Home is where you make it, and it’s beginning to feel like home here in the tropics.

We’re doing an OK job of finding new things to do, though not all of them fun. Karla decided we needed to ride paddle boards, those things that look like oversized surf boards. And believe me, they’re no easier to stand on without the waves. I can say that even though I’ve never tried to surf. After about 20 minutes of frustration in a fairly calm Gulf, I gave up and sat on the beach to let my chest burn to a crisp. It was one of the adventures we had while Kate was here a couple of weekends ago. Another was Kate and I going on our first bike ride together. I had the “Wannabees,” a group from the St. Pete Bike Club that helps mentor new folks to the sport, take us out. She kept up pretty well. The next day she and I went out alone and she had a much harder time keeping a slower pace. After about 15 miles, we were just a few blocks from home when she mentioned she heard a thumping as she rode. She had a flat—for how long I don’t know.

We showed her thbirchwood-SPe town, including having a drink at the Canopy, a bar atop The Birchwood on Beach Drive. Very happening place. And plenty of the women there could have been my daughter and a few at least close to my age. Well not really close but on the north side of 35. Didn’t matter. At a certain age we become invisible to any woman under 40, maybe 50.

All Politics is LocalSP pier
I have not carried out my threat to get involved with politics here. The biggest issue in town now is what to do with our aging pier. This competes with most tired of tourist attractions, a 1970s era idea that doesn’t have much to offer except little Mom and Pop shops selling trinkets and memories, overpriced food and plenty of vantage points to see pelicans posing with tourists or dolphins passing through the bay. The city council had this great idea to replace it with …ta-da…the Lens.

LensI’m not sure what it’s supposed to be, other than a more modern looking pier. It may have at one time been nothing more than what the critics called “a sidewalk to nowhere.” In response, the designers have added a restaurant, snack shack, an amphitheater and something we don’t really need here—more fishing spots. In any case, it’s the hot topic here and will impact the mayoral primary August 19. The current mayor seems to be back peddling furiously his earlier support of it. But the problem now is that they’ve closed the current pier without a clear plan for what follows. The old pier apparently has structural problems that are more expensive to fix than replacing it. Which, come to think of it, is true of a lot of things these days, including old people.

And of course the Trayvon Martin murder is a hot topic, with George Zimmerman having a lot of supporters. This is Fla. after all, where folks seem to be competing with Texans for who has the quickest draw. The Stand Your Ground law, otherwise known as Shoot First and Ask Questions Later Law, passed with bi-partisan enthusiasm and few are re-thinking that vote. And then there’s Gov. Scott, the Tea Party favorite who has been trying to impersonate George McGovern (or at least a Floridian vision of him) given his sorry poll numbers and the lurking of former Republican, former Independent and probably temporary Democrat Charlie Crist who will likely run again Scott next year.

And then there’s this: http://bit.ly/1bOC6jp. Seems the local energy company, since bought by Duke Power, conned the legislature into having customers pay in advance for a nuclear power plant that Duke is now abandoning. The power company gets to keep the money. Customers don’t get any refund, as many critics feared when the gift law was passed. This guy is mad as hell and he isn’t going to take it anymore: http://bit.ly/16KPU7v). (It’s refreshing to have columnists who aren’t looking to impress you with their erudition [see George Will].)  In other words, the Florida legislature is in the tank like all other pols. Do I really want to be part of all that? I may restrict my volunteering to working a soup kitchen. The patrons at least have a modicum of dignity.

Rest of the Crew
Zack has also visited us. He has moved from Duluth to Decatur, increasing his commute by about an hour in trade for a small house instead of an apartment. He and Chelsea seem to like it. They just repossessed Lexie, their dog, from two weeks at an Atlanta dog whisperer compound where she presumably was cured of her separation anxiety. That was plan, but after the first night when they were able to leave her for 25 minutes in a crate without her inflicting damage on herself, they have refused to give us an update. That does not bode well.

Hunter still works to pay for her rugby addiction. She made the regional “sevens” team. The chief benefit of that game is there are eight less players on the other side to harm you. Next stop, national team tryouts. She’ll also be in Orlando in Oct. to play in a national and international “touch” rugby tournament. I guess that’s like flag football but with more beer.

Kate’s documentary on the Kennedy assassination is going well. The network (Military Channel) is thrilled with the rough cut. She hopes to wrap up production in mid-September and then head out to Hollywood, though she’s working connections on another possible documentary that might keep her in DC and another opportunity for a reality series that might have her travelling the world to capture drug deals on video. That cannot turn out well.

Like father, like daughter
kate in erAnd her bike riding has not turned out well so far. She bought a bike recently. Yeah, she crashed landed going down a hill and broke her collarbone. But look at it this way: She’ll get a new helmet out of it! It’s really unfortunate in several ways. One, we were planning to ride together starting Saturday at the beach we go to every year. Two, she’d been training hard for a Sept. 8 triathlon and was feeling really good about it. Three, she just bought the bike, which was a big deal because she’s always had a negative experience with bikes. This, of course, can’t help. The most surprising thing, however, was Karla of all people responding to Kate saying she might not ride again, that it was like falling off your horse (something Karla knows about) Kate needed to get back on as soon as she can.

I learned that lesson last winter. Karla didn’t have anyone to ski with one day. I hadn’t skied in a couple of years since I broke a vertebra on the slopes. Frankly, I was scared to do it again. But not wanting her to be by herself, I said I would go, thinking at the very least I’d win points. Turned out I had fun. We stuck to the greens and an occasional blue, and I even fell once or twice, but at a slower speed than I once would have. I do hope Kate will ride again.

The Washington Post is not delivered here. The New York Times is. Yes, I have left the paper I’ve known since 1970, just before, apparently, it was to leave me. Bezos has a bigger mouthpiece. I read where some think he bought it for a tax write-off. I understand that most of us, upon learning we could legitimately deduct something from our taxes, would. But when you have $250 billion, let’s hope it wasn’t, at least, his principal reason.

We also get the Tampa Bay Times, formerly the St. Petersburg Times.  It’s owned by the Poynter Institute, a reputable owner, for sure. And the paper does a nice job of covering the local scene. And they do what I think The Post should start doing—run AP stories about politics. Every time the House of Representatives passes a bill that is just for show, The Post wastes its dwindling resources writing a story about it. The Tampa Bay Times runs an AP story, if anything, and saves its resources for local stuff. Meanwhile, I’ve come to appreciate how the NY Times writes more in depth than The Post about issues, deeply enough that you can learn something besides that Congress is dysfunctional.

I think I can say that St. Pete is definitely a better climate than DC, except that I’m told DC has had a beautiful summer this year. Here we still have a breeze and almost daily rain showers. It’s 9:30 p.m., dark and gray outside. We’ve had rumbling thunder and rain today. It’s like living in a warm sponge.

Another evening in the new ‘hood.