haw" sound.
The Land. The people are very close to the land: getting a living from it in a way that I am so removed from.
I finally took all my old computers and peripherals to the electronics recycling boneyard at the county landfill. What you don't see: a huge '80's radio/cassette/CD boom box, a garbage bag full of keyboards, (one with s serial port connector!), ball mice, LAN cards, a rat's nest of cables and cords, two "game port" joysticks.
I had already gotten rid of my newest old Windows XP PC, which died in early 2014. I let a computer guy have it in return for transferring its files to an external hard drive.
I held on to these as part of a fantasy about playing old games on them: preserving classics like Age of Rifles, Red Baron 3D and Longbow 2 on machines they were made for, rather than trying to get them to work on newer OS's. But the years went by, and finally I had to face that those days were gone forever.
On the left you see my AMD K6_2 300 mhz PC, which I bought from a local shop, Compu-Wiz, in 1998. I was in the middle of grad school, writing my papers on a hand-me-down Compaq DeskPro 386, offline, saving them on a floppy disk to print or e-mail at work.
The K6-2 had Win98, a dial-up modem, and a 3.2 gb hard drive, and it blew my mind. The times we had, I and my old K6-2! I even dual-booted with several versions of Linux. Observe how it is stained from cigarette smoke, (I quit three years ago).
On the right is its successor, which was my graduation present to myself in 2001. The K6-2 wasn't powerful enough to play Red Baron 3D with mods installed. I was done with school, and ready to have some fun. The new machine had an AMD Athlon Thunderbird 1 ghz processor and a massive 40 gb hard drive. Still Windows 98, though, which I would hang on to until it was hopelessly out of date.
I joined an online squadron, JGS4, and in the summer of 2002 we won the championship.
Me, bombing an aerodrome.
I gave up online gaming after that, but enjoyed Red Baron single-player campaigns for quite a long time.
I believe it was phone company and ISP changes that forced me to upgrade to a new PC. Sprint became Embarq. The quality of their DSL service was unsatisfactory, and I switched to Comcast cable, which I have never regretted. In January 2008 I bought a Windows XP machine from Velocity Micro, which lasted until 2014. Then I bought my present PC, a Dell 8700 Intel 3.10 ghz with Windows 7.
I know that things must change, not least in technology. The market needed improvements in operating systems, browsers, networks, and so on. Now we have social networks, YouTube, Google Apps, smartphones, all of which I use and enjoy. But that Athlon PC with Windows 98 and Red Baron 3D was the golden age for me.
R. and I took a day-trip to Seaside, the planned beach town west of Panama City on the Florida panhandle. As we arrived on Highway 30-A, it immediately felt different from the usual Florida coastal sprawl: quaint cottages, people in beachwear coasting along on bike-paths. I joked to R. that I felt like I was in an episode of The Prisoner. Then we came to the town center and easily found a place to park. We were glad we came on a Wednesday, because even so there were a lot of visitors. We changed in convenient public restrooms and headed for the beach. Now, I laughed, the big white ball couldn't single us out!
The forecast had been for a good chance of rain, but a brisk sea-breeze kept the day sunny and not oppressively hot. R. loitered at the water's edge while I took my dip. I had not been to the beach in years. The brine washed over me. The rolling waves pushed me this way and that. I swam underwater with my eyes open, welcoming the salty sting on my much-operated-upon orbs. (I had cataract and cornea surgeries in '13 and '14.) The working of the sea exercised me, and after thirty minutes or so it was time for lunch.
High above the beach, eating a fish sandwich and drinking iced tea, I was happy, and so was R.
Now it was time for shopping. One of those little "pattern language" things: there were lots of places for a hubby to chill while his wife noses around in shops.
This is an area called "the shops of Ruskin", with galleries and boutiques. I didn't bother to take a picture, but Seaside has a very fine bookstore, Sundog Books. If I were not a librarian and lived in Seaside, Sundog would meet all my needs. Just excellent.
Sign for a country church on Highway 20 that says it all.