We had a long day that involved lots of swimming and lots of driving. We can’t wait to bring you the full story next week.
We decided to take a spur-of-the-moment trip Saturday to check off one of our Florida “must-see” sites, the mermaids at Weeki Wachee State Park. The mermaids perform shows 16-20 feet below the surface of the natural spring to an audience in a theater behind large windows looking out on the underwater world. The amazing underwater performances are set to music with interludes as the mermaids tell us all about their world, somehow talking underwater so we can hear them. We have a feeling that the dialogue might be pre-recorded and the mermaids are just lip-syncing, but that’s just a guess.
We should probably give you a little history of the legendary tourist stop in southwest Florida. Weeki Wachee is a Seminole Indian phrase the means “little spring.” The name in itself is a bit of a misnomer; the surface of the spring may be only a little more than an acre or two but the true depth of the spring is unknown. You’d have trouble reaching the bottom even if you’re an experienced diver since the current coming up from the bottom is pretty swift. 117 million gallons of water bubble up to the surface each day.
The mermaid show was the brainchild of former Navy Frogman Newt Perry. He built an 18-seat theater six feet below the waterline and taught some beautiful and pretty athletic girls how to breathe through free-flowing air hoses supplying oxygen from an air compressor. It created the appearance that they lived underwater. The first show was on October 13, 1947, a day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids sometimes had to be sirens, standing along the less-traveled US 19 in their bathing suits to lure the audience in and then diving into the spring to perform.
In 1959 the spring was purchased by the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) which built the current theater. It seats 400 and is embedded in the side of the spring 20 feet below the surface. ABC was responsible for making the shows more elaborate, having mermaids do whole shows like an Underwater Circus, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz.
The tradition continues to this day even though the spring and show are owned by the State Park System of Florida. During our visit, they were preparing to perform the most appropriate of all stories for the setting, The Little Mermaid.
Our trip to the former roadside attraction and now state park was magical. We gained a new respect for the athleticism of the mermaids. We also enjoyed this nostalgic look at a wholesome form of entertainment that brings wonder and smiles to all ages.
We know a lot has been going on in the news during the past several weeks and it’s been hard to keep up. One of the many headlines is the more than 100 fires burning in Australia, scorching 12 million acres. To put that in perspective, the Amazon fires that were huge news earlier in the year burned just over 2 million acres and the California wildfires burned 250,000 acres. These Australian fires are absolutely massive.
A big contributing factor to the blazes is the extremely high temperatures in combination with dry conditions and strong winds. The death toll is currently at 19 with dozens missing and over 1,400 homes destroyed. The images of some seaside residents taking refuge on the beaches and being rescued by the Australian navy as their homes and businesses are destroyed have a truly apocalyptic look.
It is estimated that since the outbreak started in September at least 480 million animals, including some of the most iconic species in Australia, have been killed by the inferno. The koala population in New South Wales alone is estimated to have lost over 8,000 members or 30% of the species of slow-moving, tree-dwelling marsupials.
The images of these lovable animals and other wildlife suffering are heartbreaking. The following links are to organizations helping these creatures. If you’re able, please help their efforts with a donation.
Well, a lot has happened in the past year. We left Pittsburgh for the warmer weather of Tampa, Florida, but not before being extras in a film about Mr. Rogers. Amanda finally became manager and with that took on the task of whipping her own social media team into shape. We found our literal dreamboat but had to give up on the purchase of the 40′ sailboat when we realized it would not fit under the bridges in upper Tampa Bay. I even made a career change, something I promised to expand on that in an earlier post, so here we go.
We moved to Tampa knowing I didn’t have a job lined up and that we’d be okay on Amanda’s salary. I put my skills out on the freelance market but wasn’t making any headway. I never considered myself unemployed since my writing was bringing in a little money but the frustration of constantly applying for jobs and not hearing back or getting a letter telling me that they decided to pick another candidate, even when I was more than qualified, was disheartening. As the school year began, I decided substitute teaching might be a good option to make some money until landing a “real” job. The work of a sub is tough, I knew that going in. Even so, I still nearly walked off the job at one school due to the frightening number of disciplinary problems. The money wasn’t great, either. I eventually found the schools that worked for me and settled into a grove. I came across a long-term assignment to teach computer science and almost didn’t take it. I’m not a computer science major and I don’t have any real expertise in the field. I decided to call the school and ask them about the class and what they were teaching to help me prepare for the assignment. The funny thing was the apologetic tone in the department’s head voice when he said, “I’m sorry. It’s not all computer science. You’ll also have two classes of TV Production.”
I don’t remember my exact words but the feeling was HOLY CRAP! WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO? I explained that I spent my career in TV News and video production and was now really excited about the job. I took over the classroom of a teacher who decided to leave after the first semester and did not leave me much to go on. I was playing catchup the moment the bell rang on my first day. I was planning lessons for each class a period ahead of time in some cases. The strangest thing happened: I didn’t want to run away. Even better, before the first week was over that the department head and the assistant principal both told me they wanted me to stay and asked if they could start the paperwork to bring me on full time.
It wasn’t like they could wave a wand and “poof” make me a certified teacher. I had to do some serious work, too. I had to take a state exam for Business Education to get my temporary certificate. The test was hard. I studied and studied and studied… and passed. I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I’d be teaching business, but here I am, in Florida, teaching computer science, TV Production, and digital information technology for the business department in a high school. I’ve got a lot of other hoops to jump through to make my certificate more permanent but I’m well on my way.
What a year it’s been. I had considered teaching very early in my career but that was decades ago and far from my mind. I guess that goes to show you that even when things get so frustrating you just want to give up, they can occasionally turn out okay — even if it’s not what you expected.
We are both under the weather and we still need to hit the road to head home for the holiday. So, life is a struggle at the moment. You can at least see Storm is prepared to hit the road in her new camper all decorated for the holidays. We wish you all the best in the new year.
It was bound to happen once we settled in here in Tampa and hockey season started. We took this Saturday night and spent it at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. Don’t worry; we didn’t convert to being Lightning fans, the Caps were in town. The arena isn’t new but doesn’t seem to be showing its 25 years. The brightly lit building and very clean interior make it look like something built in the last couple of years. Walking from the car to an arena to watch a hockey game and *not* freezing is a big plus, too.
We were also amazed at all the Capitals fans wearing their red jerseys. We arrived early so Amanda could stand next to the glass and watch warm-ups up close. She realized that was the closest she’d ever been to the players.
The game was pretty great and the fan experience was pretty good, too. The fans were excellent. We’ve been at several different hockey venues and never been with a more polite audience. We didn’t even have a wildly drunk person in our section, a first. We could hear the fans around us making comments about the game and they seemed to be a mix of old-time hockey fans, newbies, and parents trying to explain the rules to their kids. The Capitals managed to win by a few goals and regardless of the disappointment for the hometown fans as we left the arena we got a few “good games” and high fives from Tampa fans.
I only had one real complaint. The food was expensive. A burger, hotdog, two sides of potato wedges, and two non-alcoholic drinks cost about $50. I understand that arena prices tend to be high but that felt excessive. We’d suggest eating a big meal before you go and purchase a drink only if you have to.