Monday, March 29, 2010

ABD applies to Final Four again

It's been a few Final Fours since I said this, but it still works for me, especially this weekend:


Anybody but Duke.

I got tired of seeing Coach K and the Dookies in their heyday and now that they're back the old feeling has returned.


I'm not big on seeing Michigan State back in the Final Four, either, for that matter.

I like seeing new faces for college basketball's main event. New blood.

Not the usual fair haired programs.

Like MSU. And Duke. Especially Duke.

I don't stand to benefit bracketwise, no matter who wins, although I'm shocked I'm hanging around the top of the office pool.

But I'd love to see Butler win it in their hometown.

Or West Virginia, just because.

Because they're not MSU.

Or Duke.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Sound of wedding bells getting louder

"G etting cold feet?”

I’ve heard that a few times lately.

My preference for Crocs and sandals isn’t why, prolonged chilly weather notwithstanding.

It’s the peel of wedding bells drawing closer.

Yours truly and Sherri Manring will be married Saturday.

Cold feet?

After a five-year courtship, it’s showtime.

I’m ready.

I think.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Southeast junior won a lot of hearts

Junior Jessica Amaya didn't win the Miss Southeast pageant Thursday night.

Yet she showed me something that surpassed much of what I saw on stage at the Ed Nock Auditorium.

During the talent portion of the pageant, other contestants danced or sang or even did a sophisticated gymnastics tumbling routine.

Which is what the event winner, Scarlett Davis, did.

Yet as entertaining as it was, what Jessica Amaya did was better for different reasons.

It showed us her humanity in a uniquely creative way.

With a framed painting of a man in bandages with a Red Cross nurse as a prop, the Southeast junior spoke as if she was that man while trapped under rubble after the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti.

Jessica's monologue was powerful.

It was gripping and moving.

A hush fell over the auditorium.

Jessica Amaya didn't win Miss Southeast.

She gave us a glimpse into her soul and won a lot of hearts Thursday night, instead.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Case of my missing census forms

"Your response to the U.S. Census Bureau if required by law."

Uh, oh.

The plain white postcard was in the junk mail I picked up Tuesday.

"Dear Resident: A few days ago, you should have received ... "


What did I do with that thing?

It's the first time, as a two-time homeowner, I can ever remember getting one.

I'm thinking, if I don't fill it out, what kind of trouble could I get into?


It's not like I haven't had a few more important things on my mind lately.

Like getting married Easter weekend.

So where was it?

We searched and searched and searched. The kitchen, the bedroom, the dining room, you name it.

Finally, the packet turned up.

Under a stack of newspapers in the recycling bin in the garage.


After I slit open the official envelope, I got a small lesson in civics:

"Census results are used to decide ... the amount of government money your neighborhood receives. ... Money used for services for children and the elderly, roads, and many other local needs."

Not sure whether I believe it, but given our current economic state I'll do my part and fill out the forms.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Army recruited kids, got Mom

How does a divorced, middle-aged mother of two end up in Iraq?

It was 2004 and Amy Spears' two kids, Mike and Adrienne, were at Lakewood Ranch High.

He was a football player; she, a cheerleader.

Then the Army recruiter came 'round.

"The kids were kind of interested," Spears recalled. "Then the recruiter started talking to me."

He asked the former Army MP what she did for a living.

Occupational therapist, she said.

"He said, 'The military is short of people like you,'" Spears, then 41, recalled. "I said I'm too old. He said, 'No, you're not.'"

So into the Army Reserve she went.

Her kids made a big deal out of Mom's swearing-in ceremony at home.

"I thought, 'Am I really doing this?'" Spears said, smiling. "The kids were so supportive. I was excited to start a new avenue that might take me somewhere different than a traditional job."

Somewhere besides football games at LRHS, the beach at Anna Maria Island and the Ellenton Outlet Mall.

Spears went places, all right, serving a year in Germany and has just recently returned from a year in Iraq with the 55th Medical Company.

"If somebody had asked me 10 years ago what I'd be doing, I'd never have thought of being in a combat zone in Iraq," she said. "It's been rewarding. I'd go again."

Friday, March 19, 2010

FCAT's over, but ordeal goes on

The marquee outside Kinnan Elementary School had the same sign for two weeks:

“FCAT March 10-19.”

Yet last Friday afternoon I noticed the last date.

FCAT was over.

The students at Kinnan and across Manatee County had to be relieved.

Their teachers, too.

Yet the FCAT ordeal isn’t over.

Particularly for teachers.

Not if draconian state legislation becomes law.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Daveeey, Davy Crockett ... '

"Daveeey, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier."

How many of us were singing those words softly to ourselves today, words we haven't sang since we were kids many moons ago, words we thought we'd forgotten, after we'd heard Fess Parker had died?

Fess Parker was Davy Crockett, a folk hero if there ever was one.

The real one was larger-than-life, a Tennessee frontiersman who was elected to Congress, opposed President Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policies, then went to Texas where he died at the Alamo.

Fess Parker seemed larger than life, too.

Especially in that famous coonskin cap.

Both my brother and me wore them when Walt Disney's "Davy Crockett" was on TV.

And I can't count the number of times we got into scraps with other boys in the neighborhood who made fun of us and called us names whenever we went outside with the caps over our crewcuts.

We never did heed Mom's terse words of advice, "Just ignore them."

I bet we weren't the only coonskin cap-wearing boys that happened to, either.

If a coonskin cap was good enough for Fess Parker, it was good enough for us.

"Daveeey, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's toasted NCAA bracket time!

The paperwork is spread before me.

The deadline is right around the corner.

Got some tricky decisions to make, too.

Doing my taxes?


I've still got to finish that and get it to my accountant.

Going over finances?

I let my bride-to-be handle that.

It's one of the nice advantages of marrying a banker.

Now if she'd only help me fill out my NCAA March Madness Men's Basketball Bracket.

She'd probably do better than me.

A lot better.

I'm one of those guys whose bracket is usually toast after the second round.

Some years I haven't made it out of the first round.

Yeah, I've got the crash-and-burn thing down real good at tournament time.

Got a funny feeling this is going to be one of those years.

Hey, hon, got a minute?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Parade day a grand time for 'Miss Duffy'

If anyone enjoyed Sunday's 12th annual Beach Bistro St. Patrick's Day Parade on Holmes Beach more than Pat Geyer, I'd have loved to see them.

OK, maybe Anne Phillips, who celebrated hitting the Big 5-0 at Duffy's Tavern Sunday, too.

But Pat "Miss Duffy" Geyer had it down during the parade. And after.

Befitting her stature as beloved matriarch of the Duffy's Tavern family, Pat was driven in the parade by Rick Lewis aboard one of his pedicabs --- a three-wheeled bike with a bench seat in back.

Despite repeated complications from a knee replacement, the 79-years young former city commissioner was in her element, waving to throngs of parade bystanders all along Gulf Drive from the Wachovia Bank starting point to the City of Anna Maria border.

Then when Rick and Pat were done parading, they pulled over at the finish line to watch the rest of the parade go by.

Virtually everyone saluted her as their own float went by:
"Pat, hey Pat!" "Miss Duffy! Miss Duffy!"

Their cries were usually followed by a hail of beads, too.

When the parade was over at last, Rick pedaled Pat back to Duffy's, calling out to amused bystanders and motorists, "We're going to Duffy's! We're going to Duffy's!"

So was the City of Dunedin Pipe Band, a parade regular for years that had yet to make a post-parade stop at Duffy's.

Not only did they make a smashing entrance, playing as they marched through the crowded tavern, but they gave a mini-concert later, with two drummers and two bagpipers before the table where Pat sat.

They got the whole place on its feet, people joyously clapping along in rhythm.

Pat enjoyed every second, every sound of the bagpipers.

"You never know what's going to happen at Duffy's," she said.

Especially on the same day as the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Copying these guys no piece of cake

Matt and Dom Schole made it look so easy.

Whipping up a birthday cake, that is.

The 20-something brothers made a devil's food cake with pineapple filling and smothered in vanilla icing in no time at all.

Then it was our turn.

Herald photographer Paul Videla makes some terrific chocolate chip cookies and I'm not bad at making pancakes on Sunday mornings.

But doing a birthday cake right was a lot trickier than it looked.

That vanilla icing didn't go on as smoothly or evenly.

Nor did applying vanilla piping around the edges work so well.

Keeping the cake's turntable going in sequence with Paul's decorating was too fast for me.

After we'd done enough damage, Paul stuck some strawberries on top.

Looked like eyes and a nose.

The funniest part?

When we brought our handiwork back to the office, our colleagues at the whole thing!

Still, when it comes to making a cake, the Schole brothers definitely have the right stuff.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saying goodbye can mean late fee

Saying goodbye can be tough.

Especially when it's a TV satellite company that won't let go.

After five years, I terminated the deal after the holidays.

Received a FedEx container to ship back the transmitter box and took care of that.

Got the pro-rated final bill and paid that.

All good, right?

About a week later, I get another copy of the pro-rated bill plus a late fee.

So I call.

Look, I tell them, I already paid this bill and mailed it back on the same day I got it.

What is with this late fee?

The company will write it off. Don't worry about it, I'm told.

OK. I won't.

Today I got another bill from them.

For the late fee.

I call again. Go through the same drill with another rep.

You should not have received the notice, she tells me. Just throw it away.

So we're all square, I ask?

All square, the rep said. Have a nice night.

Any bets I get another notice for the late fee next month?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Turn up heat for Saturday wedding

Have a wedding to go to Saturday.

Not mine.

That's next month.

Maybe it will have warmed up enough by then.

I hope, I hope, I hope.

As for Saturday's nuptials?

I just pray the temperature gets further north than it has been this week.

For the bride's sake and her family, who are good friends of mine.

I thought of them last Saturday when it was so cold and rainy, an absolutely dreadful day, another in what has been a positively lousy Florida winter.

Thank goodness they weren't getting married that day.


At least the sun has been out much of this week and is expected to be that way throughout the weekend.

As long as it's sunny out, I always like to tell folks, the chill isn't so bad.

I pray I won't have to use that excuse at Saturday's wedding bash.

Good thing it wasn't that day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beating Tropicana train a little triumph

You take your triumphs wherever you can in life.

Like beating the Tropicana train to work.

Not easy to do on weekday mornings about 9:15 a.m. when it seems like our favorite orange juice company's train has traffic tied up daily at U.S. 301 south of 13th Avenue.

I know it does at other times during the day, too, but mornings are when I run into it.

It's part of living here.

Well, this recent morning I was rounding U.S. 301 near Red Barn and there was the train, guard rails down, flashing lights, the works.

There wasn't much northbound traffic to hem me in, and no police, so I took a chance.

I drove over the median onto southbound U.S. 301, turned right into 17th
Avenue West and took another right onto Ninth Street West past McKechnie Field.

Heading toward downtown, I checked for the train off to my right.

It was already across Ninth Avenue West, as expected.

Continuing north, I saw guardrails down and traffic stopped on Martin Luther King.

Getting green lights all the way along Ninth Street, I crossed Sixth Avenue and Manatee Avenue West where the guard rails were just coming down.

Nothing doing.

Finally, I had to turn right at Third Avenue West.

What luck.

No traffic. And the guardrails were still up.

Speeding up a little, I drove over the tracks unimpeded, pumping my fist just as the red lights began flashing and the guardrails started coming down.


I'd done it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Winter Games withdrawals? Nope

Suffering post-Winter Games withdrawal?

Not me.

That they won't be back for another four years is fine.

Sixteen days straight of Winter Games is TV overkill.

Enough with curling.

Enough with cross country skiing.


Enjoyed the figure skating, given the local interest generated early on by the foursome representing Manatee County.

Afterward, not so much.

Especially ice dancing.

Sorry, that is not a sport.

Speed skating? Cool.

Dug the gold medal U.S. four-man bobsled team.

Ditto for Shaun White and those half-pipe daredevils.

Those acrobatic skiing events, too.

As for downhill skiers Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller?

Yes, they medaled, but given all the hype, I expected a lot more.

Like a lot of America, I had Sunday's U.S.-Canada hockey game on the TV, but with the sound turned down. I was out by the pool, reading and enjoying the sun, and checked the score every few minutes.

Saw the U.S.'s game-tying goal with seconds to go in regulation, then Canada's game-winner in OT.

Then I turned it off.

The closing ceremonies?

Watched "Ben Hur," instead.