Archive for February, 2022


We are in week three in southwest Florida, and — sorry to tell you friends back home — the weather is perfect. On a typical day, the temperature starts out in the 60s, zooms up to the mid- to upper 70s and then cools down in late afternoon.

I’ve found that the best time to play golf is about 4 p.m., when the crowds have departed, the rates are better ($53, morning, $43, afternoon), and the sun is starting to descend in the southern sky.

We’ve done a lot of exploring and still have more to do. Brooks was here for a few days last week, and Charlie and his girlfriend Sabrina are arriving tonight, for a few days.

One place I want to get to is Ybor City, a historic neighborhood near downtown Tampa. It was founded in the 1880s by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers and populated by thousands of immigrants, mainly from Cuba, Spain and Italy. The best cigars outside of Cuba are rolled in Ybor City, and excellent Cuban food, like paella and Cubano sandwiches, is plentiful.

For this post, though, I’ll stick to where we have been…I hope you enjoy the photos.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a magnificent structure, connects the Clearwater-St. Petersburg area with the Bradenton-Sarasota area. From end to end, it is slightly more than four miles long. It opened in 1987.
Yesterday, we went to Fort Desoto Park, at the tip of the Pinellas Peninsula, and to the nearby town of Pass-a-Grille. Above is Fort Desoto Beach. The fort was built to protect Tampa Bay residents during the Spanish-American War.
The centerpiece of Pass-a-Grille, along St. Pete Beach, is the Don CeSar hotel, which opened in 1928 and “gained renown as the Gulf playground for America’s pampered rich,” according to Wikipedia. This is as close as we got. Parking is nearly impossible unless you’re a hotel guest or want to pay a short-term visitor’s fee of about $27.
Here are Patty and Brooks at the Manatee Viewing Center near Tampa. (I couldn’t get a good photo of a manatee, so I focused on the beauty right in front of me.)
On the way to the Manatee Viewing Center, we stopped in downtown Tampa for lunch. Being on the board of the City of Fountains Foundation, I’m very interested in fountains, and this elegant one was outside the Tampa Bay History Center.
We are staying in Dunedin, a city just north of Clearwater. We had lunch today at Olde Bay Cafe, adjacent to the Dunedin Marina.
This pelican was just a few yards away, eyeing the diners very closely.
Dunedin is growing very fast, thanks in no small measure to tourism. The city’s existing City Hall doesn’t indicate how much it is prospering…
But its new, three-story City Hall, expected to be completed later this year, definitely does.

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Tracking world, national and back-home developments is different when you’re on vacation.

Wherever I am, I follow the news, but it’s with a more removed outlook when I’m out of town. We’ve been in Florida almost two weeks now, and there’s been a lot to keep track of. But my news-priority list is not the same.

For example, I’m every bit as concerned as I was two weeks ago about the Ukrainian crisis. I go to The New York Times and Washington Post websites several times a day, and that’s usually the lead story — appropriately.

Another timeless and place-less story is the $73 million settlement in the Sandy Hook school shooting settlement, a case in which the relatives of children and adults who were killed in that awful incident took on and defeated the now-bankrupt Remington Arms Co.

The relatives and their attorneys charted a novel approach, arguing that Remington’s advertising encouraged illegal use of the Bushmaster weapon the 20-year-old killer used. One ad equated owning a Bushmaster with manhood: “Consider your man card reissued.” Another included the words: “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”

…Remington’s epitaph should be, “Hoiist on its own petard.”


From afar, I got a kick out of reading a story about Missouri: On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sued the Show Me state over its gun law that discourages local officials from enforcing federal firearms measures.

The state’s “Second Amendment Preservation Act” allows citizens to sue any local police agency for $50,000 for every incident in which they can prove that their right to bear firearms was violated, provided they were not flouting state law.

The way the General Assembly and Gov. Mike Parson have been going, it’s not surprising that Missouri would try to stiff arm federal law, but to much of the nation it must look ridiculous. As Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said, “A state cannot simply declare federal laws invalid.”

And what was the reaction from fearless Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt? “Make no mistake, the law is on our side in this case, and I intend to beat the Biden administration in court.”

Fighting the feds…A Missouri politician can hardly go wrong going in that direction.


Then there was the snow storm back home. For news about that, I turned to The Star — with the expected result that I’d be disappointed.

And, of course, I was. The Star’s main report informed readers how much snow had fallen in just about every part of the metro area, with one glaring exception — Downtown and central Kansas City.

I learned that Weatherby Lake, Shawnee and Kansas City, KS, got nine or more inches; that Lenexa got 8.8 inches; that Overland Park and Parkville got 8.5 inches; that Lansing and Platte Woods got 8 inches; that Platte City and Independence got 7 inches; that Spring Hill got 6.5 inches; and that Lake Tapawingo, Lone Jack and Stillwell got 6 inches.

Somebody needs to remind The Star’s editors that the area’s center of gravity (C.O.G., as one former editor used to call it) is still Kansas City proper.

That said, can somebody tell me how much it snowed in Brookside?

I’d appreciate it…

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On a happier note…

As I said at the outset of Monday’s post, we are in southwest Florida, where we’ve come for a few weeks the last three years. We spent the first week with Louisville friends who rent a house in Naples for three weeks each February.

On Sunday, we moved up to Clearwater/Dunedin, where we’re staying in an Airbnb and where two Kansas City friends have a home.

We like Naples, but we love the Tampa Bay area, which offers a tremendous variety of sightseeing and entertainment options, including golf, Tampa Bay Downs racetrack, The Dali Museum, the Pinellas Trail, great beaches and the Gulf of Mexico.

Check out some of what we’ve experienced so far…

The house where we stayed in Naples was a couple of blocks from the beach, which attracts a crowd on sunny days and almost every evening for sunset. The two days we went down at sunset, however, about all we saw were clouds.
In Naples, old and new coexist, with new (and bigger) clearly having the upper hand. The Gondolier Inn on 8th Avenue South is a slice of the old. Old and new are both expensive, however: A room at the Gondolier runs about $400 a night, before taxes.
Eating out is expensive, too, even at the food
trucks, where this wagyu beef hotdog cost $17.
Patty was in good form on Day One.
We got to Dunedin Sunday night. No, we’re not staying at the Fenway hotel, across the street from the Gulf. Rooms start at about $400, and that’s a last-minute deal.
With the MLB lockout — and baseball on hold for now — the Dunedin, spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays is looking pretty forlorn.
Today we went to Myakka River State Park, an area of great natural beauty just east of Sarasota. It was developed between 1934 and 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, with help from the National Park Service and the Florida Park Service.
One of the park’s greatest attractions is its canopy of trees. I took this shot from a tower, about 50 feet above ground. (I didn’t have the leg power or courage to go to the top of the tower, about 25 feet farther up.)
Here’s a view of the canopy from ground level.
Bird watching is a major sport in the park.
The Myakka sand is unique and fascinating. During the summer rainy season, the ground is constantly wet. In the fall, it dries out in clumps in park areas with trees. On the walking paths, it is a fine, non-grainy sand.
In 1989, the Florida legislature designated Myakka fine sand as the official state soil. It occurs in more than 1.5 million acres of Florida “flatwoods.”

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We’re in Florida, having a good time, but I got terrible jolt yesterday morning: Ernie Torriero, a good friend and former colleague at The Star, is dying of Covid in a Washington, D.C., area hospital.

Although vaccinated and boosted, he got a case of Covid after Christmas that infiltrated his lungs. Despite being on a ventilator, the doctors have determined he will not survive. Soon he will be taken off the ventilator.

Saturday, Ernie’s wife Antje Torriero explained the situation to Ernie’s 91-year-old mother, who, coincidentally, lives near where we are in southwest Florida, and his brother and sister.Ernie was at The Star (actually The Kansas City Times, the morning paper) for only four years, from 1981 to 1985, but he made a distinctive mark. He had come from the Miami Herald, and like many of us in the newsroom, he had a compulsive personality and was a hard charger. But he also had a big heart, was extremely gregarious and made friends easily.

It was pretty clear that Ernie would not be at The Star very long: He had exceptional talent and ambition, and he wanted to move up the journalistic ladder. Early on, I’m happy, to say, he cultivated my friendship. We would frequently go to lunch together and we hung out after working hours.

Before we became good friends, however, we had a mild dust-up over a reporting matter. The Rolling Stones were coming out of retirement not long after Ernie arrived, and the tour included a performance at Kemper Arena. The city editor at the time, a guy named Bob Samsot, went crazy on the coverage. He dispatched at least six reporters to the arena and the immediate area, and he had a couple of people, including me, in the office doing rewrite.

At one point, Ernie called in, was rung through to me and began giving me quotes from people he had spoken to at the concert. Very quickly, it struck me that some of the quotes were exaggerated. They just didn’t sound like words and sentences that most people would say off the cuff.

I stopped him in mid-sentence and said, “Hey, buddy, we don’t put up with cowboy quote artists here in Kansas City…Give me what they’re saying word for word.”

Ernie Torriero

At the time, Ernie had a bad stutter, and he began stuttering. But he also went back and got some authentic-sounding quotes.

Far from holding the scolding against me, Ernie admired the fact that I had insisted on accuracy and adherence to high journalistic standards.

After that, we began spending a lot of time together. One of the times we went to lunch was particularly memorable. One night in early August of 1983, I had met an engaging and good-looking young woman at the New Stanely Bar in Westport. I didn’t ask for her phone number, but she told me she worked at Cy Rudnick’s Fabrics in Crown Center.

A day or two later, Ernie asked if I wanted to go to lunch, and I said, “Yeah, how about going to Crown Center? I met a girl at the New Stanley the other night who works down there, and I’d like to see if she’s there.”

Ernie, of course, was game. When we got to the fabric store, I looked around eagerly, over and around bolts of fabric and counters where clerks were precisely cutting fabric with large scissors. Across the room, I spotted the girl I had met at the bar. She spotted me and broke into a big smile…That “girl” was Patty Corteville, to whom, on Feb. 23, I will have been married for 37 years…Ernie was in the wedding.

A year later, in August 1984, came another seminal occasion involving Ernie. My best friend in Kansas City, a guy named Dick Arnett, who had been married to a Star editor, committed suicide. I got the news on a Friday night, immediately upon arriving with Patty at the home of friends in St. Louis. I was shattered. I barely slept that night, and we headed back to Kansas City early Saturday. When we I pulled up to my house on Grand Avenue at 51st Street, Ernie was there, waiting in the front yard. I collapsed into his arms, and the grieving was officially underway.


About the same time I met Patty, Ernie had one of the most outstanding feature stories that has ever run in The Star. As I said, he had a stutter. It was a really bad, achingly bad, stutter. But he also had an indomitable personality, and he wanted to get rid of it.

The editor at the time, Mike Waller, offered to pay for speech therapy for him. After weeks of therapy — at KU Med Center, as I recall — all that remained was an occasional, mild stutter. Waller also had a secondary motive in extending a helping hand to Ernie: he wanted him to write about his experience with stuttering and the treatment. Waller, a genius of an editor, knew it would be a compelling story.

So, Ernie proceeded to write a two- or three-part series. The headline on Day One was, “I Just Want to be Normal.”

It was a blockbuster. I think just about everyone who subscribed to the paper read it. Inside the newsroom, Ernie was roundly congratulated. Often, one story can take a reporter or editor to a new level, and that’s the way it was for Ernie with “I Just Want to be Normal.”

In 1984 or 1985, when Ernie went looking for a bigger job, editors at The Washington Post almost hired him based on that story. It wasn’t quite enough to push him over the top, though, and he took a job at the San Jose Mercury-News. From there he went to The Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale, where he was a foreign and national correspondent from 1994 to 2000.

His upward trajectory continued when he got hired by The Chicago Tribune in 2000. He was a senior reporter there for eight years, during which time I had the privilege of accompanying him to the newsroom in the fabled Tribune Tower, which, sadly, is no longer home to the Tribune.

Like many papers, the Tribune was in sharp decline in the late 2000s, and Ernie quit. For a little more than a year, he worked as an editor for a fledgling online publication. I talked to him fairly often during that time, and it was very difficult. By then he was married to Antje, who was not working, and they had young, twin sons. Ernie had no benefits, was working his ass off and not making very much money.

As I said, though, he had an indomitable spirit, and in 2010 he landed a destination job with Voice of America in D.C. He has held several important posts at V.O.A., including his current job, in which he supervised creation and production of digital content distributed to Africa.

…I had not spoken with Ernie for several months, and I’m sick that I didn’t call. I had determined to call him in early March, when both of us celebrate our birthdays. Unfortunately, Ernie Torriero, one great journalist and a loyal, loving friend, will not make it to his 68th birthday.

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Today’s post focuses on some great lines from journalists, a Democratic state senator and two members of the public.


Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for The Washington Post is right on the money with her latest column, titled “I’ll skip the Olympics. You should, too.”

She says China, one of the most repressive nations in the world, should never have been awarded the Olympics, but now that they have them, people should register their objection by not watching. Rubin says…

“While NBC has already shelled out money for the rights to air the events and corporate sponsors and advertisers have spent millions to promote their products during them, perhaps a significant drop in TV ratings would send a message to all of them: If the IOC (International Olympic Committee) awards the Games to monstrous regimes, viewers might flee, rendering them less valuable. We can choose not to encourage such moral travesties.”


Naturally, NBC is trying to sugarcoat the situation. Molly Solomon, head of the network’s Olympics production, was quoted as lamely acknowledging that “there’s some difficult issues regarding the host nation.”

Difficult issues?

To which Rubin responded, “What better PR could a totalitarian regime hope for from a U.S. media outlet?”


Many of you probably haven’t been following the latest escapades of our Missouri General Assembly, which never ceases to amaze with its steady march back to the Dark Ages.

This week, a state Senate committee rejected Gov. Mike Parson’s nominee for director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, Donald Kauerauf, mainly because Kauerauf had been quoted in St. Louis Magazine as saying, “The goal of public health vaccination programs is to achieve 100 percent coverage.”

Donald Kauerauf, left, at Monday’s confirmation hearing. Beside him was Senate President Pro Tem Dave Shatz of St. Louis County.

As you know, I’m no fan of Parson, but in this case it appeared he had chosen a very qualified candidate to succeed Randall Williams, a goofball whom Parson ousted last spring. (Among other things, Williams once advised Parson to veto funding for a program aimed at connecting severely ill patients with hospitals that could treat them most effectively.)

Kauerauf was assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health from 2016 to 2018 and has three decades of experience in public health. Parson named Kauerauf director of the department in July, but the appointment required approval by the Missouri Senate, which proved more than problematic.

About 150 people rallied in the Missouri Capitol rotunda before Monday’s confirmation hearing to express their opposition to his confirmation. Some of those in the crowd promoted the idea of “medical freedom” and others inaccurately asserted that Kauerauf supported vaccine mandates, which he does not. (Later in the day, after the hearing, one person in the crowd called Kauerauf a Nazi.)

Naturally, the Senate heard the call of the wild and refused to advance the nomination to a vote. On Tuesday, Kauerauf resigned.

All of which prompted Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo of Independence to say: “The guy answered the questions right. But at that point the die had been cast…The guy could have given the cure for cancer and it wouldn’t have mattered.”


The Chiefs’ inexplicable collapse in Sunday’s game against the Bengals continues to echo. In Wednesday’s Star, a couple of letter writers were able to look on the light side.

Liberty resident Paul Stephen Smith had this after-the-fact headline suggestion for Monday morning’s paper: “Grim weeper.”

Dan Gruss of Shawnee had the best line, though…

All we needed was the refs to find us four more points.”

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