Louis G. Pol – The Traveling Dean

I began this blog in March 2013 because I wanted to document some observations about my travel experiences in India. As I reflect back on other travel taken prior to March 2013, I wish I had begun posting about my adventures in 2003 as I made my way to St. Petersburg, Russia, or 1992 during a trip to France and Italy, or in 1991 while travelling in Romania and Moldova. Oh, well…

I am the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (formerly Omaha University). I became the dean in August 2003, which means that at this point in time, March 2017, I have been the dean for nearly 14 years, a very long time in one place for a business school dean. The average stay for a business school dean is about 4.5 years. Prior to being named dean, I was a faculty member here, at Rollins College, and at Memphis State University, but not all at the same time. If you want to learn more about me, I am providing a link to my website http://cba.unomaha.edu/lpol. Also, you may wonder what I look like, so here is a picture.

dean-pol-full

As you can see, I am in my official dean uniform. The sculpture in the background is one created by Jun Kaneko. You should look him up.

My goal in regard to this blog is simple. I want to share my experiences with anyone who wishes to know more about the places I have visited. At the same time, if you continue to read, you will gain some insight into my opinions about the places I visit and the people I meet. From time-to-time, you will learn more as I offer comparisons of places, including those experienced before I began this blog. I will try to remain apolitical as I write about what I see, but I will fail at times. Keep in mind that it is March 2017, and remaining apolitical is most difficult.

Finally, I enjoy receiving your comments and corrections.

The Sunshine State

downtown-fort-myers

Whoops. I just remembered that I made a trip between my Denver and New Orleans ventures, to Ft. Myers, Naples and Venice, Florida. This was the first week in February. The purpose of the travel was twofold: visit with several alums/donors/potential donors and attend a fundraising conference (just looking for ways to extend my skills). There were a few exchanges/observations that are worth noting.

We have all been the victims of a rude person who in a very public place either makes or takes a telephone call and speaks loudly, very loudly, in an effort to impress the surrounding passengers/hotel guests, all of whom really don’t care. You know the type, the one who boasts about the size of the deal, at least in the many of thousands of dollars, as well as its complexity. The deal also requires their considerable skill because (fill in the name) is such an (fill in the obscenity). But, every once in a while someone, an innocent bystander, will say out loud, “I don’t really care about hearing your____,” and the jawing begins. Well, early in this trip Mr. “Aren’t All of You Impressed With My Business Deal” had it out, verbally, with Mr. “I Really Don’t Care, You Moron.” The exchange gave all of us in earshot a much appreciated break in the tedium connected with travel, and in many ways the back-and-forth was funny. (No fight broke out, but we had not yet boarded the aircraft.) When that kind of exchange is experienced early in a venture, the lure of more entertaining possibilities is strong.

5th-Avenue-South-shopping-restaurants-Naples-Florida

Because my visits included time with prospective/actual donors, my partner at the University of Nebraska Foundation was along on the first part of the trip. The schedule also called for three hotels in five days, an arrangement that I can usually avoid, but not this time. In addition, I had more shuttle/cab rides than usual. Some of you know the book, Working by Studs Terkel. In that book, he chronicles the working and personal lives of people employed across a range of professions (read it if you have not). Terkel died in 2008, but during his life he showed great skill in asking the right questions and then bringing the day-to-day activities of hard working people to life so that we could understand who these people are. Terkel is also a great inspiration to all of us social scientists who believe in ethnographies and the power of telling a good story. During my travels, I try to find people who are not like me in any way, and ask them questions about their lives.

stretch-limo

Taxi and limo drivers are most interesting, especially those who are from another part of the country or another nation altogether. On this trip there was Mike, a Brooklyn-born dude who moved to Ft. Myers 25 years ago. He arrived at the hotel in a stretch limo, and I was his only passenger (great for conversation). I learned about his time in the construction business, his move from Brooklyn, his views about the world in general, and the odd arrangement among taxis, limos, and the local airport authority. Then there was Chuck. He had moved to Florida from Michigan 13 years ago (to care for an aging parent), and now drives a taxi but only part of the year. When the weather warmed (in North Dakota), he planned to return to Williston to drive heavy equipment in one of the oil patches. He told me that he would stay there, again, until the ground was frozen and then it was back to Ft. Myers to drive a cab.

Then, there are just the normal observations; that is, what did I see that caught my attention. First, the options for airline services at the Ft. Myers airport (proper name: Southwest Florida International Airport, RSA) seem to be increasing. In addition to the usual suspects; e.g., American Airlines, the possibilities include: Air Canada, West Jet, Sun Country, Airberlin (German), Silver Spirit, and Alegant. Activity at the airport is increasing, but it still is most convenient with respect to passenger pick-up and drop-off and access to rental cars.

Ft. Myers is populated in part by an aged population (yes, folks my age and above), many of whom are snowbirds, or simply travel back and forth frequently between Ft. Myers and some other place ‘up north’. Flying to Omaha through Midway I observed a wheelchair traffic jam in preparation to board my flight, nine in all stacked up in formation. The wheel chair passengers were all patiently waiting, some with families, for a flight to a place whose high temperature that day would be less than that experienced in Ft. Myers. Many did not look very happy. Perhaps it was the wheelchair effect or that they were leaving nice weather for who knows what. We should get used to this scene. The U.S. population is aging quickly and a good size segment of the older population will continue to travel by air. More wheel chair traffic jams are inevitable. I just hope that when my time comes, and it will happen soon enough, that my ride will be cooler than the ones currently found at the airport.

The Crescent City Seems to be Losing Some of Its Monuments

Downtown NOLA

I was back in New Orleans in early February in conjunction with the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) Deans Conference. Once again, hundreds of business school deans got together to commiserate about their challenges, brag about the extraordinary work (perhaps an exaggeration) they have done, and renew old friendships that sometimes last for decades. For me, the meeting involved seeing even more new faces, a chance to hear about and discuss best practices in curriculum development and fundraising, visit with one of our most interesting alums, and have the opportunity to be back in a city that I really like.

This visit was a bit different than all of the other times I have been in the Big Easy. On Tuesday February 7, while Bill Hargrave, Dean of Business at Auburn University, was moderating a session on crisis management (his business school had a big fire in 2016), my phone alarm went off, three times. Little did we know but it was Twister Tuesday! No one seemed to know what to do, and there was no sign of the Hilton Staff (maybe they were in some bunker). So, we managed that crisis by not doing anything at all. Imagine that, 70 or so for the most part Type A personalities frozen in their chairs. Before much more time had passed, six tornados had set down (there were five injuries reported), one in Orleans Parish, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was closed, and Governor Jon Bel Edwards (last name sound familiar?) had declared a state of emergency. We, yes we, just sat there hearing about how others managed their crises!

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/02/07/tornado-inflicts-major-damage-in-new-orleans-east-building-collapse-reported.html

New Orleans continues to recover for the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. There are still remnants of properties destroyed, but on the positive side, there has been significant renovation and re-birth adjacent to the river, downtown, in neighborhoods and along Canal Street and other main thoroughfares. Only one large eyesore remains downtown, the former World Trade Center hotel at the foot of Canal right at the river. The Riverside Complex was buzzing with foot traffic, and on a Sunday afternoon I observed the departure of the Norwegian Dawn, a cruise ship with a bunch of crazy tourists bound for a few days of extreme sunburn in the Caribbean.

New Orleans celebrates its diverse culture, and, in particular, the contributions of immigrants to its over 200 years of history. The statue pictured below is one dedicated to Italians, my people. It’s a very nice work of art, and is located along the river walk.

Nola Statue

On the statue and monument front, New Orleans is having the same conversations that are occurring in many cities and towns in the old south. One of the main issues to be resolved is the future of monuments, mostly statues, commemorating the Civil War. I have written about statues before, in particular, the issues relevant to the removal of the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, slave-trader and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, in Memphis. In 2015, the Memphis City Council voted to relocate the statue from a public park, only to be over-ruled by the Tennessee Historical Commission.

Recently, May 2017, four statues were taken down, three at night, after the City Council of New Orleans voted to have them removed. As expected, the backlash from incensed supporters of southern heritage was significant, thus there were no announcements regarding when the statues would be moved. A genius legislator from Mississippi recommended that the New Orleans leaders be lynched (although he did apologize later). Others posted Facebook threats and left nasty language telephone messages. Workers who removed the statues wore protective gear and had their faces covered out of fear of reprisal.

So, who came down:

  • General Robert E. Lee, all 16 feet of him on a 60 foot pedestal above St. Charles Avenue at Lee Circle. We know his historical significance as the leader of the Confederate States Army. His statue was the last to be removed, May 19. The statue was erected in 1884.
  • General Pierre Gustave Toutant (PGT) Beauregard, four feet taller than General Lee and on horseback. His statue was located at City Park, and was erected in 1915. P.G.T. Beauregard was a United States Military Academy graduate, rising to the rank of Brevet Major in the U.S. Army before he became a General in the Confederate States Army. He commanded the armies of the western theatre, but also served in Charleston and Petersburg. His statue came down May 17.
  • Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America. His statue was 6 feet high, and it resided on a 12 foot column on Jefferson Davis Parkway at Canal Street. It was erected in 1911. Davis was also a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, rising to the rank of Colonel in a volunteer regiment. He served as Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 under President Franklin Pierce. Davis’ statue came down May 11.
  • The Liberty Place Monument was erected in 1891, and commemorated a bloody uprising in 1874 of the white-supremacist Crescent City White League. The league objected to the New Orleans integrated police force and state militia. The monument was 35 feet tall and was located on Canal Street near the French Quarter.

PGT Beauregard monument down

I recommend reading more about the four monuments, asking yourself the more general question: what are we to do, if anything, with the hundreds or more monuments still standing throughout the south?

One final observation. The New Orleans Airport, named for Louis Armstrong, is old and tired. However, a new one is on the way, scheduled completion 2018 (you can look it up). Will the new airport be named for Louis Armstrong?

 

Back West, Denver and Vail

I flew to Denver and drove from Denver to Vail in late January. It was the beginning of a five trip series, all in less than 30 days. By the end of the last trip (Scottsdale, Arizona), I was worn out, but smiling from a set of experiences that were great fun. Then I ended up with pneumonia.

The purpose of the Denver trip was to attend a University of Nebraska Omaha alumni event, and to visit with some of our college’s alumni, including a couple who live in Vail. It was the usual stuff in regard to the airports (e.g., de-icing, which smells and sounds weird). As our 737-800 approached Denver, it was apparent that there was not only no snow on the ground, but little of it to be found at the lower elevations of the Front Range. Yes, there was snow on Pike’s and Long’s Peaks, but not at the levels I have observed many times when flying out to Denver in January and February. In fact, we saw virtually no snow until we were about an hour east of Vail. The van from the airport was full of humanity, and some of my fellow travelers, perhaps, had forgotten to shower in the previous few days. The driver seemed unmoved by the sounds and smells filling up the van, and I was happy to be the first one out.

Our hotel was 35 minutes from DIA in Cherry Creek, not far from the dam that holds back the water in Cherry Creek Reservoir. My room was on the tenth floor and faced the mountains (see picture below). Wow.

Hotel View

I made my first trip to Denver (the first one that I can remember) in 1966 to see my father. I had not seen him in 14 years, and as you might suspect I was a bit nervous. That flight from Dallas Love Field was uneventful, but as we approached the Rocky Mountains I was overtaken by the views. Flights landed at Stapleton airport in those days, nearer to Denver than DIA and closer to the front range. In the more than 50 years that have passed since that first visit, I have never lost the sense of excitement at the first appearance of real mountains and all of the promise of adventure that come with the views.

During that first visit, I learned about gold and other ore mining, starting with day trips to Cripple Creek and Leadville (subsequent reading as well). I also got my first introduction to coal mining.  I heard, first hand, some of my grandfather’s stories about his days as a coal miner, although I found out about the real exciting stuff in later ventures to his home in Louisville, Colorado.

Leadville CO

Leadville, Colorado

Our event in Denver went as planned, and I felt a strong connection to our alumni. I heard stories of success and changes from a group of people who greatly value the education that they had received from us. We have a large number of alumni in metropolitan Denver, and many of them have been out there for 30 or more years. We also saw some hockey. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, our hockey team lost to Denver University (DU) 4-2 in the first game of the series. Now I can feel just a bit better about that loss given that DU won the national championship in hockey two weekends ago. We, UNO, were in the Frozen Four in 2014.

We were given a tour of Galvanize by one of our alumni, a start-up business hub in an area of Denver that has undergone significant redevelopment. It’s a very cool place, an old warehouse that has been converted into rental spaces for aspiring and actual entrepreneurs. There are coding classes offered as well. My favorite alumnus visit was with Mike, a former student of mine (in the course, Marketing Research) whom I had not seen since 19887. Hearing his stories about career and family, all good, makes me smile. Meetings such as this one serve as a reminder about how much I have to be thankful for regarding my time in the classroom.

UNO vs DU

The drive to and from Vail was an adventure. But first, a bit about Vail. It’s a relatively new place, incorporated in 1966, four years after the opening of Vail Ski Resort. Pete Siebert, who had served in the U. S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division during World War Two, and local rancher, Earl Eaton cooked up the idea of establishing a ski resort, and decided to name it after Charles Vail, the highway engineer who in 1940 routed U.S. Highway 6 (it goes east through Omaha) through Eagle Valley. Siebert and Eaton found investor support in Denver, and they began what has become a first-rate ski area, one of the best in the U.S. Vail is now the largest ski area in North America.

ManorVail_Winter

Now back to the adventure. The drive to Vail was fairly pedestrian. There was the expected rise in altitude and turns in the highway, but Interstate 70 has taken away most of the really exciting elements that can still be found on highway 6 and other non-interstate routes. We encountered some snow and a bit of wind near the Breckenridge exit, but before long we were settling in for a wonderful dinner with friends (an alum and spouse) at La Bottega in beautiful Vail.

The ride back to Denver after dinner was a bit different. Upon exiting the restaurant, we could feel the extra cold, -1 degree Fahrenheit, and a bit more of wind. As we began the trek back east, there was even more wind and steady snow. From time-to-time the road surface was hard to see, especially as it wound around the beautiful but unfriendly landscape (what we could see of it). Fortunately, the conditions were not too slippery, and the car handled quite well. But, the ride did not feel completely safe. At several junctures I was driving less than 40 miles per hour. My passenger, our college’s development director, felt less comfortable than me. Earlier in the day she had suggested alternative plans that involved not driving at night. I assured her that if the conditions became too dangerous, we would find another hotel for the evening. I also let her know that I had a number of experiences driving in conditions like these. I am not sure that she believed me, but it’s true. The 45 minute drive back to the continental divide and the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels, seemed to take hours. At one point we slowed even more due to lane closings (snow was being cleared). As soon as we came out of the east side of the tunnel, the snow ended and there was much less wind. The mostly downhill ride back to Denver was much less interesting. It was good to get back to the hotel that night. The next day and the return home was uneventful. I was already thinking about my next destination, New Orleans.

eisenhower_tunnel_coloradoloveland-pass-colorado1

A Shooting at the Airport

I was back in Clearwater Beach in early January, a last break before the spring semester commenced and my travel schedule got way out of hand. We flew directly to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport, PIE as it is known. As noted before, PIE is very convenient for us. The A320 flown by Allegiant is comfortable enough, more legroom, and I like the no frills (unless you pay) approach to baggage and such. While there was no official flight delay, nor a cancellation, there was some excitement before wheels up. Just before the doors were closed, an Omaha police officer came on the aircraft to have “a conversation” with a fellow passenger. The passenger was only two rows in front of my seat, opposite side of the plane, but the conversation was too muffled to understand what transpired. I did hear, “well, I paid for this ticket,” but apparently that explanation did not completely work. He was quietly escorted off the aircraft. While we waited a few minutes before the doors were closed and armed (with what?), the passenger did not return. Hmm.

allegiant-a320

The flight was uneventful. It was a nice day weather-wise, so our time over the gulf revealed the usual sparkling water, fishing and sail boats, and a coast line of places that we could identify. An on-time arrival at this time of the year is something to celebrate, and we did. It’s a short walk from the gate to the baggage claim and rental cars at the PIE, and we moved quickly to get ahead of a possible long line at the Alamo desk. There was only one person in line in front of me, so it was not long before an agent was gathering all the particulars. It was nearly 80 degrees outside and my mind began to wander, thinking about the beach, the breeze, shrimp, and an adult beverage at Palm Pavilion when an alarm went off that startled all of us. We could not tell what or whom had set it off, although it appeared to be coming from the spot where deplaned passengers cross into the baggage area (you cannot go back that way). I thought that perhaps a confused tourist had decided to try to go back, thus triggering the alarm. And, next, there was the announcement. We were evacuating PIE. I didn’t have the paperwork complete for the car, and we were told to get out, pronto. We grabbed all of our stuff and joined the increasing number of dumbfounded folks who, like me, had never been through an airport evacuation before.

pie_baggage_claim

As our overdressed selves stood in the sun beginning to perspire, the story about the shooting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport began to spread. Perhaps someone was going to blast away in PIE, but we had not heard any shots. In fact, we were never told why we were asked to get out, nor was there any local news story that I could find. The Ft. Lauderdale shooting had occurred about an hour earlier, and there was a rumor of a second shooter about the time we were evacuated. The two airports are on opposite sides of Florida, 201 miles apart.

The all-clear came in about 20 minutes, and now the stampede was on to get back into the PIE (think cattle again). Luggage and rental cars awaited. The beach was calling. It was time to party. We moved with a purpose and found ourselves in front of the same Alamo agent we had worked with prior to our exit. We checked out quickly (she had no idea regarding why we had evacuated the PIE). We headed north then west to the beach. As you might expect, our conversation had turned to the tragedy in Ft. Lauderdale and if our early exit was somehow related to twitchy airport officials who were concerned for our safety. Thanks, I mean it, for being twitchy.

pie-airport

Short trips are always fun, especially when traveling to a place with much warmer weather (during the winter). And, there is always something interesting happening at the beach. First, we ran into Jimmy Hart at Hulk Hogan’s store in Clearwater Beach. You might remember Jimmy from his days on WWE and WWF, as a manger of Hulk Hogan, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and a host of others. Jimmy, aka “The Mouth of the South,” lived in Memphis for many years (he was born there). He first became known locally for his vocals with The Gentry’s. In 1965, The Gentry’s had a million selling record, “Keep on Dancing.” They were under contract with Stax at the time the band folded. Janet was once on George Klein’s Dance Party (yes, that George Klein, friend of Elvis) with Jimmy Hart in the early 1970s, Jimmy with The Gentry’s and Janet with the Bartlett High School choir.

jimmy-hart-the-pols

Janet was quite excited to see Jimmy and a conversation ensued. He’s a graduate of Treadwell High School in Memphis. Janet attended three high schools in Memphis, Bartlett, Central, and Kingsbury, all rivals of Treadwell. Janet gave Jimmy a gentle reminder that while The Gentry’s lip synced their number, Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” the Bartlett High School choir actually sang “Carol of the Bells”—it was December. He took it well, noting that often shows like Dance Party did not have the right equipment for live performances. We posed for pictures, and Jimmy treated us like long lost friends, very nice. I like that guy.

While driving, I was stopped by the police in Redington Beach for not having my lights on during a rain event. He, the officer, found it odd that a dude from Nebraska was driving a car from North Carolina (I told him it was a rental). He went back to his car, ran my license, and discovered no outstanding warrants. He gave me a verbal warning (very polite) and when I started driving again the ladies in the car observed that he was cute. So nice.

Over the next months, I will be writing more about the new restaurants and hotels in Clearwater Beach, but I should note that a new Mexican food restaurant has opened, “The Spotted Donkey”, and they serve the beer “Reef Monkey.” Where do they get these names?

Our weekend in Clearwater Beach happened to coincide with the playing of the college national championship football game, Alabama versus Clemson (the game was at Raymond James Stadium). There seemed to be many more Clemson fans at the beach. In fact, there were hardly any Alabama fans that we saw (until their marching band showed up), on the streets, restaurants, or hotels. I’m not sure why. We did see both marching bands perform (not at the same time) on the beach right next to Pier 60. The cheer squads, a sad looking dude or dudette dressed up as a small elephant, a somewhat better looking human inhabited stuffed Tiger, and a bunch of fans got all excited. It turns out that the Clemson fans had good reason to be jazzed up. That was quite a game.

cwb-clemson-marching-band

Who is That Guy in the Red Hoodie?

It was back in Dallas in mid-December. Air travel from and to Omaha is tricky at this time of the year, especially when your scheduled ride did not dead-head in Omaha the night before. We arrived at Eppley Air Field just before noon, and learned quickly that our flight was delayed 45 minutes. In a very short time, we went from delayed to cancelled. The weather outside was frightful, but in surrounding states even worse. Our scheduled ride to Love Field was not getting to Omaha.

Well, no one cracked up. Folks just got in line to make their route and time changes, with the usual muffled conversations about the weather in Chicago, St. Louis, or elsewhere having some effect on travel plans. The lines that formed up reminded me of the instances when cattle line up and head toward “the barn” when it’s time to be fed. I did not like the vibe in the line, so I wandered off for a short walk. Janet hopped on the Southwest website and snagged up a flight for early in the evening. A kind agent in another line gave us boarding passes. Of course, “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” were playing in the background, but it’s hard to get into the spirit when your flight has been cancelled. I’ve sometimes wondered why there isn’t a shift away from holiday music when there are a bunch of flight delays and cancellations. Wouldn’t Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” work much better? I like that song, even though it has been much overplayed in the last three years.

pharrell-williams

While we had time to leave the airport and return, a below zero wind chill convinced us not to go. There was food and drink to be found along with a growing crowd (more delays and cancellations) of people who apparently had taken their medications before heading to the airport. The complaint level was low, and quiet, and the gate agents were real champs that day. One dog got a bit surly, a bark here and there, but the outbreak was short-lived. Perhaps a tasty bit of pizza or even some beer had a role in distracting the agitated hound.

Extended time in the airport means, for me, extra time for reading and too much time for directionless thinking. After catching up with local, national, and international news, including the latest tweets from the President-Elect, I began to wonder about how many songs there were with cold in the title or being cold as a theme (yes, it was very cold outside). So, in short order, I was back to my iPad to find a list of such songs. And, I found:

  • Cold Sweat (James Brown) – my favorite
  • Funky Cold Medina (Tone Loc)
  • Cold as Ice (Foreigner)
  • Cold, Cold, Cold (Little Feat)
  • Stone Cold (Rainbow)
  • Cold Blooded (Rick James)
  • Cold Beer with Your Name on It (Josh Thompson)
  • Hot Beer and Cold Women (Randy Houser)
  • She Shook Me Cold (David Bowie)
  • Out in the Cold (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)

james-brown

After another delay, or two, we were airborne, arriving at Love Field just after 10:45 pm. As we headed toward the rental car van, I was not too tired to observe that the Love Field Whataburger was closed (make a note of that). The rides to the rental car desk and my sister’s house were uneventful, although I did learn of a fight that broke out in the Ft. Lauderdale airport (among family members! fist were flying) that was somehow linked to a flight delay. Anyway. We arrived at my sister’s, 11:30 pm, twelve hours after first arriving at Eppley Airfield, well more than the time needed to drive from Omaha to Dallas.

So, now to the guy in the red hoodie. After a Sunday morning breakfast at Cindy’s, our favorite breakfast place stop in north Dallas, we decided to drive over to Grapevine Lake to take a look at a housing development on the lake. Old downtown Grapevine is a very cool place, with restored buildings, good restaurants, plenty of holiday decorations and an appreciation of its history. Seeing old Grapevine remind me of the days before the construction and operation of DFW. The town and the lake are on the north end of the air field.

I was driving toward the lake and there was a lot of conversation going on, when out of the corner of my eye, my right eye not my left, I saw something you do not see on the streets of Nebraska. My passengers did not see “it”, so when I told them that the guy in the red hoodie we just passed by was packing, they responded that I had to be wrong. I told them that they were busy talking and I was just doing what I do, noticing the stuff around me. They chuckled, and I responded that I would turn the vehicle around so that they could see what I had observed. Sure enough, a mid-20s guy in dark pants (black) and a red hoodie had an automatic weapon strapped over his shoulder and a pistol on his hip (I did not notice the pistol on the first pass).

My sister soon stated that especially since the killings at Sandy Hook she had promised herself that if she saw something like this that bothered her she would call the police, and she did. While open carry is legal in Texas and in other states, seeing it when you live in a place where it does not occur certainly gets your attention. On our third pass, the last one, we noticed that the guy was jogging a bit, then he hid behind a tree, and then moved on down a different street. We hung back after that thinking that we did not want to be his first targets of the day.

The police, four cars, arrived too late, the red hoodie guy was gone and could not be found. We talked to them, described what we had observed, and it appeared to us that they were concerned. Think about this:

  • Open carry is legal, and red hoodie man was not breaking a law
  • Red hoodie man was engaged in some suspicious behavior (in our opinion, hiding behind a tree and jogging, remember he’s packing)
  • Perhaps the “weapons” were an air rifle designed to look like an automatic weapon, along with an air pistol (we don’t know, who else would know?)
  • If you are a police officer, how do you approach this individual? This is legal behavior, but…

Later that day we were in AT&T stadium to watch the Cowboys play the Bucs. The Cowboys prevailed 26-20. Jerry Jones’ house is big, too big for me. We sat in section 451, aka the nosebleed section. Aren’t aliens kept in Area 451? The seats are not inexpensive either, yet when looking down, the field appears to be occupied by big ants in uniforms. If you sit up that high, you end up spending most of the time looking at the giant screen, not much different from your home TV. The screen is so dominant that the crowd is laid back until cheerleaders or Michael Irvin comes on the screen urging the crowd to cheer. Cowboy fans are loyal and vocal, but that stadium (at least for the folks sitting up high) has no soul, no crowd spontaneity. After spending consecutive weeks watching the Bucs play New Orleans (home) and Dallas (away), give me Raymond James stadium with its crazy fans and exciting environment.

att-staduiumraymond_james_stadium-1337

Clearwater Beach – Just Before the Holidays, the Bolts and the Bucs Go One and One

We were back in the air headed toward warmer weather in early December. I was in a festive mood, determined not to let those awful versions of Christmas music that wash over U.S. airports at this time of year invade my happy space. The 12 Days of Christmas done by what sounded like Box Car Willy does not put anyone in a good frame of mind—well, maybe small children do not recognize the violence being done to these songs. Anyway, my fellow travelers seemed upbeat too. It was too early in the month to witness the mob of families headed to Orlando and a date with the mouse.  There were a few flight delays, but no harsh words about missed connections or lives ruined. I even met a Cleveland Browns fan. He was not suicidal over the fact that his Brownies were still winless.

Our connection was in St. Louis (Lambert Field), again my favorite fly-through airport because the Southwest gates are so close together. By the time we were over the gulf (it was a clear day), the anticipation of a much warmer few days rendered me giddy. The views off the left side of the aircraft, aqua blue water, white sand beaches, the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs, McDill Air Force Base, and finally the air field brought back memories of previous trips to Clearwater Beach, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and other places in the region.

clearwater_beach_8

While airborne, I lamented, again, the loss of Sky Mall buying opportunities. Also note that Southwest The Magazine no longer carries Sudoku puzzles, a terrible exclusion in my opinion. Anyway, without Sky Mall, the only option for buying stuff at 37,000 or so feet is Southwest The Magazine, a glossy publication filled with stories so short that I wonder why they were written at all. However, there are many high altitude buying opportunities, including:

  • Mdrive (re-find your prime by boosting testosterone and burning fat)
  • Hair Replacement/Rejuvenation
    • Ultimate Hair Growth Lazer, 82 Lazer diocles, 90 seconds, 3 times a week (just strap it on your head), only $795, give as a gift and $125 off
    • Lazer Band 82, strap it on your head and smile like the folks in the pictures below
    • Capillus, 82 lazer diodes, 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week (put on the Capillus Ball Cap), $799, FDA cleared, whatever that is
  • Standing Desks (two ads)
  • Earn a Doctorate in business administration (DBA on-line)
  • Jesus Always talking books
  • Pinto Ranch cowboy boots for women (why not cowgirl boots?)
  • Lasik and Cataract Surgery (eight options)
  • It’s Just Lunch (date smarter)

There’s more, but I will stop here.

Amalie Arena is home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, an NHL hockey team that last won the Stanley Cup in 2004. The Bolts, as they are known, are having a tough season, and on December 10 had lost two in a row, and six of their last seven games. We had excellent seats in the lower bowl. The Bolts shot out to a 3-1 lead. Bad penalties, the inability to clear the puck, and unforced errors led to the Pittsburg Penguins eventually winning 4-3. Andres Sustr, a former UNO player and once a student in our college, is a defenseman for the Bolts. He took one of the bad penalties and it led to a goal for the Penguins. We saw three fights, and one ejection. Tampa Bay was outshot 37-13, and had 32 penalty minutes (Pittsburgh had 18). The best part of the arena is the generation of lightning in the ceiling that zaps away now and then not unlike that found in scenes from Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein (the movies).

frankensteinamalie-arena

I experienced three days of fog, sometimes the heavy version, while on this visit. In all of my travels to Clearwater beach, I have never witnessed this much fog. Moreover, it lasted until well into the afternoon on two days. Seeing that zero visibility view (what view?) one morning brought to mind Stephen King’s 1980 novella, The Mist. As in typical King style, there’s bad stuff in that fog, real bad stuff. The story has and interesting twist (sad) at the end and if you don’t know the story, check it out.

the-mist

We (Janet, my mother Jean, her husband Sid, and our friends Gary and Becky) went to Raymond James Stadium to watch the Bucs beat the Saints 16-11. We saw a very rare occurrence. Neither Drew Brees nor Jameis Winston (for his first time) threw a touchdown pass. And, the Saints did not score a touchdown at all. They, the Saints, made up for this lack of offense by scoring six touchdowns the following week. Our seats, in the lower bowl, were close to the end zone that is home to the craziest of fans (in a fun way). That end zone is the one that has the pirate ship that shoots off its cannons when the Bucs score (you’ve seen it on TV). The fans were all decked out in pirate garb and Santa gear. They also a happy bunch, spontaneous, and definitely oiled up for the occasion, very much unlike the plastic bunch we observed the following week when we saw the Bucs play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

bucs-pirate-ship

A final bit of news. For those of you who keep up on the latest bits of news from the world of Scientology, a recent rumor around Clearwater has it that Tom Cruise is having a new luxury condominium built, complete with an automobile elevator (who doesn’t need one of these?), built right smack dab in downtown Clearwater. The entire complex in which Mr. Reacher’s condo will be located is projected to generate much needed economic activity in downtown Clearwater. Stay tuned for an update given that I will be back at the beach soon.

jack-reacher-poster-international