Saturday, March 31, 2012

MeduSirena and the Mermaids at the Wreck Bar - Fort Lauderdale

Not very long ago I drove a very long way to see a very famous Florida mermaid show which was fairly entertaining.

In keeping with the theme of "Living like a tourist in my own backyard" I found a mermaid show right here in Fort Lauderdale. Who knew? Well most of my friends did it seems. I don't miss much but this slipped right off my radar.

MeduSirena Marina
MeduSirena Marina and her mermaids perform at the Wreck Bar in the Sheridan Hotel on Fort Lauderdale beach. Some of us remember it as the old Yankee Clipper but it is old no more. There has been a top to bottom renovation but the 1950's pool with viewing ports in the bar is still there. Parking is across the street for $10.00 and a sky bridge gets you to the hotel for safe street crossing. The sky bridge is also a pretty obvious landmark to find the place. The bar itself is small and extremely overdone. Just the way I like it. I got there at 5:30 when the doors opened for the 6:30 show and camped out right on the bar in front of the windows, camera charged and ready.

My first impression of MeduSirena - fabulously beautiful and not the kind of woman you can just go up to and talk to.

Don't worry about that. If you are in the bar waiting for the show, she will come right up and talk to YOU like you are old friends. I know this because I had never met her before and we had quite a conversation. She has been performing for 25 years and headlining the mermaid show at the Wreck Bar for the last five. She does some other interesting shows as a fire eater elsewhere which I'm sure will wind in my blog soon. We were deep in conversation right up to show time.

When the first mermaid glided by the window the place was jammed. Half the crowd knew there was something happening with cameras, phones, and iPad's at the ready. The rest - total surprise. From the very first pass this show was incredible. All four mermaids are not only stunning but brought with them plenty of personality to go with their athletic grace. Winks, bubbly kisses, long flowing hair, and crowd interaction are what you get and all the action is right up against the glass. Very different from that other show way up the road.

After the performance the mermaids pose for pictures, answer questions, and generally just look amazing one flight up on the pool deck.

MeduSirena is the undisputed ring leader and to say she engages the audience is an understatement. If you are not careful, you will be knee deep in the pool with your friends laughing so hard they will have trouble holding their camera still long enough to get the shot.

I got plenty in case you missed yours. Head over to my Flickr page and see the best of them. I'm sure I can do better. MeduSirena invited me to swim along with the mermaids in a future show. Yeah - that's not gonna happen but I will go back with friends and a different camera soon. Shows are every Friday night at 6:30 and last 30 minutes or more.

MeduSirena Aquaticat Performer Hinalea

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Celtic Mayhem plays The Field - Dania

What does it take to get me out to a bar on a Wednesday night during a work week? The planets need to align just right and a very special event needs to be taking place. Such a happening occurred this very week. The Field Irish Pub was open for business and the band Celtic Mayhem played to a house full of loyal fans, pub regulars, and patrons just lucky enough to show up on this special night.

Ok, The Field is always open and is my favorite Irish Pub not actually in Ireland. If you travel Griffen Road in Dania, you may have driven past it without a second glance. I've been going for years and have never once been able to park in their parking lot if that tells you how popular it is. There is a parking lot just a block west and they are nice enough to run a little shuttle service. No matter how many times I visit, I am always impressed that the place is bigger on the inside than the outside. Whether you sit inside right on the stage or outside under the banyan tree, the music is pumped directly to your table. If the great food, terrific service, and the best beer around isn't enough to get you to visit, the music certainly will.

Celtic Mayhem
The house bands Celtic Bridge (my favorite), 2 of Us (Beatles tribute), and George Orr as Rod Stuart play five nights a week. This particular middle of the week night featured a very rare appearance by my new favorite Irish band Celtic Mayhem. Three long sets, with two short breaks filled the night with rocking Celtic music and some oldies that were new when I first heard them making them classics. I'm sure they were new to some of the folks sitting near me. That would be the ones who weren't singing along till the second chorus.

It's difficult to find someone to head out with on a school night so I did this little adventure alone. I certainly didn't stay alone for long. I struck up a conversation with a guy at the bar next to me as soon as I sat down and by the last set I had 10 new friends. Thanks Chris, Robin, Ginger, Tricia, Dave and everyone who's name I didn't quite get for a great time.

Celtic Mayhem - Artsy Cell Phone Shot
It is not too late to enjoy the Celtic Mayhem experience. They are playing the Miami Ren Fest the next two weekends then all over Florida after that. Click on the links above for more info on the faire, the band, and The Field.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Museum of Discovery and Science - Fort Lauderdale

 How long has it been since I last visited the Museum of Discovery and Science? Well since it's doubled in size since my last visit, I would say too long. Sure I've been in the area for the IMAX movie theater, Sunday Jazz Brunch, Glam Doll Strut, and other events but I have not set foot inside the museum since my daughter informed me she was too old to go anymore.

I don't know how that's possible. I still love to play with all the interactive exhibits. Fifteen years ago, most everything was mechanical. A lot of that is still there but every area has been updated with new displays, entirely new exhibit rooms, interactive computer touch screens, and simulator rides. There is also a  full size elephant and giant shark.

I was not totally sure they would let me play with all the exhibits by myself so I borrowed a couple of kids to be safe. Even so, I had plenty of play time. Memories of past visits with my daughter came flooding back. I remember different items she would concentrate on over the many years and visits as she grew up. One year it was soap bubbles. The next, staring in wonder at the visible escalator. My loaner kids were glued to the window where the otters played like it was an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants. My personal fascination is the gigantic, mechanical clock that tells time with multicolored bowling balls. At certain times, a whole slew of them are released to clatter along a complex racetrack that fills the entire entrance courtyard. Yes, there have been times when I've grabbed a lunch and waited for the clock to pass the noon hour putting everything in motion.

Otter Pool 

Clyde Butcher
So what prompted this visit? Was I having some sort of second childhood episode? No. Actually I went to see a presentation by Clyde Butcher. If you have been in South Florida for any length of time, you have heard the name and/or seen his work. If you have never heard the name, then click on it above and get introduced. Mr. Butcher is a fine art photographer who has made a career of standing waist deep in the swampy waters of the Everglades to bring the tremendous beauty to your local art gallery or living room. His use of a rare and ancient, large format camera allows him to capture photos of astounding clarity printed to enormous sizes. Clyde spoke with great passion about the destruction of the Everglades and the anemic measures being taken to repair the damage. I wonder, if it was not for him and a very few like him, would the Everglades have been seen as anything other than a wasteland to be drained and paved over? Clyde offers Swamp Walks to the public at his studio from time to time. There is no better way to get close to nature than walking in it up to your knees.

The Museum of Discovery and Science is an excellent destination to introduce your children to science and discover a day's worth of fun for the whole family.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Impressions of the Florida Renaissance Festival

Mimi the Mermaid
Why am I writing about the Florida Renaissance Festival twice this year?  My last posting hit a half a thousand views, my Flickr photos are getting 500+ views a day, and I’ve attended four and a half times with one weekend yet to go. World shattering records for my blog and myself.  With this kind of interest, I thought I would take a deeper look.

When asked what my attraction is to this event, my quick and easy answer is the people. Not only the performers but the costumed characters, the vendors, and the fans. This year I made a real effort to do more than gawk and shoot photos. Now several performers know my name. I've met a couple of fellow photographers in person who’s work I’ve admired for years. I’ve hung out with some awesome performers and their over the top fans. I've learned to eat fire. I don’t really recommend that last one. Not that anyone besides me has fire eating on their top 100 list.

So what does this little faire have to offer? I attended four full days before I saw every act (so I thought) and each time was a truly unique experience. There is something for everyone who enjoys live entertainment.
Celtic Mayhem

The Harper & the Minstrel
Iron Hill Vagabonds
Music is everywhere. If you look hard enough and listen close enough you will find some of the most beautiful, hand made music on earth. The Glass Harp which is singing water bowls or a harpist by the water for those who like their music quiet. The juxtaposition of cannon fire in the background may upset the purists but there is no shortage of CDs for sale so you can take it with you and listen in the cocoon of your car on the way home.

 Somewhere in the middle are the loud and bawdy bands belting out anything from Irish drinking songs to comedy and pirate tunes.
Cast in Bronze

If you would rather feel your music more than hear it, stand in the front row at the Cast in Bronze performance and get your bones rattled and fillings loosened. This has to be the most unique musical instrument I've ever seen. All four tons of it. It takes quite an athlete to play this collection of church bells on a truck bed but he never misses a beat.

Masala Gypsy Dancer
Irish Step Dance
How about dance. Plenty of that. No matter how many times I visit, the Irish Step Dancers and Masala Gypsy Dancers dance their hearts out for the audience. I'm constantly amazed by the attendance these performers draw. They can't all be parents and relatives like when I watched my daughter's shows way back when. Every time I attend there are large and enthusiastic audiences. I think that speaks to the type of visitors the Ren Fest attracts as much as to the quality of the acts.

What would a Renaissance Festival be without the knights? These guys take quite a pounding every weekend for our entertainment. I don't care how scripted the show may appear. You fall off a galloping horse in full armour and it's going to hurt somewhere between limp and 911. I've been going to Renaissance festivals for 15 years and I've only seen one real injury but I'm sure these guys put their career and health on the line every time they suit up. The audience knows it too and the Field of Dreams is always the Field of Loudest Cheers.

Washer Woman

Commedia Del Sol

I Want My Mommy!
My favorite - the comedy. I don't really think there are enough opportunities to laugh in this life. TV just does not have the same effect on me as live comedy. I've seen the same acts plenty of times over the years so are they still funny? Oh Hell Yeah! This is a live show with a volatile audience and performers who might just change the act in mid stream if it suits them. Then there's the classic jokes I just can't get enough of and look forward to hearing time and time again. One thing every act has in common is audience participation. That means they grab someone from the audience and toss them on stage. Every once in a while someone goes crying for their Mommy. Ninety-nine percent of the time the uncanny skill of the performer to pick the perfect victim enhances the enjoyment of the audience and in the end makes a hero out of the chosen one. Something they will remember fondly for a long time and possibly re-live through the photos of their friends who were thanking their gods they were not picked. This year the Mud Show is back. A show where there is a good chance you will be sprayed with mud in the first twenty rows. This is the only show I sit in the back row with my long lens. Not so much to protect my camera as people fight for those front row seats. Now that's what I call audience participation.

Mud Show - Splattertime Players

Jana Lee and Adam Lowe
What's left? Acrobats, RenFairies, beautiful woman, games of skill, and turkey legs. You can't see everything all in one day, that's for sure. I was looking at some of my new friend's photos and found a couple of acts hiding in the woods that I missed. Good thing there is one last weekend.

At the end of the day, when the closing cannon blasts letting everyone know it's time to leave, there is no mad rush to play bumper cars on the way out. Five times with oodles of people leaving at once, the very first driver I came upon waived me onto the road. I, in turn, did the same all the way to the exit. Merging into traffic leaving a concert or ball game in Miami is more of a Gladiator sport. The folks who attend the Ren Fest this year have braved the elements, the cold, the wind, the rain, and blazing sun for a full day and still are polite enough to drive with courtesy. Like I said at the beginning, the best part of this event for me is the people.


Beauty 1

Beauty 2

Beauty 3 (on the inside)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fire Eating? - Why the Hell Not?

South Florida Guy Eating Fire
If there is one thing that has always fascinated me it's the art of fire eating.  An art that is high risk, extremely dangerous, and in no way something to learn at home from YouTube videos. Doing it right will likely burn you. Doing it wrong will surely require medical intervention. The secret art of fire eating is usually passed down from one artist to another. A literal passing of the torch.

This year I chose to purchase a season pass to the Florida Renaissance Festival.  There are several performers who eat fire - some only feet away from my camera. I've seen some dozen or so exhibitions in the four weekends I've attended the festival. After a little soul searching, I decided I wanted to take the leap and follow my dreams. Now where to find a qualified teacher.

Eating Fire
It is my good fortune that my close personal friend Jana Colgin just so happens to be touring this year at FLaRF. A ten year fire eating veteran, she graciously offered to give me the beginners lesson and I immediately accepted.

I'm sure you have some questions.

Am I crazy? - Just a little.

Is the fire hot? - Hot as fire - the cold stuff has not yet been invented.

Did it hurt? - I stuck burning hot fire on a stick in my mouth so yeah, pretty much.

Will I do it again? - What, are you kidding? I'm shopping for a kit right now.

 I am hooked. I don't know if I will ever be at a performing level but after several hours of intense training, I managed to transfer a flame to my tongue then light another torch with the flame coming out of my mouth. That is certainly a show stopper at any family gathering. Huge thanks to all the performers that inspired me and a gigantic heap of appreciation to Jana who enabled me.