Celebration == November 14, 2018 Wednesday == ‘I’m not talking to you’ & a Guy with a Concrete Block

HERE SHE IS … River Louise LaBoyteaux in the arms of her grandfather, my nephew Steven. Steve points out that her initials are “RLL” which are the initails of his father. River was born in Oklahoma earlier this month.

CAROL ANNE has headed to Oklahoma to winterise the house and do some meets and greets with old friends. During her flight from Orlando to Denver she happened to look out the window and discovered she was flying right over Sailboat Bridge at Grove, Oklahoma. The bridge is in the very centre of this picture but good luck finding it unless you know the shape of  Grand Lake. // Our days in Oklahoma have become less frequent as the years have passed. I sold the newspapers more than eleven years ago. At the time I sold I said “in six months no one will remember my name …” Actually that was quite optimistic — I think it was more like three months. All of that was fine with me — I managed over the 38 years of owning the newspapers to remain mostly anonymous … people knew my name, but never put my face to it. It helped that for much of that time I was off elsewhere doing lots of other thisandthat.

THE END OF THE FENCE FIGHT — over a year ago a hurricane blew down our aging fence and we got into it with the local gestapo that runs the town when we replaced the fence using the identical design and footprint of the previous fence, but using better quality materials. After appeals and angst, our $7,000+ fence finally got approved, but with a caveat — we have to plant stuff in front of it. Another 500-bucks is nothing. Here the nursery guys are mulching up the plot for the new plants and below, the completed planting. Is everybody happy now?

A corner of the fence with the new planting. Are we sure the nursery cleared it with Town Hall? … actually, we’re not so certain of that because officially we were never told that they did. Uh-oh.

. . . . . . . .

THE FIRST TOWN MANAGER of Celebration was Brent Harrington and he has been invited back to speak at Founders Day Weekend. Harrington was long gone amid the disastrous school fights before we arrived a mere six years after the town’s founding in 1996. Disney applied some crazy ideas to the school which included no classrooms, the elementary kids making up their our curriculum and no grades. The “no grades” meant that the graduating high school students could not get into college because they had no record of achievement. Parents fled and had it not been walked back and changed quickly, it might have sunk the town. Harrington himself was soon gone too.

CAROL ANNE, FOURTH FROM THE RIGHT, is a member of the town’s New Urbanist committee which invited Mr. Harrington to return and speak. Several years ago the committee hosted the Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, who conceived of and created the town. Mr. Eisner’s wife named the town “Celebration.” Each year the committee invites back different leaders from Celebration’s earliest days. The committee is concerned that the principals that founded and guided Celebration will be lost if those early stories and narratives are not re-told and preserved.

. . . . . . . .

WHEN DISNEY DECIDED to hand off control of the town to residents, they selected seven citizens to form the “Transition Task Force.” When Carol Anne and I both applied to be members they wanted both of us, but decided they could only put one of us on the Task Force. I became the member at large the committee looking at all of the aspects of the transition. // After the transition all seven of the members went on to serve in different elective and appointive positions in the community. In my case, I ran for, and was elected to the water and roads commission defeating another member of the Task Force. I chaired it for several years before retiring. // Above  was a campaign yard sign which I used during my successful election campaign. Carol Anne served as the treasurer of my campaign. Having a campaign committee which is funded is a requirement of Florida law. // Carol Anne went on to become the President of the Celebration Foundation, one of the communities five “cornerstones” during a perilous time when the survival of the Foundation was in doubt. Today the Foundation is thriving sponsoring the community’s Concert Series, its adult Lifelong Lecture Series (Carol Anne and I have both taught for it), a program for aging adults called “Thriving in Place” and other program. The Foundation is now run by a woman who she first hired.

. . . . . . .

PUBLIC SHAMING and SPIRIT of Maxine Waters

During my tenure on the Development District, Disney became concerned that they had agreed to build a road and began looking for ways to get out of that agreement. I argued that the right-of-way should be left as it was and the road, if needed, could be built later.

Disney then began leaning on the home owners association and found a symmetric ear in an old guy (probably about the age that I now am) who took up their cause.

I held Disney off for nearly a year, but in the end the home owners voted to give Disney ownership of the right-of-way, receiving nothing in return.

The land, arguably, was worth up to $15-million dollars.

Into the Valley of the Pygmies. I remember saying, as I watched this unfold, “I am living in the Valley of the Pygmies” and “am surrounded pygmite behaviour”.

Donald Trump knows how to negotiate — and so do I. My pressure on Disney through the Development District was to get a laundry list of concessions. They eventually might get the land, but we might get ballfields, dog parks and maybe a parking garage.

But this One Guy on the homeowners committee ran block for Disney and ultimately Disney used him. Disney got the land for nothing.

Hard to believe. Idiocy! …

Well, it was a long time ago. — But my philosophy was always fight, do the best I could and win-or-lose, move on.

I fought an umpteen number of battles owning newspapers, winning lots and losing lots. I tried to be a ‘man for all seasons’ and be true to my principals and, when a gale raged around me, let it rage.

Anyway …

THE OTHER DAY I am in a restaurant and the guy who screwed the right-of-way deal years ago appears out of no where, right beside my table.

He’s obviously been watching TV and decides to an an “antifa“.

This is not the guy — it is a stock photo off the internet … but it catches the mood.

He starts by berating me about the right-of-way deal years ago saying he was held up to hatred, contempt and ridicule by an article I wrote about him in the local newspaper.

I probably wrote it, but over my career I wrote tens of thousands of articles. I have no recollection of this article.

“You never confronted me man-to-man before you wrote it,” he says.

I listen.

“You have no balls,” he says.

I began to respond by pointing out that his tampering around in the issue had cost Celebration residents upwards of $15-million and …

“We’re not talking about that,” he says. “You have no balls.”

I shrug  … As late as early this morning, I think I did … but …

“You have no balls,” he says a third time.

For heaven sake.

This guy was supposedly once a superintendent of schools somewhere. He needs better writers. He doesn’t seem too articulate or much less creative.

I begin thinking how I could do better.

But then I notice that he has fallen silent. I take this to mean that is is ready for a Big Really Loud Shouting Match to break out.

“Okay,” I venture, stopping to see if this might get him going again. When it becomes clear he is waiting for me to express outrage, I continue, saying,, “okay, I have no balls. I’ve got it. You’ve said it three times. What else ya got?”

He stares. I stare.

“Nothing,” he says. He pouts off.

Good grief.

This guy has been watching too much ‘Maxine Waters’. Ms. Waters, a Congresswoman from Los Angeles, has been specialising lately in exhorting people to confront and ‘shame’ people in public (Republicans and white men mostly) who they hate.

Whew. The guy who confronted me just wasn’t very good at outrage thing — but his bigger problem was that I know how to handle people like him — my newspapers regularly pissed people off … to wit …

. . . . . . .

THE SUPERINTENDENT’S WIFE and THE TELEPHONE POLE

In my early years in Oklahoma we had a corrupt, Superintendent of Schools.

He put school money in a local bank interest free and helped himself himself to a low interest home loan. He bought himself auto tires on the school account. He did a lot of low level stuff — mostly equivalent to nipping sugar packages off restaurant tables or sticking a salt shaker in your purse.

His problem was I soon caught on to him. As the articles on his behaviour mounted up, he became angry and angrier at me.

One day as I was walking out of the post office, his wife was walking right behind me so, reaching the door, I stepped aside and held the door open for her.

I am such a gentleman.

“Don’t you help me!” She hissed. “I’m not talking to you! I don’t want you doing anything for me. I’m not talking to you.”

We had wound up standing outside the post office and were face to face. A crowd was gathering.

I stood, silent, as she ranted and hissed. Giving credit where credit is due, she was quite good at this, and she was able to keep at it for quite a while as I, and others, stood and watched.

Eventually, however, she began to run out of steam and, running out of breath and stamina, decided to conclude by shouting, “I AM NOT TALKING TO YOU!!!”

Impressive.

She was ready for me to rage back at her.

I remained silent for a moment longer because lots of time angry people think of more good stuff and get going again. This time, however, it was clear that, with that last I AM NOT TALKING TO YOU screed, that she was done.

“Nice talking to you, Patsy,” I said.

. . . . . .

After that neither she, nor her husband, would greet me on the street or make eye contact with me. It was a small town so avoiding me was not easy, and not making eye contact was downright dangerous.

One day the Superintendent was coming down the sidewalk and he suddenly saw me. He turned his head to avoid looking at me, and walked right into a telephone pole — BANG!!

He went down like a sack of potatoes.

Wow — that must have really hurt. It looked like he was going to have a nasty bump.

I helped him up. “Bill?” I said. “BILL? Are you okay?”

“Get your hands off me,” he snarled.

I lived for this.

. . . . . . . .

The plate glass window.

THE GUY & HIS CONCRETE BLOCK

But my favourite story from my newspaper publishing days concerned an irate reader I never met.

We had run a story about something in the southern end of the county and it made this guy so angry he got a concrete block, drove thirty miles north to Grove and heaved it through the big plate glass window of the newspaper in the middle of the night.

It was a god awful mess.

The problem was, at the time there was another newspaper in town just two doors away from us.

He had thrown the concrete block through the wrong window.

 

 

 

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THE AMAZON RIVER == the map of where we’re going in the coming weeks.

THE MAP == In a couple of weeks we’re heading down to Brazil and then up the Amazon to its headwaters. We’ll be home again and see everybody about a week before Christmas. The Amazon is our “Hawaii”. Anne and David, our Scottish friends, seemed have been jinxed whenever they have ventured out to visit Hawaii. We’ve had the same problem visiting the Amazon River. This will be our third try — nettlesome medical this-and-thats put a stop to us on our first two attempts, but the third time is the charm. Isn’t it. ISN’T IT? // So … we’re ready to go just after Thanksgiving: We have our shots. We have our malaria pills. We have bug spray. The VA was terrific — they scheduled an entire visit for us where they went over everything and even ran a blood test on me to check out my immunisations. Oops. Surprise. My Hep-A shot several years ago did not take — about 20-percent of the time they don’t. So I was at risk, but mostly now will not be.

Savannah, Crozet & Celebration == October 31, 2017 Wednesday == Halloween

IT’S HALLOWEEN … and granddaughter Cecelia is a SOCIAL BUTTERFLY. … we love it.

CROZET, VIRGINIA == Granddaughter Calla is “Death & Liesel” from “The Book Thief”, a copy of which Calla is holding.

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA == In Savannah, granddaughter Sydney is Elsa from “Frozen” and Calvin is Batman … or at least we think that is Calvin behind the mask. Calvin? CALVIN? Is that YOU?

CELEBRATION. FLORIDA == THE TOWN IS ALWAYS swamped with kids from all over the Orlando area on Halloween Night. Traffic this year stretched more than two miles down Celebration Boulevard and Trick or Treaters stopped by in huge numbers. We’re on a corner and in Central Village so we are always prime Trick or Treat real estate. This is the intersection on the corner in front of our house. Several police cars and cops directed traffic from twilight until later in the evening.

CAROL ANNE dressed as “A Beach Lady” in her robe and floppy hat. She sat on our front porch steps. The elementary school is directly across the street which is the lighted windows in this picture. // Later in the evening, as the crowd thinned, a young woman darted up our porch stairs and quickly took a selfie of herself in front of our house standing under our American flag. We fly the flag day and night. When I approached her offering to take another picture of her in front of the flag, I realised she was hispanic and spoke no English … but she sure loved the flag and was plenty proud of the photo she had taken of herself.

Celebration decorates for everything, including Halloween. Her Carol Anne stands with a giant black cat in a neighbouring yard.

With literally thousands of kids visiting on Halloween evening, residents often run out of candy early. We sure did.

 

 

St Louis, Missouri == October 27,2018 Saturday == June.

JUNE turns 91 == we have come to St. Louis t celebrate the 91st birthday of my cousin, June. June is one of the neatest most fun people on the face of the Earth, as are her four kids (my second cousins). // Way back there when June was teaching 4th grade in the 1960s and I was in Vietnam, she had her kids send me questions, and I wrote replies. When I returned home I visited her class. // On the afternoon of my brother Buddy’s funeral in 1943, June stayed and babysat me. She was fourteen. I was twelve months old.

Mary, Chuck and June Anne, three of June’s kids. Her oldest, Tim, nearby, didn’t make it into this picture. I am much closer in age to June’s kids than I am to her so I’m more of a cousin/older brother to her children than a first cousin. // My uncle Ells, June’s father, had an airplane and in the 1940s when June would fly over our home in Kirkwood she would sometimes cut the engine if we were out in the yard and yell “Helllooooooh” — and often times that “hellloooo!” would come right out of the blue, before anyone knew she was there or saw the plane.

Tim and his sister, Mary, in Belleville, Illinois at the new Brewhaus. Our family is a bunch of ethnic mongrels like most Americans, but a big chunk of us is German. Our great great grandfather left Hesse in 1848 and settled in Belleville across the river from St. Louis and soon went on to become the surveyor of Illinois. We have lots of family buried in Belleville. // The reasons why Carol Anne and I flew to St. Louis for the weekend were to see June, and to see Mary who lives outside of Cleveland and who I knew was coming.

Mary and my sister-in-law, Julie. // About a decade ago our good friends Karl and Pat invited us to visit Germany and do the Christmas markets with them from one end of Germany to the other. This Brewhaus in Belleville, which is a chain, is close to being a spitting images of a brew house Karl took us to during that trip. Tim and I visited the chain’s brew house in Las Vegas a few years ago when I was traveling with him on one of his business trips. Tim and I used to do the Soldier of Fortune conventions in Las Vegas back when he was manufacturing jungle fatigues and I was providing financing.

Carol Anne and Terri, Tim’s wife. She is funny, loquacious and completely, adorably loveable.

TIM’S PAINTBALL OPERATION == Tim owns a paintball field on one hundred acres, north along the Missouri River outside St. Louis. I finally made it out there to have a look. It was not a great day, but business was brisk, surprising Tim. Here Tim is (left) with one of the kids who referees the paintball matches. The site is gorgeous. Paintball smoke bombs go for eight-buck a piece, and 500 paintballs go for 80-bucks which includes playing. He got into this business when paintballers found and began buying his jungle fatigues. In the end owning paintball fields was a better business.

We stayed, as we always do, at Julie’s house. This was my first time back to St. Louis since my brother’s memorial service last spring and I had some difficult moments which I think I was mostly able to hide. // Carol Anne helped Julie re-cover her dining room chairs. They worked like beavers and given we only had two full days in St. Louis and lots of activities, Carol Anne was surprised they got all of them done.

Beavering.

Done! One of the finished chairs. // St. Louis is only 1 hour 45 minutes by air from Orlando so it is an easy ride up and back when we fly non-stop, as we did on this trip.

 

Celebration == October 18, 2018 Thursday == Happy Birthday, Carol Anne

I AM MARRIED TO AN OLDER WOMAN == Carol Anne was born 22 days before I was so, for now, she is one year older than me. I seem to mention that a lot during this time of year. We have come to the upscale Gaylord Palms’s Hickory Steak House to celebrate her birthday. We watched it being built years ago but had not been here for a while.

One of Carol Anne’s presents from her daughter Anne Renee was a book of places to go. We thumbed the book together. There aren’t many places we have not been in the world now — but there are a few and this book intrigued us both and is a worthy read — particularly that part about “free” things.

Carol Anne models a pumkin teeshirt in Sam’s Wholesale Club, an establishment which is our primary clothier. I loved it on her and it completely amused her, so home it came.

Carol Anne looks terrific in stripes. This also came home with us, and went straight to Annapolis with her.

At $35 — $17.50 per moose — these guys did not make the cut. We have Bartley and his lantern already, and no place for additional animals. Especially since we’re not doing a bang-up job of getting rid of stuff.

 

Annapolis == October 20, 2018 Saturday == Gary & Carol … and a tent in Tuy Hoa.

GARY and his wife CAROL (r), and CAROL ANNE == Dear friends Gary and Carol have come up to Annapolis to spend an afternoon together. Gary ran the Hollywood Navy office that provided assistance to the motion picture industry. He became friends with my mentor, Linda, when he helped her with a project she was working on. When I went searching for why I couldn’t contact her after being out of the United States for several months, I found him through one of Linda’s email to me, and he gave me the news.

Annapolis is where the US Naval Academy is located, and the town is all in for the military. Gary is a retired officer and took us to a BBQ place that is a lot like the ambience of a Cracker Barrel except that the walls are covered with military memorabilia instead of early American memorabilia.

… an example of wall art in Mission BBQ where we ate.

A DEUCE AND A HALF == this is a 2.5 ton military vehicle, and I know it well. When I arrived in Phan Thiet on my first assignment in Vietnam, I had both a Jeep Wagoneer and a Deuce-and-a-Half truck. It drove like … a truck. But the deuce-and-a-half lasted while the Wagoneer soon got pushed off a cliff into the South China sea because no one at the motor pool either had parts or tools for it, or the knowhow of how to fix it. // Later, in Nha Trang we used these battalion trucks to move the enlisted guys around at night between the clubs and their billets. Not long before the Chinese New Year, Tet , in January 1968, local children began finding sport in throwing a rock into the back of the truck where our men were which in the dark could have been a hand grenade. One night one of our men began shooting at the child who threw the rock. He missed, but word must have gotten around because the rock throwing ended.

Another view. I actually “signed” for one of these in Phan Thiet which meant that, when I was reassigned, I had to deliver this truck to my successor in one piece or pay the government to buy them another one. I did so, but a common problem in the Vietnam war zone was lots of stuff got lost or blown up. So try this: // One day in Phan Thiet I got a call from my headquarters asking for a list of everything I was signed for, but no longer had. My unit had gone months without a loss so all of our 12 field teams including my two, and home headquarters in Nha Trang had lots of equipment which wasn’t around any more. A list from everybody was collected up, and all of that equipment was officially said to have been in a tent up in Tuy Hoa which had taken a direct hit from a mortor. Soon enough an IG inspector came around and challenged the list saying “it must have been a mighty big tent,” and the officer handling the claim replied, “yes, it was.” “How big exactly was it?” The IG inspector asked. “How would I know? — the tent was blown up,” the lieutenant in charge replied.  The equipment was written off and no more was said.

Gary, Carol and me in our hotel after we wolfed the hotel’s afternoon cookies and before they had to leave for the evening. Look closely and you can see Carol Anne in the mirror taking the picture. We are blessed with many special friends,

Carol Anne said of Carol later that evening, “she is soooo pretty.” I smile. Gary and Carol are an All American couple and we love and share their values. Carol, as we were sharing a prayer with them a few visits back, thanked Linda for bringing us together — and by that she meant that out of our mutual sadness in losing her, we all found one another. It was Gary who had called me and told me that Linda was gone. In that conversation which lasted more than an hour we began a friendship which has grown stronger and stronger as the years have passed.

 

The South River, Maryland == October 21, 2018, Sunday == Kince.

Bruce leans forward to visit with another of our William and Mary classmates aboard The Raven. Bruce has scheduled the memorial service for Kince his wife of more than fifty years, so that we could travel the waterways that Kincey worked so hard to preserve. More than one hundred friends left from an Annapolis dock and cruised the Chesapeake Bay, and then up the South River until we were off Kince and Bruce’s home. Kince made a huge difference in be-stirring public interest in preserving the South River which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. It was only one of many facets, and successes, of her long, highly successful and meaningful life.

Carol Anne waits to board The Raven in Annapolis. Kince and I were close. I spent the days after John Kennedy was assassinated at her home in Richmond along with her roommate, Sandy who I adored. Kince and I never really agreed on politics so our discussions were always friendly and spirited but also occasionally surprising to her. She thought she was making real progress with me when she learned I voted for the Democratic candidates for President in both 2004 and 2008. I came to my senses again by 2012, however, and told her so, causing her to sigh and gaze skyward. Kince was on the college newspaper along with Bruce, me and others at William and Mary. She married Bruce only days after he returned from the Peace Corps. Bruce and I were never really out of touch — I visited them at all of their homes from New York City to the Virgin Islands along with Carol Anne, Francie and Judy, my first wife. Kince and Bruce attended my wedding to Judy in Oklahoma in 1984. I will miss Kince. Everyone will.

. . . . . .

KINCEY GREEN POTTER, 1942-2018 == Bruce, Kince and me on June 4, 2015, at their home in Annapolis. Kince was ten days older than me. She was born on Halloween which I appreciated because I could then always remember her birthday.