Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hall of Fame party for Coach Maechtle

If you’re a Paul Maechtle admirer, then you might want to circle Jan. 9 on your new 2011 calendar.

First, the longtime Southeast High athletic director and Seminoles head football coach will be inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame Jan. 8 in Daytona Beach.

It’s overdue recognition for the reluctant honoree.

Then on Jan. 9 there will be a reception for Maechtle from 1 to 4 p.m. at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, 8913 U.S. 301 N. in Parrish.

Call Beef’s at 776-0053.
Read more in Friday's Vin's People.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Frozen windshields a new experience

How cold was it the last couple of mornings?

So cold the windshield and windows on my wife's SUV and my pickup truck were covered with ice.

Yours too?

I've been through my share of cold spells during 40 years of living in Florida, but that was a first.

Frost on the grass isn't unsual, but iced up windows sure was.

The record low of 27 degrees recorded at SRQ included our neighborhood, right around the corner from the airport.

We tried the squeegees on the windows first, but that was useless.

So I flung a couple of pails full of warm water and --- voila!

We were good to go.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Attack on movie-going couple an outrage

Drove by the Carmike Royal Palm 20 theater Monday evening and the parking lot looked full.

Business as usual.

Wonder if any couples had trouble watching "The Fighter," "True Grit," or "The Tourist," because of some unruly teens.

Like Kayln and Federico Freire did last Saturday night.

They'd asked the teens to be quiet and got cursed at.

When Kayln complained to the manager, the discourteous teens got the heave-ho.

The disgusted Freires exited not long after and got jumped outside the theater, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office reports.

Federico, a Marine, fought off his attackers.

His wife got punched in the face and knocked unconscious.

The melee drew a large crowd and plenty of MCSO deputies, too.

Arrests were made and charges are pending while the investigation continues.

What happened to Kayln and Federico Freire is an outrage.

On Christmas night, the birthday of the Prince of Peace.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday greetings, good luck to airman

A salute and Merry Christmas to Airman 2nd Class Joshua Miles.

The 2008 Braden River High grad just turned 21, and will embark on a six-month deployment to Afghanistan Jan. 1.

Presently based at Oklahoma City’s Tinker Air Force Base, the ex-Pirate wrestler will operate the satellite communications aboard a USAF reconnaissance plane.

His proud parents are Barbara and Clint.
Read more Friday in Vin's People.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Season of festive feasting under way

The holidays have begun in earnest, all right.

Not the gift buying, understand.

It's the festive feasting I'm talking about.

Got an early start with the office parties last week, but we've shifted into high gear since then.

Last Friday night was a double-barrel dad-and-daughter birthday bash.

Then Sunday evening, a Christmas pageant, dinner and dessert, a tradition with some longtime friends.

Went to our niece's "Sweet 16" party Wednesday night, a quasi-Christmas affair with another wonderful dinner and dessert.

There's another bash Thursday night to celebrate some good friends' daughter's graduation from the University of Florida. Be plenty to eat there, too.

Then comes Christmas Eve at the in-laws house with more eating and exchanging of gifts.

Followed by Christmas dinner at the in-laws once more Saturday evening.

New Years is more than a week away, but I already know what one of my resolutions is going to be.

Sound familiar?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Coach selling drugs? Say it isn't so

A drug deal goes down Monday morning in the Blake Medical Center parking lot, of all places, and the alleged dealer is subsequently arrested.

His mug shot is posted by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Seen one, you've seen them all, right?

Not this time.

The man arrested, Frankie L. Sanders, 35, was an assistant baseball coach for Manatee High School.

His 3-year-old son was with him.

Sanders was charged with the sale and trafficking of prescription drugs and cocaine and was being held in the Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $250,000.

Authorities later found $20,000 in cash, 60 grams of cocaine, 92 grams of oxycodone tablets and two grams of Xanax at Sanders' residence.

According to the MCSO, undercover detectives had been investigating the assistant coach for a year and making undercover buys.

They said they do not know if he ever sold drugs to students at the high school.

A coach selling drugs?

What an abomination.

Did Hurricanes head coach Dwayne Strong, whose life has been devoted to teaching youngsters the game of baseball, have any idea his assistant was allegedly involved in drug dealing?

That's a question people will be asking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas arrives early for fire chief

Christmas came early for Foster Gover.

It arrived Thursday in the form of a $192,000 buyout for Gover’s voluntary resignation after a three-month investigation into his disturbing tenure as Southern Manatee Fire District Rescue chief and fire marshal.

There is no truth to the rumor the district’s fire commissioners were dressed as Santa’s helpers.

They should’ve been.

Though Gover has been relieved of duty immediately, he is on administrative leave with full pay and benefits until May 1 when his resignation becomes official.

At which time he will be paid that $192,000 in one lump sum.


Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Plenty of time to finish Christmas shopping

"Guess this is a good time as any to go Christmas shopping," a colleague said, putting on his coat as he pondered braving the Wednesday night chill and the mall or two, as well.

Why the rush? I kidded. There's plenty of time.

Christmas is still at least a week away.

Most of my shopping is done.

My wife has seen to that. Everything she's bought for others is a gift from both of us.

Another advantage of being married, you might say.

Of course, that doesn't include the gifts I'm giving Sherri.

Though I've bought some things here and there, I've still got a few stops to make before I'm done.

Plenty of time before Christmas.

I think.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Looks like another day for long johns

A hard freeze warning.

Never heard feeling cold put like that.

According to the weather story in the Bradenton Herald, that's when the temperature drops below 27 degrees and stays there for three hours.

Which it's supposed to do tonight.

Maybe Tuesday night, too.

It says it'll be 30 degrees on the coast, but in the 20s further inland.

Which always makes me wonder --- how far inland is that?

Myakka City?

Or just on the east side of US 301 like where we live?

Sherri wasn't taking any chances.

She put blankets around the croton bush and the outside pipes.

Me? I'm planning on throwing another blanket on the bed.

And wearing my long johns again Tuesday

Friday, December 10, 2010

Elected officials ignore public trust at own peril

Gwen Brown has performed another public service.

The former Manatee County commissioner probably won’t see it that way, of course, and that’s understandable.

Getting taken to task by the Florida Commission on Ethics stings.

Yet it is a lesson, rendered by Brown, a State College of Florida adjunct professor, for some of our town’s newly elected public officials.

Do not conduct private business on the public’s dime.

Take heed, Jim Boyd and Greg Steube, as you settle into the Florida House of Representatives.

That goes, too, for our new county commissioners, Michael Gallen and Robin DiSabatino.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Urbanator's decision not a surprise at all

I remember the first time I'd heard his name.

Bowling Green, my alma mater, had just hired a Notre Dame assistant as its new head football coach.

Urban Meyer?

His decision to step down after the upcoming Outback Bowl brought back memories.

Even if they're just 10 years old.

It was 2001 and in two seasons he made the Falcons winners again.

Meyer encored that success at Utah in 2003-04.

Then came Florida and, pardon the cliche, the rest is history.

Two national championships. Two SEC titles. A 64-15 record -- including this season's 7-5 lackluster finish -- in six seasons as Gator head coach.

Simply spectacular.

On the field, Meyer made Florida matter again.

Off the field? Thirty arrests belied the Urbanator's reputation as a disciplined coach who ran a tight ship.

I did not like how he handled the Chris Rainey situation, either.

It's just one of the things that defined Meyer's last season as Florida head coach.

Yet it should not define his remarkable run in Gainesville.

Surprised Meyer made this decision?


In fact, when I heard it early Wednesday afternoon on the radio, I wasn't shocked at all.

After a 24-hour stress-related retirement last season, a tumultuous year like this was bound to make the intense Meyer regret going back on that original decision.

He'll be back on the sidelines somewhere sometime, but not soon.

Urban Meyer's 10-year ride as an NCAA D-1 head football coach was meteoric.

And all meteors burn out eventually.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hanging outside lights always an adventure

Putting up Christmas lights can be an adventure.

Like Sunday.

Sherri and I spent a good portion of a beautiful afternoon hanging strands of lights around the front of the house.

First the garage side, then residential side.

When we plugged in the former, every light turned on.


Then when we plugged in the latter two separate spans didn't.


So we took down the faulty ones and drove to Walmart to buy new ones. Sherri had gotten them -- a garland style -- there two years ago.

Only they didn't have any in stock. Or they didn't make that style anymore.

Then we drove to Target.

No luck there either.

Well, rather than return home empty-handed, we bought some hanging icicle style with colors.

By the time we hung those, it was getting on toward 5 o'clock.

So we decided the garage side of the house will have to wait.

Until next weekend.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Drilling ban good for us, tourism, Florida

There was the Norwegian helicopter pilot and his family.

Four British sun-worshippers.

An older fellow from Ohio on his annual spring fishing trip, too.


What brings them to mind is the Obama administration’s decision last week to let the drilling ban stand along Florida’s coastline.

A welcome decision, indeed.

One vital to our tourism industry.

Florida’s lifeblood.

Something those visitors said showed how fragile it can be.

They had come to Anna Maria Island just days after BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in April, a catastrophe that poured nearly 175 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the next five months.

Nary a drop would touch AMI’s pristine shores.

Yet it did not matter to those visitors.

Had they been able to change their plans, they’d have done so.

It was the perception of the threat that would’ve kept them away and sent them elsewhere to spend their money.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We hardly knew 2010 hurricane season

So long 2010 hurricane season.

We hardly knew ye.

Which is the way we like it.

Nineteen named storms, the third most on record, but nary a one crossed our path.


That we avoided a major hurricane for a record-tying, fifth year in a row is nice and all.

But we just take them one year at a time.

Each June 1 ushers in another six months of waiting and watching, punching up the National Hurricane Center Website umpteen times a day whenever another tropical depression is forming over the horizon and rolling this way.

Not to mention checking our plywood hurricane shutters, making sure termites haven't dined on them in the offseason, and that all the wing nuts are accounted for just in case.

Thankfully, we never had to pull the trigger and go to battle stations this year.


The 2010 hurricane season is a fast fading memory.

A gentle giant, a National Weather Service official called it.


Monday, November 29, 2010

War clouds rekindle vet's bad memories

A miserable country.

I'll never forget Bill Field's words.

He was talking about Korea of 60 year ago.

I'd done a piece on the East Hampton, N.Y., native and American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 commandant in July 1999 for the 46th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

A miserable country.

I'm reminded of Field's words because of escalating tensions on that peninsula after North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last Tuesday, killing four South Koreans.

That follows the unresolved torpedoing of a South Korean warship killing 46 sailors last March.

North Korea's belligerence may have pushed its neighbor too far this time.

Will Uncle Sam, who dispatched a carrier battle group for joint exercises with South Korea as a show of force, be dragged into another Korean conflict?

The first was enough for Bill Field.

The day after he got his high school diploma in June 1950, 135,000 Communist North Korean troops invaded South Korea. Three months later, he was there with the First Cavalry Division, fighting in a war that lasted a little more than three years. It was a bitter struggle.

"One-hundred twenty degrees in the shade in summertime and 30 below in wintertime," he said in the story. "From April to June it rained every day. From September to November it snowed. Mud up to your ankles. Sitting in foxholes with water up to here. Sitting under two GI blankets on top of a mountain in 30 below. You couldn't dig a hole because the ground was frozen. No trees, no nothing. If there was any beauty to that land, I never saw it."

Field saw enough bloodshed.

Late in October 1950, he was with U.N. forces who had pushed deep into North Korea and reached within 20 miles of the Yalu River separating North Korea from Manchuria. Then 300,000 Communist Chinese troops began charging across the border, driving the Allies back into South Korea. Both sides dug in along a line north of the 38th parallel as truce talks began in July 1951. The war would drag on for two more years as both sides fought for strategic pieces of territory to be used like chips at the bargaining table.

"We'd take a place, the Chinese overran it, then we'd retake it," said Field, who was wounded by mortar shrapnel. "It was bloody and nothing was ever resolved."

An armistice agreement was signed July 27,1953, but not before 53,000 Americans were dead.

"It's an experience you live through once," Field said. "There are a lot of ideals you have as a young boy that you don't have after you've been through combat and you see your best buddy get killed.

"I was 19, but I felt like an old man."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Don't dig Christmas decorating? Let Watsons do it

Some folks enjoy decorating the Christmas tree.

Some don’t.

My wife is one of the former.

Sherri loves it.

As for yours truly, Christmas decorating was never my bag all those years of bachelorhood until we met.

Then she got me a little tree.

A Santa Claus with a Hawaiian shirt, too.

You might say I came to see the lights.

So any day now when she asks me to help get the Christmas decorations down from the attic, I’m there.

Or I could say, hey, let’s call Stanley Watson.


Christmas decorating is his business.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

'Yes, We Can Dance!' twinbill Feb. 12, 2011

If you’re a fan of Manatee County school dance teams, mark Feb. 12, 2011 on your calendar.

That’s the third annual “Yes, We Can Dance!” extravaganza at Neel Auditorium.

It will be twice the fun.

After packing Braden River High’s auditorium in its 2009 debut, the show was moved to Neel last winter — to another turnaway crowd.

So this time there will be two shows: 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

By the way, program coordinator Helen Dolbec needs sponsors for this entertaining program, a stage for our county’s impressive dance talent.

Call (941) 792-8274. Or e-mail:

Read more in Friday's Vin's People.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How my in-laws got a new mailbox

How are you going to spend Thanksgiving Day morning?

Mine will have nothing to do with helping out with the turkey.

More like being one.

Try putting in a mailbox.

My mother-and-father-in-law's mailbox.

Jim and Sue Manring arrived home from their cruise Tuesday night and my wife was there, too.

So after work, I drove to our house, changed clothes and went over to see them.

It was dark when I got there and pulled up to the front of the Manring house.

Or tried to.

Unfortunately, I got too close to their mailbox with my right rearview mirror when I drove up and ...


I looked back and the mailbox was hanging over on its broken wooden post.


I got out and tried to shove it back together, but no use.

So I picked up the mailbox, still attached to the post's broken top part, tucked it under my right arm, walked up to the front door, knocked and went inside.

You should've seen how their smiles turned to ... what are you doing with that mailbox?

Uh, I had an accident.

Then everybody started laughing.

The sight of somebody's son-in-law waltzing into their living room carrying their mailbox must be a funny sight.

That is, if your in-laws have a sense of humor like mine do.

Hey, they let me marry their daughter.

Anyway, Jim said he would make a trip to Home Depot in the morning.

"We needed a new mailbox anyway," Sue said.

And yours truly will spend Thanksgiving Day morning helping my father-in-law put in that mailbox.

Monday, November 22, 2010

'That's the miracle of Thanksgiving ...'

People began lining up before dawn.

"Five a.m.," said Barbara Parker, a longtime St. Joseph Catholic Church volunteer, taking a break from packing grocery bags at the church's Food Pantry Monday.

They were needy folks, looking for a bagful of holiday cheer for Thanksgiving.

Some came alone.

Some came with children.

Some came for others physically unable to make it.

They left with a little something -- mix for stuffing and mashed potatoes, canned fruit and vegetables, a gift certificate towards a ham or turkey, bread and rolls.

All of it came from a community that shares its blessings with the less-than-fortunate.

Parker and a team of volunteers were out back, sorting through dry goods, loading them into bags for other volunteers inside the pantry to distribute to needy people.

They'd been at it since 8:30 a.m. and it was getting on toward noon.

It would be the same Tuesday and Wednesday and more than 2,000 people would receive Thanksgiving bags by then.

"We always seem to have enough food. How does that happen?" Parker said. "We were about to run out of bread and a truckful shows up. Go figure. That's the miracle of Thanksgiving."

"We were running out of break and a truckload suddenly shows up. Go figure. That's the miracle of Thanksgiving."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Staying home for Thanksgiving? Be glad

Flying somewhere for Thanksgiving?

Have fun.

Especially when you go through airport security.

You may be one of those lucky travelers who experiences the Transportation Security Administration’s new up-close-and-personal procedures.

Sounds like the TSA has adopted the old AT&T slogan:

“Reach out and touch someone.”

Only folks have objected rather strenuously to the TSA’s new intrusive pat-down policy.

Pilots are among them.

Which would be a drag if you happen to be on that pilot’s plane.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Feisty Flamingos" finish Breast Cancer Walk

The “Feisty Flamingos” finished the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk in Tampa during Halloween. They are Darcy Arnold, Tina and Natasha Barrios, Jenny Bell, Cheryl Brady, Allison Butler, Cindy Kuhns, Lorie Starkweather and Cari Walz. Big ups from Von Ryan, Rylee Kuhns, Susan, John and Mya Johnson and Dale and Ann Dobbs.

Nolan Middle’s Lauren Strimer made the Florida Music Educator Association’s all-state mixed 7th-and-8th grade chorus. She’ll perform with them Jan. 15 at the FMEA convention.

Robert and Barbara Howard are wed 41 years. Cheers from Ron, Cherie, Shane and Nate.

Former DeSoto Queen Natalie Lopez plays Charity in the University of Tampa production, “Sweet Charity,” at UT’s David Falk Theatre at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Dagger jumper makes uncle proud

STUART --- The tears were running down my face.

The 2010 Stuart Air Show's opening ceremony Sunday was under way.

High above, two jumpers from the Black Daggers, the U.S. Army's Special Operations
Command Parachute Demonstration Team, were slowly spiraling toward the ground from 5,000 feet as a young woman sang our national anthem.

One of the jumpers held the American flag, streaming in the wind as they descended.

It was my nephew, Kevin Haddon.

What a moment.

As the air show narrator announced his name, people around us clapped politely.

Not us.

Me, my wife Sherri and our niece Lauren Pierce cheered like crazy.

Then I ran around telling everyone within earshot, "THAT'S MY NEPHEW! THAT'S MY NEPHEW!"

I was one proud uncle.

I remembered the first time I'd flown out to Oregon in the mid-1980s to see my sister, Maureen, and her husband, Rob. When I got off the plane, there was Kevin, a shy little boy hiding behind my sister, clinging to her leg.

There he was Sunday, a 28-year-old member of  the elite Black Daggers.

He's been with Army Special Forces for about seven years and made more than 1,500 jumps.

Sunday's were the first I'd seen.

Kevin had called us Saturday by surprise, saying he had VIP tickets for us if we could make it.

We practically flew Sunday morning, getting to Stuart in plenty of time.

The air show itself was a blast, what with military jet fighters roaring overhead, stunt planes doing aerobatics flying around, and cool exhibits on the ground. They not only had one vintage World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber, but two of them!

Still, Kevin and his comrades were the No. 1 attraction for us.

Later on, they jumped from 8,000 feet, free-falling for most of it before popping their chutes.

I asked Kevin what going 100 mph straight down felt like?

"Windy," he said.

Spoken like a Mannix.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pain Truth about prescription drug abuse

The Pain Truth.

Would people rather hear it from Dr. Lora Brown?

Or from Dr. Russell Vega?

When the topic is prescription drug abuse, it’s something for Lakewood Ranch High School students to consider seriously.

Other county high school and middle school students, too.

All of us, actually.

Brown is an intervention pain management specialist locally and on the governor’s task force on prescription drug abuse. She addressed LRHS students last Tuesday about the dilemma as part of a state and national education campaign.

It is a huge problem, she told them.

A huge problem in Bradenton.

A huge problem in Manatee County.

A huge problem in their school — and other schools.

It is an epidemic, Brown said.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas gift cards? Now we're talking!

Another sign the holidays are nigh?

An overabundance of e-mails about bargains.

Like the one I received Wednesday about gift cards.

The National Retail Federation says they're the most popular present and the average person purchases 3.6 gift cards during the holidays.

That got my attention.

You will never guess the five most popular gift cards in Florida, either, according to

Victoria's Secret? Not even in the top three.

Disney World? That's behind Victoria's Secret.

They are:

1) Lowe's

2) Walmart

3) Home Depot

4) Victoria' Secret

5) Disney

Since we shop quite a bit at Nos. 1-2-3 anyway, something tells me we'll be scoring some gift cards at each of those stores early and beat the Christmas rush.

Cardpool's top 5 gift cards in Florida are:

1) Lowe's

2) Walmart

3) Home Depot

4) Victoria' Secret

5) Disney

Monday, November 8, 2010

High school reunions not for everybody

My wife's Bayshore High School alumni reunion is Dec. 4.

It's fun listening to her and her sister, Chris, another Bayshore alum, go down the on-line list of RSVPs to see how many people they know.

With the classes of 1976 through 1983 included, that's a lot of people.

Sherri hasn't decided whether to go.

Ditto for her sister.

Me? I've never been to any of my reunions at DePaul H.S. in Wayne, N.J., from where I graduated in 1967.

I hadn't intended for it to be that way.

It's just that so many friends of mine over the years had gone to their reunions and found them to be depressing.

That helped change my mind.

I decided I wanted to remember my friends and classmates from back then just as we were.

Forever young.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A reminder 'Greatest Generation' leaving us

He was there by himself usually on Saturday or Sunday mornings, driving his handicap scooter along the aisles at the Publix where we shop.

I don’t know his name, but he always wears a Navy blue ballcap with “World War II Veteran” stitched across the crown in gold letters above the silhouette and name of the warship he served on long ago.

I’d make eye contact, greet him with a smile and give him the right of way in the aisle.

But I haven’t seen him lately.

With Veterans Day Thursday, I’m hoping I see him again. Soon.

If it’s not already too late.

The “Greatest Generation” is leaving us.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Florida-Georgia? World Series? Fight night!

We've all seen movies where the poker game gets busted up because one player accuses another of cheating, they pull guns and blaze away.

How about over a college football game?

Not the gunfire, understand, but the same macho stand down.

It happened last Saturday evening in Brighton.

Sherri, her parents and I had made our monthly trek to the Seminole Casino.

After losing my personal limit ($20), I wasn't feeling the mojo and went to the bar to watch college football.

About the time Florida-Georgia kicked off, I had company and we went through all the emotional ups and downs, hooting and hollering watching that wild game.

Then as the overtime got under way, it happened.

One of the casino staffer's took the remote --- and turned on the World Series game!

Several of us reacted as you might imagine: WHAAAAAAAAAAT!!!

Two poker players at the table behind us took it beyond that.

Almost, that is.

One of them wanted to keep the Florida-Georgia game on TV.

The other guy wanted the World Series game.

They sat at opposite ends of the poker table.

One jumped up, then the second, loudly challenging each other to "C'MON OVER HERE AND DO SOMETHIN' 'BOUT IT!"

It was going to be Duke City and I had a ringside seat.

But casino staff quickly intervened, telling the antagonists to calm down and reassuring everyone they'd turn the Florida-Georgia game back on.

Which they did.

Good move.

It's one thing to take our money.

When you take our football game, too?

Them's fightin' words.

Or something like that.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A little "Trick or Treat" courtesy goes long way

Trick or treating by neighbhorhood kids has always been a fun time.

I like to see what ghosts and goblins show up at the door on Halloween.

But it didn't start right Sunday night.

Sherri had prepared a bowl of candy and stationed it handily by the door.

When the door bell rang, signaling the arrival of the first trick-or-treaters, I took it.

There were four or five little girls, none in costume.

No "Trick or Treat," either.

They just stuck their bags out.

Still, I dropped a candy into each bag.

Didn't get as much as a "Thank you."

They turned to walk away, their mothers watching wordlessly from the sidewalk.

I wasn't about to let this slide.

"YOU'RE WELCOME!" I called out.

That got their attention.

"Thaaank youuu," they responded finally.

That went for their mothers, too.

I was steamed.

A little courtesy always goes a long way with me.

The  next trick or treater found out.

It was a boy in an Ironman costume, mask, suit, the whole whole nine.

I dropped a couple of candies into his bag.

"Thank you," he said and turned to leave.

"C'mon back, pal," I called after him.

I dropped a few more candies into his bag, thanked him, and bade him good night.

Every trick or treater after that was equally courteous to the last one.

Halloween ended up much better than it began.

Every child who came to our door afterward was different, thankfully.

Each said "Thank you."

Friday, October 29, 2010

School Board race one rotten campaign

Julie Aranibar vs. Jane Pfeilsticker.

Manatee County politics at its worst.

A school board mired in the muck.

If Tuesday’s ballot offered voters the option “None Of The Above,” that might be the time to take it.

This is supposed to be about the stewardship of our children’s educational system, a trust that is sacrosanct.

There are numerous pressing issues we wanted to be clearly addressed in this campaign.

Among them:

Adequate funding, debatable spending and the proposed school tax.

Classroom size.

Student performance.

Instead, it’s been about anything but as this reprehensible campaign careens off the tracks toward Election Day.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NBA ref knows about frequent flier mileage

Every season means tons of travel for Bob Delaney.

Yet by the time the Lakewood Ranch resident started his 24th NBA season Thursday night in Cleveland, officiating the Cavaliers’ 95-87 win over the Celtics, he already had a whopping head start in frequent flier mileage.

Earlier this month, Delaney did the Nets-Rockets exhibition games in Beijing and Guangzhou, China.

“I learned how to say, ‘How you doin’?’ in Mandarin,” joked the Paterson, N.J., native.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Wonderful week in North Carolina mountains

Some postcard postscripts after a wonderful week in the North Carolina mountains:

  • The view from Grandfather Mountain will take your breath away. So will crossing the bridge atop the mountain in a good breeze. Ask my wife, Sherri.

  • Every other license plate seemed to be from Florida, a good thing according to one shop owner on Beech Mountain.

  • Watched Appalachian State beat The Citadel in Boone at The Rock, App State's cool stadium and a worthy football destination for Manatee County prospects besides Gainesville, Miami, Tallahassee and Tampa.

  • Interesting to see real estate prices impacted like they have been here. You could actually fetch a nice mountain home with a heavenly view for $500,000 --- down from $899,000. 

  • Saw white-tailed deer prance across the property just about every day in the evening.

  • Spent a few hours window shopping in Blowing Rock, a charming little town to go with its legendary name.

  • There aren't enough barbecue joints. That's a joke. Pappy's in Banner Elk was finger-lickin' good.

  • If you visit Linville Falls, wear your hiking boots. It's a trek, but a worthwhile one.

    • Thursday, October 14, 2010

      A night in Starkville leaves ears ringing

      Nephew Kevin Haddon and his Special Forces comrades on the Army’s Black Dagger jump team drop into Saturday’s Miami-Duke game in Durham, N.C.

      Their last jump was Sept. 25 at Starkville, Miss., where Mississippi State beat Georgia, 24-12.

      Kevin joked, “You can’t imagine the noise 50,000 people make beating on cowbells.”

      Read more in Friday's Vin's People.

      Wednesday, October 13, 2010

      'Y'all here for the Woolly Worm Festival?'

      True story.

      Sherri and I were lost on Beech Mountain, N.C., three years ago this month.

      We had rented a friend's vacation home, ostensibly to enjoy the fall colors, but could not find the thing.

      It was 9 p.m., pitch dark, and I had  driven all day from Warner-Robins, Ga.

      I was tired, hungry and what little patience I have was gone.

      Upon arriving on the mountain, we had stopped at Fred's, the local grocery store and Sherri got directions to the place.

      No dice.

      We drove 'round and 'round and ended up back at Fred's.

      This time we both went in.

      I explained our situation to the fellow behind the counter.

      My foul mood vanished after what he said to us:

      "Y'all here for the Woolly Worm Festival?"

      The whaaat?

      We found out what he meant the next day, much to our delight, and we're going back this weekend for the 33rd annual.

      It's a delightful fall folk festival in Banner Elk, N.C., complete with music and dancing and shopping for handmade items from Appalachia.

      But the big deal are the caterpillar races.

      They scoot up piano wires strung vertically on a portable wall in a series of elimination races.

      The winner gets $1,000.

      And the following week, the competition and festival are relived on the Mountain TV Network, a homespun cable outfit in nearby Boone, N.C., home to Appalachian State University.

      It is hokey as all get-out, but it's a slice of Americana.

      Woolly Worm Festival, here we come!

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      Radio caller was right about his Rays

      The caller had absolutely no doubt.

      The Rays will win today and Sunday to bring the ALDS back home for Game 5, he told WDAE The Sports Animal Saturday morning.

      I liked the guy's moxie, his conviction in his baseball team.

      I just didn't think it was going to happen.

      I'm a sucker for home field advantage and the Rangers had it.

      They had it, all right.

      Then they lost it.

      The Rays'd always had playoff caliber pitching.

      If their bats ever woke up, they'd have a chance.

      Which is what happened Saturday, a game we enjoyed watching with friends at the Beef O' Brady's in Arcadia on the way back from a day at the casino in Brighton.

      When the Rays won again Sunday, we were thrilled.

      I remembered about that radio caller and thought, good for him.

      Will the Rays make it three straight Tuesday night?

      Can't wait to find out.

      Friday, October 8, 2010

      What a might party it would be

      Ever seen “Waking Ned Devine”?

      It’s an Irish comedy about how 52 villagers hatch a clever plan to share the wealth after one wins the national lottery — and expires from shock.

      Discovering their deceased friend in his cottage, one old villager says to the other with a sigh:

      “There would’ve been a mighty party.”

      When they learn the village’s winnings amount to 7 million pounds — about $10.7 million — they wind up throwing one anyway.

      It’s exactly what I would do.

      Especially if I had the $61.5 million Powerball ticket that hit Wednesday in Lakewood Ranch.

      I’d call John Horne, Sean Murphy or Popi’s and say, let’s celebrate!

      It would be a mighty party, indeed.

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      Still hoping for Rays-Phillies World Series

      What a weird day for baseball fans.

      This one, anyway.

      Wore my Phillies' gear, representing for my favorite ballclub, now that the Marauders' season has been over for a month.

      But my attention early was on the Rays.

      I was thinking wouldn't it be cool if we met again in the World Series like two years ago?

      Of course, you've got to get there first.

      The Rays 5-1 loss in Game 1 of the ALDS to the Rangers doesn't mean that can't happen.

      Not that the Phillies 4-0 win over the Reds behind Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the NLDS opener guarantees anything.

      It's just that winning the first game of a five-game playoff series is most desirable.

      Which is why I'm surprised the Rays didn't take advantage of playing at home and ace David Price didn't bring his A-game.

      Then again, Cliff Lee -- the Phillies' best pitcher during their 2009 run to the World Series -- showed why the Rangers traded for him in July.

      The Rays absolutely, positively have to win Thursday.

      Even the team with the best record in the AL doesn't want to go to Texas this weekend down 0-2.

      Monday, October 4, 2010

      A cat man among many dogs

      Where's your pet?"

      A friend snuck up behind me at Monday's Blessing of the Animals at St. Joseph's Catholic School and asked me that.

      Funny, I answered, I don't see any cats here.

      Way too many dogs for that.

      I've always been a cat man, but I adopted mine out before Sherri and I got married.

      That cat made out pretty good, too.

      Not only did she get taken in by a Lakewood Ranch family, but she summers with them at their other home in Minnesota!

      I daresay she's living a lifestyle way beyond Wares Creek which is where I had her for almost five years.

      The next pet we have will be a dog, probably something of the smaller variety.

      Right now, though, there's a Shih Tzu belongs to the neighbors next door named Wednesday.

      If we're both out. she comes charging over, her ears and tail flopping as she runs across our lawn for some lovin.'

      It's a great way to start the work day. Or end it.

      Until Sherri and I get our own dog, Wednesday will do.

      Unless, we kidnap her first.


      Friday, October 1, 2010

      Do hurricane experts play tables at Las Vegas?

      Took a good long look at a scorecard that holds compelling interest for us all, especially on these first breezy days of October.

      It had nothing to do with pennant races, the NFL or Manatee County high school football.

      Rather, it was’s Hurricane Season 2010 Scorecard.

      Thus far Floridians have been lucky, because what a season it’s been, indeed.

      One that’s been remarkably on target for hurricane forecasters whose predictions never fail to get our attention, fill us with dread as June 1 approaches, and always make us ask:

      How do those academic types at Colorado State on the foothills of the Rockies know so darned much about our tropics?

      They predicted between 14 to 18 named storms.

      We’ve had 14.

      They predicted eight hurricanes.

      We’ve had seven.

      They predicted four major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).

      We’ve had five.

      Wonder if these guys have played the gaming tables at Las Vegas this year?
      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Thursday, September 30, 2010

      Movie limelight keeps Coach young

      Coach Eddie Shannon is enjoying the limelight with “Through the Tunnel.”

      METV’s award-winning documentary about Lincoln Memorial High football under Shannon’s aegis makes the 88-year-old icon young again.

      Take last night’s screening at the Clearwater International Film Festival.
      Showtime was 9 p.m.
      “Past my bedtime,” said METV honcho Charles Clapsaddle.
      “Not mine,” Coach said.
      Read more in Friday's Vin's People.

      Tuesday, September 28, 2010

      Southwest coming to SRQ? Yahooooo!

      Southwest Airlines at SRQ?


      Count my wife and I among the travelers who have given Southwest Airlines our business at Tampa International Airport. One in three TIA fliers use Southwest.

      To be able to do it at SRQ would be terrific.

      Of course, that they're poised to take over AirTran's flights, if the merger goes through, means a stop in Atlanta. That's something we've tried to avoid over the years by getting non-stop service out of TIA.

      We'll just have to wait and see.

      In a day and age where flying has become such a wearying experience, I enjoy flying Southwest. So does my wife.

      Can you remember the last flight you took where the crew had you laughing practically from takeoff to touchdown?

      We can. It was on Southwest, flying to Philadelphia for our annual summer vacation at the Jersey Shore last July.

      If we're able to do that just leaving out of SRQ?

      Can't wait.

      Friday, September 24, 2010

      Our fights didn't end up on YouTube

      Guys fighting over a girl.

      Saw it growing up.

      Girls fighting over a boy?

      Heard about it, but never saw it.

      Until Thursday, that is.

      The YouTube video of two Palmetto High 16-year-olds scrapping near Emerson Point was an eye-opener.

      Not just the fight itself, but what was taking place around it.

      What were those mothers thinking?

      And what about all those youths filming the fight with camera phones like it was fun and games.

      Fights happen.

      I had my share as a kid.

      Who didn’t?

      Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee.

      Thursday, September 23, 2010

      Yet another funereal offer I can refuse

      Folks complain about the automated political messages they get on their phones.

      My wife got another one today.

      I don't get them. Never have.

      What I get a lot of -- in the mail -- are funeral arrangement offers.

      The latest was for a cremation deal from The Neptune Society.

      Are these folks trying to tell me something?

      OK, I will be 61 in October, battling stress is an ongoing deal, and I'm just getting over a bad cold that made me feel like I was dying a slow death.

      But I'm not ready to check out just yet, thanks.

      Heck, I just joined my church choir.

      When my time does come, I'm cool with being cremated.

      I've always said, pour my ashes in an open jar, put it on the shelf of an Irish pub where they play real traditional music, and keep a pint of Guinness nearby so my spirit never thirsts.

      Just not too soon, though.

      At least not before the 2010 World Series if my Philadelphia Phillies get back into it for the third straight year.

      Monday, September 20, 2010

      False starts don't derail Sunday NFL TV

      So there I was Sunday at the Holiday Inn Express near SRQ.

      My wife had just dropped me off and it was about 10 minutes before kickoff of the NFL's 1 p.m. games.

      I had my Eagles jersey and visor on, but nowhere to go.

      The hotel's Sporting News bar, a favorite of mine on football Sundays, was crowded and it seemed like every game was on, but the one I wanted to see: Eagles vs. Lions.

      I'd gotten there a tad too late.

      Sorry, bar manager Mike Smith said.

      I walked out in the parking lot and called Sherri.

      Got shut out, I told her. Would you come get me?

      Sherri was at the intersection of US 301 and Tallevast, almost home.

      OK, she said, let me turn around and I'll be there in a minute.

      There's another joint on Lockwood Ridge I figured I'd try.

      Just then I heard someone yell my name.

      They'd freed up one TV.

      Great, I said. Except I had to call my wife.

      "I'm back in the game," I said. "They got a TV for me."

      Sherri was sooooo happy to hear that.

      She had just turned around after going through the intersection at US 301 and was waiting at the same light, headed in the opposite direction to pick me up.

      Sorry about that, sweetheart.

      Sherri turned around once more, made it home and watched the Bucs win.

      I got a seat at The Sporting News and watched the Eagles win.

      Turned out to be a good Sunday after all.

      Friday, September 17, 2010

      Dancer was like a flower gone so soon

      “You’re like a flower.

      “Pretty and dances in the wind.”

      The parting thought was among the heartfelt words written around the portrait of Nancy G. Lopez-Ruiz in the back of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

      Dance was Nancy’s gift to her family and many friends.

      And, like a flower in the wind, she was gone much too soon.

      One week after the vibrant Bayshore High graduate’s tragic death, an air of disbelief permeated Friday morning’s funeral Mass as her pall-covered coffin lie before the altar.

      Just 22, Nancy was realizing her dreams after moving to South Florida a few years ago.

      She’d gotten engaged.

      She’d had a part in Kenny Chesney’s 2009 video: “Went Out Last Night.”

      She recently made the Miami Heat dance team.

      Friends and classmates, some of them young mothers now, spoke of receiving Nancy’s texts and phone calls sharing her excitement.

      Then one week later her life was snuffed out, struck by another motorist while Nancy rode her motorcycle in Fort Lauderdale.
      Read more in Saturday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Wednesday, September 15, 2010

      Does the cool breeze mean Fall is near?

      Is it Fall yet?

      It sure feels like it.

      The cool breeze the past couple of mornings, combined with the breeze in the evenings is giving me good vibes.

      My wife, Sherri, too.

      When the weatherman said the low temperature was going to be in the low- to mid-70s this weekend, she yelled, "Break out the sweaters!"

      Positive thinking.

      While we've been keeping our eye on the tropical storms and hurricanes spinning up the Atlantic the past week or so, we couldn't help but notice the break in the heat and humidity.

      If it's something to do with the backwash of the volatile tropical tempests out there, so be it.

      Just keep the storms away and keep the cool breeze coming our way.

      It sure feels like Fall is upon us, indeed.

      Monday, September 13, 2010

      Former Bayshore dancer's death our loss, too

      The headline was one that stops you in your tracks.

      "Former Bayshore dancer killed," said Sunday's Bradenton Herald.

      Nancy Lopez-Ruiz was just 22, struck by a motorist as she rode her motorcycle through Fort Lauderdale after practice with the Miami Heat dance team last Friday night.

      I did not know Nancy, but her name appeared in my column for her birthday when she was with the Bayshore High Honey Bears.

      She was a product of one of our county's high school dance programs that serve as a showcase for remarkable talent year after year.

      These young women are so full of life, grace and vitality they seem to perform at times above the earthly restraints the rest of us mere mortals.

      Nancy's family must've thrilled to her dancing, proud she had taken her gifts so far.

      Losing her like this pains her grieving family deeply.

      Their loss is our town's, too.

      Friday, September 10, 2010

      Bucs' fans got that left out feeling

      Poor Bucs’ fans.

      The rest of us NFL buffs are getting ready to watch our favorite teams play their first game today and indulge in this annual rite of fall.

      Some will be able to watch at home.

      Others will head to a nearby sports bar with NFL Sunday Ticket.

      Not Bucs’ fans.

      Not unless they want to drive to some joint in South Florida with the NFL package to see them play the Cleveland Browns.

      Or just listen on radio.

      The first blacked-out regular season game in the 13-year history of Raymond James Stadium is why.

      Of course, local Bucs’ fans could relent, drive to Tampa and buy a ticket to the game.

      Which is what the Glazer family and the NFL want.

      I wouldn’t count on it.

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Tuesday, September 7, 2010

      Hero: Thy name is Greg Williams


      The word is used so much it loses its meaning --- a man admired for his achievements, noble qualities and courage.

      Greg Williams defines that description.

      He's the Bradenton man, who rescued 6-year-old Victor Rodriguez  at their apartment complex pool on Sunday.
      Reportedly, the little boy had eaten then jumped into the pool and was in danger of drowning.

      That's when Williams, an unemployed meat-cutter, bolted from his apartment to assist another man who'd pulled the boy from the pool.

      Williams performed CPR, then dislodged food from the boy's windpipe and saved his life.

      Victor is recuperating at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and on Monday he called Williams to thank him.

      "I started crying like a school girl," the 47-year-old  said.

      There is a saying, "A man never stands so tall as when he kneels to help a child. "
      Such a  man stands even taller when saves one.
      He is truly a hero.

      Sunday, September 5, 2010

      Wha a Saturday from Brighton to Bradenton

      What a Saturday.

      Went to Brighton to the Seminole casino with my wife and in-laws, made a couple of dollars early, quit while I was ahead and watched college football.

      On the way back Saturday evening, we listened to the USF game on radio and had dinner in Arcadia.

      From that point on, I fiddled with the radio dial until we were able to get better reception on the game that was really on my mind.

      The Manatee Hurricane game in western Pennsylvania.

      It finally began coming in near Myakka City and tried to follow it the rest of the drive.

      The last score I heard was 10-9, Woodland Hills, early in the third quarter.

      Then the signal faded in and out until we got home and turned on the game again.

      By then it was Hurricanes 24-10.

      Man, that was quick.

      We knew Manatee was good, but after thumping Tampa Plant on ESPN's nationally-televised rematch of the Class 5A state championship game in the Kickoff Classic the week before, would Joe Kinnan's players be able to reload?

      The Hurricanes 39-16 answered the question.

      Yet that wasn't the only Saturday game from which the community felt the flush of a significant victory.

      The Bradenton Marauders clinched the FSL Southern Division second-half title with its 4-2 win at Charlotte.

      That means there will be a playoff game Tuesday at McKechnie Field.

      What a Saturday, indeed.

      Friday, September 3, 2010

      Live oak ban would miss forest for the trees

      When I took my regular morning walk in my old neighborhood, I’d pause at this live oak along Sixth Avenue West.

      It’s a magnificent tree with mighty limbs draped with Spanish moss that shade the house, the front yard and the street, too.

      Kids climb it. Cats, too.

      I’d pause, place a hand on its thick trunk, softly say, “Brother oak,” and continue my walk.

      It was an intuitive gesture of respect.

      I’ve always admired live oaks, icons of Old Florida.

      That’s how I feel when I drive under them heading along Manatee Avenue East every morning.

      They’re gatekeepers for our community.

      Which is why I couldn’t help noticing a small lot being cleared for construction a few blocks east of Manatee Memorial Hospital.

      One roadside live oak was being cut down, as well as another in the back of the lot.

      That’s why I’m concerned Manatee County is considering changing a land development code and ban live oaks on new single-family lots smaller than 60-feet wide.

      Are we losing sight of the forest for the trees?

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

      Wednesday, September 1, 2010

      Golf cart would work for this family

      If I had a golf cart to cruise down to the 7-Eleven to bring back ice or fetch pizza from Domino's, I'd love it.

      They're too far to walk, too close to drive the pickup.

      A golf cart would work fine.

      Which is why I'm glad Florida has OK'd local governments to permit golf carts on public sidewalks.

      And why I'm behind residents of some half dozen mobile home parks along U.S. 301 in Ellenton, who were the catalyst for the new legislation, but are still stymied by Manatee County. County government has balked at the new state law due to federal funding requirements and the cost to upgrade those sidewalks.

      The Federal Highway Safety Commission prohibits motorized traffic on sidewalks built with federal funds.

      Funds, I might point out, comprised of our tax dollars.

      Until that snag is worked out, I like what County Commissioner Larry Bustle said to reluctant commissioners, regarding riding golf carts along U.S. 301 sidewalks.

      Lets use common sense.

      Golf cart drivers will likely be cautious and follow rules of the road, letting pedestrians and golf cart drivers pass, he said.

      If they don't?

      Call a cop.

      Monday, August 30, 2010

      One eye on Labor Day, other eye on tropics

      Labor Day weekend is four days away, thank goodness.

      The first weekend of college football, a trip to the casino in Brighton, a pool party with friends.

      Definitely looking forward to it.

      But there's one other thing I'm thinking about and I'm not the only one.

      The tropical weather.

      That is, any hurricanes headed our way?

      Seems like Florida's always got a bullseye on it around this time of year.

      It's no different now.

      Danielle, Earl and Fiona looked like a freight train barreling across the South Atlantic the last several days.

      Geez, how many can we dodge?

      By Monday, Tropical Storm Danielle had already sailed up the east coast, remaining out at sea but kicking up deadly rip currents.

      Hurricane Earl, meanwhile, has become a dangerous Category 4 and could become a killer Cat 5.

      Right now the "Cone of Doom" has it skirting the east coast, with the chance of overrunning North Carolina's idyllic Outer Banks before it swings toward the northeast.

      If it veers just a little west of its projected track?

      Don't even think about it.

      Then there's Tropical Storm Fiona, expected to follow the same path as the other two, curving up out of the Caribbean and veering north-northeast.

      I've always liked that name -- Fiona is Gaelic for "fair" -- but I'll like it more when it's gone away north.

      A Labor Day weekend free of tropical tempests would be a tropical delight.

      Thursday, August 26, 2010

      F$U $eminoles: It's all about money

      No more Southeast Seminoles?


      Florida State University cannot be serious.

      FSU and the Collegiate Licensing Company said Southeast is breaking the trademark law and must stop.

      Insignias and logos and nicknames have to come off Southeast helmets, jerseys, gym floor, letterheads and anything else bearing the Seminole image.


      Fifty years of shared traditions academically, athletically and musically count for nothing.

      It’s all about the money.

      The CLC associate general counsel asserted that the Seminoles name, logo, slogans and mascot might cause consumers to “erronously believe” FSU authorized Southeast to use them.


      What nonsense.

      Wednesday, August 25, 2010

      Marauder fan says: Rain, rain go away

      The announcement came mid-afternoon via e-mail.

      The Bradenton Marauders' game at McKechnie Field had been postponed because of rain.


      No surprise, really. Not with the way the weather has been this week.

      Monday's game vs. Fort Myers? Rained out.

      Tuesday's game vs. St. Lucie? Rained out.

      Wednesday? Ditto.

      At this rate, and with the way this rain is supposed to linger, you wonder when the M's will be able to get their few remaining home games in?

      It's a tough break for a team in the FSL playoff hunt.

      They'll try again Thursday with St. Lucie.

      If that doesn't work, then there's the homestand ending series with Charlotte.

      Bobblehead Night is Friday. Fireworks, Saturday. Fan Appreciation Night, Monday.

      Being season-ticket holders, we've got a few tickets left and we're planning to bring the family and some friends for fireworks.

      Be a drag if that got rained out, too.


      Monday, August 23, 2010

      Give blood? Next time I'll bring lunch

      Gave blood Monday at lunch hour.

      Probably took 15 minutes. 20 minutes tops.

      But that was after 30 minutes answering questions. Or longer.

      It felt like an eternity.

      Same questions I answered last time I donated blood 14 months ago.

      They were the usual "lifestyle" questions that need to be asked.

      The kind that draw a string of no's. And no's. And more no's.

      As in, no, I don't do drugs.

      The questions get more personal after that, if you get my drift.

      Anyway, the real hangup came when I was asked if I'd been out of the country in the last three years.

      Yes, I said.

      Ireland last August.

      St. Thomas and St. Maarten last April.

      Out came this three-ring binder as thick as the Manhattan phone directory.


      The woman searched page after page after page.

      This must've taken 10 minutes alone.

      She went outside to get another binder.

      I figured I might be back to work by 3 p.m.

      At last, the woman indicated the Caribbean islands were no problem.

      But no matter how she searched, she couldn't find Ireland.

      Finally, she gave up and signed me out to give blood.

      Thank you, God!

      On then it didn't see

      Friday, August 20, 2010

      Port meeting should be a doozy

      Got an idea to raise a few bucks for Manatee County government coffers.

      Sell tickets to Tuesday’s Port Authority meeting.

      The anticipated fireworks should be worth the price of admission.

      In one corner, Port Chairman Larry Bustle.

      In the opposite corner, Commissioner Joe McClash.

      In another corner, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.

      Gentlemen, let’s have a fair fight.

      And keep it clean.

      Given the hissing match that’s gone on the past two weeks?


      This could be a three-ring circus.

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Thursday, August 19, 2010

      Char-O-Lot Ranch a corner of paradise

      One of my favorite drives is heading east on State Road 70, past Lakewood Ranch and out toward Myakka City.

      God's Country.

      I love the spread out ranches, the old Florida growth, the cattle and the horses.

      Beautiful horses.

      Which I always saw passing by Char-O-Lot Ranch on the south side of the roadway.

      I can't remember the names of the other ranches along SR 70 in east Manatee County at the moment, but I can't forget Char-O-Lot.

      Especially now that its owner, Doug Schembri, a renowned breeder and trainer, passed Tuesday at 61.

      I did not know him, but I admire what he and wife Sue did, the kind of man he must've been.

      Respected by his peers. Loved by his family.

      I have to believe those horses he raised, the Quarterhorses, Appaloosas and Paints, loved him, too.

      Even from a glance while driving by, Char-O-Lot Ranch emanated peace and tranquility.

      It must've been like a little bit of heaven.

      God speed, Doug Schembri. God speed.

      Tuesday, August 17, 2010

      Feeling a co-worker's hurt, tragic loss

      I went looking for Aretha James, a Herald co-worker, on Tuesday.

      I wanted to give her a hug.

      It was the day after 19-year-old Daniel Williams had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting and killing James's granddaughter, Jazmine Thompson, almost a year ago.

      James's granddaughter was 17, a cheerleader at Bayshore High School.

      The Bruins had played the Manatee Hurricanes at Hawkins Stadium that Friday night in the season opener, always a big deal in Manatee County high school football.

      Not long after that game, Jazmine was dead, shot while riding with friends in east Bradenton.

      An unfathomable tragedy.

      That it should happen to one of our teenagers at the start of senior year, a special time for any high school student, was utterly senseless.

      Then to find out it was Aretha's granddaughter, a girl she had helped daughter Raechelle raise, drove their hurt home.

      We grieved as a community and honored Jazmine as best we could, trying to understand what had happened, and let justice take its course.

      On Monday, Williams pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of manslaughter with a firearm.

      He never apologized, either.

      Jazmine Thompson paid the ultimate price, the public defender told the courtroom. Daniel Williams is going to pay a huge price.

      How sad.

      So I tried to find Aretha Tuesday.

      She's on vacation, someone said.

      That hug will have to wait.


      Monday, August 16, 2010

      Pretend Deepwater Horizon never happened?

      Support for drilling ban fading fast in Florida, said the Herald headline Monday.

      Since BP had stopped the flow of oil from its runaway well,, voters opposition had cooled, said a new poll.

      Oh, yeah?

      Well, the pollsters must not have polled folks along Anna Maria Island.

      When the runaway oil well in the northwest Gulf Of Mexico was on the verge of being sealed recently, I asked several small business types -- is there any other kind on the beach? -- if they would be OK with the idea of oil drilling platforms just over the horizon from their properties.


      So what if our Gulf coast was relatively untainted by the poisons unleashed by BP's billion-dollar bungling.

      I guess that means we just forget about it, pretend Deepwater Horizon never happened.

      I don't think so.

      It is said people have short memories, but we can't possibly shrug off what happened a few hundred miles off our shore these past months.

      We just can't.

      Drilling off our coast is not going to lessen Uncle Sam's dependence on foreign oil.

      Drilling off our coast is not going to make the price at the pump cheaper.

      Drilling off our coast will make us vulnerable to the kind of catastrophe that befell the Panhandle.

      According to the poll, voters in that region went from 52 percent for a ban then compared to 36 percent for a ban now.

      Short memories, all right.

      Friday, August 13, 2010

      Condominium owners could use a break

      The joys of home ownership.

      We say that sarcastically after something goes wrong and takes a fortune to fix.

      There’s no joy whatsoever for Mainstreet at Bradenton condominium owners and residents at 210 Third St. W.

      Make that “evacuated” condo owners and residents.

      We feel their pain.

      That city building and fire officials ordered the five-story building vacated is the latest turn in an unending case of Murphy’s Law.

      What can go wrong next?

      After people moved in during 2004, they found the new 36-unit building leaked.

      Not a little either.

      “Water was coming through the walls — like a waterfall,” one resident told the Herald.

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

      Wednesday, August 11, 2010

      Cut grass after work? Nuts to that

      I was going to cut the grass when I got home Wednesday night.

      What used to be an every-other-Saturday routine as a bachelor has moved up to twice a week.

      One of the adjustments of married life.

      So after pulling into our driveway, I took a look around the neighborhood.

      Everybody's grass was as tall as ours.

      I checked out the rain clouds, too.

      It was sprinkling lightly.

      Nuts, I said.

      I'm sure the neighbors had the same idea.

      Honey, I said to Sherri, if I cut this grass now, with all this rain it'll need cutting again Friday.

      I said, Saturday, OK?

      Sounds good, she said.

      Besides, the guy next door, his dad and another friend were fishing in the subdivision lake.

      They were getting some nice-sized bass and throwing them back, too.

      I wasn't about to mess up their mojo by cutting the grass.

      Good neighbor, huh?

      Monday, August 9, 2010

      Showtime never far from Snooty

      Yours truly has spent almost 40 years in Florida.

      Yet it wasn't until I arrived in Bradenton in 1998 that I finally got my first look a real, live manatee.

      Snooty, of course.

      That was at some function at the South Florida Museum, showtime for the Parker Manatee Aquarium's star resident.

      Monday was more of the same.

      We were at the aquarium, cooling our heels.

      With a bunch of news photographers and TV cameras around the premises, Snooty must''ve sensed something was up.

      Company's coming?

      Oooooh, yes.

      Two young female manatees for some R&R after six months or so at the Lowry Park Zoo's critical care complex.

      Snooty acted like he was going to be a one man-atee welcoming committee.

      He kept raising his snout out of the aquarium's holding tank, staring right into photog's lens.

      He even pulled himself to the top of the wall, to provide a better close up.

      "A real ham," joked one official.

      That's Snooty, all right.

      What a life.

      Friday, August 6, 2010

      Let Forssell continue as "Voice of Hurricanes"

      The anticipation would build on those fall Friday nights as I walked south on 32nd Street West from Manatee Avenue.

      The Hawkins Stadium lights glimmered through the trees and the hum of pre-game excitement grew with each step.

      Then that familiar voice would float through the neighborhood:

      “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium.”

      Jim Forssell’s bass baritone was a reassuring presence in the grand old stadium on Ninth Street West, whether it was announcing the game or the halftime show in his familiar, understated manner.

      The “Voice of the Hurricanes,” indeed.

      Is Forssell’s magnificent run done after 47 years behind the microphone?

      I hope not.

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Thursday, August 5, 2010

      Aerosmith leaves bad vibes from 2009

      So Aerosmith is at Ford Amphitheatre -- or whatever they call it these days -- on Saturday.

      Ask-Gary? Give me a break.

      Won't be there.

      Couldn't care less about Steven Tyler being back on stage in Tampa, either.

      That he, and the band, didn't make it on stage a year ago is what I haven't forgotten.

      A bunch of us had tickets to the July 2009 gig, when it was still called Ford, but it wasn't Aerosmith we wanted to see.

      It was ZZ Top, the opening act.

      We had been looking forward to the Texas rockers returning to our neck of the wood for some time.

      That it was with Aerosmith made no difference.

      I doubt we would've stuck around for them, anyway.

      We never got the chance.

      It was a Friday night concert and I had gone to Council's to wait for my ride.

      Pete the bartender said he had a message for me:

      The concert had been cancelled.

      Something about Tyler suffering an "unspecified" injury.


      The concert was supposed to be rescheduled for October, but that never came off, either.

      Tyler fell off a stage in South Dakota that August.

      Surprise, surprise, surprise.

      I hope fans get their money's worth Saturday.

      Steven Tyler and Aerosmith won't be getting mine.

      Wednesday, August 4, 2010

      M's season winds down at the Mac

      Making the midweek game for the Bradenton Marauders has been a nice season long ritual.

      A break from the work week grind with a game, a foot-long hot dog and a beer.

      Not even Wednesday evening's rain kept us away from McKechnie Field.

      That the game started  45 minutes late mattered not at all.

      Nor did the fact it was not a good night for the Marauders, the first-place team in the FSL South.

      Home team couldn't buy a break --- or string together enough hits --- against the Brevard County Manatees.

      Sherri didn't have any luck with bingo night cards, either.

      We stayed for the seventh-inning stretch, as usual, sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and headed home.

      On the way out, we noticed there were only 16 home games left on the wall-sized schedule --- unless the Marauders make the playoffs.

      Where has the season gone?

      We'll back at the ol' ballyard a bunch more before it's over.

      Monday, August 2, 2010

      Painting for newlyweds a no-no?

      Did you hear the one about how couples in their first year of marriage shouldn't paint together?

      Heh heh heh.

      Now they tell me.

      Suffice to say Sherri and I got through it last Saturday -- and Sunday -- and I believe we'll still make it to our first anniversary next April.

      "Let's wait and see, buster," she kidded.

      I think.

      Our plan to repaint the front bedroom --- it'll be my study --- got off to a great start when we argued about the drop cloth.

      Sherri wanted plastic.

      I always use old sheets.

      We did both.

      It got better.

      I had picked out a nice Salem blue earlier in the week for the room, because it looked so cozy on the brochure.

      When we got done painting one wall, I got a baaad feeling.

      The color was not going to work.

      Sherri sensed my unease.

      "If you don't like the color, please say so now," she said.

      Ten minutes later I was back at Lowe's for a gallon of ... hmmm.

      I liked the merlot, brick dust and tropical nut.

      "The last one? That's you," Sherri said when I called her.

      So I got three pint samples, we tried them on a wall and decided on brick dust.

      I think I made that trip three times before we got the job done --- Sunday afternoon.

      We were running low on paint on Day 2, so Sherri said go get another quart.

      I did. But it didn't look like it would be enough.

      So I turned around and got another one.

      Which we didn't need afterall.

      Yours truly managed to turn what should have been a half-day's job into a two-day event.

      Got a nice, wine-red room to show for it, though.

      Anybody need a slightly used gallon of Salem blue paint and unopened quart of brick dust?


      Friday, July 30, 2010

      Oil spill ripple effects surprising

      As the menace of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy began to grow over the horizon, few here knew what to expect in early May.

      Especially small business owners on Anna Maria Island gearing up for a summer tourist season.

      Not Danny Canniff.

      Not Eric Cairns.

      Not Lauren Sato.

      They weren’t about to push the panic button, but John Droukas voiced their collective fear of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

      “If it comes this way, it will destroy my business,” said the owner of the Havana Cabana resturant in Holmes Beach.

      It didn’t happen.

      Three months later, nary a drop touched our shores.

      Yet the ripple effect had its impact.

      Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee.

      Wednesday, July 28, 2010

      Football's grip still strong on Williams

      Todd Williams gazed around PAL's cafeteria Tuesday.

      Row after row of fit high school football players sat at tables waiting for the former Southeast Seminole tackle to speak. Tell them the remarkable story how a 14-year-old kid like him made it from the streets to Florida State's 1999 national champs and then the NFL.

      It being late July, Williams should probably have been in some NFL training camp.

      He spent three years with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in 2003. Then he went to camp with Tampa Bay and Green Bay. After that came the Arena League, then the UFL last year.

      Williams has been out of the NFL for awhile, but at 6-foot-5, 330-pounds he looked like he could strap on the pads then and there.

      "I don't think it's over, but even if it is I've had a great run," he said.

      Looking at the 200-plus kids, virtually all sporting designer workout apparel, Williams chuckled.

      "These kids have all kinds of structured camps, more TV exposure, more mentoring programs ... a plethora of different things we didn't have. How ambitious are they?" he said.

      Williams was hungry when he was their age.

      His was a hunger that drove him on and off the field.

      "I wanted it so bad, I was desperate. A lot of these kids aren't desperate enough to me," he said. "I could manhandle you on the field and not have to worry about going to jail for it. I'd been locked up so many times for undisciplined behavior. Football was my outlet."

      Williams wondered whether it was the same for his audience.

      "To some of these kids, it's just a game," he said. "It was life to me."

      Monday, July 26, 2010

      VIP treatment for Shania Twain tune

      Shania Twain's "You're Still the One" began playing on the radio.

      Allison Norwood, riding shotgun in the mini-bus, sang the words softly.

      Over in the driver's seat, Temeka Leverett turned up the volume.

      "Go ahead, sing it loud," she told Allison. "Go on."

      And the young lady did.

      You're still the one I run to

      The one that I belong to

      You're still the one I want for life

      Like a number of students at Easter Seals Southwest Florida VIP program, Allison Norwood is retarded.

      Regardless, she was in a happy place Monday as Leverett drove the mini-bus toward Meals On Wheels Plus.

      "I don't know all the songs she likes," Leverett said. "But when I hear her, I turn it up."

      The VIP team, led by executive director Don Herndon, would pick up food for 11 stops Monday.

      Until then, Allison kept singing softly along with Shania Twain.

      You're still the one that I love

      The only one I dream of

      You're still the one I kiss good night

      Friday, July 23, 2010

      Deja vu for Palmetto's new police chief

      Morale was low at the city police department.

      Leadership was needed.

      A new chief was hired from the outside to rectify the situation.

      Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells?


      He was sworn in just last Monday, so give him time.

      We’re actually referring to someone else.

      His father.

      Before Charlie Wells embarked on his 22-year run as Manatee County sheriff, he was police chief for the City of Bradenton.

      It was January 1980 when Wells, a Florida Highway Patrol veteran, took over and during his 33-month tenure, Wells established order and stability in the department.

      Will his son have the same impact in Palmetto?

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

      Thursday, July 22, 2010

      What will Bonnie bring our way?

      Tropical Storm Bonnie.

      OK. What's it going to do?

      Or is it --- what's Bonnie going to bring our way?

      So far it looks like we're out of harm's way, judging by the ol' "Cone of Death."

      But we may be in for a whole lot of rain.

      Better rain than a hurricane I always say.

      Except this weekend, we've got plans. Or had.

      Like checking out the Bradenton Marauders at McKechnie Field.

      And driving over to Brighton with the in-laws to play some slots at the Seminole casino.

      Could be we'll be doing a lot more housecleaning, instead.

      Oh, well.

      Tuesday, July 20, 2010

      Welcome back, welcome words

      Welcome back.

      It's always nice to hear those words upon returning to work after a two-week vacation.

      Mondays can be a doozy as it is, but that first day back can be a real bear.

      Sometimes you feel like you've got to be re-trained.

      Not this time, though.

      Two weeks at the Jersey Shore was just right.

      My two brothers, Jimmy and Joey, have rented the same beachside house in Surf City, N.J., in mid-July for 17 years.

      But this year, another family who had the house the two weeks prior bailed out.

      So my sister Jeanne and husband Mark Evans jumped on the opening.

      Which meant Team Mannix had the house for a whole month!

      There goes that neighborhood, right?

      It was a relaxing time with my wife, Sherri.

      Sleep late. Beach in the afternoon. Cocktails at 5 p.m. Movies after dinner.

      Also read a wonderful biography of President Harry Truman, a 1,000-page book that went like that.

      We went to Atlantic City, too, won $12.80 on the slots, and sang "We're In The Money," all the way back to Surf City.

      It was a good time "downashore", indeed.

      Especially trying to ride an inner tube in the surf and getting tossed head over heels time after time.

      "Your husband is 60 going on 13," my brother-in-law cracked to Sherri.

      What vacations are for in my book.

      Yet when it was over it was good to return to work, too.

      Welcome back.

      Monday, June 28, 2010

      Fun 'n' games with U.S. Census

      Got a funny phone call the other day.

      I had left work and was driving home when my cell rang.

      "Hey, hon'," I answered, thinking it was my wife without looking at the called ID.

      It was the U.S. Census folks.

      I'm sure the guy on the other end of the phone --- he had a Deep South accent -- didn't expect to be called, "Hon'."

      Anyway, it seems the census people were confused.

      Sherri and I had each filled out our own census forms as single people living in our own homes in the spring before we were married. Then we began living together as a married couple usually does after we tied the knot, right?

      I had a hard time getting that through the fellow on the phone.

      Like when he asked me "What was I thinking about" when I checked off the line that said I did not spend all of my time at my last home in Bradenton?

      Pardon me, pal, but I enjoyed spending weekends at the home (and pool) of my future wife.


      He also asked me rapid fire if my house was a foster home, an assisted living facility, a crackhouse, a secret ICBM launch site ...

      OK. I made up the last couple, but some of the stuff was plain stupid.

      My favorite question, though, was this:

      "Is this (my old address)?" he asked.

      No, I said. This is my truck.

      Friday, June 25, 2010

      Cortez grocery touchstone of village

      The “Mayor of Cortez,” Lou Nassar, was choked up.

      So was his wife, Nancy.

      Until retiring recently, they made Lou’s Cortez Market a neighborhood grocery in the truest sense for 32 years.

      Patrons got more than cold cuts and cereal, detergent and diapers.

      “You got friendship, sympathy,” said Joe Kane, a Cortez resident.

      Good grades earned children a treat. Bad ones, a lecture.

      New mothers brought their babies by.

      Hard up families picked out what they needed and paid later.

      “Lou cared about everybody,” Kane said. “We appreciated him for that.”
      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Wednesday, June 23, 2010


      "Yes! YES! YESSSSS!"

      I went a little crazyWednesday morning when Landon Donovan slammed home the dramatic game-winning goal in those frantic final minutes of Uncle Sam's Group C final over Algeria.

      "Yes! YES! YESSSSS!"

      OK, maybe a little too crazy.

      I was at work.

      The boss even came out of her office and sternly reminded me, "This is a newsroom."

      I felt like I was at home. Or in  a sports bar.

      Instead, I was at the Herald newsroom, watching the maddening World Cup match with a handful of colleagues, a few of whom were in an office World Cup pool.

      A World Cup pool? Yes.

      I enjoy soccer, but not that much.

      An emotional investment? I'm good with that.

      Especially Wednesday.

      After so many missed scoring chances -- and another blown call by an official -- it was driving any American soccer fan nuts.

      I had a feeling it was going to go down right to the excruciating end.

      When it did in the 91st minute, what a euphoric feeling.

      "Yes! YES! YESSSSS!"

      Sorry, boss.

      Monday, June 21, 2010

      New Rays' ballpark? Good luck

      So Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg wants a new stadium, preferably in Tampa.

      I hope he succeeds.

      The Rays are a regional asset, indeed, and they're spinning their wheels at the Trop.

      Just don't hold your breath, Stu.

      Unless Florida's economy gets markedly better and soon, and the current public mindset about financing a professional sports stadium changes, I have serious doubts about a new Rays' ballpark coming to fruition.

      On the other hand, if Tampa's business, civic and political leaders are intent on making it happen, I imagine there are some creative ways to put together a financial package and pull it off.

      If the Florida Marlins can do it, why not the Rays?

      Of course, Miami's a different world.

      I used to think the Trop was OK, given its location for us folks south of the Skyway.

      Not anymore.

      The Bradenton Marauders are why.

      Since the Florida State League came to Bradenton this year, I prefer spending my time and my money at McKechnie Field enjoying professional baseball in my backyard.

      I do hope the Rays' owner gets what he wants, especially for all of the loyal fans I see around town sporting Rays' gear.

      Me? I've got my hometown team and I know they and the Mack are here for a good long time.

      Saturday, June 19, 2010

      A sharecropper's Father's Day legacy

      Dorothy Simmons had Georgia on her mind.

      Ocilla, Ga., that is.

      She moved here in 1954 from the small farming community, but neither the feel of the soil on her fingers nor the life lessons she learned as a girl working on a farm ever left her.

      They were her father’s gifts.

      Claude Miller was a south Georgia sharecropper and worked until 1994 when he passed at 79.

      “My daddy loved farming. He loooved it,” said Dorothy, now a 74-year-old great-grandmother in Palmetto.

      She was 18 when she and first husband Alfonso Anderson arrived in Bradenton and settled in the Rogers Garden Apartments. Though times have changed, she felt an immediate kinship with rural Manatee County.

      “When I came here there was more farming and families going out on those farms,” Dorothy said. “The daddies, the mamas, the children, all of them teaching them about work ethic.

      “I know that’s how we were on the farm. Daddy telling us about life. I know farming isn’t easy, but it had good in it. It taught you something.”

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

      Wednesday, June 16, 2010

      Take me out to the, uh, ballgame?

      Ever done something like this before?

      When I read in last Sunday's Herald sport section the Bradenton Marauders were "returning" from the FSL All-Star break and resuming play Monday, I immediately thought, cool!

      After a long road swing, they're back at McKechnie Field.

      So Monday morning I grabbed two tickets, packed my Marauders' ballcap, T-shirt  and a pair of shorts to change to go to the ballpark after work.

      Told my wife I'd grab a hot dog at the park, so don't worry about fixing me dinner.

      Even said to the boss as I went by her office that evening, "I'm off to the ballyard."

      But as I drove down Ninth Street West, I noticed no lights were on at the Mack.

      And as I pulled into the parking lot behind the Boys & Girls Club, I saw there were no cars, nor the friendly parking attendant.

      Uh, oh.

      So I pulled out the tickets:

      Bradenton Marauders vs. Jupiter Hammerheads --- Thursday, June 17.


      I drove home and ate cold leftover chicken wings.

      Monday, June 14, 2010

      Jimmy Dean painted heroic portrait

      Big Joh ... Big Johhhn ... Big Bad John."

      Jimmy Dean's passing Sunday at 81 brought that lyric back to mind and some good memories.

      Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and buying 45 RPMs at the record store for less than a buck is one of them.

      "Big John ... Big Johhhn ... Big Bad John."

      If "Big Bad John," Dean's 1961 hit wasn't the first 45 RPM record I bought as a kid, it was among the first.

      "PT 109," his 1962 hit about JFK's World War II heroism, was part of that collection.

      Think I played "Big John" so much the needle cut a  groove in it.

      I loved that song.

      The lyrics painted a big portrait for a kid like me.

      A heroic portrait.

      "He stood 6 foot 6 and weighed 245

      "Kinda broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip

      "And everybody knew ya didn't give no lip to Big John."

      It's funny to read how Dean became better known for his sausages than his music.

      Not to me.

      Saturday, June 12, 2010

      Lady Luck smiles on Uncle Sam

      England 1, Uncle Sam 1.

      A great result.

      The friends I watched Saturday's World Cup match with may not have understood the magnitude of the final score, but that's cool.

      My pal Brian Schultz dozed throughout much of the game.

      He's a football-baseball guy like me, but I enjoy soccer, as well.

      Especially a tense match like this played on a level like the World Cup.

      Did Tim Howard play a monster game in goal for the USA or what?

      The way the USA settled down and kept its composure after giving up the early English goal spoke volumes about the side's makeup.

      Speaking of volume, we turned our TV down rather than listen to those annoying South African vuvuzela horns that sound like a million bees are swarming the pitch.

      Anyway, a gift goal allowed by the English keeper was a lucky, lucky break, the kind a side needs if it's going to advance in the World Cup.

      Luck was with Uncle Sam Saturday.

      A great result, indeed.

      Friday, June 11, 2010

      When hurricane comes, where to go?

      The e-mail was stern.

      We have not received your Employee Locator Form, it said.

      Uh, oh.

      It’s a questionnaire we receive early every hurricane season.

      The bosses want to know what your plans are in case a Category 1 to 4 storm has us in its crosshairs.

      There are checkboxes to indicate whether we would:

       Leave town. 

       Stay at home until the storm passed.

       Be on team duty prior to and during the storm.

      The form didn’t mention a Category 5 hurricane.

      I think they already know the answer.

      Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

      Wednesday, June 9, 2010

      No more teachers, no more books

      The last day of school.

      There isn't a sweeter date on the calendar when you're in elementary school.

      It was true when I was that age many, many moons ago, and it is still true today.

      Seeing the gleeful faces of our Manatee County fourth- and fifth-graders tells you so.

      Not that middle school students don't revel in it.

      Or high schoolers, for that matter.

      It's just that they'll all get bored soon.

      Like Monday.

      Grade schoolers won't. Or shouldn't.

      The way I remember  it, summer seemed like it was going to  last forever and you had nothing to do but enjoy it.

      Swimming. Playing baseball. Going to "the country."

      OK, so there were some chores to do.

      But it wasn't like you had to get a job. That's high school.

      Oh, to be a 10-year-old boy again on the last day of school.

      What a feeling.

      No more teachers, no more books.

      They  have to be among the most welcome words in the English language.

      Or any language.

      Monday, June 7, 2010

      Here kitty,kitty? Not this 'cat.

      I love animals.

      Dogs. Cats. All kinds of critters.

      Pet them. Play with them.

      I can't resist.

      But I did Monday.

      There was something about the bobcat getting rehab at Wildlife, Inc., that told me to keep my hands to myself.

      Keep my distance, too.

      The bobcat was in a secure kennel, of course, but I wasn't taking chances.

      He had a growl about him that served as a fair warning.

      The look in his eyes said, do not mess with me.

      So I didn't.

      "He's wild and we want to keep him wild," said Gail Straight, who has run Wildlife, Inc., on Bradenton Beach for 23 years with husband Ed.

      I didn't argue.

      Friday, June 4, 2010

      A ringside seat for D-Day invasion

      The memories appear and vanish for Elvin Mahan.

      They are the ghosts of D-Day.

      Sixty-six years is long, long ago.

      “It just fades away,” said the 90-year-old Navy veteran.

      Yet there are moments the visions return. Compelling images for an Indiana kid who had a ringside seat aboard the battleship Texas for the historic invasion.

      Everywhere Mahan turned those first few days of June 1944, he saw an armada of 5,000 ships with 155,000 allied troops steaming toward France for a place called Normandy.

      “It looked like a big city, all the ships out there,” he recalled. “It was just tremendous.

      “You knew something big was going to happen. You just didn’t have any idea what. I was too young to realize the danger. I didn’t have enough brains to be scared.”

      Read more about Elvin Mahan in Sunday's Bradenton Herald.