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.