Sunday, March 24, 2013

Grand Central Diner - Sunrise, Florida

Is it fair to rate a restaurant partly on its customers? I believe so if they affect your dining experience. I walked in just before noon and was invited to take a seat anywhere. The front of restaurant was kind of full so I moved towards the back. I didn't see nor did I hear the lady sitting in the next aisle with a cell phone. Her side of the conversation consisted mostly of, "Whaaaaat? I can't heaaar you. What did you saaaaay?" I wanted to take the phone away from her and turn up the volume. Instead, I said in a loud enough voice that her table mate could hear me over her that I was moving because she was to loud and annoying for me to sit near. Then the guy at the table right behind her pulled out his cell phone and started yakking loud enough to drown her out. And I hadn't even ordered yet.

The waitress, whose name I regrettably didn't get, brought me a menu and told me about the daily specials. Then another waitress found it necessary to yell out to her coworkers to bring her coffee and other things, contributing to the general noise level.

If food can make up for bad company, then this food did. I ordered the Rueben sandwich, which thankfully came quickly. While waiting I looked around and noticed that other diners had ordered various things. The portions looked large and enticing. And I was not disappointed. If there is a such a thing as a perfect Rueben, this was it. Piled high with meat between two very fresh slices of rye bread and topped with a pickle that couldn't have been crisper and tastier.

The sauerkraut was tasty with out being overwhelming. On the side was some dressing and a small cup of coleslaw. Very good without being too spicy.

A great sandwich at better price than McDonald's, surrounded by people who like to think the cliché of New Yorkers is cute and charming. It's not. Loud, self-centered and obnoxious yes. Charming? Hardly.

Parking is good and plentiful. The place is very clean and popular. The food, and this is my second time there, is superb and that's not an exaggeration. Really, really good and the service was great.
Visited March 2013

Update: June 4,2013 - Went back and the experience was much better. No people on cell phones and the staff was attentive and didn't contribute to annoyance level. Had the spaghetti and meatballs. More than I could eat. Very nice experience.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hurricane Warning

Hurricanes. If you live along the South or East coasts of the United States, you are fully aware of hurricanes. They are a part of our seasonal weather patterns. A month in advance, our teeth are set on edge as warnings from local weather people get us ready for the coming season. Predictions are made, revised and then ignored.

People start laying in supplies that keep well. Bottled water, dry goods, soups, propane, batteries and they tune up their generators if they are lucky enough to have them. And then we wait. The beginning of the season is usually slow and then builds as the summer rolls along. Every eye is glued to the coast of Africa or the Caribbean basin.

We see graphics showing warm water temperatures, the fuel for the storms, the winds aloft, the steering currents and other data that most people ignore. They shouldn’t. Why?  What can the average person do with this information? Well, for one thing, they could get a good night’s rest.

How?  Use the information that is right in front of your eyes. Why should take the time to do this? Because you are systematically and purposely lied to. By whom? The weather service through the local parrots that pretend to be weather people. Yes, some are meteorologists and some are not. Does it matter? Not really. They take all their leads from other sources such as the National Weather Service, NOAA and other quasi-government entities. You would think that with the resources available to them they would do a much better job of being able to tell where the storms are going next. And they can, but they sure are not going to tell you. No profit in that. They purposely try to keep you on edge so you won’t change channels to watch something that makes sense. Like Fear Factor.

Being a certifed meterologist is like being certified to give blow jobs. You can suck at your job and still be considered wonderful.

Max Mayfield, former Director of the National Hurricane Center , once remarked on air that he couldn’t understand why people were ignoring all of their warnings. As a friend of mine, Deb, from Pennsylvania pointed out, it the “boy who cried wolf” factor. People for the most part have stopped listening because every set of clouds would send the weather guys into fits.  Instead of watching their own maps, satellite photos and other information, like sea buoys, they immediately jump on the air calling for evacuations and for everyone to kiss their loved ones goodbye. Another sore point is how they report winds speeds. They report the highest wind speeds they can find. Like the ones at a flight level of 10,000 feet. That’s OK, but the wind speeds on the ground are slower. That’s why they tell you it’s more dangerous the higher you are in a building the higher up you go in floors. So until my condo is at 10,000 feet, I’ll look at the reports of surface wind speeds to see what I need to be worried about.

Evacuations are expensive.

The  Keys lose hundreds of millions of dollars every time they call for mandatory evacuations. No one is disputing that the Keys are a low-lying archipelago that could easily be washed over in major hurricane. But, and this is important, not every hurricane that roars through the Caribbean is going to destroy the Keys. When Gustav came through, and it was a big storm, this from Wikipedia: ” Hurricane Gustav was the second most destructive hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm was the seventh tropical cyclone, third hurricane, and second major hurricane of the season.” Now that is nothing to mess with, but the storm wasn’t going to hit the Keys. It came through riding to the West on a ridge of high pressure that it couldn’t push out of the way. But the weather service called for mandatory evacuations of the Upper Keys, then the middle Keys, then the Lower Keys, while everyone with a brain could see the high pressure was flattening the leading edge of the storm out and keeping it well south of the island chain. Examples like this are everywhere, and that’s why people don’t listen to the weather service. They look at the maps and they see what somehow is not apparent to the weather people. 

I would never like to see a person hurt by a storm, but we know it happens. However, there is no legitimate reason to disrupt to the point of instilling fear into people by PURPOSELY ignoring your own data just to play it the way they do. Everyone now adays thinks that reality TV shows are the way to pump up the public. They actually enjoy it. Remember when Channel 7 (Fox News) had the rep that if “it bleeds, it leads.” That same psychology is dangerous and actually down right stupid when it comes to the weather.

Al Roker said on the morning news about a week ago, that the European models were far more accurate in predicting weather system tracks than the US model. Their weather modeling computers sample the data 114 times a day. The US models? 84 times. Big difference especially when you get closer to land and the storm picks up forward speed. The good thing he said is that “we all share the data.” The bad thing that everyone else knows is that they don’t USE that data. They, the US Weather Service would rather use their own data even if it is not as correct. Super Storm Sandy is the most recent example of the Euro models getting it correct and the US systems not.

I know weather prediction is not an exact science, but we would better served by people bringing us info if they actually paid attention. I have no access to anything other than what can be found online, but my prediction rate is far higher than the local weather services.

Do yourself a favor and learn how to look at weather map and follow it for several days.

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to evacuate.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bullz Eye BBQ in Arcadia Florida

Bullz-eye BBQ

I travel a lot shooting pictures for my web site and in doing so, I get to eat at a lot of different restaurants.
Most times I just duck into a fast food place like Burger King, McDonalds or Wendy’s, but sometimes I just have to indulge my senses in something a little more substantial. When you are on the road in an unfamiliar town, you are left to your own devices. I sometimes ask locals and at other times, I drive around to find the local ptomaine palace.

You can imagine my total disbelief when I stumbled into a small BBQ place in Arcadia, FL. The Bullz-Eye BBQ is an amazing food Mecca. It is tucked into a plaza on Oak Street, (SR 70, I believe,) back in a corner. I know that people have their regional favorites for BBQ. It is probably one of the most hotly contested food groups for taste. My roommate is from North Carolina, I’ve been there, and their BBQ is truly fine. But this is the best.

Over the years, I have eaten BBQ in some of the best places in the US and Korea. I travel just for this wonderful heartburn inducing fare. And I am here to declare a winner, for this year at least. Bullz-Eye BBQ is wonderful. That’s actually not strong enough. It is fantastic, tasty delicious and just damn good.

I like to eat at restaurants that have pretty waitresses and again, I was not disappointed. Samantha came over, gave me a menu and took my drink order. No Sprite or 7-UP for these guys, Sierra Mist instead.

The menu has the usual specials, both for lunch and dinner and even breakfast. I looked around and the other diners were knee deep in their food. Hardly a whisper in the place as everyone was stuffing their faces with their lunches. I soon found out why.
I ordered the Pulled Pork sandwich with two sides. BBQ beans and mashed potatoes. I expected to get something like Texas toast with the BBQ stuffed inside. Instead, I received a hoagie roll bursting at the seams with moist pulled pork. It was not slathered with BBQ sauce, instead it is served dry. The sauces are on the table so you can choose between regular or sweet. This sandwich was bursting with thinly sliced pork and nothing else. No fillers of coleslaw or other add- ons. Just pork. I tested the sauces and went with the sweet. You can tell when I’m having fun eating something, because I like to get it all over my face. Mission accomplished. I must have looked like a third grader at a family cook out. Napkins were flying everywhere trying to keep up with the mess I was making. But I didn’t care, I was in heaven.

The mashed potatoes were creamy and soaked in brown gravy. You couldn't have found a lump in them with a mammogram machine. Smooth and delicious. And then there were the beans. Now I’ve had enough beans in my day to float the Hindenburg safely. These were in what I believe is molasses and were mind blowing good. However they were made, they were just plain incredible. If it weren’t for hazardous gas regulations, I could made a whole meal of these. I can honestly say, they are the best I’ve ever tasted. Anywhere, anytime, period.

I was stuffed to the gills and was kindly wheeled out of the restaurant by my cute waitress Samantha who signs her name with a smiley face and a tongue sticking out. Probably the beans made her do that. I know I did for the next few days. Have a smiley face, that is.

The Bullz-Eye apparently doesn’t have a web site, and they don’t really need one. Word of taste buds will help you find this place. If you are within 20 miles of this place, get there. You won’t be disappointed no matter what your regional preferences are for BBQ.

1029 E. Oak St.
Arcadia, Florida 34266
Phone: 863-993-4227
Fax: 863-993-1158

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hemingway's Boat- A book Review

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
        Third verse of "Sea-Fever"
        By John Masefield (1878-1967).
        (English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)

There is something universal about the sea. We long to be near it, in it or on it. Hemingway was one who reveled in being on the water. Aside from being a famous writer, he was an avid sportsman. Hunting wild game in Africa and running in the Gulfstream in search of marlin, wahoo, dolphin and other game fish, Hemingway pioneered new ways of fishing and new gear.

He ran his boat, Pilar, out of Key West, Bimini and Cuba. Fishing the purple waters offshore in search of ever bigger game fish. Inspiration for the book “Old Man and the Sea” came from his friends in Cuba from whom he learned much about the habits of the big fish he sought.

Paul Hendrickson’s book, Hemingway’s Boat, takes us aboard the famed Pilar and uses the boat to help define the Hemingway character from a different perspective taken in the nearly one hundred books that have been written about the writer and his life.

I have read about twenty of those books over the years, including Hemingway’s letters from the collection by Carlos Baker. What better way to get a handle on Hemingway the man than to read over his shoulder, in his own words, his explanations of his reactions to events in his life. Many books have tried to psychoanalyze him over the years, and most of them are rubbish filled with the author’s own prejudices either for or against Hemingway. If you have the time and interest, read his Collected Letters. However, if you are interested in a completely different perspective towards his life, read Hemingway’s Boat.

The book offers an insightful perspective into what made Hemingway tick. From all that I have read, Hemingway was quite a jerk in real life. A bully, misogynistic, braggart, liar, drunk and father, husband, friend and supporter of those he liked.

Hendrickson fills out Hemingway’s profile by not concentrating on his reported foibles but by defining him by the people around him. Letting you see Hemingway in a new light by featuring some of the people that he associated with on daily basis. His wives, his children, his girlfriends, his fishing buddies and his publishers, all of which with whom he had very mixed relationships,.
Hemingway's writing room behind the main house.
He liked to teach but did not like to be taught. One of the easiest ways to get on Hemingway’s bad side was to try to correct him, especially on his writing. Or his choice in women. Hemingway learned, whether he liked it or not, at the knees of Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. When he was finished with them, he often attacked them, as if to say he was now a better writer than they were, although he later defended Ezra when he was jailed for treason. With Hemingway, it seems that the better writer he became, the worse he became as a person. His fame made him a bully and royal pain. He liked writing about friends and people he knew because in his writing, he could control them. In real life he couldn’t and it frustrated him quite often.

A major turning point, and some say rejuvenation of his writing, came when he bought Pilar. As Hendrickson points out on page 145, “I believe Pilar was part of the change, allowing him to go farther out, where you don’t see the shoreline.” Farther out indeed. In his writing, shorelines were never good for Hemingway. He needed the boundless horizons of the ocean and human experience on which to create his most memorable writing.

Hendrickson examines Hemingway through the people around him, and corrects several misconceptions involving some of Hemingway’s exploits. Mr. Hendrickson’s research goes so far as to verify the temperature in Havana on a given day to collaborate one of Hemingway’s tales about his exploits in Cuba.

In other areas, Mr. Hendrickson’s research is a little less thorough. He tells a tale of Hemingway having guests on board and how Hemingway managed to make love to a young woman onboard the Pilar while anchored out in some secluded anchorage. While I don’t doubt Hemingway’s WANTING to have sex with the young lady, I can tell you from personal experience that it couldn’t have happened the way many authors imply, including Mr. Hendrickson.

If you have spent any time around boats, you would know that on a 38-foot boat with a small cabin forward and the rest of the boat open, there isn’t much privacy. With six or seven other people on board, in quiet anchorage, at night with no mechanical noises like air conditioning, you could not have a loud thought in your head without some overhearing it. Having sex with a vigorous young girl would be impossible unless no one else cared. This tale persists in the Hemingway legend in spite of its near impossibility.

The other place where Mr. Hendrickson stumbles is in that in several places he has Hemingway checking maps for upcoming trips aboard Pilar. They are charts, not maps. Maps show land details, charts show water features. A typical landlubber mistake, but not too serious. The only reason I mention these two gaffs, is that the rest of the book is so well researched and some old myths are laid to rest quite effectively.

The book, overall, is a very interesting and informative read. Well worth it if you want to know more about the Pilar and the role it played in Hemingway’s’ life and writing. It does go off track when it delves into Gregory “GiGi” Hemingway’s desire to dress in women’s clothes and his subsequent operation that transforms him from a man to a woman. I assume that the author and Gregory formed a friendship that lasted quite some time.  While interesting, and the author blames Ernest Hemingway for the identity crisis of his son, it has little to do with the boat, which is the title of this work. It should have been left to another volume, not included here. It slows the story and takes the reader far off course.

To say you will not read Hemingway because of how he lived his life is a laughable conceit. You are depriving yourself of some of the best writing in American literature.

This is a wonderful book overall and a good read. If you are interested in one of America’s greatest authors and like boats, the sea and fine writing, you'll like this book.

Three out of five propellers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Go Out and Annoy The fish

You’re sitting in your living room enjoying some quiet time with your family.  Suddenly there is a loud humming sound and a large pizza with extra cheese drops onto the coffee table.  You put the taped reruns of Gilligan’s Island on hold and start to chow down on a great slice with everything on it.
Suddenly, and without warning, you are yanked from your seat, pulled out the door and your family never sees you again.  Unless of course, they try the pizza too.  Then they may see you again, but they probably won’t be happy about it.
I think this is how the fish must feel.  There they are, out for a Sunday swim with whole family in the Gulfstream.  They cruise along, enjoying each others company.  Then WHAM!  Aunt Martha heads for the surface like a ballistic missile, never to be heard from again.
Why do these terrible things happen?  Are the fish wondering if their relatives are being kidnapped by aliens for exotic scientific experiments?  Are they shooting episodes of The X- Files in 90' of water?  We may never know.  I suspect that it must be quite disturbing to be a fish these days.

When I was young, I worked on commercial fishing boats in the Great Lakes.  That will tell you how old I am.  We actually HAD fish in the Great Lakes and you could eat them without worrying about glowing in the dark afterwards.  And we caught fish.  Enough so that about twenty people had a livelihood.
We used some very basic equipment in those days.  I still remember how my father’s friend, Bill Parishon, would go outside around 4:30 a.m. to smell the air.  Half asleep, I would stand at the end of the dock with him, trying to figure out what this crazy old man was doing.  His coffee steamed in a blue steel cup with white porcelain specks. He’d stare at the sky and smell the air like a hunting dog looking for the scent, and then make a decision.  Everything was so quiet out at the end of the dock.  The waves softly lapping at the pilings and maybe the fluttering of wings of some early rising bird were all you heard.  The burnt orange of a false dawn would light up the water for a few moments.  The nets piled on the dock smelled of fish and creosote. Stars sparkled in a last effort to hold off the dawn.  This was my world.
While I never attained the level of skill that he had, I did pride myself on trying to match his choices by looking for the signs he did.  He would announce to the fishing gods that today, Today, we fish to the Northeast. And by gosh we did.  That we seldom came back light was a testament to his skill.
We now have all sorts of sophisticated equipment to help us in our quest.  Some outfits use planes to find their catches.  We have side scanning sonar, water temperature gauges, color graph recorders, and salinity testers.  We have G.P.S. and LORAN, fast-freeze fish holds, and motherships that can process 20,000 pounds of fish a day.
But we’re missing two important things.  First and foremost are the fish.  We have depleted nearly every commercially viable food stock in the waters of the world.  Haddock no longer swarm the Great Banks, Whiting have disappeared, and lobsters are nearly on the endangered species list, as is their habitat.  We have become so good at using our machines, it has taken the element of chance out of the search.  And in doing so, we have almost eliminated what we were looking for.  No longer does the prey have a fighting chance.  They can run, but they can’t hide.
And we have lost something as equally important, but not nearly as obvious. 
We’ve lost our ability to appreciate the world around us.  Our sense of smell, after being assaulted for thousands of years by urban pollution, is a mere vestige of what our ancestors probably had.  We have learned to tune out the constant racket of our lives.  Horns blaring and planes screaming overhead.  Quiet disturbs us and we immediately fill the void by climbing into our cars and blasting the radio so loud that the windows actually flex in and out.
I am not a Luddite nor am I a techno-phobe.  I’m using a state of the art computer to write this while listening to Patsy Cline on the same machine.  I drive a beast of car that has a stereo that can drown out the landing of a 747, and insulates me from most of the bumps in the road.
But sometimes, when I’m stuck on I-95 in morning rush hours, I long for the days when at the break of dawn, all you would hear is old Bill saying, Today, we fish to the Northeast.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Merry Christmas, Captain!

I know many of you are getting nervous as the Christmas season approaches. “What do I get the captain this year? That gold Rolex I got him last year seems so inadequate.” Well, you’re right. Be that as it may, you don’t have to be a dog this year.

Buying for your captain can be wrought with hazards. He runs this really big, really nice boat and has all those toys to play with. What could he possibly want? Quite a bit actually. Remember, he RUNS the boat, he generally doesn’t own it. Even if he does, he has probably put so much into its upkeep, he can’t afford to buy gas for his Lamborghini this week.

In an effort to make the season a little less stressful on you this year, I’ve compiled this list of items that will be appreciated by myself and other captains on your Christmas list. Just start at the top and work your way down. No need to buy them all this month, but by Halloween, you should have everything, except maybe the shirt, safely wrapped and hidden.

Remember, your captain doesn’t ask for much from you, that’s why this list is rather short. Unless there is smoke coming off your American Express Black card, you’re falling behind.

Weems & Plath Clock  and Barometer– Every captain worth his salt needs a barometer. We are out in the weather all the time so it affects our daily lives. What with the weather services being so horribly unreliable and full of lies, we must fend for ourselves. With a barometer we can more accurately predict approaching storms and stock up on rum and limes. The clock makes for a nice set and since you were too cheap to buy us the Presidential Rolex last year instead of just the gold model, we need something to tell time on. This clock will get us to the bar in time for happy hour. Nothing worse than a sober captain at four o’clock in the afternoon.
Shirts from Outdoor World – Nice selection of shirts for both guys and gals. Help your captain dress better than some smuggler from the 70’s.
Capt. Ron DVD – The quintessential instruction manual for all captains. Prepares your captain for everything from “gorilla” attacks to storms at sea. A must see DVD. 
Pay his or her cell phone bill for a month – If you don’t have a lot of money, this gift will still be appreciated very much, Believe me.

Boat shoes – If you can get past the odor, look at an old pair for the correct size. But don’t be surprised if they want to wear the old ones. You know, the ones that are just now getting broken in even though their toes are coming out the front.
Flip Flops - Like boat shoes, the olds will fall apart before the new ones are worn. Don't take it personally.

Pelican Box - Nothing works better at keeping the captain's potato chips from getting soggy. Or even his expensive camera.
Leatherman with a saw – One off the best tools ever devised for a captain. Just make sure to get the one with a saw blade. It can do stuff that a regular blade cannot. If you are superstitious, get the captain to give you a dollar in exchange. Some say a gift of a knife will cause an argument in a relationship.

Sandless beach blanket -  Boats and beaches seem to go together unless you drive the stew up the wall by bringing the beach back with you to the boat. This blanket will leave the sand where it belongs. Now, if they could make a swimsuit out of this stuff, maybe that rash would clear up.

LED flashlight from the kids – The kids want to give the captain something but are low on funds and you have to pay that speeding ticket or you are going to jail…again. Home Depot and Lowe’s have LED flashlights that sell in four packs for less than ten dollars. You can never have enough flashlights on a boat. I worked on a tug boat in the Hawaiian Islands and the captain had three requirements for his crew. Don’t wake him unless we were sinking, every crew member had to have at least one personal flashlight and you had to have sharp knife or you couldn’t step on board.
Dehooker – If he or she fishes, this is an essential, and in some places mandatory, item to have on board. No more teeth marks on the wrist or missing finger tips.
Hook sharpener –Great for tuning up new and used hooks. Even the new ones right out of the package are not sharp enough for the true fisherman. You might want to throw in a box of Band-Aids also.
Hand scale – Weigh your catch to make sure it’s not a record before it wiggles it way over the side again. Buy a good one though. Read the reviews.
100% cotton shirts, try and stay away from blends.
Jimmy Buffet – Almost everyone deserves boat Drinks Get all the most popular songs in this 4 cd collection.

Well, don't just sit there. Let's go shopping. Don't slam the saloon door on the way out. Don't want to wake the Captain.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bowditch On Disk

Every boater who has ever run up against a navigational problem to which there is a not a clear answer or whoever wanted to settle a yacht club bar bet has at one time or another looked to Bowditch's American Practical Navigator for the definitive answer. The problem with Bowditch and other tomes on navigation is that sometimes finding the answer can be as frustrating as the problem itself.

The easy way to settle these disputes is on a new CD-ROM from Starpath. Bowditch Plus contains the complete text of Bowditch's The American Practical Navigator, in searchable form, on one CD.

I was helping a friend pick out a radar for his boat and he wanted to know how far away he would be able to see objects. He thought since he was considering a thirty-six mile radar he would be able to see larger objects that far away. I explained to him that it was not just the power of the radar but the height at which it was mounted. The formula for finding the distance to the visible horizon is Distance = 1.17 times the square root of the height of the object (the radar or your eye.) (There is a slight difference between radar horizons and visible horizons, but for most purposes, the amount is negligible.)

We went to the Piloting Tables on the CD-ROM, picked Distance of the Horizon, plugged in the height of the radar antenna (25'), and it calculated that under optimal conditions, the radar would reach out to a usable distance of 5.845 statute miles. My friend is now looking a way to raise the height of the radar dome to get a better view. Unlike the book version, this CD actually computes the distance for you, not only saving time, but also eliminating errors due to mathematical mistakes.

Also included on the CD are all the chart symbols, definitions and abbreviations, US and International, indexed by name and graphical design along with all contact and internet links to all the hydrographic offices worldwide. The whole database is searchable. I looked up the Rule for the proper lights to display if you are aground and the program took me directly to the page with rule and the illustration. The complete Navigation Rules, Rules of the Road, are also included. This is a great reference tool.

You can search for terms and symbols, or you can use the convenient indexes to locate what you need. With more and more boats carrying computers onboard, this a reference tool that will help you find what you need in a hurry. The contents can be run from the CD or loaded on the hard disk. If you have the room, load the Rules of the Road and other modules you think you will, need to your hard disk. This gives you quicker access times and smoother operation.

Boats have limited storage space and this CD removes the need to carry a big reference volume with you. It is easy to use and is great example of technology making a complex subject easier to understand.

Bartender, give my buddy my tab.