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



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.


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.


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.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New school, same feelings for Coach McKelvey

Bob McKelvey hadn't been back in a long time.

It was 2000 when he retired from Miller Elementary as a physical education teacher, and just a few years ago they'd torn down the building he'd called home for 38 years and replaced it with a more modern looking building.

"McKelvey's Mile," the homemade track he had built with former principal Chuck Banks' help, was gone.

So was the outdoor hangar, "Coach's Court."

One thing, the most important thing, hadn't changed.

The kids.

They were as enthused and filled with youth as ever Tuesday morning.

So what if they didn't know "Coach McKelvey," this 74-year-old man for whom the new park was being dedicated.

But their parents did.

"And their parents, too," said Banks, looking on during Tuesday's ceremony.

Oh, yes.

Barbara Harvey, Miller's principal for 10 years, knows it well.

"When he would call a student's home, to say the child was in trouble or needed to be congratulated, he knew the parent," said the Manatee County School Board member. "They'd been his students once, too."

A number of them were there for the ceremony.

Wouldn't miss it, said one.

Coach McKelvey's presence brought back memories of their youth.

"Good memories," said Downey Walz, a mother of five.

Their presence did the same for him.