Monday, January 31, 2011


It is for Cousin Lyn I assembled these photographs as a reminder that things are alive and growing somewhere on the planet outside Chicago. It has been raining a fair bit lately and a flower pot base was sitting around with some rainwater from the night before. Cheyenne does not allow anything to go to waste.I think it must be exceedingly tiresome hanging around all the time watching me and waiting on my every mood but she seems entirely happy. Indeed Cheyenne is settling in so well that she takes it upon herself to bark and guard her home. I wonder if she remembers much of what went on before she was dumped at the pound.But enough about the dog, Cousin Lyn wants to know what's growing. An avocado tree, that's what. The flowers in the pots were selected and planted by Therese who came for a visit recently from her home in Paris. She works in Holland and has no garden so she made up for it here ("Anything grows down here!" was her mantra) and planted flowers that will attract butterflies.We keep the avocado, mango, custard apple, fig and pomegranate downstairs under the mature coconuts. The vegetables and herbs we grow on the deck alongside the house. The deck is actually our rainwater cistern. The mangroves in the background mask the canal alongside our house.
I have found these egg plant (aubergine) bushes do amazingly well in the Earthboxes, and this year's crop looks like it will be as good as last years. The egg plants themselves are rather smaller than the regular sized ones but I just slice them into quarters and fry them in a little olive oil and garlic and they make a sweet side dish with no effort at all.
The egg plants are more like fat fingers than small footballs.Plus they make lovely purple flowers.
I reported previously that I made up my own anti-iguana spray as explained to me by Lisa and it has worked beautifully this year. I'd like to think Cheyenne's enjoyment of sunbathing on the deck might also help. But as one can see from this next picture a iguana tasted this tomato and gave up:The tomato crop is looking good overall. We buy our plants from the lady at the Big Pine Flea Market as she has heat resistant plants suited to the Florida climate. We find them more reliable than Home Depot's plants.After we cut off the broccoli floret last week and ate it, these started to appear:
Therese bought these pots and plants and I do know the one in the corner is jasmine and it's starting to climb up the netting on the porch. Next to the jasmine you can see the down pipe from the roof gutter which guides the rainwater into the cistern. The plant on the right is a Mamey though it does not produce fruit by that name.
The jasmine is doing it's climbing thing.Therese said these plants will attract butterflies and indeed I saw one the other day hovering in the area.The frangipani Tim gave us is starting to sprout leaves once again in the winter sunlight.Downstairs we have the tangerine tree... ...the avocado...
...and another frangipani. Therese sited this one here after I let it languish in excessive sun. Kathy gave us this cutting off her impressive Big Pine tree. Therese filled the pot with annual flowers.
Overhead the coconut trees are starting to produce. I get hundreds of nuts over the summer and I try to drink as many as I can but we have a dozen mature trees surrounding our little house.
The West Indian Almond is almost bare. In summer it will be covered in thick shiny green leaves and provide shade and privacy. The nuts are supposedly edible but I have yet to try one- they are an unappetizing shade of black.I anxiously await fresh pineapples. None so far.
Coconuts produce huge quantities of fronds which are a chore to clean up:The essential colors of the Florida Keys: green white and blue.
My property line is a couple of feet south of the coconut line. The lots on either side of my house are empty for the moment.
This is the view to the west of my house looking across the salt ponds. The Niles Channel Bridge which rises forty fee tin the air is visible in the distance. At night when I sit out here I can see the red and white lights of vehicles rising up into the sky over the bridge.Sitting in the living room of our 770 square foot (70sq meter) house we can see Therese's butterfly plants outside the porch.Behind my armchair, where I like to read when indoors, the side deck is where we are growing our upstairs plants.And we end like we started...
...with Cheyenne watching my every move.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stanley Goldman

Stanley Goldman is my wife's uncle, the last surviving brother of her late father. The family grew up in the Quad Cities area between Davenport Iowa where my wife was born and the east side of the Mississippi River in Rock Island where she spent the first 8 years of her life. My late father-in-law decided selling furniture wasn't his favorite line of work so he emigrated to Palo Alto, California where my wife graduated High School, UC Santa Cruz and Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. She is all California though she got her start on the banks of the Mississippi River and had she stayed there we'd never have met. Her family made a name for themselves through their furniture store, an institution in the Quad Cities. Unhappily Stanley is fading fast and will not be with us for long and his store Hyman's (named for Hyman Goldman the founder) is finishing up it's going out of business sale after a 90 year run. It is inescapable that those of us who are in our fifties are faced with the changing of the guard as the generation before us dies and we are left to carry the flag as the old timers. Just this week 94 year old Sadye Bregar, one of my wife's aunts died in her Los Angeles nursing home after s[pending years under the Alzheimer's cloud. They really were a great generation. I shall miss them.

From the Quad City Business Journal.

Stanley Goldman is definitely old school.

No piece of litter was safe in the streets of downtown Rock Island under Goldman's watch.

No flower planter stayed bare or untidy under Goldman's watch.

No customer entered his Hyman's Furniture stores without receiving a friendly greeting, a handshake or a bottle of Coke under Goldman's watch.

And most importantly, the lights never went out in downtown Rock Island under Goldman's watch.

Even when the department stores and other retailers were abandoning downtown or disappearing altogether, Goldman kept his roots and his furniture empire planted firmly in downtown.

But after 70 years in the business founded by his parents Hyman and Rose Goldman, the 89-year-old Goldman is retiring and closing the doors of Hyman's, which has been in existence for 90 years. His retirement, which was marked by a public reception in his store last week, marks the end of an era for downtown.

Former Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert described Goldman as a "pioneer" in downtown development. Goldman, he said, always knew what others are now discovering - "you don't see healthy cities if you don't have healthy downtowns."

Brian Hollenback, the president of Renaissance Rock Island, sees Goldman as one of the original downtown architects, whose investment and generosity helped pave the way for the healthy downtown Rock Island now enjoys. "Stanley did much for the community and went above and beyond for those that mattered most to him, his customers," he said.

At the retirement reception, Goldman and his wife, Ann, were greeted by dozens of friends, customers, city leaders and fellow downtown merchants. Goldman sat comfortably in one of his La-Z-Boy chairs as visitors shook his hand and shared their memories of Hyman's.

What could have been a melancholy day was not. "I'm happy," Goldman said softly. "We've made so many friends. If I needed help, they were there. If they needed help, I felt I was there for them.''

Perhaps downtown's biggest cheerleader, his goal had always been to keep the lights lit in downtown. "A downtown without people is not a city," he said.

That is why when shopping malls forever changed the face of retailing in the 1970s and the farm crisis of the 1980s threatened the existence of Quad-City downtowns, Goldman did his part in Rock Island by investing in one empty building after another. He eventually owned as many as 16 different storefronts - dominating 2nd Avenue with furniture by Hyman's. Over the years, he filled buildings with other tenants and helped other entrepreneurs get their own start.

But the time has come to "pass the baton of business and community development to others," Goldman said.

Hollenback is quick to say "Stanley set the standard very high.

"I see him as a very passionate man who loves his home and his community as well as a very good business man who realizes he spent his entire career putting his customer first," he added. "Now as part of his legacy, we own and manage 17 commercial spaces and we continue to bring new investment online."

Over the years, Goldman has donated some buildings and sold others to pave the way for more development in downtown. Some of the projects include the Goldman Lofts, Renaissance Rock Island's own offices and the Rock Island YWCA outreach facilities. The family's most recent donation is the Goldman Family Block. Stretched along 2nd Avenue, it houses H&R Block, Renaissance Construction, Jarvis and Expression of Life and will become home to a business incubator project led by Renaissance.

"He's from the old school. If you make your money in a community, you invest your money back in the community," said Hollenback, who along with the family and city's development staff is working on securing a new project for Hyman's 3rd Avenue store.

That last remaining Hyman's storefront is a prime example of Goldman's devotion to downtown. He acquired the former McCabe's Department Store in 1986 when the store closed. In a nod to its history, the original S&H Green Stamps signs still hang in the store.

Goldman is unwavering in his values of integrity, fairness and quality service as the store prepares to close, said his son, Robert "Rob" Goldman. "Dad knows how he wants things; he's uncompromising; he wants his way - and he's just plain stubborn."

Rob Goldman said his father was still working in the store every day up until about a month ago. "He calls every 15 minutes all day long," the younger Goldman said last week, showing the call history on his cell phone. "I tell him ‘Yes Dad, we did that."

But he had to put his foot down when his dad still wanted to provide delivery of closing-out purchases as the store always has. "I told him we can't deliver 45,000 square feet of furniture."

Being part of the store's finale is important to Goldman's family, he said. In fact, Rob and his wife, Miriam, and his sister, Connie Gersick, and her husband, Kelin, all have been assisting with the sale since it began Jan. 1. "It was the busiest day in the store's history,'' the younger Goldman said. Some of their cousins also are flying in to tend store and make sure a family member is on hand throughout the sale's duration. They expect to close within 60 days.

‘‘There is a piece of all of us in this store,'' he said, sharing vivid memories of growing up there and "working" at age 4. "We didn't use babysitters much," he joked.

Rob Goldman reminisced how he learned more about business, integrity and human nature from sitting in the store and watching his parents interact with customers. "Mom and Dad would sit down with a Coke and ask the customers to ‘tell us who you are and where you're going (in life).' "

That business style "worked in its time. It had good values," their son said.

He recalls vividly how his dad's quick thinking saved their entire inventory from the 1965 flood that devastated downtown Rock Island. The first move was to flood their basements with clean water to keep the dirty river water out. But then "Dad hauled in a bunch of homeless men from the Rescue Mission" to help move all the furniture to the upper floors.

"They all worked so hard," he said recalling how they carried furniture up flights of stairs.

"He just figured out what to do," Rob Goldman said, recalling how he learned that day that "you treat people with respect and about not having doubts about anyone. People who are given an opportunity will rise to the occasion."

That same year, the then 14-year-old Goldman watched his dad prepare to defend his stores during racial unrest in downtown Rock Island. "We believed there was the potential for breaking windows and civil unrest," he said, adding that his dad taught him how to use a fire extinguisher in case the disturbances led to that. Standing in their darkened store behind the huge building posts, he said his dad said "I'm not going to let anyone take over my store and I'm going to defend my property.''

But that was how he ran his business and his life, his son said. "He just did what had to be done. There was never a job he was above doing. If he saw something wrong, he'd get out and fix it."

That philosophy extended to his broader vision for Rock Island. Goldman was one of the 13 founding members of the Development Association of Rock Island, or DARI, which was formed in 1989. It now is part of Renaissance Rock Island.

"He was the person who could be very generous with the community and extremely loyal to the downtown," Schwiebert said, adding that Stanley and Ann Goldman never did "anything for the recognition."

In fact, Schwiebert said they had to be convinced to let the city make an announcement when they donated some of their buildings for other development. "I had to explain to him that it allows us to show their generosity, but it also serves as an example to others."

Schwiebert, who served on the city council during the turbulent 1980s and then went on to be mayor for 20 years, said Goldman was always a part of the important initiatives. He not only helped found DARI to spark more development in Rock Island, but he was there when the city created The District and part of the Downtown 2000 discussions.

"He was always sharing his views," he said, recalling Goldman's quiet demeanor. "Stanley's more common way of expressing himself was to send you a letter on Hyman's stationery, single-spaced with no capitals that would share with you his perspective."

"Naturally, we didn't agree on everything, but his perspective was always worth listening to,'' said Schwiebert, who graduated from Rock Island High School with Rob Goldman and the current Hyman's store manager, David Rockwell.

Copyright 2011 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

.Posted in Business on Sunday, January 9, 2011 2:00 am Updated: 10:39 pm. Tags: Mark Schwiebert, Stanley Goldman, Ann Goldman, Brian Hollenback, Renaissance Rock Island

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Full Moon Stroll

I hadn't planned it but Cheyenne was restless, demanding an evening walk, and by the time we got out of the house night was crowding in on us.
This is the time of year I imagine to myself that a little winter is no bad thing. Cold air, fireplaces and snowdrifts all seem rather attractive from a distance. Close up I think I would go mad were I obliged to stay indoors or face life threatening cold. Sometimes a cool evening in the Keys seems life threatening but that's just because I am a wuss.Wandering out of doors relaxes me and Cheyenne is my ideal companion. She loves to explore as much as I do and she is always ready to check out a new trail or a find pleasure in a trail she knows well. I always load her in the car so we can seek out places further from home than just our street. On this particular evening I went no further than the north side of Highway One on my home island, Ramrod Key. She was looking down while I looked up and saw an osprey nesting.The tower appears to have an actual osprey platform for the birds to nest on:For such a small island Ramrod Key (named for a ship that went aground south of the island in the 19th century) has lots of commercial activity. There's a vet, two bars, a mechanic (who also rents U Hauls) a commercial welder, a canvas maker, a Cuban grocery store and deli, a plant nursery, a car detailer a construction company, a towing company and a bunch of storage lockers. You wouldn't think there was enough room here for all that and a few I've left out.There are a number of small residential streets cutting a cross the island as well, putting these people about 30 minutes from Key West and a similar distance from Marathon in the opposite direction. For Cheyenne Ramrod Key is just an assortment of streets and wooded trails and a host of different smells.It isn't an island covered with pine trees, like Big Pine Key three miles east of here, but there are a few of my favorite trees.You can buy homes or a piece of land here if you feel like it. Realtors like to put their pictures up to entice you to work with them, though I'm not sure what kind of a qualification a winning smile is for something as complex as a land transfer. Not everyone thinks Christmas decorations should come down on twelfth night, it seems. January 6th is long gone but these lights aren't. Very nice they are too.It was a hell of a moon.
One more sunset ending the day in a golden glow.
This house appears to be empty, old tenants have gone leaving behind a pile of rubbish curbside.For some people the constraints of living on a narrow neck of land, with a high cost of living and relatively limited job and recreation opportunities makes it hard to hang on. For people like me the fact that I can't go snow skiing or turkey hunting doesn't bother me in the least.
Some people think these flat landscapes are boring.I find these landscapes amazing.
I wonder how I would cope if I had to live somewhere else.Cheyenne doesn't pose these problems for herself.Her walk is done and she's ready for the drive home and a deep, snoring sleep.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ixora Big Pine Key

It has rained a bit in a series of slightly odd weather events that have seen fog, heat and humidity and a snap cold front that came and went ion half a day and left winds out of the southeast and cold as though they should have been out of the north.The gray skies didn't show Big Pine Key, off County Road at it's best, but this is a good place to walk Cheyenne after rains have flooded many of her preferred off-street walks. It's isolated but the road surface is solid.Years ago our realtor showed us this house, much bigger than the home we bought on Ramrod Key, but we have no regrets about not buying it.It lacks the charm of our little wooded tree house and the swimming outside the canal is much better where we currently live. This house on Ixora Drive is quite large, however.There are lots of side streets leading intriguingly into the woods...... and this is a place where a lovely tamarind tree is just another flag pole for some.It's a long enough way to open waters from here. This house intrigues me, a single level home on a large dry (no canal frontage) lot with a lush lawn and landscaping swept up to the house itself.
This sign makes no apology for the occupants:
And this welcoming committe was just a sample of the vociferous residents. We went away.This home had far less signs of life but lots of signs protecting the trash dumped inside the fence.The skies remained overcast and I had a waterproof jacket on but the rain never came.I'm not sure but I did wonder if this might not be an actual Ixora plant:I had looked up the exotic name of this street previously and found this entry in Wikipedia:Ixora is a genus of 529 species in the family Rubiaceae, consisting of tropical evergreen trees and shrubs. Though native to the tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world[2], its centre of diversity is in tropical areas in Asia, especially India, Ixora now grows commonly in subtropical climates in the United States, such as Florida. Ixora is also commonly known as West Indian Jasmine. Other common names include: rangan, kheme, ponna, chann tanea, techi, pan, santan, jarum-jarum, Jungle flame, Jungle geranium, and many more. Plants possess leathery leaves, ranging from 3 to 6 inches in length, and produce large clusters of tiny flowers in the summer. Members of Ixora prefer acidic soil, and are suitable choices for bonsai.
So there you have it, everything you might ever have wanted to know about the Ixora. Meanwhile back on Planet Earth I was wondering what it might be like to own enough land to get lost in, on Big Pine Key.
Cheyenne and I were happily lost on our own account simply following the rapidly deteriorating street.
We marched right along, passing mysteriously large homes on equally impressive sized lots.

We met some of the reclusive inhabitants...

...who Cheyenne ignored completely in her pursuit of the ultimate good smell.

We got home in time to settle in for an afternoon of wind howling, plumetting temperatures (52 degrees that night) and rain slashing around the house. Cheyenne ignored it all and slept the sleep of the just.