Beauty in the ‘burbs!

Beauty in the ‘burbs!

It’s such a marvelous thing when you find amazing natural beauty in unexpected places.

About two miles from the neighborhood where I live is a web of subdivisions all tagged with the Deerfield name. There are four or five different subs all told; it’s a fairly large development.

On the southern fringe of the complex–yes, off Deerfield Drive–the developers created a large urban wetland that rivals any natural space I’ve seen in Central Florida.

It’s quite beautiful and I’ve often thought that the area would be prime for a photo shoot.

Well, one day last week, I finally got off my fanny and took about 150 shots.

I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Here’s another shot I like a lot. At this point, I was probably fewer than 40 or 50 steps into this lovely space.

It’s too much fun when you’re taking pix to play tricks with shadow and light. I love to shoot in early morning or come out to catch those last two hours of daylight in order to have the most fun possible with shadows.

I’ll get one more in before I publish this post and get on with some “other stuff” that’s calling out for my attention this afternoon. This one captures for me that feeling of blossoming serenity that filled me when I first walked up on this wonderful oasis of tranquility that sits less than a quarter mile from busy John Young Parkway in southern Orange County.

May you be blessed with some serene scenes and moments of intense tranquility today.

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credits Ben Lawrence Basile

 

 

Searching for the Meaning of Life

Searching for the Meaning of Life

This brief blog entry simply cannot be appreciated or understood unless you’ve cast your eyes over the accompanying photo. And, yes, I took the pic myself. No issues about ownership, copyrights or any such thing. And, if you must know, this humble sign adorns the north wall of the bar in my fave barbecue joint. In my fave beach town.

Having gotten the preliminary stuff out of the way, let me state for the record that I do not believe that the true meaning of life can be found in this lighthearted aphorism; it’s merely there to keep the wall from looking bare and, perhaps, to amuse the drunks who spend way too much time and money reading silly plaques tacked to the walls of our many infamous watering holes here in the Sunshine State.

The message of that damned sign does not seem to grow more profound with each lager lifted to my lips. I’ve never shared this barroom bromide with friends, nor incorporated it into an update on Facebook. (No need going to my Facebook page to verify that statement!)

Let’s be real. Life’s true meaning cannot be divined by reading this sign no matter how much beer you’ve quaffed.  I just like it because, as I stand right on the threshold of qualifying for social security, I think it just might be true! Not sure my doctor would vouch for that, but, it could be!

Now I think I’ll ponder that message one more time as I order one more beer…  Ashley!

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

This gem is coming back around because today’s National Beer Lover’s Day. It debuted back in July of 2016. It’s NBLD and it’s a Friday. No better day to enjoy a cold beer!

© 2016 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

 

National Wildlife Day is…

National Wildlife Day is…

National Wildlife Day is… well, it’s complicated!

September 4th has been the day to commemorate National Wildlife Day each year, having been established back in 2005 by animal behaviorist Colleen Paige.

As you may know, there’s no shortage of days to celebrate a million different causes; many of them help mightily to get people’s minds, hearts and contributions focused on an event or a cause; some of them are very worthy, indeed.

National Wildlife Day would fall very close to the top of this dog’s list! It’s an occasion that’s very, very close to my heart.

So Colleen Paige, the founder of this noteworthy day, came to believe that, moving forward, it would be advantageous to celebrate the day on February 22nd to honor the memory of Australian zookeeper and conservationist Steve Irwin on his birthday.

Mr. Irwin, admired and loved by so many in the conservation community, entered the world on February 22nd of 1962. So he would have turned 56 this last February had he not died unexpectedly on September 4th of 2006. Yes, that was exactly 12 years ago today. 

Yes, it is complicated! To sum up where we stand with the celebration of National Wildlife Day right now: today is the day we’ve been celebrating NWD for the last 13 years. It’s the first September 4th since the change was declared, so although “thee day” will be coming around next February 22nd, five and a half months from now, it’s still an awesome thing to celebrate wildlife, advocate for policies and things that make it easier for wildlife and even throw some dollars in that direction, right now, today!

Visit the page for this fine and extremely worthy commemoration by  clicking here.

The World Wildlife Fund is a very well-known org doing fine work in this area. I’ve supported them and invite you to visit their site today.

Partnering with local zoos and wildlife parks is another effective way to help expand your awareness about wildlife and to help them survive and thrive!

If, like me, you’re in the Central Florida region, you may want to visit the sites for the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford or the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne by clicking in the appropriate places above.

Happy National Wildlife Day! Sort of!

 

Doing what I can for the cause today, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

Thoughts on Labor Day 2018

First of all, let me wish all my friends–especially those of you who work for a paycheck–a very happy and relaxing Labor Day!

I come from a long line of working people. My grandfather was a mason and marble contractor in New York City in the period between the two World Wars.

It was a common trade for Sicilians and he was good at it.

I was the first in my family to graduate from college but it never became a defining factor in my working life. I’ve only held two jobs in the many years since graduation where my degree was a consideration and I’ve mostly worked in the hospitality industry.

That’s very common, as you no doubt know, for people here in Florida.

I most certainly am in that large category of American workers who depend on that paycheck and would have dismal prospects if or when their gig and that precious check it generates ever stop.

I don’t get this awesome holiday off every year, but am off today by shear dumb luck; I’m feeling mellow and relaxed as I type this. The Yankees are playing the A’s on the tube right now; sports are happening all day and night today!

Having said that, I do agree with folks who encourage us to think about the meaning behind these “3-day weekend” kind of holidays. Days like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day, too! We’re inclined to see them merely as another cool day off with a barbecue and/or a beach trip.

It’s a wonderful thing that we do have a day to commemorate the American worker–and maybe even give him or her the day off–as having such a day was never a given but was, in fact, born from the darkest days the American worker had ever seen.

If you’d like to peruse an interesting and informative piece about Labor Day and what it’s all about, just click on this.

I am so ridiculously mellow and care-free today as I relax, blog a bit and watch some sports! I  hope your holiday is going well, too, and that your working life is not a painful dead-end you take part in just to keep your head above water.

But regardless of those particulars, may today and your future have lots of work, purpose and pay! Some happiness, some fulfillment and lots and lots of dinero!

And some leisure time to reflect on work, workers and why it all matters.

 

 

A relaxed puppy today, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

A little post-script: I know the theme of this blog is awesome outdoor adventures, but I’ve opted to stay in because I did work the whole weekend before today, there’s a ton of good sports on TV and I really avoid the crowds you find at beaches and parks over these holidays! But more good outdoor stuff is coming soon!

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile

 

John S. McCain III Has Passed

Lt Cmdr John S. McCain III was a hero to me. I idolized him and wanted to be like him when I reported to Navy AOCS in Pensacola. That was in May of 1975, two years after McCain had been released from a North Vietnamese prison, and just weeks after the fall of Saigon.

I received my commission in November of 1976. One of the traditions in a commissioning ceremony is that the Navy Hymn is sung after the new Ensigns have have taken that oath to “defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” but before the benediction.

It was a proud moment in my life. Receiving that commission and pinning on those gold bars was quite an experience.

The very inauspicious chapter of my Navy career when, four months later, I dropped flight training and was then told by a disposition board that the Navy didn’t need me in the surface fleet was a huge disappointment.

I was as deflated and numb going through that experience as I had been pleased and proud four months before when our band of brand-new Ensigns sang the Navy Hymn together.

For some reason, I still remember the words. But that has nothing to do with my admiration for Senator McCain.

This is hard to explain, but even though the career I had dreamed about for years fell apart when I got into the hard part of Naval flight training, the eight months I was in Uncle Sam’s Navy marked me for life.

I’ve never lost sight of how vitally important it is to be a part of something greater than myself. Working as a team doesn’t come naturally for me, I’m too much of a lone wolf.

But I learned how to do that in those 16 weeks of Aviation Officer Candidate School.

I learned that the rigors of military life and the necessity of putting the needs of your unit, your mates and the folks back home ahead of your own could impose a very high cost on the individual.

I never had to pay any cost for my shipmates. Or my country. I never knew the perils of an angry sea or a determined enemy.

John McCain did. That’s the kind of man he was. That’s the kind of life he lived.

Lt Cmdr McCain completed 22 very perilous missions over the skies of North Vietnam before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot out of the sky in October of 1967.

The story of how he spent 5 1/2 years as a POW in the infamous Hanoi Hilton is well-known. What some may have forgotten is that his North Vietnamese captors offered to release him shortly after they learned that his father, Adm John McCain Jr., was the Commander of American forces in Vietnam.

But John refused to be released under those conditions and finally made it home with his comrades-in-arms in 1973, under the terms of the Paris Peace Accord.

The never-ending maltreatment and torture that McCain endured in his years of imprisonment left him with a lifetime of debilitating injuries. You may have noticed that he was never able to raise his arms above his shoulders when waving to crowds at political events.

That can happen when your wrists are lashed together behind your back, you’re suspended from the ceiling and the sadists who are trying to break you have the ropes so taut that you can’t get both feet flat on the dirt floor beneath you.

These are the kinds of sacrifices that John McCain made. Cmdr McCain and our other POW’s endured hardships and made sacrifices for their country and their loved ones that you and I can’t even imagine.

They did it in fulfillment of the oath they all took. They did it without “reservation or purpose of evasion” just as they had sworn to do.

That’s the kind of man, the kind of hero John McCain was.

The many years of service he gave to his country after he retired from the Navy have been chronicled over and over. One can read reams of information about that part of his service to our country now that he’s passed.

I admire him greatly for his time in the US Senate. He always deported himself with great dignity. He always acted with the courage of his convictions.

I admire him no less as a politician and public servant as I did when his service to country put him in constant peril of life and limb. His fearlessness and his integrity inspire me as much today as they did when I wanted to follow in his footsteps as a 21 year old Officer Candidate.

All told, he rendered more than 60 years of faithful service to the United States. He never shirked his duty, even under conditions that would have broken ordinary men.

I’m not sure why, exactly, but the first thing that happened for me when I heard the news of his passing a few hours ago, is that the strains of the Navy Hymn began to “play” in my head.

I aspired to greatness as a young man so many years ago while singing those words with my mates. Alas, there was to be no greatness in my brief, inglorious military career.

But I, like you, recognize greatness instantly when I see it or hear of it.

I recognized greatness in John McCain more than 43 ago. His selflessness, his devotion to his family, his fellows and his country stand out like that lighthouse at Fort Barrancas on a squally night.

God rest your warrior’s soul, Cmdr McCain. Thank you for your lifetime of selfless service to the country you loved so well.

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile
All Rights Reserved

The words of the Navy Hymn:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Oh, Watchful Father who dost keep
Eternal vigil while we sleep
Guide those who navigate on high
Who through grave unknown perils fly,
Receive our oft-repeated prayer
For those in peril in the air.

The United States Navy Chorus singing
“Eternal Father Strong to Save”

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp

If you live in Orlando and go to Cocoa or Cocoa Beach very often, you’ve passed Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, no doubt.

There are several ways to get to the Cocoa area from O’do and I’d venture to say that SR 520 is the most common route if you’re not fond of tolls. The Beach Line Expressway has them, but SR 520 does not.

Lone Cabbage is that little outpost of civilization on your right as you’re crossing the St John’s River and entering Brevard County.

If you don’t turn in at Lone Cabbage in search of an air boat ride–yes, they certainly do those–you’re most likely on a quest for good, local seafood and a beer or two to wash it down.

I had lunch at Lone Cabbage yesterday after about a thousand trips to Cocoa Beach over that well-travel road and I’m glad I did.

I ordered the Catfish Dinner, took it just the way it comes–with hushpuppies, their seasoned fries and slaw and chased it with a Coors Light. (No beer taps in this well-worn and very authentic joint, but about 15 different bottled brands.)

The Catfish was good and the fries were above average. They had lived under a heat lamp just a few moments too long by my standard, but when you sit down in a busy eatery at straight-up noon, that’s how it usually goes.

I love a good, freshly-made cole slaw and theirs was tasty and not overly-sweet. When the sugar kicks all the other ingredients into the back seat–something that’s far from rare in many home-style restaurants–I don’t like it!

I’d like to think that an establishment with cabbage in the name joint would have amazing slaw and although that’s not the case, it’s certainly not a situation where this often under-appreciated side dish warranted “points off”!

Yikes! I’ve become a “slaw snob”!

My impressions of Lone Cabbage Fish Camp are just fine so far. To have a more complete picture, I’d like to have more than only one dish and check out the air boat rides as well. But based on poking around the site and the County Park next to it a couple of times and patronizing it once, I certainly can recommend it. It’s well-known around the East Central Florida region and has been busy the times I’ve stopped by.

The next time you’re breezing down SR 520 mid-way between Cocoa and Orlando, stop in at Lone Cabbage and take in this landmark. You’ll pass a small Brevard Co. Park, James Bourbeau Memorial, where there is a public boat ramp and public rest rooms.

LoneCabb-airboat-rides-sign

And right next door, you’ll find Lone Cabbage. The basic boat ride does not require a reservation, but the bigger packages do. The minimum wait is 30 minutes. The perfect time to grab a quick lunch!

To visit their site and see more about LCFC, including the menu, just click on this link.

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credits Ben Lawrence Basile