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Celebrate the 4th and other sparkling events


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 26, 2001

The Fourth of July is a wonderful time to celebrate family and community, as well as the birthday of our country. Back in the late '50s, we used to take a charcoal grill, hot dogs and buns, a cooler for soft drinks and a big watermelon and set up for our feast on the south end of Clearwater Beach, where a charcoal fire was still permitted.

With our blanket on the sand, amid the sea grass and all that white beach, we couldn't have imagined the high-rise condos and hotels that stand there now.

We might have had more open beach back then, but we didn't have much good live music to listen to. For instance, Tarpon Springs certainly did not have its own Performing Arts Center (324 Pine St.). It is offering three treats for bay area music lovers in July.

The renowned Czech Virtuosi Orchestra, directed by Maestro James Brooks, will perform at 7:30 p.m. July 14. Presented as part of the Symphony of the Americas Summerfest with assistance from, among others, the International Cultural Exchange Program and the Florida Arts Council, these musicians, winners and laureates of notable music competitions worldwide, are noted for their varied and challenging repertoire. Admission $12.

Cellist Julie Newport, a winner of numerous local and national musical competitions, accompanied by pianist Talia Dillahey, a luminary in local classical music, will perform Beethoven and Schubert at 3 p.m. July 22. Admission: $10.

A Big Band orchestra conducted by Abe Guard, who has appeared with dozens of top-flight bands and performers, including Steve Allen, Frankie Laine and Mel Torme, will perform at 7 p.m. July 28. The Abe Guard Orchestra plays music of the Dorseys, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. Admission $10. Call (727) 942-5605.

For opera lovers: Watch out for part two of Verdi at the Met on PBS in the next few weeks. If it's anywhere near as good as part one was, you won't want to miss a note. Film clips from operas and concerts that have appeared on PBS in the last 30 years feature the very best of all the great voices and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by James Levine. A real treat.

The Tampa Museum of Art has an important show through Aug. 5: "James Rosenquist: The Florida Years, 1976-2001." Rosenquist has a home and studio in Aripeka and is active in many local art activities, as well as being an internationally admired, respected and collected modern artist, whose work hangs in many of the great museums of the world. As always at this museum beside the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, a fine permanent collection as well as other interesting shows are offered. Call (813) 274-8130.

Across the bay, the Salvador Dali Museum at 1000 Third St. S in downtown St. Petersburg has a fascinating show titled "A Disarming Beauty: The Venus de Milo in 20th Century Art," in addition to its world-class permanent collection. Call (727) 823-3767; on the Web:

Two unusually fine novels are new this month: My Dream of You, by Nuala O'Faolain, and Back When We Were Young, by Anne Tyler. Books with 50-year-old women as the main characters are few and far between. However, the two are very different in every other way except the protagonists' age.

The Tyler book continues her long-running account of eccentric, lovable characters in the Baltimore area. It is the story of Rebecca, who is the matriarch of a large family. At 50, she wonders how she got into this fix and what her life would have been like had she taken another path.

Her encounter with her college sweetheart teaches her several wonderful lessons. It's too bad many men avoid reading Tyler because she writes so-called women's novels. Both men and women can learn about each other in her pages. Back When We Were Young is one of her best.

O'Faolain's My Dream of You is an absorbing, beautifully written story about a successful travel writer, born and reared in rural Ireland, who approaches her 50th birthday with dread and disbelief. She leaves her London home and job and travels back to Ireland to research a 19th century scandal involving a love affair between a high-born British woman and an Irish stable hand. In discovering the truth, she works out many of the issues that haunt her.

Tyler doesn't do sex, but there is considerable explicit sexual content in O'Faolain's work.

Some of last season's big movies are now available in video stores. Tom Hanks' tour de force, Cast Away, is now on the shelves. So is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which probably won't show up as spectacularly on the small screen. If you missed it initially, however, seeing it on TV is better than not seeing it at all. In both cases, regardless of whether you like the movie, you owe it to yourself to find out what all the fuss was about.

Web sites: To send and receive e-mail while you are traveling, check into for good ideas. A family member is in Ireland, sending and receiving from cybercafes with no difficulty, so I know it works. -- American Heritage Dictionary's site for everything you ever wanted or needed to know about spelling, pronunciation and grammar. Invaluable for student or writer. -- Fast-food facts -- calories, fat content, sodium -- in all the fast foods we know and love. To know there are 800 calories in a Dairy Queen chocolate shake, for example, may be enough to teach us to love carrot sticks and celery stalks.

Happy Fourth -- and take note.

- Write to Mim Anne Houk c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Or send e mail to

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