Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sorry, We're Closed: Jacksonville, FL

This week finds me visiting Jacksonville Florida along with Tropical Storm Debby.  We arrived at approximately the same time.

Debby messed up some of my plans and made it clear very quickly what I forgot to pack - an umbrella.  Something I immediately obtained.

Debby wasn't the only problem.  I have mentioned before that being a business traveler/tourist limits what I can see.  Whatever the reason, I am denied again and again.

Kingsley Plantation - closed due to weather

The Cummer Museum Gardens closed due to weather

Women's room at The Cummer - closed due to weather?

At 6 pm I find the Fountain of Youth!  It closed at 5.

Mission Nombre de Dios Museum, the grounds were open, museum closes at 4, I am here just after 6.

A woman at the Mission says I have to go in the chapel.  It is padlocked.



Nope.  Are they mocking me?

Alligator Farm, "extended" summer hours until 6 pm.  I am here at 7.

Even the BEACH was closed.  AFTER the storm was gone.

So did I manage to see anything at all?  Yes, and I will get to that soon.  

And it may have been closed the first time but I am going back.  I need to see the Fountain of Youth.  I feel a little parched.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guns & Ammo

I told David I registered for a class.  He failed to ask me what the class was for.

It was Basic Handgun.  David assumed I was taking a quilting class.  

When I returned from class, he asked how class went.  I said fine.  I went inside and hung my target on the wall above the bed on his side.  I have mentioned before that he is suspicious that I am going to try to kill him someday because I like to watch shows like Deadly Women.  I didn't think about it until later, but hanging this above where he sleeps might have seemed a little passive-aggressive.

Regardless of what he thinks I am not planning anything of that sort but I was planning something.  His birthday present.  He mentioned a while back that he would like to take the concealed carry class.  He has also mentioned that he would like to get a new gun.  David is very hard to buy gifts for so when he made the comment about the class the plan went in motion.

Target 1:  A 9mm, not sure the brand, maybe Glock?  I know he said but I was so nervous.  Plus it is excessively hot on the range and I can feel the sweat running down my back and beyond which is quite distracting.  I am shaking some when I load the first 5 bullets as instructed.  I hope he doesn't notice.  If he does, he doesn't mention it.  When I aim the first time and prepare to pull the trigger, my heart is pounding.  I hit right on the number one.  After the first 5, we do 10 more on this circle.  I am still trying to control the shaking.

I don't want to have a a gun in the house without knowing how to use it.  David had one in the past and this always bothered me - the not knowing.  I started looking into the concealed carry class so we could take it together but was concerned about my total lack of knowledge.  So, I decided to take the basic class first, alone.  Yes, I could have asked David to teach me but I have been married long enough to know this is a bad idea.  He will get annoyed.  I will get annoyed.  Best to get a stranger involved.

Same weapon, more distance.  I am a little calmer.  I can do this.  He and I were talking in the classroom about aiming with one eye closed vs. both open.  I tried to keep one eye open for one round this time.  It hit inside the circle.  The one with the 4 on it.

I signed up for a Sunday class.  I had already decided to tell him that it was related to his birthday gift if he asked but that proved unnecessary, since he didn't.  The instructor isn't there when I arrive and seeing just my name on the registration sheet, I ask if they cancelled and didn't notify me. is a private class.  I didn't realize that when I signed up but am happy about this development.  Now I can embarrass myself in relative privacy.

They tell me the instructor is a short Hispanic guy with a goatee.  When he arrives, one of the guys says, "See?  Didn't we describe him accurately?"  They did.  He is probably 6 inches shorter than me.  This leads me to wonder how they described me to the instructor.  "Your student is the overweight, middle-aged Amazon white woman" or something like that.  The instructor asks about my experience and I tell him that I have never even held a real gun.  He doesn't even blink.  

Different weapon, same distance as #2.  This is a Sig Sauer, I am paying better attention now that the initial excitement/nervousness is over.  It is less comfortable in my hand, I feel like my stabilizing hand is in the way, and the trigger is very different.  I fire 5 times (out of 10 again) and stop.  I look at the target.  "What's wrong," he asks?  I ask him, "Am I missing the target altogether?"  He smiles.  "No, you shot through the same hole."  Even though this weapon feels weird, I have better accuracy with it.  Me or the gun?

Class consists of an hour in a classroom learning about the weapons and how the ammunition works.  I learned a lot.  Terms I have heard before (like double-action) are no longer vague concepts, I actually know what they mean now.  Then we spend an hour on the range.  He has 3 weapons but we only fire 2 of them because my giant Amazon hand is too big for the revolver he brought.

Before class, I was talking to another woman outside.  She is there to shoot and with hopes that someone can help her.  She can't pull the slide back on her own 9mm by herself.  Back in the classroom, I asked the instructor if this might be an issue for me.  He looks over, raises his eyebrows and says, "I will be shocked if you can't do it."  He hands me a weapon.  I can do it.

Same gun as #3, more distance.  He tells me to load 15 rounds but I am only able to get 12 in.  I am still a little shaky and I am a LOT sweaty.  His next student has arrived.  I am ready to call it a day.

The class went well and I didn't embarrass myself after all.  I also didn't accidentally discharge the weapon, shoot myself, shoot the instructor or totally miss the target, all real concerns I had - reasonable or not.  I don't know if I will end up going to the range for "fun" in the future - I think that remains to be seen - but I am glad I did this.

The instructor said that based on my performance he felt I would have no problem passing the concealed carry test.

To all of you women out there talking on your cell phones in public restrooms...consider yourself warned.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Best Little Whorehouse (and 3 other strange houses) in (Houston) Texas

Is it time to go home yet?  No?  Well then, I know one thing for sure.  Any remaining activities here in Houston will be conducted from the car or in an air conditioned building.  This excludes my hotel since I told them on Monday that I didn't think the a/c was working properly and their solution was to crank the temp down to 60.  I am positive it isn't 60 degrees or even 75 degrees in my room.  I wish it was.

Yesterday when I left my customer's office it was 100 degrees (and I went to the jeans).  Today is a carbon copy of yesterday.

Late last summer, I was feeling burned out and overworked.  I needed some time off and not a "staycation".  When I mentioned this to David (who won't be able to come with me) he was supportive once he got over his shock that I wanted to go somewhere voluntarily.  Until I said where I was thinking of going: Galveston.  There were several reasons for this, primarily cost and distance.  I really wanted to go somewhere like the Oregon coast but I didn't have the time or money.  David is skeptical, I am not a "beach person".  Why would I choose Galveston? 

By day 2 of my trip I am wondering the same thing.  On day 3 of that trip, I drive into Houston to go to the Orange Show.  After that, I drive back to my hotel, pack my stuff and drive home.  Two days early.  Galveston is an ugly beach and my hotel was less than inspiring.  I went to a restaurant to try and relax and enjoy watching and listening to the surf.  Instead, I was seated next to a family with several unruly children and I could barely see the beach and couldn't hear it at all thanks to the road noise and the aforementioned kids.

But I remembered the Orange Show as an interesting site and decide to hunt it down again on this trip.  When I went before, they were "officially" closed but a woman across the street in the office that maintains it saw me taking pictures and let me in.  This time they are open.  Honestly, there wasn't any difference.  I was the only person inside both times.

The Orange Show is at 2401 Munger Street in Houston.  It is in a residential neighborhood.

The site was created by Jeff McKissack, a Houston postman.

He was given a permit to build a beauty parlor in 1956.

He built the site in honor of his favorite fruit.  He worked on it from 1956 
until his death in 1980.

  The site was featured in Texas Monthly magazine in 1978.

After his death, Marilyn Oshman, a Houston Arts patron, purchased the property with donations from a diverse group that included members of ZZ Top.

Today, the site is owned and maintained by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.

They are also responsible for the Art Car Parade (held in May), Smither Park and the Beer Can House. 

Smither Park is right next door to the Orange Show.  I remember passing it when I was here before but they have done some work since then.

This sign was here before and the only reason I knew there was - in theory - going to be a park here someday.

I don't remember any of this wall art being here before.  I think it takes something away that there is a huge stack of pallets stacked up behind the wall.

Someday this site will contain an amphitheatre, a meditation garden, a tower and more.

These are part of the 400 foot memory wall.  I couldn't find any information on how these spaces are assigned or purchased and how many are still available.

Most of them appear to be works in progress.  This angel's hand, face and forward wing are not complete.

Of the current pieces, this octopus was my favorite.  He is way more interesting than the one at the Downtown Aquarium.  At least the one they advertised having, I never actually saw him.

To round out my tour of their properties, I drive to The Beer Can House at 222 Malone Street in Houston.  Again, in a residential neighborhood the house is surrounded by houses and upscale apartments/condos.  The house belonged to John Milkovish a retired upholsterer.  He started the project in 1968.

Reading about the house later, I find that you can tour the house and grounds during the summer between 9-1 and on weekends.  None of these fit my schedule but this was still worth seeing, even from the sidewalk.

The whole house is a wind chime on a day like today with a light breeze.  It isn't an unpleasant sound like I would has assumed before coming here.

Their website says that the show Ripley's Believe it or Not estimated that over 50,000 beer cans were used.

He covered all of the grounds with tile, stones, marbles and other things because he didn't want to mow.

He began covering the house with flattened beer cans.  Even the detached building there in the back is covered.

As are the fences.  Even beer tabs are strung together and used in various places.

Can tops dangle from the eaves of the house.

He covered it all.

I have one more house on the list, this one not operated by The Orange Show.  This one is known as The Flower Man House.

The home of Cleveland Turner is at 2305 Francis Street.  This is a less than desirable neighborhood so people uncomfortable traipsing around "the bad part of town" might skip this one.

An article posted on Roadside America's website says he uses items he finds and those that are donated by folks trying to help him along.  This house seems less intentional and more haphazard, verging on trashy.

I do like this half super-hero on a pole in the back.  I expect the back is as strange as the front but I didn't knock on the door to ask to see it.  Maybe if he had come out and offered like the people in Berkeley CA did?  Okay, probably not.

A final odd place listed by Roadside America also on my list today is at 2500 Summer Street.  It is an art studio with some statues outside.

HUGE statues of dead presidents.  I don't know who this is?  Is this even a president?  David pulled out a photo array and we can't decide.

Lincoln and  ? (David's guess is Andrew Jackson)

I know this one!  Washington?

L-R: ? (David's guess is Jefferson), Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR.

A graffiti stricken Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Being the president is hard enough to make anyone lose their head.

Oh, and The Beatles are here too. 

Time to call the driving tour to an end and start heading to the hotel.  I have tickets to see The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas tonight.  On the way back, my GPS and I have a small problem.

It takes me here.

And here.  The GPS says I am to go an additional 0.3 miles on this road, Providence Street.

After I untangle myself from this GPS mess, I only get to the hotel in time to freshen up and grab some fast food before I head to the theater.

The Hobby Center in Downtown Houston.  The venue was very nice with comfortable seats and easy parking.

All of these stars on the bathroom stalls make wonder if this is what it feels like to have a star on your dressing room door?  Okay, except for all of the toilets.

There were stars on the seats and in the lobby too.  I have 6th row, near center seat.  This is one advantage I have found in getting a ticket for one person...there are random individual seats available in good sections.

The show was fantastic.  Like my experience with Xanadu, I have never seen this movie.  However, unlike Xanadu, I would be inclined to see the movie after this and this play was far and away a better experience in every possible way.  The two young men next to me smelled good and chatted with me during intermission about other shows.  The cast here weren't local high school kids but experienced, professional actors. 

In fact, it kept bothering me that I couldn't think where I had seen the man playing the sheriff before.  I looked him up on during intermission. He was the dean of admissions at Harvard that granted Elle Woods admission in the movie Legally Blonde.

I am always ready to go home and could have gone tonight but I have to say, the driving tour and the play made me glad I stayed.