Saturday, August 05, 2017

55 IN A 65 ZONE

August is my birthday month. No, I'm not soliciting birthday gifts or anything else just yet because it's not until the end of the month, on the 27th.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s and many of us from that era heard the mantra “Never trust anyone over 30.” Over and over and over. We were instructed to buck the system by the likes of Timothy Leary and Abbie Hoffman until, just like that, we turned thirty and became part of the system. So much for not trusting and all that crap. Turning thirty meant nothing to me. It was just a number.
Then came forty. Eh, it was just another number. Yeah, I felt a little older, but I was still young and active. I was a successful graphic artist and didn't feel any older than when I turned thirty. Forty was no big deal.
Along came fifty and I knew my days were numbered. No, not in a life or death sense. As a graphic artist, I was aware of the up-and-coming designers that would usher in more contemporary ideas and do it for less money than I was making - not that I was getting stale at all. It's simply the nature of the beast. I chose to ease myself away from the career I had chosen some 20-plus years earlier. I always wanted to write and thus began something completely new to do. Along came the Casey Anthony case and the rest is history. In any event, turning fifty didn't make me feel old at all. Once again, it was just another number, but the cracks of age were beginning to show.
Out of the blue, I hit sixty. It wasn't a huge hit, though. It was more like a rather strong gust of hot, dry air. Whoosh! But it didn't blow me off my feet. By then, I had plenty of time to emotionally adjust to the physical maladies that struck in 2005. I was a diabetic with other medical problems that kept creeping up on me. They still do. So what! I handled everything and I've remained an optimist throughout. Until...
This month, I will hit a milestone and I'm reminded of it every day when the mail comes. Supplemental health insurance policies. Solicitors that starkly remind me I'm going to be 65-years-old.
SIXTY-FIVE!!!
My life is about to change forever. On the 27th of August, I'm officially old. On that date, I will have to act “grandpoppish” even though I'm not, technically, a grandfather.
On my birthday, I will have to change my wardrobe. I will go out and buy light colored polyester pants that come up to the bottom of my chest. An elastic stretch belt. Maybe suspenders. Nothing but white short-sleeved shirts. Slip-on shoes and Velcro sneakers. A Seersucker suit!

From that date on, I will have to act my age. Decrepit Dave. I will start hanging out on pigeon-infested park benches and in the mall. The one in front of the Everything But Water store. No, not really. Instead, I'll be looking for my soulmate... a bunhead grandmother with gray hair; someone who wants to tell me about her grandchildren, now fully grown. The ones who stopped calling, except when Christmas and their birthdays come around.
Wait... I'm not ready for all that! There's an adult community right around the corner. This is Florida, after all. I'm going to learn how to play outdoor shuffleboard. I'm going to build up my confidence and go there to look for a young and perky 55-year-old. Oh baby. That's it.
I will feel young again! Maybe I shouldn't toss out those Wranglers just yet..


Monday, July 24, 2017

“I CAN MAKE THEM DISAPPEAR...”

I began writing this article in June, 2009 and finished it in May of 2010. Today, I’m compelled to reprint it because I cannot stop thinking about Tracy. I did bring pertinent information up-to-date.
In February of 2009, Chris George’s car was found abandoned near a wooded area in Apopka, Florida. Also known as George Onda, family members and friends didn’t think much of it because he often took off to go on drug-induced binges. Three weeks later, the family called Apopka police and a search ensued. One of the volunteers was a guy by the name of James “Jimmy” Hataway. He was one of only two people who last saw George alive. When the case went cold, police closed it out, but reopened it later. Today, the Ocoee Police Department has linked a total of 6 victims to James Virgil Hataway. In 2011, Chris George’s bones were found in Lake Carter, about 15 miles outside of Orlando.
Tracy Ocasio was last seen on May 26, 2009, leaving the Tap Room bar on Raleigh Street in Orlando’s MetroWest neighborhood, at 1:30 AM. Her car was found abandoned about 15 miles from the bar, not far from Hataway’s home.  A year later, the Ocoee police department named him as the only suspect in her disappearance. Until then, he was only a person of interest.

Soon after Tracy went missing, I went to pick up a few prescriptions from the pharmacy. As she was ringing up my purchase, I asked the always friendly woman behind the counter if she knew anything about the missing woman and the guy police have in custody (on another charge) who might also be tied into Jennifer Kesse, last seen on January 24, 2006. (It was pretty big news around Orlando for both women.) At first, she didn’t quite know, so I mentioned the bar a mile or so away called McGuinnty’s Irish Pub. I told her he used to go there.
“Oh, yeah, I remember seeing him on the news. I thought he looked familiar,” she said. “I think I used to see him in here.” I told her McGuinnty’s was one of his hangouts because he lived nearby at the time.
As a single mother, I just don’t picture my clerk as much of a drinker and, needless to say, neither am I any longer, but I was more of one back then and I knew who this guy was the first time I saw his picture on the local news. McGuinnty’s has been closed for about ten years now, but I can remember some of those times like it was yesterday, and I can easily remember the people who oftentimes frequented the place.
I never befriended James Virgil Hataway at that bar and there were some very good reasons why. The people he hung around with were skinhead types. Hoodlums, plain and simple, and most of the time the regular crowd stayed on one side while they planted themselves on the other. They were young - mid 20s to early 30s - the way I saw it. Today, Hataway would be around 36. They shaved their heads and had goatees. They were a tough group hanging with rough, but good-looking women. There were a few I knew by name, but not much else. Dallas was a good guy. Today, I don’t remember most of the names but I do remember the faces. To give you an idea, Matt had at one time been a nice young man until he got mixed up with that bunch. His change was overnight. Clean cut one day, shaved head the next, with tattoos and piercings all over and a nasty, punk, degenerate attitude. He went from saying hello and friendly conversations to wanting to beat the living crap out of anyone in his way and for no good reason. Of course, I never said a word to him again after he snarled one night. These were the guys who had no respect for anyone but their own small clique of friends. They had the ultimate chip on their shoulders. They had no respect for anyone but their own and it’s clear that Hataway had no respect for human life from what emerged from law enforcement accounts.
Hataway was always the quiet one in the crowd, never starting trouble, yet it didn’t surprise me in the least that he became the only suspect in Ocasio’s disappearance. A surveillance video from the Tap Room showed Hataway and Ocasio leaving the bar together. Allegedly, she offered to give him a ride home to Ocoee, a couple of miles northwest of the bar. Although never charged with her disappearance, he was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder, burglary, robbery, and false imprisonment, and sentenced to life in prison in 2011. That incident occurred in 2008. He choked his victim, Rachel Clarke, tried to snap her neck, and repeatedly slammed her head into the pavement. Fortunately, there were witnesses that heard her screams for help and she was rescued.
Hataway was a guy who fancied himself “the worst criminal in the universe” by using the alias Vader McGirth on his now closed MySpace page, named after the Darth Vader character in Star Wars. He was no stranger to police because of his extensive criminal record dating back to 1993. It includes kidnapping causing bodily harm, drug possession, and many traffic offenses.
When I questioned one of the former bartenders at McGuinnty’s, she told me he used to ask her for a ride home once in a while. Did you ever give him one? “No,” she said, “I always told him I live in the opposite direction.”
I asked her if she was glad she didn’t and she emphatically responded, “YES,” but she never would have thought that he could have done such a thing, other than because of the type of crowd he was always hanging with. Where did they all come from, I wondered. Why did they congregate at McGuinnty’s? She said many of them lived in the trailer park behind the bar. She also told me that most of them had since outgrown that skinhead phase, and some are married. For the record, much of that trailer park is now a housing development.
“He wouldn’t care who it was, he would make them disappear, just like he told me. The way he would talk about people … what he would want to do,” said a former roommate who did not wish to be identified, because he said he had received threats from some of Hataway’s friends.
Before his arrest on drug charges in 2009, Hataway lived with his father in Ocoee. He also worked with his father dredging ponds. Clearly, police wanted him off the streets.
“This Jimmy has a preponderance to do violence, he snaps, he gets angry, it’s always a woman, ride home, end up alone,” said Sgt. Mike Bryant of the Ocoee Police Department, in June 2009. “He’s very familiar with going out into open land at night and not getting caught dumping land debris and waste, that’s a concern…”
“We believe he did it. He’s always been a suspect,” the detective added. “He is suspected of killing her.”
Too bad for Tracy because this young woman was a true blue Orlando Magic fan. That’s why she went to the Tap Room bar that fateful Tuesday night on May 26, to watch her team win, and win they did, against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Too bad another James, James Hataway, was there to watch her lose her life in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. No one ever saw her again. Just like magic, he made her disappear.
She needs to be found.




Friday, June 23, 2017

When I was a professional newspaper reader

I wrote this just after the Casey Anthony trial ended. It's still one of my favorite stories..

Years ago, I was a hardline artist for an ad agency in Orlando. Everything we created was for the Belk department store chain, based out of North Carolina. Hardline included shoes, furniture, electronics, and other items unrelated to fashion. I would never consider myself a fashion artist - then or now, but I worked there for 11-years.  I also designed and built ads that ran in a good number of newspapers throughout the state. Previous to that job I was mostly in the restaurant business. Soon after I started working at Stonebrook Advertising, I saw a fast food restaurant up the street called Beefy King. Since I had come from a background in that industry, I thought it would be a nice place to eat and meet new people. It didn't take long for the owners, Roland & Sandee Smith, and I to become good friends.
One of the interesting, if not quirky, aspects of my job was our daily morning ritual. My boss insisted that we come to work at 8:30 am, but he (almost forcefully) encouraged us to take a break from 9 to 10. Go out for an hour! Enjoy yourself! Strange, but that was Mr. Stone's way of doing business. Because of his edict, on most mornings, I would drive up the street to Beefy King, make myself a sandwich and pour a cup of coffee. Black. No sugar. Sometimes, I'd help slice meats or whatever, but most of the time I'd just stand at the front counter reading the newspaper. I guess it depended on whether they needed a little help that particular day. Mind you, I was always glad to pitch in. Since they didn't open until 10, I never interfered with any customers.
On one particular morning, there was a man working on an ice machine that had broken down. I'd say he was, what you might call, pleasantly plump and he had a personality to match. In other words, he was a very nice fellow. The next morning, he was still tinkering on the ice machine. Good thing the restaurant had a spare. On the morning of the third day, he finished his work and quietly talked to Roland about the bill and something else that caught his attention. As they stood in the hallway between the dining area and the back room, he whispered, "Hey, that guy up there. He's been here every morning, just standing there reading the newspaper. Doesn't he have a job? I mean, what's he do for a living?"
The acoustics were just right and our jovial buddy had no idea I heard every word. "Why, he's a professional newspaper reader," Roland replied.
The guy said, "No way. There's no such thing."
Roland said, "Go ask him."
There I stood, deeply ensconced in my work, oblivious to anything else, and completely unaware that he was sauntering my way to ask about my profession.
"Excuse me," he politely said, as if not wanting to take up too much of my very important time.
I took my eyes away from my work, looked up and in a face that showed great concentration, I said, "Yes?"
I tried not to snicker.
"Well, I've been here three days now and I see you reading the newspaper. I was just wondering what kind of job you have. What do you do for a living, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Why of course not. I'm a professional newspaper reader."
"Get outta here. I've never heard of such a job."
"Yes. That is what I do."
"You're kidding! You get paid to read newspapers?"
"Yes. It's a rather lucrative job, I might add. There aren't that many of us in the state."
"Well, I'm from Florida - born and raised, and I know the state like the back of my hand. What's the name of the newspaper in Leesburg?"
"Which one? The Commercial or the Gazette? Also, the Orlando Sentinel has a zoned edition."
"No kidding! Alright. What about St. Augustine?"
"The St. Augustine Record."
In rapid succession, he asked me about another half-dozen or so cities and towns throughout Florida and no matter what he came up with, I had the correct answer. He had no idea that Belk advertised in all of those newspapers. Actually, we did. Back then, newspapers weren't as consistent as they are today, so ads were designed to fit each publication.
"Okay... fine... I believe you... a... professional... newspaper... reader. " It took a little time for this revelation to sink in. "I gotta tell my wife when I get home tonight. She's not going to believe it."
As the guy drove out of the parking lot, Roland and I got the biggest chuckle. To this day, I'll bet that guy still tells people about the job to stump all jobs. A professional newspaper reader.
All kidding aside, there's one thing I must tell you about Beefy King. I went there almost every weekday morning for about 10 years and I can tell you that it is, by far, one of the cleanest restaurants I've ever set foot in. Not only could you practically eat off the floor, the food is very good, to boot. It's been in the same family since 1968, with the third generation running the show now. There's not a restaurant critic in town that wouldn't give Beefy King a glowing review, and for good reason. The place is legendary. If you are ever in Orlando and have some spare time on your hands, try to stop by for lunch. It's on Bumby. You can tell them a professional newspaper reader sent you. 

Factory Air

This story is dedicated to my father since it's about him.
For most of my life, I didn't know anyone who knew more about cars than my father. He used to own a front end alignment business in Flemington, NJ, and worked on every one that was brought to his shop. In his later years, we could be sitting around watching old B&W movies on TCM and he'd recognize the cars. “Oh, there's a 1941 Buick!”
One of his favorite lines about those old cars was that, “Back then, you could order a car in any color you want as long as it's black.”
In 1986, he bought a new Topaz from a local Mercury dealer. Of course, this being Florida and all, it had to come with air conditioning. Being that he knew a lot about cars, he took a look under the hood and noticed something that didn't look quite right. “Is that factory air?”
The sales rep responded, “Of course it is.”
“Are you certain this is factory air?”
“I absolutely guarantee it. It's factory air.
OK, he thought, so he bought it.
Years later - and out of warranty, of course – his factory air stopped working. Yes, they do get overworked in the Florida climate. He couldn't fix it himself so he took it to one of his mechanic friends.
“This isn't factory air conditioning. It's after market.”
“You're kidding! The dealer swore it was factory air.”
“Trust me, it's not anything Ford ever made. I can't fix it.”
That totally infuriated my father. He had a terrible temper to begin with, but when someone did it over cars; something he was quite knowledgeable about? Forget it! He tore out of there and headed straight to the dealer to give them more than just a piece of his mind.
Parked at the service department, he jumped out and approached one of the reps. “I need you to take a look under the hood and tell me what kind of air conditioner it is. My mechanic can't fix it!” When in a fit of rage, my father was known to use language he didn't learn in church. “When I bought this car, the salesman swore it was factory air. He lied to me!”
“No sir, he was telling you the truth,” the man replied.
“NO HE WASN'T!!!” And from there, I'm sure it escalated. “You're nothing but a bunch of liars!”
“Sir, please come with me.” He led him to the parts department. Along the wall and stacked high were boxes and boxes that said it all. Printed in large, black, bold letters, was the brand name of the after market air conditioners that are installed by the dealer...
FACTORY AIR. Yes, the brand name was Factory Air.
“We'll be more than happy to repair it for you.”
“No way!” and my father stormed out. Only the dealer carried parts.
While there's nothing wrong with the brand, my father felt he was taken advantage of. Lied to. And he was. Because of his very stubborn German blood, he refused to let the dealer touch the car, so he drove it for years without air.
Personally, I had to agree with him. I think it was a very shady way to do business in the hot Florida sun.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Stew Bacheler


It’s almost mandatory for me to turn the volume down on my phone when I crawl into bed each night. Actually, I turn it off because I don’t want to be alerted to anything when I’m asleep. Due to impending old age and the memory problems that come with it, oftentimes, I forget to turn it back up in the morning and I’ve been known to miss phone calls.
Two Saturdays ago, I was milling around, putzing along, when my best friend’s wife messaged me.
“David are you there?“
“Yes I am.”
Since Sherry doesn’t normally text me, I thought that something may have happened to Stew. I mean, he is getting old and decrepit. Like me.
“This is Stew. I have been calling you and I texted you.”
I picked up my phone and called. At the same time, I was quite relieved it wasn’t bad news. The older we get, the more we worry.
“Do you want to go to lunch today? Eat some sushi?” His wife was going to go to Busch Gardens for the day and he had some free time.
You have to understand that it’s almost three hours to drive from his place to mine. That’s nearly six hours on the road. Just for lunch. I mentioned that.
“So,” he responded, “I have a Maserati.” Which is true. “How much more comfortable can I get?”
He had a very valid point. So, he drove over to my place, picked me up and off we went. This is the first time I saw it – a brand spanking new Ghibli with the special $4,500 wheel package.
My favorite sushi place is called Happy Teriyaki heading up 17-92 in the Lake Mary area. We went there, only to find that it doesn’t open until 4:00 PM. Did I mention how comfortable the car was yet? We turned around and went to Bay Ridge Sushi in Longwood, only a mile or so away.
Instead of sitting at the sushi bar, we got a booth. “Since you drove over, how about if I buy you lunch?”
“No, I got it. I told you I was coming over to take you to lunch. It’s on me.”
Everything was delicious. Did I tell you I love sushi yet? After we finished, we stopped to see the Senator, or what’s left of it, at Big Tree Park. It was the largest and oldest cypress tree in the world, estimated to be 3,500 years old. Five years ago, a young woman set it afire one night to see the drugs she was using.
After a few minutes there, he took me home and off he went, back to Bradenton. Now, let me ask you… How many friends do that? Drive for hours just to have lunch with their best friend? You have to understand, we’ve been close since childhood. That’s 50-plus years. Under normal conditions, it’s asking for a lot, but not when you’re driving the dumpstermobile. Did I tell you he owns a roll-off dumpster company? Alpha Dumpsters.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Casey's back!

This was published online at dailymail.com yesterday:
During the interview with the AP, Anthony said that the day her daughter disappeared, on June 16 2008, she was in the care of her father.
'The last time I saw my daughter, I believed that she was alive and was going to be OK, and that's what was told to me,' she said.
“'My father told me she was going to be OK. That she was OK,' she added when pressed by the reporter if her parents were babysitting Caylee that day.
When asked about the lies she had told police, Casey Anthony said cryptically, 'My dad was a cop, you can read into that what you want.'
On Tuesday, George and Cindy Anthony released a statement to People Magazine through their attorney Mark Lippman, saying their daughter was forcing them to relieve the darkest period in their lives from which they had tried to move forward.
‘After years of silence, Casey Anthony has decided to complete an interview and has once again pointed to George Anthony, her father, as a suspect in the disappearance and death of his granddaughter, Caylee,’ George and Cindy stated.
At trial, Casey's lead defense attorney proposed the theory that her father was involved; that Caylee drowned in the back yard pool, and George took care of it by dumping her body in the woods near the Anthony home. What's so interesting today is that Casey clearly disputes that theory by stating that she believed her daughter was OK, and that's what she was told. This means either of two things. One, Casey has decided to change her story by throwing her attorney under the bus; or, two, Jose Baez made the whole story up. Baez told the court it was an accidental drowning (as per Casey) and he stashed the body. Who does that sort of thing? The natural inclination is to call 911 immediately for help.
Today, Casey says nothing about Baez's account other than to indirectly contradict it. No, she thought Caylee was doing swell. At least, that's what she was last told.
Personally, I don't believe anything that spews from her mouth. She came out of the termite infested woodwork because she's a fame whore. To be truthful, I will never trust a word and she doesn't care. She doesn't care about anyone but her narcissistic self. At the same time, she was raised by a family of liars. She learned at a very early age.
The remainder of this post is from an article I wrote nearly five years ago, on March 17, 2012. Don't worry, I gave myself permission to reprint it. Also, it was a theory. Take into consideration that it was from years ago and read into it what you wish. Yes, I believe George and Cindy are pained over this, but who created the monster?
I have said on several occasions that the possibility is real that George and Cindy Anthony made a pact with the devil in order to get their daughter out of jail. By that, I don’t mean literally. It’s a euphimism, unless you think Casey is, in fact, the devil. Just prior to the start of the trial, Cindy and Mark Lippman met privately with Casey’s attorney, Jose Baez. Lippman is George and Cindy’s lawyer. George was not invited to the meeting and this said volumes to me. It meant that Cindy and Lippman were in on the defense strategy to do a character assassination of George — one that began during Baez’s opening statement at trial — or it meant that George was conspicuously absent from the meeting to make it look like he had nothing to do with the made-up story.
At one of the final hearings before the trial began, I was in the courtroom when Baez asked George on the stand if he would do anything for his daughter. Most of you should remember it, too. George’s reaction? Yes, absolutely, he would do anything, and he was quite vocal about it. When asked if he would lie for Casey, his answer was a resounding YES!
This signalled (to me) that what most of us had sensed all along was true. The Anthonys were, and remain, natural born liars. With the information gathered from the mouth of George Anthony, he spoke the truth, under oath, that he was willing to do anything to rescue his grandchild’s alleged murderer. Did this include his willingness to be the fall guy? All he had to do was take the bashing because, in the end, no one in the public would believe he ever sexually molested anyone in his family, let alone do any harm to Caylee. Simply put, just deny everything on the stand, which he did, but in the end, it confounded the jury and the plan worked. George came across looking like a liar and a loser — and that’s all the jury had to see to create a semblance of doubt. George looked guilty of something.
Want more? Cindy stated under oath that she made chloroform searches at home on two separate dates, while her bosses at Gentiva Health, Deborah Polisano and John Camperlengo, testified that she couldn’t have because she was at work and logged into her work computer. They also had time cards to prove she was there. Despite their testimony, the defense still managed to muddle the evidence and Casey is free because of it. Job well done, George! Take a bow, Cindy!