The last day of a cruise is the saddest day, except when it isn’t. I woke early, and had no choice: Skippy the Interchangeable Cruise Director got us up with his insincere patter about moving up and out, and while you can go back to sleep after that he’s going to be back. But he handed it over to Miss Enunciation, a voice with which I became oddly fascinated: she would state the case, then say “once again” in a cadence that never varied, then repeat herself, then conclude with a two-note “thank you” stated with the epitome of institutional indifference. She never varied.
So I got up and got out. Made the last check, even though I knew there was nothing to check. I am good at this. The room, at this point, is dead to me. The moment you wake, it’s not your room.
Went up to the Lido for a last breakfast. Apparently it was “everything must go” on bacon, because when I asked for a piece - first in the cruise - I got the ultra-rasher treatment. It dismays me a little to think I just had one piece of French Toast; it was so good. But it was made to order. If it had been pre-made crappy dry stuff I would have probably had it daily.
Sat with Brother Jim Garaghty, and we agreed that we would not talk but look at our devices, because now we had LTE. Of course we talked. And then Brother Kevin showed up, and we all fell into the usual chatter. I just like those guys. There are all sorts of dynamics and undercurrents among the assembled, but I know it will be friendly and smart and occasionally quite dark and amusing when it’s those two -
Ah, but they’ve just called Brown 3. So I’m off. Because I am a smart modern man I have completed my customs form online and been sent a receipt with a QR code I can scan. I skip a long, long, long line that is barely moving because TSA has 3 people handling the disembarkment for this enormous ship. The line coils like whale intestines. I get to the head of the line because I have the online mobile-app thing, like the cruise line asked to do. They sent a letter to our inbox - and I mean an actual letter, on paper, to an actual inbox - asking us to sign up for the Mobile Passport App. Well, I had, and here I am with the code, ready to go through. I am waved to the TSA agent and I hold up my phone.
“That would be great if this was an airport,” he says with bored sarcasm. He looks at my passport.
Did I - did I do something wrong?
“This isn’t a boarding pass,” I say. “It’s my customs declaration.”
“We don’t have any equipment to read it,” he says.
Oh, so you were just being an asshole, then. Got it.
I Uber to my hotel. It’s fantastic.
Yes, hotel; I’m staying on two days to a story on Ft. Lauderdale. While I am eager to get home and see Wife and Daughter and Puppet, c’mon: it’s November, and I’m in Florida. The hotel is the Senstra or the Sinestro or the Sanaster or something - blank white, minimalist, just my idea of cool. The neighborhood is funky and rather stupid, but the beach is across the street. I’d come here again, and again. Anyway: the story is “what to do in Ft. Lauderdale if you want to hang around after a cruise.”
As it turned out, I was right around the corner from something.
The Bonnet House, an old, old Florida landmark that reaches back to the ancient age of Sunshine history. All the way back to the 20s. Really, these guys make Minnesota look like the Ancien Regime; the slow pace of development might have had something to do with county names like MOSQUITO. It’s a fascinating story: Frederic Clay Bartlett, rich son of a hardware empire, is inspired by the 1893 Columbian Exposition, decides to become an artist. Meets rich girl whose father bought about 14% of Florida. They marry, Dad gives them a swath on which to build a house. Bartlett designs it himself. Over the years the wife dies, and then he remarries, and she dies, but both make their mark on the place, and he remarries a third time, and HE dies, and she hangs on until she’s 107 years old. Really.
There’s the usual Hearstian reverence in the tour-guide’s lecture on the artists and their home and their styles, how Mr. B went from his early representational styles to later expressionism, found a home in the new freedoms, and so on. How his wife had an eye for glasses and china, how they decorated their rooms with whimsy and eclectic choices that demonstrated their free-thinking approach to the world.
Mr. B, once he went into the new styles of the day, seemed to revert to primitivism. His frequency faux-marble treatments may have been novel then, but look gimcracky today; his collection of primitive wooden objects is banal; his use of sea-shells stuck in concrete is common; his insistence on Raw Honest Materials like, oh, naked concrete blocks with oozy mortar may have made an impression on visitors, but it just looks cheap today.
So much is unchanged that you really do find yourself in the middle of a place frozen in time with the unmistakable imprint of distinct personalties, and that’s fascinating. There are a few moments of the tour that are almost appallingly intimate, if you think about it. This was where they ate and this is what they used; what right do I have to see these things?
None, except the right to Behold Genius. But it’s all over the place, kitschy, peculiar. When we went to Mr. B’s studio we saw his brave new work in his brave new style, and it’s . . . okay. On the wall hang some portraits from his early days, and they are astonishingly good. He gave it up to be modern.
His last wife took up painting, and her stuff I really like. In the end she became the painter he didn’t seem interested in becoming. She lived a long time, and it’s apparent from the condition and decorations of the place she didn’t want anything changed. It’s the equivalent of a house wallpapered and shagged in 1972 and never altered - a time capsule fascinating to those who come afterwards, but at least a sign of how tastes change, and certainly a sign of how some tastes are revealed by time to be objectively insuperior.
A matter of taste, perhaps. I am sitting right now in a rather monochromatic hotel room. Everything works. Everything is tied together, except for the OAP, or Obligatory Accent Pillow, which provides a single dissenting note.
I also went to the Swimming Hall of Fame, and it’s sad. The original structure hails from 1967, and has all the LBJ-era design elements you’d expect, which is to say none. But I have great affection for those structures, perhaps because they said This is Today! when I was growing up, and pointed to a new future on the moon. Now they are cracked and stained and tired.
One of the “wings” was devoted to - well, it’s hard to tell. Olympics, famous swimmers, that sort of thing. Lots of sun-faded paper things.
It's this kind of museum.
The other museum had more swimming crap, but the medals are interesting as pieces of graphic design.
The best part was a mural on a stairwell wall, a series of caricatures of the swimming world. This guy was good.
The illustrations are numbered, so you can identify the Famous Water Enthusiasts. Number 168 is Duke Kahanamoku, king of surfing. #179 is Fred Schmidt, a competition swimmer.
#226 is easy. #234 is Sharon Wichman, aslo a swimmer. #235 is . . . King Louis XI.
Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great:
It's huge. At the bottom:
Linzee Prescott makes it easy to find the bio. Long dead, alas, even though the work looks fresh. There's a site dedicated to his work and memory here, and this page has the artist on the site of the work.
I asked the clerk on duty if they planned to save it when they moved, and she said there were no plans. Damned shame; there ought to be a campaign to save it, when the time comes.
Last image of the museum: an inadvertent composition in the bathroom.
I’ll have more in the piece I’m writing for the paper about Ft. Lauderdale. Anything else? Sure. It was warm and lovely. I loved my hotel. I had several meals in a 24-hour sandwich joint around the counter, which felt not like Old Florida, but at least Distant-Recent Florida, which is something. I traveled 2845 miles on the trip, read two Martin Beck books, the aforementioned King book, and the most recent Michael Connolly novel, which was tremendously impressive. I enjoyed a break from the news and felt less interested in it when I returned. It was a delight to be home; Scout was confused, as they are sometimes, but figured it out soon enough and wanted to wrestle in our accustomed manner. Now I am exhausted. And guess what:
Everything that just had is now on the other side of a page I just turned.
Back to regular Bleatage Monday - see you then!