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Off Key

By Bob Frederickson

From a Charter Gone Wrong to Glaciers Reborn

Fear and Loathing off the Sarasota Coast

News reports of the charter boat captain working out of Marina Jacks who allegedly refused to bring his passengers back in to shore after an altercation over a can of beer read like a Carl Hiassen novel…

It had with all the ingredients of a classic 70’s era high seas tale. Four family members heading out for a 12 hour fishing trip, enjoying a clear spring day until suddenly, like the turning of the tide, their day on the water turns into a fishing charter from hell, replete with an Ahab-esque captain allegedly drinking beer and snorting cocaine while squeezing off rounds from his revolver into the gulf from the flying bridge above the deck where his increasingly nervous passengers began to wonder if they’d ever make it back to shore…feeling more like the character in the Beach Boys’ song Sloop John B than voyagers on a pleasure cruise:

“I feel so broke up, I wanna go home…”

But this was no novel, or story in a popular tune.

The tale was instead told in a Sarasota Police Department police report written after the captain finally returned to Marina Jacks after hours circling off shore in what one passenger suggested was an ultimately futile attempt by the seemingly deranged skipper to sober up before meeting his inevitable fate: arrest after SPD and the Coast Guard were alerted by 911 operators to a call from one of the terrified passengers that finally went through when the vessel came within range of one or more coastal cell towers.

In the aftermath, the family is out $2000 for their adventure.

As for the Captain? He bailed out of jail the next day. The Coast Guard later reported his license to operate had expired. Marina Jacks told him he was no longer welcome. For now it seems he’s in the wind, at least until possible court dates appear on the near horizon.

And for me, I just can’t get that Beach Boy’s tune out of my head…

“The Constable had to come and take him away…
Sheriff John Stone, why don’t you leave me alone?
Well, I feel so broke up, I want to go home.”

Do you Believe in Magic?…

I like roller coasters as much as the next guy; but would you stand in line 13 hours to ride one?

Me either.

But throngs of Muggles did just that with the opening of ‘Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure” at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando on June 13th. And judging by some of the comments on twitter, many thought the experience was well worth the investment in time.

“Hagrid exceeded my highest expectations, said one exuberant twitter poster. “I waited 13+ hours for it; I swear I’d never do that for anything else. What a revolutionary ride.”

Getting folks to stand in line for up to 13 hours for a four-minute ride? That’s the real magic.

Other Coming Attractions…

If standing in the Orlando heat all day doesn’t do it for you, a newly expanded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in South Florida may be your ticket to a Las Vegas style entertainment experience just three-hours ‘off-key’ headed south on I-75. Yes, there’s a Hard Rock just up the road in Tampa, but the new construction at the Hollywood Florida location promises to take the company’s all-inclusive entertainment concept to a new level.

The project’s new multi-story hotel harkens back to Florida’s golden age of eye-catching roadside attractions – albeit on a massive scale – borrowing the shape of a giant guitar for its 400-room facade.

Coming in the Fall, the $1.5 billion project (yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’) will be a one-stop destination for live entertainment, casino style gaming, dining and water side lounging featuring a lagoon size pool developers say will rival any Las Vegas pool party.

A free show named ‘The Oculus,’ encompassing sound, light and water will greet patrons inside the hotel.

In addition, 100 concerts and other entertainment productions will be booked each year at an on-site concert venue larger than our own Van Wezel Auditorium. $125 million alone has been earmarked to assure audiences enjoy a world-class entertainment experience at this high-tech, acoustically engineered venue. And you won’t have to deal with the usual parking lot woes of inching your way to US 41 after exiting a VW show…the idea being akin to a cruise ship experience on land: you can have dinner (at one of more than 25 restaurants on site) see your favorite band or performer at the Hard Rock, try your luck in the casino, and afterwards get a drink or late night snack before heading back to your room when you’re ready to call it a night.

The Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel is slated to open October 24th, but room reservations can be made beginning July 25th and tickets for the grand opening headliner, Maroon 5, can be purchased now online.

Out of this World Vacation Adventure…

Now if  both theme parks and lavish resorts leave you yawning, NASA has a vacation guaranteed to lift your spirits. But it will cost you: a cool $50 million in airfare and $35,000 a night in room charges. That will get you a room at the international space station with the ultimate view out your window, though other than that amenities are somewhat sparse and rooms a bit cramped.

I wonder if they have an AAA rate?

A Tale of Two Campaign Launches

Donald Trump officially launched his 2020 reelection campaign in Orlando last week at the Amway Center in Orlando. The campaign reported it had received over 100,000 requests for tickets in the week prior to the event. Amway’s capacity is 20,000.

Which likely explains why Democratic hopeful Joe Biden launched his campaign via video…to avoid a direct comparison with Trump’s proven ability to draw massive crowds. Indeed, at a recent Biden campaign rally in Iowa – heavily hyped by his communications folks with promises that the former vice president would ‘eviscerate’ Trump at the event (he didn’t) – the crowd looked to be no larger than what one might expect for a Sarasota School Board meeting.

And as this disparity plays out in plain sight, major media outlets give heavy play to polls claiming Biden has a sizeable lead over the president (ahead by up to 13 points they say).

Right. Haven’t we seen this movie before? 

Well, if you believe polls how about this one: A Monmouth pollfound that 77% of Americans said that they believe major television and newspaper outlets report ‘fake news.’ That finding was up 14% from 2017.

How far have we fallen? Well, a Gallup poll taken way back in 1976 asked this question: “Do you have trust and confidence in the media?”

Back then 72% said yes.

It has reached the point where large numbers of Americans routinely dismiss the news they read or see on TV. Indeed, the cynicism has grown to the point where many have come to believe the exact opposite of what they’re asked to believe.

Another Inconvenient Truth

Visitors to Glacier National Park in Montana in recent years have seen signs planted at glacier overlooks throughout the park with the somber news: “This Glacier Will Be Gone by 2020.” But a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion: many of the glaciers deemed doomed have actually started to grow.

Imagine that.

So now many of those same signs have quietly been removed by park workers none-to-keen on promoting the inconvenient truth that everything in this life ebbs and flows, with nothing moving in a straight line for very long.

Dr. Richard I Roots reported recently that the Jackson Glacier, which can be seen from the park’s stunning Going-To-The-Sun-Highway, may have grown by up to 25 percent over the past 10 years.

But while major media players were quick to point to the doomsday signs when they went up, now, since they’ve started coming down…

Crickets.