Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer in Florida

Here we are in the "Dog Days" of August again.   Just finished revamping my website ( and looking forward to making some jewelry again.  Summer is the time I get to work on the "tedious" stuff, like websites, my etsy store, photographing new works, and cleaning up the studio.  In the winter I'm too busy with teaching and custom work to do much else.  Summer in Florida is the "off " season, so art centers close and even some galleries and shops go on vacation for a month or more.  When it's in the mid 90's and high humidity you just don't want to go outside much.  Except to go to the beach.  The ocean feels like a bath tub this time of year, you can float for hours. The garden is lush and green, the moonflowers are opening by the front door at night and smell divine.  It's a kinda of sleepy time when you gather your energy and plan for the coming Fall tourist season.  (I think we are the only "civilized" tropical country that ignores "siesta" - go figure, are we workaholics?)  But it also gives me time to experiment with new materials and techniques, and maybe even build something for myself!

 My Fall classes are booked and on my website with links to locations.  I'm not teaching anywhere near the load I used to, just a few a week due to my back not being what it used to be.  But I still do individual instructions and workshops here at my home studio so if you'd like to learn silversmithing, stone cutting, enamels or any of the skills I offer in my group classes, drop me an email.  I finally got my neck surgery done 2 weeks ago and can turn my head again so it did help. Now to test it out with some serious work on the jeweler's bench!   

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Recovering and Remembering the Jersey Shore

Happy New Year!  And it's looking to be a better one than 2012, which is happily gone for good.  I haven't been posting as in early Nov. I finally had shoulder surgery - a simple arthoscopic procedure turned into a complex open shoulder surgery that left me in a sling for 6 weeks.  I'm still in therapy,  am regaining range of motion and in another week or so they will let me start lifting a one pound weight! YAY! It doesn't seem like much, but it's great to be on the upswing finally.  I taught my first class at Art Center Manatee yesterday, have a lot more classes starting up over the next 2 weeks, including Bronze Metal Clay, Beading, Kumihimo and Bronze Bead Making at three more locations - just check my website if you want to join in, all the info & signup links are there on the "Classes and Workshops" page. 

     It was a rough couple of months - I never realized how many things I do with my right hand before. First few weeks I couldn't shower, dress, brush my hair or put on makeup by myself - thank God I have a wonderful husband who saw me thru this.  It was hard to even feed myself - if you're right handed try feeding yourself left handed - it's not as easy as it sounds!  And not being able to drive for almost 2 months gave me some serious cabin fever.  It wouldn't have mattered to me at all if I could have spent that time in the studio creating, but without that outlet, it was making me crazy.  Only time I went out was to the doctor or therapy. The first 6 weeks are critical - if you throw the arm out ( like if you tripped over something) the muscle detaches from the bone again and you have to go back into surgery and start all over again - definitely NOT on my "to-do" list. The way people let their kids run wild these days, going out into public was just too scary. (Anyone else noticed that at public places like stores there are kids running up and down the aisles now with parents ignoring them? I'm not an old fogey, but c'mon people, control those monsters!)   It's still pretty sore as the therapist is working me hard 3 days a week to stretch out the scar tissue and get everything working again.  But every day now I see some progress.

     Needless to say, jewelry making stopped altogether.  I still can't hold  steady enough to draw a straight line, but it's coming along.  On the upside, I have NEVER had fingernails - I usually grind the off cutting stone or break them using them as pliers for wire - but now they are longer than I have every had in my entire life.  Even painted them bright red a few times for fun.  I look at my nails and go "Are those MY hands??"  It will be another couple of months before I can get back to silversmithing and stone cutting, and hammering is 3-6 months away yet. But the worst is over, and I found a wonderful pain management doctor that uses homeopathics as well as conventional drugs who is working on my low back and neck issues. It's going to be a bit of a haul, but I'm determined to get myself functioning better this year. I turn 60 this year, and look at that milestone as a determining point for my future - do I want to spend it as an invalid? NO WAY!  You ever see those 90 lb. 20-somethings bouncing around the gym saying " Oh, I just live to exercise!"?  I exercise to live - a whole different story.  Anyone out there who has ever had to recover from a serious orthopedic injury knows exactly what I am talking about.

    So it's a new year, and it's got to be better than 2012, which can go down in history as one of the worst.  Topping off the year was being drugged out with pain meds, turning on the computer, and seeing my hometown wiped off the map.  You know that now famous picture from Sandy of the rollercoaster in the ocean? It's about 1/2 mile south of my childhood home.   Day after day as this disaster unfolded I started hearing of old friends who had lost everything to the storm.  I finally found a picture of my street - and the house my late Dad had built right on the beach was still standing!  The houses two deep behind it had washed away, but my house was there - you could have ridden out the storm on the third floor ( where we lived, the bottom two were apartments for Dad's beach resort) and had one heck of a view.  If  Dad was still alive and up there, I know that's what he would have done, too.  Yeah, I come by it genetically, we have always been a pretty crazy adventurous bunch, going back to my ancestors who came over in the Mayflower.  Everything around it is gone, and there was water up to the second floor, but it stood, a testament to  Dad and his old buddy who designed it - an all wood house, built with 2' x 12" beams, bolted together and made to give in the wind - I remember Dad putting a huge driftwood mobile up in the living room which would swing on windy days. Scared the heck out of visitors, but we were used to Dad's crazy projects. I slept in the loft overlooking the mobile and on windy nights would get rocked to sleep.  It also had a fireplace he built that was a big copper ball - a fuel tank from some sort of rocket - hanging from chains, filled with firebrick. A tiny fire would cause the whole thing to glow and warm the whole room in the dead of NJ winters to the point we would have to open the sliding bay windows to cool it off.  Sadly, I believe the damage to the lower floors is so extensive that it will likely be torn down, but it was amazing that it withstood Sandy sitting right on the beach.  The Surf Club next door is a pile of rubble.

     There are a lot of great memories from that house, and the beach parties were legendary, some with hundreds of people showing up.  Every September the Red Cross ( Dad was a director) would throw a fundraiser, where Budweiser would set up tents with kegs on the beach.  A sign on the road onto the island touted all you could eat & drink for $5. and this would go on day and night for 2 days or until the food and beer ran out. There would be huge pit bonfires with boards running across them that drunken patrons would dance across. One old lady showed up every year, got drunk and did a strip tease on the picnic table. The huge old wood surfboards that Granddad built were used as serving tables when they weren't in the ocean with numerous kids and people piled on.  We would surf from daylight til moonlight if the waves were good, and Mom always had food waiting for us when we all dragged in. My Dad is in the Surfing Hall of Fame, there is even a Youtube video done by the Surfing Heritage Foundation interviewing him about the early days of east coast surfing.  (There is an excerpt of the hour long interview at Granddad built the first boards for Dad in the 30's and it just kinda snowballed from there into an obsession.  If it floated, we would ride waves with it - boards, mats, canoes, catamarans, lifeboats - made for some spectacular wipeouts too.  Dad built an "aquaplane" out of a piece of plywood that he would  tow behind his old WW2 Willy Jeep on the beach for us kids to ride, and thru the surf break for the older more insane sports freaks that hung out with us. Now I look back and wonder how we all survived.  One time Dad and his buddies decided to build a parasail from an old parachute - one of them had  seen a picture of one and they decided to spend a night drinking and sewing up the extra openings in a big supply chute.  Next morning they sent my brother up as s test pilot - it collapsed in a crosswind, he hit the beach, bounced up about 15 feet and dropped out like a rag doll.  Had a few frantic minutes as we waited for Mick to regain consciousness while Dad wondered if he'd killed his only son. He got a pretty good concussion but survived to try it again with a REAL parasail a few months later that some pro's showed up at the beach with that winter.  Yeah, it was great growing up at the Jersey Shore, especially with Dad and his crazy friends. Our house was party central all the time it seemed, but summers were the best. This is what is left of "The Golden Gull", the new owners changed the outside to hide the big beams and just ruined the lines of the building. There are 30ft. of piling into the sand underneath, which likely helped save it.  Before Sandy it sat right on the sand, and you could walk under it now so much beach washed away. But the Gull still stands!


The above pile of rubble is the Surf Club - or what is left of it.  You can just see the top of my house on the far right behind it. Quite a difference in construction, don't you think?
         It is the passing of an era, and I'm kinda glad Dad didn't see this destruction.  We lost 8 houses on the beachfront in the storm of '62 and thought that was bad. But Sandy was unimaginable.  I remember being 9 years old and walking thru the second floor of my house, which had washed back onto the beach intact. If you looked up, everything was normal - curtains hanging, pictures on the wall - from the windows down it looked like an eggbeater had gone thru it shredding everything. It made quite an impression on me.  But Dad rebuilt, the beach came back, and it will again - the Jersey Shore breeds some tough people.  When we lived out there in the 60's only about a dozen families stayed on the island in the winter, even the grocery store closed and the drug/department store closed everything but the pharmacy window. School meant a bus ride of over an hour to the mainland - it was pretty isolated, not like it is today.  Power outages were normal in every winter storm and Dad got his own snowplow for the front of his Bronco to clear his way to pick up his friends and bring them to our house because we had a gas stove, fireplace,  and oil furnace. There would be people camped out all over the living room for days sometimes, partying until the power came back.  It would take days for the city snowplows to reach the beach back then. I could go on for hours about all the wacky stuff we would do, from shooting the Casino Pier in canoes at night to tales of lifeguarding in Lavalette  and "hunchpunch" parties on the beach ( everyone brought a bottle, all was all poured into a big trash can and dipped out from there - some potent stuff!) but needless to say, although I left in '73 for warmer climes in Florida, the Shore will rise again!