Category Archives: Tweetup

Are All Friends Alike?

ENB Dallas 2009

My father always said that if, at the end of our lives we could honestly say that we had one friend, we would die rich.  That the word friend was not one to be used lightly. When I came home from school, and said my new friend this or my new friend that, he’d correct me, telling me that until our relationship had grown into something significant, we were simply acquaintances.  Like the bumper sticker reads, “A friends will help you move, a real friend will help you move a body”, we were never to take friendship for granted.

In this age of short tenure employment, neighborhood turnover, and Social Media, does friendship really mean the same thing today as it did in my father’s day? Let’s face it, the days of the gold watch and living next door to the same family for 30 years are the exception in 2010. Families are geographically dispersed, dependent more and more upon the Internet to communicate. Friendships from our youth are being rekindled through Social Media. Some of these so-called friendships fit more closely into the category my father referred to as acquaintance, and would have been better served remaining in the past. But, that’s another story.  Facebook has become the new calling card; Skype brings you right into people’s living rooms – and bedrooms; and Twitter has made everyone a cross between Tom Brokaw and Dr. Phil, with a little Joan Rivers thrown in.

At one point, I would have written that Social Media friends are the same as real life ones. The people who have come into my life as a result of social media are fascinating, enriching, and from a wide range of socio-economic levels and geographic regions. I have laughed, learned and commiserated with men and women whose faces I have no way of knowing are really accurately portrayed in their avatars. We’ve debated health care, marriage equality, global warming, you name it. I’ve learned of their illnesses, and felt real emotional distress as I worried waiting for test results. Waited for that tweet with news. Social media has made the world very small.

On more than one occasion people have disappeared. As suddenly as they appeared in my life, they were gone.  Once, the Twitter account was suspended without explanation, and since I really had no solid way of knowing if the person I was friends with was who she said she was, there was no way to track her down. When someone’s avatar is a an ethereal image or a cartoon, or even a face, how do we REALLY know it is them?  In the case of another friend, the updates just stopped. Nothing.  After months of nightly discussions on the most challenging of topics, sharing our love of Pearl Jam, music trivia, all I heard was crickets.

Today, I went to contact a friend, and noticed that she had unfriended me. That I was no longer her ‘friend’ on Facebook. This saddened me a bit because I never wish to be on the outs with anyone. However, at this stage of life I’m not really concerned about popularity either. The big difference here is if we were really friends, by my father’s definition, I would have picked up the phone and called her. In fact, if we were real life friends, she would have called me if there were a problem. That’s what friends do.

Because I travel full time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet dozens of people in real life (IRL) who I had first encountered through social media. There is no question that the ante is raised once we meet, shake hands, hug each other, share a meal, really laugh out loud (LOL) together. The same way I met my husband through Social Media, in this case, Match.com, the guy he was in his profile was great, but the warm, loving man he was (is) in person was so much more.

Yes, social media is a great door opener for meeting people, learning, sharing, rallying causes. But, just as Internet sex doesn’t replace lovemaking, and Zhuzhu’s don’t replace man’s best friend, Internet friends won’t be the ones you call when your car breaks down, they’ll be the ones you tweet about it.  And, the picture? This was taken in November 2009 in Dallas, TX when a group of us who had met on Twitter got together for the premier of Men Who Stare at Goats. I had met Mark Hundley @MarkHundley, Jamie Inman @ibeatcancrtwice, Jessica Moore @inspiremedaisy, Scott Whitelaw @lifecruise,  and Karen Brown @Toadjumps on Twitter, and the friendship Stewart and I have with these people after meeting in person is much richer than before. There’s just no getting around what happens when two dimensions become three.

Welcome to the Cape, Where Upper Is Lower

You’re wondering why there is a picture of Rosy the Riveter here. Seems like every time you turn around, someone is using Rosy’s image for one cause or another. I will get to why the old gal’s here shortly.  In the meantime, let’s get caught up from where we left off. Last time I updated this blog, Stewart and I were breaking bread in our Nation’s capital with our friend Ali Holden.  As much as we would have enjoyed lingering for a few days, taking in the sights and sounds of Washington, D.C., we were still on our quest for cool weather.  With Peregrine in tow, we were on a mission. Sweater weather or bust!

Amish Farm

The drive through the Northeast is beautiful. We decided to take a roundabout route to Cape Cod in order to avoid driving through New York City.  The interstate highway system is great when you’re in a hurry to get from A to Z. However, we wanted to see as much as we could on our way to the coast.  Plus, our only real deadline was fireworks in Provincetown, MA by Fourth of July.  So, once we drove through Baltimore, MD, we detoured towards Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Amish country. How beautiful everything looked in late June! The fields were burgeoning with corn, hay and other vegetables.  Families worked together as horse drawn buggies rolled by with their reflective  triangles attached to the back – the one concession to modern road hazards.  I’m not going to get into whether I agree or disagree with the Amish lifestyle here, as I grew up among the Lubavitch, a branch of Chasidic Jews, which is also beautiful and full of old ways that seem quite foreign to the casual observer. The Amish have simply chosen to follow their faith, and the do’s and don’ts of the Anabaptist tradition. One of those traditions among the Old Order Amish is not having their pictures taken. Do you think this stopped Stewart from trying to capture their graven images on his iPhone? Not for a second.  You should have heard him. “Quick, get a picture of that family in the buggy!” And, “Hurry, the kids are facing you, get ’em!”.  I thought I’d have to lock him in Peregrine until we got out of Pennsylvania. You can only imagine his reaction as we passed through Intercourse!

Tourists by, Chaim Gross

Cape Cod had been our destination for Fourth of July since we started our adventure on the road. Over and over (to Stewart’s chagrin) I had made my desires known that no matter where we were on the 3rd and the 5th of July, I was spending the 4th in Provincetown, MA.  There is an energy there that is hard to match anywhere else. It is the busiest time of year to travel to, and be in Ptown, as others seem to have figured this out as well, but I didn’t care.  I wanted the excitement of fireworks over the water. For those of you who regularly follow our adventures, you know there’s a hiccup in here somewhere. This time is no exception. I let Stewart make the reservations. Yes, you would think I would have learned after “Bug Island” (See Tale of Four Cities), but between the countryside of Pennsylvania and the sea grasses of the Cape, I was flat on my back in Connecticut. With July rapidly approaching, and me unable to sit up, I asked Stewart to see if he could find us a great campsite for a month on the Cape. In fairness to him, the deer in the headlights look that this request was met with was borderline pitiful. My back trumped his discomfort, and off to explore the internet he went. Two days later (!) he returned to the topic of our accommodations, all excited because he had found us a place at a campground that was so friendly that they didn’t even require a credit card in advance to reserve a spot. Normally, I would have been extremely suspicious, but this time I was so relieved to know we had a place to stay that I convinced myself that these folks were just trusting, and that Stewart had developed sufficient rapport with them over the phone that they didn’t want to insult him by asking for money. Travel day arrived, and off we went.  Pulling Peregrine behind us, with Jeffrey and Emma painting the rear windows with their noses, we navigated our way down Hwy 6 over the bridge that connects The Cape with the rest of Massachusetts. Traffic was fairly heavy, but we had a spot booked, so we were good to go. We made our way to  Bass River Trailer Park in South Yarmouth, MA. As we turned onto Willow Street, my heart sank, and panic began to set in.  We looked like the first arrivals since the 1970’s.  The place was a dump. There was no way I was staying there. Needless to say, it became perfectly clear why no deposit was required. “Don’t let them see us!” I exclaimed, “Quickly, drive to the corner and turn right!”

The Placemat

Immediately, I got on Twitter and, in 140 characters, explained our predicament. For months, I had been tweeting with people about coming here. Within minutes, the tweets came in with suggestions of places to go for the night, and for alternative campsites. This was the beginning of the busiest weekend of the year, and we had no reservations.  We found a hotel nearby where we stayed for the night to regroup. I plugged in my laptop, and within 15 minutes had us booked for three weeks at Shady Knoll in Brewster, MA.

Once that was all settled, we went exploring, and found a fabulous restaurant, The Riverway Lobster House, that had just opened its Bass River location that night.  Dinner had the expected opening night hiccups, but the friendliness of the staff, and the quality of the food more than made up for it. Any seafood restaurant that has cioppino on its menu gets a gold star in my book. Shady Knoll was beautiful. Our first three nights there, we were nestled in the trees, hidden away from everyone. Unfortunately, the site was promised to someone else for the holiday weekend, so we were forced to move. It worked out fine, because our next spot was bigger, and somewhat closer to the rest rooms. We were still rustic, as Shady Knolls has beautiful trees, and dirt paths with varied levels so no one is actually right next to anyone else. The flipside to this, is nightly I found myself wandering into someone else’s campsite – even with the aid of a headlamp. My suggestion at the camp office of the occasional reflector on  the odd tree or two was met with a knowing smile and a “no”. One of the best parts of our stay here in Brewster was the weather. We had finally found the sweater weather we’d been chasing. It was heaven – sweatshirts and flipflops.  It was very important that we made the most of our time here, so quickly, we fell into a bit of a routine – a vagabond’s version.

Jeffrey and Emma Looking for the Kennedys

Most of the beaches are off-limits to dogs (Cape Cod Friendly Beaches) , but after 5:00 pm, they are welcome in most places. In fact, the Cape is a very dog-friendly place, period. Each day, we would go about our business separately, then as the clock crept towards 6:00, we’d gather food, and head towards a different beach – preferably on the west side – to play with Jeffrey and Emma, eat, read, and see the sunset on the water.  Though it was high season on the Cape, the beaches were remarkably deserted. The homes that face these beaches are lovely, and over and over I found my favorite.  For those of you who have read or watched John Irving’s, The World According to Garp , I want Jenny Field’s house. After the sunset, the wind really picked up, and it got quite chilly on the beach. Off we’d head back to Peregrine for a campfire and some music, courtesy of Stewart.  I found some really nice roasting skewers at the camp store, and after much practice, mastered the perfectly browned marshmallow specimen. Stewart has informed me it is un-American, but personally, I feel eating a s’more is like eating cardboard with a hot mess trying to pour out of its center.

Waiting for Godot

One of the highlights of Cape Cod for me was the chance to eat fresh clam chowder on a daily basis. Each place claims the best on the Cape, and I made it my mission to see who was right. It will take another season for me to tell for sure, but so far the rule of thumb is the simpler the food stand, the better the chowder. That goes for the fresh crab as well. There’s something about sitting on wooden benches roadside eating out of plastic baskets that just feels right. If I was anywhere else, it would never happen. One place we liked in Brewster, Kate’s Seafood, serves really good lobster rolls. It’s not the place for fine dining, but then that’s not what this paragraph is about anyway.

Which brings me to the topic of ice cream. I’ve never seen anything like it. If you recall in my post on Nashville I mentioned the city’s affection for cupcakes. Well, Cape Cod and ice cream have something going on. Everywhere I turned was another stand enticing me to go over to the dark side of caloric, artery-clogging heaven.  I’ll mention one I visited on a couple (few!) occasions, Friendly Ice Cream in Falmouth. The “Create Your Own Sundae” feature is so much fun. Our server was very patient as I vacillated back and forth between the Heath, butter pecan, Butterfinger… you get the idea. The Mint Cookie Crunch is ridiculous! Here is a quasi-official tour map of the ice cream locales on the Cape.

Roger's old place

We made our way to Woods Hole at the recommendation of Roger Hjulstrom (@Booksbelow), who had previously worked and lived there. The village life ebbs and flows with the sea – the marine life, Oceanography Institute. Even the only road through town comes to a stop as boats pass under, and the bridge lifts the sidewalks into the air.  There weren’t many options for us to eat with Jeffrey and Emma, and Massachusetts has a law against sidewalk cafes without some sort of fencing or enclosure (no, I am not digging up the link for this), and we couldn’t find any that were dog-friendly. Fortunately, there was a very nice and tasty restaurant that was willing to sell us lunch to go, and then let us eat it outside on their tables. Fishmonger Cafe was reasonably priced and delicious. I took a break from my beloved clam chowder, and went with vegetarian black

Ocean ABC's

bean chili, which was one of the day’s specials. When I tweeted with Roger later that day, he informed me that I had managed to photograph Stewart and Jeffrey right in front of his previous home. Now, anywhere else this would have been amazing. In Woods Hole, Mass, population 925, the odds were fairly high we would pass by his house.

While at the Oceanography Institute gift shop, I took a picture of a t-shirt, and emailed it to a friend of mine, Elizabeth Williams Bushey, who happens to be an extremely talented children’s author and musician (among her many, many talents). In that email, I challenged her to come up with a musical accompaniment for the shirt. As anyone who knows Elizabeth will tell you, I was not surprised when within 24 hours I had a link to the Water ABC song.  Here is a link to Elizabeth’s award-winning site, Inkless Tales. If you have children or grandchildren, or if you just haven’t grown up, you’ll enjoy navigating this smorgasbord of fun delights.

Listen to the Water ABC song here.

My good friend, Karen Brown (@toadjumps) likes to think I’m a bit of a hippie, so to make her happy I went out and bought myself a tie-dyed dress that can be seen in this YouTube video if you have the patience to watch until the end INSIDE PEREGRINE. The other thing about this video is it was my first attempt with my 3GS, and it is a full tour of Peregrine.  I hope you enjoy it – and it doesn’t make you too dizzy. I’m still working on my videography skills, however, I have started using a Flip Ultra HD.

Cape Cod

One of the first people I met when new to Twitter was Diana E Jennings (@DianaEJ). Diana was a real life NASA scientist. Because Bush thought money was better spent on things like bombs and fences. many important science-related (not W’s best subject) jobs were cut, so now Diana has been forced to change fields. As any over-achieving,  brilliant woman would do, Diana has risen to the occasion, and is thriving in her new challenge as Director of Regional Outreach at Bridgewater State College But, that’s another article.  Like most of the

Diana, Alison and Zoe

people I have met through Social Media, I cannot for the life of me recall how we first crossed paths. Did I start following Diana one day, or was it the other way around? For the first months we interacted it was primarily in direct messages back and forth. Diana was quite private – back then – and rarely sent tweets out into the public stream. I, on the other hand, tweet about almost everything in public. The irony of this is in the real world, I’m the one who is more of a private person, and Diana is more extroverted. Anyway, back to the main point. Diana lives on the Cape, and we were finally going to meet IRL, or in real life. Her daughter, Alison was coming with her to see me, and to see Peregrine. Now, to a 15 year old, the idea of living in an aluminum teardrop rimmed in bright orange traveling the open road with no set destination or timetable, no rules or boundaries except those I impose upon myselves must seem just about as romantic as life can get. Jack Kerouac, a fellow Massachusetts native, had nothing on this gal – rambling around the country, blogging of her adventures as she pens her memoirs. Her husband, a musician, composes his music while her two dogs play blissfully. Oh Jeez, who could live up to that? Instead, Ali got a middle-aged woman (me), a bowl of nuts and an afternoon of great conversation thanks to HER fantastic tales of travels to the rain forest. We had such a wonderful time, and I’m really looking forward to spending more time with them when we’re back on the Cape this summer.

And, now this brings me around to the story of Rosy the Riveter, and how the iconic lady ended up at the top of my piece on Cape Cod.  While Sitting over a cup of my ‘special’ tea, I said something about going “up to Provincetown” at the weekend. Upon hearing my geographical faux pax, Diana, in her no nonsense New England way, pushed up her sleeve, pumped up her bicep, and proceeded to explain to me that just as her fist was higher at the moment, it was also a fact that her hand was lower than her shoulder. Cape Cod very much resembles a bicep curl – much like Rosy’s

Scott's treat

One final thing I would like to mention before closing. From time to time, people have asked me to keep an eye out for various hard to find items. Sometimes they are looking for a type of yarn that can only be found in a special area, or in one woman’s case she wanted me to head to Hartford, CT to flip her former employer’s world headquarter’s the bird (I did, and have pictures to prove it). When Scott Whitelaw @lifecruise read that I was on the Cape, he wrote to me asking that I keep an eye out for barley candy. So, as we passed through village after village, I kept my eyes open for a confectioner. Sure enough, on the way back from Wood’s Hole I saw one with lobster lolipops in the window.  Stewart drove around the block, while I ran in and bought Scott his childhood treat from a beloved auntie. He was so excited when he went to his mailbox in Houston, TX and found it there. A few months later, I got the chance to meet Scott when were in Dallas for the #ENB tweetup. But, that’s another story.

Welcome to My Twitterverse

This post has been brewing in my mind since early March. Had I written it then it would read very differently than it will today, or even yesterday or tomorrow. You see, my Twitterverse is fluid, ever changing. At times fun is abundant, with cleverness the most valued attribute. Other days are about sharing ways to make the world a better place. Days when I open link after link learning things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. And of course, there are those days when I can rant to the world at large, free to express my ire 140 spaces at a time.

For those of you who are not familiar with Twitter, let me take a a few lines here to try and explain. If you ever entered a chat room the concept will be fairly simple to grasp. If not, let’s give it a try, and if it still makes no sense, post a comment and I’ll address your specific questions the best I am able. Frankly, trying to explain it here is forcing me to articulate what has been an abstract up until now.

OK, I have tried writing this section five different ways, and have decided to seek out the best explanation already written by someone else. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

Here are what a couple of ‘authorities’ write about Twitter:According to Wikipedia, Twitter is a “free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send updates (otherwise known as “tweets”) which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.” Right off the bat I must correct this definition.

Many complain about the 140 characters allowed in each tweet, when in reality it is 140 SPACES that are allowed. So if you tend towards the verbose (like me), you’re going to learn an entirely new form of abbreviation. Thus the proliferation of sentences that read like this: “it wld be SO GR8 2 have mark/color on @replies 2show U have replied back(like email) dont always rembr!” (source Sharon L Corsaro, aka @growinggold). I cannot tell you how many times since becoming a Twitter participant I have found myself writing just that sort of sentence IRL (in real life).

Pictured here is the dreaded and much blamed Fail Whale which appears whenever Twitter is down, loses our tweets or otherwise reeks havoc with our stream

I think this next explanation may be a bit more helpful for those who find even email challenging. How to Explain Twitter to Your Grandma: “Twitter is a free online service that allows you to send messages to hundreds of your friends all at the same time. Your Twitter friends receive an alert each time you send a new message either on their mobile phones and/or on their computer.”

Here is a short YouTube video that demonstrates even more clearly.

Now that I have done my best to explain Twitter, I will get back to what it has meant to me since joining 6 March. It is hard to believe it has been such a short time. My life is forever different because of this – no exaggeration! When I was flat on my back in the Florida Keys, I joined Twitter so I had something to do on my iPhone other than play solitaire. Little did I know that I was opening myself up to an entirely new world. It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. Stewart and I met on Match.com over seven years ago. I met one of my dearest friends back in 1995 while doing research for an article in an AOL chat room. My cousin, Alyson met her husband, Vopni in a chat room. It’s all around us. The primary difference with Twitter for me is the control I have over who is in my Twitter universe, or Twitterverse. If someone is offensive, I simply block them. That way their negativity no longer shows up in my stream, and I don’t show up in theirs. Unlike chat rooms, I don’t have to leave to get away from negative people. Instead, I tighten the net around my stream.

While we were in Florida, I decided I wanted to start a book club. Living on the road as we are does not lend itself to a traditional book club where we meet in each others living rooms once a week or once a month, but I knew that with the millions of people on Twitter I would find at least one other person who wished to read a book and discuss it. Danna Furnace-Grim (@_DANNA_) was the first to respond to my tweet asking if anyone was interested. She helped to research online bookclubs, and we publicized for others to join us. After we had a handful of interested peop le, we put out a few suggested books. Unfortunately, Danna was unable to participate as her boss does not understand the business potential of Twitter. He will soon enough, but for now we are able to continue to connect via Facebook (another story!). The most important criterion for me was that book was available as an eBook and it was free. There are over 28,000 eBooks available through Project Gutenberg, plus many authors have PDF versions of their books on their web pages. An eBook is available for anyone with a computer, so there is no carbon footprint (trees cut down, fossil fuels burned in production and transportation), and with money tight for many of us these days, free is something we can all appreciate and afford.

The book we decided upon was Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Ms. Sher was generous enough to make her book available free as an eBook on her website. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary in print. The first time I read Wishcraft was in 1984. I was working a power job wearing a power suit. After reading and doing the lessons in each chapter it became clear to me I was not living my ideal life. I quit my job and went back to university to study my passion, political science. I was able to chart a path through life that worked for me because of this book. Thank you, Barbara Sher. Oh, and did I mention @BarbaraSher is participating in our Twitter book club, #booktweet? My lessons are now being reviewed by the author herself! Just another joy of Twitter. Six degrees of separation are reduced to one! For those of you who are interested, #booktweet meets Saturdays at 12 EDT.

Another influential author in my life is Paulo Coelho. I have read and re-read The Alchemist so many times I can practically quote passages by heart. When I had reached the point in politics where my rose colored glasses had been shattered along with my heart, I knew it was time for a change. A friend and I took a short trip to New Orleans, and walking through the French Quarter, I was drawn towards a bookstore small bookstore cramped full of wonderful books of every sort. The sort of bookstore of my dreams – a bit chaotic that requires real exploration. A small book with a purple cover caught my eye. As soon as I picked it up and began flipping through the pages I knew this was no ordinary book. I realized my friend was giving me a bit of a strange look, so after paying tucked the book into my pocket to be enjoyed in solitude later. Though a simple story, a parable really, its lesson was what I needed. I once again heeded the message in a book and moved to California to begin again. Since then, I have given away countless copies of The Alchemist, and have continued to be a devoted fan of Mr. Coelho. Imagine my excitement when I checkout my new followers on Twitter, and there among them was @PauloCoelho! By the way, there are several eBook available exclusively on his website, and we will likely be reading one of his books soon on #booktweet. Also, I was introduced to other fans/followers of Paulo Coelho, such as Maybelline Te (@maybellinete), who is an actual Santiago de Compostela pilgrim

Since Stewart and I are traveling full time we have been able to meet several people in person who we first met on Twitter. I’ve already told you about Tom Morris (@TomVMorris), Sandi McKenna (@McMedia) and James Johnson (@JamesIslander). Since then we have met Darren and Judy Reeves (@SuperDad_08 and @Judes_08), Mark Lesser (@DrMarkLesser), Mark and Vanessa Hundley (@MarkHundley), and Randell and Julie Hiltbrunner (@NikeStix and @SilverSmyth). Stewart and I had so much fun with these folks, we have now gotten together twice, and are meeting for a third time Sunday afternoon at Julie’s art show in Ft Worth. We are staying with our dear friend, Dr. Nancy McClellan while we are in Dallas. Nancy will from now on be known as @Nancy_Dallas. She and I will be having massages and body wraps at Sedona Spa by Zane Aveton (@Zaneology), and this week, Stewart and I are going down to San Antonio for a guitar jam session with Jeff Schechter (@ReallyShecky). And I must not forget my thrice weekly phone calls with Ponet (@Ponet), the Queen of CAPS!

Speaking of music, as I have previously written about, Stewart (@StewartRaven) is creating some amazing music on this journey. He has allowed me to publish a couple of his pieces on Twitter using an application named Twiturm that allows musicians to share their mus ic with the Twitterverse in real time. No need to create any fancy videos or negotiate with iTunes. One of the pieces I uploaded for Stewart was “Shades of Gloria in E”. Previously, I had contacted Rabbi Specht (@RabbiShaiSpecht) about Stewart’s music as he is a wonderful vocalist and lyricist. From time to time over the past three months Rabbi has “dropped by” to ask me if I had anything to share with him. When I tweeted him the link to Stewart’s new song, the sparks flew, and within 24 hours the vocals were sent back to me. Stewart and I worked together to mix the vocals and instrumental tracks, and within another 24 hours, “Shades of Gloria with vocals by Rabbi Specht was up on Twiturm. The first collaboration by The Raven and the Reb.
Shades of Gloria in E

My experience on Twitter has not been all rosy. As in the real world, there are flakes who are disingenuous and inauthentic. Though I am having difficulty getting an accurate count, it is fair to say there are around 10 million Twitter accounts. In a small town of five thousand there are jerks who first appear great. Why would the Twitterverse be any different!? For example, there is the Lothario who is in love with someone new each week. And the opportunists who care more about promoting themselves and their businesses than being authentic.

Then, there are the Celebrity Twitters led by Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and his wife, Demi Moore (@mrskutcher), Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) and John Mayer (@johncmayer) who have thousands, even millions of followers, but only tweet to each other, and rarely follow any one back. And others hire people to tweet for them (@britneyspears). For example, John Mayer has as of this moment 1,241,175 followers, yet only deems 47 people worthy of following back. The arrogance of this is astounding to me. The beauty of Twitter is the back and forth exchange of ideas and information. If someone only tweets without ever jumping in and actually interacting with others, they completely miss the point. Go look in the mirror and talk to yourself, John.

There was one celebrity who was following me (he shall remain nameless), but would only interact with me in DM’s. After a few separate instances, I finally asked him flat out if he was embarrassed to be seen tweeting with a non-celebrity. His reply was to list me among his five top fans of the week. After I stopped laughing, I blocked him. I had never seen his show, and only followed him because he followed me first! I left him to Speidi.

A small group of us have become regulars in what we refer to as the #ENB club. One night we all happened to begin tweeting together and Jay Koch (@JayKoch) shared a YouTube video with us entitled “Ed Needs Bob

For some reason, this little video hit us all as hilarious. Stewart and I had tears rolling down our faces and pain in our sides as we watched it for the 19th time. He remarked that there needed to be an acronym for when something is so funny LOL and ROFL just doesn’t cut it. Jay shot back with ENB! So now whenever something is especially funny, we tag it with #ENB. We have learned since this started that this is either something that you get or not – a bit like gefilte fish. Either you love it or you don’t.

When I was heading to Kenner, LA for my appointment with the Neuroendocrine doctors at Oschner, I felt first hand the power of prayer. The folks whom I had grown surprisingly close to on Twitter acted as a support group for me in preparatio
n and during my ordeal. Each time I would log into my Twitter account, there would be multiple tweets folks had left me encouraging me, making me laugh, and teaching me new ways to cope with the results if they were less than stellar. It seemed that the entire Twitterverse knew when I was meeting with the doctors for the diagnosis. When I shared my good news, it was like a virtual wildfire with support and cheers tweeted and retweeted (RT). Stewart and I felt as though we were sharing our good news with a group of people who sincerely cared. In fact, one man asked for my telephone number so he could ring me. When he called, he told me he was completely taken by surprise by how much he cared. These are real people out there. It’s fairly obvious who is for real and who is not.

I know this is getting long, but bear with me (there ya’ go, Frank Feigert!) – are the products and resources I have learned about from others. For example, I was kidding around with Jane Johnson (@JaneEJohnson), Amy Kaster-Heath (@newmanzoo) and a few others about the unfair advantage men have when it comes to relieving themselves while traveling. Up pops a tweet in my stream (no pun intended) from Go Girl (@Go_Girls) about their product d esigned specifically for women to, well, go on the go. After as few tweets back and forth, I let them know where I would be that I could receive a package, and they sent me a couple of samples to try. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with it, but my word is my bond so I went for it. I stepped into the shower and gave it a try. It was simple to use, easily washed for reuse and worked exactly as promised. A few days later we were on our way through Orange, TX when nature called. I stepped into the restroom at a small gas station, and was immediately grossed out. But then I remembered I had my Go Girl with me, and I was good to go. Granted, I still needed to touch the faucet handle to rinse it out, but I had a tissue in my purse, so cooties were avoided. The only thing that would make

it better is if they included a small case for storage similar to the old cigarette cases women used to carry. Something discreet without Go Girl written all over it for those times when my purse inevitably spills all over the floor. Thank you, Go Girl for making my odyssey that much better. Now, I just have to find an opportunity to write my name in the dirt!

It would be impossible to share all the ways Twitter has changed my life. When I mentioned to Mark Hundley I was covering this topic on my blog, he emailed this to me. I am including Mark’s words unedited:

If I were to answer the question as to how Twitter has changed my life . . . well, I’d start with YOU! Meeting you has been one of the most powerful blessing I’ve ever experienced! Without Twitter, our friendship would likely never have happened. Then there is Ponet . . . nuff said!
Twitter has given me chances to meet people from all over the world without ever having to leave my home! And when I say “meet,” I mean “get to know!”

How else would I have been invited to be the mental health expert for one of Dr. Mommy’s websites; or interviewed on ReclaimU radio program; or be able to send free copies of the CD to folks who either needed the information or have access to folks who need it; or find people like Susan Heim and Dr. Mia Rose to provide pertinent and appropriate endorsements for the Second Edition of Awaken to Good Mourning; or have a gentleman take on the challenge to single-handedly raise awareness about my Birthday wish withing his circle of influence as well as that of his wife; or meet fellow therapists for coffee to exchange ideas; or have tweetups in Dallas with the best people in the world; or have invitations from other writers/thinkers to collaborate on future projects; or . . . you get my drift?

I believe firmly in the Law of the Harvest — You harvest WHAT you plant, MORE than you plant and LATER than you plant — in relationships, business endeavors, humanitarian causes, attitudes, beliefs, actions . . . My participation in Twitter and my commitment to myself to be as honest, transparent and real as possible has made this experience one of the best in my life!

I look forward to continued participation as it evolves as well!

Jay Koch and Jamie Inman (@ibeatcancrtwice) are collaborating on a radio program. Kathy Ireland (@kathyireland) has started a movement to get Elizabeth Taylor (@DameElizabeth) the Presidential Medal of Honor. Twitter is an incubator for ideas and creativity in real time. I’m just happy I finally joined. By the way, the first person I followed was NPR’s Daniel Schorr (@DanielSchorr), who will be 93 years old in August. For all of you who think you are too old to jump in, think again. Look me up in the Twitterverse. As my TGDG (Twin Granddaughters, Different Grandmother) Jane often writes, “ttfn”.

@MaraBG

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style=”font-size:100%;”>This post has been brewing in my mind since early March. Had I written it then it would read very differently than it will today, or even yesterday or tomorrow. You see, my Twitterverse is fluid, ever changing. At times fun is abundant, with cleverness the most valued attribute. Other days are about sharing ways to make the world a better place. Days when I open link after link learning things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. And of course, there are those days when I can rant to the world at large, free to express my ire 140 spaces at a time.

style=”font-size:100%;”>For those of you who are not familiar with Twitter, let me
take a a few lines here to try and explain. If you ever entered a chat room the concept will be fairly simple to grasp. If not, let’s give it a try, and if it still makes no sense, post a comment and I’ll address your specific question the best I am able. Frankly, trying to explain it here is forcing me to articulate what has been an abstract up until now.

OK, I have tried writing this section five different ways, and have decided to seek out the best explanation already written by someone else. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Here are what a couple of ‘authorities’ write about Twitter:

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is a “free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send updates (otherwise known as “tweets”) which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.”

Right off the bat I must correct this definition. Many speak about the 140 characters allowed in each tweet, when in reality it is 140 SPACES that are allowed. So if you are tend towards the verbose (like me), you’re going to learn an entirely new form of abbreviation. Thus the proliferation of sentences that read like this: “it wld be SO GR8 2 have mark/color on @replies 2show U have replied back(like email) dont always rembr!” (source Sharon L Corsaro, aka @growinggold). I cannot tell you how many times since becoming a Twitter participant I have found myself writing just that sort of sentence IRL (in real life).

style=”color: rgb(255, 153, 0);font-size:85%;”>(pictured here is the dreaded and much blamed Fail Whale which appears whenever Twitter is down, loses our tweets or otherwise reeks havoc with our stream)

I

think this next explanation may be a bit more helpful for those who find email challenging.

How to Explain Twitter to Your Grandma: “ style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>Twitter is a free online service that allows you to send messages to hundreds of your friends all at the same time. Your Twitter friends receive an alert each time you send a new message either on their mobile phones and/or on their computer.” Here is a short YouTube video In Plain English that demonstrates even more style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> clearly.

style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>Now that I have done my best to explain Twitter, I will get back to what it has meant to me since joining 6 March. It is hard to believe it has been such a short time. My life is forever d style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ifferent because of this – no exaggeration! When I was flat on my back in the Florida Keys, I joined Twitter so I had something to do on my iPhone other than play solitaire. Little did I know that I was opening myself up to an entirel style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>y new world. It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. Stewart and I met on Match.com over seven years ago. I met one of my dearest friends back in 1995 while doing research for an article in an AOL chat room. My cousin, Alyson met her husband, Vopni in a chat room. It’s all around us. The primary difference with Twitter for me is the control I have over who is in my Twitter universe, or Twitterverse. If someone is offensive, I simply block them. That way their negativity no longer shows up in my stream, and I don’t show up in theirs. Unlike chat rooms, I don’t have to leave to get away from negative people. Instead, I ti style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ghten the net around my stream.

style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>While we were in Florida, I decided I wanted to start a book club. Living on the road does not lend itself to such and idea, but I knew that with the millions of people on Twitter I would find at least one other person who wished to read a book and discuss it. Danna Furnace-Grimes (_DANNA_) was the first to respond to my tweet asking if anyone was interested. She did research on online bookclubs, and we pu style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>blicized for others to join us. After we had a handful of interested people, w style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>e put out a few suggested books. Unfortunately, Danna was unable to participate as her boss does not understand the bu style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>siness potential of Twitter. He will soon enough, but for now we are able to continue to connect via Facebook (another story!) style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>. The most important criterion for me was that book was available as an eBook and it was free. There are over 28,000 eBooks available through Project Gutenberg, plus many authors have PDF versions of their books on their web pa style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ges. An eBook is available for anyone with a computer, so there is no carbon footprint (trees cut down, fo style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ssil fuels burned in production and transportation), and with money tig style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ht for many of us these days, free is something we can all appreciate and afford.

style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>The book we decided upon was Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Ms. Sher was generous to make her book available style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> free style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> to all on her website. It is celebrating its 30 style=”font-weight: normal;”>th style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> anniversary in print. The first time I read Wishcraft was in 1984. I was working a power job wearing a power suit. After reading and d style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>oing the lessons in each chapter it became clear to me I was not living my ideal life. I quit my job and went back to university to study my p style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>assion, political science. I was able to chart a path through life that worked for me because of this book. Thank you, Barbara Sher. Oh, and did I mention @BarbaraSher is participating in our Twitter book club, #booktweet? Just another joy of Twitter. Six degrees of separation are reduced to one! For those of you w
ho are interested, #booktweet meets Saturdays at 12 EDT.

Another influential author in my life is Paulo Coelho. I have read and re-read The Alchemist so many times I can practically quote passages by heart. When I had reached the point in politics where my rose colored glasses had been shattered along with my heart, I knew it was time for a change. A friend and I took a short trip to New Orleans, and walking through the French Quarter, I was drawn towards a bookstore small bookstore cramped full of wonderful books of every sort. The sort of bookstore of my dreams – a bit chaotic that requires real exploration. A small book with a purple cover caught my eye. As soon as I picked it up and began flipping through the pages I knew this was no ordinary book. I realized my friend was giving me a bit of a strange look, so after paying tucked the book into my pocket to be enjoyed in solitude later. Though a simple story, a parable really, its lesson was what I needed. I once again heeded the message in a book and moved to California to begin again. Since then, I have given away countless copies of The Alchemist, and have continued to be a devoted fan of Mr. Coelho. Imagine my excitement when I checkout my new followers on Twitter, and there among them was @PauloCoelho! By the way, there are several eBook available exclusively on his website, and we will likely be reading one of his books soon on #booktweet.

Since Stewart and I are traveling full time we have been able to meet several people in person who we first met on Twitter. I’ve already told you about Tom Morris (@TomVMorris), Sandi McKenna (@McMedia) and Ja mes Johnson (@JamesIslander). Since then we have met Darren and Judy Reeves (@SuperDad_08 and @Judes_08), Mark Lesser (@DrMarkLesser), Mark and Vanessa Hundley (@MarkHundley), and Randell and Julie Hiltbrunner (@NikeStix and @SilverSmyth). Stewart and I had so much fun with these folks, we have now gotten

together twice, and are meeting for a third time Sunday afternoon at Julie’s art show in Ft Worth. We are staying with our dear friend, Dr. Nancy McClellan while we are in Dallas. Nancy will from now on be known as @Nancy_Dallas. She and I will be having massages and body wraps at Sedona Spa by Zane Aveton (@Zaneology), and this week, Stewart and I are going down to San Antonio for a guitar jam session with Jeff Schechter (@ReallyShecky). And I must not forget my thrice weekly phone calls with Ponet (@Ponet), the Queen of CAPS!

Speaking of music, as I have previously written about, Stewart (@StewartRaven) is creating some amazing music on this journey. He has allowed me to publish a couple of his pieces on Twitter using an application named Twiturm that allows musicians to share their music with the Twitterverse in real time. No need to create any fancy videos or negotiate with iTunes. One of the pieces I uploaded for Stewart was “Shades of Gloria in E”. Previously, I had contacted Rabbi Specht (@RabbiShaiSpecht) about Stewart’s music as he is a wonderful vocalist and lyricist. From time to time over the past three months Rabbi has “dropped by” to ask me if I had anything to share with him. When I tweeted him the link to Stewart’s new song, the sparks flew, and within 24 hours the vocals were sent back to me. Stewart and I worked together to mix the vocals and instrumental tracks, and within another 24 hours, “Shades of Gloria with vocals by Rabbi Specht was up on Twiturm. The first collaboration by style=”font-style: italic;”>The Raven and the Reb.

My experience on Twitter has not been all rosy. As in the real world, there are flakes who are disingenuous and inauthentic. Though I am having difficulty getting an accurate count, it is fair to say there are around 10 million Twitter accounts. In a small town of five thousand there are jerks who first appear great. Why would the Twitterverse be any different!? For example, there is the Lothario who is in love with someone different every week. Reading his tweets will leave the average person a bit nauseated as he tweets his love and devotion into the public stream instead of in Direct Messages (DM is a tweet sent directly to a friend that only they will see). No one really wants to read about what he wants to do to her when they eventually meet. If I were a betting woman, my money is on that never happening.

Then, there are the Celebrity Twitters led by Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and his wife, Demi Moore (@mrskutcher), Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) and John Mayer (@johncmayer) who have thousands, even millions of followers, but only tweet to each other, and rarely follow any one back. And others hire people to tweet for them (@britneyspears). For example, John Mayer has as of this moment 1,241,175 followers, yet only deems 47 people worthy of following back. The arrogance of this is astounding to me. The beauty of Twitter is the back and forth exchange of ideas and information. If someone only tweets without ever jumping in and actually interacting with others, they completely miss the point. Go look in the mirror and talk to yourself, John.

There was one celebrity who was following me (he shall remain nameless), but would only interact with me in DM’s. After a few separate instances, I finally asked him flat out if he was embarrassed to be seen tweeting with a non-celebrity. His reply was to list me among his five top fans of the week. After I stopped laughing, I blocked him. I had never seen his show, and only followed him because he followed me first! I left him to Speidi.

A small group of us have become regulars in what we refer to as the #ENB club. One night we all happened to begin tweeting together and Jay Koch (@JayKoch) shared a YouTube video with us entitled “Ed Needs Bob”.

For some reason, this
little video hit us all as hilarious. Stewart and I had tears rolling down our faces and pain in our sides as we watched it for the 19th time. He remarked that there needed to be an acronym for when something is so funny LOL and ROFL just doesn’t cut it. Jay shot back with ENB! So now whenever something is especially funny, we tag it with #ENB. We have learned since this started that this is either something that you get or not – a bit like gefilte fish. Either you love it or you don’t.

When I was heading to Kenner, LA for my appointment with the Neuroendocrine doctors at Oschner, I felt first hand the power of prayer. The folks whom I had grown surprisingly close to on Twitter acted as a support group for me in preparation and during my ordeal. Each time I would log into my Twitter account, there would be multiple tweets folks had left me encouraging me, making me laugh, and teaching me new ways to cope with the results if they were less than stellar. It seemed that the entire Twitterverse knew when I was meeting with the doctors for the diagnosis. When I shared my good news, it was like a virtual wildfire with support and cheers tweeted and retweeted (RT). Stewart and I felt as though we were sharing our good news with a group of people who sincerely cared. In fact, one man asked for my telephone number so he could ring me. When he called, he told me he was completely taken by surprise by how much he cared. These are real people out there. It’s fairly obvious who is for real and who is not.

I know this is getting long, but bear with me (there ya’ go, Frank Feigert!) – are the products and resources I have learned about from others. For example, I was kidding around with Jane Johnson (@JaneEJohnson), Amy Kaster-Heath (@newmanzoo) and a few others about the unfair advantage men have when it comes to relieving themselves while traveling. Up pops a tweet in my stream (no pun intended) from Go Girl (@Go_Girls) about their product designed specifically for women to, well, go on the go. After as few tweets back and forth, I let them know where I would be that I could receive a package, and they sent me a couple of samples to try. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with it, but my word is my bond so I went for it. I stepped into the shower and gave it a try. It was simple to use, easily washed for reuse and worked exactly as promised. A few days later we were on our way through Orange, TX when nature called. I stepped into the restroom at a small gas station, and was immediately grossed out. But then I remembered I had my Go Girl with me, and I was good to go. Granted, I still needed to touch the faucet handle to rinse it out, but I had a tissue in my purse, so cooties were avoided. The only thing that would make it better is if they included a small case for storage similar to the old cigarette cases women used to carry. Something discreet without Go Girl written all over it for those times when my purse inevitably spills all over the floor. Thank you, Go Girl for making my odyssey that much better. Now, I just have to find an opportunity to write my name in the dirt!

style=”font-size:100%;”>It would be impossible to share all the ways Twitter has changed my life. When I mentioned to Mark Hundley I was covering this topic on my blog, he emailed this to me. I am including Mark’s words unedited:

style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”> style=”font-size:100%;”>

style=”font-size:100%;”>If I were to answer the question as to how Twitter has changed my life . . . well, I’d start with YOU! Meeting you has been one of the most powerful blessing I’ve ever experienced! Without Twitter, our friendship would likely never have happened. Then there is Ponet . . . nuff said!

Twitter has given me chances to meet people from all over the world without ever having to leave my home! And when I say “meet,” I mean “get to know!”

How else would I have been invited to be the mental health expert for one of Dr. Mommy’s websites; or interviewed on ReclaimU radio program; or be able to send free copies of the CD to folks who either needed the information or have access to folks who need it; or find people like Susan Heim and Dr. Mia Rose to provide pertinent and appropriate endorsements for the Second Edition of Awaken to Good Mourning; or have a gentleman take on the challenge to single-handedly raise awareness about my Birthday wish withing his circle of influence as well as that of his wife; or meet fellow therapists for coffee to exchange ideas; or have tweetups in Dallas with the best people in the world; or have invitations from other writers/thinkers to collaborate on future projects; or . . . you get my drift?

I believe firmly in the Law of the Harvest — You harvest WHAT you plant, MORE than you plant and LATER than you plant — in relationships, business endeavors, humanitarian causes, attitudes, beliefs, actions . . . My participation in Twitter and my commitment to myself to be as honest, transparent and real as possible has made this experience one of the best in my life!

I look forward to continued participation as it evolves as well!
Jay Koch and Jamie Inman (@ibeatcancrtwice) are collaborating on a radio program. Kathy Ireland (@kathyireland) has started a movement to get Elizabeth Taylor (@DameElizabeth) the Presidential Medal of Honor. Twitter is an incubator for ideas and creativity in real time. I’m just happy I finally joined. By the way, the first person I followed was NPR’s Daniel Schorr (@DanielSchorr), who will be 93 years old in August. For all of you who think you are too old to jump in, think again. Look me up in the Twitterverse. Goodbye for now.

<@MaraBG

I would love you to share your experiences with Twitter. How has it changed your life?

A Tale of Four Cities

Now that all the excitement of disease, death, and urine samples is behind us, it’s time to get back to the real purpose of this blog – FUN! We have a lot of catching up to do, so we had better get started.

As I mentioned previously, we left the Keys, and headed over to the Florida West Coast. Our first stop after driving through the much lauded and equally overrated Everglades was St. James City on Pine Island. You may ask why we stopped in this particular place when Sanibel Island was our destination, and all I can tell you is I let Stewart make the arrangements. Note to self: Google all reservations made by Stewart before departure. The Island was in a beautiful location right on the Gulf of Mexico, and the Intracoastal Waterway, however the median age was 63.2. The only thing that come to mind is they averaged in the ages of great-grandchildren who were visiting at the time the census was conducted. Even the biker bar had a handrail in the restroom with a raised seat.

Besides the mosquito and noseeum infestation, we were able to manage a bit of fun. One of the restaurants we returned to a couple of times was The Waterfront Restaurant and Marina. The food was delicious and plentiful. The fresh clam chowder was particularly good, as was the broiled seafood gumbo. The first time we at there, we sat in the bar as it was packed. Beer was 25 ¢ and served in a mason jar. As you can imagine, hot sun mixed with cheap beer made for an interesting group of diners and drinkers. A few locals entertained us with stories, some of which are just not appropriate to share on a PG-13 blog. The many stickers that graced the wall behind the bar were also good for a few laughs.

The biggest drawback to St. James City being Heaven’s Waiting Room was that Stewart and I are night people. We first began to think about food when the street lights were being extinguished for the night. Fortunately we were able to find one of the best meals we’d had to date at The Lazy Flamingo. Though they are known for their Dead Parrot Wings, we shared an appetizer of conch (pronounced conk by the locals) fritters that were moist and delicious, followed by grilled grouper sandwich for me, and a grilled fish platter for Stewart. We were stuffed to the gills, so to speak, but our very persuasive waitperson convinced us our meal would not be complete without a slice triple layer chocolate mousse layer cake. We didn’t want to let her down, so we dug in. When the bill came, the waitperson had deducted 10% from the bill because she liked us – not something that happens every day. (Note: I did not tell her I wrote a travel blog, which made it even sweeter!)

The third and final noteworthy place we visited that was Woody’s Waterside. Now, before I go any further, I think it is important that you know Woody is a dog. More specifically, a hound dog. His picture graces the wall behind the bar asleep with his tongue akimbo and paws wrapped around a can of beer. After eating there, I will be adding restaurants named for pets to my list of places to skip. In retrospect it seemed like a good idea as the parking lot was full, and compared to the geriatric biker bar, it was fabulous.

If you happened to read my previous post, you know about my experience with the less than competent folks at Quest Labs. Needless to say, I was extremely happy to see Pine Island in the rear view mirror. Our next stop was beautiful St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach. This was 180º from Pine Island. Though we had an inauspicious approach with GPS directing us into a cemetery, we ended up in this beautiful lush place on the bayou where Tampa Bay empties on its journey back from the Gulf of Mexico. Our campsite was surrounded by old growth trees and flowering bougainvillea bushes with the view of the water right across the path. Our three days there stretched into almost two weeks as we were reluctant to give up our corner of paradise. Then, the heat and humidity arrived. Florida in late April/early May is just no fun. There were so many wonderful restaurants and places we went during our stay in Madeira Beach that I couldn’t begin to mention them all. Instead, I will focus on a few standouts.

This was the first real sense we had of the West Coast versus the East Coast of Florida. There was decidedly a different feel here, more Southern than Eastern. The pace was slower, the locals and tourists younger and friendlier. We ate at a lovely place along the boardwalk in Clearwater called Britts’ Laguna Grill. We started out with a dozen raw oysters. They were so large and plump they actually took two bites a piece. Fortunately, we had ordered a couple of caramelized salmon salads. The dressing was made with fresh ginger, and was outstanding. The couple at the next table had smuggled in their dog. It was the cutest little thing tucked inside the man’s shirt. I tried to ask them about the dog, but they spoke no English, and I spoke no Portuguese.

Our Fifth wedding anniversary was during our stay in Madeira Beach, and we had a full day. First thing we did was meet briefly with Tom Morris, whom I had ‘met’ on Twitter. There is always a chance when meeting someone who is only a virtual friend, that they will not be who they seem in cyberspace. In this case, Tom was the real deal. A true gentleman, kind and generous of spirit. I have a pretty finely tuned BS detector, as does Stewart, and no bells went off. Tom was in St. Pete’s giving a speech, and coincidentally, we discovered we were in the same town. This is known in tweetspeak as a tweetup. After his speech, Tom stayed to be interviewed for an Internet TV show. The producer and a freelance journalist were also Twitter folks, ProducerGirl and McMedia, aka, Sandi McKenna. More about Twitter later.

After taking a walk along the beach, Stewart and I decided to look for a place to eat. We stopped in at Crabby Bill’s. It’s been around for over 25 years, and from what we can figure out, Bill is crabby because he wants some good food and good service! There were very few people up on the roof deck overlooking the water, so we thought there would be no problem having a leisurely meal. I’m just going to leave it that if I don’t have anythi
ng good to say, I’m not going to say anything at all.

Later that night, after spending some time with Jeffrey and Emma, Stewart and I headed into St. Petersburg proper to see “I Love You, Man”. It was very funny example of a modern day bromance. One of the bonuses of traveling is seeing concerts and films in strange venues. The audiences are different, the feel of the place is foreign – even if it’s the same film showing in your own neighborhood.

There is this little gadget I have on my laptop that allows me to enter the city we’re currently in, and it pops up all the music in the area. While in St. Petersburg, I found out SEAL was going to be performing the following night at the Mahaffey Theater. We immediately bought tickets assuming we’d be in nosebleed seats. Instead, to our delight, we were able to get box seats right next to the stage. Apparently, they save these until the last minute in case some big shots decide to attend (the venue saves them, not Seal). We have both been to hundreds of concerts, and can say without a doubt, that we have never witnessed as masterful a performance as this. The energy in the room was electric. Seal’s connection to the crowd was almost intimate. The man is a masterful entertainer, a humble man who is grateful for his life, and a gifted singer. He had us in the palm of his hand from the first note. I’ve thought long and hard how I was going to explain this experience in words, and frankly, I’m stumped. It was just too divine even try.

One of the most unexpected treats we’ve had so far on this journey was discovering my dear old friend, Marta Rose, is VP Communications for Panama City Beach. Marta and I had been close friends years ago when we both lived in Santa Monica, CA, but had lost contact with each other until quite recently. One thing I always loved about Marta was her ability to connect with people and places in a very special way. She was able to show us around, and provide some local colour. We ate at the Boatyard, which was delicious, and Guy Harvey’s Island Grill, which was horrible. It was a shame, really, because it is perfectly situated at the end of Pier Park near the waterfront.

James Johnson, another Twitter friend lives in Panama City and was gracious enough to take us to a couple of really cool restaurants. The first one was Captain Anderson’s. It was an old local staple with a variety of delicious fish overlooking a dock with boats moored all along the backside. Next, we went to Ernie’s Bayfront Grill & Brewhouse. They have a great wraparound back deck that overlooks the dock – a coastal feature present at most establishments in this neck of the woods.

Did I mention it was Bike Week in Panama City Beach? Tens of thousands of Harley Davidson’s roared through the streets creating a cacophony of engine noise, music and general revelry. One of the things that really spoiled the dinner we had at Guy Harvey’s was the occasional biker who just had to rev his engine for effect in the parking lot. We were unable to hear each other, and the smell of exhaust was stifling. I did learn a new acronym, though. RUB, Rich Urban Biker, and there were many of these! The way RUBs were described to me was guys who have their bikes shipped down while they board their private jets, change out of their suits into their leathers, and paint on temporary tattoos for the week. As funny as this may seem, from what I saw, the description hit its mark!

One last thing I feel it is important to mention before we leave Florida is we spent three full months along the coastline from Miami down to Key West, and over to the west coast and up through the panhandle. Stewart loves to fish, and as I’ve previously written about even caught Emma while engaged in night fishing off our back dock. During all this time, with countless hours spent bridge fishing, dock fishing and bank fishing, money spent on bait, tackle and equipment, we did not have a single fish dinner that did not come from the grocery store or a restaurant. Stewart is a lot of wonderful things. A fisherman is no one of them.

(I realize this blog is really, really long, but it has been a while since I updated, so please bare with me.)

We headed back to New Orleans, and spent two weeks at the Pontchartrain Landing RV Park. Of all the places we stayed, this was the most enjoyable. It was not the most scenic (we were for the most part in a shipyard), or the best facilities (no restaurant, game room or boat rentals), or the most centrally located (we were down a torn up road right in the midst of Katrina’s devastation), but it was STILL the best campground so far. It’s all about the people. This place had some of the nicest folks we’d met anywhere. The Property Managers, Nate and Dawn Garrder, were always available, kind and working hard to make this the best place to stay in New Orleans. The people working with them, like Jim and Bunny McElyea stopped by just to say hi and see if there was anything we needed. When Jim heard I had gotten good news from Kenner, he immediately went and found his wife to tell her. Bunny was by to share in my joy. We’ve been traveling for almost seven months, and this was the first time we even knew the names of staffers, nonetheless visited with them. They are doing a lot of work to make this place beautiful and fully functional for its guests. We will definitely be going back there.

16 May was our last Saturday night in New Orleans, and we didn’t want to miss one last chance to enjoy the fantastic music scene this great city has to offer. So, around 9:30 we headed over to Bourbon Street where you are almost guaranteed to find good music for free (or the very most, the cost of a beer). We walked around for a bit before we heard some of the best guitar playing either of us had ever heard coming out of Tropical Isle. The place was packed near the front, so we worked our way to the back of the bar area right near the stage. Right in front of us were friends of the bands, one of whom was a music producer out of Austin, TX. He started telling us about the history of the All Purpose Blues Band, and Billy Gregory, lead guitar, in particular. It seems Billy used to play with A Beautiful Day, and has been a New Orleans staple for decades. Their rendition of Black Magic Woman would have made Santana proud! When the band was through with their set, they came over and introduced themselves to us. Stewart and Billy quickly got into a discussion of calluses (Stewart had them, Billy didn’t). I was chatting with one of the other musicians, when suddenly Stewart grabb
ed my arm and starts pushing me. I was a bit surprised my gentle husband was manhandling me in this way, but decided to ignore him. When he kept at it, I decided maybe I should investigate what he wanted. At this point, his gingerly pushing became much more direct, with verbal instructions. “Move”, he yelled. “Let’s go”. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you, those are fighting words for me! When I asked him what the bleep he was doing, he yelled, “this place is on fire! Now, MOVE!”. Finally, I got it. I moved. Poor Stewart. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, it turned into a 4-Alarm fire with 70 firefighters working over the next couple of hours to extinguish the flames. Miraculously, no other buildings were damaged. The owners are planning on rebuilding, and the employees and band assured us they will find temporary work along Bourbon Street until the Tropical Isle reopens.

After we were certain everyone was out safely, and that they would not be playing another set, we wandered down the street to Famous Door, a venue we had visited previously. The same band, Rock Box, was playing. They did a good job covering everything from Led Zeppelin to Lynyrd Skynyrd. We stayed until they finished their set, then moved on to another blues club, where we heard New Orleans Levee Board Blues perform. They were world class musicians, but it was obvious they were playing to the crowd instead of playing what they loved. We were seated right in front, and the dance floor was empty. The place was about half full. I nagged Stewart until he finally gave in and danced with me. Within moments the dance floor filled up, and the band came alive. A group of young women gathered for a bachelorette party saw the crowd enjoying themselves, so they came on inside. The bride was up on stage dancing, her friends all donned wigs in colors ranging from pink to green to purple. By the time the band had finished two songs, there wasn’t an empty table or an empty inch on the dance floor. It was time to call it a night.

After all the excitement of Florida and New Orleans, we decided to bookend this segment of our trip with a return to my hometown, Dallas, TX. We arrived in Dallas on 21 May, and will be taking some trips throughout the state. More later…