Monday, January 31, 2011

Riding shotgun on recruiting trip to FSU

National Signing Day, the High Holy Day in high school football recruiting, always brings back memories.

Like this one.

It was spring of 1997 when I was still in Boca Raton.

Florida State was after Steve Bellisari, Boca High's junior quarterback and All-State safety.

He, his older brother Greg, sister Amy, and their folks, Art and Marybeth, were like family to me.

So FSU invited Steve and his tight end, Frank Conrad, to attend the Garnet-and-Gold spring game at Doak Campbell Stadium.

Problem was Art and Marybeth were both tied up that Saturday. Art was Boca High's girls softball  coach and Marybeth had some other obligation. Ditto for Frank's mom.

So guess which responsible adult they asked to accompany their sons to Tallahassee?

Yours truly.

Steve's folks got us a rental car and we departed Boca before dawn that Saturday for FSU.

I was supposed to take a turn driving, but these two young hotshots didn't bother with this middle-aged slowpoke.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear we set some kind of land-speed record on the way up.

I don't think we could've made Tallahassee any faster had we flown.

After we arrived, we were greeted by an FSU co-ed whose name I forget, but whose sweet Southern accent I will always remember.

When I asked her where she was from, the Marianna native said; "Maay-ree-annaaah."

I can hear her still, sigh!

That was the highpoint of the trip for me.

The game got shortened by a ferocious downpour.

When Steve and Frank met with the FSU coaching hierarchy, offensive coordinator Mark Richt, who was Boca High's QB when I got there in 1978, ushered them into the inner sanctum while I cooled my heels outside.

That night we crashed at the apartment of one of my neighbor's sons.

"Leave the silverware!'" greeted a sign when we got there.

We headed home early Sunday morning and got to Boca Raton safe and sound.

Mission: Accomplished.


I'd have loved to make that trip a few more times had Steve cast his lot with FSU on national signing day and played for the Seminoles.

He signed with Ohio State, instead.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

LRHS grad, flute off to Russia this summer

How about a nice hand for Tommy Durante?

A musical prodigy on the recorder (English flute), the LRHS and MCC grad is now a senior classical composition major at FSU and has been accepted for summer study at Russia’s prestigious Moscow State University.

His family, friends and supporters are selling CD’s of his music to help defray his expenses.

Also, Oneco United Methodist Church will host a benefit concert by Tommy at 5 p.m., Feb. 12.

Call (941) 799-1507.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Where were you when Challenger blew up?

Jan. 28, 1986 is one of those dates you remember exactly where you were if you're old enough.

It was the day the Challenger blew up.

Friday is the 25th anniversary.

I was sports editor of the Boca Raton News and we were huddled under the TV suspended in one corner of our conference room awaiting the launch.

Even after five years of shuttle flights --- the first was in April 1981 --- they were still an awesome spectacle.

As Challenger lifted off, I ran outside to the parking lot on the north side of the newsroom building.

I figured I might see the vapor trail as it hurtled over Florida's east coast.

Friends who lived on AIA would have beach parties whenever there was a night launch and watching those was a treat, even from a distance.

As I stood in our parking lot, looking toward the northeast, something caught my attention due north.

It was two columns of smoke in a Y-pattern.

That's odd, I thought.

Just then, Jerry Lower, our chief photographer ran by me toward the pressroom. We were still a P.M. paper at the time and the presses were running.

"Where you going?" I yelled.

"I'm going to stop the presses," Lower shouted. "The shuttle just blew up!"

What I'd seen were the two giant solid rocket boosters spiraling out of control after Challenger exploded.

I'll never forget it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Will NFL football season never end?

When I awoke Monday morning, among the first things I though about was this:

Two more weeks to the Super Bowl?

Good grief.

I don't know about you, but I'm over the NFL football season.

That the Philadelphia Eagles, my team, got eliminated two weeks ago has something to do with it, of course.

But the Igs have gone down early before and I usually maintained interest until the NFL's ultimate game.

Not anymore.

The season is too doggone long.

And now NFL owners want to stretch it from 16 games to 18?


I watched both the NFC and AFC championship games Sunday, but by 9:30 p.m., I'd had it.

Now we've got to wait another two weeks with all the hype to build to a crescendo.

Packers vs. Steelers.

Classic, shmassic.

I'm out.

Oh, yeah. There's the Pro Bowl this Sunday night.


Friday, January 21, 2011

New pubs welcome addition to Old Main

Years ago on a visit to Ireland, we stopped in a town in County Kerry.

I want to say Killorglin. Or was it Kenmare?

Anyway, a local we met said one of the town’s claims to fame was it had more pubs per block than any other town in Ireland.

That’s saying something.

I suppose Thomas Stynes, a Dubliner and Bradenton pub owner of repute, can relate to that Irish idiosyncrasy.

He’s the proprietor not only of Rasher Tierney’s, down on 14th Street West, but of the new Irish pub destined for downtown Bradenton, thanks to the City Council’s approval.

It will be fifth bar on Old Main Street.

A quantity that has its critics.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chef's contest makes one's mouth water

Chef Dave Shiplett of SOMA Diner swept the Judges Awards at Taste magazine’s first Chef’s Competition, winning best entree (Southern beef short rib) and best dessert (Chocolate coconut cupcake with vanilla ice cream).

The People’s Choice award was a tie between SOMA’s best entree and MartiniVille’s best entree (Beef short ribs nachos).

MartiniVille also won best dessert (Raspberry chocolate molten cake).

Besides Shiplett, the chefs were Mattison’s Greg Campbell, Ortygia’s Gaetano Cannata and MartiniVille’s Jim Moretti.

Judges were Gail Greco, Bonner Joy and Kristine Nickel.

The Women’s Resource Center of Manatee was the event’s benificiary.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MMH Auxiliary president shows who's boss

Funny moment at Wednesday's luncheon honoring the Manatee Memorial Foundation Auxiliary at Renassiance on 9th.

When it was time for the speaking segment of the event, Mary Jo Murray, the auxiliary president, invited MMH CEO Kevin DiLallo up to the microphone.

Keep it short, she told him in so many words.

That brought down the house.

DiLallo did as he was told and sat down.

Then it was the turn of MMH Vice-President and Foundation Director Vernon DeSear to come to the mic.

"Vernon," Mary Jo said. "Talk all you want."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What a difference years make in two BGSU grads

Small world.

I went to Harllee Middle School Monday to cover an Americorps 20/20 VISTA Volunteers project for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s National Day of Service.

Once there, I met Heather Kushner, a bright young woman and VISTA volunteer.

A Bowling Green State University alum, too.

Like me.

Except the Mentor, Ohio, native graduated in the last couple of years.

This Jersey Boy got out in 1971.

A thousand years ago, as I like to kid about it.

It was funny how Heather talked about how much the campus had changed in the short time she'd been away.

The last time I was at BG was for homecoming in 1975.

I wouldn't know the place, period.

We talked about landmarks we both might know. Like college bars downtown.

I rattled off the names of ones I could remember.

They're not there anymore, Heather said.

No surprise.

When I was her age, I came to Florida looking for sun, sand and a job as a sports writer.

Heather Kushner came to Florida to help people.

BGSU must be proud.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Keep libraries off Hunzeker's hit list

There’s a book I’m looking forward to reading one of these days.

It’s Dennis LeHane’s latest crime-fiction novel, “Moonlight Mile.”

My wife put my request into the Manatee County libary’s website to put a hold on it.

I am 85th on that waiting list.

Which means I might see it by next year.

The reason I mention it is to illustrate in a small, personal way what our library means to us.

Ed Hunzeker, take note.

The county administrator has been beating the drums about looming cuts to the county budget.

He estimates $12 million to $14 million will be whacked.

That’s on top of the $122 million cut — 183 jobs, too — over the last four years.

The low hanging fruit, Hunzeker called it.
Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sometimes being a helpful husband backfires

Sometimes trying to be a helpful husband backfires on you.

To wit:

During the recent cold snaps, I've gone out in the morning, started my wife's SUV, loaded up her computer bag and day planner, then scraped off the frost from the windshield and windows.

I've been doing it even on nice mornings.

Good guy, right?

Heh heh heh.

Well, one night after I got home from work, Sherri gave me a hug and said how much she appreciates me getting her SUV ready for her to get to work on time.

But, she added, I'd grabbed the wrong set of car keys that particular morning.

One set also has Sherri's office keys; one doesn't.

Guess which set I grabbed?

Turns out she didn't realize my mistake until she got to work, couldn't get into her office, then had to drive back to our house to get the right keys.


You can bet I've made sure I've got the right keys since then.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What smell? Racing pigs guys want to know

The aroma coming from the Show Me Swine Racers trailer was, uh, pungent.

Didn't bother Joe Smithson and James Crook one bit, as they tended to 14 porkers Monday at the Manatee County Fairgrounds.

"You get used to it," Crook said. "It's an everyday smell to us."

Guess so.

Together, the East Prairie, Mo., natives have worked with racing pigs for 25 years.

Smithson loves to see the look on people's faces when he and his colleague eat their lunch near the aromatic trailer.

"They'll go, 'How can you eat with that smell?'" he said. "We go, 'What smell?'"

"If we weren't around it, we'd be missing it," Crook said.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A cool exchange with Packer fan

A lot of us have a genuine rooting interest in this weekend's NFL wildcard weekend.

Mine is the Philadelphia Eagles, who host the Green Bay Packers this afternoon.

Which made for a cool moment Saturday morning.

Sherri and I were shopping and were walking through the parking lot toward Kohl's when a fellow wearing a green-and-yellow Packers ballcap exited the department store on University.

I was wearing a midnight green Eagles hoodie.

Each of us spotted the other's colors and nodded as we passed one another.

"Good luck tomorrow," Packer fan called out.

"You, too," I yelled back.

"But not too much," he added.

I laughed.

We'll see.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Favorite fire truck gives chief final ride

My favorite image of Mark Souders is one many of us have shared.

It’s the annual DeSoto Heritage Festival Parade and the burly Bradenton Fire Chief is standing in the open cab of that shiny red antique fire truck with Mayor Wayne Poston.

Souders is beaming, waving and throwing beads to the crowds lining Manatee Avenue.

“Always had that big smile,” firefighter Terry Wilson said.

“That fire truck was his baby,” Capt. Tom Woods said.

“Riding in the parade was one of his favorite things,” said Will Newsome, a retired battalion chief. “He looked forward to it.”

The restored 1926 American LaFrance will have a more solemn role today.

It will carry Souders’ casket.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

DeSoto parade breaks out at inauguration

Sounds like a DeSoto Parade broke out at Gov. Rick Scott’s inauguration Tuesday.

Among the event’s invitees were members of the Hernando Desoto Historical Society and Crewe.

The 72-year-old society was selected for its historical significance to Manatee County and Florida.

“It was hard to compete with Barnum and Bailey’s elephants, but we did our best to represent,” Society President Gus Sokos said.

His cohorts were Hern’ Curt Mahoney, captain Shannon Glasgow, general chairman Gary Kortzendorf, padre Vincent Eurice, Ed Boles, Brady Chapman, Pat Cline, Dave Davis, Doug Egger, Errol Fletcher, Mike Ivko, Gus Johnson, Sid Jones, Troy Moore, Tom Murphy, John Newton, John Parker, Dot Woods and Cindy Mills Yrabedra.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

City Hall does good deed for disabled vet

Bradenton's City Hall did a good deed Tuesday.

VFW Post 10141 members Joe Best and Mike Clinesmith had begun building a wheelchair ramp that morning for Bill Williams, an 85-year-old disabled World War II veteran whose feet and lower legs are still affected by the hypothermia he suffered during combat that bitter German winter 66 years ago.

After getting nowhere with the VA for the past three years, Bill's wife Binnie reached out to the VFW.

They were happy to help and got right to work in the Williams' backyard.

Only they overlooked one detail.

No permits.

Uh, oh.

So Binnie called Marianne Barnebey, the council member for her ward.

She explained the situation and how the VFW volunteers were doing something noble for her husband that our own government would not.

Barnebey called the permit department downtown and brought them up to speed.

There was a permit waiting for Binnie Tuesday afternoon.

And the fee was waived.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Holidays over when lights come down

Nothing says the holidays are over more definitively than taking down the Christmas decorations.

We took ours down last Saturday.

My wife's rule.

Bad luck to do it before New Years, she said.

Me? I wouldn't mind leaving them up a little longer.

You look forward to the holidays and the colorful lights that accompany them.

Driving through other neighborhoods to see their displays is one of my favorite things to do.

That includes our neighborhood.

Coming home Monday night, I saw several neighbors still had their Christmas lights up, winking brightly in the cool evening.

I appreciated it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Movie melee flashpoint for angry public

This was a couple of years ago.

Probably one of the last times I went to a first-run movie, come to think of it.

The theater wasn’t crowded, but a group of noisy kids sat right behind us.

I turned and asked if they’d mind keeping it down.

No dice.

I turned around again, but my future wife tugged on my arm.

“Don’t,” she said.

So we moved.

It wasn’t the Carmike Royal Palm 20, either.

I used to patronize the place, but not anymore.

Too many kids running around.

Fortunately, I never experienced a situation so volatile as the one that took place there Christmas night.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.