Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Unexpected Conjunction

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

I have been asking people about and meaning to try a seafood restaurant down the street for quite a while now. After a few failed attempts, I finally managed to visit the Crystal River Seafood restaurant.

Those I have talked to about Crystal River are divided on the issue of quality, but my experience was extremely positive. The food and service were both excellent. The value per dollar was fair considering how much food was included with my entrée. And although the non-stop modern country music was uninvited, it was pleasantly ignorable.

At least until the older African-American woman seated at the table closest to my booth recognized one tune in particular and proceeded to proudly sing along. The wrinkles in her face seemed to dance as she struggled not to smile too widely. As soon as the song closed, so did she sharing a laugh with her party.

When I first arrived, the considerate hostess/cashier not only asked my preference of booth versus table but also if I wanted a seat by the window; a particularly appreciated question when dining alone. My waitress—server number twenty-two; why I remember that from the bill but not her name escapes me—was no less pleasant or attentive.

I enjoyed the catch of the day Mahi-Mahi, Cajun blackened, with seasoned rice, green beans and coleslaw while watching life go by at the westside intersection of Tennessee Street and Ocala Road. Including a soft drink and tax, the total was around twenty dollars, totally acceptable for a large Friday/payday meal.

While the hostess/cashier from earlier was running my credit card, she broke from the transaction to say, "Has anyone ever said you look of Tobey Maguire?"

There was some ambient noise that masked her muted statement so I said, "Excuse me?"

"Your eyes in particular," she clarified, "they remind me of Tobey Maguire."

As I signed the credit slip, I was privately entertained that I had earlier stopped watching Wonder Boys to go to dinner and was now returning home to finish it. While I hope my stories and general disposition remind no one of a "gloomy gulag,"—a term Michael Douglas' character uses to describe Maguire's James Leer—I will take her statement as a compliment.

When I turned the DVD player back on, the movie was about half over. When the story's climax scene arrived, I watched it a few times, once frame by frame.

You see, I have been interested in the filming location of this particular scene for quite a while and once did some searching. Unfortunately, since the film did not do very well commercially, the amount of information available online is a bit limited. I was not going to let that stop me this time, however; I was determined to find the answers. And I did.

First, a little context. Author Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) and editor Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey, Jr.) are looking for Tripp's dark maroon 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 which had been stolen by the car's real owner the night before. The scene begins as they approach Kravnick's Sporting Goods shop, located in a building next to some railroad tracks, a river and one of the many Pittsburgh area bridges used throughout the film in scenes important to character development.

When I originally looked for information on this place, I did so using web-based imaging software to glean a look. In Tripp's closing narrative, he references the above scene and names the adjacent river as the Monongahela. Figuring I knew the scene well enough to recognize the location, unless it had radically changed since 1999, I proceeded east along the Monongahela from downtown but never found anything.

After I recently purchased the Wonder Boys DVD, I learned from an extra feature that the scene in question was filmed west of downtown, not east. I went back to the aerial photographs online, tracing the Ohio river west from Point State Park, where the Monongahela and Allegheny combine. After finding a location that was a match candidate, I searched for more information on the nearby bridge and found proof that it was indeed the spot.

The Kravnick's exterior is actually the home of Beaver Valley Bowl, 25 New York Avenue, Rochester, Pennsylvania. The bridge visible in the background crossing the Ohio River is the Monaca-Rochester Bridge. Not to be confused with the bridge, the elevated roadway visible behind the action in shots away from the river is also, interestingly enough, New York Avenue.

It turns out this bridge is best known locally not for its transportation use, but for its annual renaming. The winner of the high school football game featuring the Monaca Indians and the Rochester Rams earns the additional reward of top billing.

The bridge's name has always been a matter of contention for residents, but when a photo shoot for an upcoming game featured the longtime rivals tugging on a sign for the bridge, the contest heated up.

Then in 1987, Mayors John Antoline and Gerald Lavalle of Monaca and Rochester respectively, agreed to change the name of the bridge in honor of the game's winner. Thus, the present name is the Rochester-Monaca Bridge, as the Rams last outplayed the Indians, 42 to 6, on 21 October 2005. This year's match-up will be held on 27 October.

As a matter of record, the bridge was known as the Rochester-Monaca when captured on film. When you next find yourself watching Wonder Boys, you can think of this as you see Grady Tripp's life change in front of him.

UPDATE: 28 October 2006, 1602

The Rochester Rams once again claimed victory over Monaca in a shut-out performance last night. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports the following:
Rochester 41, Monaca 0 — Derek Moye had 203 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, as No. 1 Rochester (9–0, 6–0) cruised to a Big 7 Conference victory over No. 9 Monaca (5–4, 4–2). Moye had two punt returns for touchdowns (40 and 70 yards) and an 11-yard run for a score. Rochester clinched the conference championship with the victory.
For another year, they win the honour of first billing in the bridge's name: Rochester-Monaca.

Photo Credit: Larry and Tippi Comden
Photo Credit: Paul D. Anthony

The Impromptu Deliverance

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

One of the things I have loved most about living in the south—next month marks my seventeenth year in the Sunshine State—is the variety of beautiful and amazing wildlife.

There are many animal species I enjoy. But even from the first day in Florida, my favourite has always been the lizard.

I have a memory of sitting inside a Wendy's restaurant either immediately preceding or following my move from New York, watching in amazement as the lizards scurried around in the bushes planted just the other side of the arched glass.

Through the years, the inevitable close encounters occur and from those experiences I have always gained a new respect. After all, nothing is more exciting than coming home to a small snake sitting comfortably on the carpet. Or wondering what your cat is chasing around the bedroom in the middle of the night. Rescuing lizards is just another part of the day.

During my year in Tallahassee—can you believe that?!—I have noticed the lizards are not as abundant here. I still see them regularly during the appropriate seasons, but compared to central Florida the population here is minor.

Perhaps with so much rural land nearby, they are not forced into cohabitation with humans as often. Whatever the reason, I learned yesterday the population is sufficient enough still for a close encounter.

Driving between work buildings in an Agency car, my eyes panned down slightly to notice a Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) looking back at me through the glass, hanging on to the windshield wiper for dear life.

I hoped he could stay put for just a few moments longer. Soon enough I turned into the first driveway I came upon and quickly exited the vehicle.

"Oh, no!" I exclaimed aloud at the sight of a lizard-free windshield wiper. The surrounding area showed no signs of him either. "Shit."

I sighed and started to get back into the car when I saw him staring back at me from the roof, right above the driver doorway. My attempts to coax the poor guy into my hands were futile, but at the same time he could have very easily scurried away but did not.

I like to think this was so because some way, some how he knew I was not a threat, or even understood I was there to help. I know intellectually this is not possible, but there is no denying the fantastic power of animal instincts.

The rescue plan failing, I decided to try a new approach. I leaned up against the body of the car and placed my shoulder next to the lizard. Then with my hand I gave him a gentle poke.

There should have been a spring sound effect when he jumped onto my shoulder and quickly scampered to the top of my head. Walking lightly I approached the nearby grass and proceeded to bow. He jumped off into the grass and sat there looking back up at me before cautiously walking away to explore the new and unfamiliar surroundings.

As I continued my drive I hoped that the little lizard would adapt easily to his new environment, 1.7 miles northwest of his previous home.

And while in the grand scheme of the universe it might not mean a whole lot, I felt an enormous wave of satisfaction over having saved this lizard from certain death.

I know it made a difference to me. And to him as well.

The Paradigm Shift

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

Earlier in the week, I arrived home from work around the usual time. Whilst emptying my pockets of the day's contents and undressing, I pressed the power button on my notebook to bring it out of its state of hibernation.

After the screen lit and the system whirred to life, the little white balloon I had been anticipating for around a week finally appeared. When the moment arrived I realised that despite some effort, no real contingency plan existed for this inevitable day. The neighbours and unwitting providers of my internet service since late last year moved away and with it my connectivity.

I had already planned on visiting the office of the Leon County Supervisor of Elections the following day to update my voter registration card—Sunday being the cut-off for eligibility in the primaries and all. Before leaving on that trek, I mapped the location of the one and only Embarq—the telecom formerly known as Sprint—retail store in Tallahassee.

My mission was simple: peruse the in-store marketing materials, ask a few questions of a customer service representative and get back to the office. Slightly more than twenty minutes after entering the store, I was strolling back out in to the parking lot, DSL modem in hand.

My unending frustration with the quality of service I have received from Cingular Wireless, the cellular provider forced upon me by AT&T Wireless' acquisition, has prompted me to think about moving on to other providers. The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that I could very easily move away from cellular service all together.

Combined with my lack of enthusiasm for Comcast's overpriced cable broadband service and my non-desire to have television service other than that provided by my DVD player and VCR, migrating to a traditional land line telephone and DSL service seemed like a logical step. Throw in a decent telephone/internet package on special due to Embarq's newness and you have an unbeatable deal.

It is thus my pleasure to announce the immediate discontinuance of my mobile telephone service. Calls and SMS text messages sent to my "current" number will be redirected to /null/ some time today, 05 August 2006. My new telephone number is 850.222.4747.

Those who know me understand the significance of the forty-seven. I am still rather pleased I was able to select such a personalized and easy-to-remember set of digits. Hooray for small talk with the Embarq guy, who I'll add was more than a little pleased when I told him he did not have to give me the "new DSL customer" technical walk through.

I should probably mention that while I can change my mind at any time, given the raw amount of telephone talking I (do not) do, I elected to go with the $0.10 per-minute long distance plan. If you get any one-ring missed calls from my number, I am just being cheap so give me a call back. Remember, the system exists so people can work it.

So far both services have performed nicely. The voicemail system is intuitive and the internet was literally plug and play. You have to love things that just work, especially when you are in the industry. The only blip so far is not even an issue per se, but more an "oh, ok" kinda deal—my packets travel to Orlando before going up to Atlanta and on to the world. While I would love a few less hops between here and my web server outside of New York City, the added routes do not constitute a major detour.

It feels good and rebellious to be abandoning the technology so intertwined in our "need it now" society. I concluded that most of my telephone conversations happen in the one place I am free and clear to have them: my couch. So why not give up the portable "sounds like 56k streaming audio" phone? Cost is certainly not the reason as my land line and internet service combined will be only slightly more per month than my mobile-only bill.

Needless to say, I could not be happier with my decision. But no tale of technology on Mount Sutro would be complete without a visit from our friend, Mr. Irony. In a final gesture of appreciation and dedication to service, Cingular offered me one final hurrah. If I had not already made the decision to cancel my service, I surely would have after this.

Simply put, I do not want to be charged past the current billing cycle. The plan was to call and schedule my cancellation on or before the final date in my cycle and to use the balance of my peak minutes before then.

The call went smoothly and everything seemed in order... until I hung up. No bars. No service ID message. Nothing. And then a message indicating to me the network no longer recognized my SIMM. The bastards had cut me off immediately!

I called back and after waiting on hold for a bit, was connected to someone to whom I expelled my displeasure. She was very nice, apologetic and efficient in getting my service restored. At the close of the call she informed me that I needed to call on the day I wanted to cancel, as their billing software was incapable of scheduling cancellations in advance.

To this I replied, "Okay, I understand. But you might want to tell your manager the person I spoke with before you was obviously unaware of this fact."

Later today when I make the call, it will be for real. So long and thanks for all the fish, even if they were dropped.