Tag Archives: florida

Island Girl

North Captiva Island is accessible only by boat whereas the sister island to the South has a causeway connecting it to Fort Myers. florida_sanibel_captivas_322627That’s about all we know about the place and information is limited. Until Sunday morning, we are guests of the North Captiva Island Club (NCIS, as I quickly learned thanks to Emily who works for Island Girl, the boat service that ferried us over from the mainland, love calling it that). The 17 minute ride from Pine Island Marina, with 13 passengers a captain and his mate, was swift and smooth. Our little boat replete with bags of groceries packed in plastic, suitcases, a vacuum cleaner (not ours) and bait (also not ours) pulled into a beautiful little channel set off by mangroves before sunset on Tuesday where we checked in and learned a teeny bit about the lay of the (is)land.

We were greeted by a sunburned young twenty-something named Josh and his sweet little dog, Gizmo, a “morkie,” think maltese and yorkie mix. Together, they showed us our forest green Club Car golf cart, number 77 and how to work the headlight. He loaded and hauled our luggage and six bags of groceries for five days of meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in a separate mini-version of a flat bed attached to his “service” cart and led us to our watermelon colored tree house located on the far side of the air strip. The kids got a kick out of the grass covered “strip.” The grown-ups grumbled to themselves over the fear of sounds from air traffic.rooftopcaptiva

It didn’t take long for the four of us to settle in to the multi-level residence and hit the roof via the metal spiral staircase for expansive views looking over the island toward the Gulf of Mexico. The kids quickly dialed in to the multi-media offerings that include an X-Box, four televisions and multiple remotes. The physician/scientist/husband graciously offered to unpack my belongings while I prepared our chicken salad and quinoa dinner with the assistance of the 11-year old sous-chef. He confirmed that I wouldn’t balk at his choice of drawers or organization. “No way, I leave it up to you,” and truly, I was grateful for the gesture. We opted out of the St. Patrick’s Day poolside party later in the evening and watched TV altogether. The television remotes posed a challenge but in this age of technical challenges, I am happy to report that I was the one who successfully tuned in and out of desired channels. Yeah for Mom. Meanwhile, no one believes me but the house sways, it’s on stilts, built to withstand the harshest of storms after Hurricane Charley devastated most of the Island in August 2004.

The chirp of crickets could be heard in between gusts of wind blew fast and furiously throughout most of the night and sleep well we did, windows open, fresh air on our faces.

So here we will be with little to do but spend time together, search for seashells, kayak, bike ride, rest and relax. And spend time on away from our computers. xo sSs

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Tucked behind the orange groves along Route 17 in central Florida’s lake regionorange-label1 is a destination known to few. Since its founding in 1915, Mountain Lake [formerly known as Buck Lake] has been a well-kept secret amongst an exclusive group of captains of industry. But today, given the reality of the economy, this corporate (homeowners buy shares in the Mountain Lake Corporation, don’t ask me how it works, that’s not the point) community, they are promoting membership and even has a website and interloper that I am although I’m an invited guest on occasion, I feel I am at liberty to share. 45 miles south of Orlando, this enclave is a far cry from the crowds and park-goers of its northern neighbor’s theme parks and Joe Six Pack(s). In general, during the winter months, residents of Mountain Lake are mad golfers with multiple homes. They enjoy their privacy, the abundant natural beauty and after 4p, daily cocktails with or without friends.

A Bit of History
Since the late 1880’s much of Florida, including Mountain Lake located just south of Lake of the Hills- original, eh?, became an investors haven thanks to modest real estate prices, low property taxes and good weather. By 1914, Maryland-born Fred Ruth, who had inherited 1,400 acres from his father, moved to Lake Wales, FL, with his wife Sally, to develop the Mountain Lake Corporation.

Ruth’s successfully executed plan was to create a place where “residents of great accomplishments and social status would enjoy winters…” in a “residential park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. [whose father designed Central Park and the Boston Common] with luxurious estates, a golf course sensitive to its surroundings designed by Seth Raynor, and acres of beautiful and profitable citrus.” (BOOK Citation to come, The History of Mountain Lake, it’s a secret book, only available to corporation members)

The Mountain Lake Estates area is made up of the 18-hole golf course, private residences [mostly out of range of errant golf balls], the Olmsted designed Colony Housemainphoto_col [a central gathering sort of clubhouse, private hotel and dining room] just shy of the 18th hole and down the road a piece, you’ll find Bok Tower Gardens. Structures, including the Colony House and Bok Tower, built before 1937, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s all quite grand in an extremely understated way.

Among the rich and fabulous that visited the area in it’s incarnation was Edward Bok, former editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. He vacationed at Mountain Lake in the early 1920s and hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr to design park like gardens to surround a carillon tower in 1929.567301 The tower stands tall, there’s a nature preserve, adult and family educational programming and in my estimation, it’s the highlight of “off-site” attractions. The children prefer “Spook Hill” where for some reason beyond my understanding, though a car is facing downhill, you drive uphill or maybe the reverse is true. Either way, you move forward, not backward. Given its proximity to the incline, the nearby town of Lake Wales’ elementary school is named for the hill and the mascot displays a remarkable resemblance to Casper.

Today
While our gentleman folk LOVE to golf, the 15-year old and I prefer to explore the area. We’ve been to the tower on many occasion, know the historic district of the town of Lake Wales and recently discovered a Target, Best Buy and big swinging Dick’s Sporting Goods about 25 minutes from the golf course. We’ve made regular trips to stimulate the economy to some degree by stocking up on Boots No. 7 from Target, enhancing the father-in-law’s Wii set-up thanks to Best Buy and a one piece swim suit for spring term’s 9th grade phys. ed, go straight toward the camouflage and turn right. Voila. Bathing Suit, check, goggles, check, pink nike bathing cap, check. The outings are generally filled with laughing and giggling as we pass cow fields, mini-malls that seem to have sprouted out of nowhere and American-made automobiles driven by octogenarians slowly creeping rambling along the roadway. quilts-and-guns1Closer to “home,” this time around, we checked out the local Flea Market and sho’ nuff, we spotted bait, guns, a swimming pool (the fiberglass kind), rusty tools, dvd’s, plastic toysbarbies1 as well as oranges, grapefruits and other local produce. Not so funny. “No pictures,” said the lady manning the truck decal department. “Some of the designs are his originals.” truck-decal-designs
Until we moved East from California, I failed to recognize the natural beauty, peace and quiet of this place, seemingly stuck in time, hidden behind the orange groves. But now, leaving the hustle and bustle noise of Manhattan behind for a few days, even if it’s just to go for a long walk through the “park” or take a trip to target, I get it. Fresh squeezed orange juice, the fragrance of orange blossoms, the sight of spanish moss, the cackle of noisy but elegant sandhill cranes and little else than my own time on my hands. Keep it quiet.

* The title is in reference to Dominick Dunne’s old money vs. new commentary of the 1980’s. In an effort to link to Amazon, I discovered the following article by David Brooks from The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200309/brooks It has to do with diversity, less about exclusion or inclusion. Plus ça change. Interesting nonetheless. xo

Dear Stephen Sondheim, Ouch!

I don’t really know what happened. I wanted to love the new musical based on the real lives of Addison and Wilson Mizner (two brothers, one was the architect responsible for Mediterranean Revival-style resort homes of Palm Beach and Boca, and the other a cardsharp, boxing manager, Broadway playwright, investor in the

A Mizner home in Boca

A Mizner home in Boca

Brown Derby and all-around con artist, respectively). The premise was interesting: the brothers each follow their own roads: Addison’s is met with what seems like a never-ending string of failures, Wilson’s with a sugarmama who bankrolled his every whim. The roles soon reverse when Addison gains his footing as an architect in south Florida (and a sugarboy), while Wilson’s wife kicks him to the curb.

The two brothers eventually reconnect when a poor, sickly Wilson shows up at healthy, wealthy Addison’s door, and they team up to build/create their own city, Boca Raton (mouth of the rat), with Addison designing and Wilson selling. Given Wilson’s history and penchant for weaving a good yarn, one can guess where this is all leading.

The score was, well, even if I don’t like a musical, chances are I’ll still leave the theater humming a tune or remembering a few words from a song. Unfortunately I only remember one word from the “big” number: gold. And, I think, appropriately enough, the song is actually titled “Gold.”

On a positive note, the costumes are quite inventive. Each member of the chorus wears something specific to the period (1918-1920’s) but printed on the cream-colored fabric are blueprints of actual Mizner homes. It’s a really cool look and a nice detail.rs_slide

But why doesn’t this musical work, exactly? That’s a question I’ve kept turning over in my mind for the past 24 hours and I think I’ve figured out the answer. The autobiographical quality of two brothers gaining and losing everything is fascinating, as is their relationship. But it’s also the story of two brothers that gain and then lose everything. People like rooting for the underdog, so once Addison succeeds, we’re done rooting for him and Wilson’s not like able enough to want to root for at all. And, once they start to lose money because of their greed, we don’t like either of them and aren’t invested or interested in them enough to care.

When you work on a musical for 30 years, like Sondheim did with this one, and I truly admire his passion and sticktuitiveness, sometimes it’s just better to stick it back in the drawer.  It’s no longer the earnest work of a 25-year-old, rather it’s the over thought, overly earnest work of a 78-year-old man. The worst part is, the failure of this production isn’t just in the writing, it’s in the directing, acting from the chorus, and perhaps even a little bit of the fault of the Public Theater. Due to the architecture of the theater space, there really aren’t any wings to the stage, so everyone is onstage at all times and they look bored. You, as the audience, are completely aware of how bored they are. It seems like every member of the chorus can’t wait to go home and go to bed. And soon enough, the audience starts to feel the same way.

– Downtown