I’m not in Kansas, but I’m close enough.

When relocating to a part of the world that you’ve never lived in, there’s always a lot that needs to be done. Moves of that magnitude need to be coordinated. Employment needs to be secured. Housing should be established. School records need to be transferred (if there are children involved). Boxes eventually need to be unpacked.

There’s more than enough to do and not enough time, or hands, to help get everything done.

Suffice it to say, anyone in that type of situation is going to be distracted for quite some time. Appreciating life? Maybe life is in a box that you have to unpack?

A week after I had exploded a lizard with my little piggies, I needed to run some errands. What they were, and where I had to go are inconsequential. As I was walking to the car from the temporary residence where my family and I were residing, I was making a mental note of what needed to be done. It was just about to be noon.

Noon during an Arizona summer is when absolutely every one is inside. Dry Heat or not, the Sun is a crushing ball of hate at that time of the day, during that time of the year, in the desert.

As I put my hand on the door handle of our rental car, I spied, out of the corner of my beady little eye, a Wizard of Oz cosplay happening across the street:

What you’re seeing is a bona fide Dust Devil. I apologize for the vertical display. Regardless of my level of distraction at the time, I did have the presence of mind to tip my phone sideways. Hence the video being full frame. Facebook’s gotta facebook, I guess.

So, what’s a dust devil? 

Dust devil’s are the kid sister of tornadoes. They can be as tall as 650 feet high, and anywhere between 10 to 100 feet in diameter. 

In general, dust devils happen when a part of the ground heats up faster than all of the other ground surrounding that part. As the air rises above this super-heated patch of ground (warm air rises, cool air sinks…) it conflicts with the cooler air around it creating the funnel shape of the dust devil. If a gust of wind picks up, it blows the dust devil along. 

Did I know that it was a dust devil? Fuck no. If I’m being honest, I thought that I was finally having that stroke people keep pushing me towards.

No one but myself was in the parking lot at the time. There were zero people walking on the street. Cars weren’t even slowing down. I was the only person outside to witness something like that.

And it was an amazing mental cleanser that made my errands that much more palatable. Our desert year was shaping up nicely.



I am the Lizard King: Or, My Sordid History with Reptiles.

Prior to leaving the contiguous United States for the Land of the Rising Sun, my family and I lived in NW Florida. Again, existing in this locale was strictly related to my wife’s line of work. 

Regardless, living in NW Florida was a necessity. And on top of that, it was the first time that my wife and I had ever lived anywhere other than our native Northern Ohio.

Let that sink in for a moment. You make it all of the way into your 30’s before you live anywhere else in your country. Looking back on it now, I’d have to say that that move from the more often than not, ice-laden Ohio to perpetually warm, and mostly wet, Florida was a bigger mind fuck for the wife and I than it ever was for our three children. 

There was quite a bit that I did anticipate: the heat, the immensity of the ocean, the type of weirdness that only Florida can bring. But, for all that I did anticipate, there was quite a bit that I, let alone anyone, would have never seen coming. 

Fact: in NW Florida there was no real flying insect problem. 

And this is why.

As best as I can suss out, this is a Green Anole. He likes changing color based on the heat, living in trees, and climbing all sorts of flat surfaces. He dislikes vertebrates, being confused with chameleons since he’s related to the iguana, and getting caught by predators (He will break off his tail in a desperate grab for freedom. I can verify this fact as my youngest daughter used to catch Anoles like Mr. Miyagi caught flies. More often than not, she’d have only a tail to add to her collection.). 

Yes, this son of a bitch was on the inside of the screen in my house. And yes, I was rather pleased that he kept the bugs for himself. But I was equally displeased that I had a lizard to exorcise from my home.

There I was, City Mouse down to the very fiber of my being. What in the hell am I going to do? I can’t kill it with a shoe. I couldn’t catch the damn thing (not because I was super fat at the time, nor because I was sans pants, but because lizards of that size epitomize skittish). And I sure as shit couldn’t use harsh language at it in the hopes that I would bum it out to the point of it letting itself out. 

I did the only thing that I could think of. I closed the window. 

While this may seem a bit inhumane, it was a nice day, as evidenced by the window being open in the first place. Also, it’s a fucking lizard. 

After I closed the window, and put my pants back on, I decided to go around to the other side of the lizard’s new prison to see if there was anything that could be done about extricating my new “friend”. As luck would have it, the screen opened from both sides. So, I opened the screen and walked away. 

I checked on him an hour later and he was gone, along with the horror thought that came from me wondering how long it would take him to find his way into my house and eat my then-plump face off whilst I slept.

A few days later, I happened upon this scene while taking out the trash. 

I obviously can’t verify that this was the same lizard but it did my heart good to ponder the possibility that the lizard had used his new found freedom to get his freak on. 

Fort Walton Beach and the Pensacola Peoples.

This article originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here. 

I will be the first to admit it: my neighborhood and the surrounding area looks a bit boring. There is no bustling metropolis. There is no ‘scene’ (art, music, or otherwise) to speak of. Even the local shopping mall leaves something to be desired. There is urban sprawl as far as the eye can see.

While it may appear that I am dumping on my current locale, I assure you I am not. I’m just telling you what I see on a daily basis. As I have mentioned before, when I relocated here with my family, my wife and I treated every time we left the house like an exploration.

On one of our journeys, I spied, with my beady little eye, The Fort Walton Beach Indian Temple Mound. It is located in one of the most easy to miss areas I have ever seen in my life. Located on a little triangle of land, bordered by Miracle Strip Parkway, Eglin Parkway SE, and Florida Place SE, The Indian Temple Mound is, in my mind, lost amidst the restaurants and tourist traps. It’s a sad but reasonable fact.

Fort Walton Beach sits on Destin’s backdoor. Both are equally nice cities but tourists go to Destin because it is the center jewel of the Emerald Coast. Additionally, both cities are economically happier when it’s tourist season.

One day last week I had a thought: “How many people know about the history of Fort Walton Beach and it’s Indian Temple Mound?”

The Fort Walton Beach Indian Temple Mound is believed to have been built around 800 CE by the Pensacola Peoples. From what archaeologists have been able to excavate, we have learned that the Pensacola Peoples have relied more on coastal resources despite the fact that they were very successful agriculturally. Additionally, we have learned that the mound itself served as the ‘town hall’. At it’s top was the temple and residence of the Tribal Chief. Surrounding the mound at it’s base was where everyone else was presumed to live. As the chief died, it was believed that he was buried in the mound. After his burial, another layer of earth was added to it. Hence the mound’s large stature.

Eventually the mound was believed to have been abandoned in the 1600’s. One of the more popular theories has to do with the growing Anglo-Saxon occupation of the country at the time.

In the 19th century the mound was put back into use when the area at large was re-inhabited by the Confederates during the Civil War. During this time, the mound served as a camp for those who were ordered to guard the Santa Rosa Sound and the Choctawhatchee Bay.

In the 1960s, a museum was established on the mound holding the esteem of being Florida’s first municipally owned and operated museum. While there is something to be said for having a gluttonous and lethargic vacation soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible, and while it is reasonable to think that there really isn’t much to the city that you call home, it never hurts to look to the past in order to see what came before you.

The Indian Temple Mound Museum is located at: 139 Miracle Strip Parkway SE Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548 Their normal hours of operation are: Monday through Friday 12:00pm – 4:30pm Saturday 10:00am to 4:30pm

This article originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here.