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Big Red Sunball sinks into Gulf of Mexico behind the Fort Walton Beach Pier by Margo Redd, September 15, 2013

Big Red Sunball sinks into Gulf of Mexico behind the Fort Walton Beach Pier by Margo Redd, September 15, 2013

I again apologize for the rather unpredictable publishing of these musings. Between summer vacations and the Evil Web Mistresses’ travels, it’s been a bit of a mess.

Not to mention that I’ve yet to earn a sou from these writings. I know there must be a way to do that, but I’m either too lazy or to ignorant to produce.

That said, I must get you caught up on some recent ramblings:

I recently visited my son in Albuquerque. He’s closing in on this PhD in Psych and has become quite instructional in the ways of the world.

There’s a lot to be said for college towns, and the closer to campus you get the more vibrant the vibe. (OK, it’s somewhat redundant, but it’s true.)

Well, I thought I could get away with it.

Not writing a blog, that is.

Sadly, some of my demented followers have noticed the lack of enterprise in my part, and have complained about it. So here we go:

Ad lib of the week comes from my dear friend Ray Brown, pianist and former member of Group Four of the Four Freshmen.

We were sitting at The Boathouse in Valparaiso playing Buzztime Trivia, as we do ‘most every afternoon. (We’re good, and always up for a challenge.)

I’d brought out some jalapeno poppers from Pepper’s in Shalimar for the beautiful bartendress to enjoy, she being of enough nationalities that she liked spicy food. Picoso for you who speak the lingo.

So I opened the box, and asked Ray: “Would you like a popper?”

He said, “Hell yes. What time does she get off work?”

OK. On to more important things:

Sherriff Larry Ashley spoke to our local PR group recently, and had some interesting facts to share with us. Namely:

Three/fourths of accidents are made by distracted drivers.

How long will it take for the State of Florida to prohibit cell phone conversations and texting while driving to take force?  The latter is a no-brainer, and the former is a no-thinker.

Ashley also made some good points on why bed taxes should be partially given to the Sheriff’s Office.

Agreed! As we say here, “Them visitors are causing problems and should pay for it!”

He also made a great point on how low our costs are here for law enforcement. We’re waaay below the Florida average. (Note to Larry: Start picking up folks who don’t drive with their lights on during rain. Between Shalimar and ValP two days ago I counted eight with no lights on and one with one headlight.)

There’s some serious bread to be made there.

On a more entrepreneurial  note, I was scrolling through the June issue of Consumer Reports magazine and found a listing for “Sporting-goods stores.”

Being a bit of a sport, I thought I’d take a gander. (Goose would be too lascivious.)

Fourteen outlets were listed, and I was delighted to see Edwin Watts Golf Shops listed in second place behind whatever “Independent Stores/Golf shops are.”

Edwin and his brother, Ronnie, have created a world-wide presence here with their magic of selling quality golf clubs and other items. Worldwide.

Even though I’d known Edwin and his much-more-attractive wife, Mary, for many years, it wasn’t until I was visiting Orlando that I knew the scope of his fame.

I was in Orlando for a Four Freshmen reunion, which is a marvelous time for those of us who remember, “When popular music was good, and good music was popular.”

(I got that quote from famed Civil Rights leader Julian Bond who was at Harbor Docks to hear the quartet perform. He’s a huge fan.)

So I sponsored the lady I was seeing and her young daughter to a weekend in the Disney world while I enjoyed the Freshmen reunion.

Well, my baseball team, sadly the Chicago Cubs, was in the hunt for the National Central title, and I asked the concierge if there was a sports bar nearby. “Yes,” the nubile one replied; “Walk up the hill about two blocks and at the end of the strip mall there’s a wonderful sports bar.”

Walk I did, and was delighted to see dozens of cars parked there, Cubs fan all, I imagined.

Well, not so. Of the 16 television sets in the pub, they were all tuned to the World Cup Soccer Championships. Seems every male visitor from the continent was there to cheer on his team.

(I finally got the owner to turn on a 13” TV in the corner so I could watch my Cubbies lose.)

But back to Edwin Watts:

I’d struck up a friendship with two Scots who were there for the soccer. One had to translate for the other, so rich was his brogue.

The afternoon was made more memorable by a lovely Scottish lassie who jumped in my lap telling me how much she loved the dashiki I was wearing. (It’s was a gift from a happily-married bartendress who said she gave it to me, “Because you’re the only man in town who’d wear it.”)

But wear it I did, much to mine and the lassie’s delight.

Somehow the conversation turned to golf, and somehow Edwin Watts name came up. Not knowing he was the God of Golf I said I knew him:


It was as if I knew the Christ Child.

So I allowed he was a wonderful guy, with a wonderful wife, who did a lot for our community and smiled a lot.

And I tried to tell this wonderful Scot he was just one of us, which was a bit awkward with the dashiki lady nibbling on my neck, but I did.

About that time Nibbling’s Boyfriend showed up. I’d guess 6’4’ and about 240 pounds. I turned to my new friend, Graeme Brown, and said, “It’s been great knowing you. Please call the Ramada and tell the ladies in room 435 my body is here.”

“Nay,” he said. “She’s going to dump him when we get back to Scotland.”

I countered with, “He doesn’t know that yet and I’m likely dead. Tell Edwin you did this to me. He’s a great guy.”

Well, as luck would have it, the Caber Thrower just moved down the bar, and I, extricated from the charms of whomever, bid farewell and went back to hear some great music, neck fairly intact.

Edwin, you’re a rock star.

And speaking of such, if you have a chance … and even if you don’t … please see “Redneck Riviera” at the Magnolia Grill this summer. It’ locally produced with some real pros on the book and the piano.

Kudos to writers Jim Lee and Liz Cain for dreaming up this wonderful look at ourselves.

I took my visiting Mormon brother to it, he knowing nothing of our bib-overalls history and he totally loved it. (He also had a dollop of Scotch whisky later.) Bad Bro!

I expected a cast of two, but instead there were a dozen entertainers, and each with a beautiful voice and swagger. ‘Tis not to be missed. 302-0266 for reservations.

Two mentions on the entertainment scene:

Retroactive featuring Susy Murphy and Norris Mealer are not to be missed, wherever they are. Norris is a great songwriter and singer and Susy has the most perfect voice since the late Karen Carpenter.

They mostly play in the Niceville/ValP arena, but do catch them. Outstanding duo!

And then there’s a place I’ve written about before: The Beal Street Bottle Club.

The rules are simple: pay ten bucks to get in, bring your bottle or wine or beer, and enjoy very inexpensive set ups. And also enjoy some great jazz/R&B on Friday and Saturday nights. The Latin Sound is there for you Thursday evenings.

I’m a music fan; been writing about it since high school. And have visited some of the great jazz joints of the world: Spotted Cat, SnugHarbor, and Preservation Hall in the Big Easy; Jazz Workshop and Cal Tjader’s Black Hawk  in San Francisco (Saw Peggy Lee there),  Blue Note in D.C., and an incredible Very Small venue in Prague that simply blew me away.

So let me say, again, that the Beal Street Bottle club has some of the Best Damn Jazz I’ve ever heard. It’s full of those Billy Joel moments: “What are you doing here?”

Check it out. The crowd is a wonderfully harmonious mix of blacks and whites, all listening to great music.

We close with this sign from a wonderful restaurant in Albuquerque, the Flying Star. You order at the counter, are given a numbered sign, and take a seat. The amazingly adroit staff relies on gratuities for their income, hence this sign on a tip jar:



Love to HATE to “Blogging!”


Love to Hate “Blogging”
Photo from http://tinyurl.com/m8kr27a

Once again, I must apologize for not being more consistent in these missives. Between the Evil Web-Mistresses’ schedule and mine – which is essentially playing Buzztime Trivia most afternoons, it’s hard to put together a blog. Which, incidentally, is a word I hate.

To me, “blog” has about much appeal as “Yogurt.”

If they’d named yogurt something else I may have tried it. It‘s just a horrible word, like my least-favorite word in the world: “Snot.” I can’t countenance that word.

I can deal with such unpleasantries as “vomit,” and “puke,” but the “S Word” repulses me.

So, on that happy note, let’s look at the goings on:

On the music scene I’m delighted to tell you and old veteran of this area is here for a few months. Jimmy “Three Fingers” Lewis is here from his home in Central America. Pranzo has booked him on Fridays for awhile, and at press time – as we say – he was looking for other gigs.

He’s a remarkable musician, with about 350 songs in is head.

Now this Jimmy Lewis is not to be confused with “One Eared” Jimmy Louis. Last I heard he was somewhere near the FloraBama lounge, but other reports have him in South Florida. “One Eared’s” story about how he came upon this rather novel nickname is more interesting that Three Fingers’ is, although the latter has been known to make up some preposterous tales for the uninitiated.

Check this guy out. He’s an amazing talent and one heck of a good guy.

I had two epiphanies on the culinary scene since we last chatted. I was visiting my good friend Jim Tucker – all fingers, two ears – at The Boat Marina which he runs and owns. And I had a hankerin’ for Chinese food so I asked Tucker for a recommendation. “Tokyo in Uptown Station is excellent.

I reminded him Tokyo is in Japan and he said, “Just try it.”

I did and it blew me away. The portions are huge, the price is small, and they have plenty of my favorites on the extensive menu, which is anything cooked Szechuan.

I was telling some friends about my find and one said, “Try China Taste in the Publix Shopping Center at the foot of Brooks Bridge.” I did, and it, too, is excellent and very reasonable.

Two emails arrived this week, but with the same quotes, but both with different points of origin. One claims these come from Tennessee, another says South Carolina. That frequently points to apocryphal origins but check out a few of my favorites, all attributed to “Southern Cops:”

  1. “If you run you’ll only go to jail tired.”
  2. “Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster.”
  3. “Just how big were those two beers you said you had?”
  4.  “You didn’t think we gave pretty women tickets? You’re right, we don’t. Sign here.
  5.  And my favorite: “The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?”

There’s a new sports bar in downtown Fort Walton: Luxe Sports Grill. It’s on Miracle Strip Parkway in the center of town. The menu is impressive and the flat screen TVs are everywhere. Give this a visit.

My friend Peter Bower sent a great list called “Through A Child’s Eyes.” Check out these notes to God:

“Dear God, I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that OK?”

“Dear God, instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don’t you just keep the ones you got now?”

“Dear God, In bible times did they really talk that fancy?”

More soon.

Great Band Students to Great Citizens, says Mr. Chad Hannah, Choctaw Band Director

Some of the Choctawhatchee Indoor Percussion 2013 with departing Asst. Band Director, Kelly Deklinski

Some of the Choctawhatchee Indoor Percussion 2013 with departing Asst. Band Director, Kelly Deklinski

I moved back here – I was the Director of Public Affairs at Eglin from ’81-86 – in 1990.

I looked up my old friend, Ray Brown, to announce my return.

Ray’s a pianist (that’s a noun, not an adjective), and has been playing these parts since Bacon’s By the Sea was hoppin’ in the 70s. He’s a former member of the Four Freshmen and until his back got staved up was tinkling (the ivories) at Magnolia Grill.

Anyway, Ray told me, “Check out the high school bands here. They’re among the best in the country, and have been for a long time.”

Well, until last night I failed to do that. But a young lady who I’ve befriended from diapers to drum sticks was in the Percussion Line for Choctaw’s annual concert, so I was obliged to go.

As my favorite poet, Robert Service, notes in one of his more-famous offerings: “A promise made is a debt unpaid.” So I went.

I’ve been writing about music since I was 16, had a semi-professional singing group in college, and am a huge fan of jazz, R&B, classical and bluegrass. (If you notice I left out Disco, Hip Hop and Rap it was intentional. They appeal to the least adequate of music aficionados.)

So here I was in the Choctaw auditorium with a goodly crowd of mostly parents.

And it was one of the most rewarding musical experiences of my long and unworthy life.

I was reminded of a concert my high school band gave in Spokane, Wash., my senior year. My mother dragged a cousin of hers along and after the concert, and we were good, Cousin Lorraine said, “I thought this was going to be pure torture but it was fantastic.”

Well, that’s the way it was in the Choctaw auditorium Tuesday night.

So much so that I called director Chad Hannah the next day with a few questions.

“There are about 200 musicians in our program,” he said. “The concert band is mostly freshmen and sophomores, and the symphony band is mostly juniors and seniors.”

I asked who the beautiful and talented female conductor was: “Kelly Delinsky. She has a masters from FSU and is heading to Switzerland to conduct after this year. Some of our kids have been with her for the four years she taught here.”

That would explain one of the beautiful girls in the reed section who wept openly and often during and after the last piece Kelly conducted; she was loosing a friend and mentor.

Mr. Hannah said he was a graduate of Jacksonville State in Alabama, adding, “I’m continuing a tradition of band directors from that school here.”

Ray Brown said that tradition started with band director Jim Leonard back in the 50s or 60s: “He got the war bonnet tradition going and really launched the band.”

Hannah added one last thing that I found interesting and profound: “You think you’re building a great band but later find out you’re building good citizens. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

“My job is simply to continue the tradition of excellence we have here. To maintain the historic quality we have here. One of the ways we do that is to play college-level music. It’s challenging, but so rewarding. We have great, dedicated kids.”

And they have some great directors. Well done, all.

And as I write this, the Percussion and Drum Line, about 42 strong, and chaperones and conductors are headed home from Dayton, Ohio after competing in the WGI Color Guard World Percussion competition.

They didn’t come back with the Gold and I’m stunned….

Now for the bad news:

Rusty Hammerstrom, long a musical staple here, is packing it in and heading back to his native Australia.

I first met Rusty when he played in Grayton Beach at what is now Pandora’s. He showed his mastery of banjo and guitar and was a great emcee as well.

He was also a great close-up magician. He was an even better friend, showing up in the wee hours of the morning after his gigs to help Ray Brown and me run the American Cancer Society Cablethon on Cox Cable.

Rusty, you will be greatly missed. Good luck, Mate.

With Full Apologies to the 114,215 hits on my blog, I (again) promise to be more faithful in being consistent. And for those of you who don’t live here and could care less about one of our exceptional bands, here are some universal truths for you.

Last we looked at some bumper stickers. Here are some of the latest T-shirts I’ve found in my strange collection of catalogues. I can really identify with the first one; my only “D”:

Well, another day has passed and I didn’t use ALGEBRA once.

And in a similar vein:

Dear Algebra,

Stop asking me to find your X.

She’s not coming back. 

And here’s one I’ll dedicate to my Buzztime Trivia players at the Boathouse in Valparaiso:

Some people need a handle

We can jiggle when their

MOUTH won’t stop running.

And as I charge more and more into my dotage, this one makes more and more sense:


Are Just Too Lazy to Look for Things.

Now if I can just find someone to make me my Very Own Original Bumper Sticker:


Watch for Turn Signal 

See you soon. Thanks for your patience.

It really is about the punctuation!


“How the heck owl you?” Courtesy of none other than Bill Campbell

“How the heck owl you?” Courtesy of none other than Bill Campbell


See, it’s all about punctuation. (And you thought writing was easy….)

I’ve been getting some rather strange catalogues lately, probably thanks to a subscription I took out to Mother Jones, which I was surprised to see was still in publication. But the catalogues I’m getting are straight out of the ‘60s. I feel like I’m running a head shop in North Beach.

Here’s a smattering of T-shirts and bumper stickers that are available from Northern Sun Merchandising:

It’s cheaper than therapy
And you get tomatoes.

The Labor Movement:
The folks who brought you the weekend.

(Did I mention it was a catalogue for progressives?)

Politicians should dress like race car drivers.
At least we’d know who their corporate sponsors are.


The best things in life
Aren’t things.

If going to church makes you a Christian
Does going to your garage make you a car?

That ties in nicely with this from Gandhi:
I like your Christ.
I don’t like your Christians.
They are so unlike your Christ.

I loved this one:

I work and pay taxes so wealthy
people don’t have to.

And for those concerned with the power of lobbyists:

The Three Branches of Government:

There are hundreds in this catalogue. Much fun, especially if you’re brave enough to wear one around here. Heck, I got my car keyed when I had an Obama sticker on it. They also keyed the sticker. I don’t recall any of my more progressive friends keying cars that had Romney or McCain stickers on them.

A big shout out to Shelly Miller and the crew at the local American Cancer Society. Our unit was just recognized by the national American Cancer Society as raising more money per capita for Relay for Life than any other organization in America.

Shelly, our president, has infused great enthusiasm and ambition into her many volunteers. Note: ACS has 40 volunteers for every paid staff member. And Shelly has surrounded herself with some great people. People who made Okaloosa County number one in the country.

The Beal Street Bottle Club has no greater fan than I. Hardly a Friday or Saturday goes by that you can’t find me there, enjoying some really terrific jazz or R&B.

Now they’ve added performances on Thursday nights as well. Cheryl Jones was there two weeks ago and this week Michael J. Thomas was there with a remarkable trio: the amazing Gino |Rosaria on keyboards, Eric Lamplay on bass, and Pauley on drums.

That’s all, just “Pauley.” I failed to ask him if that moniker was because he was a great fan of The Sopranos or if it was because his last name no one should ever have to carry through life. Like my good friend The Rev, aka Dr. Thomas Lane Butts.

Or, worse, the furniture people Badcock. How does a kid go through school with that as his last name?

I’ll check with Pauley next time I see him.

My cherished friend Dick Rogers came down from his home in Crestview to visit us flatlanders recently. And he called me with two encomiums: “There’s a server at McGuire’s, Tiffany, who treated us like family. She was absolutely marvelous.

“We also went to Ali’s where David waited on us. He was wonderful, too.”

Yes, I’ve been a David Jones fan for years. It started when he worked at the sadly-defunct Upper Crust restaurant on Racetrack Road. But I always ask for him at Ali’s, and am always treated royally. Thanks for the call, Dick.

Military Commissaries have a strange parking protocol. I was reminded of it last week when at the one at Eglin. Drivers clog up the driving lanes while waiting for a car to back out so they can have a parking place that is all of 25 feet closer than the one they just drove by.

And when they get the coveted spot a fat person gets out.

Think there’s a correlation?

See you next blog, hopefully in a week.  



"Two pelicans await the reopening of the Bay Cafe, which is now again open...much to everyone's delight...including these two guys!"

“Two pelicans await the reopening of the Bay Cafe, which is now again open much to everyone’s delight…including these two gents!”

A coupling of my annual sabbatical to New Mexico and the Evil Web-mistress dashing all over North America in pursuit of her job’s requirements has put a hole in what was (pretty much) a weekly column.

I resolve to be more consistent.

That said, one of the quieter perks of flying is the reading I get caught up on, namely Esquire and Vanity Fair. Both are excellent reads, but they exact quite a toll on ones’ reading time. I can rock through Time in an hour with Sports Illustrated taking a bit more, but the other two mags require ample time if one is to treat them with the respect they deserve,

The January issue of Esquire has a great article on “Highly Achievable Resolutions” for those of you still looking for some mantra to welcome 2013 with. Among them:

  • Try not to use your smartphone for at least ten minutes after sex.
  • Join a gym. (I’m not saying go. Just join.)
  • When washing your hands sing the alphabet song and try to get to at least g.
  • Don’t get a neck tattoo unless you are really, really sure of it.

The same issue has an interview with boxer Jake LaMotta. (Yes, I too am amazed he’s still alive.)

He was the first man to beat the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, who had 100 fights without a loss. And to show the 90-year-old LaMotta still has his sense of humor he added, “I fought Sugar Ray Robinson so many times it’s a wonder I don’t have diabetes.”

It is a great interview and makes me want to rent Raging Bull again.

Six inches of snow fell one night while I was in the Albuquerque area. That’s no big deal to the natives there, but was a little problematical for Wm IVth and me as we’d spent the night in his lady friend’s house which was almost to the top of a mountain. The road down had all the requisite twists and turns, few guardrails and lots of drop.

God bless four-wheel drive.

Back in Florida I was deeply saddened to get a call from Nancy Maxson, informing me that her husband – and my first boss at Eglin – had passed away that morning. Heart.

Bill Maxson was a retired two-star, and a thoroughly delightful man to be around. He had a great sense of humor and a father-in-law, the late Larry Hewett, who played piano for happy hour at Westwood Retirement Center until in his mid-90s.  

Bill flew 281 combat missions in Vietnam, and was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and 15 Air Medals. He retired in 1984 but his obit failed to list the one thing this community should thank him for.

It was under his direction that the Air Armament Museum was constructed.

I shall tell the story which has never been told:

General Maxson, with the urging of former Congressman Bob Sikes, who wanted a place to display his arsenal of weapons, decided to build the museum we now see between Fort Walton and Valparaiso/Niceville.

So we scheduled a meeting at the Upper Crust restaurant on Racetrack Road. It was a wonderful restaurant, with an equally wonderful bar upstairs: The Elegant Attic.

But the base brass objected strongly to the concept of a museum. The Civil Engineering boss, Col. Al Allison, said he didn’t have the money or resources to support such an endeavor.

Ditto with the Base Commander, Col. Bill Wycoff. And there was a chorus of colonels at the luncheon who said it was beyond their funding and abilities.

‘Twas then the most junior person at the table – me – said, “Gentlemen, let’s not forget what the boss told us at staff meeting this morning: ‘Figure out a way to get this thing built.’ ”

There was a pause in the conversation, and then the Chief Scientist at Eglin, the redoubtable Howard Dimmig spoke. Now Howard wasn’t known for his dulcet tones or quiet manner. Rather, he was a man great of voice and long on profanities.

And pointing at me, he said: “The little son-of-a-bitch is right. Let’s figure out how to build this (expletives deleted) thing.”

And we did. Thanks to Bill Maxson, with a push from Howard Dimmig, and a slight nudge from yours truly, the Little Son-of-a-Bitch.

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