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    Friday
    Sep152017

    IRMAGEDDON?

    There are still lots of homes and businesses without electricity. Yet…

    I can’t really complain all that much about Irma. Damage was minimal where I live. A few trees came down in the neighborhood and there’s lots of broken tree and shrub branches and debris on my property, although I have been cleaning it. The roof on the house seems OK. I’ve yet to climb up there to see it. The roof on the shed is missing shingles, but I think I can repair it myself. We’ll see. I’m hoping I don’t have to file an insurance claim.

    We lost power sometime around 8:00 PM on Sunday evening. We got it back late Wednesday afternoon. In my case, it meant no water because we have a well. (We did stock up.) Even with a generator, I could only run things that could be plugged in, like the refrigerator, not things that go to the circuit breaker, like the well and central air.

    In areas where there’s municipal (city) water, it was back up and running in rapid time, even without power. That’s because no one should suffer a sewage problem in the aftermath. A mile or two away from my house, there’s a hospital. Everyone on that grid had power restored the day after Irma left. Actually, it was later the same day, Monday, since it hit us Sunday night into the next morning. Generally, hospitals and emergency services like police and fire departments are restored as quickly as possible for obvious reasons. We were lucky to get it back on Wednesday, with cable following on Thursday.

    Generally, I shop at Publix down the road (I take a couple of back streets to get there) and Winn Dixie, which is located right around the corner. Next to Publix is Home Depot and I spent a lot of time there. It’s running on a bare minimum generator that means no air conditioning inside. Yesterday, I went to buy work gloves and by the time I got to the register, I had broken into a sweat. The pretty, young girl behind the counter looked nice and dry.

    “Look at me,” I said, “my shirt is getting wet. You’re nice and dry.”

    “I just got here but I sweat a lot,” she replied.

    “Girls don’t sweat, they glow. They glisten,” I joked.

    “Nope. I sweat like a pig.”

    I didn’t know whether to believe her or not. I smiled, got my receipt, left, and headed to Publix.

    The shopping center where Publix is located is also without electricity. Instead, they’ve been running a large Caterpillar diesel generator that has kept cold food cold and frozen food frozen, but not without sacrifices. The hours have been cut and the deli and bakery aren’t up to speed due to the high amount of power it takes to run the ovens and fryers. If the generator runs out of fuel, they would lose tens of thousands of dollars worth of perishable food, front and back of store, not to mention refrigerated prescription medications, like insulin. That’s my pharmacy. Some of the Publix stores did run out, like the one in Maitland, and all of that inventory was lost. It’s imperative that diesel is delivered at almost all cost.

    Yesterday, I spoke to the Winn Dixie store manager. Most of those stores do not have generators and I’d venture a guess that, statewide, millions of dollars worth of food was lost. He said that some of the coastal stores have generators, but not many. As I walked through the store, fresh produce was on display, the deli was up and running, and some refrigerated foods had been delivered, but all of the frozen food shelves were barren. I asked him who had to throw out the food and he replied, “We did,” meaning store employees. That’s a lot of work!

    All around the state, small mom and pop convenience stores and restaurants had to toss out massive amounts of food and they lose every day until power is up and running. Many people are temporarily out of work.

    I filled the gas tanks on both cars before the hurricane came. I’m glad I did because, while some stations are up and running, their gas pumps are shut off. I found one station in Longwood selling the precious commodity. I needed it to fill the generator. In any event, I must say… a storm that takes away your electricity, running water, air conditioning, refrigeration, television, and God knows what else, sure does put the world in a different perspective. Was Wilson in Cast Away a Democrat or Republican? That’s a little like what it felt like here for a few days and everyone still seems to be getting along fine… for the better good. We are helping each other and no one cares about politics or party affiliation. As a matter of fact, I had no idea what was going on outside of our own little world until cable came back. So, you see, despite the horrors of hurricanes, sometimes there are slivers of sunshine that seep through. Being naive isn’t always a bad thing. Staying on top of what’s going on in the immediate area is much more important and, for that, I want to acknowledge WDBO radio for keeping me well informed during this time of crisis. Thank you.

    Monday
    Sep042017

    I'd like to thank the prosecutor's wife

    I ran into a bad cop 42 years ago. It didn’t discourage me in the end because I have always known that most are good people, ethical, and very professional. Heck, I know a few. This guy, Jack Demeo, was anything but that. If you look at his résumé, it’s filled with untruths. He was never supposed to be involved in law enforcement again. My story is exactly as it happened. His sidekick, Rich, is someone I knew for years. Eventually, he left that profession. I have no need to impugn him, but Demeo? I will never get over what he did to me. I want no retribution at this stage in life. I do want you to know that there are people like him out there. In uniforms. With guns. And I don’t mind identifying them. If this article happens to fall into the right hands, so be it.

    It’s a long one. I hope you find it interesting enough to read to the end. I last published it in 2014.

    INTRODUCTION

    In 1975, I was 23 and the spirit of youth was still in full bloom. It was a great time in my life except for one harrowing experience with the Delaware Township Police Department, located in central New Jersey. I had gone out that night with a friend of mine, Ken [Redacted.] We hit a couple of bars and settled in at a place in New Hope, PA, called John & Peter’s. There’s a café in front and a small listening room in the back. As small as it was (and still is,) they had some pretty big name bands perform, like Iron Butterfly and The Chambers Brothers. One of the local favorites back then was a group out of Philly called Johnny’s Dance Band. Some nights, you just didn’t know unless a barmaid let you in on the secret of who it would be. It didn’t matter who was playing the night we showed up. We didn’t go out for that. We didn’t even go out to drink much. We just went out to have a good time until he dropped me off at my apartment…

    THE BUST

    My place was right in the center of Sergeantsville, a very rural community with one blinking light. You were in and out of town before you knew it. Directly across the street was the municipal building and home of the police department. We sat there for a few minutes discussing what the rest of the week was looking like, sort of like planning another night to run around, drink a few, and hit on some babes. Slowly, a police car crept up across the street and parked. Two officers got out and started to walk towards us. I wasn’t afraid of anything. Neither of us were drunk and we certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. I recognized one of them, Rich [Redacted,] from my high school days. I got out and stood at the front of my friend’s Dodge van. Rich and I greeted each other, shook hands, and talked about what we had been up to since those earlier times. The other officer went over to the driver’s window. Both Rich and I were oblivious to what was transpiring until we both heard, “I smell marijuana. Get out of the van right now! You are under arrest!”

    Rich and I looked at each other with surprise. I turned to face the other officer and said, “Hey, what are you doing?”

    He stared at me and said, “You are under arrest, too!”

    He made my friend get out of the vehicle and ordered us over to the police car, where he demanded that we empty our pockets. I didn’t respond in the split second time he wanted, so he thrust me down onto the hood of the car, knocking the wind out of me. In two seconds flat, I was in handcuffs and he was emptying all of my pockets, where he found a frog, a couple of marbles and a secret agent compass. Maybe some pocket change, too, but absolutely nothing illegal. As a matter of fact, nothing of interest was found in my friend’s pockets, either. I asked this overzealous cop what we were being arrested for. He hesitated and said, “For being drunk and disorderly!”

    I knew right then and there we were being charged with something trumped-up. We weren’t drunk and we weren’t disorderly. Had we been drunk, this stupid officer, John “Jack” Demeo, should have been smart enough to charge the driver with a DUI (or DWI back then) because the keys remained in the ignition.

    The cop commandos marched us up the concrete stairs and into the police station.

    “Watch them,” Demeo said to Rich, giddy with delight, as if he had just apprehended serial rapists or something. He went outside and returned with the ashtray, dumped it on his desk and went picking through the tightly packed butts. Lo and behold, he pulled out a marijuana roach that amounted to…

    2/10 of a gram!

    Whoa! The biggest bust of the century! “Ha, ha, ha…I gotcha now!!!” An evil grin and obvious glee had overtaken him, as we were soon to be facing life in prison in his eyes. “So, on top of being drunk and disorderly, I’ve got you on a CDS charge, too!”

    “What’s CDS?” I asked.

    “Controlled Dangerous Substance,” he snapped back, with a sarcastic snarl. That roach could have been in the ashtray for weeks, for all we knew. The ashtray was packed with butts, but had we known it was there, we would have smoked it long before the cops showed up.

    After sitting for what seemed like an eternity, I had to pee. I asked Demeo if I could go. “NO!” I asked him several times and got the same commanding response. Finally, I pulled something out of my head…

    “As a U.S. citizen and subject to rule number 17 of the U.S. Constitution, Section C, Part 203, I am allowed to use a restroom facility when I consider it necessary, under penalty of law.”

    “Take him into the men’s room,” he ordered Rich, “but watch him.”

    As I was peeing, he was apologetic. “Hey, Dave, I had nothing to do with this.”

    Demeo was filling out paper work interrogating my friend when we returned. He looked at me and attacked like a junk yard dog. “Where’d you get this stuff?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Tell me!”

    “You’re going to bust us with that? You’re a joke.”

    After about a half hour of brutal questioning, he realized he wasn’t going to get anywhere, so they loaded us into the back of the squad car and drove us to the Hunterdon County Jail. The entire ride consisted of Demeo making wise cracks and telling us we were the lowest and vilest sub-humans of the community. We laughed. Oh, how it angered him more.

    DELIVERANCE

    Finally, we arrived to the fanfare of the hungry jailers. They took our mug shots and fingerprints. One of the guards was a high school teacher who moonlighted at the jail and remembered us. He took us upstairs and put us in a holding cell, It was just me and Ken.

    “I’ll come back and put you in a better cell as soon as we get rid of these asshole cops,” he said, and he did. When we awoke the next morning, the TV was showing an old science fiction movie. Yes, it was high-class. Color, too. There was another guy who was already there. We introduced ourselves, shook hands and I asked him what he was in for.

    “Murder.”

    “Oh.” I didn’t want to pursue that conversation, so we just settled in. At one point, he got up and switched the channel to American Bandstand. I wasn’t about to say, “TURN IT BACK! I WAS WATCHING THAT MOVIE!”

    Later that morning, the jail doors were opened to freedom, fresh air and sunlight, and our nightmare was temporarily over. $50 later.

    THE PLOT THICKENS

    We knew we had to get legal representation. My friend got a lawyer and I talked to an attorney friend of mine, Jay Thatcher. We were in the JAYCEES together. I told him I didn’t have money to hire a lawyer. He asked me to tell him what transpired that evening. I told him. He said, “Dave, this is the most ridiculous injustice I’ve ever heard. I’m going to represent you for free.”

    Jay was a great guy and a very good friend. I was so glad he decided to help out someone in need. He got in touch with the other attorney and they both agreed to file a Motion to Suppress Evidence, a request to a judge to keep out evidence at a trial or hearing, often made when a party believes the evidence was unlawfully obtained.

    The judge at our arraignment hearing was Thomas Beetel. Years earlier, my Aunt Bertie (Warren Knechel) worked for him when he was in private practice before being appointed to the bench. We shared the same last name and they didn’t get along. I think he might have fired her. I wasn’t aware of any connection at that time - I was told later - but he should have recused himself on simple grounds of prejudice. He did not. Our respective attorneys requested that both officers not be present in the courtroom together when each was to give their own testimony. The judge did agree with that. Both cops gave conflicting reports of what transpired that fateful night. I assumed my old high school “friend” would set the record straight. He did not. He lied through his teeth even more than the arresting officer. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then, Demeo told the judge he was trained by the Marines to smell marijuana better than a dog. When I took the stand, I noticed the judge was doodling stupid little pictures, as if he wasn’t paying attention, and had already made up his mind. I guess he did because he sent it on to trial. Motion to Suppress Evidence denied!

    THE TRIAL

    On the morning after our arrest, the judge we were going to be facing, Jacob Chantz, was attending a funeral with my grandfather, Reverend George W. Landis. They were very close friends. He should have recused himself, too, because of that friendship, but didn’t, and I guess I am thankful for it. The evening we went to trial, it was one big family; the two officers, the prosecutor, our respective attorneys and us. My close friend, Frank Foran was sitting in the gallery, along with my parents. Our trials were to be handled separately, but together, if that makes sense. Our attorneys approached the prosecutor to work out plea deals. 

    After minutes of whispering, Jay came back to me and said, “Dave, this is what the prosecutor wants. He’s willing to drop the drunk and disorderly charge if you plead to the CDS charge. It means that after a year, you can apply to have your record expunged and it’s completely erased. It’s as if you were never arrested. You pay a fine now and there is no jail time. What do you want to do?”

    “No way am I going to plead guilty to anything. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

    “Great! That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear you say.” He went back to the prosecutor with my response.

    “Oh no,” the prosecutor told him, and there came a very special AHA! moment. You see, prosecutors can be moved around to different jurisdictions if the need arises. The need arose on that particular evening. 

    “What do you mean?” my lawyer asked.

    “My wife is 99.9% pregnant. I came up from south Jersey. I’m filling in for the regular prosecutor, who’s on vacation. She could have the baby any minute. I just want to get this over with and go home. How long is it going to take?” 

    “At least seven hours as far as I’m concerned. I’m going to pick every legal trick out of my hat on this one.”

    “You’re kidding, right?”

    “No, I am not. My client is 100% innocent of these charges and I intend to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.”

    “This isn’t all that important of a case to me. Let’s just drop the charges.”

    That was it. It had absolutely nothing to do with my guilt or innocence. Case dismissed. All on account of the prosecutor’s wife being pregnant. Now that was justice.

    My friend had the drunk and disorderly charge dropped but the prosecutor said someone had to take the rap for the 2/10 gram of Mary Jane. It was his vehicle, so he did and a year later had his record expunged.

    So went my first foray into the legal system. The judge later told my grandfather it never should have reached his courtroom. It should have been dropped at the Motion to Suppress level and, if not, he had planned on dismissing the charges against me anyway.

    AFTER ALL THIS

    Oh, yeah. Good old Jack Demeo. He got himself into a little trouble about a year or so after our trial. He was accused - on several occasions - of flashing his badge out of his territory and for trying to pick up women he pulled over. He should have been dealt with for breaking the law but wasn’t. Cop. Good old boy syndrome, I guess. I also heard he had been planting pot in cars to make busts, but had he done that to us, I’m sure more than 2/10 of a gram would have been found. The clincher that finally sealed his fate and brought his law enforcement career to a screeching halt was when he was in Atlantic City inside a casino, Unfortunately for him but lucky for the rest of the country, he flashed his badge at the wrong people at the wrong time. He told a dealer he was with the NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and was doing an investigation. What kind of favors can you do for me? The manager of the casino got involved and promptly called his brother-in-law, who worked for the ABC. Why is one of your guys trying to bribe me?

    The agency launched an investigation faster than a poker player folds on a five high hand, and dispatched agents to the scene immediately. Jack Demeo was arrested on the spot. Because of that, his credentials were stripped and he was told he could never be a police officer again. The former police chief of Delaware Township, where I was arrested with my friend, told me he did try years later, but the retired chief, the late Warren Peterson, put the screws to that. My guess is that he’s probably assistant head of security at a Dollar General store somewhere in Podunk, Arkansas. I did run into Rich a couple of years later and he wanted to extend an apology for what had transpired. I told him that, “as an officer of the law, you were there to tell the truth. You didn’t. I’m having a tough time with what you put me through.”

    Quite obviously, that experience was still on my mind. One day, he approached me at the Weiner King in Flemington, where I was the manager, to tell me he could get me a really good deal on a Jaguar XKE. He had hung up his gun and went to work for a car dealer. The car had just come in and it wasn’t even prepped yet. I took him up on the offer, it was a great deal, and I forgave Rich after all. I think he just got caught up in the cop ego trip thing and eventually let it go. All was well between us and I know it ate at him all those years. He really wanted to make things right, and he did. I don’t hold a grudge.

    EPILOGUE

    I learned my lesson that you can’t always trust a man with a badge and prosecutors don’t always work for true justice. I’ve known a lot of police officers and a few prosecutors over the years and most of them are honest and hard-working. Never again have I run into a bad cop like Jack Demeo, but that one time was all it took to keep me on my toes. Fortunately, most guys like him are eventually weeded out of police departments, but not always.

    Oh yes, one more thing. The guy we spent the night in jail with who was charged with murder? He was found not guilty. He had a different prosecutor, too.

    Saturday
    Aug052017

    55 IN A 65 ZONE

    August is my birthday month. No, I’m not soliciting birthday gifts or anything else just yet because it’s not until the end of the month, on the 27th.

    I grew up in the 60s and 70s and many of us from that era heard the mantra “Never trust anyone over 30.” Over and over and over. We were instructed to buck the system by the likes of Timothy Leary and Abbie Hoffman until, just like that, we turned thirty and became part of the system. So much for not trusting and all that crap. Turning thirty meant nothing to me. It was just a number.

    Then came forty. Eh, it was just another number. Yeah, I felt a little older, but I was still young and active. I was a successful graphic artist and didn’t feel any older than when I turned thirty. Forty was no big deal.

    Along came fifty and I knew my days were numbered. No, not in a life or death sense. As a graphic artist, I was aware of the up-and-coming designers that would usher in more contemporary ideas and do it for less money than I was making - not that I was getting stale at all. It’s simply the nature of the beast. I chose to ease myself away from the career I had chosen some 20-plus years earlier. I always wanted to write and thus began something completely new to do. Along came the Casey Anthony case and the rest is history. In any event, turning fifty didn’t make me feel old at all. Once again, it was just another number, but the cracks of age were beginning to show.

    Out of the blue, I hit sixty. It wasn’t a huge hit, though. It was more like a rather strong gust of hot, dry air. Whoosh! But it didn’t blow me off my feet. By then, I had plenty of time to emotionally adjust to the physical maladies that struck in 2005. I was a diabetic with other medical problems that kept creeping up on me. They still do. So what! I handled everything and I’ve remained an optimist throughout. Until…

    This month, I will hit a milestone and I’m reminded of it every day when the mail comes. Supplemental health insurance policies. Solicitors that starkly remind me I’m going to be 65-years-old.

    SIXTY-FIVE!!!

    My life is about to change forever. On the 27th of August, I’m officially old. On that date, I will have to act “grandpoppish” even though I’m not, technically, a grandfather.

    On my birthday, I will have to change my wardrobe. I will go out and buy light colored polyester pants that come up to the bottom of my chest. An elastic stretch belt. Maybe suspenders. Nothing but white short-sleeved shirts. Slip-on shoes and Velcro sneakers. A Seersucker suit!

    From that date on, I will have to act my age. Decrepit Dave. I will start hanging out on pigeon-infested park benches and in the mall. The one in front of the Everything But Water store. No, not really. Instead, I’ll be looking for my soulmate… a bunhead grandmother with gray hair; someone who wants to tell me about her grandchildren, now fully grown. The ones who stopped calling, except when Christmas and their birthdays come around.

    Wait… I’m not ready for all that! There’s an adult community right around the corner. This is Florida, after all. I’m going to learn how to play outdoor shuffleboard. I’m going to build up my confidence and go there to look for a young and perky 55-year-old. Oh baby. That’s it.

    I will feel young again! Maybe I shouldn’t toss out those Wranglers just yet…

     

     

    Sunday
    Jul232017

    “I CAN MAKE THEM DISAPPEAR...”

    I began writing this article in June, 2009 and finished it in May of 2010. Today, I’m compelled to reprint it because I cannot stop thinking about Tracy. I did bring pertinent information up-to-date.

    In February of 2009, Chris George’s car was found abandoned near a wooded area in Apopka, Florida. Also known as George Onda, family members and friends didn’t think much of it because he often took off to go on drug-induced binges. Three weeks later, the family called Apopka police and a search ensued. One of the volunteers was a guy by the name of James “Jimmy” Hataway. He was one of only two people who last saw George alive. When the case went cold, police closed it out, but reopened it later. Today, the Ocoee Police Department has linked a total of 6 victims to James Virgil Hataway. In 2011, Chris George’s bones were found in Lake Carter, about 15 miles outside of Orlando.

    Tracy Ocasio was last seen on May 26, 2009, leaving the Tap Room bar on Raleigh Street in Orlando’s MetroWest neighborhood, at 1:30 AM. Her car was found abandoned about 15 miles from the bar, not far from Hataway’s home.  A year later, the Ocoee police department named him as the only suspect in her disappearance. Until then, he was merely a person of interest.

    Soon after Tracy went missing, I went to pick up a few prescriptions from the pharmacy. As she was ringing up my purchase, I asked the always friendly woman behind the counter if she knew anything about the missing woman and the guy police have in custody (on another charge) who might also be tied into Jennifer Kesse, last seen on January 24, 2006. (It was pretty big news around Orlando for both women.) At first, she didn’t quite know, so I mentioned the bar a mile or so away called McGuinnty’s Irish Pub. I told her he used to go there.

    “Oh, yeah, I remember seeing him on the news. I thought he looked familiar,” she said. “I think I used to see him in here.” I told her McGuinnty’s was one of his hangouts because he lived nearby at the time.

    As a single mother, I just don’t picture my clerk as much of a drinker and, needless to say, neither am I any longer, but I was more of one back then and I knew who this guy was the first time I saw his picture on the local news. McGuinnty’s has been closed for about ten years now, but I can remember some of those times like it was yesterday, and I can easily remember the people who oftentimes frequented the place.

    I never befriended James Virgil Hataway at that bar and there were some very good reasons why. The people he hung around with were skinhead types. Hoodlums, plain and simple, and most of the time the regular crowd stayed on one side while they planted themselves on the other. They were young - mid 20s to early 30s - the way I saw it. Today, Hataway would be around 36. They shaved their heads and had goatees. They were a tough group hanging with rough, but good-looking women. There were a few I knew by name, but not much else. Dallas was a good guy. Today, I don’t remember most of the names but I do remember the faces. To give you an idea, Matt had at one time been a nice young man until he got mixed up with that bunch. His change was overnight. Clean cut one day, shaved head the next, with tattoos and piercings all over and a nasty, punk, degenerate attitude. He went from saying hello and friendly conversations to wanting to beat the living crap out of anyone in his way and for no good reason. Of course, I never said a word to him again after he snarled one night. These were the guys who had no respect for anyone but their own small clique of friends. They had the ultimate chip on their shoulders. They had no respect for anyone but their own and it’s clear that Hataway had no respect for human life after information emerged from law enforcement accounts.

    Hataway was always the quiet one in the crowd, never starting trouble, yet it didn’t surprise me in the least that he became the only suspect in Ocasio’s disappearance. A surveillance video from the Tap Room showed Hataway and Ocasio leaving the bar together. Allegedly, she offered to give him a ride home to Ocoee, a couple of miles northwest of the bar. Although never charged with her disappearance, he was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder, burglary, robbery, and false imprisonment, and sentenced to life in prison in 2011. That incident occurred in 2008. He choked his victim, Rachel Clarke, tried to snap her neck, and repeatedly slammed her head into the pavement. Fortunately, there were witnesses that heard her screams for help and she was rescued.

    Hataway was a guy who fancied himself “the worst criminal in the universe” by using the alias Vader McGirth on his now closed MySpace page, named after the Darth Vader character in Star Wars. He was no stranger to police because of his extensive criminal record dating back to 1993. It includes kidnapping causing bodily harm, drug possession, and many traffic offenses.

    When I questioned one of the former bartenders at McGuinnty’s, she told me he used to ask her for a ride home once in a while. Did you ever give him one? “No,” she said, “I always told him I live in the opposite direction.”

    I asked her if she was glad she didn’t and she emphatically responded, “YES,” but she never would have thought that he could have done such a thing, other than because of the type of crowd he was always hanging with. Where did they all come from, I wondered. Why did they congregate at McGuinnty’s? She said many of them lived in the trailer park behind the bar. She also told me that most of them had since outgrown that skinhead phase, and some are married. For the record, much of that trailer park is now a housing development.

    “He wouldn’t care who it was, he would make them disappear, just like he told me. The way he would talk about people … what he would want to do,” said a former roommate who did not wish to be identified, because he said he had received threats from some of Hataway’s friends.

    Before his arrest on drug charges in 2009, Hataway lived with his father in Ocoee. He also worked with his father dredging ponds. Clearly, police wanted him off the streets.

    “This Jimmy has a preponderance to do violence, he snaps, he gets angry, it’s always a woman, ride home, end up alone,” said Sgt. Mike Bryant of the Ocoee Police Department, in June 2009. “He’s very familiar with going out into open land at night and not getting caught dumping land debris and waste, that’s a concern…”

    “We believe he did it. He’s always been a suspect,” the detective added. “He is suspected of killing her.”

    Too bad for Tracy because this young woman was a true blue Orlando Magic fan. That’s why she went to the Tap Room bar that fateful Tuesday night on May 26, to watch her team win, and win they did, against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Too bad another James, James Hataway, was there to watch her lose her life in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. No one ever saw her again. Just like magic, he made her disappear.

    She needs to be found.

     

    Friday
    Jun232017

    I knew I was a professional at something

    I wrote this just after the Casey Anthony trial ended. It’s still one of my favorite stories..

    Years ago, I was a hardline artist for an ad agency in Orlando. Everything we created was for the Belk department store chain, based out of North Carolina. Hardline included shoes, furniture, electronics, and other items unrelated to fashion. I would never consider myself a fashion artist - then or now, but I worked there for 11-years.  I also designed and built ads that ran in a good number of newspapers throughout the state. Previous to that job I was mostly in the restaurant business. Soon after I started working at Stonebrook Advertising, I saw a fast food restaurant up the street called Beefy King. Since I had come from a background in that industry, I thought it would be a nice place to eat and meet new people. It didn’t take long for the owners, Roland & Sandee Smith, and I to become good friends.

    One of the interesting, if not quirky, aspects of my job was our daily morning ritual. My boss insisted that we come to work at 8:30 am, but he (almost forcefully) encouraged us to take a break from 9 to 10. Go out for an hour! Enjoy yourself! Strange, but that was Mr. Stone’s way of doing business. Because of his edict, on most mornings, I would drive up the street to Beefy King, make myself a sandwich and pour a cup of coffee. Black. No sugar. Sometimes, I’d help slice meats or whatever, but most of the time I’d just stand at the front counter reading the newspaper. I guess it depended on whether they needed a little help that particular day. Mind you, I was always glad to pitch in. Since they didn’t open until 10, I never interfered with any customers.

    On one particular morning, there was a man working on an ice machine that had broken down. I’d say he was, what you might call, pleasantly plump and he had a personality to match. In other words, he was a very nice fellow. The next morning, he was still tinkering on the ice machine. Good thing the restaurant had a spare. On the morning of the third day, he finished his work and quietly talked to Roland about the bill and something else that caught his attention. As they stood in the hallway between the dining area and the back room, he whispered, “Hey, that guy up there. He’s been here every morning, just standing there reading the newspaper. Doesn’t he have a job? I mean, what’s he do for a living?”

    The acoustics were just right and our jovial buddy had no idea I heard every word. “Why, he’s a professional newspaper reader,” Roland replied.

    The guy said, “No way. There’s no such thing.”

    Roland said, “Go ask him.”

    There I stood, deeply ensconced in my work, oblivious to anything else, and completely unaware that he was sauntering my way to ask about my profession.

    “Excuse me,” he politely said, as if not wanting to take up too much of my very important time.

    I took my eyes away from my work, looked up and in a face that showed great concentration, I said, “Yes?”

    I tried not to snicker.

    “Well, I’ve been here three days now and I see you reading the newspaper. I was just wondering what kind of job you have. What do you do for a living, if you don’t mind my asking?”

    “Why of course not. I’m a professional newspaper reader.”

    “Get outta here. I’ve never heard of such a job.”

    “Yes. That is what I do.”

    “You’re kidding! You get paid to read newspapers?”

    “Yes. It’s a rather lucrative job, I might add. There aren’t that many of us in the state.”

    “Well, I’m from Florida - born and raised, and I know the state like the back of my hand. What’s the name of the newspaper in Leesburg?”

    “Which one? The Commercial or the Gazette? Also, the Orlando Sentinel has a zoned edition.”

    “No kidding! Alright. What about St. Augustine?”

    “The St. Augustine Record.”

    In rapid succession, he asked me about another half-dozen or so cities and towns throughout Florida and no matter what he came up with, I had the correct answer. He had no idea that Belk advertised in all of those newspapers. Actually, we did. Back then, newspapers weren’t as consistent as they are today, so ads were designed to fit each publication.

    “Okay… fine… I believe you… a… professional… newspaper… reader. ” It took a little time for this revelation to sink in. “I gotta tell my wife when I get home tonight. She’s not going to believe it.”

    As the guy drove out of the parking lot, Roland and I got the biggest chuckle. To this day, I’ll bet that guy still tells people about the job to stump all jobs. A professional newspaper reader.

    All kidding aside, there’s one thing I must tell you about Beefy King. I went there almost every weekday morning for about 10 years and I can tell you that it is, by far, one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve ever set foot in. Not only could you practically eat off the floor, the food is very good, to boot. It’s been in the same family since 1968, with the third generation running the show now. There’s not a restaurant critic in town that wouldn’t give Beefy King a glowing review, and for good reason. The place is legendary. If you are ever in Orlando and have some spare time on your hands, try to stop by for lunch. It’s on Bumby. You can tell them a professional newspaper reader sent you. 

    Sunday
    Jun182017

    FACTORY AIR

    This story is dedicated to my father since it’s about him.

    For most of my life, I didn’t know anyone who knew more about cars than my father. He used to own a front end alignment business in Flemington, NJ, and worked on every one that was brought to his shop. In his later years, we could be sitting around watching old B&W movies on TCM and he’d recognize the cars. “Oh, there’s a 1941 Buick!”

    One of his favorite lines about those old cars was that, “Back then, you could order a car in any color you want as long as it’s black.”

    In 1986, he bought a new Topaz from a local Mercury dealer. Of course, this being Florida and all, it had to come with air conditioning. Being that he knew a lot about cars, he took a look under the hood and noticed something that didn’t look quite right. “Is that factory air?”

    The sales rep responded, “Of course it is.”

    “Are you certain this is factory air?”

    “I absolutely guarantee it. It’s factory air.

    OK, he thought, so he bought it.

    Years later - and out of warranty, of course – his factory air stopped working. Yes, they do get overworked in the Florida climate. He couldn’t fix it himself so he took it to one of his mechanic friends.

    “This isn’t factory air conditioning. It’s after market.”

    “You’re kidding! The dealer swore it was factory air.”

    “Trust me, it’s not anything Ford ever made. I can’t fix it.”

    That totally infuriated my father. He had a terrible temper to begin with, but when someone did it over cars; something he was quite knowledgeable about? Forget it! He tore out of there and headed straight to the dealer to give them more than just a piece of his mind.

    Parked at the service department, he jumped out and approached one of the reps. “I need you to take a look under the hood and tell me what kind of air conditioner it is. My mechanic can’t fix it!” When in a fit of rage, my father was known to use language he didn’t learn in church. “When I bought this car, the salesman swore it was factory air. He lied to me!”

    “No sir, he was telling you the truth,” the man replied.

    “NO HE WASN’T!!!” And from there, I’m sure it escalated. “You’re nothing but a bunch of liars!”

    “Sir, please come with me.” He led him to the parts department. Along the wall and stacked high were boxes and boxes that said it all. Printed in large, black, bold letters, was the brand name of the after market air conditioners that are installed by the dealer…

    FACTORY AIR. Yes, the brand name was Factory Air.

    “We’ll be more than happy to repair it for you.”

    “No way!” and my father stormed out. Only the dealer carried parts.

    While there’s nothing wrong with the brand, my father felt he was taken advantage of. Lied to. And he was. Because of his very stubborn German blood, he refused to let the dealer touch the car, so he drove it for years without air.

    Personally, I had to agree with him. I think it was a very shady way to do business in the hot Florida sun.

     

    Saturday
    May272017

    A Haunting Portrait of War

    I know I have published this before. In my opinion, it will never lose its importance or become outdated. Each time, I try to bring it up to date. We should forever keep the memories of our lost soldiers alive in our hearts and minds…

    There isn’t a day that goes by when the thundering echoes of war escape us. Today, we live in a world rife with radical extremists like daesh (I won’t call it ISIS) and al Qaeda, sick and deranged with a desire to destroy civilizations and murder all of humanity, save themselves, in the name of their god. The following story is my hideous wake-up call to war. It came at a time when most conflicts were fought over more mundane causes - nationalism, patriotism, democracy, communism, bigotry and territorial rights. This was back when building a bigger and more powerful bomb was all the rage and nations proudly strutted their massive hardware in displays of strength and unity in order to intimidate the world. North Korea comes to mind. Now, for the most part, our enemies use IEDs, ram trucks into bustling crowds, and strap bombs to their chests, blowing themselves up.

    On a distant morning in 1967, one of my classmates at East Amwell Township School was quietly asked to get up from his desk and follow the administrator out of the classroom. I remember that day and wondering why. Did he do something wrong? Of course not, and it didn’t take very long before the principal announced on the P.A. system that his cousin, Van Dyke Manners, was killed in action in Vietnam. He was one of the first from Hunterdon County, New Jersey, to die in the line of duty. I didn’t know him personally, but I remember it well because it was a solemn day. My friend had lost a loved one. Greg did not come back to class that week. To a 14-year-old, those echoes of war were a distant sound that lightly flickered in our young minds. We never thought of death then. We were invincible, but with each passing day, the reverberation grew louder and louder, and reality hit us fast and hard. The Vietnam War was in full boom.

    Back then, what was going on in our own back yards seemed more important than anything else, but the Vietnam war was lurking out there - somewhere in our heads. Despite our youthful dreams and aspirations, the war never escaped us. We saw it on our black & white television sets. We heard it on our AM radios. It made headlines in the daily newspapers. Everywhere we went, the specter loomed large and cut deeply into our subconscious minds.

    §

    Early in 1968, a girl who lived up the street from me asked if I would be interested in creating a portrait of her boyfriend. Back in those days, a small town was just that; there was no city in sight. Windows were left open to let air breeze through because air conditioning was a luxury. We weren’t afraid to leave our doors unlocked, and neighbors knew all the gossip. I was known as the left-handed artistic kid. Ask Dave. He knows how to draw.

    She was a little older than me, and her boyfriend had enlisted in the Army. She offered to pay me and I accepted. I asked her to round up whatever photographs she could so I had something to work with. I asked her if I could meet him. To an artist, it’s good to know something about a subject that photographs alone cannot tell you. In the flesh, you get to know the person. Because of that request, I got to know Mike Baldwin. At 21, he was a man. At 15, I was not. He was old and mature. I was still a kid. He shaved, I didn’t, and with a war raging, I was in no hurry to buy my first razor.

    His girlfriend asked me to draw the portrait as big as I could. When I went to the store to buy materials, my old “Be Prepared” Boy Scout lessons taught me to have a back-up plan, so I purchased two giant drawing boards, just in case I messed up. I couldn’t simply up and go to the store back then because I was too young to drive.  Fortunately, I didn’t mess up, so I decided to draw another one, identical to the first. The original BOGO! I don’t know what compelled me to do it, but I’m glad I did. Maybe I thought if the relationship didn’t work out years later, at least he would have one to share with his family. That must have been the reason. Maybe the death of Van Dyke put apprehension in my heart. You know, one for his mother, just in case.

    When I finished the drawings, I made a date to deliver the artwork. My neighbor had invited Mike and his mother to “attend” the presentation. Everyone was very pleased with the job I had done, especially his mother, who was honored to have her son’s portrait captured by a local artist.

    Soon afterward, he left for Vietnam. He went because he believed in a cause. He believed in America and freedom. In school, we were taught about the Domino Theory. Back then, it meant that if one country falls under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow. Red China didn’t exist on any of our maps and globes. It was just a grayed out mass of nonexistent land, but it was still a major threat because North Vietnam was one of the countries under their grip. South Vietnam was not, and we came to its defense. Today, Vietnam is one country but, by the end of the war, 58,000 red-blooded Americans gave up their lives. Michael Baldwin was one of them.

    Nearly 46 years ago, he became a statistic. His body was zipped up in a bag and shipped home. That was the day I woke up to the horrible tragedy of war. It was my first experience. Someone I knew personally was dead because of it. 

    One of the things I learned, and it’s very important, was that Michael Baldwin put his country before his life. We lost so many and what did we gain? I know I gained a whole lot of respect for those who march off to war. Michael Baldwin was a man and I was a boy when we met, but I still look up to him and I will soon be 47 years older than he was on the day he died. To this very day, I wonder what would life be like had he lived. Would he have married my neighbor or someone else? Would he be happy? Or would he be mourning the loss of his children or grandchildren because of our brutal and self-inflicted world of terrorism, home-spun jihadists and plain, old weirdos? The more violence changes, the more it remains the same. Death is still death and the loss of loved ones over religion and politics is still just as senseless as it was the day Michael Baldwin died.

    On July 19, he would be turning 70. I will remember him as a true American hero; a very proud young man. As for the identical pictures I drew, they are lost and gone, but not forgotten. In my mind, the memory of them will forever remain a haunting portrait of war.

    Sgt. Michael Richard Baldwin (7/19/1947 - 9/12/1968) KIA - Binh Long Province, South Vietnam, ambushed while on reconnaissance 5 kilometers Northeast of Loc Ninh, along with:
    Ssgt. Phillip Kenneth Baker - Detroit, MI
    Pfc. Eugene Russell Boyce - Spartanburg, SC
    Sp4. Wayne Daniel Jenkins - Bryson City, NC
    Pfc. Kenneth Leroy Martin - Los Angeles, CA
    Pfc. Marion Luther Oxner - Leesville, SC
    Pfc. Dale Arden Palm - Toledo, OH
    Pfc. Kurt Francis Ponath - Cudahy, WI
    Sp4. J C Williams Jr. - Muncie, IN
    Pfc. William Wittman - Binghamton, NY

    September 12, 1968, was a long and sad day for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

    Pfc. Van Dyke William Manners (11/10/1945 - 2/15/1967) KIA - Kontum Province, South Vietnam

    To all our brethren lost in wars, rest in peace. Your deaths will never be in vain.

    I first published a different version of this story in 2006. Michael Baldwin’s cousin searched his name on Google and found my blog about a year later. She wrote me and said, “I just found your website and read your article about Mike.  I just wanted to say thank you…  It touched me and helped me remember my cousin very fondly.  He was a good guy and the last of the Baldwin men in our family.  He is remembered fondly by many of my friends who still [live] in Flemington, as well as my family.

    “I also wanted to let you know that Aunt Peg didn’t handle Mike’s death very well.  She couldn’t even bring herself to go to the funeral.  I do remember that both she and my Uncle Alvin (Mike’s Dad) did attend the memorial at Ft. Dix after his death.  That was really all she could handle.  She always said she preferred to remember people while they were alive.  I can’t say that I blame her.  I didn’t understand it in 1968, but I get it now.

    “Mike left a large impact on me.  The memorial service was really something and I can still remember the 21 gun salute at his funeral in the cemetery in Flemington.”

    Mike’s mother passed away in 1993. His sister contacted me right after her cousin got in touch with her. Here is what she told me:

    “My cousin called me and told me about your blog.  She had seen Michael’s name in it and read the story.  I read it too and also your reply to her.  I am Mike’s youngest sister.  You made me cry—but it was a good cry.

    “My family and I are so pleased that we are not the only one’s who remember Mike.  Looking through your blog and your e-mail to Mary, I found it so interesting that there are so many things we are connected through.

    “I go to church at Kirkpatrick Memorial Presbyterian church in Ringoes. Van Dyke’s mother went there before she died a couple of years ago and there is a stained glass window dedicated to him.

    “My father worked for the Forans in the foundry they owned in Flemington.  My father was friends with Walt Foran. [My friend Frank’s father.]

    “When I read your blog, I could feel that you knew Mike well.  He was a great kid and we loved him.  You talk about my mother—you may not know it but I had a brother who was older than Mike—his name was Alvin—we called him Skip.  He died in a car accident on Sept. 13, 1958.  No, I didn’t confuse the dates, it was one day short of 10 years later that Mike was killed.  It was a blow that my parents never recovered from.

    “I am so glad that you wrote about Mike, it makes me feel that we are not the only ones who remember. Thank you again for keeping his memory alive.”


    Please see: NJ Vietnam War Memorial - Michael Baldwin

    Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

    http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/2163/MICHAEL-R-BALDWIN

     

    Cross posted on Daily Kos

    Thursday
    May182017

    BRUCE ALL BITEY

    Back in the ’70s, there was a guy named Bruce who came into the Weiner King every week or so. He was tall and lanky and graduated high school with me. I considered him to be my friend. Not a close friend, mind you, but a friend just the same.

    The Weiner King in Flemington was one of the most popular places in town back in the day. Most customers came back time and time again because they loved the food. Obviously, that was the case with him.

    Bruce loved our Texas Weiners. For those of you who might not know, and I would always describe it like a mantra of some kind, “A Texas Weiner is a hot dog with mustard, onions and chili.” Oh, the memories this brings back… Our hot dogs were grilled and the chili was made in-house from a secret family recipe. All meat! No beans! Bruce also loved French Fries and Coca Cola. That’s what he always, always ordered and he usually came in after the lunch crowd was gone. Somewhere between 2:30 – 4:00: that lull time every restaurant experiences.

    You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. So what, some guy likes Texas Weiners, French Fries, and Coke. What’s the big deal? So did almost everyone else.

    Well, what made his order special was due to what ALL he ordered. Each time, it was the same exact thing. Bellying up to the counter, he’d say…

    “Yes, I’d like seven Texas Weiners, seven large French Fries, and seven large Cokes, please.” Take into consideration that he was always alone. And tall. And thin. And, just in case you’re wondering, NO, seven Texas Weiners, seven large French Fries, and seven large Cokes will not fit on a single tray. I’ll let you figure it out.

    Bruce always waited patiently while we went to work. He was soft spoken. We’d pour the seven sodas and he’d take them to a table around the corner, in the very back, so he could be somewhat hidden from view and not noticed by anyone else passing through. You never heard a peep out of him and he’d sit there for quite some time, chewing and sipping away.

    After eating all that, he’d throw out his trash. You’d think he’d be heading toward the door, but…

    Noooooo!

    He didn’t. He came back to the counter to order again. “Yes, I’d like seven Texas Weiners, seven large French Fries, and seven large Cokes, please.” And he’d spend another half hour or so back in his corner, munching away.

    I never wanted to believe that one man could consume all that, but Bruce was proof. The girls were always shocked, too, because they were light eaters.

    “Where did all that food go?” they’d ask me.

    “I don’t know, but I’m sure he’s got a bathroom at home,” I’d generally respond.

    “Ewww!” I had no explanation for it other than to add that everyone’s metabolism is different.

    Whatever became of Bruce, I don’t know. After the Weiner King closed, where did he go for his food fix?  

     

    Tuesday
    May162017

    THE LAST TIME I SAW BILL

    This is a true story that took place on October 23, 2001. It was a Tuesday afternoon

    My parents’ house is on a small street just north of Orlando. It has about a dozen homes on the south side. On the north side, and directly across the street, is a small lake. That side is owned by one family, Bill being the strong patriarch. There are two houses on his property, both owned by his family.

    Sadly, he came down with a very rare form of leukemia; so rare, in fact, that he couldn’t be treated by any of the Orlando hospitals. He opted to go to Houston, where he spent months at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. It was his only choice. It was his only chance.

    Bill was a strong kind of guy. By that, I mean he had character and integrity. He was a hard worker and everyone seemed to like and respect him. He and his wife had been known to throw some great parties, so I would hear, and he was a big banker of some kind. All I really did know about him was that he had leukemia and things didn’t seem to be working out in his favor. Unfortunately, no procedure helped and, in the end, he was sent home to live out his remaining days with his loving wife and family, under his doctor’s care in order to keep him as comfortable as possible. Despite not really knowing him all that well, I made it a point to ask about him every time I visited or called my parents.

    One afternoon, I decided to stop by the old homestead. It was my nature to make sure my mother was doing okay, especially when she was alone. Except for the pets. Driving by Bill’s house, I saw him standing there, just off the road. I waved, but he didn’t respond. He didn’t even notice me, as a matter of fact, and it seemed like he was staring out into an empty void. His face was pale and emotionless. I thought, well, he’s not in the best of health right now, anyway. Intently, I watched as I drove by, thinking that this would most likely be the last time I’d see him because something just appeared to be different. To this day, I still can’t put my finger on it. It’s as if he was somewhere else. I thought to myself that he must be nearing the end of his journey and was too weak to acknowledge me. That must be it. I knew that his health had been declining, but didn’t really know what kind of shape he was in. Until this day.

    I pulled into my parents’ place, got out, and went inside. The first thing I said to my mother after greeting her was that I had just seen Bill standing in his driveway. I waved and he didn’t even notice me. Poor Bill.

    “That’s impossible,” she responded.

    “Why? I mean, he didn’t look good, but there he was.”

    “No, David, you couldn’t have seen him. He passed away two days ago. In the hospital.”

    “You’re kidding. No way!” I knew I saw him and had to quickly go back outside to take another look.

    Bill was gone.

    Tuesday
    May022017

    MAYBE SHE JUST DOESN'T LIKE ME

    My Website, marinadedave.com or daveknechel.com is divided into three sections; a wide one in the center and two narrow ones on the left and right. There are ads and missing people notices and a lot of other things, including a way to contact me. If you scroll down and keep looking at the left column, you’ll find it. It says:

    CONTACT ME:

    This form will allow you to send a secure email to the owner of this page. Your email address is not logged by this system, but will be attached to the message that is forwarded from this page.

    Believe it or not, I still receive “fan” mail occasionally, despite the fact that the Casey Anthony case ended almost six years ago. I also know that this case will never be forgotten. Casey is just as embedded in our psyches as Lizzie Borden. 125 years later, and many people still remember the Lizzie mantra, even though she was acquitted of murder…

    LIZZIE BORDEN RHYME

    Lizzie Borden had an axe
    She gave her mother 40 whacks
    When she saw what she had done
    She gave her father 41

    Of course, I had to write one about Casey, although I don’t think it will be said a hundred years from now…

    THE BALLAD OF CASEY

    For the rest of her life

    Her name will be mud

    For taking the life

    Of her own flesh and blood.

    For what lies ahead

    Is a brewing storm.

    Her Caylee long dead

    Was fed chloroform.

    I wrote that poem seven months before the trial, but did do some minor tweaking six months after it ended.

    What’s my point? The hatred is still intact, and it sometimes includes writers like me, who covered it extensively. Please read the following letter I received last night, sent through my Website. I opened it this morning. I won’t identify the sender, of course, but it’s obvious she knows nothing about me and how I became an integral part of the Casey Anthony case. Obviously, she has no recollection of my participation in the case for three years; that I attended almost all of the hearings and the entire trial. She’s not aware that I covered it for 10 weeks as a credentialed journalist for Orlando magazine from inside the courtroom. Yes, it was a paid position. During my time as a writer, I investigated and exposed three different people and situations as frauds. I even received an excellent compliment from the judge early on, but we won’t go there.

    The letter writer seems to be one very vindictive person. To feel this way nearly six years after it ended? Clearly, she’s obsessed and angry, not to mention uneducated. (The emphasis is mine.)

    I know you followed the case of casey Anthony just like everyone else, even the real media but what makes u think you know so much about what really happened, especially just by hearsay. I hate her just as much as everyone else. But hate people like you more who read a bunch of everyone’s writings and now YOU’VE become an expert like you if your were personally there. I know you think you a writer, but try to stick to fictional books. You sound like a fool on scandal made me famous. Really.  

    You know what they say.

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but…

     

    Tuesday
    Mar212017

    Women's Bottoms

    I went looking for… Well, I’m not sure what I was looking for, but then I stumbled upon this. I’ve always had a soft spot for women’s bottoms, and here they are, ripe for the plucking…

    Friday
    Mar172017

    My Old Stamping Grounds

    Once upon a weekday eve, a homeless man dropped by a friend’s business while I was there sitting at his Compaq Presario computer. It was a travel agency and we didn’t know the guy. Never saw him before. Swinging open the front door, he asked if we could spare a few dollars to eat. Poor and disheveled, he said he was hungry.

    Sadly, no one wanted to give him any, so, after a seemingly long pause and being the softhearted guy that I was, I said, “Hold on a second.” Pulling out my wallet and opening it up, I got out a card. “Here you go, you can have this. It’s good for any large sub and the restaurant is right next door. Directly next door.”

    Back in those days, Subway gave away stamps every time you purchased a sandwich. You collected so many and you’d get a free sub of your choice. I think it was ten then. Five for a six inch and ten for a large one, otherwise known as the Footlong. Eventually, they did away with the stamp program because of too much counterfeiting.

    I generally carried a card with me because, well, you never knew when you were going to eat there and get a stamp or two and, darned if this one wasn’t already filled out. You can’t beat free!

    Anyway, I got up to give it to him, but before I could take three steps, he responded. “F*CK YOU!” and stormed out the door. That wasn’t very neighborly of him, was it? Oh well, he wasn’t anyone’s neighbor anyway. Most likely, he was simply passing by on his way to ABC Liquors down the street and thought it was worth a shot to ask. ABCs are everywhere, just like Subway, except they don’t accept stamps of any kind and, most certainly, not my free food stamps, although he might have been able to trade them for a bottle of Boone’s Farm, don’t you think?

    Saturday
    Mar112017

    Stewart Bacheler

     

    It’s almost mandatory for me to turn the volume down on my phone when I crawl into bed each night. Actually, I turn it off because I don’t want to be alerted to anything when I’m asleep. Due to impending old age and the memory problems that come with it, oftentimes, I forget to turn it back up in the morning and I’ve been known to miss phone calls.

    Two Saturdays ago, I was milling around, putzing along, when my best friend’s wife messaged me.

    “David are you there?“

    “Yes I am.”

    Since Sherry doesn’t normally text me, I thought that something may have happened to Stew. I mean, he is getting old and decrepit. Like me.

    “This is Stew. I have been calling you and I texted you.”

    I picked up my phone and called. At the same time, I was quite relieved it wasn’t bad news. The older we get, the more we worry.

    “Do you want to go to lunch today? Eat some sushi?” His wife was going to go to Busch Gardens for the day and he had some free time.

    You have to understand that it’s almost three hours to drive from his place to mine. That’s nearly six hours on the road. Just for lunch. I mentioned that.

    “So,” he responded, “I have a Maserati.” Which is true. “How much more comfortable can I get?”

    He had a very valid point. So, he drove over to my place, picked me up and off we went. This is the first time I saw it – a brand spanking new Ghibli with the special $4,500 wheel package.

    My favorite sushi place is called Happy Teriyaki heading up 17-92 in the Lake Mary area. We went there, only to find that it doesn’t open until 4:00 PM. Did I mention how comfortable the car was yet? We turned around and went to Bay Ridge Sushi in Longwood, only a mile or so away.

    Instead of sitting at the sushi bar, we got a booth. “Since you drove over, how about if I buy you lunch?”

    “No, I got it. I told you I was coming over to take you to lunch. It’s on me.”

    Everything was delicious. Did I tell you I love sushi yet? After we finished, we stopped to see the Senator, or what’s left of it, at Big Tree Park. It was the largest and oldest cypress tree in the world, estimated to be 3,500 years old. Five years ago, a young woman set it afire one night to see the drugs she was using.

    After a few minutes there, he took me home and off he went, back to Bradenton. Now, let me ask you… How many friends do that? Drive for hours just to have lunch with their best friend? You have to understand, we’ve been close since childhood. That’s 50-plus years. Under normal conditions, it’s asking for a lot, but not when you’re driving the dumpstermobile. Did I tell you he owns a roll-off dumpster company? Alpha Dumpsters.

     

    Thursday
    Mar092017

    HIS HEART HURTS

    This was published online at dailymail.com yesterday:

    During the interview with the AP, Anthony said that the day her daughter disappeared, on June 16 2008, she was in the care of her father.

    ‘The last time I saw my daughter, I believed that she was alive and was going to be OK, and that’s what was told to me,’ she said.

    “’My father told me she was going to be OK. That she was OK,’ she added when pressed by the reporter if her parents were babysitting Caylee that day.

    When asked about the lies she had told police, Casey Anthony said cryptically, ‘My dad was a cop, you can read into that what you want.’

    On Tuesday, George and Cindy Anthony released a statement to People Magazine through their attorney Mark Lippman, saying their daughter was forcing them to relieve the darkest period in their lives from which they had tried to move forward.

    ‘After years of silence, Casey Anthony has decided to complete an interview and has once again pointed to George Anthony, her father, as a suspect in the disappearance and death of his granddaughter, Caylee,’ George and Cindy stated.

    At trial, Casey’s lead defense attorney proposed the theory that her father was involved; that Caylee drowned in the back yard pool, and George took care of it by dumping her body in the woods near the Anthony home. What’s so interesting today is that Casey clearly disputes that theory by stating that she believed her daughter was OK, and that’s what she was told. This means either of two things. One, Casey has decided to change her story by throwing her attorney under the bus; or, two, Jose Baez made the whole story up. Baez told the court it was an accidental drowning (as per Casey) and he stashed the body. Who does that sort of thing? The natural inclination is to call 911 immediately for help.

    Today, Casey says nothing about Baez’s account other than to indirectly contradict it. No, she thought Caylee was doing swell. At least, that’s what she was last told.

    Personally, I don’t believe anything that spews from her mouth. She came out of the termite infested woodwork because she’s a fame whore. To be truthful, I will never trust a word and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about anyone but her narcissistic self. At the same time, she was raised by a family of liars. She learned at a very early age.

    The remainder of this post is from an article I wrote nearly five years ago, on March 17, 2012. Don’t worry, I gave myself permission to reprint it. Also, it was a theory. Take into consideration that it was from years ago and read into it what you wish. Yes, I believe George and Cindy are pained over this, but who created the monster?

    I have said on several occasions that the possibility is real that George and Cindy Anthony made a pact with the devil in order to get their daughter out of jail. By that, I don’t mean literally. It’s a euphimism, unless you think Casey is, in fact, the devil. Just prior to the start of the trial, Cindy and Mark Lippman met privately with Casey’s attorney, Jose Baez. Lippman is George and Cindy’s lawyer. George was not invited to the meeting and this said volumes to me. It meant that Cindy and Lippman were in on the defense strategy to do a character assassination of George — one that began during Baez’s opening statement at trial — or it meant that George was conspicuously absent from the meeting to make it look like he had nothing to do with the made-up story.

    At one of the final hearings before the trial began, I was in the courtroom when Baez asked George on the stand if he would do anything for his daughter. Most of you should remember it, too. George’s reaction? Yes, absolutely, he would do anything, and he was quite vocal about it. When asked if he would lie for Casey, his answer was a resounding YES!

    This signalled (to me) that what most of us had sensed all along was true. The Anthonys were, and remain, natural born liars. With the information gathered from the mouth of George Anthony, he spoke the truth, under oath, that he was willing to do anything to rescue his grandchild’s alleged murderer. Did this include his willingness to be the fall guy? All he had to do was take the bashing because, in the end, no one in the public would believe he ever sexually molested anyone in his family, let alone do any harm to Caylee. Simply put, just deny everything on the stand, which he did, but in the end, it confounded the jury and the plan worked. George came across looking like a liar and a loser — and that’s all the jury had to see to create a semblance of doubt. George looked guilty of something.

    Want more? Cindy stated under oath that she made chloroform searches at home on two separate dates, while her bosses at Gentiva Health, Deborah Polisano and John Camperlengo, testified that she couldn’t have because she was at work and logged into her work computer. They also had time cards to prove she was there. Despite their testimony, the defense still managed to muddle the evidence and Casey is free because of it. Job well done, George! Take a bow, Cindy!

    Sunday
    Mar052017

    Did Obama Tape Him?

    Joe Burbank is a senior photographer with the Orlando Sentinel. I got to know him during the murder cases I wrote about. (He was the main photographer during the George Zimmerman trial.) Joe’s a really good, down-to-earth guy. The Sentinel was responsible for all still images that went over the news feed, while CNN handled video. This is one of his photos taken for the newspaper when President Trump visited Orlando on Friday. I think it’s worth a Pulitzer.

     

     

    Wednesday
    Mar012017

    NO CAROTIDS!

    I see a lot of doctors; my primary care and a few specialists, like a pulmonologist. Sometimes, she orders chest x-rays because I was once a smoker and I’m prone to lung problems. (It will be 10 years in October!) Generally, I go to Boston Diagnostics in Altamonte Springs because they’re handy and efficient. I’ve had other tests done there, too, with and without contrast. I recommend the place, except for the few tests I’d rather not have because there are different ways to get that chalky white contrast inside you.

    Many years ago, before I had insurance, I went for some sort of “procedure.” Maybe gloves were involved. I don’t remember what it was, but I do recall that I had to stop at the side desk for billing before walking out the locked door and back into the waiting area to leave. I’m certain I had to sign something. When I went to that open window to settle up, I noticed signs hanging on the walls behind her, clearly for customers to see. You know, like the $30 fee for bouncing a check. One sign in particular caught my eye and it got my creative juices flowing. It must have been a lull time, too, because several nurses were standing around chatting. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. Not mine. I ended up with one of those stern, robotic, almost Gestapo-types sitting there at her neatly organized desk. You vill obey! As she typed into her computer, I paid attention to that one sign…

    NO CAROTIDS

    I think it meant no Doppler ultrasound studies on the carotid arteries. Suddenly, out of the blue, I piped in, purposely bypassing Frau Ratched. Pronouncing carotids like the vegetable, I pointed at the sign and asked, “No CARROTids? Do you have TOMATIDS?”

    All of the other nurses paused for a split second, then burst into laughter. But not mine. She had to correct me. Like I was an idiot. Fortunately, one of the other nurses let her know it was an obvious joke. Can’t you tell? Unfortunately, she didn’t get it at all. Without a doubt, she wasn’t right for that job and, fortunately, I never saw her again.

     

    Wednesday
    Feb222017

    A Ghost Story?

    I had a conversation with a dyed-in-the-wool atheist recently. He said there is no Heaven or Hell. When you die, you’re gone. That’s it. Journey over. It made me think a little, so I wrote a response…

    In the late 1970s, I lived on the corner of Bonnell Street and Park Avenue in Flemington, NJ. It was two doors down from the 1756 Samuel Fleming House on Bonnell and I had some rather interesting experiences in my house. You might call them downright strange.

    Late one evening, while lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I abruptly heard the front door open and close. At that time, I lived alone and my bedroom was the first one up the stairs. After the door shut, I heard light footsteps walk across the room and start up the stairs. Most certainly, I had locked the door. This totally startled me. I wasn’t sure what to do, except to patiently wait for those footsteps to almost reach the top step. There was no way I was going to let an intruder near me. Within seconds, I jumped out of bed and flipped on the hallway light switch just outside my door. At the same time, I kicked my left leg into the air at the target. What the..? No one was there. (OK, I won’t rule out that it was nothing more than a dream, but I’ve never hallucinated in my life. Well, maybe in my late teens, but that’s another story.) On that particular night, I was as sober as a judge and still quite awake. Without a doubt, I heard that door open and close. I heard footsteps walk across the solid wood floor and head up the stairs. No doubt about it.

    Prior to that experience, I occasionally heard conversations emanate from the kitchen. There was a gap under the door between the kitchen and living room. My house was also built in the 1700s. It stopped whenever I opened the door to get closer to the sound. No one was ever there and no one was standing outside chatting. What was it? Eh, I simply ignored it, until…

    When I first started dating Maryen, she lived on Main Street. We were going somewhere for the night and needed a fresh change of clothes. First, we stopped at her place and then mine. My friend, Ken, and his girlfriend, Nancy, were living with me at the time, but they had left hours earlier. His band was playing in Easton that weekend.

    While I was in the bedroom looking through my dresser, Maryen went down the hall to the bathroom. She left the door open. Once again, the downstairs door opened and up the stairs walked light footsteps. I assumed Nancy had come back for something because she walked right past me and into their bedroom. The hallway had wooden floors, too. When Maryen came to my room, she said that Nancy was home. I said, yes, I know, I heard her and kind of, sort of, saw her. I had glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw a shadow walk by. Maren saw the same thing; just a shadow out of the corner of her eye.

    “Hi, Nancy,” I loudly said as I walked down the hall toward their room. There was no answer, so we walked through their door. No one was there. I looked under the bed and in the closet. Nothing. Maryen was spooked.

    I would have shrugged it off again, except for the fact that Maryen heard and saw the same thing. That’s two people, not one. I never brought up the notion of spirits in the house to her before. I mean, we hadn’t been together all that long and I didn’t want her to think I was crazy. Eventually, Ken and Nancy moved out and Maryen moved in with her 7-year-old daughter. We never experienced anything again.

    One day, I spoke to an author and locally renowned historion about my/our “so called” incidents. This piqued her interest, so she researched the address. A month or so later, she told me a 7-year-old girl had drowned in a well out back hundreds of years ago. The well was long gone. At one time, the house was part of the original Samuel Fleming estate, most likely a barn, and erected after the Fleming house was built. In the 1800s, a larger addition was added.

    Up until those quirky experiences, I had always been skeptical of ghosts. To this day, I can’t say for sure that I actually believe in them, but I refuse to say I don’t. I think what I’m trying to say is that if there is even a remote possibility of the existence of apparitions, then there is surely a chance of an afterlife. To all naysayers who might not believe in ghosts, think about it. This is a true story.

     

     

    Thursday
    Feb092017

    FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH

    I know, I always get into trouble when writing anything about politics. Why? Because liberals (oh, excuse me, progressives) attack me and so do conservatives. That’s because I go after stuff that is, quite literally, dumb. It’s not a political bend in the classic sense, it’s much more like taking a look at things that make no sense. In this case, it’s like standing in your own reeky cesspool while claiming that the opposition smells much worse.

    During a senate confirmation hearing regarding Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Elizabeth Warren attempted to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., and addressed to then-senator Strom Thurmond. The year was 1986 and Thurmond was chairman of the powerful Committee on the Judiciary (US Senate.) In part, King wrote that Jefferson B. Sessions “… used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens [and] should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”

    King urged the Senate to reject Sessions’ nomination as a federal judge and he did, in fact, fail.

    My point has nothing to do with how you or I feel about Warren now because Sessions was sworn in as US Attorney General. That part is history and I’m not going to argue with anyone. Period. What disturbs me is something else.

    While Warren and Bernie and every other Democrat (save one) screamed bloody murder over “the letter” that was not allowed to be read by her, they failed to look at one thing that stands out like a giant hemorrhoid. (Aside from the fact that Bernie did read it while castigating the majority party.)

    What is it? It’s Strom Thurmond and the inconvenient truth that reeks of hypocrisy. Total hypocrisy, and it’s what always gets my dander up. You can take sides, but you’d better be able to back yourself up with a concrete foundation. In this case, you cannot. Sessions was accused of racism and the media only skimmed the surface. You never saw or heard or read anything but that, and the 1986 letter became the star attraction. Why the right said nothing is beyond me, too, but I guess they had no desire to stir the racial pot when it comes to dead politicians. Opening cans of worms come from all directions and they point at many living politicians.

    Democrat Senator Strom Thurmond was a racist, pure and simple. So was late Senator Robert Byrd, also a Democrat, and a one-time Exalted Cyclops of the KKK. However, the Democratic Party rehabilitated both and turned them into legends. Byrd filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights act and supported the Vietnam War, but later renounced racism and segregation. Poof! That’s all it took. All because he was a Democrat. A Republican who even hinted at something similar? Look out, because that’s precisely what was just attempted.

    In 1948, Strom Thurmond ran a presidential campaign. The King family was aware of it, too. Here’s part of his platform:

    “I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and accept the Negro into our theatres, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.”

    In 1957, he ran the longest filibuster in Senate history, 24 hours and 18 minutes, against school desegregation. When President Lyndon Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall as the first African American justice of the Supreme Court, Thurmond tormented him at the conference hearing by asking 60 broadly obscure legal questions. Thurmond v. Thurgood. Guess who won.

    Thurmond was at one time such a racist that he never truly loved or accepted the bi-racial daughter he fathered with his parents’ underage maid. She was 16-years-old at the time and he was 22. In her autobiography, Essie Washington-Williams wrote: “As much as I wanted to ‘belong’ to him, I never felt like a daughter, only an accident.”

    Do you understand why reading that particular letter only perplexes me? Granted, the letter was intended to be read to the entire senate and Thurmond was the judiciary head, but it made absolutely no sense to castigate someone you claim to be a racist by reading a letter addressed to a racist, albeit, a “self-rehabilitated” one. There must have been better examples to choose from.

    I hope you understand that I would do the same thing to any Republican taking the same kind of stand. I will never stop pointing fingers at hypocrites. When George Zimmerman (indeed, no Democrat!) claimed he was not a racist, I pointed fingers his way. And they haven’t budged.

    Tuesday
    Jan312017

    The Saturday Night Massacre

    That’s what it was called by political commentaters after Richard Nixon fired Independent Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in the middle of the Watergate Scandal. The dismissal took place on October 20, 1973. After he was fired, actually by Robert Bork at Nixon’s behest, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned in protest. The whole thing was a big stink and somewhat complicated to write about here and now. Instead, I’ll mention something else…

    This whole Trump/Yates mess reminds me of an old friend of mine, radio personality and local famous guy, Wayne Trout. Wayne was a very talented and funny man and I could write a book about his antics. That’s a fact. Unfortunately, he left us in 2005. Way back when, soon after the Saturday Night Massacre, he came up with a bumper sticker idea and took it around to area printers. One-by-one, they turned him down. He ended up at a printer in Union Park, a suburb east of Orlando. The owner recognized Wayne’s unique humor and was only happy to oblige. What he had printed was a classic…

    IMPEACH THE COX SACKER!


    Friday
    Jan272017

    I SWEAR, IT'S NOT POLITICAL

    I cannot attest to the accuracy of this article. Yes, you can call it an “alternative factual story” if you wish, but it does reflect to the best of my knowledge what transpired one day, sometime in the early aughts.

     Once upon a time, an “alleged perp” stole a can of soda from a 7 Eleven. A patrol car was nearby and as the car fled the convenience store parking lot, an officer took chase. (I don’t recall if it was OPD or OCSO.) The vehicles headed west on State Route 50, a four lane highway with a median lane for turning. On the west side of town, where it goes through Ocoee toward Lake County, there are a few rolling hills that completely obscure traffic from either direction. At over 100 mph, the perp’s car swerved into oncoming traffic at the crest of a hill and hit a lone vehicle head on. An innocent woman minding her own business was killed instantly. I don’t recall if the perp survived or not. This occurred in the wee hours of the morning. Ironically, the woman was on her way to work as a police dispatcher and the tragedy became big news in the Orlando area, where people formulated strong opinions over it – to give chase or not. She was a young mother with several children.

     A couple of days later, I was hanging around my favorite watering hole, Spatz, in Winter Park, when an old buddy came in. Mike’s a great guy and after a few minutes of banter among friends, he asked me a question. “Dave? What do you think about that accident on west 50?”

    I had a feeling he was going to prod. “Personally, I feel terrible about it. There’s no way I would agree with a chase like that over 12-ounces of carbonated liquid containing 10 teaspoons of sugar. A young mother died! Is a life worth a can of soda?”

    He responded, “I knew you were going to say that.”

    You see, Mike’s perception of me was that I was a bleeding heart liberal. I’m not. I’m more of a middle-of-the-road kind of guy, and I have a right to my opinions that range from one end of the gamut to the other depending on many complex factors. In the accident case, what’s liberal or conservative about it? Why label it as such? I value a human life over a $1.00 theft. What’s the big deal? This had nothing to do with religion. This had nothing to do with philosophy. This had nothing to do with politics. It was where my moral compass pointed on this particular issue and how I believed policy was in need of an instant overhaul.

    What makes people brand others as friend or foe, right or wrong, and black or white on the issues with no shades of color in between? No, I don’t mean skin color.

    Just so you know, I am a law & order kind of guy, but I don’t agree with everything. In this case, the victim’s death changed the way police were allowed to pursue. No longer would they be able to over simple thefts. Common sense prevailed, not politics.

    “Damn liberals.”