Saturday Night Serenade–Summer Songs #7

Summer road trip, anyone?  Mr. R and I headed over to Tampa last weekend for an Indie author book convention.  The event featured Indie authors from all over the world, and was held at a party space called Chic Venue.

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It was pretty inside (okay, Mr. R called it gaudy) and as soon as we arrived, we set about putting our half of the table in order.

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I shared the table with a lovely author named Harmony Stalter.  She was super nice, and displayed two books, one of which she called a ‘second-chance romance’, and the other a murder mystery.  Which probably explains the jar with the (fake) heart and the other one filled with eyeballs.

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She later apologized for the gruesome display, but I replied that her jars probably accounted for most of the people who stopped by our table.  The event ran from noon to 6:00, and traffic was slow.  Even so, I had a wonderful time and met a lot of great writers.  I’m even making plans to return next year.

As Mr. R and I headed home, we stopped in Ybor City, my favorite part of Tampa.  It’s the historic Cuban district, and probably where we should have had the author event.  I’ll push for that for next year.

Anyway, we found street parking and strolled toward the loud live music coming from down the street.  It emanated from Gaspar’s Grotto, a place we know well.  It’s where you go when you want the absolute best Cuban sandwich you’ll find anywhere.  So with cocktails on the table and  sandwiches ordered, we relaxed to live music and reflected on our day.

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It was our summer road trip.  Which brings me to tonight’s serenade, Love Shack, the ultimate road trip song.  And it makes me wonder…  We told you about our trip.  Where have you traveled this summer?  I’d love to hear all about it.

In the meantime, hug those you love.  Happy Saturday night!

 

 

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Meet Me in Tampa!

Looking for your next great read?  Love to have fun in the sun?  Join me this Sunday, July 16, in Tampa for the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention!

I understand that about 40 Indie authors will be there, chatting with readers and signing books.  I’ll have copies of RESISTING RISK, LUKE & BELLA, and LOST & BOUND.  I’ll also have some free swag.

Admission to the event is FREE, and you can buy tickets to the VIP after party where there will be food and an OPEN BAR.  Just imagine, sipping cocktails and chatting with your favorite Indie authors.  Sounds amazing, right?

Check out the official Facebook page of the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention.  And if you’re going to be anywhere close, please stop by and say hello!

October Stories–I Just Wanted A Photo Of Hemingway’s Chair

This article is copied and pasted from a post I wrote a couple of years ago.  WordPress being what it is, I can’t schedule a reblog, so it’s got to be like this.  Thanks, WordPress. 

Anyway, this is a true story, and the photos from my Samsung Galaxy are completely unretouched.  You’re seeing what I saw.  Enjoy…


I took the folks down to Key Largo for a couple of days this past summer.  Before heading home, we drove south just to sightsee a little.  You can’t get that close and not cross the Seven Mile Bridge, right?  Mr. R. missed the trip because of work, but he recommended that we stop and check out an outdoor store in Islamorada called World Wide Sportsman (which is actually operated by Bass Pro Shops, but that’s neither here nor there).

wpid-20140713_102026.jpgAside from being a cool place to look around, as are most Bass Pro Shops, this particular store had something that interested me.  According to Mr. R. the store had a fishing boat that is the twin of the one used in the Keys by Ernest Hemingway.  Okay, it’s not his boat, but it’s one just like it.

And so it is that we stopped in at World Wide Sportsman.  We found the large shop fairly uncrowded and sure enough, the Pilar was sitting smack-dab in the center of the place.  Again, the Pilar is not Hemingway’s boat.  It just happened to be built at the same Brooklyn shipyard and is a twin of the more famous one that is supposed to be in Cuba these days.  But I was curious all the same.

Some years ago, I read an interesting novel by Michael Palin (yes, that Michael Palin, the one from Monty Python) called Hemingway’s Chair.  In the story, a mousy postal worker with a fascination for all things Hemingway learns that Papa’s fishing chair is about to be sold at auction and he schemes for ways to make the chair his own.

And so, having left the others browsing for souvenirs and trinkets, it was with curious interest that I climbed aboard the Pilar with hopes of snapping a photo of Hemingway’s chair.  And there it was.  Right on the stern of the boat.  But it was unlike any fishing chair I’d ever seen.  It was made of highly polished wood and sat low with a beam that jutted forward from the seat parallel to the deck with a footrest at the end, so that if you were in the chair, your legs would stick straight out in front of you.  As I puzzled over the unexpected style and how best to capture it with my trusty phone, a couple boarded the boat and the wife plunked herself down into the chair and began mugging for her husband’s camera.  Seriously?!

Annoyed, I took myself below deck, if only to escape the rampant dumb-assitude.  There, in the dimly lit cabin, I found something I liked even better than the fishing chair.  There was a vintage desk complete with typewriter and chair.  I know.  It’s not Hemingway’s typewriter.  But it was cool.  Plus, I thought it was the perfect illustration for one of my favorite Hemingway quotes: Write drunk.  Edit sober. 

So I snapped four pictures in fairly rapid succession.  I hurried, figuring Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum  would undoubtedly be down any second.  I had to use a flash in the murkiness of the room and I couldn’t actually see what I was getting, but I hoped that at least one photo would be good enough to post with the quote.

It was not until later when I wanted to choose the best shot that I saw something interesting.  I’ve arranged the photos in the exact order in which I took them.  In the first and second frames nothing seems out of the ordinary.  In the third you begin to see a hazy little anomaly to the left of the typewriter.  The anomaly is clearer in the fourth photo.

What is it?  I don’t know. Like I said before, I’m not really a huge believer in the whole ghostie thing.  But I’ve lived long enough to know that there are some things you simply can’t explain.

Before October is over, I’ve got another couple of weird stories for you.  Stay tuned…

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Saturday Night Serenade–Feelin’ Alright

It’s the first day of a three-day weekend. Mr. R. has taken his weekend off as well and I’m writing this post from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach where we’re watching the ponies run.

To be honest, we very nearly left. It’s crowded and overpriced and we lost $30 in the casino. But then we found the tiki bar, bought a couple of drinks, and bet on a couple of races. We won $47 on the second race, so we’re really only out the cost of our drinks. All in all, not too shabby.

Now we’re on our way back to Palm Beach County and the South Florida Fair. And you know what? I’m feeling alright.

So sit back and enjoy a little Joe Cocker. And have a happy Saturday night!

I Am So Not Obsessed

This post was originally published back in August, shortly after Mr. R. and I returned from our adventure at Tampa Bay Comic Con.  To say that we had a blast is an understatement.  We pre-purchased three-day passes to the convention, but having media passes was the cherry on top.  The distinctive lanyards afforded us easy access to celebrity events for which we would otherwise have spent hours waiting on line.  The celebrity photos would have been off-limits without our having purchased a very expensive photo package.

You may be wondering why I’m choosing to repost this article now.  On the second day of the convention, Mr. R. and I used our media passes to get early admission to and preferred seating at the only Q&A session featuring both Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones.

So in honor of the Game of Thrones Season 5 Premiere Eve, I present to you:

Tampa Bay Comic Con: Day 2 (At Last)

Tampa-Bay-Comic-ConThere was so much that happened on Day 2 of Tampa Bay Comic Con, I’ve had trouble deciding how to organize the information.  I’ve decided to create sections with headings.  Celebrity photos are at the end of this post.  Here goes…

General Observations: On Saturday, as we waited in line to park (and an exceedingly long line it was), we watched herds of people moving along the sidewalks towards the convention center.  Many were in costume and everyone moved with purpose and confidence.  My thought was, “I love Comic Con.”  This is a place where everyone can unapologetically proclaim their fandom for whatever floats their boat.  It’s extremely liberating.  Speaking of costumes, before we left home I read about San Diego Comic Con on someone’s blog, and she described attending in costume as a cross between the most humiliating moment of your life and your fifteen minutes of fame.  As we watched crowd reactions to costumes, I could see that comparison.  Random strangers stopped costumed attendees to ask for pictures.  “Hey, Wolverine, can my son get a picture with you?”  In terms of costume categories we saw plenty of Poison Ivys, Batman characters in general, some Star Wars, Dr. Who, a couple of Oberyn Martells, and not as many Game of Thrones characters as I expected.

Things That Were Annoying: If you don’t want to hear me bitch and moan, skip this section, because although overall we had an amazing time, there were a few things that were very wrong at Tampa Bay Comic Con.

First of all, parking was problematic, which shouldn’t be surprising given the number of people in attendance, however, we prepaid $61 to Parking Panda for guaranteed valet parking a short walk from the venue.  When we arrived on Friday, the parking garage was full so we were sent to another parking garage a short distance further down and we had to self-park.  On Saturday, the line going to the valets was blocking traffic, so once again we were sent to the other garage to self-park.  We arrived on Sunday, truck loaded with our bags for the return trip home, prepared to self-park and just as glad about it at that point.  But since the crowds were much thinner, we actually made it to the valet who informed us that if we chose to park ourselves, we’d probably be charged $20 when we left.  Unwillingly, we let him park us.  It seems petty, I suppose, because we always did have a space to park, but the whole situation really chapped my behind.

Then there was the heavy handed way convention staff treated guests.  Entering and moving around the complex was unbelievably complicated.  You could never get where you wanted to go from where you were.  Someone was always yelling at you that you were going the wrong way, out the entrance or in the exit.  Or you had a wristband for re-entry, but there was ONE re-entry door in the entire complex.  One of the most infuriating rules was that from where you entered the building, you had to press through the crush of the exhibit hall in order to go to the other end of the complex, rather than use the empty walkway immediately outside the exhibit hall, and again, the traffic flow was one way only.  We heard the word “flow” a lot as we (read, Mr. R.) expressed displeasure with being treated like errant school children.  They really could do better.

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The “flow” through the exhibition hall.

Food and drinks were difficult to find and the facility had precious few places to sit.  At any given time, there were masses of people sitting on the floor in odd places like beneath the escalators and along the walls, hunched over slices of pizza or cardboard holders of nachos.  I nearly crushed countless smartphones that were plugged in and sitting on the floor next to their owners.  I kept thinking, this is a convention center.  Conventions are what they do.  Do you suppose Rotarians have to sit on the floor under the escalators?  Now, I’ve gotten that out of the way…

Interesting Folks: Luckily, Mr. R. and I were able to snag a table about forty-five  minutes before we went to the first Q&A panel.  We had two extra chairs and were happy to share with people looking for a place park their weary behinds.  The first to ask were Holly Moran and Jeremy Druley, a local couple in subtle gothic dress on their first visit to Comic Con.  She wore a top with a pattern of rainbow skulls, accessorized with a bat pendant.  He wore a cannibal t-shirt and silver anchor ear gauges.  They told us they were just checking it out and people watching, being fans of horror more than comics, but they said they were having fun.

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Ned Stark (Ed Padilla) & Daenerys Targaryen (Danielle Myers)

After Holly and Jeremy left, we were joined by Ed Padilla and Danielle Myers, dressed as Ned Stark and Daenerys Targaryen, respectively.  I was glad to see them since up until then I has seen very few Game of Thrones costumes.  This was their second Comic Con and they offered some interesting information.  It seems that last year, organizers expected ten thousand attendees and ended up with thirty thousand.  I’m thinking that poor planning on their part resulted in big fines, which perhaps explains their inflexible rules regarding “flow.”

Did I Mention Celebrities?: Let me just begin this section by saying that press passes rock.  This is because they can get you into unbelievable places.  Case in point, celebrity photo ops.  The average attendee was invited to purchase photo op tickets for $30-$50 dollars apiece, depending on the celebrity, then at the appointed time wait in a huge line to have a picture snapped with said celebrity, and take home a personalized souvenir of the event.  Press passes allowed us to bypass the line completely and walk right into photo sessions with Evan Peters of American Horror Story and Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kennedy of The Walking Dead.

We didn’t want photos with the actors, we just wanted to see them, and we did, up close and personal.  I practically bumped into Brighton Sharbino.  It was amazingly cool.  Mr. R. tooks photos of people taking photos while I took copious notes.

Later we attended two back to back Q&A panels, the first with Evan Peters and the second with Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones.  With the press passes, we once again avoided the long lines and were ushered into the VIP section, literally the second row in front of the stage.  We could have chosen the front row if we’d liked but I preferred the end of the second row for the angle it afforded.  Ultimately, I sat taking notes while Mr. R. moved freely around the stage snapping photos.

Evan Peters answered fan questions for half an hour, gamely responding to questions he’s undoubtedly heard a thousand times, at one point even dropping trou in answer to the predictable question of ‘boxers or briefs’ (for the record, pastel plaid boxers).  Mind you, his parents were in the audience, directly in front of Mr. R. and me, making this particular follow-up request from a young fan-girl even more inappropriate than it would have been under any circumstance: “Thank you.  Also please sit on my face.”  Obviously, Peters is promoting the new season of American Horror Story: Carnival, due out in October.  I, for one, am looking forward to the premiere.

After this session, the room had to be emptied out to accommodate the long lines waiting to get into the Pedro Pascal/Richard Madden panel, but if you had a press pass you were allowed to sit tight and wait.  So wait we did.  When they finally opened the doors, it was to admonitions of, “Don’t run!  Don’t run!”  They seemed to be letting fans into the ballroom a few small groups at a time and eventually the entire room filled.  The crowd went crazy when Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal were announced and they strode out onto the stage, and there were hearty shouts of “King in the North!” throughout the hall.  I have to admit to being a bit starstruck for a few moments, even writing in my notes that I was having trouble focusing.

Allow me a bit of snark, if you will.  When the questions began, the first one up was an annoying blogger (also with a press pass) who sat in front of us and during the previous session, she really buddied up to Evan Peters’ mom, simpering and acting like a big shot journalist.  So little Miss Annoying steps up the the mic and welcomes Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden to “our country.”  Mind you, Pascal was raised in California and Texas.  A serious journalist should do a little research.  The two men simply looked at each other and shrugged.

Pascal and Madden also answered questions with good natured enthusiasm.  They said they hadn’t met before that day, and at first I thought they were kidding.  It’s true that they never shared any scenes.  Pascal was in the process of auditioning for the role of Oberyn Martell when the “Red Wedding” episode aired.  Not having read the books, Pascal described his reaction as, “Just.  Fucking.  Traumatized.”

Some of the most interesting moments of the panel came when the two men conversed between themselves.

RM: Did you ever sit on the iron throne?

PP: Yeah. (smiling)  It wasn’t comfortable.  It was very uncomfortable.

RM: I never thought I should.

PP: And look where it got you.

Another conversation stemming from a question about whether they’d kept anything from the set:

RM: I kept a dressing gown and I kept one map piece representing each family.

PP: They wouldn’t let me have anything.

RM: I suppose I sort of stole them. (laughing)

PP: I was stupid.  I asked. (shrugging and grinning)

Up next for Richard Madden is the role of the Prince in Disney’s Cinderella.  Pedro Pascal is working on a series for Netflix called Narcos, about the takedown of Pablo Escobar.  I can truthfully say that sitting in on these sessions was the coolest thing I’ve probably ever done.  I can’t wait to do it again.

So, overall, my impression of Tampa Bay Comic Con?  Despite the militant rules and regulations, I had a great time.  Having tickets for all three days eliminated the pressure I’d have felt to ‘see it all’ the first day.  Having press passes made for the coolest moments, and I don’t think I’d want to go without them.  I would definitely go again, hoping that the convention organizers will spend the year getting their act together to make for a more pleasant experience.

*Note: With the exception of the postcard at the top of the page, all photos are by Mr. R.

Saturday Night Serenade–Once Upon A Date Night

Right here at the beginning of this post I want to issue a massive spoiler alert.  I’m going to reveal a delicious surprise that you might not want to see.

wpid-img_20140404_194536.jpgAbout a year ago, Mr. R. and I attended a performance of the touring company of Broadway’s American Idiot.  For the uninformed, American Idiot is the Broadway musical adapted from Green Day’s brilliant album of the same name.  If you’ve never listened to the album in its entirety from beginning to end the way it was meant to be heard, drop what you’re doing and listen to it right now.  No seriously.

We made the journey to Ft. Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts for the show.  As we sat in our balcony seats waiting for the show to start, we overheard a hysterical conversation.  A couple of septuagenarians who were season ticket holders were a few rows behind us and they chatted in a friendly way with a young man seated next to them.

“What is this show? Some of our friends told us they walked out of the performance last night,” the woman said.

American Idiot is sort of this generation’s Hair,” the young man explained.  “The songs are from the band Green Day.”

“Green Tree?” the older man said.

“Green Day.  The band is called Green Day,” the younger man said.

“Are any of their songs in the show?” the woman asked.  By this time, Mr. R. and I were snickering.

“All of the songs in this show are by Green Day,” he patiently explained.

“Oh, I think we’re going to like this,” the woman said confidently.

To their credit, the couple was there until the end.  We loved the show and highly recommend seeing it when you have the chance.  Be forewarned, it’s not for the easily offended, but if you’re a Green Day fan it’s an absolute must-see.  And for the spoiler…

At the very end of the show we were treated to something completely unexpected.  The entire cast came out, each with an acoustic guitar, and they played Good Riddance.  With twenty guitars and vocal harmony, it was an experience that still gives me goose bumps.  This video is from the final show on Broadway and features Billie Joe Armstrong.  It’s a bootleg video and the quality isn’t all that, but you’ll get the idea.

So, goosebumps, from me to you.  Happy Saturday Night!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I love St. Patrick’s Day.  I love the wearin’ of the green.  I love to spend part of St. Patrick’s Day in an Irish pub listening to Irish music.  Last year, Mr. R. and I were in one of our favorite places, Ybor City, the old historic Cuban district of Tampa.

I know what you’re thinking.  Spending this, the most Irish of holidays, in the Cuban district of Tampa?  To which I would say, yes.  There’s the nicest bar there called the James Joyce Irish Pub where Mr. R. and I snagged a table and were there for about six hours, no exaggeration.  The atmosphere was friendly, the food outstanding, and well, the tiny little green shots, of which I had several, did not suck.  They had live music the entire time we were there and while I cannot recall the name of the band, they were terrific.

I love Irish bands.  I’m a huge fan of Dropkick Murphys, and I know, technically, they’re from Boston and not Ireland, however, they play great Irish punk.  Another of my all-time favorite jig-punk bands is The Prodigals.  I first saw them when they came to Irish Fest in West Palm Beach and after that, I made sure we saw them every year.  I even scheduled our March wedding around Irish Fest, but alas, they no longer make their annual appearance.

I did, however, have the amazing opportunity to see them play at their home pub, Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar on the lower east side of Manhattan.  If they’re in town, they play late Friday nights, 11:00 or later.  Paddy’s is a tiny hole in the wall pub on 2nd Ave. and 29th, and it’s everything you’d expect to see in an Irish pub.  It’s narrow with a big bar down the left side and narrow seating on the right side.  Just past the bar is a tiny stage and beyond that is a back room with billiards.  And when The Prodigals play there, they don’t turn down the sound just because it’s a small room.

I’m including this video of The Prodigal’s Open Reel.  It’s long, nearly eleven minutes, and the drum solo at the beginning is exceedingly long, but if you hang in there, it will be worthwhile.

And so I give you this little Valentine to St. Patrick’s Day.  Yes, I’m mixing my February and March holidays.  So sue me.

And when I see some of you little buggers limping…I’ll know.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!