Sunday, January 31, 2010

Singer channels Elvis at McKechnie Field

Martin Lutero says he is a gospel singer.

He even brought a CD of his music to Saturday's national anthem tryouts at McKechnie Field.

Whether the Brazilian native makes the cut, the 51-year-old definitely left an impression on the audience and judges.

His interpretative version of "Our Star-Spangled Banner" evoked comparisons -- distant comparisons -- to the King of Rock and Roll.

"Is this guy doing Elvis?" asked Bradenton Police Lt. Darrell Akemon, who was on hand to watch daughter Mary audition, but was amused by Lutero's delivery.

Dan Wolfert, the new GM for the Bradenton Marauders FSL ballclub, made the same connection while judging the event.

"Elvis?" he wrote on his notes.

"If he had started shaking his hips ... " Wolfert said later, grinning.

Lutero's gestures were limited to his hands and arms, but even without the hip wiggle or leg shake, he was definitely channeling Elvis.

Or trying.

"I was raised by Americans in my country and the first singer I fell in love with was Elvis Presley," he said. "I followed his style, I have this baritone voice. I've done this many times."

Can't wait to see if it will play at McKechnie Field.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Scenic route beats bullet train

I’m big on taking the scenic route, especially when the destination is Orlando.

Maybe Route 64 east to U.S. 27 and turn north.Or Route 62 east to U.S. 37 then north.

Or east to U.S. 17, then north and over to U.S. 27.

It’s involved, but I avoid Interstate 4 as much as I can.

Even if my future bride is riding shotgun.

“I’d like to get there sometime today,” is Sherri Manring’s refrain.

Sounds like a candidate for the proposed bullet train.

Too bad we may not live long enough to see it in Manatee County.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Something for survivor to laugh about

Jeanne Valescot's recent journey to Haiti did not have many light moments.

She'd gone there to bury a grandfather, only to get caught in the horrific earthquake Jan. 12 that killed more than 100,000 of her former countrymen.

The Bradenton woman spent two day helping family and friends make it through the overwhelming ordeal.

She had nothing to eat.

Bottled water and salted crackers were it.

Valescot said she was too busy to have an appetite.

When her hunger finally hit her she was at the airport awaiting passage aboard a military transport back to Florida Jan. 15. American military personnel were handing out infamous MREs -- meals ready to eat.

"I had a piece of chicken or ... I don't know what it was," Valescot said.

She laughed long and loud at the recollection.

It had to feel good.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Orleans ex-patriate feels Saints

Know any New Orleans Saints fans?


Meet Fred Sullivan.

The wonderful publican at Sully's Bar at Sean Murphy's Beach Bistro on Holmes Beach has been a Saints fan for as long as he can remember. He had a home and a restaurant in the Big Easy before Hurricane Katrina changed his life forever in 2005 and he moved to Holmes Beach.

"Thirty years of suffering," as Sullivan jokingly puts it his Saints allegiance.

That includes stretches of last Sunday's overtime NFC Championship victory over Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.

When No. 4 got the football back with about 2:37 to left in regulation, Sullivan couldn't watch.

It was like deja vu, as Favre drove the Vikings toward what looked like a classic set up for the game-winning field goal and a ticket to the Super Bowl that went with it.

"I'm thinking, here we go again," Sullivan said. "No matter how good a season the Saints had this year, it all seemed about to go down the drain."

Aah, but then Favre through that interception, the Saints won the coin flip in overtime and punched their ticket to Miami.

Sullivan was getting calls Sunday night and all day Monday from friends in New Orleans.

"I can just imagine the celebrating that went on," Sullivan said. "It's amazing to think how a silly game like football can give a city such a good feeling."

After what New Orleans went through, its people deserve it.

Fred Sullivan, too.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Last Saturday at Manatee County Fair

Saturday afternoon at the Manatee County Fair was a culinary delight.

Make that adventure.

Had a corn dog from Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis. Again.

Scarfed down a slice of pizza.

Ate half a bag of kettle corn.

Had some strawberry shortcake from Church on the Rock.

All of it washed down with Pepsi.

Didn't ride any rides this year, but enjoyed watching others get their kicks.

Especially on the Freak Out, a ride that swings four sets of thrill-seekers back and forth from a 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock position, rotating the seated-and-strapped-in riders as they go.

Watched the Robinson pig races, too, a better, longer entertaining amusement than the dog-riding monkeys last year.

But the biggest kick I got was watching kids climb the Spider Web.

It was a column of nine ringed platforms spaced 3-feet apart, crisscrossed with strips of trampoline-like material.

The object was to climb through each platform, then dive into the entrance of an inflated chute and slide back to the ground.

Watching kids try to conquer this thing was hysterical.

Most would manage to get through a couple of platforms, then fall through one. Or both.

It took a while to do it.

In fact, there was one boy who just could not climb past the third rung, unlike his brother who navigated his way to the top and then down the chute in no time.

We finally left, half-expecting to see that youngster still gamely working his way up the Spider Web our next trip around.

May try to climb that sucker myself next year.

Think they give senior discounts?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mother's voice affirmation from Haiti

Isemarine Civil’s voice was weak and sounded like she’d been crying for days.

"You could hear the sadness," Cristine Civil said.

Yet it was still a sublime moment for the 2005 Bradenton Christian School grad.

Her mother was alive in Haiti.

So was her brother, Wilkinson, and grandmother, Jasmine.

"I cried from happiness," said the 24-year-old. "A big burden was lifted from my shoulders."

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Famous Kiwanis Corn Dogs" this way

The 15th annual Manatee County Fair Cheerleading Competition was over, but I wasn't ready to leave the fairgrounds just yet.

I was hungry.

There was the usual array of vendors offering every kind of delectable delight.

Sausage hogies. Pizza. Steak bits. You name it.

I wanted a corn dog.

Not any corn dog, mind you.

A Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis corn dog.

But I couldn't find that little white concrete stand they'd had for more than 40 years.

Turns out it was torn down along with the other renovations brought about this year.

So back and forth I went, searching the midway, tempted by the aroma of other fair foods.

I pressed on.

Finally, on my second or third loop through the north side of the fairgrounds, I saw a sign with an arrow pointing toward the right:

"Famous Kiwanis Corn Dogs"


The good folks are mobile now, a vendor-on-wheels like everybody else at the fair.

Judge Durand Adams was doing the honors, dipping hot dogs into the club's secret batter.

Club president Steve Covey was telling folks to be sure to tell others about their new setup, not far from their old location opposite the Chaires Building for arts and crafts, and next to the Firkins Automotive Variety Stage.

Anyway, I was so hungry I wolfed down one corn dog, slathered with mustard.

"Good, isn't it?" the judge called out.

So good, I ordered another.

One for the road.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mandatory school uniforms? Good luck

School uniforms for all Manatee School District students?

This I’ve got to see.

Especially as someone who wore uniforms during 12 years of Catholic school education.

I didn’t always wear Hawiian shirts.

Manatee school officials are impressed by Osceola County’s success with a mandatory K-12 dress code now in its second year.

The dramatic decline it brought about in disruptive behavior in Osceola schools, particularly gang-related, has some leaders believing, why not here?

Uniforms are required in at least half of our elementary schools and at one middle school, but no other secondary schools.

Each non-uniform school’s Student Advisory Council can recommend changing the status quo, but it requires 65 percent parental approval.

I doubt that would happen.

For more see Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One season ends, another beckons

The friend's phone call was nice, sincere, concerned.

No, I said. I'm not under suicide watch.

No, I didn't trash the house.

Yes, I'm hanging in there.

Despite the Philadelphia Eagles getting smoked by the Dallas Cowboys for the second straight weekend, bringing my favorite NFL team's season to a crashing end.

Shocked? Not at all.

I saw it coming, so the letdown wasn't as bad as the disappointment I felt after previous seasons.

It's only a game.

That's what I usually told my fiancee after yet another loss by her favorite NFL team, the Tampa Bay Bucs.

So my Eagle jerseys have been put away. T-shirts and hats, too.

I've moved on, thank you.

An e-mail arrived a couple of days later that helped me along nicely.

Phillies spring training tickets.

Baseball season.

I'm ready.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Enough, already, with this cold weather

I've had it.

You have, too.

Enough with the cold weather.

A cold snap here. Or there. OK.

But for two weeks and more?

Stop it, already.

Good news, though.

Tuesday's supposed to be 58.

Wednesday, 59.

Thursday, 67.

Friday, 74.


Just in time for the Manatee County Fair.

Which is funny.

The joke at this time of year is you can tell the fair is here, because the weather gets cold and rainy.

Not this year.

We hope!

Friday, January 8, 2010

DeSoto parade barricades risky issue

Beads! Beads! Beads!

The familiar cry heard along the DeSoto Heritage Parade route every April.

Beads are tossed by people on the float toward the crowd, some fall short, and kids scramble into the street to scoop up the artificial booty.

It’s a scene that repeats itself throughout the evening’s pageantry.

That’s despite the efforts of law enforcement, on bikes and on foot, to keep the crowd back. Ditto for walkers flanking their organization’s float rolling down Manatee Avenue.

I’ve seen it happen as a parade participant and parade onlooker for 12 years.

I’m amazed no one’s been seriously injured or worse.


Read more Sunday in Mannix On Manatee.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eyre's departure saddens Phillie fan

That Andre Dawson made Baseball's Hall of Fame is good, but it overshadows a baseball development of impact here.

Scott Eyre’s days as a Philadelphia Phillie are apparently over.

He was a free agent and the ballclub only offered him a minor league contract.

This Phillies’ fan is sad to hear it.

So are many, many others are, too, I'm sure.

The Lakewood Ranch lefty reliever helped the Phils get to the World Series in back-to-back seasons.

Eyre joined the ballclub in August 2008, fitting right in with the Phils' dynamic bullpen that nailed down the 2008 World Series Championship.

Then he pitched in pain last year, putting off surgery for a bone chip in his elbow, to go 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings to help get the Phils to the 2009 World Series.

The Yankees won it, but that's what I remember most now, especially when it comes to Scott Eyre.

The guts he showed is what Phillies fans appreciated about him.

He was a true gamer.

Thank you, Scott Eyre.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Prison sentence hits like sledgehammer

Life in prison.

We knew that was coming for Tim Brooks when he was found guilty of first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm at his trial last month.

Yet when Manatee Circuit Court Judge Debra Riva delivered the sentence Monday, it must've hit the ex-Lakewood Ranch High School quarterback like a sledgehammer.

Life in prison.

Brooks is 19.

What must've gone through his mind when Riva uttered those words with such terrible finality.

That sentence should ring aloud to other Manatee County youths who think wielding a weapon on the streets is no big deal.

It's a way of life, see.

Yeah, a way of life that gets you life -- in prison.

Look at Brooks.

So what if he was a talented quarterback at the Ranch.

It means nothing.

His athletic prowess is absolutely negated by his felonious behavior off the playing field.

Especially on the night of July 13, 2008.

That's when Brooks shot William White Jr. during a bungled robbery in east Bradenton.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, White was a passenger in the car of Jakob Cunnien when they drove to the 1600 block of 27th Avenue Drive East to buy marijuana.

On the way out, Cunnien stopped the vehicle after seeing someone he knew.

That's when Rogers and an accomplice, Cody Rogers, flanked the car, weapons drawn.

After Brooks snatched a chain off White's neck, Cunnien tried to drive away. According to testimony, Brooks fired at White and killed him.

Rogers is also charged with murder and robbery and faces trial in February.

He, too, is 19.

Tragically, so was White.

If convicted, Rogers will receive the same judgment as was passed on Brooks Monday.

Life in prison.