'Castle in the sand' crumbles on Siesta Key; dusty problems afoot
"The line" may be erased next hurricane season.
A 20-year-plus saga of a nice house at a wrong location on south Siesta Key ended last week with a government-ordered demolition of an historic structure once owned by the late artist Syd Solomon.
In December 1983, Solomon and neighbor Pasco Carter successfully petitioned Florida and Sarasota County officials to relocate Midnight Pass away from their beachfront homes. The inlet, described by coastal engineers as a "wild, migrating" pass, was threatening their homes as it moved ever closer to their properties. Erosion was rampant on their land, and officials agreed to the pass shift to protect their property.
The relocation effort failed. Eight times. The two homeowners eventually gave up the project, and Midnight Pass has been "Midnight Beach" ever since, with the closure of the navigational channel that once separated Siesta and Casey keys.
Last week, county officials approved the demolition of Solomon's home, currently owned by Nancy Burns. She bought the house three years ago for $800,000 and, despite the pass closure - actually the pass disappearance - beach erosion had continued to chew away the property.
Thanks to hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne this summer, the Gulf of Mexico had undermined the Solomon structure to the point that Sarasota County officials had condemned it and ordered its demolition last week.
The Solomon house was part of the genre that is referred to as the Sarasota School of Architecture and is generally thought of as historically significant. Or was thought of as important, since the house is in a landfill now.
This tale could take one of those "castles built in the sand" bends, but it's a little more than that.
Sure, Solomon and Carter probably should have done a little more homework before they bought their erosion-prone land and built the big houses.
Sure, county officials at the time should have more strictly enforced the reopening of Midnight Pass.
Sure, current county officials could have worked closer with the new homeowner on bolstering the Solomon building.
But the fact is that yet another part of Florida's past is now long gone, and we're all a little smaller because of it.
Syd Solomon, by the way, was an abstract artist, some of whose paintings are held in collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. He died Jan. 28, 2004, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease at age 86.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and earned the Bronze Star for his efforts in the Battle of the Bulge. After he returned to the states, he and wife Annie moved to Sarasota, where he began to paint, drawing inspiration from the seascapes surrounding their home.
During the 1950s, Solomon helped make Sarasota a nationally known artists' colony, including writers such as John D. MacDonald, Elia Kazan, Betty Friedan and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and artist John Chamberlain.
And ya gotta love the irony that, after 21 years, Sarasota County is moving forward to get permits to open Midnight Pass - too little, too late to save one house.
... and while the dust settles
While the demolition dust is still drifting across south Siesta Key from the Solomon house demise, a report from a British professor said that the amount of dust in the air has increased 10 times over the recent 50 years, in a large part caused by sport-utility vehicles.
Professor of geography Andrew Goudie said so-called 4x4 SUVs represent a real danger to the global ecology because they raise clouds of dust, according to a report by the Soviet news service Pravda. "Deserts, which enjoy great popularity among extreme tourism fans, may perfectly exemplify the situation," according to the report. "When SUVs drive on the sand, the sandy surface does not recover completely from weight and wheels. One may still find tracks of World War II tanks in Libya."
According to Pravda, "The number of off-road vehicles is growing rapidly in the world today, especially in the southwest of the United States and in the Middle East. Four-wheel drives raise up to 3,000 million tons of dust in the atmosphere every year. The amount of dust in the air has increased 10 times over the past 50 years in North Africa alone. As a result, dust storms have become more frequent on the planet, which exacerbates the ecological situation even more.
"Such phenomena," Goudie said, "exert disastrous influence on coral reefs and deserts. First and foremost, the increased global dust emission worsens the ecological situation in the world. Modern science cannot boast of having sufficient knowledge about dust as a component of the earth's atmosphere. The influence of dust on the climate change of the planet is probably a lot more considerable than people might think."
And we just thought that dust bunnies under the bed were a bad thing.
Now, on to the sweet
I'm not a big fruit and nut kinda guy, but I have to admit that I like carambolas, and the Florida "star fruit" is coming into season right about now.
"Because of its unusual shape and its bright taste, it lends itself to more exotic dishes and garnishes," according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.
"The Florida carambola is a fruit of golden yellow color and a touch of green or brown along the edges when ripe," state officials said. "It is oblong, up to 6 inches in length, and deeply lobed. When cut in cross sections, the slices form a star that gives the fruit its common name of 'star fruit.' This fruit is completely edible with a thin skin and sweet, juicy, crisp flesh. Florida carambola is enjoyed fresh or cooked, in fruit salads and in desserts such as fruit tarts and upside-down cakes."
Since this isn't a food column, I'll spare you the recipes that the Ag Department offers, but will suggest you get some chocolate, or maybe try carambola in pancakes, with some shrimp and ginger, or maybe even topping a cold beer.
Reading festivals coming up
This weekend is reading festival days for Sarasota and St. Petersburg, and if you have a love of books you should plan to make either or both events.
The soiree goes on all day Saturday at Five Points in Sarasota and Saturday and Sunday at the Eckerd College campus in St. Petersburg. I'm looking forward to seeing old friend Tony Swain and soon-to-be-friend Claire Matturro, author of "Skinny-Dipping," in Sarasota, plus Maureen Dowd in St. Petersburg.
And the parties are free!
Speaking of authors, did you see that Kitty Kelley, the author of the "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," which apparently bashes George W. and Co., got bumped out of a longstanding author event at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel? Ritz officials said it was a scheduling problem with the kickoff party for their own golf complex; others have hinted that the Republican-dominated Sarasota crowd didn't want to have Ms. Kelley there to say bad things about the president.
She did speak, though, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.