Naples When It Was

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Many of us who grew up in Naples, Florida back in the mid- to late-1960s are still in daily contact and we have a lot of laughs. There was something unique about that out-of-the-way spot way down the left side of Florida. It was a strange mix: locals who lived there for the fishing or hunting or because they’d inherited a place jumbled together with the fabulously wealthy. Add in a few drug runners and such for spice.

Through the years, Naples has grown and the average income has risen. In our day, we teens had to make up ways to have fun and we had a blast!

I visited Naples for a high-school reunion a couple of years ago and it was a great week. We resurrected a variant of the high-school bands we had been in and played a few sets at the reunion dinner. During the days, we’d drive around and marvel at how much the town had changed, but also at how much was still recognizable if you knew where to look.

Earlier this year, I finished writing a fun mystery novel set in the Naples of those days, entitled Blood on a Sugar-Sand Beach. It’s on Amazon Kindle if you feel like taking a look.

One day, some astute filmmaker will create a film about that town in that era; it should be something like American Graffiti meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, with a bit of M.A.S.H. thrown in to snaz up the dialog. There are a million zany stories and many of them are almost 100% true!

Where are George Lucas and Steven Spielberg when you really need them?!?!?!

What Walks Down Stairs, Alone Or In Pairs, And Makes A Slinkity Sound?

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No, the answer is not Steely Dan, but the steely Slinky toy! Invented by an Naval engineer (by accident) at a Philly shipyard in 1943, it has become an icon over the years. Originally sold for a buck, it now goes for $5.95 or so on Amazon.com. The inventor sold 100 million of the things in the first two years after he finally got toy stores to carry them. Here’s a Popular Science article from 1945:

A Slinky consists of 98 coils of high-grade Swedish spring steel and is 2-1/2 inches high. In Viet Nam, the Army used them as emergency antennas for their short-wave radios. They are the official state toy of Pennsylvania, and they are alluded to in a lot of books and movies. My favorite reference, of course, is this one from the second Ghostbusters movie, where Egon describes his strange childhood:

Dr. Ray Stantz: “You mean you never even had a Slinky?
Dr. Egon Spengler: “We had part of a Slinky. But I straightened it.”

NASA has had fun fiddling with Slinkys in space, where they have strange properties unknown to us on this planet. Because a high-frequency sound wave travels faster than a low-frequency one, a Slinky makes a cool swooshy/boingy sound if you hold it vertically and hit the bottom end with a drumstick; the sound is so unusual that avant-garde composer John Cage used it in a 1959 symphony called Sounds of Venice. And I’ve heard a foley artist used a Slinky to make that laser-blaster sound in Star Wars.

Here’s an ad for the Slinky from a 1953 Abbott and Costello comic book; it appears to have been drawn by the artist who did the Dubble-Bubble chewing-gum ads:

The Peppers Were Hung By The Window With Care . . .

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My pepper saga continues as I look for ways to use up these darned things. Today’s experiment takes the form of me threading some peppers on thin cotton twine and hanging them above the kitchen window.

Will they dry nicely and become a tasty addition to my food over the coming months? What do I look like to you; the Answer Man? I have no idea. Patty will probably fling the entire string into the trash as soon as she gets home, but for now they look attractive and even festive. I sense some resentment on their part, but peppers are known for their cranky temperament and I refuse to let their attitudes get to me.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, my crop is composed of ampuis, cowhorn, cherry, and Anaheim peppers; they aren’t hot peppers but spicy.

Stay tuned!

Oh, Duncan, You Crazy Nut!

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I am usually happy to ignore those teaser news thingies that float above my mailbox on AOL, but today one led me to look into the history of Duncan Hines; the man, not the cake mix.

Hines was a printing salesman who had eaten in nearly every state in the Union, and in 1935 he and his wife wrote the first popular guide to restaurants in America, Adventures in Good Eating, which is still in print. He later sold his name and the rights to his book to a flour company, and their baking goods are what most folks think of when they hear his name.

I found a great blog that covers his restaurant reviews in detail and visits the places still existing that he reviewed: http://www.adventuresingoodeating.org/

He favorably reviewed Colonel Harland Sanders’ place in Corbin, Kentucky in 1939 and that led to the Kentucky Fried Chicken empire. Not all of his reviews were kind; here’s one from the above-mentioned blog that’s snarky in a charming way:

If the soup was as warm as the wine, if the wine was as old as the turkey, if the turkey had breasts like the maid, it would have been a fine dinner.”

That Elusive Popeye . . .

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I hate to brag, but I must get this off my chest: While I should have been paying attention to what was going on around me, I finally succeeded in drawing a picture of Popeye that actually looks (somewhat) like him. Crazed with success, I then added Olive Oyl and Wimpy. I was able to draw a creditable Dick Tracy in the first grade, and have a dated colored-pencil rendering from then to prove it, but Popeye has always been beyond my ability. Until now.

Those with a critical eye can probably detect the painstaking wobbliness of my linework and the hesitant feel of the effort, but I still am proud. The fact that I forgot to draw his arms doesn’t detract from the achievement, I hope.

Ocean City Storm

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My wife, Patty, is a talented photographer. She took this photo from the balcony of the condo where she, my daughter and granddaughters were staying in Ocean City, Maryland, the last week of August.

Patty just corrected me; I thought that she took this photo with her Nikon DSLR, but she took it with her iPhone. Even more impressive.

The photo shows a storm coming from the south; the colors just knock me out. Double click to view the image full-size and see if you don’t agree!

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