Tag Archives: Florida

Divorce sends me back to the UK and waiting for my Peppy Miller

By Calvin Palmer

Regular readers of this blog, the three of you know who you are, will have noticed the change in the header photograph. The cityscape of Jacksonville is gone and has been replaced with a photograph of the Cromarty Firth in Scotland.

I am back in the UK for a while and facing an uncertain future after my wife – aged 56 going on 23 – decided to divorce me after 13 years of marriage. Her timing was impeccable. The announcement came on the eve of our wedding anniversary.

The news was not unexpected but it still came as something of a shock. Given that my income last year amounted to $90.40 from amazon.com advertising on another blog site, I had little option but to head back to the UK and take stock of the situation.

I am staying in the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland, courtesy of a friend from my university days who kindly offered me accommodation while I find my feet and rebuild my self-confidence before heading back to the United States to start my life there all over again . I will forever be in his debt.

After living in the Riverside area of Jacksonville, and on a busy road, the first thing I noticed was the peace and quiet. I have yet to hear a vehicle pass by the house at night; mind you, the house in Scotland is situated 150 yards from the road, which is a dead-end.

So the sound of trains blowing their horns at every level crossing has disappeared from my life – I kind of miss that – but I am certainly glad to be free of those inconsiderate bastards who used to drive through Riverside with their drums and bass tracks pounding from the subwoofers in their cars and shattering the stillness of the early hours.

I don’t know whether it is just me but the older I get I find my tolerance of noise is lower than when I was younger, so being surrounded by the Scottish countryside is perfect for me.

But there are drawbacks. My location is a little remote; the nearest village is a 15-minute drive away. I have had little chance to socialize. I am not sure the people in these parts will respond to conversation from strangers in the same way that Americans do. We shall see.

I made my debut back on British roads yesterday and did all right, given that most of the route was along single-track roads. They appear extremely narrow after driving on roads in America.

I have also rediscovered the noble art of pegging washing out on a washing line. In both Texas and Florida, despite the hot climes, washing was always dried in the tumble drier. I know, it was scandalous behaviour, right up there with driving a car powered by 3.5 litre V6 engine.

The highlight of the week was watching The Artist; my hosts had recorded the film on their Skybox. I knew the film had been well received by the critics and won a raft of awards but, hitherto, I had not been drawn towards it – a great failing on my part.

It turned out to be one of the best films I have seen in a long time. The lack of dialogue hardly seemed to matter, mainly because of the superb acting of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, the masterful direction of Michel Hazanivicius and the wonderful score by Ludovic Bource.

The film got a bit too close for comfort in the final scenes after George Valentin was told to get out of the house by his wife. I readily identified with the character’s slide into reduced circumstances and could feel his growing sense of desperation. Unlike George, I have not sought refuge in a bottle; perhaps that will come later, although I sincerely hope not.

George was eventually saved from the abyss by the charming Peppy Miller, who helped him to bury his pride and resurrect his career.

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in a scene from The Artist. Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in a scene from The Artist. Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

When the film ended, I was left to ponder, where is my Peppy Miller? I hope she turns up soon.

So if any of you delightful women out there can come to the rescue of a writer/sub-editor/proof-reader/photographer and generally nice guy, just get in touch.

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Publix adopts Tea Party style of customer care

By Calvin Palmer

“Publix would prefer you took your custom elsewhere.”

That remark was directed at me this morning by the manager of the fresh produce section of the Publix store at the Roosevelt Square Shopping Center, on Jacksonville’s Westside, after I had voiced some criticism of his department.

Since when has a lowly manager become the arbiter of who may or may not shop at Publix?

The remark came after he said, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

I guess the interpretation of “around” is pretty loose but my with my English accent, it was fairly obvious that I wasn’t born in the United States. However, I have resided in the country for 12 years and for the last five years in Jacksonville, Florida.

When I replied in the negative, the fresh produce manager issued his appalling statement. Talk about a redneck mentality.

This altercation all started when I noticed one of the plastic-bag dispensers was empty, forcing me to go back and forth to a dispenser that did have bags.

I noticed an assistant filling shelves close by and wondered how many times he had passed the empty dispenser without giving a moment’s thought to replenishing the plastic bags.

It was then I noticed someone else filling one of the display stands. He was not wearing a green Publix T-shirt, so I figured he was more than likely a manager and wearing a shirt of his own choosing was probably one of the perks of the job.

When I pointed out the empty dispenser, he said that he could replenish it or I could use the other one, which had plenty of bags.

I said, “That’s a marvellous attitude, isn’t it? I am expected to traipse back and forth to get a plastic bag.”

He went to fill up the dispenser.

A little later, I passed him again and said that I was not complaining out of ignorance. I told him that I grew up in a grocery store and knew how to treat customers and present fresh produce for sale

He replied, “Publix is the best store there is.”

I said, “Not quite. Many times you have rotting fruit and veg on display and ask top dollar for it.”

“You aren’t from around here, are you?”

“No.”

“Publix would prefer it if you took your custom elsewhere.”

“We will see what the store manager has to say about that.”

“Go ahead. The name is…” He gave his name.

After completing my shopping and checking out at the till, I said to the assistant that I wanted to see the manager.

The manager duly came and I recounted the incident with his fresh produce manager who seems to have an attitude problem.

The manager assured me that he would have a word. I said I think it needs something stronger than a word, with an attitude like that he probably needs to be fired.

“I’ll take care of it, sir,” the manager replied.

What I found appalling was the fact that not being American was followed by the suggestion to shop elsewhere.

It struck me as being like the Tea Party approach to customer care.

Perhaps Publix should incorporate this rhyme in its advertising material:

If you are red, white and blue, we are here to serve you.                                                                                                                                                             If you belong to the stars and stripes, we will listen to all your gripes.                                                                                                                                 But if you are not true to Uncle Sam then frankly we don’t give a damn!

It always amazes me that people who cannot deal with the public end up in jobs dealing with the public. Appointing this guy to the position of fresh produce manager does not say much for the recruitment and selection process adopted by Publix.

Then again political donations given by Publix in the past eight years clearly point to how a person holding such bigoted views is able to reach the position he has within the company.

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Why use five words when 16 will do?

By Calvin Palmer

At EverBank Field on Sunday I was seated next to a New Orleans Saints fan. To be sociable, I struck up a conversation.

“Did you go to the Super Bowl game?” I asked, referring to the Super Bowl 2010 when the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.

“My career was at the stage where I could not spend $1,800 on a football game,” he replied.

Okay. Good answer, I suppose. But what was wrong with keeping it simple and saying, ” I could not afford it.”

As was expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost 23-10, although rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert showed one or two nice touches and did throw a touchdown pass.

Pre-game provided me with a few photographic opportunities for the Ricoh GRD III.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The  game had resumed by the time I returned from my half-time cigarettes in the designated smoking area. I asked the Saints fan if I had missed anything.

“Only six Hooters girls streaking across the field,” he replied.

Who says Americans do not have a sense of humour?

Given that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States, it would have been an appropriate gesture.

The NFL is doing its bit. Players are carrying pink towels, wearing pink boots and pink mouth guards. Perhaps they could persuade all the cheerleaders to dance topless. It would not only boost attendances for October’s scheduled games but also increase TV viewing figures.

Ah, I was forgetting. The USA is the land of the “wardrobe malfunction”; a country where the sight of a bare breast is considered more egregious than the sale of handguns to the general public.

Only in America!

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Smoke from Georgia wildfires hangs over Jacksonville

By Calvin Palmer

I can taste smoke, not the rich tobacco smoke of a Winston cigarette but acrid wood smoke from one of the many wildfires burning in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia.

A haze hangs over Jacksonville today, the result of northerly winds carrying smoke and ash from wildfires in the Okefenokee Swamp areas of Camden and Charlton counties in Georgia.

Haze hangs over College Street, Riverside, Jacksonville. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

For the past two days, the sky over Jacksonville has been a yellowish grey rather than the azure sky one normally associates with the Sunshine State.

The National Weather Service forecasts the wind to change direction in the next couple of days and blow from the south. But that will bring little relief. To the south of Jacksonville an area of wildfires extends from Orange County to St Johns County, with a particularly heavy concentration of wildfires in Flagler County.The smoke and ash being blown in from Georgia will simply be replaced by Florida’s own.

On Monday, Gov Rick Scott declared a state of emergency. This morning 429 wildfires are burning throughout the state.

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One phone call away from the full story

By Calvin Palmer

Florida is one of two states forecast to lose restaurant jobs this summer, according to a report by the National Restaurant Association. The other state facing a fall in restaurant jobs is Arizona.

The Florida Times-Union carried this story in its Business Section, on Thursday, stating restaurant employment in Florida is estimated to shrink by 3.1 percent, from 614,100 to 595,100 jobs, as well as pointing out that Alaska’s growth is projected at 23 percent; Delaware’s is estimated at 20.6 percent and Maine’s is projected at 31.1 percent.

Given that Florida is a state where tourism forms a large part of the state’s economy, this story immediately begs the question, why is its number of restaurant jobs projected to fall?

Sadly, The Florida Times-Union was not prepared to go the extra yard and provide its readers with an explanation.

The Jacksonville Business Journal, however, was on the ball. It contacted the National Restaurant Association and concluded its coverage of the story with the following paragraph:

Florida and Arizona’s busiest seasons for travel and tourism are not the summer months, an association spokeswoman said.

Was that too difficult a task for Florida Times-Union reporter, Kevin Turner? Apparently it was.

[Based on reports by The Florida Times-Union and the Jacksonville Business Journal.]

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British newspaper article on Florida’s pill mills fails to keep up with events

By Calvin Palmer

The Guardian newspaper today carried an article about the thousands of people flocking to the pill mills of Florida to obtain the powerfully addictive painkiller oxycodone.

The White House has described the abuse of prescription drugs as the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, pointing out that people were dying unintentionally from painkiller overdoses at rates that exceeded the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and the black tar heroin epidemic of the 1970s combined.

Florida is described as the epicenter of the oxycodone epidemic. Guardian writer Ed Pilkington states that 98 percent of all the nation’s doctors who handle the drug are located in Florida, which “has no comprehensive database recording prescription histories”.

Pilkington goes on: “Even more astonishingly its recently elected governor, the Tea Party favourite Rick Scott, has blocked the introduction of a database on grounds of cost.”

Now, I am no fan of Gov. Rick Scott but I do believe in accurate and fair reporting. I am from the old school of journalism.

Last Friday, if Pilkington had bothered to read or find out, Scott signed a bill aimed at cracking down on clinics that frivolously dispense pain pills.

“Florida will shed its title as the Oxy Express,” he said at a bill signing ceremony in Tampa.

Scott had concerns about the prescription drug monitoring database on the grounds of its effectiveness and privacy. But even he had the good sense to bow to the pressure from elected officials throughout the country to do something about the proliferation of pill mills in Florida.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, one of the advocates for the database, said: “The governor has made a huge turnaround. He has signed a bill today that not only preserves the prescription drug monitoring database. It makes it better.”

The bill tightens reporting requirements to the database from 15 days to seven days, a change critics said the program needed to make it more effective.

The measure also increases penalties for overprescribing oxycodone and other narcotics, tracks wholesale distribution of some controlled substances, and provides $3 million to support law enforcement efforts and state prosecutors.

It also bans most doctors who prescribe narcotics from dispensing them, requiring prescriptions to be filled at certain types of pharmacies.

“The toll our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic has taken in communities nationwide is devastating and Florida is ground zero,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy after Scott signed the bill.

Even as far back as April, while testifying before a congressional committee with Kentucky Gov. Steve Bershear, Scott pledged to address the problem and give up his push to kill Florida’s prescription drug monitoring database.

So just how much research did Pilkington do for his article? Not a lot, it would appear. His article is lazy journalism at best; inaccurate and biased reporting at worst.

[Based on reports by The Guardian and The Miami Herald.]

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Romney pitches for Republican nomination with idle rhetoric

By Calvin Palmer

Mitt Romney today threw his hat into the ring to become the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election.

Romney’s declaration opened with typical Republican rhetoric, concentrating on the shortcomings of Democrat President Barack Obama rather than offering any policies that might capture the imagination of the electorate.

Any Republican candidate’s stance is simply President Obama has done everything wrong but I will do everything right, without actually spelling out what that involves.

Romney says: “Barack Obama has failed America.”

Romney further states: “Government under President Obama has grown to consume almost 40 per cent of our economy. We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free-market economy.”

Whoa there Mitt. Aren’t we getting a bit carried away there? I haven’t seen any state-controlled supermarkets while doing my grocery shopping. The malls all seem to be full of stores firmly rooted in the private sector.

I am unaware of the federal government taking vast swathes of the private manufacturing sector into public ownership. Does the government own Exxon? Does the US government own Google, Apple, Johnson & Johnson? Oh and Chrysler has just repaid $7.6 billion of the bail-out money it was given to keep the company afloat.

If that is the measure of your argument, Mitt, I would call it quits now and save yourself a boat-load of money. You frittered $40 million of your own money failing to gain the Republican nomination in 2008. It looks like you are heading for a similar outcome.

But Romney like all candidates of the right promises to balance the budget. It’s a pity such a goal has remained so elusive for states such as Texas, with Republican Governor Rick Perry at the helm for the past eight years.

And we all know how the Republicans will attempt to balance the budget by cut, cut and cutting again on the services that the rich and select few have no use for but which millions of ordinary people value highly, the simple things in life such as public education.

The Daily Telegraph columnist and Obama-hater Nile Gardiner reckons Obama may be heading for election disaster in 2012. I think the piece should be entitled “I hope Obama may be heading for election disaster in 2012.” For all his evidence garnered from right-wing organizations – the Murdoch-owned Fox News and The Wall Street Journal – he fails to grasp the reality of what is going on in the country and the world.

Gardiner states: “There is a great deal of uncertainty, nervousness, even fear over the future of the world’s only superpower.”

How can you be the only superpower when you are in debt to China to the tune of $900 billion? The fact that nearly every manufactured item you pick up in a store in the US these days is made in China, could make you believe that America is not alone in the superpower stakes. Not Gardiner apparently, despite being billed as a foreign affairs analyst and political commentator.

For a political commentator, he also seems to have failed to notice that last month, the staunchly Republican city of Jacksonville elected Democrat Alvin Brown as its new mayor. If people are so tired of the Obama agenda, how did Brown managed to defeat Republican Mike Hogan who looked a shoe-in for the position? Looks like Gardiner is in de Nile.

Could it be that people are more fearful of the Republican agenda, which favors corporate America at the expense of ordinary people? Could it be that the white trash, retired veterans and petty-minded clerks who normally support the GOP are beginning to cotton on that it doesn’t have their interests at heart?

Abolishing Medicare to balance the budget is really going to appeal to ordinary blue collar and white collar voters. But the owners of small businesses, men and women who really know how to run cities, states and the country, will no doubt be dancing in the streets.

And that brings me back to Romney. Does America really want a president who doesn’t know his arse from his elbow?

Obamacare, which Romney pledges to abolish if elected, is based on the state health care plan he introduced while Governor of Massachusetts. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

So stand by for 18 months of Republican candidates full of hypocrisy, demonization of President Obama and empty rhetoric filled with patriotic fervor but not a single positive policy that will enhance the lives of ordinary working folk.

And let’s remind everyone just why America’s economy is in a parlous state, a financial collapse that occurred during the presidency of George W Bush, who bailed out the banks in order to stave off economic meltdown, combined with costly military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By the way, did anyone ever find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction?

[Based on reports by The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.]

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