Tis The Season …

Flagler Blvd Xmas decorations 11-13-2014Road Warriorette and former bike partner Anne, who abandoned me to move back home to Texas, arrived for a West Palm Beach visit Thursday afternoon. I got her settled in at her motel, then we went out for a great dinner, visited bike partner Osa, stopped by another of Anne’s friends, then headed up Flagler Drive where we spotted this house all set for Christmas.

The palm trees – and the balmy 70-degree temperature – gave an indication I wasn’t in the Midwest.

Pining for the ocean

Anne’s a Texan by birth and inclination, but she did admit to pining for the ocean. I turned right on Southern Blvd., and took her for a ride along Palm Beach. When we got to one of the few places you could park and get public access to the beach, I told her she could get and and frolic in the sand and surf if she liked, but I preferred the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean.

When we left, I asked if she’d like to go to the north end of the island to the Palm Beach Inlet. That’s like asking if bears fertilize the forest.

“Don’t fence me in”

When we got to the inlet, there was a chain holding the gate to the small park closed. I put my car in park with the four-way flashers blinking and let her out. I assumed she was going to stand at the gate and look out toward Singer Island’s lights across the water.

I heard her humming “Don’t Fence Me In,” a rattle of the fence and she was gone from sight. She never did things like that when she was a Floridian.

“That’s not a happy sound”

On our way back to the motel, I told Friend Anne, “That’s not a happy sound. I think I’ve got a flat tire.”

Indeed, the left rear tire was flat.

Maybe I can give it a shot of Fix-a-Flat or pump it up with my portable air compressor, I considered. The only problem was that I had taken all those options out of the car last night when I unloaded it, but hadn’t replaced them. Plan C was to put the doughnut spare on, something I really hated to do since the Honda jack is the worst piece of equipment ever devised.

I had just started attacking the problem when a car pulled up behind us. It was Patrol Officer Larry Ferguson of the Palm Beach Police Department. I figured he’d run our tag, ask for ID, shine his flashlight around inside the car, then leave us in the dark when we came up clean. (Well, I knew I would come up clean. There’s no telling what Friend Anne has been up to in the Lone Star State.)

It turned out Larry was a nice guy who went way beyond the call of duty. I’m going to write a letter to the chief telling him that Larry is a great representative of his department.

How to have a fun evening in Palm Beach

Ken Steinhoff - PB PD officer Larry Ferguson -Anne Rodgers 11-13-2014Here are few of the things that happened:

  • I didn’t have the jack on the frame properly so it slipped off.
  • The doughnut spare was flat, so I called Wife Lila to bring my tools and compressor. Larry offered to take me someplace to get it aired up, but I said it was such a hassle to jack the car up that I’d rather leave it on the car and bring the compressor to the tire.
  • Lila arrived, we hooked up the compressor and it hummed away in the humid air for several minutes. I was beginning to regret having that second glass of tea with dinner.
  • Larry felt around the rim, felt air escaping and said the tire was so flat it had lost its bead and would NEVER fill up.
  • We jacked up the car again, removed my spare, and put put on Lila’s spare (we drive the same model van). At some point, my jack twisted and became inoperable, so we had to switch to Lila’s jack.
  • We offered Larry an opportunity to escape, but he pitched in fighting the jack. helping lift the tire onto the studs and making sure Anne had tightened the lug nuts properly. Wife Lila didn’t get a shot of me toiling away with sweat splashing off my forehead, but she did capture me in a supervisory role.

Things that put the jolly in the evening

With Thanksgiving coming up, I should give thanks for a few of the good things that happened.

  • Patrolman Ferguson, a native of West Palm Beach who moved back here after serving as an officer in Washington State, was not only a tremendous help in getting us through our tire difficulties, but he was also a genuinely nice guy who was fun to talk with and who gave us an interesting perspective about how the area had changed since he was a kid going to Twin Lakes High School.
  • Wife Lila showed up with everything needed to get me back on the road. I’m glad my flat happened in Palm Beach and not in Nowhere, Ga.
  • Anne provided help and moral support once I explained to her that we were in Florida not Texas: “No, Anne, it didn’t ‘throw a shoe.’ We don’t have to call for a blacksmith.”

Buying two REAL jacks to replace those Honda pieces of junk will go to the top of my to-do list tomorrow.



Scrawls, Nixon and a Couch

Sam Rawls 4I was rummaging through a box and ran across two cartoons drawn by Scrawls, the Palm Beach Post’s editorial cartoonists in the ’70s.

Sam Rawls is his real name, but we all called him Scrawls. (People who REALLY know him call him Scooter, but I never achieved that level of closeness.)

He left The Post to go to our Big Sister paper in Atlanta, where he stuck around about seven years. I lost track of where he was, and was almost afraid to Google him because I was afraid the trail would lead to an obit.

Fortunately, there’s still some ink left in his pen.

Speaking Southern

Sam Rawls 3Long before Jeff Foxworthy came along with his “You might be a redneck if…” shtick, Post columnist Steve Mitchell wrote a book¬† How to Speak Southern, illustrated by Sam. It was followed by More How to Speak Southern, followed by a combination of the two marketed as The Complete How to Speak Southern. Click on the links to order a copy from Amazon and make both Sam and me a few pennies.

Sam has always cared about the environment. He’s been drawing cartoons to support the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island. Take a look at some of his artwork skewering developers. I’m sure he is more effective at getting the point across than a whole forest of position papers.

Getting back to the cartoons

Sam Rawls Nixon Cartoons 2When Sam was packing up his office to go to the Big Time, I walked in to seeing him ripping up scads of his old cartoons. “What in the world are you doing?” I cried in a horrified tone.

“They’ve already been published, and I don’t want them floating around where somebody will sell them, so I’m tearing them up.”

I managed to convince him to let me make off with these two Nixons from the Watergate era. One one he wrote a flattering message, “To Ken – The best button-pusher I know;” on the other, a more Scrawlsian “To Ken – if you sell it – make sure you get a good price.”

The story of the couch

Sam Rawls Nixon CartoonsNewspapers were a little less politically correct (and a lot more fun) in the old days. They were inhabited by misfits on their way up and on their way down, and characters were the rule instead of the exception.

The photo department had a small room we called the Wire Room. It was used for storage and housed the Associated Press wirephoto transmitter. At one time, before I was hired, it contained an old black couch with an indeterminate covering. It looked like leather, but it was probably some substance not occurring in nature.

Someone told me that a homeless hooker used to walk Dixie Highway in front of the paper, and the photographers, being tenderhearted, offered her the couch as a place to sleep. Management got wind of their largess and said the couch had to go. [Checking the definition of “largess,” I’m not sure that’s exactly the right word: “Something given to someone without expectation of a return,” but, like I said, that all happened before I got to West Palm Beach…]

The couch was exiled to Sam’s office where it was assumed nothing nefarious would ever go on, said my source.

Couch Version II

Sam Rawls 2When I finally tracked Sam down this evening (he had been dodging torrential rain in Conyers, Georgia, where he lives), I had to ask him what happened to the couch. I thought I remembered management shipping it to him as a joke when he left.

“That was my couch. I bought it. I’ve never heard the hooker story.”

We were both appalled that someone made up that story to pull my leg. On the other hand, we agreed that it was too good a story to cut out. If I outlive Sam, it’ll go back to being the Hooker Couch.

What is your favorite cartoon?

Sam RawlsAs soon as I asked what Sam considered his favorite cartoon, I cringed, knowing how I feel when someone asks about my favorite photo. Sam came back with an answer that I’m liable to steal, “I hope it’s the one on my drawing board the day I die.”

Just for the record, I didn’t shoot any of these photos. They came from a box we called “Party Pix,” a collection of staff photos going back to the early or mid-60s. If you doubt my earlier statement about working with characters, you need to take a walk down memory lane with me and that box.

A Windy Day in South Florida

720 DragonflyIt sure looked dark this afternoon. A friend 60 miles west of us at the north end of Lake Okeechobee said it was raining so hard out there she could hardly see across the creek. It didn’t take long before our trees started whipping around.

But, that’s not really the reason you’re seeing this. My computer is tied up outputting 1,111 photos for a project in Athens, Ohio. Not only is it resizing them and working magic once, I have to do it four times for different size prints and for a slide show.

(No, I’m not showing all thousand slides in one show. Relax.)

Video of wind and rain

While all those digital gyrations are going on, I can’t edit any still photos. That’s why you get this short video of the wind picking up, then moving on.

This rain video I did back in Cape is a little more dramatic.

Graham and the Christmas Lights

Adam - Carly - Graham Steinhoff Christmas lights FL 12-21-2012_0252There’s a neighborhood around Gabriel Lane, just down the road from us that has been known for its holiday decorations for decades. Wife Lila wanted to walk Grandson Graham through it in his stroller like she had done with our boys.

Unfortunately, she picked the first night of the winter when we were under a Wind Chill Advisory. Temps in the low 50s don’t sound cold to you folks who experience wind chills in the negative 50 range, but this is FLORIDA.

Traffic is usually heavy in the neighborhood, so the game plan was for me to drive to a side road where Lila, Adam, Carly, Graham and all the paraphernalia a nearly-two-year-old needs would be off-loaded. When they were through walking around, I’d swing by and load up the survivors.

As it turned out, we found a parking spot close enough that we could all go. That’s when I realized that I had dressed to sit in a nice, warm car, not face Arctic blasts. It’s hard to hold your camera steady when you’re shivering.

Photo gallery of Christmas walk

I shot everything available light (available dark?). From time to time, I’d try to time my shot for when a car headlight would throw some fill onto Graham, but it generally made for an ugly effect. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the photo to move through the gallery.

We’re getting into a few days when folks are going to be busy with family activities, so I’ll probably post some light-weight topics until after the holiday. Since the Mayans didn’t get us, our family wishes your family a Merry and a Happy.