Saturday, February 27, 2010

'Deco-Gate' neighborhood brouhaha

Neighbors are terrified.

Gangs? Drug dealers? Vandals?


A homeowners association.

In this case, the Summerfield/Riverwalk Homeowners Association in Lakewood Ranch.

Welcome to “Deco-Gate.”

Neighbors have rallied to Joani Ellis’ side in her ongoing dispute with the association, but prefer anonymity lest they draw the scrutiny of the association and its gumshoes.

Ellis’ crime?

Having more decorative items than are permitted in her front yard — a well kept front yard that would grace any neighborhood.

Except Summerfield/Riverwalk, apparently.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Football chill can't cool out Pirates' rally

How appropriate was it the Pittsburgh Pirates' Old Main Street pep rally had the Manatee High School cheerleaders?

Thursday night's 50ish temperatures was more akin to Hurricane playoff football weather in Bradenton, not baseball.

But the chilly weather did not cool off the ardor at the ballclub's coming out party.

The turnout resembled a Get Down Downtown crowd, with vendors doing a brisk business, not to mention Fisherman Joe's, the O'Brick, Cork's Cigar Bar to name a few Old Main Street establishments.

Instead of Billy Rice or Big Daddy rocking the gathering, however, we heard John Fogerty's wonderful "Centerfield," and a CD of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," among other baseball classics.

Then came the unveiling of the uniforms to be worn by the new Bradenton Marauders, the Florida State League team that will play at McKechnie Field this season.

The unies were spiffy -- the ballcaps, too -- all bearing attractively designed insignias and letter that will represent Bradenton nicely.

They were amusingly modeled by some of the Marauders players to appreciative applause.

They wear them for real April 8, their FSL home opener at McKechnie.

The crowd's anticipation for the season's start was palpable, even in Thursday's cold.

The autograph table with Pirates players like hometown talent Lastings Milledge had a long line that kept getting longer.

Play ball!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vote for America's Best ... Restroom?

Got a nomination for America's Best Restroom?

Say what?

I am not making it up.

The Cintas Corp., which specializes in work uniforms, safety mats, bathroom supplies, etc., seeks nominations for its ninth annual America's Best Restroom Awards.

Ninth annual?

These folks are serious.

The ABR Award honors, "businesses that combine good hygiene with functionality and exceptional style in their public restrooms," the release said.

Good hygiene? Check.

Functionality? Guess it means the flush mechanism works.

Exceptional style? Huh?

"Winners of this contest go well beyond just being clean; they are truly memorable," the release said. "Past champions have boasted breathtaking skyline views, unique decor and sparkling fixtures."

That leaves out most of the johns I use around town. Especially the one at Council's.

Then again, when I've got to go, I'm not looking for scenery, exotic wallpaper or shiny plumbing, thank you.

But if you're interested in knowing where past ABR Award recipients are located in case you're in that neighborhood when nature calls, the previous winners were:

  • The University of Notre Dame.

  • The Grand Casino, Biloxi, Miss.

  • The Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, Wis.

  • The Fort Smith, Ark., Airport.

  • Wendell's Restaurant, Westerville, Ohio.

  • Jungle Jim's International Market, Fairfield, Ohio.

  • Hermitage Hotel, Nashville, Tenn.

  • Shoji Tabuchi Theatre, Branson, Mo.

Haven't been any of those places, except Notre Dame for a football game many moons ago.

You've seen one college stadium men's room, you've seen them all.

And that was before Notre Dame football went down the toilet.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Anyway, up to 10 finalists will be chosen in July and the winner will receive the "coveted" ABR plaque of recognition from Cintas in September.

Not only that, the top five vote-getters will secure a place in the ABR Hall of Fame!

What are you waiting for?

Submissions can be made at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Visiting old Cortez icon made festival

My favorite stop Sunday at the 28th annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival wasn't the food vendors, though the smoked mullet was delicious as always.

Nor was it the funky art dealers, because, well, we still haven't hung up the cool poolside stuff we bought last year. Or was it the year before?

No, my favorite stop was going to see Alcee Taylor, a longtime Cortez icon, an old salt who is the proud keeper of the village's commercial fishing history. The first-floor of their dockside house is a veritable museum, packed with nautical gear and maps and implements of all kinds.

Alcee is 86 now and, Lord willing, turns 87 in May.

He and wife Plum will be married 58 years in April.

"Unless she runs me off before then," Alcee joked.

Their home was alive Sunday with the sounds of their children, grand children and great grandchildren gathered around the long dinner table in the Taylor's cozily cramped dining room.

Through the big picture window overlooking the village boat docks and Sarasota Bay with Longboat Pass in the distance, one could see festival-goers enjoying themselves.

Alcee doesn't get out much anymore, but it didn't matter Sunday.

Family was there to see him. Friends, too.

There was a lot of love around the 86-year-old Cortezian.

Yes, visiting with Alcee Taylor was my favorite part of the festival, all right.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Visible weapon effective deterrent

Had lunch recently with a good friend, a plainclothes detective with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

We sat side by side at the counter, shooting the breeze and enjoying our cheeseburgers, so it wasn't until it was time to go I noticed it.

The holstered weapon on his right hip.

It wasn't a surprise. I've known the man for years.

Seeing the weapon was reassuring.

A deterrent to others, too.

What brings it to mind is the recent switch in private security agencies by some subdivisions in Lakewood Ranch.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ballclub equipment manager nice gig

Visiting Pat Hagerty Tuesday at Pirate City, I marveled at the good vibe around the clubhouse he oversees as the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league equipment manager.

Players come and go over the years.

Managers and coaches, too. Especially managers.

Yet the 49-year-old Bradenton resident remains, holding down a fascinating gig on familiar turf for the past 16 years.

Despite the long hours, having to pick up after ballplayers, and making sure the organization's minor league ballclubs have enough bats and balls every month, you're an indispensable part of the big picture.

The game of baseball.

How does one aspire to such a lofty position?

It ain't something you learn in college.

Try driving a beer truck.

That's what Pat did before he hooked up with the Pirates.

"I hung out with some retired ballplayers," he said. "Then one day they told me this job had opened up. They said I'd be good at it. So I went down, applied for the job ... and I've been here ever since."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Four skaters leave us wanting more

Dazzling. Soaring. Mesmerizing.

What more can you say about the performances of Manatee's Amanda Evora, Mark Ladwig, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett in Monday night's long program of the Olympic pairs figure skating at the 2010 Winter Games?

Though their chances at a medal were remote, finishing in the world's top 10 would be like a gold medal, said one NBC commentator.

Both routines were a joy to watch.

Their music was beautiful, too.

Evora-Ladwig performed to Rachmaninoff's "Concerto No. 2."

Denney-Barrett skated to Ravel's "Scheherazade," one of my favorites, an enchanting piece of instrumental music that suited their performance.

It's a shame their skating -- and music -- at the 2010 Winter Games is over after just three days.

On the other hand, what's that they say in show biz?

Always leave them wanting more.

Mark Ladwig and Amanda Evora

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Skaters show grace in Olympic glare

When it comes to Olympic pairs figure skating, I'll leave the details to the people who really know the sport.

I'm easy to impress.

Never mind the lifts and jumps and spins.

How do they skate backwards?

Yeah, I know. Practice, practice, practice.

Which is what Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett and Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig did a lot at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex en route to Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Games.

They were beautiful to watch in Sunday night's short program.

Whatever the technical error was in the first pair's routine, I didn't notice.

What I did notice about the second pair's routine was they seemed to perform with a sense of ease. Unlike Denney-Barrett, who came into the games spotlighted as U.S. skating champions, Evora-Ladwig had nothing to lose coming into Vancouver as U.S. runnersup.

Whatever, both pairs took our breath away.

Whether there's a medal in store, we'll see.

Ellenton staff coach Kelly Paige said doing well in the short program is critical, because there might be too much ground to make up otherwise in Monday night's long program.

We'll be watching.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Teenagers once again on a Friday night

There were 1,900 people who became teenagers again Friday night at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Well, teenagers for 90 minutes anyway.

Frankie Valli can still do that to us.

The 70-something singer has still got the pipes many in Van Wezel's capacity crowd remember when we were in high school.

Or younger.

Backed up by four talented fellows -- the current Four Seasons -- who can sing and dance, Valli took us all back to the '60s with hits that were the soundtrack of our lives back in the day.

Days of innocence.

Who can forget "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Candy Girl," "Let's Hang On," "Rag Doll," "Sherry," and "Walk Like A Man"?

Valli also wowed the crowd with 70s hits, "December '63 (Oh, What A Night)," "Grease," "My Eyes Adored You," and "Swearin' To God" among others.

Everybody sang along, too. Not very well, either, but nobody cared.

It was a blast.

Oh, what a night, indeed.

Thank you, Frankie Valli.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A mountain, a Valentine to treasure

After two days of rain, the sun was shining on Benbulben at last.

‘Twas a beautiful Irish morning, a momentous one for me and my sweetheart.

Sherri Manring just didn’t know it yet.

We had come to Benbulben, a fabled mountain in County Sligo, to scatter my mother’s ashes last August.

Sligo is her ancestral home and we had journeyed there six times before she passed in 2008.

We loved Benbulben, gazing at it for hours and taking pictures.

It is the resting place of W.B. Yeats, the beloved Irish poet, buried in nearby Drumcliffe.

It is also the haunt, legend has it, of Celtic spirits like the giant Finn McCool.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Will real Florida winter please come home?

Is it ever going to be sunny and warm again for more than two days in a row?

This winter has been the pits.

A run of rotten, cold, rainy weather since before the Christmas holidays.

Just when we get a taste for a day, maybe two, of the Florida winter we love -- clear blue skies and a crisp 70 degrees -- we're back to dreary weather like we're in Toledo.

OK, maybe not that bad.

I guess this is the price we pay for having El Nino save our necks during the last hurricane season, only to turn around and do this to us now.

Leave it to one of our Canadian snowbirds to put this lousy weather in perspective.

Oscar Champagne was enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks on Cortez and U.S. 41 the other day while it was raining.

He said when he last checked the temperature here was a damp 66.

Back home in Ontario, it was 6.

"I'll take a 60-degree difference like this anytime," he said.

Easy for him to say.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Game was super. Commercials? Eh

The Super Bowl was just that.

Its commercials? Not so super.

Here's my two cents during what was a great game:

LeBron James and Dwight Howard playing for a sack of McDonald's. Then Larry Bird steals their lunch. Loved it.

Bud Light's commercials left me cold. I don't mean that in a good way, either. Especially the one with bottles as microphones. Hated it. The one with the "Lost" theme was the best of a forgettable lot.

The Tebow spot? This is what the fuss was over? It was well done.

The texting ad with the old Chicago Bears reprising their Super Bowl shuffle was weak. I liked the original 35 years ago.

Of all the Doritos commercials, I loved the one with the boy, the single mom and her new suitor the best. Pow! Keep your hands off my mama. And keep your hands off my Doritos.

Those Go spots with Danica Commercial were nowhere.'s fiddling beavers? Cute.

Budweiser's human bridge? Hmmm. Dug the one with the Clydesdales and the longhorn steer, though.

And what was with and the pants commercial after it? Bad bodies in underwear? Ugh.

The VW commercial with people punching each other in the arm after spotting a VW in a different color was clever. Took a second to understand what they were saying. But clever.

Enough with Denny's and the screaming chickens. The first time was funny. Then it got old.

The e-trade spots with the toddlers has gotten old, too. Way old.

The Coke commercial with the guy sleepwalking through perilous terrain to "Bolero" was good.

Please tell me our tax dollars didn't pay for that incomprehensible spot about the U.S. Census.

Taco Bell and Charles Barkley? Eh.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Let NFL take its bloated ball home

So who are you rooting for today?

Me? Saints.

After what New Orleans has been through since Hurricane Katrina, I believe most NFL fans feel the same way.

Yet here it is, the high holy day of Football Americana, and what looms over Super Bowl 44?

A lockout in 2011.

The likelihood has been described in apocalyptic terms.

A national calamity.

An American sporting disaster.

Give me a break.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peter Warrick: Bowden made me a man

After Bobby Bowden was done speaking Thursday morning at Bradenton Auditorium, the legendary coach received a number of gifts and shows of gratitude for coming to the Third Annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast for Take Stock in Children of Manatee County.

One of them was a hug from Peter Warrick.

The former Southeast High School star helped Bowden win FSU's second national championship in 1999 with an MVP performance.

The better part of Warrick's football career is behind him now.

So, too, its travails like the foolish Dillard's shopping scam.

Yet a decade later, after six years in the NFL and brief stints in Canada, Arena League, United Football League and Indoor Football League, the former first-round draft choice has never forgotten the coach who stood by his side, helped him get back on track as an impact player and, more importantly, as a young man.

Their long embrace behind the podium spoke volumes Thursday morning.

Later, after signing autographs and posing for pictures with FSU fans and folks who remember the excitement he generated at Southeast, Warrick paid Bowden the highest of compliments.

"He made me a man," the former Seminole said. "He was my father away from home."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hurricanes going to Jersey? Yo!

The Manatee Hurricanes going to New Jersey?


That coach Joe Kinnan's team is close to a deal to play Don Bosco Prep is wonderful and I'm proud Manatee will make that trip.

I'm a Jersey Boy, who graduated from DePaul Catholic H.S., in Wayne, N.J., not far from where the 'Canes will play the 2009 national champs in Ramsey.

The DePaul Spartans were pretty good themselves, losing only once in the two years I went there, but that was w-a-a-a-y back in the day.

Try 45 years ago.

The 'Canes planned trip evokes some wonderful memories.

Going to the Pequannock-DePaul game, a good rivalry

Hanging out at the Milk Barn in Pompton Lakes, N.J., afterward.

Following the duel between Fairlawn High's Bruce Jankowski and DePaul halfback Tommy Zampetti for the state scoring lead.

Jankowski went to Ohio State.

Zampetti went to Vietnam.

He was wounded but came back, thank goodness.

A good guy.

Those are the kind of kids and times that come to mind, thinking about Manatee's trip to North Jersey in September.

Not the morons in "Jersey Shore," who, with one exception, are all from New York.

Where the 'Canes are headed is my New Jersey.