Showing posts from May, 2015

Let the good times roll!

May 25, 2015 -- Sanibel Island is loaded with visitors on this Memorial Day weekend.  Bailey's grocery was busy on Sunday after church.  Many customers spoke Spanish.  A dozen or so sported tattoos all over their arms and even some necks.

The bicycles on the shared use paths are ridden by people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages.  On the average, visitors on Memorial Day weekend are younger than wintertime snowbirds and visitors. At this time of year, the assortment of people on Sanibel looks a little more like the rest of the state.

After all, this is the time of year when Floridians visit Sanibel.  Times are better; gas prices are lower. Unemployment in Florida is dipping below 5 percent.  Working people are opting to take a mini-vacation to Sanibel Island, a dream spot for Floridians.

They come to bicycle, to fish, to enjoy the beach.  The weather is not too hot for them; they're used to it.  In fact, at this time of year, the high temperatures on a barrier island lik…

Friendly small town real estate transactions

May 23, 2015 -- Two days ago, six of us sat around the table in Michelle's conference room, laughing and joking. Michelle explained each piece of real estate paperwork.   J looked relieved and happy as she signed the last document necessary from her, the seller, and then she said her goodbyes.  Then Pam explained each piece of the bank's paperwork to us; she did it smoothly and clearly.

The event was downright pleasant.  Afterwards, we went to the bank to wire money to the title agency.  Willy, the pretty bank manager, handled the wiring of the funds herself.  She, like everyone in that bank, was all smiles and very helpful.  We have never before experienced a bank quite like this one, Bank of the Islands, where everyone is always friendly and helpful -- where everyone knows our names.

Michelle at Realty Title Services has been friendly and supremely competent at handling both closings so far -- the sale of our land last month, and now our purchase of the house on Coconut Driv…

Escape from Someday Isle

May 16, 2015 -- A few days ago, I mentioned the stressful nature of living in the University District in Columbus.  That same day, I saw an announcement about a recently published book, The Ohio State University District: A Neighborhood History, by Emily Foster.

The information posted online included quotes from the book, all by people I knew when I lived there.  Tom and I knew Emily Foster, too.  Despite the stress of football weekends, I have many fond memories of the years in the University District.  Reading the quotes made me so nostalgic that I ordered the book online.  Such a book about a place in Ohio is not likely to be found in any local bookstore in southwest Florida.
The book arrived two days ago; this morning I had some time to peruse its pages.  The second paragraph of the acknowledgements contained a shocker:  my friend Linda Ridihalgh died in 2011.  I had no idea.

She was the kindest person I knew in the University District.  We spoke on the phone in 2002, I believe, w…

Putting on the poison

May 14, 2015 -- In these climes, we women usually wear open shoes, and so many of us sport nail polish on our toes, not just our fingers.  In fact, I think nail polish is more frequently found on toes than on fingers around here.
I rarely use nail polish, because the thought of putting those harsh chemicals on my person repulses me.  In the wake of the recent exposé regarding the plight of nail salon workers, I thought I’d check into the facts.  How well founded is my repulsion, I wonder?

My research tells me that in 2006, some people began to protest against the “toxic trio” of chemicals often found in nail polish:
FormaldehydeTolueneDibutyl phthalate

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it can cause “difficulty breathing, including coughing, asthma-like attacks, and wheezing; allergic reactions; irritated eyes, skin, and throat.”
OSHA also asserts that toluene can harm a fetus as well as the liver and kidneys, and c…

White birds in the morning

May 11, 2015 -- We call it a “white bird event.”  It happens occasionally, when the tides are just right, and when the freshwater levels are low.  Because the rainy season has not quite started, this often occurs in May or June.  A “white bird event” is when we are awakened by dozens, sometimes a hundred or more, white birds who are noisily squawking and feeding in the pond in our back yard.

Not all of the birds are white.  We see the occasional blue heron and immature ibis participating in these feasts.  Once, we even saw an alligator swim right through the middle of the gathering, not even pausing for a bite.  

Last night, after sunset, we heard a little alligator out there in the pond snapping away at fish.  When the water levels are low, the pond is teaming with fish.  The water is so thick with fish that we decided to name it Chowder Pond. 

Chowder Pond is long and narrow, so it looks like a creek or bayou that goes somewhere.  But it doesn’t; each end of it is a dead end.  Cho…

On mothering by non-mothers

I was raised in suburbia, but when I went away to college, I was suddenly living in the middle of a city.  Oddly, the land-grant university with agricultural roots was in an entirely urban setting.  I could only stand three months in the on-campus dormitory; soon I was in a rooming house, then another rooming house, then my first apartment – in a building owned by a bona fide slumlord.
At the same time, I was becoming increasingly aware of the city’s problems, many of which were caused by the middle-class flight to the suburbs.  The middle-class was fleeing the diversity resulting from court-ordered desegregation of the public schools.  People feared the diversity that I craved as a teenager.
By the end of my Freshman year, I vowed to live in the city, not the suburbs.  I lived that promise for thirty years.  During those decades, I also did what I could to help attract some middle-class people back to the city by supporting the fledgling historic districts that ring downtown Columbu…

Locals having fun on Sanibel

What do the locals do when the mobs of tourists are gone?  We play! 
I have been out to eat every evening this week.  Last night was happy hour with my Zonta friends at Traders.  The night before was happy hour with political club friends at Traders.  And the night before that was happy hour with Gulf Pines neighborhood friends at Traders.
Traders, Traders, Traders.  One of the reasons we locals choose Traders for these gatherings is size.  This restaurant is big enough that it can handle several large tables and still have many smaller tables available.  The service is friendly and very professional.

Another reason is the happy hour food and drink – all high-quality and good value.  The happy hour menu is called the “light menu,” but many of the options on it are not light.  Still, the portion sizes are under control, and that’s good for those who dine out night after night.
That menu, and the regular menu, offer many choices.  Still, I’ve dined at Traders so often that sometimes I…

Un rendez-vous sur l'île de Sanibel

The evening we’d been waiting for had finally arrived.  Our two worlds were about to merge.  We climbed into the Odyssey and off we went, to the “soft opening” of an elegant French restaurant on Sanibel.
When we arrived, we were very warmly greeted by Chef Christian Vivet and his wife and partner, Mari.  
Christian is a native Parisian who came to Florida to be a chef, many years ago, in the restaurant called Jean-Paul’s French Corner on Sanibel.  Jean-Paul’s place delighted Sanibelians and its visitors for years, but finally closed.  Then we had no French restaurant on Sanibel.
Christian and Mari went into the catering business in south Fort Myers.  Then they changed their business into Blue Windows, a lovely little French bistro.  It was a 30 to 40 minute drive from where we live on Sanibel, depending on traffic.  In peak season, the drive could take much longer. For many years now, most of our French dining experiences have been in Parisian restaurants during the summer months.  N…

How to preserve paradise: buy it!

May 3, 2015 -- The Bailey Tract on Tarpon Bay Road is a wonderland owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), who generously allows the public to visit it.  It is part of the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge properties on Sanibel Island.  People are fortunate that FWS allows them to park and visit, because wildlife refuges usually are just that:  refuges for wildlife – a place for wildlife to be able to avoid humans.
In a fact sheet available on the FWS web site, the fact that this Bailey Tract was once owned by the Bailey family is stated right up front, at the beginning.  The tract’s 100 acres is just a small portion of what the Bailey family once owned on Sanibel, but they still do own plenty – including the shopping center at Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle Way – smack in the middle of Sanibel’s “downtown.” They also owned a commercially zoned parcel across Tarpon Bay Road from the shopping center.  That piece was sold to Tarpon Bay Road LLC at the end of 2011 fo…