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For Whom the Tolls Ka-ching? Panhandlers; Arden Courts Talk; Really, a Duel? A Tragedy

Okay, so we were driving The Bus with Honda CR-V in tow through downtown Tampa on Sunday, and as we departed the Hillsborough Expressway, I saw in horror the sign that read, “Toll; Violators subject to $100 fine”. But there was no toll booth, only sets of electronic toll machines and huge cameras, obviously clicking away to catch those criminals who flout the law! I worried that I’d be hauled away in handcuffs on the spot, with my Lovely Bride resigned to bringing me gruel and a cake with a file in it while I rotted in the Tampa City Jail. We snuck out of town quickly, which isn’t so easy to do in a 40-foot-long bus with a car dragging behind. As soon as we returned home I started trying to figure out how to pay my toll and/or fine on-line. After several pleasant emails with a young lady named Sue in Tampa, I determined that this was a kindler and gentler traffic authority. They actually scan your plate number, and until you have two tolls to pay, they don’t bother you. At two, they send you a bill for the toll, with no fines attached. Only if you amass an undisclosed sum of tolls (like foreign diplomats in Washington, DC, do all the time) and not send any money do they send out the guys in trench-coats with pliers. (And they know how to ruin a Vietnamese nail salon’s clients!)  

Here is a new feature; the Bird of the Week (or Month, or Fortnight, depending on my mood). We are going to highlight some local feathered friends. The first was the sandhill crane, but it was a short entry a week or so ago. The White Ibis pictured here were walking around looking for handouts behind the Church on the Square in Spanish Springs. These are very hardy birds, and were selected by the University of Miami as their official mascot in 1926. According to Florida folklore, the white ibis are the last wildlife to flee before the arrival of a hurricane, and the first to reappear after the storm departs. Sebastian the Ibis leads the Miami Hurricanes football team onto the field, and wears the number 0. (He’s anthropomorphized, you know, a guy in a bird suit… sort of weird, really).

These ibis were not interested in football, but rather the bread that a local couple had in their hands. Their favorite diet is actually crawfish (Hey, being from New Orleans, I can appreciate their refined palates!), but they also eat small fish, crabs, aquatic insects, etc., found in ponds and bayous. Their enemies, mostly predators who eat ibis eggs, are raccoons, opossums, rat snakes, vultures, night herons, fish crows and boat-tailed grackles. “It ain’t easy living in the wild…” 

While Suzanne is in the Northeast to show the Messages of Hope movie and present her S.O.A.R! Workshop, she was invited to speak at two Arden Courts Memory Care Communities, one in Wilmington, Delaware, and the second in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Today’s presentation was very well received, and many attendees bought copies of Suzanne’s latest book, The Real Alzheimer’s. Proceeds from book sales at these events go to the Alzheimer’s Family Organization, courtesy of Arden Courts. (Photo courtesy of Janice Clay)

I love small business signs. Unlike big billboards, they often reflect the personalities, proclivities, or political passions of their proprietors. (Hey, that was very alliterative, don’t you think?) Anyway, here is one that I saw in Leesburg, FL, the other day. 

I was imagining that the owner of this shop must be either a former Olympic fencer (the swordsman type, rather than a chain link guy) or a crack shot with a black powder pistol, since pistols and swords were the only recognized gentlemen’s weapons. Pistols were fired at about ten paces, or thirty feet, very close range.

What a great offer; apparently for only $150 this businessman will arrange a duel between you and your mortal enemy while you wait for an oil change or a muffler replacement. What better way to fill up an empty hour or two? A surgeon or doctor would normally attend duels in the past, although today an EMT would probably be more cost-effective.  There are probably a couple of big oak trees out back (named, what else, “The Dueling Oaks”) where the two principles can draw sabers or epees, or use their cap and ball pistols, to settle gentlemen’s disagreements. I hope this automotive magnate has not degraded to promoting dueling with 24 inch crescent wrenches… that would be so, so, well… plebeian. This old print depicts an actual duel in New Orleans’ City Park, at The Dueling Oaks, only a few miles from where I grew up. 

Duels are not officially outlawed here in Florida, since the Florida Legislature repealed an anti-dueling law in 1832. This placard was an actual challenge for a duel in 1839, but perhaps regrettably, it was never consummated. (I say “perhaps regrettably” because both were politicians…)   

While some might consider the loss of a pol or two a tragedy, I actually experienced a tragedy yesterday. I reached into the fridge for an Oreo cookie, and what did my hand find? Naught but an empty package. I peeked into both ends, but nary a sweet treat was to be found… Sigh…  My Lovely Bride asked me to emphasize that since she no longer indulges in Oreos, she was not the culprit… “Ru-Dee!!!!!!”

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