St. Petersburg

Feb. 11

We finally are cruising as we envisioned, and we are “chasing 80 [degrees]!” After a thoroughly enjoyable cruise south, we arrived at St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, a 600-slip facility. We were asked to tread water for 45 minutes, while a disabled yacht finished fueling and was docked before we were assisted in docking at her bow. We were to be the last boat on the transient wall, with a nice distance between us and the next boat. I was showering for dinner when I heard Steve yell in an unusually high-pitched voice. As I threw on some clothes to be available for whatever Steve needed, I heard it again and then I felt the impact. (Can we just have an uneventful, thoroughly sunny blog with no drama?!) Marina personnel, evidently, changed their mind and directed a madman on a 30-foot boat to our stern, and he had absolutely no docking skills. As he jammed his boat back and forth from forward to reverse at RPMs way too high, he rear-ended us. It actually was our dinghy that he rammed, which swings a bit on its davits, and nothing seems damaged at this point. We are mystified by his lack of concern and his immediate claim that he’s been boating for 26 years and this is the FIRST time he has ever hit anything. First of all, with his lack of finesse, his claim is highly improbable; second, anyone who needs to make a claim like this is probably lying (as one might observe in our current political arena); and third, most boaters, if they are honest, miscue at some point in 26 years, and are wise to learn from their mistakes. We have witnesses of the event and spent the next morning fighting the system 🤯 to file a report with the FWC (Florida Wildlife and Conservation), verifying the skipper’s information, and waiting to assist with his lines as he departed in order to avert another impact—which we WOULD have had, as his plan for releasing his lines would not have controlled his windage. Steve helped him think it through and, thankfully, he was willing to use Steve’s strategy. 

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Red Pearl, on the left, tied up at the St. Pete Municipal Marina.

With that bit of unpleasantness behind us, we rhapsodized over the treasure at the Dali Museum. St. Pete was the recipient of the over-80-piece collection of philanthropists Reynolds and Eleanor Morse from Cleveland. (More of their story is at the end of this “rhapsody.”*) The collection moved into its current, hurricane-safe home in 2011, and the museum quickly became self-sustaining within two years. One gets a sense of Dali’s quirks as one approaches the building, with its “avant-garden,” extensive use of stone, and the bulbous-shaped geodesic protrusions from an otherwise severe cement cubical structure. We toured with a docent who shed light on this flamboyant personality and mischievous provocateur, whose work was influenced by his fascination with math and science, his vibrant dream world, his love for opera, his preoccupation with religion, and sex. Salvador Dali, born in Catalonia, Spain, was the third in his family by that name, preceded by his father and his deceased brother. Some of his psychological influences can be traced to his parents’ belief that he was an incarnation of his brother who was two when he died.  A prodigious child artist, Dali attended the prestigious Academy for Art in Madrid; however, he was neither a compliant nor a serious student and was finally expelled shortly before final exams for declaring that no member of the faculty was competent enough to examine him. 

We learned about Dali’s stylistic periods. Quite capable of competing with Dutch and Flemish masters, he found realism boring. Invited by others in the Surrealism movement, he joined this avant-garde group, one in which fantastic and incongruous imagery are irrationally juxtaposed, such as one experiences in dreams. He married Gala, a woman previously married to a Surrealist poet and 10 years his senior, who was truly his muse throughout his life. In the 1930s the Surrealism community expelled him, largely over his fascination with Hitler as expressed in a few of his works. Gala and Dali moved to the States due to WW II in 1940 and lived in New York and California for 8 years, during which time he met the Morses. In his classical period of the 1950s, he created 19 large canvases, characterized by meticulously detailed images of religious, historical and scientific themes, or what Dali called “nuclear mysticism.” He became obsessed with geometry, DNA, divinity, and experimented with visual images. His last large work was painted in 1975, a mind-shattering visual illusion entitled “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln.” This fabulous work exemplifies his mastery of perspective and light. We learned about some of the imagery in his eccentric work: ants representing death and decay, a reminder of human mortality and our impermanence; melting clocks being an impression Dali derived from a melting wheel of Camembert cheese and representing the timelessness of the dream world and, conversely, the omnipresence of time and its mastery of the human world; the spiral, which Dali deemed to be nature’s most perfect form, and its presence in his work representing cosmic order. After several hours, Steve and I were enlivened, but also saturated and overwhelmed. We will look forward to another visit!

Dali:  “The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning; on the contrary , their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent, and involuntary that it escapes the most simple analysis of logical intuition.” 

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Each plexiglass triangle is unique and has its place. This portion of the building withstands up to Category 3 hurricane winds; the 18-inch-thick cement walls, Category 5.

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Grotesque clocks, inspired by a melting wheel of Camembert cheese, represent the omnipresence of time and its mastery over the world, and the timelessness we experience in the dream state in Dali’s work.
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Dali’s most famous masterwork, “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln”
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Dali felt that the spiral was nature’s most perfect form. This inlay in the patio is found in the garden surrounding the museum.

After the Dali, we went to see the Chihuly Collection, similar to but smaller than the exhibit in Seattle. We marveled again at this iconic glass blower’s huge, whimsical, organic work. Afterward, we watched a glass blowing demonstration by local artists. 

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We feel joyful when we experience Dale Chihuly’s fanciful creations.

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On the way back to the boat, we passed a shop on Central Ave. that sells folding bikes—ONLY folding bikes. We would love to have bikes on this journey, and stopped to learn more and were able to test drive a couple. After researching and shopping, we returned a few days later and put a deposit down on them. 

Dinner both Friday and Saturday were in the

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With Twila Liggett, Jeff Sickles and Oscar.

company of Jeff Sickles and Twila Liggett, friends from last winter at Suntex Marina in St. Pete. We didn’t know them well, but he’s quite a story teller, and she is a creative woman with grit, the developer and producer of “Reading Rainbow,” a children’s TV program encouraging a love for reading, and the proud recipient of TEN Emmys. We’ve had fun reconnecting with these lovely people. 

 

Sunday was low-key, with a good walk through the Old Northeast neighborhood past beautiful old homes, to Florida’s first roadside attraction, Sunken Gardens, open in 1903. A small botanical garden, it was a lovely way to while away a couple of hours in the shade of a huge variety of majestic palms and a nice array plantings, visit with personable parrots, and wonder at funky flamingos. Lots of families with little kids were there… and everyone was smiling!

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Such funny birds! Elegant and awkward at the same time.

 

We have now moved the boat from the Municipal Marina to Suntex, where we will leave Red Pearl while we drive home to the frigid climes. We’ll celebrate both mom’s birthdays—Mom Barr’s with Dad, remembering many happy celebrations in the past, and Mom Hollenberg’s 90th! The Hollenberg family will gather at Pokagon in April to celebrate this landmark. We now have a few days to do some small chores aboard and to explore the area a bit more via rental car, reveling in the lovely sun and cool breeze.

*More on the Morses:  Reynold Morse worked in the plastic molding business, and Eleanor was schooled in Music, French and Spanish. They first saw Dali’s work in a traveling Museum of Modern Art show in 1943 and being drawn immediately to it, bought ”Daddy Longlegs of the Evening — Hope!” (1940), as a wedding present to themselves. Within a year they had purchased three more Dalis, all from the early 30’s. ”We plunged instead of hedging,” Mr. Morse said, ”and after a while I was becoming known as the nut who was backing a dark horse. Or vice versa.” They embarked on a sometimes turbulent friendship with Dali and his wife, Gala, regularly visiting the Dalis’s villa in Port Lligat, Spain. They had first pick of his New York gallery shows and usually paid the tab for post-opening dinners at the Pierre Hotel. Mrs. Morse’s linguistic background made her instrumental in translating and disseminating Dali’s writings and ideas to a wider audience. In 1989 by order of King Juan Carlos of Spain, Mrs. Morse received the knighting that is the highest honor the Spanish government can bestow upon a non-Spanish citizen. Having collected over 100 paintings and more than 1000 sketches and drawings, the couple sought a place where their collection would benefit the public and remain intact; and the city of St Petersburg was the only applicant willing to comply with all of their requirements. In 1997 The American Benefactor placed the Morses in the 100 Most Generous Americans for this gift.

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