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Surviving hot days of summer

Reaching the end of July means we're halfway through the long, hot summer. While we're still fussing about the humidity and high air-conditioning bills, let's remember the traffic, the crowded parking lots and the long restaurant lines of winter, and count our blessings.

If it has been too hot even to venture out on the beach except after sundown, a TV special Aug. 1 may offer a good substitute. Shore Things (8 p.m. locally on WEDU-Ch. 3) is a wonderful, quirky look at why nearly everybody loves the beach. Using a "scrapbook documentary" style, the producer presents a mixture of historical facts, visits to beautiful beaches up and down the East and West coasts, a picnic in Hawaii and loving looks at people doing the things they do at the beach, from playing in the surf to metal-detecting.

For a pure dose of historical facts naturally and easily presented in straightforward prose, Grand Expectations by James T. Patterson reminds us of things that we've all lived through in this country from 1945-1974. It's a big book, but you can choose what you want to revisit and skim the rest.

In a lighter vein, Robert B. Parker has a new Spenser mystery, Chance, with Susan and Hawk helping our hero cleverly untangle some knotty and physically challenging problems with gamblers, those who run the games and those who play them.

One of my best birthday presents was Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon. Full of references to family, home, nature, living and dying, this collection inspires and enchants, each poem standing strong and clear on its own. Once you have the biographical information contained in the afterword, you can read these poems as a story of a rich and complex life. Even if you're not much of a poetry lover, try this one. It might make you a convert.

St. Petersburg's Salvador Dali Museum has an exhibition running through Sept. 22 that features some of Dali's Spanish friends and fellow artists. "From Gaudi to Tapies: Catalan Masters of the 20th Century" shows 76 works by 17 artists, all with ties to the Catalan region of Spain centered in Barcelona. These include Miro and Picasso as well as Dali. This museum usually restricts itself to Dali's paintings, so this is a special show.

The museum, at 1000 Third St. S, St. Petersburg, is open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for those over 65 and free for 10 or under. Call (813) 823-3767 for more information.

If, when you go to the movies, you want to see something other than invading space aliens and muscle men blowing things up, head for Phenomenon. It's a sweet movie about real people with middle-America value systems. John Travolta's character gets some other-worldly assistance in helping his friends and neighbors cope with life.

Look also for Moll Flanders and Jane Eyre, two literary adaptations in release. If they have left the local movie houses, check the video stores. Both are absorbing, faithful in spirit to Daniel DeFoe and Charlotte Bronte, beautifully and authentically produced and marvelously acted. My preference of the two would be Jane's story, but then I liked that novel better than Moll Flanders. Romance over bawdy adventure any day, I'd say.

Take Note.

_ You can write Mim Anne Houk c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.