My Tips For The Obama’s Gulf Coast Vacation

014-060414 Dear First family:

You have taken a beating lately about the number of vacations you have taken and your choices of holiday destinations.  It has come to my attention that you are planning a short trip to the gulf coast, fulfilling a promise made earlier in the year.  A most excellent choice.  Being a lifelong visitor to the northwest Florida and Alabama coasts, if I may, I’d like to suggest a few pointers to help you have a good time and do a little salt-of-the-earth PR fence mending at the same time.

1. DO NOT go to Seaside, The Beaches of South Walton, or even Destin.  We’re trying to project an image here.  You COULD do Grand Isle (they have suffered the most) or Gulf Shores (FloraBama!), but I would suggest the perfect compromise: Fort Walton Beach.  It’s a good combination of classy and tacky, and is a military town to boot!

2. You could get a nice condo on the island, but I’d suggest the Four Points Sheraton .  You can’t miss the place, it’s the first one you see after you cross the Brooks Bridge.  The Holiday Inn is nice, too.  Much better than the old Playground Motel in town (don’t ask me how I know).

3. Make sure to walk across the street to Fudpuckers (the original).   Order a Fudburger and Bud (let’s skip the Heinies and Blue Moons this time), and I’d suggest  an Ultimate Fish Pucker for Michelle.  There is a wonderful menu for the kids as well.  Make sure to grab a "You ain’t been pucked till you’ve been Fudpucked!" T-shirt for Malia.  Her classmates at Sidwell Friends will love it!

4.  You probably don’t own any plastic flip-flops or inflatable dolphins, but there is a Wings souvenir shop on just about every corner.  If you MUST go high-rent, try Alvin’s Island.

5. Visit the Gulfarium to see what’s left of the gulf sea life.  It really is a fascinating place.

6.  While Michelle and the girls are gathering sea shells and tar balls, give a visit to the Green Frog.  (wait – I’ll bet Bill Clinton’s already told you about that one).

7. Instead of chartering a boat, throw a line off the Okaloosa Island Pier.  Take Rahm and bring a case of Bud, because the fishing stinks this time of year there.  Strike up a conversation with the little old Vietnamese ladies with the live bait.  They could teach you a thing or two about patience.

8. After a long day drinking beer at the beach and throwing down a few more with your dinner at Pandora’s, make a 2am run to Waffle House.  Knowing what "scattered, smothered, and covered" means is worth 2 points in the polls.  Actually eating it is worth 3.

9. You’ll learn this pretty quickly, but you have to walk Emerald Coast sand barefoot.  The sand is far more fine and powdery than anywhere else, especially Martha’s Vineyard.  Also, you will be getting it out of your limo, Air Force One, and various body parts for months to come.  Fort Walton Beach sand is the gift that keeps on giving.

10. Sasha absolutely, positively MUST get a henna tattoo. 

Butt Out, Mr. Mayor

I have a message for the Mayor.

It’s no secret that I am a political conservative, and I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind, even living in a moderate city and council district. I am slightly to the right of my neighbors, although you know as well as I that West Meade is not exactly a breeding ground for firebrands either way.

And yes, I voted for your main opponent, but you were slowly growing on me, until lately.

That being said, if you are actively recruiting an opponent for my Metro councilman, Emily Evans, even a conservative one, you are going to have a fight on your hands.

And you will lose.

Oh, you might get Belle Meade, and no one knows what will happen in the other neighborhoods in the 23rd council district, but you will find that West Meade, especially West Meade Park, is pretty darned pleased with Emily.

For her handling of the development of the Etherly property alone, she deserves high praise. She succeeded where so many others before her had failed, even though one of the negotiating partners in the Memorandum of Understanding had openly supported her opponent in the previous election. And the other party, the WMPNA, was shell shocked and suspicious after so many attempts to develop the property into something not good for the neighborhood.

I do not agree with Emily Evans on everything, but even on those issues of disagreement, she makes a compelling argument for her side. I wasn’t too mad about the storm water fee, for instance, because Evans convinced me of the need.  (This is why it’s good to have a blogging councilman)

In all other things, she has proven to be the a very competent, responsive and compassionate representative. Even though Evans is called a progressive, she governs as one who understands the district she represents.

You have no idea how refreshing it is to hear an elected official explain the situation at Hillwood High  without demagoging it either way.

Let me be clear…

If we in the 23rd district wish to kick Evans out of office, we’ll do it ourselves. (See: Eric Crafton)

Heck, one day I might even run for the seat. But, I would NEVER do so against the best councilman I’ve ever had.

Butt out, Mr Mayor.

Nashville: Kam sa hap ni da !

And somewhere my friend Julie Lamb is saying to herself, “Are you happy now, Bellevue?”

I live in one of Nashville’s slightly conservative enclaves (and isn’t it cool to have a major metropolitan city that actually has a few?).  I knew English Only was going to fail, based on observations of the opinions of my neighbors. 

I voted against the measure, because (if you can’t tell) I’ve had a long-standing animosity toward Mr Crafton (going back to the whole Charlotte Pike WalMart fiasco), and also because I kept waiting for a decent argument to vote for the amendment, which never came.

On the flip side, the people of Nashville have once again shown their good sense.  Could the liberal bloggers and columnists of our town please refrain now from lecturing us like stupid, ignorant children? 

And Nashville conservatives (yes, we exist):  let’s find a more sensible cause as our banner issue, how ’bout it?  For instance, I think it’s high time we get rid of the whole urban/general services district divisions from the Metro charter.  It just feels like a leftover from segregation, and many times it causes those of us in the outlying areas to feel like we don’t get services proportionate to our share in taxes we pay.

But, we’ll talk about that later.   For now, this is good.

Done

I’ve been pretty much obsessing over hurricane Gustav, a little bit because I’m a hurricane geek, but mostly because my parents live just outside Pensacola.  I’ve had about 5 different moments of terror today, as the outer bands on Gustav spawned tornadoes in the Pensacola area.

I just got off the phone with my mom, and everything is OK in their neck of the panhandle.  They got some strong winds, and rain, but the worst appears to be over.  I’m still a little angry with my folks and my brother for not going a little inland for at least a day, but they are all grownups, and took a vote as a family and decided to stay.

All of this means I’m a little on edge , so I hope you give me a little latitude.

I want to say something about politics real quickly, but fear not; this is the last post I’ll make about the subject for a while, and hopefully in a minute you’ll understand why.

Of course, all of us can see the inhumanity in Michael Moore’s comments.  (Still anxious to see him in the public eye, Mack?)  Speaking for my family, Michael Moore can kiss my ample ass.

This is what hyper-partisanship does to us.  Somehow, when we give ourselves to one “team” or the other, and do so vigorously, we lose a little piece of our ability to see our “enemies” as human beings.  We get lost.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m just as susceptible to it and anyone else.  But, make no mistake, it is an evil.  For all the wonderful things our political system has done for the world, the ugliness that comes from hyper-partisanship is not one of them.

If we can all wag our fingers at Moore, can we turn that judgement to ourselves?  Do we make snide comments about our opponents, always angling for how we can help “our side” regardless of the subject?

I’ve seen some things written about Sarah Palin since Friday; things said by people I generally respect for their decency.  Palin’s experience IS a valid issue, but some snarky, mean-spirited  (and downright elitist) things have been said in support of those arguments.

But to use the situation with Palin’s daughter to score cheap little political points?

Have you no decency?

Let me tell you something.  My mother, the sweet old lady I’ve been stressing about all day,  was younger than Palin’s daughter when my family was founded, and under similar circumstances, from what we kids can tell.  So, since I’ve spoken in the past against creating a society that fosters teen parenthood (has it ever occurred to you that some of us have these views because we know a little something about the subject?) , by all means, use my dear old mother to make your political points.  It’s all fair game, right?  Maybe some more strident blogs can throw out pejoratives and make crude jokes about her. 

By all means, use my mother to make your damned petty little points.  I hope they make you feel smug and satisfied.

Oh, and while you’re at it, accept my heartfelt F*** you.

Let’s quit wasting each other’s time.  I’m voting for McCain.  I’m not going to change my mind, as far as I can tell.  You have made up your mind, too.  The undecided folks aren’t reading this blog, and THEY’RE NOT READING YOURS EITHER!  Obama is not going to win Tennessee.  Unless you live in Florida, Pennsylvania, or Ohio, your state is pretty much decided one way or the other.

So why are we sniping back and forth, acting like a**holes?  To what end?  The sport of it?

I’m done talking politics.  I’d like my humanity back, please.  And I pray you regain yours, as well.

Praise and Worship

This is beyond creepy.

In Which I Actually Give Kudos To Eric Crafton

I’ve made no secret that I don’t care very much for Eric Crafton as a councilman.  I openly supported his opponent in the last council election.  I don’t care for his English-First proposal, mainly because I can’t quite figure out what overwhelming problem Nashville has that he’s trying to fix with it.

Anyway, this morning, I’m flipping through the channels, and the local government channel was playing a rerun of the zoning meeting that concerned the May Town Center.  And I see Eric Crafton on my television speaking, so I thought I’d stop and hear what he had to say.

Mostly, he was arguing in favor of deferment, the politician’s favorite tool.  But he said something in the process that has been in the back of my mind for a long time.  I’m paraphrasing here.

In effect, his argument was this: Nashville, especially the Metro Council, has long had a dream of a vibrant urban core.  A LOT of money has been spent of infrastructure and development to lure people downtown to live and work.

The vast majority of the money Metro has spent to accommodate the building of this hip, urban, yuppie paradise has come from folks in the General Services district.  It had to, because the people were not living downtown when we embarked on these projects, and some would argue that they STILL aren’t there in any numbers that would make any impact on government coffers.

I would argue that a great chunk of the tax money collected from the General Services district is spent in the Urban Services district – specifically the central core.  ESPECIALLY when you take out money for public schools.  I’d venture to say that very little of what is left is spent in the General Services district. 

Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the recent sidewalk plan.  (Thanks, Councilman (Councilperson? Councilwoman? I never know how to word it) Emily Evans, for posting this).

The deck is stacked against suburban areas – private schools are not considered “pedestrian generators”, only public schools.  Suburban commercial districts do not receive the same weight as urban ones.

Councilperson Evans doesn’t mention it (probably because I THINK half of this problem is outside of her district), but Highway 70 desperately needs sidewalks between the bottom of Nine Mile Hill and the Bellevue Kroger.  In the last 10 years or so, apartment complexes have been built along Highway 70 that have totally changed the usage of the road.  Now many people, including unaccompanied children,  walk along this extremely busy highway, creating a very hazardous situation.  I fear that without sidewalks, somebody is going to get killed.

Yet, according to the criteria in the Strategic Plan, this stretch of road isn’t even on the radar for consideration for sidewalks.

It’s tax reappraisal year, and there’s a good possibility that our tax rates  will go up this year as well. 

Frankly, many of us are getting tired of being sugar daddies for so many pet projects of councilpersons who represent other districts.  We’d like to see a significant increase in infrastructure investment in OUR neck of the woods.

That being said, I don’t think the answer is to turn the western part of town into another Cool Springs.  The May Town Center is an AWFUL idea.  Those of us who live in the suburbs do so because we like, well, places that are arranged like suburbs.  If we didn’t, we’d move downtown, or to Cool Springs, or some other place that wasn’t as spread out, or wooded.  We LIKE it here.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the central core as a visitor as much as anyone else.  I am excited about everything going on there.  I don’t mind paying for it. 

But, I don’t think we should build our Urban Paradise to the exclusion of the needs of the people who are paying for it.

I thought it was noteworthy that I actually agree with Councilman Crafton for once.

Important

Have there ever been times more dire than these?  Has an election never been more important, for ourselves and our children?  Take a look around, America:

  • We are enmeshed in an increasingly unpopular war.  Our soldiers are doing the best they can halfway around the world.  Sometimes, they seem as if they have the upper hand, yet, there seems to be no end in sight to the fighting.  Certainly they must wonder if they’ve been forgotten about back home.  In this election year, one side vows to “finish” the conflict, while the other has an eye toward bringing our soldiers home.  Most people now agree that the war was a mistake, but overall the country is still divided.
  • Oil supplies are getting tighter and tighter, driving the price of crude oil ever higher.  This, along with spending on the war has started inflationary pressure.  The price of everything seems to be going up.
  • We are either in a recession, or on the verge of a deep one, caused by oil prices and inflation.  Unemployment is climbing.  Home foreclosures are up.  There is a general economic unease that permeates the mood of the populous.  Regardless of the turmoil of the last couple of decades, everyone has to admit that overall, the economy had been pretty good.  Now, it seems like we are entering a more permanent era of bad economic times.
  • The environment is under threat. Although industry and government give lip service to being good environmental stewards, the problems keep getting worse.  There is an ever growing movement of scientists and activists that is attempting to get governments to clean things up, and they are gaining more and more public support.
  • Our morality seems to have disappeared.  EVERYONE agrees, but for different reasons.  The left can point to our lack of compassion as a society, the right can point to an increasingly vulgar popular culture.
  • For all the strides we’ve made in race relations, many times it looks like we’ve made no progress at all.  Many times, conversations are on pins and needles.  Racial injustices, both personal and institutional, still abound.
  • The space program, once a source of national pride, has become old hat, and many consider it a boondoggle that has outlives its usefulness in these tumultuous times.
  • The Olympics, once an international spectacle of purist amateur sport, has become politicized, professionalized, and extremely expensive – especially with the safeguards necessary to prevent terrorist attack.  Although the US is sending a swimmer who may get more medals than anyone in history, the Olympics seem to have lost their luster. 
  • Even if we get out of our unpopular war, the world is still a dangerous place.  The Russians, the Chinese, the ever-present threat of terrorism – these are all huge challenges faced by whichever candidate wins the election.
  • A good half of the country thinks the president is a criminal – both domestic and international.  Even those on the right wonder if their president hasn’t fallen to corruption.  Whispers of “impeachment” are now being spoken in broad daylight.

Certainly, these issues are world-altering. Surely, our children will never forgive us if we make the wrong choice.

To be continued…