FLEDGLING LOVE: a short story

FLEDGLING LOVE: a short story

Crowds for Steeplechase

Crowds for Steeplechase Oil-on-Aluminum 12×24″ by Ingis Claus

Undertow rush of wave

Undertow rush of wave

Breathless, Emma dragged her disheveled self from the water’s edge. Her hair dripped sand into her eyes. She clawed herself away from the drag of the next wave that crashed on the rocks. It broke into softer splashes over her. She stared into the water’s foam and listened to the sounds of waves crashing and colliding near her. She stood. She shook. The wind whipped at her wet and sandy body and wrapped around her like a blanket. She couldn’t get her mind out of those eerie waves that pushed her down, down, down. She lifted her head up to whoever would listen. Her voice, a scream, filled the night air. She gritted her teeth, sandy enough to file them down . . . and gagged. Her tears mixed with the salty water. “Never again, she cried out, “The Ocean is not my friend.”

Steeplechase Park Entry

Steeplechase Park Entry

“Emma, Emma.”

Voices carried with the winds of the night air. “Emma, come on, come here, come join us.”

Emma turned to the voices.

“Where are you?” She did not dare rub her eyes. She could not tear herself from the blurred vision, silhouettes against the moonlit, yet dark sky. It looked like two figures of disputable character. They shouted to her.

Steeplechase pony ride

Steeplechase pony ride

She swallowed, “Please,” she said in a timorous voice, “I can’t see you. Wave.” She squinted, but the darkness shrouded the figures, what did she see?

She walked toward the sound of the shouts. “Maybe I should run?”

Coney-Island-Elephant HotelIn the distance she could hear the trumpet of the elephants. She could see the tower, the elephant hotel. The sand, cold and damp, tickled her toes, and hampered her run. But run she did, when an arm came out of nowhere and grabbed her hair. He turned her around, threw her down, and took her mouth in a searing kiss. She struggled to no avail.

Coney Island is not known for high waves, but this evening, the smell of storms permeated Emma’s nostrils. The ocean waves, big enough to drown, headed this way.

“You dimwitted girl, were you swimming tonight?”

She stared into Wil’s face. A friend? She lifted her hand and ran her fingernails down his cheek. Blood oozed out of the long red scratch. The sticky stuff dripped into his mouth.

“Ouch, damn, why’d you do that?”

“I just came out of the water after almost drowning, and you scared me half to death.”

“You didn’t have to get violent.”

“Violent? Me? What do you mean? And what was that, a kiss? Go into the water and wash your face. There’s blood all over the place.”

“Look Emma,” Wil lowered his head, blood dripping into the sand at his feet, ran his hand through his hair, his dark eyes widened, “I’m sorry. I did not mean to scare you.”

Emma, now shivering from the cold, said, “Go wash your face, then we’ll talk about this idiocy.”

Bobby, a friend in the crowd they hang with, stood by watching all this said, “Emma you are cruel. Wil won’t ever do anything to hurt you. He loves you.”

“You’re crazy as he is Bobby. Never play a game in the dark like that, I couldn’t tell who you were, and where your voices were coming from.”

“Hog wash, Emma. Who else would it have been calling you? The gang were all waiting for us, we didn’t know where you were, but then we saw you come out of the water, and called to you.”

“You go tell everyone we’re coming. I’ll wait for Wil.”

Now Wil was trudging through the sand, his head hanging. He became more and more interested in Emma and couldn’t resist teasing her. The scratch on his face gave him the thrill of her touch. He’ll treasure the mark forever. It was a simple flirtation, this roll in the sand. After all no great harm had been done. He hoped Emma would forgive him. He’s saved up all the money his Uncle Henry and Aunt Lucy had sent him for his birthday in January, so that he could take Emma out to Steeplechase Park, that new playground. Even buy her a Valentine’s Day present. Some chocolates in fact. Maybe something more.

“Well, you sure took your time. What were you doing, drinking up the ocean?”

He looked at Emma, who stood in place with a grin on her face. “Emma, are you still mad? Don’t be mad, please.”

“No, I’m not mad anymore. I hear all the laughing from the Steeplechase, let’s go Wil, just never scare me like that again.

He offered her his arm, she tucked her arm into his, and off they went getting the sand between their toes as they walked the beach to the Steeplechase pony ride to join the gang.



abcbe26bf3ea48e94a7326b5f24ca723 bachata_danceBachata musicians and dancers have overcome many struggles over the course of the genre’s often overlooked history.

Dance, all kinds, always fun, challenging and curious. Where did it all come from? All the dances have history, but I was curious recently, when I was asked if I knew the Bachata. I asked, “What is that?” It’s a rhythm dance. Born in the Dominican Republic, where the music also was born, it has a history that’s rich and stretches back to the beginning of the 20th century. Upper-class Dominicans looked down upon Bachata as a style that was considered too backwoods and low class, holding back its popularity.

marin-bachata-lessonIn  the Dominican Republic, censorship was rampant under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Bachata music remained in the closet. In 1961, after Trujillo was assassinated, music loosened up but Bachata remained in the Dominican society until the 1980s when it began to move into other countries as a beautiful, sensual rhythm dance. It has become popular in ballroom dancing. I began embracing ballroom dancing in the last year, where, last week, I learned about Bachata. There are many more dances to learn, dances that I didn’t even dream existed, like the Salsa and the Hustle.1347907244.jpg

It was in the 1980s when Bachata really began to take off as a popular dance and music style. The music began to appear on the radio and eventually even on television, and parts of the upper class that had looked down on Bachata began to accept it as a positive aspect of Dominican culture.

bachata1Bachata continued its growth into the 1990s and 2000s, and today is one of the most popular and still fastest growing Latin styles. Bachata has emerged successfully! What fun to dance to its music.


So you want to dance?



Early Sarasota families: Browning and Whitaker

Browning and Whitaker early families

Stuffed with people and culture today, I can’t imagine Sarasota, Florida, once was a small fishing village with only a few hundred people at the turn of the 20th century. Charles N. Thompson was the manager of Ringling Brothers Circus in the 1890s. He checked out the village and bought a 154 acre track for $1650, then later added 30 acres more. Dresses for dancing cost that much today. Hard to imagine all that land then for the price of one dress now. Sounds like a fairytale.

Ringling Museum of Art

Ringling Museum of Art

Thompson had heard stories from his friend, H.C. Butler, about how wonderful Sarasota was. Butler had built a winter home there 1891. Thompson said that he was interested and would visit the area during the circus winter season. In the winter of 1895, Thompson and his wife traveled to Tampa. They wanted to see what their friend was talking about. Thompson rented a boat and left Tampa Bay for Sarasota Bay. He docked at the Butler dock and stayed with the Butlers while looking the area over.J6_museum

Walkway at Ringlings Art Museum

Walkway at Ringling’s Art Museum

The following winter, Thompson and his wife came to Sarasota and began to build their home. The home would later become a showplace for the Sarasota area. Thompson would talk about his winter home throughout the circus world.J5_museum


Ringling Museum

Being friends with the Ringling Brothers, he would boast of his home in Sarasota.



Another friend joined Thompson in convincing the Ringling Brothers to come to Sarasota. Ralph Caples, Agent for the New York Central Railroad, also owned land in Sarasota. On November 3, 1911, Caples bought the Thompson home and some additional land.museum-30

Bronze sculpture, bull and person tied on top

Bronze bull sculpture (can you see the figure on top of the bull?)

Caples sold the Thompson estate less than three months later to John Ringling. After selling his home, Thompson built a second home next to it. He sold other sections of his land to Charles Ringling in 1915. Ultimately he sold the site of his second home to Charles Ringling so that he could build a home for his daughter, Hester Ringling Sanford.

Ringling's fountain

Ringling’s fountain

Thompson continued to develop his interests in Sarasota until his death in 1918. Although not as well known today as the Ringlings and Caples, Thompson played a pivotal role in the development of early Sarasota.

Sarasota Bay today

Sarasota Bay today




The grounds of the Ringling museum are beautiful, as you can see in the photos above. The museum is filled with 16th century to 21st century art.

There doesn’t appear to be a picture anywhere of the Thompson Home. Ringling has hundreds of photos of  his architecture and collections. T

Mark D. Smith, Archivist
Sarasota History Center

Thank you to Mark D. Smith for much of this information. Sarasota has the reputation of being a top cultural center in Florida. Have you been to Sarasota?



Casa Monica twin towers

Casa Monica twin towers

The Casa Monica Hotel, its history and culture flaunts the visitor to St. Augustine, Florida, where the city is celebrating the past 450 years. The Spanish founded it in 1513, but by1564 the French took over, only to step back in1565 when the Spanish arrived again. They conquered the French garrison on the St. Johns River and held the coast of Florida. The garrison remains, and you are welcome to walk on the grounds of those that came before.

Horse & buggy ride popular

Popular are the horse & buggy rides

The architecture of the Casa Monica, built in 1888, and very much part of the history of this city, was the best of Moorish and Spanish designs. Built to serve as a hotel, it opened January 17, 1888. Franklin W. Smith, amateur architect and entrepreneur developed the poured coquina (shell aggregate) concrete and built the Casa Monica in a layered type of construction.

Ambience of the dining areas

Ambiance of the dining areas

According to my research, what makes this work of architecture interesting is that the material was first used to build forts in St. Augustine in the 16th century. The coquina is made of ancient shells bonded together to form a type of stone similar to limestone. The idea was that because it was a soft material, cannon balls would sink into it, rather than crash through it. I have to wonder about that philosophy, but that’s what I found when researching this material.

Guest room

Guest room

The hotel is recognized as one of the most impressive public architectural complexes of the late nineteenth century of American history.

Street view

Street view

Located on the corner of Cordova and King Streets, Casa Monica is a U-shaped building with five towers, some battlemented, some with hip roofs, where all sides slope gently downwards to the walls. The large corner tower boasts a superb exterior spiral column. There are small hotel shops at street level on King Street.

casa_monica_2013_35When it was built in 1888, balconies were numerous, some with turned spindle posts and small balconets, which in Seville were called Kneeling Balconies, allowing the faithful to kneel during religious processions.

IMG_2664 (3)Tiles, imported from Valencia, Spain, were set in panels in some of the exterior walls. Inside, on the first floor, many rooms were arranged for the pleasure of the guests; sun parlor, drawing room, ladies waiting room, main dining room and private dining rooms. IMG_2637 (8)Three hundred guests could be seated at one time. There were 200 rooms, gas lighting, steam heat and electric bells to call for service and one bath on each floor. Metal rings were attached to the walls under the windows and tied to a rope long enough to reach the ground in case of fire.

Typical fashions

Typical fashions

Casa Monica has gone through growing pains in its 128 years. By 1900 the hotel was converted into an apartment building; in the 1920’s, it served as a low budget hotel. And in 1932, the depression forced its closing and it was idle for thirty years.

Casa-Monica-Hotel-St-Augustine-FL-Nights-of-LightsIn 1962, it was used as a courthouse; by 1997, it was sold to Richard C. Kessler and then restored. Today, Casa Monica is an elegant, upscale luxury hotel, and is included in Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The building has kept its architectural and interior Moorish character. The interior is flanked with mahogany columns, Moorish arched doorways, stenciled beams and wall sconces. The furnishings, gleaming chandelier, fountain and numerous palms and ferns give it that Victorian ambiance.

Casa Monica is listed on the National Register of Historic places and recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award.

Fort photos

Fort photos

florida+st+augustine+sp+fort matanzas_cannon_5x3 st_augustine_fort_8 st-augustine-fort

Services in the Casa Monica are exemplary, including the bellmen and parking garage attendants. Thank you goes to  Kayley at check-in and to Holly and Tarrah at check-out. A special thanks to the Assistant Front Office Manager, Matthew.

Our room had strange sounds. Imagine? But I slept well. It wasn’t until the morning . . . when at the bar . . . I met Mr. Parrish . . .

Tune in for more next week . . .



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