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.