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Off Key

From Orchestra’s Move to Weight Watching News…

By Robert Frederickson

Will Last Cultural Group Leaving Sarasota Please Turn off the Lights…

First the Players Theatre announced it will be leaving Sarasota for Waterside Place, east of I-75 in Lakewood Ranch. Then last November in a fit of pique, Selby Botanical Gardens (SBG) indicated a move out of the city was not out of the question after its plans for a 75-foot high parking garage with rooftop restaurant were denied by the Sarasota city commission. In the months since SBG has been a bit more conciliatory having recently made another attempt to shoehorn a less vertically imposing 45’ foot high parking structure onto its bay front property.

Now the Sarasota Orchestra (SO) has informed city government it may be moving out of town due to its inability to find a suitable site for a long planned new practice and performing facility within the city limits.

The orchestra had hoped to build on the site presently occupied by the tennis courts at Payne Park just east of downtown near the police station and judicial complex. But the hue and cry from the tennis community nixed that plan and the only sites now identified as feasible are in the county. And speaking of the county, it too has floated the idea of moving out of town, to a more central location so as to centrally serve all county residents, given the explosive growth to the south in the North Port area over the past decade.

That would leave the current county administration building on Ringling Blvd. vacant. Probably too valuable a parcel for the SO on its own, but as part of larger entertainment project involving adjacent parcels? Who knows…

What Could Possibly Go wrong?

Disaster was narrowly averted recently when a Hernando County couple took their infant child with them on what was supposed to be a leisurely canoe trip down the Weeki Wachee River. Read that sentence again, with special attention to the three words: Infant, Canoe, River…

Not three words that work well together I’d say. I’d go so far as to submit that even the most experienced canoeist on the planet would pass on an adventure that included those three ingredients.

But the Hernando County couple involved here dove in head first, which is exactly how they entered the water when their canoe flipped over in the Weeki Wachee while their infant child remained in the canoe, strapped into a car seat which was in turn strapped into the canoe, leaving the unfortunate young passenger hanging upside down with its head bobbing in the water like a pink popper fishing lure. The only thing that could have possibly made this story more horrifying than the monumental lack of parental judgment that precipitated it would be if a few gators swam out to the canoe to check out the commotion in their neighborhood.

Instead, in what might by many be deemed a miracle worthy of beatification, two Hernando County deputies just happened to be nearby, having just stopped for lunch after patrolling the river on their personal watercrafts.

The two jumped back onto one of the water scooters and got to the overturned canoe in seconds after hearing the mother screaming “baby, baby, baby!” They quickly righted the canoe and removed the youngster, first to the shore then to a nearby hospital where the boy thankfully received a clean bill of health… The father was cited for a personal flotation device not worn by a child under six and he will likely never in his long and hopefully happy life be able to say “How come there’s never a cop around when you need one?”

As for me, I’m reminded of the enduring truth in the saying “There is a special providence that protects idiots, drunkards and children…”

It’s True: Politics Really does Make for Strange Bedfellows

The annual survey to name America’s most respected man was a dead heat this year. So, co-winners were announced. The two names sharing the honor: Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

“Be Nice and don’t be Scared.”

That was the advice comedian Dave Chappelle had for current students at the high school he attended as a young, aspiring comic, Washington DC’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The advice was delivered before the assembled student body and his words were captured in a video clip included in a recent PBS special recognizing Chappelle’s selection as the recipient of the 22nd annual Mark Twain Award for American Humor. The PBS special showcases Chappelle’s unique talents and is well worth watching if you get the chance, even if you’re not a big Dave Chappelle fan. At the very least it offers a brief antidote to the increasingly humor- free zone many have sought to build around our public square. I’m sure it will be rebroadcast many times in the months and years ahead, given the deftness and care with which it reveals the wellspring of the comic’s unflinching humor and commitment to expressing in his own words how he sees the world around him.

The advice Chappelle gave that day to the Duke Ellington School students grew directly from similar advice given him as a young boy by his mother, Yvonne. After accepting his award at the Kennedy Center, he looked to her – seated in the audience that night, just as she had been on so many other nights in the less lavishly appointed DC comedy clubs he started performing in at the tender age of just 14. Back then it was a rough time in the nation’s capital as the crack epidemic swept through many of the city’s neighborhoods and gang violence was all too common.

Standing before a capacity crowd of friends, fellow comedians, musicians and dignitaries there to honor him, he spoke directly to the woman who had set him on the course that guided him through those difficult times and on to success, not just as a performer, but more importantly as a man. As he spoke, it was as if it was just the two of them, alone together:

“You remember mom, you used to sit in the club with me, after a full day of work, you’d be in the back falling asleep, waiting for me to go on?” “You would watch my show every night…”

And then turning back to the audience he continued: “You know how long that car ride is home?” (Laughter). “How many of you have ever heard ‘Son your jokes were a little too much tonight…” (More laughter). And then in the disarming, unaffected way that has become a trademark of sorts he tells them this: “I was a soft kid. I was sensitive. I cried easily and would be scared to fist fight. And my mother used to tell me this thing…I don’t know if you remember mom, but you said this to me more than once, you said: ‘Son, sometimes you have to be a lion, so you can be the lamb you really are…”

And as he spoke those words, the camera fell on his mother as she spoke them right along with him, as if she could ever forget how she raised her own son.

And then, center stage, in full command of his words and thoughts, he proved the power of the lesson learned:

“I talk this s_ _ _ like a lion. I’m not afraid of any of you when it comes to words; I will gab with the best of them. Just so I can chill and be me. And that’s why I love my art form.”

As clear and ringing an endorsement of the promise at the heart of the First Amendment as was ever offered by Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, or anyone else…made all the more compelling by the context of the times in which we now live and the experiences of the person offering it that night on the Kennedy Center stage.

“So, I can just chill and be me…”

There is so much we take for granted in this nation today.

Just as King Lear’s Fool offered the foolish king the wisest counsel of all those in his foolish royal court, even today it takes a comedian, someone like Chappelle, to point out our folly when we do not face down those who would challenge or deny us our most precious birthright.

“What is Popeye’s Favorite Food?”

That was the toss up question with $10,000 on the line during a recent episode of the Canadian version of the game show Family Feud. Contestant Eva Dubois quickly buzzed in with what she was certain was the number one answer: “Chicken!” she said confidently while her family looked on in stunned amazement.

I mean, come on Eva, everyone knows spinach is number one with Popeye, right? Not Eva.

But all’s well that ends well. The fast food chicken outfit Popeyes liked Dubois’ answer so much they awarded her $10,000.00 worth of their Louisiana style Cajun Chicken (or anything else on their menu).

And of course, as an added bonus she will live on eternally on YouTube.

Having trouble with your New Year’s resolution to trim down?

Well you’re not alone. Consider this: The Earth gets 100 tons heavier every day due to falling space dust.