Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In The Aftermath

I wrote this article today. I submitted it to the Orlando Sentinel's editorial department. It was published September 1, 2005 on their op-ed page. It is titled, New war devastates the South .

What a shame. Recently, on my way to Houston, I drove through many of those areas devastated by Katrina. On the way out, we went through Biloxi. It was like a miniature Atlantic City, right on the Gulf. Of course, all of the casinos were on barges, since it is against the law to have them firmly planted on soil. We stopped in little towns, such as Bay St. Louis, which was practically ground zero. All over, the areas were very nice, not really what I expected from southern towns. I was aware of the charms of the south, but, never realized its beauty until we exited Interstate 10 to explore the coast. Elegant antebellum and Victorian mansions, with Spanish moss draping down shady trees. Gulf breezes to cool the night. Beauvoir, in Biloxi, right on the Gulf, was the last home of Jefferson Davis and is where he wrote his memoirs and spent his final years. I can understand why he decided to make it his last home. I hope it survived.

We stopped in New Orleans and took pictures, including ones at St. Louis Cemetery #1 (See picture in "About Me" section.) I imagine it would look pretty creepy today. I had been to Bourbon Street and surrounding areas once before in the early nineties and found it to be quite charming.

Aside from byproducts such as human waste, there are many things that will poison the city and land. Leakage from chemical plants, oil from refineries and filling stations, for example, and toxins from decaying carcasses. Death and disease are all around them now. There are so many problems to face. It's too soon to make any decisions regarding the future fates of the areas so affected. One thing to take into consideration is that while Katrina headed north, dumping high levels of rain, the Mississippi will swell. The Ohio River empties into the Mississippi, too. And where is the mouth of that great river? Yes, New Orleans. That means that all of that flooding will eventually make its way back down to that city. We may wait months before the whole thing settles and there can possibly be some semblance of what to do with the entire mess.

The ports in New Orleans bring in most of the coffee we drink, shipping to New York and elsewhere. That is just one product. Imagine, overall, how much damage will be done to our national economy, which is already looking at some major issues. Insurance companies will have to dole out billions of dollars and we all will have to pay.

In the meantime, the Gulf communities east of New Orleans will have to tear down the old and start again. Millions will be without power. Many will not go back to their old jobs for a long, long time. What will happen to all of these people who lost everything? Where will they go? Will we open our hearts and homes to let them in? What can we, as a nation, do? The Civil War has long been over. Hurricane Katrina declared war on this region, so rich with history and hospitality, and it is time that we all help and declare that "The South Shall Rise Again."

Monday, August 29, 2005


Having recently driven through the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana areas now going through a terrible hurricane, I can really empathize with the people who live there. I know how fragile these places are. Believe me, I live in Florida and did not have a pleasant time with the ones that passed our way last year. We went through Charlie, Frances and Jeanne. Ivan missed us, but, really nailed the Panhandle. Do you know what it's like to not have electricity or running water for a week? No air conditioning. No ice. Long, exasperating lines at gas stations before the storms hit. Businesses closed for what seems an eternity. Fallen trees and power lines. I think they're going to have it rougher.

The two pictures above are from my trip. The one on the left is a quaint little community called Bay St. Louis, in Mississippi. They should get the brunt of the damage from Katrina. Them and Pass Christian. On the right is a shot taken from the French Quarter. It does not look like that today.

Hurricanes are horrible things. Maybe Pat Robertson had something to do with this, loving Christian that he is. After all, there's them there cat houses and gambling halls down that way.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I'm Going Into Radio, Trust Me.

In the 1970's, when I managed Weiner King restaurants in New Jersey, a young fellow came to work for us by the name of John Weber. John was one of those guys who was really nice. Nice almost to a fault. Always polite, the customers loved him. For years, he told me he would one day go into radio broadcasting. He and I got along great. At one time, I thought I would go into radio. I was attending Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) and I dabbled a little bit on the college radio station, WTSR, 91.3 FM. A guy I knew there, Kevin Clemente, had a regular program and I used to stop by after classes and sit in with him in the broadcast booth. Once in a while, he'd let me do the news or weather, so I had a little experience in it. Back then, I had an extensive knowledge of music. I impressed many of my friends and co-workers with my musical expertise, including John Weber. John and others always told me I should go into radio. My voice was certainly pleasant enough for it, but, John's voice was truly designed for at least radio, if not television. Time and time again, he would tell me, "Dave, one day I'm going to be on the radio."

When it came to sports, besides Howard Cosell, back then, I didn't know anyone who knew more about sports than John Weber. Any sport. He would awe you with his list of statistics, where athletes grew up and what schools they attended and just about anything else pertaining to sports. Especially the New York Yankees. Boy, did he know them. It was a national day of mourning when Thurman Munson died in that tragic plane crash. John wasn't quite the happy-go-lucky guy for a while after that.

I haven't talked to nor seen John in over 25 years. Recently, a very close friend of mine, Frank Foran, found his e-mail address and contacted him. In his response, John asked about me and quickly wrote an e-mail. In it, he says, "I've managed to eke out a career in broadcasting and am actually fortunate to work for the most listened to FM talk station in the nation, New Jersey 101.5 FM Radio . I anchor the news on NJ 101.5, do the morning news on WBUD AM in Trenton and WIXM FM in Atlantic City as well as the 12 station Millennium Radio Network of New Jersey radio stations which are completely separate newscasts than the afore mentioned stations. Its all done from our studios in Ewing Township right near The College of NJ which used to be Trenton State. I have one of those weird radio shifts that starts at 4:00 AM, but I am out by 11:00 AM on most days unless there is breaking news at The State House or somewhere."

He is happily married, with two children. What's ironic about it, though, is that I used to sell advertising for a local newspaper, the Hunterdon County Democrat, and he did the same thing for a while. His wife is there now doing the same thing. It's nice to come back into contact with old friends and learn that at some point in life, we led similar lives with regard to some of our jobs, except that he did go into radio and I went into the art field. He did end up doing exactly what he told me he would do. Hot Dog! It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy and I always wish him continued success.

My only advice to John is that, if you ever get tired of the radio booth, why don't you go get a job as the New York Yankees announcer?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gator Tales & It's A Small World After All

Quite a few years ago, three of my friends, Stewart, Frank and Pat, came down from New Jersey to visit. I remember before they got here, one of them asked me if my car had air conditioning. "Of course," I said. When I picked them up at the Orlando airport, they said, "Hey, I thought you told us your car has AC." I said, "It does, but, you didn't ask me whether it works or not."

For months before they got here, I kept telling them about this terrible gator problem we were having. Gators everywhere, strutting up to homes and snatching little poodle dogs away from their owners. "Yelp! Yelp!" A real epidemic. They believed me but it did nothing to stop their trip. Stewart knew better. We've been friends far too long and he can tell when I'm full of it. I think, in the years I had been in Florida, up to that point, I had only seen one in the wild, while canoeing on the Wekiva River.

One of the features of the greater Orlando area back then, was, that it had an abundance of dancing facilities of the female persuasion where the uniform consisted of just high heels. The only time I ever went to those places was when my married friends would come down to see me. They insisted. I felt a little arm twisting and they were so persistent, so I reluctantly gave in. "Hi, Dave," one of the girls said as we entered an establishment in Fern Park. We locals referred to it as the "Fern Park Ballet."

This particular time they came down, they wanted to go to EPCOT. Fortunately, I have enough friends here to get me a free ticket whenever I need one. Having lived here so long, I had been there enough times and didn't want to particularly go, but, heck, a free ticket's a free ticket, and I couldn't let them go without me since it was me they came to see. We got to EPCOT bright and early, paid the parking fee and waited in line. I told them we need to get there early since the lines get very long and the overwhelming crowd can keep you from seeing as much as you want to in a day and, besides, we might want to get out of there early. While we were waiting to get into the park, my friend Stewart asks, "So, Dave, you think there are people from all over the world here?"

"Of course, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone from Flemington was here, too." Flemington is where I was from and where these guys lived. Old time friends.

"Nah, no way," Stewart replied, "If anybody from Flemington's here, I would know it."

All of a sudden, the gates opened up and we were all flowing in. Frank is about 6' 4" give or take an inch, so he towers above the rest of us. "Burgers Cycles, 782..." he says, "Hey, I see someone up there. It couldn't be..."

"What," I asked, "the motorcycle shop up on Route 202 heading to Three Bridges?" We tried to catch up. We followed as best we could. They were heading toward the American pavilion, along with hundreds of other people. As we got to the entrance, the young girl closed the door and announced that they were full and the next show was in about 45 minutes. My friends started to turn around and walk away. I said, "No. Wait." When the remaining crowd dissapated, I asked her if we could go in. She told me no, but, I was insistent. I told her about my friends visiting from out of town and what Stewart told me, that if anyone from Flemington were here, he'd know it. I wanted to prove him wrong and, besides, four more wouldn't hurt anything. "I mean, you didn't actually take a head count, did you?"

"No." She looked around. "OK, go ahead in." We scurried in to the tail end of the line, looking into that vast crowd.

"Oh, no way are we ever going to find that shirt," Stewart said. He underestimated the power of Dave. As we all filed into our rows and sat down, who do you think is sitting right in front of us? I mean, directly in front of us. Morris Postun. We all knew him. Worked at Burger's Cycle Shop. He brought his mother down for a nice little vacation. What a great guy he was for taking good care of his mother like that and having Stewart eat his words. Thanks, Morris.

I don't remember how many days they were here, but, my sister, Maggie and her husband, Bud, had a sailboat they kept on the west coast, near St. Petersburg. Wanna come sailing with us? Great idea, so we all headed toward St. Pete. Back then, long before Bud got sick, he was quite the avid sailor. Maggie helped out a lot, too. He always gave us little responsibilities to get us involved in the sailing. Stewart was the most experienced from our crowd, having grown up around boats. Pat was probably in charge of drinks. Frank was in charge of music on the portable stereo. Stew and I manned the boat with Bud. The stereo was out on the bow. We had started to move at a decent clip, probably around seven knots and the boat started to heel. Frank had forgotten about it. A cassette tape of classical music was playing 'Flight of the Valkyries.' All of a sudden, we watched in horror as the radio slid from the boat into the water. We couldn't stop it. It continued to play as we tried to come about to save it. By the time we got close, it slowly had sunk into the depths of Davy Jones' Locker, but, it continued to play, "blub, blub, blub," until it was out of sight. I guess it's a shrimp reef now, somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

On our way back from the coast, they had noticed picket and other assorted fences around many of the homes and businesses. One of them asked me if that was to keep the gators out. I had a tough time holding it back.

"Yes. That is the only reason why people put fences up in Florida. Those gators are everywhere." Needless to say, not one of them saw any gators while they were here.

Stewart and his wife now live on the west coast of Florida, just south of Port Charlotte and they have 2 gators in their back yard, right on the golf course, near the retention pond. They've only been here since June of last year. I've been here 24 years and they've already seen as many as me, in the wild, that is. That's them, up top. Go figure.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Fishin' with Frank on Cable 68

When I moved to Orlando from New Jersey, my old friends from up there came up with the idea that we would have an annual party, like The Big Chill movie. All or most of my good friends would meet every summer at the beach house in Beach Haven, NJ. My best friend, Stew's, parents owned it, so we never had to worry about finding a place. Every year, we would all take turns with the video camera and I would edit it into some kind of form that would make sense. It was filled with all kinds of things. I could take a comment made about a model or movie star and splice it into another area so it seemed like someone was commenting on someone else's wife. All kinds of stuff, I did with those videos. Everyone couldn't wait to see my finished product.

One year, I decided to shoot a segment about my good chum, Frank. Frank has always been quite the fisherman. Why not conjure up something and call it "Fishin' with Frank." It has a nice alliteration to it. I worked for an ad agency, so creating art for it presented no problem. I designed a title page that depicted a fisherman on a boat who looked like Frank casting out to sea. For the opening scene, where I did the voiceover, "Yes, it's time for Fishin' with Frank," the camera focused on a pool of water. Then, SPLASH! and clunk as the lure and lead weight was cast into the inside of a toilet bowl. As soon as it hit the water, the toilet was flushed and the camera slowly panned upward to the open lid, which had the picture of Frank carefully taped to it. The next scene was Frank peeing off the stern of the boat. Of course, he was really just spilling a beer can of water into the ocean. "Frank! Frank! You're on!" He pretended to pull his zipper up on his shorts, turned around and introduced himself. Frank knows his stuff. He talked! We had the requisite bikini clad babes, who were all wives and girlfriends. We were a lot younger then and they sure did look good. Not that they don't now. So, we had a lot of shots of the girls. Which was a whole lot more important and exciting to watch than Frank. Margaritas flowed. Music wafted in the background. We all took our turns fishing. Of course, the best scenes were when Frank tried to teach some of the girls how to fish. The camera kept moving toward the women's bodies. "Dave! Move that camera here, !#$T#$!*@. I'm trying to show how to tie a knot." Oh, yeah. OK, Frank. Right. That's how it went that day out in the Atlantic Ocean. We all learned something from Frank that day, like, how to talk like a sailor when the camera's not where it's supposed to be. Thus was the taping of the world premier video of the almost famous program, Fishin' with Frank on Cable 68, out of Vineland, New Jersey. Of course, there was no such thing as Cable 68.

After we all got back from that excursion, we cleaned up and went to Buckalew's Restaurant & Tavern for dinner and drinks. They sure did know how to make a great tavern pie there. We sat in the tavern part where they have booths. One side has a long booth and chairs opposite the tables, so we could all sit together. There must have been 20 of us. One waitress asked me who we all were. Wrong question to ask me. "Why, have you ever heard of the Fishin' with Frank show on Cable 68?"

"Yes, I'm pretty sure I have."

"Great. We just taped a show up here to be broadcast next month. That's Frank, over there." I pointed Frank out to her. Frank is a pretty tall and good looking guy, so he can have a commanding presence. His uncle was a Hollywood actor named Dick Foran. His father was a senator.

That started the whole theme of the evening. That one waitress had everyone sitting at tables and the bar scrambling to talk to Frank and get autographs. One woman came up to me and asked, "Are you the producer?"

"Yes, I am," I stated as she thrust a paper placemat and a pen toward me to sign. "I thought so," she replied. It seems that everyone had heard of the show, or seen it. The amazing power of suggestion and a whole entourage of "production people." We never took advantage of anyone, nor accepted free drinks, but, it sure was hilarious.

I don't remember if we really caught any fish that day, but, I'll bet you, as Frank always would, that he would have caught the first, the biggest, and the most on the maiden (and only) voyage of Fishin' with Frank.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

John W. Fountain

I read in the Sunday, August 14, 2005, edition of the Orlando Sentinel, an article titled, "Black Men Disengage From Church," by John W. Fountain. I read this with great interest and a strong feeling because I can relate to most of what he said. Although I am white, his words ring true in my heart.

My grandfather, like his, was a preacher. He was with the Church of the Brethren for sixty some years, until his death at 93 in 1998. The Amwell Church of the Brethren, in Sergeantsville, New Jersey, welcomed people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. I grew up with strong feelings of, "...Be they yellow, black or white, Jesus loves the little children of the world." That is what was taught to us. All were welcomed here, rich or poor. I have no reason to believe it is any different today.

My grandfather went to his grave with the same Spirit that chose him to preach the word of God. He was a simple man, in that, he never aspired to a higher calling from the god of material wealth. He lived off meager wages. The church, every ten years or so, would buy him a new Mercury. The material things he took from the congregation were very tangible. Every once in a while, some of the ladies would bake my grandmother and him a pie or two. He did enjoy his 10 or 20 percent discount that stores and restaurants bestowed upon all men of the cloth.

As a child growing up, a majority of the congregation consisted of women. I remember it has always been like that. Not 75%, though. That is high. The women would fan themselves during hot summer months with the church bulletin. I remember mothers making excuses for their husbands, too, why Daddy didn't go to church. Daddy's got too much work to do.

Many years ago, back in the early 60's, my older brother and I belonged to some type of boy's group, similar to the Boy Scouts, but, not that organization. I don't recall the name of it, but, it was church-based and the meetings were held in a nearby church basement. One time, the preacher came out the front door as my brother was attempting to enter. The preacher told him to step aside. Do you know who I am? It was like the CEO telling the mail room clerk how unimportant he was. That impacted us. We were not brought up in a world of egotistical pastors. We stopped going.

I have lived in the Orlando area since 1981. There are many huge churches here. This is the south and there are many denominations that support large congregations. One that was under construction had massive pillars. Someone spray painted in large letters, "God is not impressed" on one of those pillars. I kind of got a chuckle out of that. Many of these preachers live in multi-million dollar mansions, drive expensive and exotic cars and enjoy the finer things of life, along with maintaining strong bonds with local politicians. This is why I left that realm of religion behind. My faith may still be here, but, this is not the God I know. Not all churches and their ministers are like that, either. Some grew because their congregations grew, also. They had no choice but to expand. They still embody the same visions that came with their inception, only on a larger scale. But, many times, along with that growth comes power, and power is one of the most corrupting things on earth.

Many churches have turned away from their humble beginnings. I think they inherently mean well, and they still do many wonderful things, but, they have somewhat turned away from the underlying message of faith, love, hope and charity, and turned it into some sort of distorted greed. They still preach the message and the flocks still follow, but, the larger and more indulgent mansions of God they build move them farther away from the people they are there to serve. Many members of these churches expect their leaders to enjoy upper class living. But many do not. Are they as active in the community as they could be? Or are they above that now? Do they help the alcoholics, drug addicts and indigents as strongly as they can or do they shun those who do not live up to their standards of God? Dear Lord, don't let them near me. It's like politicians. They are there to serve their constituency, not themselves, whether those in need voted for them or not, and whether they support them or not, too. The church is a servant of God and God ministers to the needy. Church leaders should never rise above that precept.

Why is it that people scrutinize charitable organizations about how high their administrative costs are before making donations, yet these same people do not question what happens to what they drop in the offering plate week after week?

Unfortunately, smaller churches don't have the working capital to help as much as the larger ones. I wonder if smaller community churches could band together to help those in need? Ten small churches offering $100 a week would be $1,000 to charities of their choosing, or whatever they all agree they can afford. Every week it could go to a different cause or outreach program.

I hope his article is read by many. This is a powerful message for people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. It's an especially excellent read for those sitting in the hot tubs of their giant mansions, sipping on cold glasses of expensive bubbly, while watching themselves on giant screen televisions. In high definition.

His article can be read HERE .

Friday, August 12, 2005

After the Egg Joke, Scrambled Thoughts

With the recent addition internet domain name extensions, from the standard .com and .net to newer ones like .us, let's take .us and play around with it. What's to stop someone from registering real corporate names, like or or any other name that fits those genres. Hopefully, these company's marketing departments already gave that some thought and registered those names to stop internet money-mongers in their tracks. But suppose you want to register your own, and they can be had relatively cheaply now, like one for your 12 year old son, list can go on forever, with just the addition of the letter "R".

It doesn't stop there. Imagine: (this would be great for some church organization) (well, suppose your name is Andrea or Andrew?) (ha, ha, ha)

Assorted Notes

I like to come up with company names. A good one for a landscaping company, for example, would be LAWN ORDER. A wine shop could be called THE PORT AUTHORITY.

A few years back, a Brazilian lawyer contacted me about creating a kiosk design for malls in Brazil. He told me that Brazilians have a major fixation with American westerns. Could I design a kiosk with a western theme? These were supposed to sell fresh squeezed orange juice and offer donuts and coffee. It was a new type of squeezer he and his partners had invented. You drop the whole orange in and out comes just the juice. I'd seen similar machines, but this one was really compact. He wanted it to look like an old covered wagon. I went to the library and took out books that had photographs and sketches of covered wagons. My design had to be illustrated from all angles. I asked him what he was going to call it. He said, "The Orange Juice, Donut & Coffee Wagon." I cringed. How creative, I said. He told me if I could come up with a better name for it, he would throw in an additional $200. I said, OK.

My mind can work in mysterious ways sometimes. Having been in the design business for so many years, you just give it some thought, to plant a seed so to speak, and forget about it. Usually, when you least expect it, an idea pops up in your head and you know it's perfect...

OJ Corral

The guy loved it. And I made the wagon wheels look like orange slices.

One time, a roofing company asked me to come up with a yellow pages ad design. I drew a cartoon of a doghouse with missing shingles and some at the point of falling off. Above it was an impending storm, with heavy rain clouds and a few drops beginning to fall. Inside the darkened doorway were two bright eyes of a dog peering out that just screamed "ROOF! ROOF! Then, I wrote the body copy below it. It was very effective.

How come the U.S. Mint didn't come up with a new nickel design for 1976? Instead of Monticello on the back, they could have made a BISON-tennial coin.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Restaurant Joke

Fred and Ethel decided to go to a nice Jewish deli. They went in, sat down and perused the menu. A waitress came over and asked if they were ready to order.

"Yes," said Fred, "we are."

"OK, then, what'll it be?"

Fred says, "Hmmm, I haven't had this in a long time. Let me have the sliced beef tongue and onion sandwich on rye."

"Oh, that's disgusting!" cried Ethel. "How could you eat something that came out of an animal's mouth! I'll have a couple of fried eggs, please..."

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Bald & The Beautiful

My brother, Sam, is two years older than me. He's always been bigger than me, too, even to this day. When I was 11 and he was 13, I said, I can't wait to be 13 so I can be big like him. Oh well. When I was 13 and he was 15, I said, I can't wait to be 15 so I can be big like him. I hadn't really changed that much. When I was 15 and he was 17, I said, I can't wait to be 17, so I can be big like him. No matter how hard I wished, it just never came true. One day, in his early twenties, I noticed he was starting to get that male pattern baldness thing going on. All of a sudden, I didn't want to look like him anymore.

Many years later, after I had a few years of male pattern baldness to deal with, myself, I had a close friend, Frank (see "A Sick, Sick Man," June 30, 2005) who was starting to lose it in the front. Not bad, mind you, but, some people are more conscientious than others in the hair departure department than others. I had already resolved myself to the fact that it just ain't coming back and I didn't have a self-esteem problem that warranted all that much concern. Having hair was not going to make me a better man. Better looking, maybe, but, I doubt it. Anyway, Frank saw an ad in the back of Boyslife or Playboy or something that promised to grow hair if you take these 100% ALL NATURAL pills for the rest of your life for just $29.95 a month. GUARANTEED TO GROW HAIR! Now, mind you, this is long before there was that blood pressure medication that accidentally grew hair out of your nose into a full mustache. Frank sent in for this miracle drug you could take in the privacy of your own home, shipped in a plain brown wrapper, so your neighbors wouldn't notice all of that new hair growth.

At the same time, Sam's girlfriend at the time, decided to whip up this New Age concoction (long before there was even a new age) of vitamins, minerals, herbs, raw eggs, yeast, curdled milk and ground up bull horns or some kind of weird recipe, to kickstart his new hair growth. It must have been of some concern over there at his household, too. He drank one faithfully, every day. Frank and Sam started their rather unique and different regimens at the same time, unbeknownst to each other. The only common bond between them was me. They knew each other, but, not all that well. I became the silent referee, so I could follow their "progression" and to see which program was more of a failure.

After several weeks of laughs, Frank said to me, "Hey, Dave, LOOK! See these little fine hairs growing here? They're new! They weren't here a week ago."

I said, "Frank. Those are the remnants of old hairs. They always get fine in the end, just before they disappear forever."

"Baloney (or words to that effect.) These are new hairs. I should know. They weren't here a couple of weeks ago. You don't know what you're talking about, so, shut up!"

I think I ran into Sam the following day. "Hey, Dave, LOOK! See these little fine hairs growing here? They're new! They weren't here a week ago."

I said, "Sam. Those are the remnants of old hairs. They always get fine in the end, just before they disappear forever. You, of all people, should know that."

"Baloney (or words to that effect.) These are new hairs. They weren't here a couple of weeks ago. You don't know what you're talking about, so, shut up!"

OK. OK. Maybe I didn't know what I was talking about, but, I had a few years of experience under my hat. It was happening to me.

Several weeks went by and they gave me the same spiel again, rambling on and on about their new hair growth. I offered my support and that was it. I never made another discouraging remark. Funny thing is, though, after a couple of months, I never heard another word from those guys about it again.

Never saw any new hairs either.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Bird Lady of Altamonte Springs

My niece, Ariana, is going home to Germany today. It will be time to go back to "schule" soon. She's been stateside for 6 weeks now. She spent time with her father in St. Louis and my sister in Houston, who is there due to my brother-in-law's leukemia treatment. She came to the Orlando area to visit with her grandparents, my brother, his wife, and me. My sister-in-law, Lindsay, took Ariana shopping and did other "auntly" things. Lindsay volunteers to help feed and treat sick and otherwise defenseless birds of all kinds with the almost world famous Bird Lady of Altamonte Springs, just north of Orlando. Everyone brings Ann Young, the bird lady, these flying creatures to nurse back to health. Her house is a veritable sanctuary. She does this for the birds. Birds do not pay, so donations are encouraged and greatly appreciated. She and Lindsay have been friends for a long time. The Orlando Sentinel does writeups on her every few years.

Wednesday is one of Lindsay's days to volunteer. Ariana was staying with her and my brother that night, so she went along to help feed the birds. My parents and I were going to take Ariana out to dinner later, so I went to pick her up after work. Lindsay said that early in the evening, she and Ann were going to release some nurtured swifts into the wild. These swifts are chimney dwellers. It's where Chinese 'bird's nest soup' comes from, the nests of these birds. They also nestle in the hollows of trees. They feed off mosquitos and other winged insects, so they are great to have around in sub-tropical areas like Florida. Who needs mosquitos? Some people will bring the baby birds to Ann instead of destroying them as they clean out their chimneys due to the noises that can be a little on the pesky side. They might have fallen out of a nest and someone was there to save them. In the winter months, they migrate to South America, Peru, in particular, to avoid the colder climates. Lindsay asked me if we would be back from dinner in time to watch Ann release the birds. I told her, yes, I will do my best.

Ariana and I drove up to the Seminole Community College parking lot around 7:30. There is a large open field adjacent to it. I asked Ann why is it better to release them here instead of anywhere else they might find refuge? She said that this way, if they fall, we are there to collect them up to try again. There is plenty of open space. Oh, I see. Well, what happens if they just don't fly away at all? And why today? She said these birds were about 5 weeks old and if you don't release them, since they are wild, they will become lethargic and die. We will try another day, but, if that doesn't work they must be euthanized. They will never make it, then. Well, we waited. We saw birds of different kinds, but, no swifts. We talked about other types. This woman knows her birds. I wondered why she wanted to wait for other swifts and she said that they will come and fly these little ones to the safety of their own nests. They will protect them and train them to fly home into the chimneys. We waited. Still no swifts. "Well, good luck, little birdies, you might have to be on your own," she told them. She picked the strongest one out of the cage and as she kissed its little forehead, said "Fly away, little one. Be strong!" Up, up and away it went. Within seconds of flight, three other swifts approached the newly freed bird and flew around it. They came out of nowhere. Nowhere at all. Then all of a sudden, they took it under their wings. They all kept flying around and around us as she released the remaining birds one by one. It was truly a remarkable sight to watch nature in action protecting their own.

After they were freed, I asked her, " Where did these other swifts come from?"

"Sometimes, God answers your prayers. Sometimes He doesn't."

Around and around they flew, until off they went, together, to the protection of their new found nests. Ariana and I marveled. This was something we could never learn from reading a book. We truly appreciated the power of God and nature and the amazing heart and grace of the Bird Lady of Altamonte Springs.

Ann Young can be reached at:
Ann Young Wild Bird Refuge
205 Robin Road
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701
Her phone number is 407-339-2900.

For more information on swifts, please go to: SWIFTS.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Great Salad Dressing!

Through writing this blog, I have become acquainted with some very interesting and friendly people and have visited many impressive and eclectic websites out there. One of interest comes from a woman who produces her own line of gourmet foods, Suzanne, at Three Angels Gourmet. It only makes sense that I would find myself in the company of food types, since I am Marinade Dave, after all. That was originally my point in creating this blog, to write about marinades and to share thoughts on cooking. Last night, I whipped up a really delicious salad dressing made from her Sun-Blessed Tomato Herb Dip Mix. When mixed with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, it became a real gourmet treat, with a wonderful bouquet. Everyone who tasted it was very impressed. I highly recommend it, and there are recipes on the packaging. I have several other products of hers to try, but, I would be hard pressed to think that they wouldn't be equally impressive. All of her products are quick and easy to prepare.

Last night, we had a family dinner, since my 15 year old niece is here from Berlin, Germany. We all loved the salad, and my father put some dressing on his brown rice. Whoa, he loved it. I tried it and he was right. It's not just for salads, and I would say it would be great as a marinade. Marinate whatever you want in it. Anyway, if you are a connoisseur of fine food, please give Three Angels Gourmet a try. You won't regret it. Trust me. And don't hesitate to ask me about marinating tips.

Monday, August 01, 2005

In the Heat of the Morning

(This is an e-mail I sent my brother.)

He walked out into the morning dew. The sun shone down and exposed the heat and humidity of the day in unrelenting anger. Beads of sweat started to form on his bald palate and forehead as he slowly ambled toward the vehicle parked in the drive. He pulled on the latch and the door abruptly opened. He slid into the comfort of his seat, put the key into the ignition and turned. He heard the roar of the engine. Something he listened to almost every morning, but this day was different.

Immediately, he felt cold, crisp air blow onto his exposed skin, through his wisps of fine hair, on his face and neck, to his arms and shirt covered chest. The feeling overcame him. It had been a long time since he had felt the comfort of air conditioning in his car. And, thanks to his brother, Sam, he can't wait until late afternoon to feel the same joy. Every morning will be a new and vibrant day to him. It's great to be an American.

My brother, Sam, is not one to read this type of literature.
He is a real macho kind of guy.
That's why I wrote it this way.
A real thank you.
Of sorts.