Monday, October 31, 2011

Darth Vader, pirates and werewolf, oh my!


It was a welcome sound Monday night.

Sherri and I were wondering whether we'd get any trick-or-treaters.

We did. Enough to keep us on our toes.

And the big orange bowl of Almond Joys at the ready.

When we ran out of that candy, there were mini-Chips Ahoy.

We were visited by a variety of delightful young characters.

There was Darth Vader. And a Storm Trooper.

There was a zombie princess, a queen, a witch, an indian, a fallen angel, Ironman and a Werewolf.

Then there were two ninjas. Or was it three?

And two pirates -- a boy and a girl.

Every one of them said, "Thank you," too.

One of them, the witch, I think, said, "See you next year."

We'll be waiting.

Trick or treat!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pink Palace deal great step forward


Word that the Pink Palace will receive its long overdue renovation is terrific.

The dowager of 10th Street West is saved.

I had my doubts.

The 1920s era Manatee River Hotel has been an eyesore since it became vacant almost seven years ago.

It was hardly a welcoming sight to motorists coming south across the Green Bridge.

Despite the City of Bradenton’s efforts to halt its deterioration, the historic eight-story building had languished to the point where it seemed the wrecking ball was inevitable.

Perhaps the time had come to put it out of its misery.

If this deal with developers had fallen through?


Not anymore.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ol' Raider tackle shows he's still got game

Henry Lawrence performing in Bradenton a few years ago.

Folks here have always known Henry Lawrence has a great voice.
The Oakland Raiders, for whom he played right offensive tackle for 13 years while winning three Super Bowls, knew that, too.
So when the NFL team honored late owner Al Davis at their Oct. 16 home game against the Cleveland Browns, they invited Henry, who still looks like he can strap on the pads at 60, to sing our national anthem at Oakland Coliseum.
Before flying out for the game, Henry got an assist from Del Couch at Palmetto’s Howling Dog Studios, who came up with the arrangement for a poignant performance.

Looking to grab something good to eat before Friday night's Manatee-Palmetto game at Harllee Stadium?
There’s the annual Palmetto Rotary Steak Dinner 4-7 p.m. in the Palmetto High cafeteria.
You’ll get a 14-oz. ribeye with all the fixin’s for $20 per plate.
Proceeds go to Tiger athletics.
Steakmeister Dave Bailey is doing the honors.

It’s the final stretch for those handsome 11 Manatee High seniors raising funds to win the title of Mr. Sugar Cane, which returns 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 to Manatee’s new Davis Building Performing Arts Theater.
They are Rider Bilter, Hershel Caywood, Ryan Harris, Wyatt Hoffman, Tate Jernegan, Jacob Jordan, Chase Sandberg, Jacob Sperko, Matt Stevens, Nick Tankersly and Ricky Terrell.
Krystal Weaver, a USF senior and former Sugar ‘Cane, will emcee.
Call Sugar ‘Cane director Vicky Duquette for tickets and information at 232-4731.

For good sounds and suds, Goodbyeddie will rock 4-8 p.m. Saturday at the inaugural International Beer Festival between McAllister’s and Ed’s Tavern on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch.
That’s Jimi Camastro, Ted Eastmoore, Duncan Edgar, Doug Henderson and Russ Vega.

Read more Friday in Vin's People at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Face to face with an adult bald eagle

It's a trip being practically face to face with an adult bald eagle.

Which is where I was Wednesday at Wildlife, Inc., the non-profit rescue and rehab on Bradenton Beach nobly run by Ed and Gail Straight for the past 25 years.

The eagle was a female at least 5 years old, who was brought to the clinic Saturday night from East Manatee, suffering from a chest wound of unknown origin.

The majestic bird hardly blinked as we gazed through the open door of the portable kennel housing her.

The eagle puffed up her feathers a bit when colleague Grant Jefferies got up close while taking pictures, but overall she was as poised as could be.

Regal, indeed.

"She could go right at you if she wanted," Gail Straight said.

Every other time I've seen this American icon has been from a distance --- atop the concrete pillar of a street light along US 301. Or perched on the limb of a dead tree in a marsh east of Myakka City. Or with other bald eagles gathered on a high tension tower at a hyrdoelectric damn on the Susquehanna River west of Havre de Grace, Md.

And that's with the benefit of binoculars.

Not Wednesday.

It was an experience, one that heightened my respect for the bald eagle.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hurricane? Nah, too cold. Right!

Famous last words?

Upon arriving home after a week in Ohio's fall climes, we were greeted with a forecast that called for a potential tropical disturbance that might affect Florida.

Nah, I told my wife.

It's too cold.

Even watching the Weather Channel folks over the weekend didn't prompt concern.

Looked like it'd make the Honduras and those parts wetter than usual, is all.


Rina, the season's 17th tropical storm, blew up into a hurricane Sunday with 75 mph winds that are predicted to exceed 111 mph before nearing Cancun Friday morning.

While four computer models have it lingering around Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, two other models predict it moving northeast and across our state's southern tip.

The last hurricane to originate in that neck of the woods and rip across South Florida was Hurricane Wilma, which reached Category 5 briefly, in 2005.

And it happened in late October, too.

Uh, oh!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One raise our community isn't celebrating

Getting a raise is usually something to celebrate.

Unless you happen to be a Manatee County commissioner.

That $272 bump they just got from the state?

They must wish it never happened.

That goes for Carol Whitmore.

Other county commissioners, too.

Given the economic straits their constituents have endured the past several years, it isn’t right.

Not with double-digit unemployment in our community.

Many of those who do have jobs probably can’t remember their last raise.

They’re just glad to still be working.

Our teachers must be shaking their heads.

Or considering running for county commission.

Seventy-five thou for a part-time gig?

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

9-year-old knows how to hit Tiger's funny bone

Kevin O'Brien, Alex Cuadros and Michael Haynes

Funny moment at Blackburn Elementary School.
Kevin O’Brien, a Palmetto High offensive tackle, was working with fourth-grader Michael Haynes as part of a mentoring program Tiger head football coach Dave Marino instituted for his players.
A husky youth football player himself, Michael was asked if he thought he’d grow up to be as big as O’Brien, who goes about 6-foot-4, 300 pounds.
“I’ll be that big,” the 9-year-old said. “But with a lot less belly.”

Oh, no! Kiernan Wilkins is one year shy of the big 3-0!

If you’re up for a good steak for a good cause before a big game, check out Palmetto’s annual Rotary Steak Dinner 4-7 p.m. Oct. 28, at the Palmetto High cafeteria before the Tigers take on the Manatee Hurricanes at Harllee Stadium.
You get a 14-ounce ribeye with all the sides for $20 per plate.
Proceeds go to Tiger athletics.
Steakmeister Dave Bailey says Manatee folks are most welcome.

Speaking of Hurricane fans, do you remember Aaron Reese?
A former freshman, JV and varsity backup quarterback at Manatee several years ago, he graduated from Charles D. Owen High in Black Mountain, N.C., and is now the starting senior quarterback at Brevard College, Brevard, N.C.
Reese was the South Atlantic Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a school record five TDs on Oct. 1, leading the Tornados to their first victory, 41-24 over Tusculum College of Greenville, Tenn.
He’s their leading rusher and also plays baseball for Brevard.

Oh, no! Shawna DeLoach Kerley is one year shy of the Big 4-0!

 Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"No Kill" recalls memory of two favorite cats

I can understand Mike Picchietti's beef about the Manatee County Commission's decision Tuesday to work toward a "No Kill" policy at its animal shelters.

All the barking dogs at the new rescue animal shelter near his East Manatee home gets on his nerves.

A former neighbor's lone barking dog did the same to me.

I can also respect Dennis Vitton, a mobile home park president, who didn't oppose "No Kill," but didn't want fixed feral cats released back to the neighborhood under the shelter's trap-and-release program.

Cats will drive you crazy.

They will also break your heart.

I know.

I adopted a couple of wild kittens 24 years ago when I lived in Delray Beach from an acquaintance who was an animal lover like me.

They were Persians, a brother and sister.

Top Cat and Midnight I named them.

I can still see the curtains behind the couch moving as I rose every morning and they came out to greet me.

Midnight sunned herself in a window sill every day I left for work.

Top Cat jumped up on the couch behind my  head as I watched TV at night.

I loved those cats.

Then a neighbor came over one day and remarked how thin Midnight looked.

I had thought the same thing, but never gave it more consideration.

The vet told me she had feline leukemia.

I had a choice.

Putting her down, or giving her a daily needle to prolong her life.

I chose the latter.

As fate would have it, Top Cat who seemed fine, got it, too, and died suddenly.

I had no choice this time.

I took Midnight, who was 5 like her brother, to the Palm Beach County animal shelter and had her euthanized.

I cried like I hadn't cried in years.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A lost weekend for family's pro teams

What a sports weekend for Team Mannix.

A forgettable weekend, that is.

Just a few days after watching the Rays, my wife's favorite baseball team, end their season losing to Rangers in the ALDS, we watched my favorite baseball team, the Phillies, go down in Game 5 of the NLDS to the Cardinals.

That was Friday night.

Saturday wasn't much better.

Maybe even worse.

We had our family over for a BBQ and watched the Gators -- my sister-in-law's alma mater -- get beat up by LSU.

Then that night it was Ohio State -- my in-laws' favorite team as well as ours -- snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 27-6 third quarter lead against Nebraska.

Sunday was more of the same.

First the Eagles, my team, continue their maddening brand of bad football, losing at Buffalo.

Then the Bucs, Sherri's team, end up getting pounded by the Niners in San Francisco.

A lost weekend for Team Mannix, all right.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Billing bank for cutting their grass

Occupy Bradenton?

I’ve got one for the folks who will gather this morning at 43rd Street West and Manatee Avenue to protest, among other things, banks giving us the business.

Tell me if it sounds familiar.

The house next door to ours was foreclosed on several weeks ago and the people who occupied it had to go.

Which left the grass untended.

So it grew and grew.

I’ll be darned if I’m going to cut it, I told myself.

Helping out a neighbor is one thing.

Helping out a bank that’s an absentee owner?

That’s another.

Besides, I’ve already got my hands full every Saturday morning keeping our own lawn maintained.

Let the bank hire somebody to cut their property’s grass.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Can Manatee superintendent carry a tune?

Big ups to Tim McGonegal, Manatee County’s district school chief, for being named the Florida Music Educators Association’s 2011-2012 Superintendent of the Year.
The honor recognizes his leadership in promoting music education and advocacy for the curriculum.
It’s not unusual for McGonegal to drop in unannounced on our schools to hear young musicians and drive out of town for their performances, too.
He’s also the only superintendent who’s been a regular attendee at the FMEA All State Chorus Concert in Tampa since 2009.
Give an assist to Witt Elementary music teacher Julie Hebert, FMEA’s president-elect, for fostering the nomination.
So did McGonegal sing or play an instrument during his halcyon days as a student in Dunedin?
“I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever,” joked the Dunedin High alum, Class of 1976.
He’ll be saluted Jan. 13 at the FMEA conference in Tampa.

Turns out Diana Shoemaker, Habitat for Humanity’s new executive director, is another member of our town’s esteemed Ohio University alumni.
There’s Hizzoner Wayne Poston, County Commissioner John Chappie, and former city of Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn.

Manatee High’s Sugar’ Canes Camper Dance Clinic is 9 a.m. Oct. 15 at the MHS gym for third-through-eighth graders.
They’ll perform at the Mr. Sugar’Cane Show Nov. 5 at the Davis Building Performing Arts Theater.
Call Laurie Smith at 730-6128 for details.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People on

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

$3-per-gallon gas? Make it $2.50

Three dollars a gallon gas by Christmas?

That's what the economic experts say.

Pardon me if I don't fall on my knees, throw up my hands and say thank you, Santa.

That the lousy economy continues to take down gas prices with it is not news.

They're not going down fast enough for me. Or you.

If the analysts really want to get my attention, then let's talk about gas under $3 a gallon.

Like $2.50.

Gas prices have hovered around the $3-and-change mark for so long, it almost seems like Big Oil has been giving us a break.

It's not.

Getting gouged at the gas pump over the last several is one reason our economy has been in the dumper.

So I'm not impressed at $3 a gallon gas by Christmas.

I'm not going to complain about it, understand.

I like to save a few bucks at the pump as much as the next guy.

But the gas prices will have to come down more than that to put me in the holiday spirit.

A hell of a lot more.