Rediscovering an Icon

Zora Neale Hurston collecting folksongs and folktales in Eatonville - 1935

By Judy Berman

Zora Neale Hurston had the dream job. She got to return to her hometown in Eatonville, Florida, and gather stories – or “big old lies” – that she heard growing up.

Eatonville was the first all-black incorporated city in the United States.

The folklore she collected from working-class African-Americans there included songs and tall tales dating back to the times of slavery. Folk tales usually have moral lessons and reflect the values and customs of the culture they come from.

As an anthropologist and writer, she also collected oral histories in the Caribbean.

At one time, Hurston was an important part of the Harlem Renaissance, an African-American cultural movement in the 1920s and 1930s that brought African-American literature, music, art and politics to the American public. It was a world apart from the one she left as a teen.

After her mother died, she moved in with one of her brothers. Her brother took her out of school to help his wife care for their children. She was treated as an unpaid domestic helper. Hurston was not happy about this. She knew she was born to roam.

“I wanted to get through high school. I had a way of life inside me, and I wanted it with a want that was twisting me,” Hurston wrote in the autobiographical “Dust Tracks in the Road.”

Zora Neale Hurston - quote

She was poor most of her life. The last few years of her life, she worked as a maid until her health prevented her from continuing. When she died in 1960, she was penniless and buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida.

From the 1950s to the late 1970s, her work was virtually forgotten. Her books were out of print.

Another well-known author, Alice Walker (“The Color Purple”) searched for Hurston’s grave. She found the final resting place of who Walker called the “Genius of the South” in the 1970s, and bought a headstone for it.

“We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. If they do, it is our duty as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of children. If necessary, bone by bone,” Alice Walker, author, 1976.

Zora Neale Hurston 2

Hurston’s works were rediscovered, and are now being read in many high schools and colleges. Since 1990, the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community “has celebrated their town’s most famous citizen with the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities,” according to the Florida Historical Society.

The festival, which ends a weeklong celebration on Feb. 1, includes an exhibit from the Florida Historical Society in Cocoa.

While Hurston will be forever associated with that historic town, another community believes that Hurston was referring to her former home in Eau Gallie when she wrote on July 9, 1951, to Florida historian Jean Parker Waterbury.

“Somehow, this one spot on earth feels like home to me. I have always intended to come back here. That is why I am doing so much to make a go of it,” Hurston wrote.

Her book, “Mules and Men,” which was published in 1935, was written in 1929, when she lived in Eau Gallie, according to archival researcher Terry Hooker with the Florida Historical Society in Cocoa.

Hurston lived in Eau Gallie twice – in 1929, and between 1951 and 1956. (Eau Gallie now is part of Melbourne.)

“When Hurston was unable to purchase her much-loved Eau Gallie cottage, she moved to an efficiency apartment in Cocoa, while working as a librarian,” according to the Florida Historical Society.

She also lived on Merritt Island, leaving Brevard County in 1957 for Fort Pierce, where she died three years later.

Hooker says she admires Hurston’s determination and spirit.

“She just kept going despite the adversity of being a woman and African-American at that time. She never gave up.”

“We wouldn’t have the stories at Eatonville if she hadn’t done it. She started doing it. Then the WPA (Works Progress Administration under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) paid her to do it, and she just kept writing,” Hooker said.


Has anyone famous lived in or near your community? Please share below. (Thank you to Terry Hooker, an archival researcher, with the Florida Historical Society in Cocoa for providing research material and photos for this post.)


Photo: Zora Neale Hurston collecting folk songs and folk tales in Eatonville, Florida, in 1935. Photo: Library of Congress – in the Florida Historical Society’s curriculum guide.

Photo: Zora Neale Hurston – Taken between 1935 and 1943. Source: U.S. Library of Congress

Photo: Zora Neale Hurston 2 – Taken 1937. Source: U.S. Library of Congress

Link: Florida History – Zora Neale Hurston

Link: “Zora Neale Hurston.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Link: Zora Neale Hurston – excerpt of audio book “Mules and Men”

Link: Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker’s discovery of Hurston’s final resting place – St. Lucie County –

Shake It Off

Shake it off - Golden Retriever shaking off water

By Judy Berman

Sometimes, any sliver of humor is fair game.

In a hardscrabble world, here’s a few who had a laugh in spite of being given a difficult time.

* A defense attorney I knew was assigned to a real tough character. His client had been convicted of murder, and his next stop was a federal drug trial.

I asked the attorney if I could talk to him about his client.

“Oh, I have to be careful what I say. He’s already sent me two letters in one envelope. One implied my mother and father weren’t married,” he laughed, dismissing the crude implications.

His client surprised everyone by pleading guilty at the start of the trial.

* Waiting on tables often has its own headaches. One such incident involved my Mom when she worked in a coffee shop at a Las Vegas casino.

A particularly ornery customer complained loudly about the service. She demanded that someone carry her tray to her table when she was capable of doing the same herself.

My Mom, who was in her 70s, could be a real pistol at times. She sweetly announced that she’d take the tray to the customer’s table. Then Mom proceeded to limp, lurching awkwardly toward the table. (I wish I could have been there. I’d have been rolling.)


* Speaking of restaurants, this is often where my family members and I torment each other – all in good fun, of course.

As I leave one restaurant, I dip into the candy bowl to take a few mints.

My son-in-law, Keith, pretending he doesn’t know me, says loudly: “Lady. Save some candies for other people.”

I slink out the door, laughing. But, payback is a bear, even if it does take me years to get even.

Recently, when celebrating our eldest daughter Danielle’s birthday at a restaurant, my jam came on. I started dancing out the door. I’m betting that same son-in-law was praying that no one he knew was there.

At another eatery, my youngest daughter, Jenn, noticed a black cloud in the huge fish tank. I told her: “I’ve got two words: fish flatulence.”

She lost it. Those words still make her laugh today.

* Sure, you’re overworked. But a little laughter lightens the load.

Happy Otter

When I was working as a reporter, my editor sent me an e-mail wondering when he was going to see my story so he could edit it.

“I don’t see you typing.”

Me: “That’s because I’m weak from hunger. It’s been 15 minutes since my last six-course meal.”

Editor: “You can eat on the way home.”

Well, it’s that kind of compassion and warped humor that keeps me from losing my sanity.

It’s times like these that I can appreciate the Dover Police Department’s video cam that shows an officer lip synching Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” (It was staged. But, so what?It’s great fun.)

Taking a skewered look at life is sometimes the best way to get thru to the other side of the rainbow.


Do you have a humorous story to share?


Video: Dover Police Officer lip-synching Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” – 

Video: K C and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake Your Booty” 

Main Photo: shake it off –  Golden Retriever shaking off water – Photo taken by Googie man on June 2, 2008

Photo: minion

Photo: Happy otter – California sea otter bathing at Moss Landing, Calif. Photo taken by Sstasi on Sept. 23, 2007.

Treasures Uncovered, but Mystery Remains

Dinosaur store and museum - Cocoa Beach - Nov. 15. 2014 039

By Judy Berman

Howard Carter’s candle flickered in the darkened tomb. He could see only small bits of it at a time.

It was 1922. For more than 3,000 years, it had been hidden. The tomb in the Valley of the Kings was nearly intact.

Tomb robbers had trashed a portion of the tomb in search of gold. But Carter, Lord Carnarvon (who financed the search), Carnarvon’s daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert, and Carter’s assistant, A. R. Callender, also saw incredible wealth: a gold burial mask, statues, jewelry, chariots, weapons and a solid-gold coffin.

What they’d found was the tomb of a nearly forgotten Egyptian pharaoh – the boy king. King Tutankhamun, also known as King Tut, was 9 years old when he became pharaoh and reigned about 10 years from 1332 B.C. to 1323 B.C.

On the third floor of a museum in Cocoa Beach, Steve Cayer has captured that scene inside the tomb, and he hopes to open it to the public this summer.

“I took pictures of the actual tomb, and we duplicated it for Al (Rao) to paint,” said Cayer, the curator of the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures.

Cayer said the people who pilfered the chamber were the ones who built it. They took the gold and jewelry, and broke pottery to see what was in them. Then, they sealed it and no one knew of its existence.

Dinosaur store and museum - Cocoa Beach - Nov. 15. 2014 046

Until Carter’s discovery, Tut was almost unknown.

“There was almost no record of his life anywhere in Egypt, except on the walls of his tomb,” according to National Geographic’s website.

The burial site contains a stone sarcophagus with King Tutankhamun’s solid-gold coffin and two smaller coffins that are believed to contain his stillborn daughters.

Even more mysterious is how Tutankhamun died. That is still being investigated today.

In a nearby display case, Queen Nefertiti gazes down on the visitors in the museum. The replica, like the original in the Egyptian museum, was never finished. It has only one eye painted and an incomplete ear.

Queen Nefertiti bus from the Berlin museum

Queen Nefertiti bust from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin 

The Tourist Development Council helped finalize the money to buy the Egyptian exhibits in St. Louis before it returned to Cairo.

“I packed the stuff myself. It took two days,” Cayer said of the museum-quality exhibits.

The museum also features the famous trenches of Terra Cotta warriors. There is a painting of them on the wall, and Cayer aims to obtain replicas – about a dozen – of the soldiers.

Terracotta Army - the museum in Cocoa Beach aims to acquire some replicas to add to a mural depicting them.

Terracotta Army – the museum in Cocoa Beach aims to acquire some replicas to add to a mural depicting them.

When you walk thru the third floor, you also will see a replica of a sacrificial area from MesoAmerica, the Mayan culture. The work on this began seven years ago. It’s built in stages and then assembled here.

The tour thru these exhibits was exciting. I can’t wait to see the completed product.


What’s the coolest place you have ever visited or still hope to see?


Link to Steve Martin’s “King Tut” video on Saturday Night Live:

Photo: King Tutankhamun – replica of his tomb – not yet open to the public – at the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida. photo by Judy Berman

Photo – King Tut’s death mask replica at the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo by Judy Berman

Photo: Terracotta Army of First Emperor – author airunp

Photo: Nefertiti bust – Agyptisches Museum (Egyptian Museum, Berlin), Dec. 28, 2005 – taken by Magnus Manske    (The Nefertiti bust in the Cocoa museum was excellent, my photo did not reflect that. So I chose to use the Berlin museum photo.


Fore more information: – King Tut the boy pharaoh

King Tut’s Tomb

Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida




Silence Gives Consent

cartoon - Jean Jullien - Je Suis Charlie

By Judy Berman

Make no mistake. The aim in the massacre in Paris was to silence those who did not share their beliefs.

Two terrorists linked to al-Qaeda stormed a weekly satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on Wednesday, January 7, and murdered eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor.

Why? The extremists wanted to retaliate against the paper for publishing cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed, which they said is forbidden under Islamic law.

The rallying cry “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) is the voice of people in Paris and throughout the world who are taking a stand against Islamic terrorism. It is similar to what France’s newspaper, Le Monde, wrote after the 9/11 attack on the U.S.: “We Are All Americans Now.”

Some argue that the paper should not have continued to publish cartoons that inflamed Islamic radicals.

Where do you draw the line on what’s acceptable?

cartoon - David Pope 2 - Je Suis Charlie


If we do, we censor our thoughts, voice and actions because someone might take offense at what we say or do.

Voltaire, a satirist, “frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.” (Wikipedia)

But, in a quote attributed to Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it … “

That idea is obsolete for extremists. They become outraged and threaten retaliation and deadly force if any one disagrees with them.

cartoon - Jeff Parker - cartoon - Je Suis Charlie

It’s played out every day, including on social media, by those who cannot express clearly what their opposition is without violence – either verbal, in writing or with assault.

There are times when I feared for my safety when I worked as a reporter because someone was upset with something I wrote.

Once, a man came to the newspaper where I worked and demanded to see me. He accused me of working with police to implicate him in the death of a former girlfriend.

It appeared the man had been drinking. As he stormed out, he nearly knocked a woman down. It was then that my colleague, Bill Farrell, saw that the man had a sharp, shiny object in his back pocket. (story: here)

The assault on those who speak their minds is not limited to those who work in the media.

If we do not take a stand against terrorism, we will also become hostages and targets of extremists.

Rarely do folks with opposing views thoughtfully listen to and consider what another has to say, agree to disagree, and walk away peacefully.

I long for those days.


What are your thoughts? Please keep comments rated PG.

Music video: John Lennon’s “Imagine”   

NewsVideo: Considering this week’s events in France, Scott Pelley closed the broadcast on Friday, Jan. 9,, with a powerful message on a cherished freedom.

Cartoon – Je Suis Charlie – by Jean Jullien

Cartoon – Je Suis Charlie – by David Pope

Cartoon: Je Suis Charlie – by Jeff Parker, a syndicated cartoonist based in Florida.


Bad Bosses and Wise Guys

Wise Guys - movie DVD - save

By Judy Berman

The smell of hazelnut coffee still makes me queasy. It is a reminder of an ice queen who once ruled where I worked years ago.

Clueless, out-of-touch, manipulative, narcissistic, sadistic and just plain bad bosses can be found anywhere.

Take the one where a man collapsed at work. His boss stepped over him as he lay on the floor, and she strolled to her office. One wag said that the boss’s only concern appeared to be whether the employee had turned in a report she was expecting.

Some bosses are human stress factories. One bragged that he loved to keep employees off-balance.

When he learned that one of his minions was applying elsewhere, he sabotaged that employee by passing on a bad job evaluation to the prospective employer.

Dilbert - Pointy-haired boss

These examples almost make Dilbert’s pointy-haired ignorant boss, and the harmlessly deluded and insensitive boss in “The Office” (Michael Scott, as played by Steve Carell), appear sympathetic and wise.

If these examples sound remotely like the situation you’re in at your workplace, take heart.

Things could be so much worse.

Be glad Dan Hedaya (as Anthony Castelo) is not your boss. He’s the low-rent mobster in Newark, New Jersey, that Danny DeVito (as Harry Valentini) and Joe Piscopo (as Moe Dickstein) work for in Brian De Palma’s movie, “Wise Guys.” (1986)

Their tasks are to go start the boss’s car while fellow goons inside take bets on how long it’ll take for a bomb to explode.

Frank “The Fixer” Acavano (played by professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano) drives Harry and Moe to the racetrack. He tells Moe to place a bet on a specific horse.

Harry knows that the boss has been losing money on the horses. He persuades Moe to gamble on another instead, and they can take the winnings for themselves. The boss’s pick comes in first, and they wind up losing $250,000 of the boss’s money.

Needless to say, Castelo is – to put it mildly – disappointed. Still, he rejects a remedy offered by “The Fixer,” the mob’s chief enforcer.

“Let me waste ‘em, Mr. Castelo!” Acavano urges.

“Do we really hurt them by killing them?” Castelo asks.

“It’s a good start,” sagely concludes Frank Vincent (as Louie Fontucci).

Castelo’s solution is to have Harry Valentini and Moe Dickstein “put to the test … by having them kill each other.”

“The Fixer,” Acavano, will whack whoever survives.

When the two guys are tipped off about the plan, they steal Acavano’s prize Cadillac and go on the lam to a casino in Atlantic City. There, they run up charges on Acavano’s stolen credit card.

Wise Guys - movie - Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo

Harry hopes to visit his Uncle Mike and persuade him to bail them out so they can repay Castelo. Things do not go according to plan, and the mob is hot on their trail.

Moe Dickstein writes a farewell letter to Castelo that stuns them all.

This screwball mobster comedy is a primer, a how-to on turning the tables to get a little justice.

Just have a plan in place before you head out the door. Then, you can mail out that “take this job and shove it’ letter with a smile on your face.

Have you had a bad boss experience you’d like to share? Keep the comments PG please.


Movie Trailer: “Wise Guys” (1986) stars Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo.  

Main Photo: Wise Guys – Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo and Cadillac

Photo – Dilbert – Pointy-haired boss in comic

Photo: Wise Guys (1986) – Screen shot – Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo on the lam, making a call to Uncle Mike


2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

So, What Are You Waiting For?


Watkins Glen State Park - July 2014  (47)

By Judy Berman

I’m often drawn to walks by a babbling brook in the woods – virtually or in reality – when I want to sort things out.

It’s a calming place and allows me to reflect.

The philosophy of positive thinkers tumbles thru my mind and often helps me overcome challenges to my goals.

In nature, I find a new perspective and hope.

Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone thru to achieve that beauty.”

Butterfly - Polyommatus_Eros_common_meadow_blue_Lycaenidae

The caterpillar wasn’t content to wander along the leaves and grass. Even before it knew its destiny, it no doubt looked at butterflies and longed to fly.

To get where you want, you have to risk change.

When you doubt your ability to fulfill your dream, when you think your goal is out of your reach … impossible. Think of the bumblebee.

“Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway,” says Mary Kay Ash.

Bee - Honey Bee Happy Dance

Don’t set limits for yourself.

Shift your thinking to what is possible and then work toward what some, maybe even yourself, think impossible. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve.

Like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you don’t have to travel to far-flung places to experience life and be successful. He discovered that he was a success right where he lived.

You can, too.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream,” C.S. Lewis said.

And, lastly, Mark Twain once said: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

So, what are you waiting for?

Liverpool - Onondaga Lake Park -  July 2014  (6)

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What dream have you been putting off too long?


Music Video from “Beverly Hills Cop” – Patti LaBelle “New Attitude” (1985) 


Photo: Watkins Glen, New York – taken by Judy Berman – June 2014

Photo: Butterfly – taken by Charlesjsharp on July 1, 2013

Photo: Bee – Honey Bee – taken by Bob Peterson on April 12, 2012, North Palm Beach, Florida

Photo: Canada Geese in Onondaga Lake Park, Liverpool, New York – taken by Judy Berman – June 2014