Universal Design

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The National Association of Home Builders describes Universal Design as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

For instance:

  • No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home’s main rooms.
  • One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
  • Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
  • Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.
  • Extra floor space. Everyone feels less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.

Some universal design features just make good sense. Once you bring them into your home, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. For example:

  • Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They’re not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.
  • Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway. They also keep others from tripping.
  • Good lighting helps people with poor vision. And it helps everyone else see better, too.
  • Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. But others like them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You’ll never go back to knobs or standard switches.

I’m just pointing this out because I live in a beach house in a cow pasture. The idea behind Pineapple Hill, an island surrounded by cows, came to me suddenly—in a dream, trance or stupor—without factoring in Universal Design. Despite a number of injuries (car wreck, sailing as a contact sport, etc) I still love this place despite the occasional wheel chair, walker or crutches.

So cheers, fellow baby boomers, to feeling forever young!

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


Book Review: Fire And Rain

Posted on Posted in Notes & Doodles

I just finished David Browne’s book Fire And Rain “interweaving epochal points in the professional and personal lives of the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, CSNY and James Taylor.” It was a fun choice. Perfect for kicking off the 2015 summer season in the Pineapple Hill hot tub. Perfect for any private library book collection.

I was in junior high and high school in the 1970s –old enough to be there when the Beatles broke up (and when Simon and Garfunkel songs were being playing in elevators). I liked James Taylor some. Liked CSNY a lot more. But I wasn’t really caught up in their goings on behind the scenes. Didn’t really fathom their place and meaning as the 1960s rocked and rolled to its chaotic conclusion. For instance, I hadn’t known that, according to the book:

  • James Taylor was such a junkie, had been institutionalized and once broke his hands and feet wrecking a stolen motorcycle on Martha’s Vineyard. (He seems so mellow.)
  • David Crosby was such a ladies man (though I should made the connection via his singing Love The One You’re With). Nor did I know Love The One You’re With was derived from a comment Billy Preston when Stephen Stills was hanging out with him (via Ringo Starr) in London.
  • Phil Spector was deemed a little creepy even back then –his “wall of sound” clients of that era thought it weird he carried a gun (and he was known even then to have a temper).
  • Jimi Hendrix ignited his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival.
  • Stephen Stills had tricked Rita Coolidge into dating him instead of Graham Nash (told a lie to steal her right out of Nash’s arms) and that Nash then won her back from Stills. (Man, Rita Coolidge was such a hottie!) And that Stills had been in military school in St. Petersburg, Florida (but before my time there).
  • Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters was, for a time, the best selling album in America (by-passing The Beatles’ Abby Road to get there), and that S&G were anxious over the similarities between their hit song and Let It Be.

There was a lot of drama in the background. Globally, of course. But also between the bands and band mates. Much more paranoia and bitterness than I’d have thought. Much less harmony backstage away from the spotlight. [Where was I when all that was going on? Sailing. Listening to wind and water more than anything else.]

Brown develops the history behind these acts develop progressively in step with the world around them, making sense of the influences that built them up then brought them down.

Find a copy. Grab a beach towel. Head outside this summer.

# # #

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

My Jaguar. Sadly not vintage

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Jag vs. cow. An ongoing contest of epic proportions.

At times you might see me roll up in a Jaguar the color of the deep blue sea. It’s an old one but, sadly, not vintage. They practically give them away. I’ve herded cows in mine.

No, I’m not crazy.

Yes, I’m aware of the brand’s reputation for driving owners to the poor house. Or the nut house.Or one and then the other.

At least a half dozen times I resisted the urge to have one. But my heart—which throughout my life has often overruled my brain, persisted in saying “And have one, I must.” Kept whispering this into my ear, giving the lobe a nibble, knowing my eyes were unable to resist the crisp, sleek, sassy lines of those older Jags, and my soul unable to resist the flawless inviting leather; all the  buttons and lights, and the feeling of riding on rails smooth as ice.

In the beginning, the brain, perched at the other ear, would punch me in the shoulder to get my attention then screech “STOP! You fool! She’ll only bring you trouble! Resist temptation! Jaguars  are a path to ruin!” The brain would not to let the heart get its hands on the checkbook and the pen. And the soul would not let the eyes look back for one last time.

Years passed.

Sure, I’d notice if she happened by. I admit to looking longer than I should have until she disappeared, far ahead, from my view. I knew I had to let her go.

But I never totally forgot about that svelte, agile feline.

Self-consciously, she must have still been with me all that time. And, in my hunger to have her, I pursued succession of substitutes. Most of them flashy, five-speed convertibles. None of them totally satisfying.

More years passed.

My children moved out. I sold the place in town, built a smaller place in the boonies.

I put on a little weight. My hair thinned a little. White hairs started taking over my beard.

I began losing interest in a Miata I’d been driving lately. Other than mindless outings with the top town, there wasn’t much there. No poetry. No history. No art. No deep connection humming night and day, year ’round, regardless of the weather or the road ahead.

I was slowly taken over by that “running on empty” feeling. To tell you the truth, I slipped out one afternoon looking for a Roaster. Or something. I needed to fill my emptiness.

I had no idea what I was looking for, no idea what my options were.

I looked online, I went to car lots. Nothing. Getting desperate, I started cruising parking lots, a perv.

But nothing caught my eye. I was not only disappointed, I was alarmed. They all looked alike. Same sizes, same shapes, same colors. Yes, I panicked. Armageddon coming! I retreated back to the far to wait it out.

But no Horsemen came.

As always seemed to happen I then found my love at a time I wasn’t looking. There she was, on a corner, looking like no one else. We went out. I got a speeding ticket right away.

Sure, she was older and larger than what I was used to, but I’m older and larger too. An automatic, not five-speed, but my insurance company loves me for it. Requires more patience but I’ve got the time now. More expensive to keep but worth it—she speaks to me in ways others never could. And, yes, I think she’s sexy as hell, a sleek and sassy style the newer ones don’t have, could never understand.

And, of course, there’s that wonderful leaping cat up front, the shiny “sun wet” chrome a bursting energy that makes me, at middle age, feel like I’m jumping through a fiery hoop of time.

# # #


–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Blue Rubber Pool: Excerpt 86

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I’ve never been much of a cat person, but didn’t mind Marianne’s hanging around. What a trip she was–one minute sprawled half dazed in a sun beam, the next fending off bad guys. All in a day’s work. Just like me.

The cat finished bathing and made a sound I interpreted as “bored.” She paced the bench on the lookout for danger, stopped, and sat, taking notice of something. She then made a sound I equated to “You might wanna come take a look at this.”

Squinting in the fading light, I saw it: a big, black blob chewing on my precious banana trees again, the little patch I put in to feel at home while still homeless and scouting builders. This beast was not just an intruder, it was a connoisseur, having chosen musa bashoos from the mountains of Japan, a house warming gift from Alaska. I thought it interesting that a cow eating a banana tree sounds like I do eating celery. I enjoyed watching the big dumb beasts while they stayed in the neighbor’s field, just loafing. It relaxed me. Especially after a hard day at work, shouting into the S-Phone at some guy speeding across the desert, or at some guy shouting back under heavy fire in the jungle. Cows took the edge off the fact that good help had become hard to find, nobody willing to go out delivering duffel bags anymore.

But a cow on the loose in my yard–Scooby snacking on my plants–screamed out for countermeasures. But which ones?

# # #

Buy it on Amazon

# # #
–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Cuba FYI

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  • Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean, as well as the largest by area.
  • Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, an infant death rate lower than some developed countries, and an average life expectancy of 77.64. In 2006, Cuba was the only nation in the world which met the WWF’s definition of sustainable development; having an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8 for 2007.
  • The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War.
  • Shortly after the founding of Cuba’s first cities, the island served as little more than a base for the Conquista of other lands. Hernán Cortés organized his expedition to Mexico from the island.

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt # 589

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What is guilt if not a hidden window to your soul? An over-tired or under-medicated reaction to whatever was stuck to the flypaper we call “memory.” Little things became large. Happy things became sad. Good things—evil. Monsters rode on your back, yes, like all the monkeys of the world. You felt them there but they ducked and dodged when you turned, suddenly, to catch them with your eyes. Weirdness begat more weirdness. Fiends procreated like rabbits. Very soon, they were everywhere. Hiding in the shadows. And then in the shadows of shadows.

The colonel, Alaska and the others—myself among them—knew those monsters well. There one minute. Gone the next. Rustling ’round where the tall grass begins. A shiny glint of something glimpsed off beyond your shoulder. A twig that snaps in the woods at night. The definition of the self-doubt that comes when God gets into your head, and you briefly let your guard down enough to wonder if there’s really a heaven and if hell could really be worse than what’s already all around you.

Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t a bunch of butchers, but, yes, we crossed some lines. Oh yes, we crossed them, and, worse, we helped others cross them too—empowered them, encouraged them, planting the seeds of double-cross. Still, we were only human. We wondered about ourselves, wondered about the boundaries and rules that always seemed to have way too much wiggle room. Of course we did. The colonel described it as a long and twisting ride in the most devilish of amusement parks.

“You can get off the ride when it stops sometimes. You can take a break, rest up, most any time you want. Problem is, you’re not allowed to leave the park.”

It’s a Hotel California sort of thing.

# # #

Buy it here

# # #

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


Book Review: The Drunkard’s Walk

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I came home from the used book store with a copy of The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,  a New York Times bestseller by physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow. It’s about the role of randomness in everyday events, and the cognitive biases that lead people to misinterpret random events and stochastic processes. For me (no mathematics scholarships in my past), The Brain Pain began just reading the introduction. Nevertheless, it’s a great addition to your private library book collection. A book for the beach. A book for the boat.

I brought it home in plastic grocery store bag. It was crammed in there with GONZO: The Life Of Hunter S. Thompson, PALM BEACH BABYLON: Sins, Scam and Scandals, FAMOUS MUGS (Stars Behind Bars), Hemingway’s Key West, and Wines & Beers of Old New England. Think of it as a Dagwood Sandwich for evening reading sessions in the back porch hammock. Drunkard’s Walk being the meat.

Sometimes I’ll have 3 – 4 different books going at once. Not unlike switching back and forth between channels on the television. Eventually, Drunkard’s Walk will be completed. And when that happens, I’ll “spike” it football style and do a victory dance on the sun deck.

But more than likely Gonzo, Mugs, Key West and Wines & Beers will have long been filed away on shelves in the new conference room library and I’ll have moved on to a Philly Steak created from other books brought home in sacks.

For instance, Keith Richard’s book Life. Or Outward Leg by Tristan Jones. And The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernieres. All of them also recent finds from the used book store.

What about you? What’s in your hammock?

# # #

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt #197

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It was a small, unpainted cinder block shack with a screwed up ’72 Cutlass parked a few feet away. On the stoop, a rusted red barbecue grill—charcoal, not propane—along with scraps of greasy foil, empty beer cans, and cigarette butts in and around a plastic bucket once containing drywall mud. What stood out—a crusher for aluminum cans mounted on the wall above the bucket. Pull the lever, crush the can, those hombres were into recycling.

Andy didn’t knock, just kicked the door open, a move he made look normal.

We followed him in—three ducks carrying bags, men on a mission, ZZ Top taking the stage as the fans went wild. That’s how it felt in those first exciting moments of my young and impressionable life. My mind-blowing threshold to the Money Trail.

One minute, you’re on a stolen boat peeling back a layer of messed up fiberglass, a first hard look at seriously bad luck. The next, you’re rocking bags of bullshit worth their weight in gold, king surfer dudes with raw attitude greater than any wave in the known history of Tamarindo.

The door flew open blasting the room with light—revealing five guys slouched over a small black shipping trunk—then closed so quickly I recall the moment as a flashing strobe. Blinding brightness. Blinding darkness.

Black plastic covered the windows, blocking out the intense sun. I was totally sightless in those first few seconds. Finally, I could see: five guys staring back, saying nothing, stacks of money on the small black trunk. Some loose bills, others counted and banded. A dirty Styro plate crusted with food stains and cigarette butts. Bottles of beer in various stages of stale. An olive green Uzi.

One of the guys leaned forward, took a pack of cigarettes off the trunk, tapped the pack against the top of his other hand, removed a smoke, and then lit it up.

“You’re late,” he said.

A few beats passed. Seemed like Andy should say something, do something. But he didn’t.

At this point I noticed the others were dead.

# # #

Buy it on Amazon here

# # #

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


Jonesville History: Textile Mills

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This Jonesville History lesson touches on the textile mills that built this town then broke it.

After the War Between the States, Northern businessmen came South with the labor management practices they were used to back home. Although not anywhere near as awful as slavery, conditions in the South Carolina’s early textile mills were dangerous, the hours were long, the pay was low and workers were prohibited from organizing to arrange a better deal.

Many aren’t aware that children went to work in the mills at very young ages. Times were so hard that everyone in the family worked. Splintered wood floors injured bare feet. Lint in the air caused a fatal disease known as brown lung.

[Conditions in the coal mines of Appalachia, and the coffee and banana plantations of Central America were equally dangerous for meager wages.]

With textile mills came mill towns where workers paid their employee for rent and housing at company prices using company minted coin.

Later, some mills tried to improve conditions—including adding company base ball teams.

Cotton for the mills was grown in the Jonesville area. The old cotton warehouse and scales still stand in Jonesville but won’t remain up on their feet for long unless people join forces to save them.

Upton Sinclair Jr. (September 20, 1878 – November 25, 1968), wrote The Jungle in 1906, exposing conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.

The book is now often interpreted and taught as only an exposure of the industry of meatpacking. The novel depicts in harsh tones poverty, absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness prevalent among the working class, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption on the part of those in power. Sinclair’s observations of the state of turn-of-the-century labor were placed front and center for the American public to see, suggesting that something needed to be changed to get rid of American wage slavery. The novel was first published in serial form in 1905 in the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason. It was based on undercover work done in 1904: Sinclair spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the meatpacking plants of the Chicago stockyards at the behest of the magazine’s publishers. He then started looking for a publisher who would be willing to print it in book form. After five rejections by publishers who found it too shocking for publication, he funded the first printing himself. It was published by Doubleday, Page & Company on February 28, 1906 and has been in print ever since.

Labor and management continue to teeter-tooter as each seeks to protect their self-interests.

Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers and gold.

In 2008, products certified with FLO International’s Fairtrade certification amounted to approximately US$4.98 billion (€3.4) worldwide, a 22% year-to-year increase. While this represents a tiny fraction of world trade in physical merchandise, some fair trade products account for 20-50% of all sales in their product categories in individual countries. In June 2008, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International estimated that over 7.5 million producers and their families were benefiting from fair trade funded infrastructure, technical assistance and community development projects.

The response to fair trade has been mixed. Fair trade’s increasing popularity has drawn criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. Mark Sidwell sees “fair trade” as a type of subsidy or marketing ploy that impedes growth. Segments of the left, such as French author Christian Jacquiau, criticize fair trade for not adequately challenging the current trading system.

Sources include Wikipedia.

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill




Hammock Man with Uzi

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I’ve come home injured to Pineapple Hill, my beach house in a cow pasture in Jonesville, South Carolina, several times and, always, boredom gets the better of me. I recently found a bunch of home movies made a few years ago at about the time I began writing Blue Rubber Pool. In this one, I’m in a hammock reading Pablo Neruda with an Uzi resting on my lap. Why? I’ve no idea whatsoever. (Especially about that Uzi.) Thanks for looking. And not judging…

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


The Tuesday Morning Woody 1941 Narval

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Found another wooden sailboat for sale online. This one’s quite a looker but short on details—which is how it almost always goes when I run into a random hottie.

Listing says “Legendary Classic Frers (senior) design, this cruiser-racer provided joy to many generations of sailors in argentina and brasil participating in many Buenos Aires to Rio Race since the first edition.”

Currently in Florida for $80,000. See it at SailboatListings.com

— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill