Thursday, December 24, 2009

Economy, crime ... and Hurricanes?





What a year.

Thankfully, we had Hurricanes.

No, not the tropical kind.

Manatee High’s Hurricanes. That's what I’m talking about.

Their enthralling postseason gave us the kind of headlines that took our minds off the grim news we’ve been battered by during 2009.

See Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Neighborhood lights Christmas magic

A bow to all those people around my neighborhood who go to such great lengths decorating their homes for Christmas.

Me? I'm a piker with a little lighted tree with a Santa in a Hawaiian shirt.

I'm OK with it.

But I'm glad all those folks do what they do every Christmas.

Hectic as it always seems to be this time of year, their light displays make me slow down and take time to drive around and gaze the magic they've made.

It doesn't matter how ornate or simple they are.

I feel like a kid again.

A kid at Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Twas the Saturday before Christmas

This shouldn't take long, I told myself as I wheeled into the department store parking lot.

Just pick up a couple of things, get them wrapped and I'm home.


What was I thinking?

It was the Saturday before Christmas.

The store wasn't crowded, but the lines? Yikes.

I picked out what I needed, got on one line and paid up.

Took maybe 15 minutes.

Then I got on the line for gift wrapping.

Oooooh, boy.

Know how you get in line at the grocery store and sometimes the person in front of you notices you've got one item and they let you go ahead of them?

Didn't happen Saturday.

There were folks ahead of me who must've done ALL their gift shopping that day and were getting every last box wrapped.

In different color wrapping paper and different ribbons, too.

Nearly an hour passed by the time my turn came.

The woman smiled just as she had for every customer before me, wrapped my gifts and then asked sweetly if there was anything else?

Merry Christmas, I told her.

Then I got out of that store as fast as I could.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Canes must wait another year for title shot

The stadium clock blinked down the final seconds of the season, but the celebration was already under way.
Not for the Manatee Hurricanes.
Tampa Plant's Panthers danced and leaped across the field, joined by their coaches and other players from the opposite sideline, their golden helmets shining in the Citrus Bowl's stadium lights.
State champs.
Plant 21, Manatee 14.
All the Canes could do was numbly watch.
They'd stormed back from a 21-0 halftime deficit and came within a fourth-down and short midway through the fourth quarter from sustaining their heroic comeback.
Slowly they assembled at the 50-yard line for the traditional postgame handshake.
Still, the Panthers celebration went on.
Their cheerleaders even assembled for a photo, most of them holding up their index fingers.
State champs.
What might've been.
The Canes just ran out of time.
Staggered by Plant's 21-point early outburst, Manatee showed a champion's heart, coming off the ropes in the second half, scoring twice to make it close.
They had their fans on their feet, yelling for more, rocking their side of the stadium.
"LET'S' GO MANATEE! LET'S GO MANATEE!" chanted the cheerleaders.
The Marching Canes were cranking the "Empire Strikes Back" theme.
Would their team strike back once more?
When Manatee got the ball back with 1:27 to play, they were working against a gale.
Cane quarterback Brion Carnes had to throw into its teeth.
Three incompletes made it fourth-and-10 from the Manatee 21.
Carnes scampered to his left and let fly, deep toward Ace Sanders, who outleaped two defenders, but couldn't make the catch.
That was the Canes last gasp.
Fifty-seven seconds remained in the season.
Panthers ball.
The celebration began.
After the Canes shook hands with the Panthers, they drifted toward the south end zone..
Some wept. Some embraced. Some knelt, head in hand.
When coach Joe Kinnan gathered his players around one final time, he told them he was proud of them, especially his seniors.
We have the nucleus, he also told them, to be back here again next season.
Yet next year seemed so far away.
It would take awhile for the Canes to get over this season ended.
State champs.
That was Plant Panthers Friday night.
Not the Manatee Hurricanes.
Maybe next year.


Zach Beeker was at a loss for words at halftime.

"We need to do something," said the Manatee High senior, whose Hurricanes trailed 21-0 at the half.

What did some alums say?

Patti Eurice: "They can't lose heart."

Joe Rocklein: "We're not beating them off the ball like we did against

Plant 21, Manatee 0

Panthers 21, Canes 0.
Just when it looked like the Canes defense had the Panthers back on their heels with a third-down and 18 jam, they let them off the hook.
James Wilder picked up the first down on a nice pass to the backside of Manatee's defense.
Then he busted a 42-yard run, breaking several tackles to score.
The Canes absolutely, postively have to get a score here.
It's just 3:06 until halftime.

Canes defense makes first stand

Canes defense makes a stand at last, forcing Plant to punt for their first time this game.

Still, with 6:07 left in the second quarter, Manatee needs to get something on the board.

It's early yet in the game, but the Canes must score soon.

Do Canes have enough time?

Plant 21, Manatee 14.

Now it's a game.

The Canes are storming back, but midway through the fourth quarter, is there enough time to pull this out?

Canes making themselves heard

It's a little hard to count noses from up here, but it's safe to say the Manatee Hurricanes brought a nice-swized contingent of fans.

There are thousands of fans both in the lower stands behind the Canes bench, and a couple thousand more in the second deck.

Making themselves heard, too.l
That's not easy in a 70,000-seat stadium.

Panthers draw first blood on opening drive

Tampa Plant gave Manatee a lot of James Wilder on the Panthers opening drive for a 7-0 lead.

The Hurricanes looked like they had something going on their first possession, but ended up punting.

Let's see if the Hurricanes defense stiffens up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Canes, burgers on Council's daily menu

The TV was on at Council’s, but no one was watching.

Lawton Smith had everyone’s undivided attention.

It had nothing to do with the big knife he held in his hand, gesturing with it to make his point while chopping onions behind the counter.

That the Manatee Hurricanes play for the Class 5A state championship Friday made Smith a tad more animated than usual on his favorite subject.

Hurricane football and hamburgers are always on the menu at Council’s, a downtown institution.

Read more in Thursday's Mannix About Manatee.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Will anybody be home Friday night?

Will the last person to leave Bradenton Friday night please turn off the lights?

OK, not everybody is going to the Citrus Bowl for Manatee High School's Class 5A state championship showdown with Tampa Plant.

But it sure seems like it.

Judging by conversations I've had since last Friday night's stirring 28-20 state semifinal victory over No. 1 ranked St. Thomas Aquinas, nobody wants to miss the ending of this Hurricane season.

Whether it's by bus, car pool or plane, plenty of folks are Orlando-bound.

I know I'll be there.

I was lucky enough to be along for Southeast High's 1998 run to the state final where it lost to Miami Northwestern at Florida Field my first year in Bradenton.

Yet that was before I really came to appreciate first hand the rich history -- and the heroics -- of high school football in Manatee County.

Eleven years later, I'm raring to go again.

Let's go, Canes!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lincoln reunion recalls old school feeling

What stories they will tell.

The Lincoln Memorial High School Grand Reunion begins Wednesday and Alvin McKinney, Clatha Reaves and Jean Murray Ellenwood can’t wait.

"See faces I haven’t seen in 40, 50 years," said McKinney, Class of 1954.

"The memories," said Reaves, Class of 1964.

"Meet people I don’t know .... people I have something in common with," said Ellenwood, Class of 1960.

What they share befits the legacy of an institution central to the black community during segregation.

It was an old school upbringing.

"Heard the expression it takes a village to raise a child?" said McKinney, 74. "That was Lincoln and the neighborhood."

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One more time under Friday night lights

Played phone tag with my sister last Friday night.

Tried to leave a message, but I doubt she'd have understood it.

That's because the Manatee Hurricanes had just scored in the Class 5A-Region 3 championship at Palm Bay and everyone at the house where we were listening to the game on radio was cheering and high-fiving.

Only in Bradenton.

Can't beat Friday nights around here during high school football season.

Now it's the last one.

Unless the 'Canes shock St. Thomas Aquinas, who are not only defending state champs, but the nation's No. 1 high school football team, too, and reach the state championship game in Orlando.

I'd love to see it.

We all would.

We'll all be there at Hawkins Stadium, supporting the hometown kids.

Show those South Florida folks what we're about.

Which brings up the 2006 state semifinal in Fort Lauderdale, the last time the two teams met.

Leading 15-0 at halftime, the 'Canes were staggered by a long punt return and interception runback and lost in double ovetime.

It was a bitter defeat.

Yet St. Thomas Aquinas fans didn't gloat. Instead they showed class by applauding the 'Canes afterward.

They appreciated the magnificent effort put forth by our kids.

Let us do the same our final Friday night under the lights this grand season in Bradenton.

Monday, December 7, 2009

'We never knew what happened to them'

One of my favorite movies is "Twelve O'Clock High," the 1949 classic about the perils B-17 crews faced during their repeated daylight bombing missions over Hitler's Fortress Europe during World War II.

It starred Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill and Dean Jagger, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Duane Randolph could've had a role in it, too.

Except the Mt. Gilead, Ohio, native was there, a member of the ground crew for the 447th Bomb Group in the Mighty Eighth Air Force in England.

The 84-year-old Bradenton retiree was at American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24's Pearl Harbor Day anniversary ceremony Monday, and recalled being thrust into war like so many young Americans.

Drafted in 1943, Randolph was eventually shipped to Rattlesden Air Base where he and other maintenance crewmen performed the herculean task of keeping bombers flying, despite the punishment the warbirds took mission after mission.

"It took a miracle to get some of those planes back in the air," he said. "It was quite a job to do."

Many times those planes didn't come back.

Randolph recalled one raid on Berlin where nine of his squadron's 12 Flying Fortresses never returned.

"We never knew what happened to them," he said.

Although Randolph spent two years, four months in uniform, his war lasted 16 months.

"I was lucky," he said.

Friday, December 4, 2009

DeSears closing hits this home

His name escapes me, but I remember his style.

The salesman was older and had a low-key manner that sold me.

He worked for DeSears Appliances at their old Palmetto store.

I was outfitting my new kitchen and spent a small fortune on it five years ago.

Oven and microwave.



He took good care of me.

That the DeSears retailer closed Wednesday after 62 years is what brings it to mind.

I’ve lived here barely a decade, yet the end of the Bradenton-based chain gives me pause.

When its Denver-based parent company filed for Chapter 11 several weeks ago, perhaps it was just a matter of time.

Still, the finality hits home.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bowden boxing match sign of bygone era

It was a 1982 press conference in a Fort Lauderdale ballroom with a faux boxing ring.

In one corner was Howard Schnellenberger, who was resurrecting the University of Miami football program.

In the other corner, Bobby Bowden, who had turned Florida State into a national power.

Schnellenberger needed Bowden, more than the other way around.

Yet the FSU coach was all about helping the pipe-smoking, gravel-voiced UM coach establish a program that would not only rival the Seminoles, but surpass them in pursuit of national championships.

I was sports editor for the Boca Raton News and it is the memory of these two coaches, donning boxing gloves to hype their regular season game at the Orange Bowl, that defined not only the kind of man Bowden was, but also a bygone era in college football.

Imagine Urban Meyer and Nick Saban posing like that for Saturday night's SEC championship game.

Bowden's retirement brings a close to not only a fabled career in Tallahassee, but a time when one intrastate rivalry was about real respect and mutual admiration, off the field as well as on it

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good riddance, hurricane season

"We all realize our days our numbered. It's just a matter of time before you get another one."

The words came from a Gulf coast resident on Monday, the last day of hurricane season.

Thanks for the encouragement.

We sweat out another hurricane season and can't get away from the doomsayers.


Dec. 1 is a day of thanks, even if forecasters are calling for mid-week stormy weather.

That only nine named tropical storms developed and nary a hurricane touched our shores is something to celebrate, even if it's with a quiet, thank you, God.

Contrary to what some people think, I don't believe our community takes hurricane season lightly.

When June 1 rolls around, I can feel it.

It's like an ominous cloud that doesn't go away for six months.

Ignore it at your peril.

But when the calendar says it's Dec. 1, it's time to say goodbye hurricane season.

Good riddance, too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NFL Thanksgiving Day TV turkeys

Tradition, my eye.

Count me among the number of NFL fans who are beyond tired of the annual turkeys the league gives us to watch every Thanksgiving.

Green Bay at Detroit?


The last time that game meant something, Vince Lombardi was alive.

The Lions are a bad football team and have been since the 1990s.

As for Oakland at Dallas?

Since I'm an Eagles fan, I don't like the Cowboys from the jump.

Regardless, you'd think the NFL would at least give them an opponent we can take seriously.

Not the dysfunctional Raiders.

Then there's the Giants at Broncos at night on the NFL Network.

Another game that does nothing for me.

By the time it comes on, I'll probably be having my post-Thanksgiving feast nap.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Single mom puts face on troubled times

The first time I met Melissa McPherson was last year at the St. Joseph Catholic Church food pantry.

The second time I met her was at the same place Monday.

If you want to put a face on the struggles our economy has put people through, it's this woman, a college-educated mother of two who's been out of work for 1.5 years.

But Melissa did land a gig as a telemarketer one week ago.

"It's something for now," she said.

Meantime, she's doing whatever she can to feed her two children.

Which meant a trip to the church food pantry.

Melissa is proud woman, but she can't eat pride.

Nor can her two children.

Not at Thanksgiving.

"For a single mom on a fixed income and food stamps, this helps a lot," Melissa said.

So does knowing she's got a place to go to tide her and her family through these times.

"It makes you think, people actually care," Melissa said.

Here's hoping she's got it better next Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

DeLazzer's spirit alive at Thanksgiving

Penny Goethe was almost done with preparing the Thanksgiving meal.

Twenty turkeys for 300 at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen. Cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes and yams.

A lot of cooking for the first-year kitchen manager, her assistant and four volunteers.

Goethe had a little help from above, too.

She could hear Mary DeLazzer say, "It needs a little more garlic."

Goethe chuckled.

"Mary liked garlic on everything," she said, thinking of her late predecessor.

It’s something Goethe does daily.

Mary DeLazzer’s been gone almost a year, killed on her way to work at Our Daily Bread by a drunk driver early the morning of Nov. 28.

The day after Thanksgiving.

What a bittersweet anniversary.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Florida's No. 1 and that's strange

Florida, the strangest state in America?

Yeah, so.

Tell us something new., an e-mail marketing firm in Madison, Wis., analyzed 2,000 Associated Press “strange news” stories this year and 169 originated in the Sunshine State.

That’s all?!

Bradenton just got three mentions.

Imagine that.

Man lets boy drive for a ‘bonding moment.’

Man tries to steal laptop to check Facebook.

Cremated remains stolen during burglary.

Manatee County received our only other mention.

It’s not trapper Justin Matthews’ python capture hoax, either.

Detective duped by fake police lights, arrests driver.

Maybe our strangeness isn’t strange enough compared to the other doozies that made Florida No. 1.

To wit:

Lotto winner seeks to open nude dude ranch in Brooksville.

Man using sleeping bag as cape attempts heist in Gainesville.

Man allegedly flings jellyfish at teens at Madeira Beach.

Bank’s thumbprint rule irks Tampa man born with no arms.

Pair charged with stealing skunk from Sarasota pet store.

Then there are several lulu stories involving 911 calls.

Sarasota man tries to fool cops by calling 911 during stop.

Boynton Beach man calls 911 after eatery runs out of lemonade.

Men call 911 after bad drug deal in Daytona.

Man allegedly calls 911 to say he’s hungry in Delray Beach. Twice.

Fort Pierce woman calls 911 three times over McNuggets.

Man calls 911 after Zephyrhills clerk refuses to sell beer.

Only in Florida.

Yeah, we’re No. 1, all right.

What’s also amusing is who is ranked below us — or is that above us? — in this “Strange Top 10.”

In order, it includes New Hampshire, Alaska, Wyoming, Maine, Wisconsin, Vermont, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Ohio.

No California?

Now that’s strange. ranked the nation’s strange cities, too.

New York City is No. 1.


Right behind it are Lincoln, Neb.; Madison, Wis.; Philadelphia; Chicago; Cincinnati; Boston; Detroit; Dallas; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; Salt Lake City; Des Moines, Iowa; Portland, Ore.; San Antonio; Cleveland; Sheboygan, Wis.; Fairbanks, Alaska; and Denver.

Tampa is No. 20.


How can Lincoln, Neb., beat Tampa for strangeness. said they throw animals at police.

We’d never, ever do that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hitchhiking past big game 40 years ago

That Ohio State visits Michigan in their annual Big Ten grudge match, brings back fond memories.

One in particular.

It was 1971, yours truly was a few months out of college at Bowling Green State University, working construction and feeling fancy free.

So that Saturday morning, I got on nearby I-75 and began hitchhiking north to see a buddy in Pontiac, Mich.

Hitchhiking then wasn't as dangerous as it is now.

Time was I thumbed rides across New Jersey, where I grew up, from Jersey to Florida and from Jersey to Ohio when I missed my ride back to school.

Bumming a ride that Saturday morning almost 40 years ago was easy.

It was only a 90-mile jaunt and it seemed like half the Buckeye state was heading to Ann Arbor.

This was the fourth game in the "Ten-Year War" between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, a series during which Ohio State and Michigan were both ranked in the AP's top five before their matchup between 1970 and 1975.

Anyway, I got close enough to Ann Arbor before I was dropped off.

But there were so much traffic heading into Ann Arbor, I l had to stand literally in the middle of I-75 to thumb my next ride because the two right hand lanes of the interstate were backed up as far as the eye could see.

But I made it to my pal's place in time to watch the rest of the game.

Michigan won, 10-7.

But the game is probably best remembered for Woody ripping apart a downmarker after Wolverine All-America running back Billy Taylor scored the winning TD in the final two minutes.

Oh, yeah, those were the days.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Images linger from Veteran's Day

The showers had moved up the Manatee River and Monument Park was almost empty, save for the cleanup detail.

Wednesday morning’s Veterans Day Parade and ceremony were over.

Yet the images linger.

Hundreds of uniformed JROTC members marching in cadence.

Girl Scouts in light green uniforms clutching little American flags.

The Monument Park audience giving Holly and Trina Rizzo a long, appreciative standing ovation for their stirring a cappella, “God Bless America.”

What a celebration.

What a day to be a veteran.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Navy son never far from Mom's heart

Adam Brewer was a world away aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship, but he was well represented Wednesday at Manatee County's annual Veteran's Day Parade.

His mom Amy was at Monument Park, carrying a homemade poster that showed a photo of the two of them at the South Florida Museum.

"MY SON, MY SAILOR, MY HERO. WE LOVE VETS," the poster read.

His wife, Karen, a former Lakewood Ranch Silver Star, was also there.

Brewer's tour of duty is seven to nine months. He's a Petty Officer 3rd Class, an aeronautical mechanic and a search-and-rescue swimmer.

Mom beamed while talking about her son, a Bayshore High grad, and about her nephew also in the military.

"We have so much pride they chose to serve our country," she said. "It's hard that we go a long time without seeing him.

"Thank God for e-mail ."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hurricane season ain't over yet

Just when we thought it was safe to lock up the storm shutters after another uneventful hurricane season, ta-dah!

Hellooooo, Ida!

Or is it, g'bye, Ida!

That's the latest picture we get from the weather experts, who plot a weakened Tropica Storm Ida hitting the upper Gulf coast then heading east toward the Atlantic.

Of course, there are some computer "spaghetti" models that have Ida coming across state just north of us.

If so, fine.

We can use the rain.

It's almost as if, with three weeks left, Mother Nature is reminding us hurricane season isn't over just yet.

Point taken.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What's with Palmetto CRA giveaway?

I am not a Palmetto taxpayer, but if I was I know what I’d be asking myself:

What is the deal with the old CBI Building at 924 Fifth St.?

Three years ago the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency purchased the property with $764,500 of taxpayers’ money.

Said it was blighted and the CRA hoped a buyer would turn it into a boon for the Main Street business corridor.

Then the economy tanked and nothing came of it.

So Thursday the CRA approved its proposed sale to a developer for $100,000.

Say what?

Read more in Mannix About Manatee on Sunday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

World Series: The 'November Classic?'

So the World Series is over.

Thank goodness.

As a longtime Phillies fan, I tip my ballcap to the Yankees.

Best team won.

That my ballclub lost is not why I'm glad it's over.

That it took until Nov. 4 is why.

If the outcome had been the same a week ago, OK.

It was still October.

Didn't they used to call the World Series the "October Classic"?

Think Tommy Lasorda coined the phrase.

It's not "November Classic."

Yet TV's gazillions call the shots, major league baseball dances to their tune, and this is where we are.

Later games and longer seasons --- with or without the forgettable World Baseball Classic.

Even one of my colleagues confessed, "I just want to go back to watching regular TV again."

Of course, he said it with a big smile.

His team won.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'One Mississippi, two Mississippi ...'

Saw one of those newfangled red light cameras at an intersection I use with some regularity.

Won't have to worry about my picture being taken.

Not that I'm a red-light runner, either.

A creature of habit, I have a good idea which lights around town stay green longer than others when I'm headed toward a particular intersection.

When that caution light blinking from a distance, it's time to slow down.

But I'm a slowpoke anyway.

That also goes for when I'm stopped at an intersection and the light turns green.

I count something like, "One Mississippi. Two Mississippi," as we used to do in touch football.

Then I go.

It may sound odd, but it's saved my bacon a couple of times.

Had I proceeded through the intersection at the instant the light turned green, I'd have been T-boned by a red-light runner.

Hurrying to work is not worth that.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Summer nights at a hometown ballpark

It was opening day at McKechnie Field last spring training and a man gazed at the lineups on the large eraser board above the main stairway.

He talked about how cool it was to see the names of several young Pittsburgh Pirates up there, kids who had played Double-A in Altoona, Pa., his home, and how he looked forward to another season when he returned at spring training’s end.

Summer nights at a hometown ballpark.

I was envious.

But not anymore.

Not after hearing the Pirates plan to buy Sarasota’s Florida State League affiliate.

For more, see Mannix About Mannix on Sunday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Perils of Halloween candy leftovers

What kind of candy does one buy for Halloween trick or treaters?

Or do you even bother?

Decisions. Decisions.

It's an annual dilemma for some, especially those of us who fear having our houses egged or rolled with toilet paper if we don't come up with the goodies.

A nice neighborhood can get tough just like that.

But it's a pip when you do go all out and nobody shows up.

I remember one year I bought a couple of big bags of Hershey's chocolate kisses.

Figured I'd have a few myself to enjoy, too.

Well, that night I heard trick or treaters cavorting in other parts of the neighborhood, but not mine.

Even went out in the street to wave them down.

A few kids came by and loaded up, but I still had plenty of candy left over when the trick or treating was done.

Don't ask how long it took to finish eating all that chocolate.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Impressive arrivals for SRQ onlookers

One of life's small pleasures is watching jets come and go at SRQ.

The best spot is the gravel lay by just down from 15th Street on the east side of the airport, a stop I usually make after Sunday morning Mass.

If you're lucky, you get a couple of commercial flights out, maybe a couple of executive jets landing.

Monday we got a real thrill, thanks to the White House military support team.

Two huge C-17 Galaxy transports, the largest planes in America's arsenal, landed at SRQ with such a roar it gave you goosebumps.

They were like winged sentinels, alerting the citizenry President Barack Obama would be arriving Tuesday.

A gathering was on hand and one of the numerous onlookers were Jake Kyser and his grandfather, Robert Kyser.

A flying enthusiast, the teen-ager had heard the support team's Marine CH-53 Sea Stallions fly over his neighborhood last weekend.

School was out Monday.

"So we figured we'd take a ride down and see what was going on," the lad said.

"Then all this took place." said his grandfather, a World War II corpsman.

It was quite a show.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Social Security right around corner

True story.

Went to Ed Smith Stadium for a minor league game last year, and noticed a sign at the ticket booth.

Anyone over 55 gets in for $2.

Had that beat by four years.

So I paid my $2 and took the ticket.

Don’t you want to see my ID, I asked the young woman working the ticket booth.

No, she said.


I laugh when I think about it.

Especially today.

It’s the Big 6-0 for yours truly.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Days of waiting for the repairman

Awoke Monday morning to what sounded like somebody using an out-of-whack weed whacker.

Geez, at 7:15 a.m.?

Then I realized the noise wasn't coming from a neighbor, but from inside my own kitchen.

The freezer to be exact.

It sounded like fan blades drumming against metal and was about to drive me out of my mind.

Warranty in hand, I called the manufacturer, then punched in all the prompts and numbers before finally getting a live person.

Who asked me how loud was this noise?

Lady, I said, it's so loud I am standing outside my home so I can carry on this conversation.

Then she said, sorry, but the earliest our repairman can get by is Tuesday.


So I stayed with my fiancee Monday night and when I returned Tuesday morning, the noise was still there.

Alas, about 9: 15 a.m., I got one of those robotic phone calls informing me I was next on the list for a visit by the repairman.

Not two minutes later the noise stopped.

Thank you, God.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Woman, weapon, words make point

Don’t depend on the government to protect you, the woman said Tuesday, offering a glimpse inside her purse.

She had a 38 revolver.

A permit, too.

Her reaction to the arrest of Delmer Smith III was emphatic and her words resonated later.

That’s when we learned the FBI possessed the rape and home invasion suspect’s DNA since his 2008 imprisonment and never entered it in their national database because of a backlog at the FBI lab.

A backlog of more than 250,000 cases!

Good grief.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee on Sunday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fond memory at Dunkin' Donuts

Word that the Dunkin' Donuts on Manatee Avenue West has closed, albeit over a legal dispute, brings back memories.

Good memories.

When I came to Bradenton in 1998, Ken Vogler had the franchise on First Street, not far from the Herald, and then he moved to the present location, 5605 Manatee Ave. W.

He later added the store at 5635 14th Street West.

It was Ken's store on Manatee Avenue West store that was a regular stop for me on the way to work when I lived on Anna Maria Island and later northwest Bradenton.

Coffee. Donuts. Good conversation.

Ken wasn't just a donut shop owner, but a swell friend.

I miss him.

He sold the business a few years ago and, along with his wife, moved to the beautiful northwest, where he made crazy money working on the dismantling of the decommissioned nuclear production complex in Hanford, Wash.

The Dunkin' Donuts corporation said it hopes to reopen both stores under new management.

It's too bad Ken Vogler isn't part of the conversation, picking up where he left off.

That'd be like old times.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bradenton's virtues music to our ears

That Bradenton finished first in a recent Knight Foundation poll, surveying which communities felt most attached to their city, was music to Jane Tjornhom's ears.

A couple of years ago she penned, "Lovely Bradenton," extolling its virtues.

"Every city should have a song and we have one!" Tjornhom wrote. "It's a lovely melody, very singable and needs to be used at many occasions."

Here are the lyrics:

"You can travel East or West or North or South, but the place that's best is friendly lovely Bradenton.

"It's great to be in lovely Bradenton where it's so beautiful the whole year through.

"Beaches and sun --- community fun are here for you.

"It's great to be in lovely Bradenton where there is art and culture all year 'round.

"Come for a day and you'll want to stay in our fine town.

"Restaurants and shows where everyone goes are everywhere.

"Concerts and jazz relax you and take each care away.

"It's great to be in lovely Bradenton whre you make friends with nice folks just like you.

"Where's No. 1? Right here in lovely Bradenton."

Friday, October 2, 2009

YouTube fight hardly entertainment

Standing up to a bully is never easy.

We’ve all been there as kids and taken our lumps.

They were just never broadcast over the Internet.

Which is what happened the night of Sept. 25 to a local 13-year-old boy.

He’d been bullied and had enough, he told Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies.

So he went to fight one boy in a parking lot at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA.

Only it turned out to be an ambush, authorities said.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Campaign fliers can't feed hunger

When I got home Wednesday evening, I found two Bradenton city council campaign fliers in my mail box.

As I put my key in the front door, there was a door hanger for pizza delivery.

Maybe it's just me, but I found it an amusing coincidence.

I eventually sat down and glanced at the fliers.

The first extolled the incumbent's accomplishments on dealing with crime, taxes and rejuvenating Bradenton.

The second extolled the other incumbent's volunteerism and commitment to his neighborhood and the community's infrastructure.

Neither swayed me, or told me anything I hadn't heard before.

So I tossed them aside and picked up the door hanger.

Now that connected with me.

I was hungry, there was a ballgame coming on, and pizza sounded real nice.

Hello, Papa John's?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gallup poll no surprise to Bradentonian

"What took them so long?"

That was Lyn Lineberger's reaction when she heard a Gallup survey had found that the strength of attachment Bradenton's citizenry felt toward their hometown made it No. 1 out of 25 cities polled.

Lyn owns The Memory Maker, a formal gown shop on Manatee Avenue.

She was 2 when she moved here and has a been a Bradentonian for 50 years.

That doesn't include the years her family spent in Fort Lauderdale.

Gallup may not have had Lyn in mind when they polled people about why folks here felt so strongly about Bradenton despite the present economic conditions.

But she symbolizes many who leave Bradenton for greener grass only to return to its embrace.

"It was a big city and a big city atmosphere," Lyn said of Fort Lauderdale. "What we found was we missed the small town atmosphere where we grew up."

So the Linebergers moved back.

"It's all about family and friends for us," Lyn said, sounding a theme commonly heard about Bradenton.

What's more, her family's roots figure to grow with time.

"All three daughters live here, too," Lyn said.

Friday, September 25, 2009

NFL Sundays not for computer games

My Sunday afternoons are usually spent the same as a lot of folks during this time of year.

Watching NFL football.

Got my game jersey on. Snacks and beverages are nearby.

So is the remote in case I want to hit the mute button on annoying commercials.

Or annoying game announcers.

I’m all set.

I don’t need anything else for the next three hours.

That includes incessant reminders by the announcers or the graphics scrolling along the screen to “Follow all of today’s NFL action ... at”



Why the heck would I do that?

Read more Mannix About Manatee on Sunday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FDLE crime statistics unconvincing

Crime is down.

Oh, yeah?

Count me among those who are perplexed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's statistics released Wednesday.

FDLE said violent crimes statewide have decreased 9.7 percent and non-violent crimes decreased 7.6 percent for the first six months of this year.

That may reflect the inroads law enforcement has made against drugs and gangs, but the crime statistic in the forefront of most people's minds hereabouts is the 27 homicides investigated in our county so far in 2009.

And we still have three months to go.

Statewide, homicides have decreased 18 percent, but not here.

Even Sheriff Brad Steube, while pleased with FDLE statistics overall, acknowledged his constituency isn't buying them.

"I would imagine most people think we do have a lot of crime because of the homicides," he said.

Steube's got that right.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Third phone call proved to be charm

Monday morning's phone call promised to be a lulu.

I had already called an out-of-state medical lab business office twice over the past several weeks requesting a receipt for a bill I had paid.

The first time, a nice lady said she'd be happy to mail me a receipt.

Ten days later, I was still waiting.

So I called again and got a different nice lady. She said she'd mail me the receipt and fax me a copy, too.

I never saw a fax and 10 days later I got a form letter saying my balance was paid in full.

Which was fine, but what I requested was a receipt.

So I tried for a third time this morning. Only it wasn't just a missing receipt I had on my mind.

It was a bill from the lab for $150 that, according to the cover letter, resulted from my health insurance company's decision not to pay up.


So I called for a third time and -- ta-dah! -- the third time was the charm.

Not only did a different nice lady fax me a copy of the sought-after receipt, but she told me the bill for $150 was in error.

My balance had been paid in full.

What a great way to start a Monday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coach faces legal, life challenges

Two images of Josh Hunter.

One is from 2003 when he was weightlifting coach at Lakewood Ranch High School, which was hosting the state meet.

Immediately after a title-clinching lift, a Mustang athlete embraced Hunter in a cloud of chalk dust.

His black shirt was splotched with white handprints.

A happy moment for a beloved young coach.

The other picture, a disconsolate Hunter being hugged by fellow mourners outside Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church last March.

See Mannix about Manatee Sunday for more at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More good news for home owners

Home owners insurance is likely to go up.

Just what we needed to hear.

Even if we manage to go through another hurricane season relatively unscathed it won't matter.

According to news reports, roughly half of the more than 200 insurance companies doing business in Florida paid out more than they collected in premiums the first half of this year.

It makes you wonder.

We haven't experienced a hurricane or tropical storm since 2005.

And rates are expected to go up?


When P.T. Barnum uttered his famous line -- "There's a sucker born every minute" -- he must've had us Floridians in mind.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Football weekends make week fly by

Football season sure takes up your time.

Not that I'm complaining, understand.

Take last weekend.

Friday night, it was off to Harllee Stadium for Manatee at Palmetto, a great game atmosphere even if the explosive Hurricanes won going away.

Saturday, it was glimpsing at Texas at Wyoming and Notre Dame at Michigan on the office TV while working on Sunday's column.Then on Saturday night, it was watching USC at Ohio State at my fiancee's house with my future in-laws, big Buckeye fans all.

Disappointed ones, too, after it was over.

Then at noon Sunday, it was off to Bogie's on U.S. 70 to catch the Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers. It's always a trip watching games in a packed sports bar.

By Sunday night's NBC game, however, I'd reached at my saturation point.

I'm worn out and asleep by 10 p.m., because that Monday morning alarm sounds early.

But what helps get me through the day is realizing Georgia Tech plays Miami Thursday night on ESPN.

Then it's Southeast at Manatee Friday night and another football weekend is under way.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Long live Florida's feisty state bird

There will be some heavy issues awaiting the Florida Legislature in its 2010 session.

Offshore drilling.

More budget cuts.

A new state bird.


Yeah, according to published reports, if the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has its way, the mockingbird may be out in favor of the osprey.

If the Florida Legislature signs off on it, that is.

Fat chance.

The mockingbird has been our state bird since 1927 and that feisty little critter has some powerful friends in Tallahassee.

What's more, given how contentious the next session figures to be, I doubt legislators will be in the mood to even contemplate sacking the mockingbird.

Reportedly, the FWC held a vote among Florida school children and the osprey was the winner.

While I admire the raptor, I enjoy the mockingbird and listening to them.

I respect them, too.

Having been buzzed by mockingbirds more than once over the years while inadvertently walking by their nests will do that.


Friday, September 4, 2009

GOP may give Obama speech ratings boost

James Greer may have done the president a favor.

Thanks to the Florida GOP chairman’s condemnation of Barack Obama’s back-to-school speech Tuesday, this may turn out to be one of the most watched, most scrutinized presidential addresses ever.

Especially by the target audience.

Manatee students can "opt out" if they bring a note from their parents, but I can imagine kids watching anyway out of curiosity.

"Oooh, what’s Obama going to say that mommy and daddy don’t want me to hear?"

It is much ado about nothing.

See Mannix about Manatee Sunday for more at

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Turn on those Friday night lights

"Where you going Friday night?"

I love hearing that question from my pals at this time of year.

It means one thing.

High school football is back and everybody who enjoys the season like we do around these parts is going to be at a home game somewhere this week.

To wit:

Bishop McLaughlin at Bradenton Christian.

Orlando First Academy at Out-of-Door Academy.

Bayshore at Manatee.

Palmetto at Southeast.

Lakewood Ranch at Braden River.

LaBelle at Cardinal Mooney.

Saint Stephen's and Bradenton Prep are on the road.

I look forward to the games week in, week out and try to see each of our teams at least once.

If travel plans come up that will take me out of town, I check the schedule first.

My priorities are not out of whack.

It's high school football season -- and it all starts on Friday.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cold? Wind? Rain? Hey, it's Ireland!

I will never complain about how hot and humid it gets during our summers.

I usually joke that this is our penance for not having to deal with winters up north.

Now I have another reason to say Florida summers are fine by me.

Summers in Ireland.

Or at least this one, on my seventh visit to the land of my ancestors.

Cold, windy and damp doesn't begin to describe what was actually an otherwise enjoyable trip.

Take our last day there.

You should've seen my fiancee, Sherri Manring, and I at the starkly beautiful Cliffs of Moher early last Thursday afternoon, trying to stay on our feet in the gale that blew off the Atlanic Ocean.

The temperature was in the 50s with wind gusts that felt the same.

It was blowing so hard, water that usually streams down the crevaces in the cliff face was spraying up into the air and raining on tourists like us.

What an appropriately Irish summer sendoff.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let us count 'joys' of hurricane season

Now that hurricane season is ramping up and we're surrounded by Ana, Bill and Claudette, folks up north are probably shaking their heads and saying. "That's why we don't live in Florida."

They don't know what they're missing.

Only a Floridian can appreciate what hurricane season means in our lives.

To wit:
  • "Crackhouse Chic" is back in vogue, our homes boarded up in plywood.

  • We bond with neighbors we haven’t talked to since the 2004 hurricane season.

  • Being "under water" in one's homes has taken on a dual meaning.

  • Those old 2-for-1 coupons might still work.

  • You want bottled water? We've got bottled water.

  • You've got only the only street in the neighborhood with a No Wake sign.

  • The need for your dog to go out and take care of business is inversely proportional to the severity of the storm.

  • AA, C and D are all the letters of the alphabet we need.

  • You can eat Chinese takeout by candlelight in your underwear.

  • No more visits from family members in summertime.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Island bridge battle? Here we go again

How predictable.

The Florida Department of Transportation officially announced the other day it wants to build a high-level fixed span to replace the old, low-level Anna Maria Island drawbridge.

And Save Anna Maria, long-time opponents of anthing to do with a high-rise bridge, promised to fight it.

It figures.

See Mannix about Manatee Sunday for more at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hurricane site must viewing in the fall

After I arrive at work, my routine is usually the same.

Check phone messages and e-mails and confer with my editor.

Then I go over my favorite sports Websites: ESPN. SI.Com. Fox.

There a few others I've got on the list, but it's usually the same drill every morning.

Except this time of year.

These days the first Website I spool up shortly after I sit down is that of the National Hurricane Center.

And I call it up every few hours for updates.

After the beating we took in 2004, the NHC site has become must viewing.

So, like others, I've kept an eye on Tropical Depression 2, as well as the system right behind it that just came off the coast of West Africa.

Better than a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours, the NHC said about the latter.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

'Keep singing, Kenny! Keep singing!'

Went to see Kenny Chesney last Saturday night at Ford Amphitheater.

What a show. What an entertainer.

I know the "hardest working" sobriquet is overused, but Chesney is that.

By the third song, his trademark sleeveless T-shirt was drenched in sweat.

Of course, the dampness from the rain downpour probably had something to do with it.

Which brings up another point.

Next time we go to Ford, we'll try for the reserved seating.

We got lawn seat tickets at the last minute when a friend's daughter couldn't go, but Saturday evening's downpour turned our area into slop.

People traipsing through our vicinity much of the night didn't help.

We stayed a long time, but given the size of that crowd we figured it'd be Tuesday before we got home.

So we took our lawn chairs down by the concession area, sat there for a few more songs and then split.

"Keep singing, Kenny! Keep singing!" I said, hoping for as big a head start as possible while we navigated our way back to the car.

I could still hear him as we drove off.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Friday Night Lights trump concert

That Aerosmith's Steven Tyler fell off a stage in South Dakota Wednesday night, suffering head, neck and shoulder injuries, makes me wonder if we'll ever see a re-scheduled concert at Ford Amphitheater.

Their July 11 gig was postponed because of some other physical mishap by the aging rock icon.

What ticked off four of us older rock fans set for the show was we were more interested in seeing ZZ Top, the opening act.

Judge Doug Henderson and I had said years ago, if the Texas rockers ever came to our area, we're there.

We couldn't have cared less about Aerosmith.

Who knows what's going to happen now if Tyler is laid up?

It might be a moot point, come to think of it.

When the judge said he heard the re-scheduled concert might be in October, we agreed it might be a better idea to get refunds and move on.

Especially if it's on a Friday or Saturday night.

That's football season.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Taking a pass on 'Cash for Clunkers'

Cash for Clunkers?

Looks like the special deal is over by Friday unless the U.S. Senate ponies up another $2 million to keep the program going until September.

Two-million dollars of our tax money, that is.

My pickup isn't exactly a clunker, nor a gas guzzler, but I wonder what it would fetch if I took it back to the dealership.

It's a 10-year-old Chevy Silverado that's gone 106,000 miles.

There were times when the dealership tried to entice me into a trade-up, but I always said no thanks.

Once I got it paid off, I didn't feel like getting behind new payments again.

That was five years ago.

It may be a bucket of bolts, but it's my bucket of bolts and I'll drive it 'til it drops.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bye-bye to white sandy beaches

Postcard perfect.

That’s how several Italian teen-agers described our white sandy beaches and clear water during a recent three-week visit.

It’s why they came here, said a group leader.

The kids are gone, but their words linger.

Especially against the backdrop of yet another assault by Big Oil and its congressional lackeys on our pristine shores.

See Mannix about Manatee Sunday for more at

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Child porn charges violate coaching trust

A man never stands so tall when he stoops to help a child.

A coach told me that a long time ago, words I took to heart during many fulfilling years of coaching and officiating youth sports.

That's why I cringed at the news that East Manatee tennis instructor Donald Kristen Gagnon was charged with nine counts of child pornography.

According to Richard Dymond's story in today's Herald, Gagnon taught tennis to children and adults on a court at his home off Caruso Road.

Contended neighbor Candace Soehnel, "He had kids over there seven days a week."

Another neighbor expressed alarm about parents dropping off their children at Gagnon's tennis academy.

"You go to someone's home who is single and see there is no accountability. How could this happen?" Vern Suttle said.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office hasn't determined whether local children are depicted in the photos found in Gagnon's laptop.

Gagnon bonded out and will have his day in court as an investigation continues.

If someone entrusted with coaching kids in our county is convicted of possessing child pornography, that's repulsive.

It demeans and violates what so many coaches, especially volunteers, stand for:

Helping kids.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sandy memories and a Philly cheese steak

A post card from a South Jersey vacation:
  • Watched kids under 10 years old play soccer in the evening on a stretch of beach in Surf City, N.J., where we used to stage our annual family football game. Then the nephews grew up and my brothers and I got old.

  • Spotted a worn University of Florida decal on an an SUV with Jersey plates down the shore.

  • My brother-in-law said he saw a list of 10 U.S. cities which are experiencing an economic rebound -- and the Sarasota-Bradenton area was among them. For real?

  • Went to Tony Luke's on East Oregon Avenue in South Philly for a cheese steak sandwich when another couple, seeing my tropical attire, said they were visiting from Sarasota.

  • Kept a close eye on the weather after that tropical system formed off Florida and worked its away north along the east coast before disappearing -- thank goodness!

  • Got used to 75 degrees and no humidity in mid-July. And if anyone dared complain about the weather, I just said, hey, I'll tell you about summer heat and humidity.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mom's search reached new 'heights'

Maggie Cucci hates to lose things.

The kids can’t find shoes or iPods? Mom can.

Dad’s Rays’ ballcap? Ditto.

“Mommy finds stuff,” Cucci said.

Even found a bride’s wedding dress last month.

That took some doing.

Cucci took it to another level, literally and figuratively.

Try the Lena Road County Landfill.

See Mannix about Manatee Sunday for more at

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Watch those bank fees? Oooh, yeah

Pay attention to the fees your bank is charging you.

That's the advice of banking experts, cautioning consumers about upcoming increases. Reporter Brian Neill wrote about the issue in this article today.

I might add, beware of fees you're being charged by a bank you think is yours but isn't.


Late last year I decided to pay off my bank's credit card. When my next statement arrived, I expected a zero balance.

It was $14.

So I went to my bank for an explanation and this is what I was told:

We'd love to help, but the credit card is not the bank's even though our name is on it. The card was sold to another financial institution . You'll have to call them.

I'm not making it up.

So I called this other financial institution about the mysterious $14 and was told it was a regular fee for their rewards program.

I knew nothing about it.

My bad.

So I paid off the $14, cancelled the card and went without one for six months before I got another that is, I was assured, my bank's alone.

This time I am paying attention.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How come everybody's on vacation?

Maybe it's just me.

But have you noticed when you call folks this time of year, they're on vacation.

Yeah, I know.


All at the same time, though?

Called a couple Monday about some photo information and during the conversation I picked up some background noise and asked, are you guys are on the road?

"We're in Savannah," was the woman's reply.

Tried to call another guy with a question, but his cellphone just kept ringing.

Then I remembered, he's still in upstate New York.

Phoned someone about getting my regular haircut and was told, oh, she's not back yet from North Carolina.

Anyway, they were all vacationing someplace cool.

I can only imagine what it'll sound like if someone asks where I am next week.

"Mannix? Ah, he's in New Jersey. "

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Land of the free ... because of the brave

Snapshots from a summer holiday weekend:

A decal on the rear window of a Marine veteran's pickup truck: "Home of the Free ... Because of the Brave."

Two little twin boys saluting a large Uncle Sam doll in the Shake Pit window.

A wheelchair bound fellow motoring along 14th street with little American flags decorating his rig.

A long line of bumper-to-bumper traffic creeping west on Cortez Road en route to the annual Beachhouse fireworks.

A phone call from my nephew, Kevin Haddon, an Army Special Forces sergeant, with July 4th best wishes from overseas.

See Mannix about Manatee Sunday for more at

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let it rain! Let it rain! But not on July 4th

'Will this rain never end?"

Overheard someone say it Wednesday, to which I uttered my pet phrase:

"Better rain than a hurricane."

Of course, the heavy wind and rain and flooding probably has folks disagreeing with those words, especially if they're a motorist stalled out in the deluge.

I know the ducks in the semi-dry lake behind my girlfriend's house are loving this weather.

After all those weeks of drought and people saying, "We need rain!" we are getting it but good.

The National Weather Service said it should ease up by the weekend.

Which is important.

No way can we have our July 4th fireworks rained out.

That would be un-American.

Monday, June 29, 2009

'Click It Or Ticket 'not just a catchy phrase

Keith Wallace. William Rotunda.

Two Sarasota 18-year-olds whose names made headlines for tragic reasons Monday.

Wallace was killed, and Rotunda critically injured when their pickup truck rolled over on the southbound Interstate 75 on-ramp at State Road 70, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Both were ejected.

Neither was using a seat belt.

How sadly ironic that increased enforcement of Florida's new seat belt law begins Tuesday.

Whether that would have changed the fate for these two teens, who knows?

They would have given themselves a fighting chance.

The National Highway Safety Administration estimates the new law will save 124 lives and prevent 1,733 inuries in Florida every year.

Click It Or Ticket, the NHSA campaign aimed at increasing seat belts use by young people, is not just a catchy phrase.

Never mind a hefty fine.

It can save lives.

How many times have we read about fatalities involving motorists or passengers who didn't use seat belts and were thrown from their vehicles?

Young Wallace and Rotunda are the latest.

Unfortunately, they will not be the last.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Expensive Tuesday night at the Trop

If Matt Silverman was actually counting noses Tuesday night at the Trop, mine was there.

My girlfriend’s, too.

The Rays president said he was “bewildered” by the 19,608 attendance for the first of a three-game rematch with the 2008 World Series Champion Phillies.

Team officials anticipated a full house, a nice spike in their average attendance, which is 24th in baseball.

I figured they’d have a much bigger turnout, too.

The Rays were on a roll and coming home.

I know I felt the vibe.

That’s why I got reserved seats ahead of time in right field.

Good seats.

Great view.

Good game, too, if you’re a Phillies fan like me since they won, 10-1.

But I reluctantly dismissed any ideas I might’ve had about returning for the following two games.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Late night voice that made us smile

"Heeeeeeeeeee's Johnny!"

Word of Ed McMahon's passing Tuesday made a lot of folks in my generation repeat that famous expression with a smile.

It was the Tonight Show announcer's signature introduction for Johnny Carson, America's late night TV host for 30 years.

It was a catchphrase that defined an era.

So did McMahon's "Hi-yohhh!"

Know how some people will say they stay up just late enough to hear David Letterman's Top Ten List?

That was us 25 years ago, waiting up just to hear Johnny's monologue before hitting the sack.

I used to stay up to watch in high school when the show was still in New York City.

Same in college.

Starting out in the working world, too, when the show moved to Burbank, Calif., in 1972.

No matter how the day had gone, hearing Doc Severinsen and the NBC Orchestra play the Tonight Show's familiar theme song, followed by McMahon's booming voice lightened your mood.


To be able to hear that again live.

God speed, Ed McMahon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Songs that say, it's summertime!

Certain songs say summer to me.

I save them, too, waiting for June 21 before playing them.

If "All Summer Long," by the Beach Boys pops up on my iPod, I skip to the next tune.

Same for "One Summer Dream," a haunting number by Electric Light Orchestra that appeals to my melancholy Irish spirit.

Another is "Tunnel of Love," by Bruce Springstreen, which conjures up images of the Jersey Shore, boardwalks and amusement rides with my sweetheart.

Then there are timeless classics -- "Summer Wind," by Frank Sinatra, and "Theme from a Summer Place," by The Lettermen -- that put you in the summer mood no matter the time of year.

Some rekindle fond memories of summers past.

"Moonlight Feels Right," by Starbuck.

"Hot Rod Hearts," by Robbie Dupree.

Some rekindle not so fond memories.

Like "Hot Fun in the Summertime," by Sly & The Family Stone when I had to go to summer school.

And "Summer in the City," by Lovin's Spoonful reminds me of working at the state park.

Then there's "Summertime Blues," by Eddie Cochran.

Alan Jackson and The Who did righteous turns at it, but have you ever heard Blue Cheer's heavy metal version?

Lastly, there's "Summertime, Summertime," by The Jamies.

It's summertime summertime sum sum summertime ...

Lyrics that will stay your mind and on your lips the whole day after hearing them.

A perfect summer song.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This is for the dad ...

This is for the dad who catches fastballs from his son, crouching in the driveway every night after work, making believe it’s a big league bullpen.

This is for the dad who leaves at the end of Sunday Mass with his daughter fast asleep on his shoulder.

This is for the dad who has been sober for more than 20 years.

This is for the dad who has been a devoted foster parent to more children than he can count.

This is for the dad who just brought home his firstborn the other day.

This is for the dad who puts on his gun and shield and hits the streets to protect us from ourselves day in and day out.

This is for the dad who just lost his father.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adventures long ago on Braden River

Only Jeanne Parrish.

The Bradenton Herald's current series on the Braden River brought back memories for the lifelong Manatee County resident and retired educator.

The spunky 90-year-old recalled how, in the early 1930s, her family would spend time camping where the Linger Lodge is now located.

When Jeanne went fishing with a cane pole and worms, she had some adventurous confrontations with the river's reptilian residents.

"Moccasins and black snakes," she said. "Moccasins tried many times to eat the bream, blue-gill, or war-mouth fish I had put on a string and placed in the water to keep them fresh. Just a slap with the cane pole would cause them to move on.

"One day as I stepped over a log, I encountered a huge moccasin sunning himself. In an attempt to avoid each other, we both fell down the high embankment into the river at the same time. He went his way and naturally I went my way.

"Those times on Braden River were the best of times!"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bull riding's eight seconds of eternity

Our toughest professional athletes?

NFL players, some think.

NHL players, say others.

I've got a different one.

Professional bull riders.

Got a good look at 24 of these fellows plying their trade at Saturday night's Myakka City Bull Riding in Vic Scarbrough's cozy Circle S Rodeo Arena ( The Southern States Bull Riding Association's Jason Wade Challenger Series was back for its monthly tour stop.

The riders' objective was stay aboard for eight seconds and make the finals with a chance at $1,000 prize money.

Only four got there -- barely.

Talk about working hard for your money?

Never mind hanging on until the buzzer sounded.

These cowboys, several of whom rode with an assortment of injuries, were hanging on for their lives.

Bulls packed 1,200 to 1,800 pounds of muscular firepower and used it forcefully and furiously.

Riders flew over the bulls back. Over the bull's head.

Then bulls would rumble around the ring as if to challenge: Anybody else want some of this?

"We got some mean ones, all right," Scarbrough said, grinning. "Sure would've liked to see a few more riders make the final , though."

Maybe next time.

The SSBRA returns to Myakka City on July 11.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Amendment bad deal for Gulf coast

Here we go again.


Wednesday’s Bradenton Herald front page headline made you shake your head.

Will this never end?

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee did Big Oil’s bidding last week, voting to allow drilling 10 miles from the Panhandle beaches and 45 from our own.

Big Oil is relentless.

The 2006 Congressional ban on new drilling within 125 miles of us?


The Florida senate’s deep six of last April’s 11th-hour bill for near-shore drilling?

Out of the way.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bradenton teens got the right stuff

John Ryan Murphy. Michael Ohlman.

Two kids I envy at the moment.

Both Bradenton teens have realized the dream of every boy who's ever picked up a baseball mit and played a game on some dusty neighborhood diamond.

Drafted by the big leagues.

Murphy, a second-round pick by the New York Yankees.

Ohlman, an 11th-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles.

It's a good bet the University of Miami, which signed both catchers to scholarships, is going to be out one of these players.

Whatever their decisions -- take the money and go pro, or move onto the UM -- it's a strong affirmation, according to the judgment of baseball's gimlet-eyed scouts, they've got the right stuff.

They should revel in the moment.

So should their families, coaches and teammates who helped get them to this point

It has to be a feeling money cannot buy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

$ettlement brings unexpected 'riches'

Whoa! What's this?

Sifting through Monday's mail, I received a letter with a check attached.

My lucky day.

Heh, heh, heh.

It was addressed, "Dear Class Member," and wasn't a pitch for an alumni donation.

It was about the settlement of a class action suit between automotive buyers and an insurance company. The lawsuit revolved around loans being paid off early for which prepaid premiums were not refunded.

All of which was news to me.

It said $59,185,112.68 was owed to 241,000 insured folks, but only $26,929,173.78 was available for distribution.

Lawyers probably got the rest.

Whatever, the letter went on, "you are receiving a pro-rated refund that is 45.5 percent of the actual unearned premium due."

My take?


Try twenty-two cents.

The letter said either cash the check. Or, if I believe there's a mistake, mail it back.

Think I'll frame it.

I can use the laugh.

Friday, June 5, 2009

SB 360 like deja vu all over again

SB 360.

Sounds like our latest stealth bomber.

It’s an ominous abbreviation for Senate Bill 360.

The handiwork of our own state senator and selfless public servant Mike Bennett, it just nuked Florida’s growth management policy for the past 25 years.

Another legislative landmark for Florida before the roadgrader paves it over.

There’s Bennett at the wheel.

And who’s riding shotgun but state Reps. Bill Galvano and Ron Reagan, both SB 360 signees.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Thursday, June 4, 2009

School's out! A sweet, sweet sound

The last day of school.

Some of the most wonderful words in the English language when you're young.

No more teachers, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks.

I remember yelling that when I was a boy in Brooklyn, N.Y., fleeing St. Gabriel's School and the nuns for summers I thought would never end.

Stoop ball in the projects. Trips to Jones Beach. CYO Camp in Astoria, N.Y.

As I got older and we moved to New Jersey, summers meant working in the state park, going down the Jersey Shore, and hanging out in a place called Pleasureland in Oakland, N.J.

But it all started with that feeling of freedom after the final bell rang for the year.

It was such a fleeting sensation and so long ago, but it's still nice to recognize it in the voices of others.

Like Lexa Murphy, daughter of restaurateur Sean and his wife Susan.

I had called her at Emory University in suburban Atlanta a couple of years ago and I can still hear her glee:

"I just finished my last exam and I'm going to a Braves game!"

School was out, all right.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Admiring neighbor's reading material

Found out rather abruptly that postage is now 44 cents.

Went to hand my FPL bill to the mailman last Saturday and he gave it back to me with nary a glance at my 42-cent stamp.

"You're two cents short," he said, giving me four glossy women's shopping catalogues I had never seen or received before.

Didn't give them a second thought, however, absorbed as I was looking for a two-cent stamp.

It was only when I scooped up the catalogs later did I realize they were addressed to a homeowner with the same house number one street over.

That homeowner has gotten my magazines, too, in the past. She once joked she was expecting something more racy than National Geographic, Smithsonian and Sports Illustrated.

Anyway, I was perplexed the mailman could spot the wrong stamp, but not the wrong address.

But it figures.

I continue getting mail addressed to people who lived in my house before me.

You’d think the mailman would have it down by now.

I’ve only lived there seven years.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Some folks do look forward to June 1

The only people I can think of who look forward to the arrival of June 1 are Helen and Dewey Eason.

That's because it's their anniversary and will mark 53 years of marital bliss.

As for the rest of us Monday means one thing.

Hurricane season is upon us.

Although not exactly a laughing matter, I am amused by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2009 projections:.

It will be, in the NOAA’s words, a “near normal Atlantic hurricane season.”


Not in my book.

To me, normal means no storms, period.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Friday, May 22, 2009

What was Ben Axon thinking?

Graduation was days away for the Manatee High School senior.

A football scholarship to South Carolina awaited the potent Hurricanes running back, an apprenticeship in the SEC under Steve Spurrier.

It was all there waiting for him.

Then he goes and gets busted by Bradenton police Wednesday night.

Not just for marijuana possession. But possession with intent to sell.

What was Ben Axon thinking?

Now he may not be allowed to walk at commencement with his fellow seniors.

And who knows what Spurrier's decision will be?

All for 23 bags of dope.


What was Ben Axon thinking?

Certainly, his legal transgression does not fall in the same realm of felonious behavior exhibited by Palmetto High football players TaHeem Blake and Marquis Sanders.

Both were charged with murder in Febuary.

Yet what Axon did might kill his golden opportunity to excel as an athlete and get a free college education, too.

So close to graduation.

So close to beginning an exciting, new chapter in life.

What was Ben Axon thinking?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A new Wares Creek: I'll believe it when I see it

"I'll believe it when I see it."

"They've been saying that for years."

"It'll never happen."

Such has been the reaction over the years whenever the proposed Wares Creek dredging project ever came up in conversation.

Folks who either live there or have lived there were just a tad pessimistic.

Word that the Army Corps of Engineers finally got the permit from the state and can go hire a contractor may change that.

"Let me know when they start shoveling," another skeptic might say.

Considering the absolutely glacial pace the project's approval process has taken through the federal and state bureaucracies, it's understandable.

Twenty-five years? Wow.

I'm just glad it didn't get whacked like so many other projects that fell to budget cuts.

Somebody up there likes Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County's guru of natural resources.

That's good.

Next up? The county commission's approval, possibly next month.

Meantime, the waiting game goes on.

I'm reminded of something a former property owner told me when she sold the place next door a few years ago.

"When they dredge Wares Creek, your property value will go right up," she said.

I'll believe that when I see it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jim Brown still a man with presence

Jim Brown.

Say the name and young people connect it with Amer-I-Can, the empowerment program he founded in 1988 that has become a part of Manatee County's anti-gang campaign.

He'll be the keynote speaker Tuesday at Amer-I-Can's 11 a.m. graduation ceremonies at Braden River High School.

Jim Brown.

When I hear that name, I still think of No. 32 in a Cleveland Browns uniform, slashing his way through NFL defenses as he did for nine years.

He was the best.

We weren't Browns fans where I grew up as a boy in New Jersey, but we were definitely in awe of him.

Whenever the neighborhood kids chose up sides for a pickup game of football, we'd argue over who'd get to be Jim Brown.

Nobody wanted to be the Giants' Alex Webster. Or the Eagles' Tom Woodeshick.

We all wanted to be Jim Brown.

Even if it meant getting gang-tackled by everybody else.

It's amazing to think he's 73 now, but that's cool.

He will still be a commanding presence at Tuesday's Amer-I-Can commencement.

There is only one Jim Brown.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Congrats, concern for high school seniors

One is bound for Tulane University in New Orleans.

Another, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Another, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., atop Lake Winnebago, the best walleye fishing in America.

They were just some of Thursday night’s Golden Herald nominees about to embark on a great adventure in their young lives.

I was happy for them.

Envious even.

Concerned, too.

For them and their fellow high school seniors around our county.

It’s party season.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrecking ball in church building's future

Tear it down.

That's my gut reaction to the ongoing debate over the Bradenton Revival Temple.

Since coming to this community more than a decade ago, I've developed a real affinity for its rich heritage and the efforts to preserve it.

But I don't feel that way toward the old, vacant church on the 700 block of Manatee Avenue West.

With all respect to Cathy Slusser, the knowledgeable director of historic resources for the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court, it is far from "a charming building" as she described it.

It is an eyesore.

Hardly a beacon of welcome into downtown Bradenton.

More like blight.

Renovating the building for law offices was the intention of attorneys Melton Little and Scott Kallins upon buying it in 2001. Then they realized it was not financially feasible and it has deteriorated to this day.

On Wednesday the Bradenton City Council postponed until Sept. 9 any decision on the attorneys' request to demolish the building.

The hope is a "white knight" will ride in and pony up a minimum $2 million to save the building and renovate it.

In this economic climate?

I doubt it.

Get the wrecking ball ready.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reels at Rossi Park: 'Field of Dreams'

Haven't checked out the sunset Reels at Rossi Park yet, but I will Friday.

"Field of Dreams" is showing.

If ever a baseball movie played so well on the chords of the relationship of a father and son and their poignant game of catch, this 1989 classic, starring my man Kevin Costner, goes yard.

"If you build it, he will come..."

The words defined the movie, about a man -- Costner as farmer Ray Kinsella -- who carves a baseball diamond out of his Iowa cornfield, and they became part of our American lexicon.

"If you build it, he will come..."

The last time we hear it in the movie, I believe, is when Shoeless Joe Jackson utters it to Costner and nods toward home plate and the catcher.

The catcher is Costner's father as a young man.

A father he was estranged from.

The ending, when they finally have that game of catch, will put a lump in your throat.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day prelude to Ireland journey

Mom wanted to return to Ireland once more.

It was a journey we took six times over 20 years, but I was afraid she wasn’t fit for a seventh.

Alas, Eileen Mannix will get her wish this summer.

I will bring her ashes back to the home of our ancestors.

Mom passed last October at the age of 83.

She’d fallen, broken a foot and faced surgery.

Although she sounded in good spirits the night before the procedure, I had a bad feeling.

My fear became reality.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Buy a carton of smokes on installment plan

More taxes. Less service.

Hmmm. Seems like we've heard that before.

This is the Florida Legislature's "historic" plan to balance the state budget -- raise taxes, fees, licenses and rates on anything they can to the tune of $2 billion.

"Reasonable and responsible for the times we are in," a House budget officer harrumphed.

Yeah, reasonable and responsible depending on who's taking the hit.

I'll get it as a homeowner and driver, but it looks like I'm off the hook in other areas on the Legislature's tax target list.
  • Citizens Property Insurance. As shaky as homeowners insurance is in this state, perhaps Citizens customers won't mind paying a bit more for the sake of having any kind of coverage and pray hurricane season goes away without harm.

  • Park goers will be paying more, too. Just when I was digging Myakka State Park.

  • Smokers may be forking over another $1 per pack. I don't smoke but have nothing against smokers, except when they're in front of me at the express checkout, the cashier has to go to the customer service counter for the customer's cigarettes, then finds out they wanted menthol and has to go back.

  • Sportsmen. I can hear the griping already, but you know the state will get its money. Folks hereabouts love to hunt and love to fish.

  • University students. That's a good one. We all know who's paying the freight here. Watch for a slew of new bumperstickers: "My Kid and Even MORE of My Money Go to FSU."

Monday, May 4, 2009

A quick road trip back in time

Had a chance to return to my old stomping grounds in Boca Raton a few days ago.

The occasion was Lynn University's Hall of Fame athletic banquet, and yours truly gave the induction speech for Dr. Donald Ross, who retired in 2006 after 35 years at the school's helm.

Boy, did the memories come flying back.

I covered their sports program in its early years during my 19-year career with the Boca Raton News. The highlight was the Knights' 1987 men's national soccer championship.

Before my speech, Greg Malfitano, LU's senior vice president and an old pal, cautioned me.

"Remember most of our athletes weren't even born when that happened," he joked.

As if that didn't make me feel old enough, LU's president is Don's son, Kevin Ross.

I coached him in T-ball.

It was wonderful to visit with folks I hadn't seen since I left Boca in 1997 and be able to reconnect like it was just the other day.

Yet I could not get over is how drastically the city has changed.

It is far from the charming, sleepy, oceanside town I got to in 1978.

The commercial development was overwhelming.

Traffic was insane.

"You think this is bad?" Malfitano said. "You should see it during the season!"

It was a great trip, but after a couple of days I was ready to get back to Bradenton.

We took the scenic route, driving up the northeast side of Lake Okeechobee, stopping in Taylor Creek for gas.

When a big ol' pickup truck pulled out of the station, its radio was blaring Kenny Chesney's, "Out Last Night," and it made me smile.

I was halfway home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cut football schedules? Yeah, right

Why didn't they cut back on high school football?

That's the buzz I'm getting in the wake of the Florida High School Athletic Association's vote Monday to reduce game schedules for its membership's athletic departments by 20 percent the next two years.

Other big spectator sports like basketball and baseball go from 25 games to 20.

Wrestling goes from 18 matches to 15.

Other sports have been similarly affected.

So why not football?


Football is the revenue engine for the athletic programs at most high schools.

It's also a dependable revenue stream for the FHSAA, which never, ever misses a chance to get its cut of the gate.

You think they get it from tennis, golf and cross country?

Football is king.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Palmetto Gun Show ought to be busy

Think I know one place that’s having more business than usual this weekend.

The Palmetto Gun Show at the Manatee Civic and Convention Center.

Given the shocking succession of violent home invasions people in our community have been subjected to recently, I can’t blame them.

Ten attacks in Manatee and Sarasota.

All during daylight hours.

One against an 84-year-old woman, bound and pistol whipped last month in northwest Bradenton.

The most recent, an older couple on Riverview Boulevard brutally beaten last Monday.

It’s got usually tranquil neighborhoods on edge.

Whether it’s a single perpetrator or several, local law enforcement has yet to get the drop on them.

Even the FBI’s gotten involved.

Meanwhile, folks are wondering, who’s next?

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Toby will be star of parade party


There's a parade party Saturday at the house where Toby lives, and it's a good bet he'll be among the topics of lively conversation.

Even if he doesn't realize it.

Toby is a frolicsome German short haired pointer who belongs to neighbors Lynn and Steve Carlsen.

Nary a morning goes by on my way to work I don't stop and pet him.

Well, not long ago there was no sign of the pooch for several days in a row.

Turns out Toby was in the doggie slammer.

It seems there was a new FPL meter reader who, unlike his predecessor, was unfamiliar with Toby. When he leaned over the back fence, the dog jumped up and got him.

The FPL guy's report said it was a bite; the owners said it was a scratch.

Either way, when animal control did their follow up, it was discovered Toby was behind in his shots.

So off he went to the doggie slammer for 11 days.

They even took his mug shot.

Paw prints, too?

"I went to see him, and he looked so sad," said Steve, who was none too pleased with himself.

By the time Toby got squared away on the shots and everything, his owner ponied up almost $400.

But all is well at the Carlsen homestead once more.

Toby's back running around, and he'll get all kinds of attention Saturday.

"He's a lover, not a biter," Lynn said.

Monday, April 20, 2009

First parade chairs already up

This had to be a first.

Drove along Manatee Avenue West at lunchtime and what did I see?

Two chairs!

So what, you say?

With the annual DeSoto Heritage Festival Parade coming up Saturday, it is customary for folks to begin lining the parade route with their chairs, staking out viewing places a few days ahead of time.

Chairs usually start showing up Wednesday.

This was Monday!

One chair was plastic, the other an old fashioned dining room number, both in front of DeSoto Plaza on the 3200 block along the south side of busy Manatee Avenue West.

I checked with Jane Simpson, the proprietor of Scissors who always hosts a big party, and she said the chairs weren't hers.

"We'll start setting up Wednesday or Thursday," she said.

They didn't belong to Lyn Lineberger of The Memory Maker.

"I'll block off our corner Tuesday," she said.

Folks over at Carrie Bendixon's BouTiki didn't know whose chairs they were, either.

"Somebody's got them out already?" one said. "Wow!"

A good omen.

Parade day is near

Friday, April 17, 2009

What's with MCC name change?

State College of Florida.

Say what?

Count me among those unimpressed by the newfangled name for Manatee Community College.

Good grief.

I understand the impetus for change because of the college’s evolving mission regionally. Witness the ramping up of its nursing program, and its designation as a state college.

So maybe good ol’ MCC didn’t carry the same cachet on a student’s resume anymore.

But State College of Florida?


Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Long time 'Voice of Summer' is silent

The snapshot is from the Mayor's Box at McKechnie Field a few years ago when the Phillies were in town.

The visiting team's radio booth is next door and when he came out between innings I introduced myself and asked if he'd mind having a picture taken with me.

It was Harry Kalas.

"The Voice of Summer," I said, giving the longtime Phillies announcer an appreciative hug.

His passing Monday at 73 saddened millions in baseball and spurred so many memories.

Mine are of summer vacations in South Jersey where the family's lived for 40 years.

Going to Phillies games at the Vet. July 4th fireworks. The whole brood getting in for cheap. Soft pretzels a buck a bag.

Harry Kalas's sweet-sounding voice conjured up all of that.

Especially summers at the beach house my brothers, Jimmy and Joey, have rented forever in Surf City, N.J. Evenings on the deck listening to the ocean waves and the Phillies at twilight.

I was thinking of that when Jimmy called Monday.

You hear about Harry Kalas? he asked.

Yes, I said. Where are you?

His answer made me smile.

They were on the deck at the beach house.

Jimmy and Joey had driven to Surf City Monday to put a deposit on the place for mid-July and swung by the beach house when someone texted them about Kalas's death.

So they were feeling it, too.

Our "Voice of Summer" is silent.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fun and games with the phone company

Our phone companies' latest legislative gambit to bring us better service and competitive rates makes me laugh.

It also recalled this story.

My phone company returned my check for Febuary's bill.

The check's routing number is missing, the accompanying letter said.

Strange, but that line of numbers on the check's lower left corner sure looked like routing numbers to me.

I showed it to my bank rep, who called the phone company and said, folks, this check is good.

Well, the phone company rep said, they had just gone to a new billing system and were experiencing some problems.

They apologized for any inconvenience and waived the late fee.

But I could pay the bill over the phone --- for a $5 charge.

Nuts to that. I told them I'd mail it like I always do.

It gets better.

The phone company called me the next day. A different rep wanted to know why my February payment was late.

I lost it.

They return my good check and then have the audacity to ask why my payment is late!

What is wrong with that picture?

I received more apologies and promises this aggravation would not happen again, and please don't switch to another phone company.

But I could pay the bill over the phone --- without the $5 charge.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Children's Parade lives up to tradition

Loud sirens from fire trucks and police cars.

Folks flanking 10th Avenue West in Palmetto, craning their necks as they watched the excitement unfold near Sutton Park.

Why all the fuss?

The 2009 DeSoto Children's Parade on Good Friday.

Any apprehension parade chairman John De Lesline had about spring break hurting participation in the annual event passed.

Though the crowds may have been down a bit, the morning parade lived up to tradition and this year's theme: "Red, White and Blue. What Does It Mean To You?"

Gene Witt Elementary's float, which included a moving bald eagle replica as well as a moving replica of the school's flag-waving namesake -- wait, that actually was ol' Gene! -- won Best Use of Theme and the $1,000 from Bradenton Kiwanis that goes with it.

Wakeland Elementary's float won Most Imaginative; Stewart Elementary, Most Colorful; Bayshore Elementary's 50's shtick boppers, Most Crowd Pleasing; and Daughtrey Elementary's red, white and blue brigade, the School Spirit Award for the non-float entries.

Bradenton Twirling won Best Twirling Performance; Dynasty Dance, Best Cheerleading Team Performance; and Tara Elementary, Best Dance Team Performance.

Palmetto High's cheerleaders and softball team marched proudly, too. So did Harllee Middle's drumline and McNeal Elementary's float.

Parade judges included Pam Behr, Jay Burnell, Andy Minor and Melissa Trippi.

Visit for more on the DeSoto Heritage Festival.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Principals purge gives others pause

Bumped into a friend, a young assistant principal out on spring break.

Couple of high school openings coming up, I kidded.

Nooooo thanks, he said. I like the job I've got.

It's low profile, he added. Less of a target.

Which is probably what other assistant principals around the county are thinking after the shock wave from this week's purge, effective at the end of the school year.

Southeast High's Mike Horne. Out.
Palmetto High's Debbie Valcarel . Out.
Buffalo Creek Middle's Scott Cooper. Out.
Time for a change, Superintendent Tim McGonegal said.

How widespread a change is what educators have to be asking themselves, as the suits at the Manatee School District unsheathe their long knives.

Not a comforting thing to ponder on spring break.

You can have those two high school principal jobs, my friend said.

But his sympathy for the outgoing occupants only went so far.

You watch, he said. They'll end up with jobs downtown.

---Vin Mannix

Monday, April 6, 2009

Seafood Festival draws monster turnout

Even from my waterlogged vantage point in the United Way dunk tank Saturday, it was easy to see the annual DeSoto Seafood Festival was a monster event.

All those people!

"The crowds were huge," said Dave Quaderer, who has co-chaired the event the last 17 years with Rob Bell. He estimated the record turnout for the three-day bash between 40,000 to 50,000.

It seemed like that many on Saturday alone. Old Main Street and Barcarrota Boulevard were jammed.
One Night Rodeo and Tracy Byrd (see photo) were big reasons why Saturday night.

Same with Syesha and Cas Haley on Friday night.

Got to give props, as well, to Big Daddy, The Bone Shakers, Big Z Band, Dr. Dave Band and Kettle of Fish, who kept the crowds entertained at the west and south stages over the weekend.

"The free entertainment is what brings them," said Joe Miller, the outgoing Hernando DeSoto.

Folks definitely said to heck with the flagging economy for a few days.

Hopefully, the Old Main Street merchants got a shot in the arm, too, having worked out an agreement with Quaderer's committee to put up a stage at the south end of Old Main Street.

"People are tired of all the gloom and doom," said Kevin Taylor, a past Hernando DeSoto. "They just want to get out and enjoy themselves."

Visit for more on the DeSoto Heritage Festival.
-- Vin