Archive for October, 2013

Meet a happy old white guy

Here’s one I wrote for the Oct. 7 edition of www.contextflorida.com, a site that is politically oriented.

 

Being a white guy of a certain age, I guess I’m supposed to be angry.

The media are full of white grandpas who seem constantly angry about something or other.

Somehow, I don’t feel the rage. Maybe I’m out of step with my peers, but I’m happy.

Maybe it’s because I am a grandpa. There’s nothing like two gorgeous little granddaughters to make a fellow smile and to feel pretty darn good about life.

There’s also the prospect of qualifying for Medicare in just a few months, when my insurance premiums will drop dramatically and I can simply flash my Medicare card at the pharmacist when I get my cholesterol pills.

I also have a job, which is increasingly rare for men of my age. I’m grateful for the money and the interaction with different people and new ideas, things a lot of angry older men lack.

I even like the pope. This is new, certainly not something I’ve felt as a longtime lapsed Catholic, but Pope Francis exemplifies the Catholic Church I admired when I was an altar boy at St. Joan of Arc Church 55 years ago.

“Who am I to judge?” Francis says, calling for more action to help the poor and the neglected and for less rhetoric about gay people and abortion.

Francis and I may not agree on the issues, but he’s someone to admire. He lives modestly, drives his own car when he can, and seems to actually like people, a refreshing change from his Prada-wearing, red-shoed predecessors. It’s always nice to be able to respect and like someone who doesn’t have your same views.

While the tea party members seem so angry, it’s the tea party that makes me angry. They’re such a me-me-me! bunch, with all their fear of women, poor people, blacks and gays, and their scare tactics about President Obama, the Affordable Health Care Act and any government action that doesn’t favor them.

Still, one advantage of being an old guy is that I have seen this before, just with the names changed.

Remember the 1970s, when the Democrats self-destructed with Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, guys who didn’t deal well with changing times? Eventually, however, the Democrats emerged with winning candidates like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The Republicans are in a similar spot now. This tea party rebellion is necessary for them to decide what to be in the future. They will either implode or they will lay the groundwork for their next big hope and change.

I just wish they’d hurry up and decide what it will be. With so many angry old white guys around, I’m having trouble finding people my age to play with.

A fun writing assignment

Sometimes you get an assignment that’s just fun, like this request to write the “mythology” of the Snow Princess of Pensacola. It’s for a Snow Princess to be crowned at 5 p.m. Nov. 29 as part of Pensacola Winterfest’s annual Elf Parade in downtown Pensacola. It’s for children 7 and younger.

Once upon a time in Florida, far, far from the North Pole, the children of Pensacola yearned for snow to fall to make their Christmas a fairyland of fun and celebration.

But Pensacola was much too far South to have a chance for snow at Christmas.

So the good people of Pensacola got together and said, “Maybe a Snow Princess can bring us the magic of snow as we prepare for Christmas in Florida.”

The people looked about for a smart, kind girl to be the Snow Princess and help them pray for snow.

Fortunately, Pensacola has many smart, kind girls.

After much deliberation, the people picked one and said, “We will have a tea to introduce the Snow Princess and a Snow Prince, too.

“Then we will hold a parade, with elves and Santa Claus on his magic sleigh, and we will march through Pensacola.

“We will celebrate the holiday, which is a time of sharing with families, friends and strangers.

“We will sing Christmas carols and Ms. Winterfest will crown the Snow Princess for all to see.

“And then the Snow Princess will wave her wand and – if we wish strongly enough – snow will fall in Pensacola.”

And that’s what happened.

Everyone scrunched up their noses, closed their eyes and wished for snow.

And then they felt wet stuff on their faces and they opened their eyes.

Snow was falling in Pensacola, Florida.

All the children played in the snow and threw snowballs and enjoyed a storybook white Christmas.

Profiles draw readers, boost understanding

Profiles of key members of your staff add a personal touch to your website and let readers learn more about your organization. Here’s a profile of Marilyn Jones, a member of the Milton City Council. I write a profile of a Milton City Council member every month for its website, www.miltonlocal.com, which reports on activities in and around Milton.

 

Public safety and riverfront attractions are keys to Milton success, Jones says

Marilyn Jones sees Milton’s future in Blackwater River, which was the source of so much activity and fun when the City Council member was growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Those were days when boating and numerous other activities were regular events along the river.

“I’d like to see our city go back to enjoying the water,” said Jones, who is enthusiastic about plans for more Riverfront recreation and more downtown restaurants and attractions. “We used to have Fourth of July events, all kinds of good stuff.”

The riverfront and the city-owned marina also will appeal to health-conscious people who like boating, canoeing and other outdoor activities, said Jones, who joined the council in 1997.

In addition, Jones likes the ongoing efforts to expand Christmas in downtown Milton and the addition of bushes, flowers, trees and color to the roadsides and medians.

“I want Milton to be very inviting,” she said, noting the city’s family-friendly atmosphere already is a draw for newcomers.

Jones got her pro-Milton feelings the natural way. She was born in Milton – at home on Ferris Hill in 1954 – and she grew up in the Bagdad-Milton area, where her mother operated restaurants.

The Milton High School graduate was always interested in local government. When a friend left the Planning Board in 1995, Jones filled the vacancy. Her belief: It’s not good enough to simply have opinions; a person should “step up” and try to make things better.

One person with whom she often discussed politics was Chuck Prince, a City Council member, who was married to her husband’s sister. They shared a desire to upgrade the dilapidated firehouse and police station of that era.

In 1997, Prince died and Jones was named to replace him. She’s been on the council ever since, facing no opposition at the polls.

“Either I’m doing a good job or nobody else wants it,” she said with a laugh.

 Eventually the city worked through the complicated process and delivered much better accommodations for the police and fire departments.

“Public safety is near and dear to my heart,” Jones said. “I know they appreciate what we’ve tried to do for them.”

Now she wants to focus on other upgrades  – parks, recreation, especially for children, and other steps to brighten Milton.

“I want to make the city so people will want to come here,” she said.

She’s also working with Santa Rosa County Commissioner Don Salter to improve safety for schoolchildren walking along Glover Lane between Berryhill and Hamilton Bridge roads. Sidewalks would provide much safer passage and could be installed when Glover Lane is upgraded, she said.

When an issue arises, Jones tries to put herself in the citizen’s shoes and imagine how she would feel.

She recalls talking to Prince about this sort of attitude long before she joined the council.

He told her this was a good approach. “He told me, ‘It shows you’re a citizen first, a politician second,” she said.