What do a beach resort, a ballpark and a research library have in common?

February 15, 2012

African-American history.

It’s African-American History Month and Florida has a lot of history to offer.  VisitFlorida has compiled the following list for Floridians and non-Floridians alike to visit and learn. 


  • American Beach, Amelia Island. Florida’s first black-owned beach resort, it still belongs in part to the founders’ descendants.
  • Julee Cottage Museum, Pensacola. Part of Historic Pensacola Village, this African-American history museum resides in the circa-1805 home of free black woman Julee Panton.
  • John G. Riley Center/Museum for African-American History & Culture, Tallahassee. Housed in the circa-1890 home of a local African-American citizen, it scans the history of black Tallahassee and the nation from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights movement. Its historic black neighborhood, known as Smoky Hollow, was home to cookie-maker “Famous (Wallace) Amos.”
  • Kingsley Plantation, Fort George (near Jacksonville). Past the row of haunting slave cabin ruins, Kingsley puts human faces to the horror of slave plantation life by introducing some of the African inhabitants, such as Anna Madegigine Jai, the owner’s freed African wife, and slaves Gullah Jack and Abraham Hanahan.
  • Lincolnville, St. Augustine. St. Augustine’s historic African-American district, originally named “Africa,” boasts the city’s largest concentration of Victorian homes. Here Martin Luther King stayed while supporting local civil rights movements. It was also home to the man who taught Ray Charles, a student at the local school for the deaf and blind, to read music in Braille.


  • Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Daytona Beach. Robinson scored a home run for his people as the first African-American to join an all-white team. It happened here, where a sculpture and park commemorate the 1946 event.
  • Mary McLeod Bethune House, Daytona Beach. Dr. Bethune, a civil rights leader who advised presidents and fellow educators, lived here in the early 1900s. Visit her home (renovations were done in November 2010) to view her personal library, artifacts and photographs on Bethune-Cookman University, where some of the buildings are designated national historic landmarks.
  • Howard Thurman Home, Daytona Beach. Howard Thurman lived in this home until he moved to Jacksonville to attend the Florida Academy Baptist High School, the closest high school available to black Daytonans in the 1910s. Thurman is the author of over 20 books and provided spiritual guidance to prominent civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Parramore District, Orlando. A reviving downtown row of African-American shops and restaurants selling African wood carvings, caftans, masks, jewelry, reggae paraphernalia, barbecue, greens, roti, jerk and other African- and Caribbean-inspired food, art, clothing and gifts.
  • Wells’ Built Museum of African-American History & Culture, Orlando . Bo Diddley, B.B. King and Ella Fitzgerald were among the performers of “the Chitlin Circuit” who boarded here. The hotel has been restored to house a tribute to notable local and national African-Americans.
  • Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, Eatonville.  Named for Eatonville’s famous Harlem Renaissance writer and folklorist, it exhibits the work of changing African-American artists and hosts an annual winter arts and humanities festival. Ask for a walking tour brochure of Eatonville’s historic sites.


  • African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, Fort Lauderdale. The ultimate word on black history, it contains an art gallery, research document collection and book and photograph libraries.
  • Bahama Village, Key West. In the Florida Keys, proximity to the Bahama Islands meant free interaction between the two lands. Bahama Village grew up after the Civil War as home to the “Conchs,” as the Bahamian immigrants came to be known. Today, Bahamian restaurants, roaming chickens, shops, an 1865 church and a park keep the neighborhood lively.
  • Old Dillard Museum, Fort Lauderdale. Once a segregated school for black children where saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley directed band, it traces the history of the city’s jazz scene and displays masks, musical instruments and other archival artifacts.
  • Overtown, Miami. Soul food restaurants, historic churches and the circa-1913
  • Lyric Theater mark the cultural importance of “ColoredTown,” as it was originally known. One of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, it dates back to the 1890s.

A Coconut Cure?

February 8, 2012

When I think of the tropics, I think of coconuts falling from trees. And although I don’t consider Florida the tropics, coconuts are figuring prominently here these days.  But not for the reasons many might think.  Sure, coconuts grow in South Florida, but it’s a certain Floridian who’s getting all the attention, for her message on what they can do for us.

Dr. Mary T. Newport lives in Spring Hill, FL with her husband Steve.  When Steve reached the severe stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, Mary sought out something to help him.  What she found was coconut oil.  Her video has been circulating via email and is definitely worth watching at her website, www.coconutketones.com.  Although her findings  first came out in 2008, Dr. Newport’s book Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was A Cure, only became available in August of 2011.

In the video, and in numerous articles online, she explains that Alzheimer’s is like a “diabetes of the brain” in which the brain does not accept glucose. A certain substance is found in coconut oil that can serve as an alternative fuel for the brain, and that is MCT Oil which the liver breaks down and turns into ketones.  These ketones are what the commotion is all about.

Ketones appear to also  help those with other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s, which is what my Dad was diagnosed with four or five years ago. 

Armed with articles I found online by Dr. Newport and others, I bought the same brand of Coconut Oil shown in the video, and gave it to my parents. My Dad is a harder sell on such things, but after reading the materials I brought along,  he agreed to give it a try. I hope many others will as well.

Florida Had Pioneers Too

February 1, 2012

Over the weekend I ventured into the past with the help of the best tour guides ever, my parents. We explored the Pioneer Settlement, located just west of Daytona Beach in Barberville. According to the self-tour literature, the Settlement contains a growing historical collection of 10,000+ objects.  Here are just a few of those objects that caught our attention.

At the sight of this old bottle capper, my Dad reminisced about how his mother used to make her own Root Beer then use one of these cappers to cap the bottles.

In the old Train Depot, my Dad attempted to remember the Morse Code he used back in World War II.

My Mom grew up on a farm, so it was easy for her to identify these plowing tools and explain what each was used for.


Allergy Nation

January 25, 2012

Allergies have gotten the better of me this past week. And I imagine others are suffering as well.  According to www.pollen.com, today’s national allergy forecast hits hardest in the southern reaches of the United States.

Allergy Forecast Map for Jan. 25, 2012 (www.pollen.com)

As you can see, the only red band on the map is across Central Florida; from Tampa to Orlando to Daytona Beach. 

This is a great resource to check before planning an outdoor excursion. Just enter a city or zip code and find out the allergy forecast for the next few days.  You can also find out exactly what is causing all that sneezing. Today’s culprits here in my area? Juniper, Elm and Alder.

Lilian, Lucille and Stephen Crane

January 18, 2012

While looking for a place to take my visiting parents this past Sunday, I remembered an article I had read in a local newspaper about Lilian Place, a historical home in Daytona Beach that had recently been restored and opened to the public.  Built in 1884, Lilian Place is the oldest house on Daytona’s beachside.

Its unique design is classified as Italianate High Victorian architecture. And that yellow and green paint? Apparently common colors during the Victorian age.  

Here are a few interesting things about the house’s history:

  • The house was built by Laurence and Mary Eliza Thompson, who moved to the area from Cincinnati, Ohio. Laurence was an early entrepreneur, first opening a General Store then later a real estate and insurance partnership. The Thompsons had three children, the youngest of which, Lilian, is the namesake of the property.
  • In 2002, the new owners turned the house into a Bed and Breakfast. After the wife died, the husband returned to New York and left the house to deteriorate. The Heritage Preservation Trust took it over in December 2009 and is continuing to restore it to its 1880s glory.
  • There have been several reports of ghostly encounters at Lilian Place, one concerning a young lady named Lucille. As far as anyone can tell, Lucille was a woman spurned by her fiancé, a former resident of Lilian Place.
  • Perhaps the property’s biggest claim to fame is its literary significance.  After his boat sank on December 31, 1896, Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, made it to shore and sought refuge for a few weeks at Lilian Place. As a result of his experience, he wrote his famous short story,  The Open Boat.

If only I had known about this place when it was still a Bed and Breakfast!  Old, quaint, and  potentially haunted. What a great combination.

Meet the Gator Boys

January 11, 2012

After a busy Sunday I slid onto our leather sofa with the intent of finding a thirty minute show to watch for mindless entertainment. What I found instead was a reality type show called Gator Boys.

Animal Planet's Gator Boys in Action

Nuisance alligators in South Florida neighborhoods are not new and, although I’ve seen other shows where gutsy individuals go out and capture them, this one was different.  

When one of the Gator Boys donned a  wetsuit, snorkel and mask and entered the water in the Sunday night episode, I was truly taken aback. I have never seen or heard of anyone going underwater to trap an alligator. What if that gator is 10 feet or more? He can eat you, or rather clamp on to you and take you on a death roll that I’m pretty sure you won’t survive; that is unless he has clamped on to a limb and rips it off during the roll, and you manage to get away and receive medical attention pronto!

The Gator Boys capture these nuisance alligators then take them back to their park where they perform shows for visitors.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I think taunting alligators for a live audience (and for money) is pathetic.  Maybe you can learn something about the creatures this way, but why not learn from biologists out in the field, or in a natural habitat for “lost” gators? Why should animals be slaves to humans thirst for entertainment?

Since development has so encroached on nature that we have alligators in our backyards, it’s no wonder we need services like those offered by the Gator Boys.  Now if only they would find a place to release those  beloved gators, I might become a true fan.

A New Year, A New List

January 4, 2012

When it comes to making and keeping New Year’s Resolutions, I’m no different from most others. What starts out as a great intention often gets lost in my day-to-day living.  So, this January, I’m not going to overpromise myself.  Here are a few ideas I’m tossing around for this blog in 2012.

1.  Revamp “The List.”  It’s time to step back and discover what it is I’m trying to accomplish with this list, and in what format I want to organize it going forward.

2.  Art Therapy. I spend a lot of time in the Florida outdoors, now it’s time to add a little more culture. Fortunately Florida provides plenty of opportunities to do just that. One artist I plan to learn more about is Salvador Dali, with a visit to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. 

3.  Panhandle Explorations. I’ve been all over the state, with the exception of the Panhandle. A trip to Tallahassee, Panama City, Pensacola and others are in order.

4.  Everglades.  I still haven’t entered into the famous swamplands of Florida. This may be the year that changes.

5. Florida Reads. I want to discover writers with Florida ties, and unique writings about Florida itself.

Even with the best of intentions though, it will be the surprises along the way that will undoubtably make the best memories of the year.