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Angela and Gail in Wonderland

Monday morning, around 11, Angela called asking if I wanted to go on a bike ride with her over to "Pill Hill". Now, she didn't call it that, she called it Bel Aire, which indeed is the proper name, but as far back as I can remember we called the area Pill Hill because so many doctors lived there. Plus the streets have slight inclines, which if you know Orlando, that is way out of the ordinary. Anyway, I did my best to get out of it, claiming she was 14 years my junior, not to mention 7 inches taller, but she was not to be dissuaded. Not even when, after lowering my bicycle from the ceiling hook, we discovered my tires were woefully under-inflated. Oh no, she found her pump, chastising me all the while for my inadequacies in the pumping department--and off we went.

First off I took her to Lois's house to show her the garden, which I'm afraid did not impress her as much as it impresses me. Ignoring the fact that Lois can grow flowers in Central Florida that no one else would even attempt, she complained her grass was way too spotty. Which, truth be told, it is, although I believe that is because Lois is so focused on her beautiful tulips, poppies, daffodils, and anemones.

Heading down Delaney we crossed Michigan, cutting through on Jersey Street, past Boone High School, (with me providing narrative all the way), and into Lancaster Park. Eventually we cut over to Bel Aire. Remember those inclines I mentioned? By now I was tiring just a bit, pumping with all I had to get up those inclines, and loving every minute of sailing back down on the next street. There are some beautiful homes there which we ogled with glee.

After locating the homes she was particularly interested in, we headed home on Ferncreek. A ways down, we passed a home I'd noticed while driving. What I'd noticed was a collection of Raggedy Ann dolls on a shelf in a glassed in porch. After riding by, I decided to turn around and knock on the door, asking permission to photograph those dolls. I stopped, hollered out to Angela, who as you can imagine was ahead of me, and said I wanted to turn around. She never dreamed what would happen next.

Parking my bicycle in front of the house, I heartily knocked on the door. It's a bit of a strange set up, because you knock on the porch door, hoping someone in the home will hear you. That said, it got so much stranger that what I've just written is mild.

Now, I've waited a few days to write this because what happened next was so extraordinary I felt the need to mull things over as to adequately find the language to describe our experience. Sadly, I'm certain I still won't be up to the task, but I'll give it a try.

After several hard raps on the outer door, Ed answered, acting unsurprised when I asked if I might photograph the dolls, which let's get this over with--here they are:

I must tell you that Angela is not the chatter I am, and she's certainly not as bold as I am when it comes to strangers. As you've probably already guessed, she was standing in the driveway, such as it is, holding onto her bike while I was chatting with Ed on the porch. Not only did the porch have the dolls, but it had a big chalkboard with an affirmative sort of quote, buddhist prayer flags hung in one corner over the 1930's refrigerator, which still works if you're curious. Across from this, there is a seated black boy mannequin, as well as a standing fashion type mannequin. In a slow Southern drawl Ed mentioned there were quite a few more dolls inside if we'd like to come in. Of course I'd like to come in!!!! Convincing Angela was not quite so easy but she respected her elder and followed me into a tiny living area stuffed with such an array of objects that words fail me. I did, however, like this little sign:

After some discussion about Ed and his wife's collecting ways, he said there's quite a bit more out back if you'd like to see it. Of course I'd like to see the back! Moving through a tiny kitchen we headed out to the back yard. It was then that we began to be at a loss for words. There were so many structures and things to look at that we were mostly overwhelmed. Ed said, maybe you'd like to go on the cat walk that he'd built to head to a tree house. Of course I'd like to go on the catwalk!
Mind you this catwalk is built of re-cycled materials and all I can say is that it's a good thing I'm a lightweight! While up there I dropped my camera down into a bed of oak leaves for Angela to document our experience. By now we are both mostly in a state of shock because every where you looked there was something artistic, from the watering can:
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to spades with faces, to the mini green house which looked more like a little pagoda with lovely orchids blooming inside. The fish pond surrounding it was jumping with activity. He drawled that all the fish started as common goldfish and just got bigger and bigger. There really are no words to describe what we saw. Magical comes to mind.

Eventually, after chatting a bit and learning that Ed is recovering from some health issue, as well as an illness that he's recovering from, we headed back to the front. It was there that I was shocked to see something that had been right before my eyes all along. Although I'd noticed the dolls, I'd overlooked a railing, if you will, with child like faces he'd fashioned from rebar. I told you I can't describe it, and I'm failing miserably; believe me when I tell you it is very, very impressive.

I asked Ed if he were an artist. "I wanted to be, but I was too old." Sad. I've been exposed to a lot of local art in the last few years, and I can confidently say that Ed, although he doesn't call himself such, is definitely an artist. Eventually I discovered his "job" was an auto/truck mechanic. After our hearty exclamations on how awesome the fence was he asked if I'd seen his Egyptian statue. "Why yes, I did notice that." Adjacent to said statue was what appeared to be a makeshift garage with clear shower curtains hanging over an iron gate in the form of a spider web. He asked if we wanted to see the inside. Of course we want to see the inside!

We were speechless when we walked into this amazingly clean shop with decorative iron work everywhere. "Sometimes I like to work with stucco" Ed explained as he opened what looked like a column to reveal interior shelves. When I tell you it is make-shift I mean that seriously. The roof is made with tarps! Bruce went crazy that I took no pictures of the shop! At the far end of the shop there was yet another set of doors. Well, you know me--"Ed, if I haven't already been nosy enough, what is behind those doors?" Well......

Here's what was behind those doorsCan you believe it???? Look carefully on the right and you'll see Mr. Ed. Earlier, while we were on the catwalk he didn't want his picture taken so I was careful not to get a face on shot. Now, that's not to say I didn't want to, but I'm trying to respect his wishes. Can you believe this??? There's even an Elvis statue on the counter.

Remember, their home, built in 1932, is miniscule, so this really floored us. If we thought we were speechless before, this really took the cake. After profusely thanking him for his time, we took our leave, although I suggested to Ed that he'd not seen the last of me!

Climbing back on our bikes for the mile and a half ride home, we both agreed that it was if we'd fallen into a hole and come out in Wonderland.

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