Wednesday, July 31, 2013

‘Coyote’ author coming to Sundog Books

John Dufresne
SEASIDE — The first time we met, John Dufresne was a featured author at Books Alive, the library’s annual gathering of readers and writers, and I was assigned to introduce him and moderate his sessions.

He was direct, genuine, funny and generous, and he mesmerized the audience.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of learning about the craft of writing by reading John’s books and participating in his workshops, most recently at the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers in June 2012.

A 2012-13 Guggenheim Fellow, John teaches in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami. Alongside his five novels and two short story collections, he has produced two books on writing and creativity: “The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction” and “Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months.”
John and other authors at Rosemary Beach

(It’s not a spoiler to tell you that John’s first rule of writing is to sit your rear in the chair and write. His second rule is to write every day.)

John will be back in the area Thursday, Aug. 8, signing copies of his latest novel, “No Regrets, Coyote,” from 4 to 5 p.m. at Sundog Books in Seaside.

The new novel introduces the protagonist Wyle “Coyote” Melville, who “reads” crime scenes in a way that even Sherlock Holmes would envy, according to advance reviews. It’s the sort of Florida noir you might expect from the best-selling author of “Louisiana Power & Light” and “Love Warps the Mind a Little.”

If you attend one of his many workshops held across the country, you’re liable to hear him say things like, “Writing is not hard. Writing well is.” Or, “Fiction is only about trouble. Everything that you don’t want to happen to yourself, your family or your friends should happen to your characters.”

His critiques are constructive and supportive. Meaning, you might hear him say, as I did, “Don’t be afraid of failure. All works of art are failures. All we can do is try to fail better next time.”

But what really endeared John to me happened a few years after our first meeting. My then-teenage daughter had accompanied me to Seaside to hear John read at an event closing a writers conference he had led in the town; a year or two later, he was reading in Rosemary Beach, and when we got the chance to talk he asked about my children, specifically recalling how his wife, Cindy, had enjoyed talking with my daughter.

Maybe that makes me an easy mark, but whatever. You may be a literary giant, but if you really want to impress me, remember my kids.



Author Event
  • Who: John Dufresne, author of “No Regrets, Coyote”
  • When: 4-5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8
  • Where: Sundog Books, Seaside
  • Website:

Friday, July 26, 2013

It is Finished. (... And So It Begins ...)

My Plan for the Foreseeable Future
Wednesday, I took a vacation day from my job. It was my 49th birthday. It was also a personal deadline.

Several months ago, inspired by a prompt Mark Boss gave at a writers' conference, I was finally able to get back to my lifelong writing project, collectively referred to as "Caliban."

>>(I wrote about the origins of the project here.)

With the help of a group of local writers (Mark, Ruth Corley, Rich Kevan, Carole Lapensohn, Marty Sirmons and Milinda Stephenson, otherwise known as "The Cheshires") I have taken my 1994-era version of the tale and brought it into 2013.

Wednesday, I wrote somewhere around 3,500 words, finishing the last segment of the story that remained.

I've been in a daze ever since. (Mark told me at lunch on Thursday that I had that "1,000-yard stare.")

I'm now working my way through the book using the Cheshire's notes on early chapters to weave together dangling threads, enhance descriptions and motivations, explain the inexplicable, and otherwise polish this thing to a glowing sheen.

I'm calling it "Giants in the Earth: Book One of the Caliban Chronicles."

When I complete this part of the final edit, I will be sending it to a friend who is considering representing me as a literary agent. And I will write a novella (or maybe just a long short-story) about one of the supporting characters in this story (Working title: "The Case of the Invisible Vampires")

And post a collection of my zombie short stories to Amazon just in time for Halloween and the return of The Walking Dead on TV.

And begin work on the direct sequel to this story. (Working title: "The Moon Made Blood")

With more to follow.

I was floating in the neighborhood pool yesterday as the sun set, and I had the most pleasant positive mental state wash over me.  I felt like I had crossed a threshold of some kind.  Reached a personal plateau that revealed a clear path to even higher elevations.

It was a trick of the mind, of course, but I'll take it.

Hope is a good thing to have, especially when you doubt yourself as much as I do.  And finally having a sense that you've accomplished something worthwhile -- and that more good things are ahead -- is such a wonderful new experience that I can't even quite grasp the enormity of it.

I'm just gonna go with it while it lasts.

Some perspective at 49 (and counting)

The author as a child. Not much has changed.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — I have begun my 50th year.

(I say it that way so, when the big day arrives in 2014, I’ll have become desensitized to the pain.)

Last year, my son asked me if 24 was considered “mid-20s,” and of course I said it was, since he had just turned 24 and I knew where his thoughts were going. Early 20s would be up to age 23, I told him, and late 20s would be 27-29.

He remarked that he was getting old, and I chuckled. “You can tell me you’re getting old when your child tells you he feels like he’s getting old,” I said.

For the record: I am not getting old. I refuse to. And I’m only begrudgingly willing to grow up. Maybe. Some day. Despite the evidence I see in the mirror, I don’t picture myself as “old.”

Most of the time, and I think my family would agree, I have the interests and emotional maturity of a child. I’d rather watch the latest DC Comics animated movie (ask me about “The Flashpoint Paradox” some time) over anything on any sports channel, for instance. I’ll argue the merits of “Man of Steel” vs. “The Dark Knight Rises” any time you want to meet me at the comics shop.

Also, I’m useless when it comes to “adult” subjects like planning for retirement or understanding insurance benefits. That’s probably because I spend more time in my made-up brainspace than in the “real” world.

And then … 

Earlier this week, my wife asked me if there was something special I wanted for my birthday, or if there was some place I wanted to go out to eat — and for possibly the first time ever, I didn’t have a ready answer. I can usually rattle off a dozen items on my current wish list.

It’s the perspective of the years like a sudden weight being forced upon us by recent developments in our lives, I think, that makes such considerations seem petty and difficult. Just one example: We recently returned from a trip to Pensacola, where we visited a relative who is undergoing chemotherapy to combat leukemia. She’s my age.

What do I want for my birthday? How about a miracle.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m incredibly thankful for our blessings. I’m alive and reasonably healthy seven years after bypass surgery, and my wife and kids are likewise healthy and reasonably happy. We’re employed, educated, and enjoy a middle class lifestyle, and we’re involved in creative communities of friends, family and acquaintances.

Every day should be a celebration, a gift — and it is. But sometimes, you just don’t know what to ask for.

If I take a minute to think about how I prefer to spend my free time, it’s really pretty simple. I’d like to look at some art, listen to some music, read a good story, tell a good story, draw and write, strum a guitar, see a film, have a conversation and a few laughs over a cup of coffee, hear my children sing, walk under a sky full of stars, float in the Gulf until the sun burns red through my closed eyelids.

So in the end, I guess, I still know what I want.


(This is my Undercurrents column for and The News Herald this week.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Flashback Friday: Success in 60 Minutes

(Once upon a time, specifically Aug. 8, 1994, The News Herald published this profile of longtime Bay County resident John Hamlin, who traveled the world as a producer for CBS 60 Minutes. We had a nice interview at a downtown restaurant, and afterward John asked me to delay running the article for a while because of personal reasons; an editor ran it anyway, about a week earlier than John had asked. He called to thank me for publishing it early, as shortly after that his mother had died, and if the story had been held any longer, she wouldn't have seen it. She was rightfully very proud of him, and he was glad she had seen the article and knew her friends and family would see it too. He joined CMT in 2007, where he serves as Senior Vice President for Music Events and Talent.)

Success in 60 Minutes

Former Bay resident credits luck, timing and more in becoming producer for TV's top news magazine

John Hamlin,
John Hamlin grew up in Bay County and visits his family here twice a year.

That is, when he's not chasing Mexican guerrillas in the high jungles, chatting with Mick Jagger about the 1994 Rolling Stones tour, or setting up a prison interview with Mike Tyson for his boss, Ed Bradley of CBS-TV's 60 Minutes.

Hamlin, 33, talked about his on-the-job adventures during a recent trip home. His parents are retired U.S. Air Force Col. Ralph E. and Mary Bruce Hamlin of Callaway.

Hamlin is one of five producers on Bradley's news team, each of whom is challenged to create five quality stories each season. Last year, he got interviews for Bradley with an ex-undercover agent for the DEA, a retired U.S. army colonel who became Commander-in-Chief of the Estonia military, "parachute" lawyers who specialize in disaster lawsuits, and a Mexican rebel leader.

This year, he's putting together stories on international arms deals, the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam and a "secret" story he can't discuss yet.

Hamlin considers the Mexico piece on Subcomandante Marcos his personal "coup," having made two excursions into the jungle to secure Bradley the interview. After arriving at the appointed meeting place — about four hours' drive into the jungle — the crew was told Marcos could not do the interview.

That night, as Bradley slept in the jeep and the crew slept around a camp fire, armed guerrillas in ski masks and bandoleras surrounded them. They were rousted out and hustled into an abandoned school building. Minutes later, Marcos appeared, finally ready to talk.

"His English isn't the best, and he said, 'Good night. I am Subcommandante Marcos.' We offered him something to drink and he said, 'You have Boodweiser?'"

Hamlin said the interview that resulted will be re-run in mid-August, just in time for the Mexican elections.


Hamlin's family first came to Bay County when his father was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base during John's sixth-grade year. They returned to settle in Callaway when his father retired. He attended Rutherford High School and Gulf Coast Community College, where he was a DJ on WKGC.

"I was a really terrible disc jockey, but it was fun, and I figured out I could interview people," Hamlin said. "I would talk to bands when they came into town and run the interviews during my show."

One of his real talents was shooting stills of rock bands, Hamlin said. A photo of his appeared on a Journey album cover and he had a small article published in Rolling Stone. "But I was a better photographer than writer," he said.

After getting his degree in journalism from the University of South Florida, Hamlin began looking for jobs in TV news all over the Southeast.

"Charlie Wooten at KGC told me Channel 7 had better equipment and Channel 13 had better people. I chose the people, but the equipment (was bad). We literally used Band-Aids to keep things together," Hamlin said. "Of course, it isn't like that now."

He shot, wrote and edited two reports a day for three years, motivated by two factors: "beat Channel 7 and do good work so I could move on to a network."

"My only dilemma now is figuring out a way to get 60 Minutes to let me have a Panama City Beach bureau. Panama City is a great place to work and live, but I couldn't be an anchor; I looked young, I didn't have good delivery. So I couldn't make a good living on the air."

A stint at ESPN followed, including a job as Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles office, during which he won an Emmy for feature production. Then CBS Sports hired him to produce feature segments and studio shows for the French Olympics in 1990. During the hiatus between Olympics, he convinced his superiors to let him work on Bradley's Street Stories.

"I had helped design the coverage of boxing on ESPN, so I had great boxing contacts and I knew Tyson," Hamlin said. "I convinced him and his lawyer to let us to a full hour on Street Stories."

Street Stories ended shortly thereafter and Hamlin returned to the sports division. With 18 months still to go before Olympics work geared back up, he produced packages for NFL Today, which won him another Emmy.

When he discovered Bradley had an opening on his 60 Minutes staff, Hamlin applied. Certain he would not be hired, he rehearsed his gracious thanks for even being considered. Instead, Bradley called and asked him when he could start. He was working a week later.

"Clearly, the jumps from here to ESPN to CBS Sports to 60 Minutes are huge jumps, and luck and timing played a part," Hamlin said. "Luck and timing might get you the job, but won't keep you the job."


Because Hamlin was hired halfway through the production season, Bradley told him to start working on shows for the following year. Many producers will set up profiles of movie stars to have stories "in the can" whenever the stars release a new movie or come back into the news.

Unlike a movie producer, whose job is to secure funding for the production, a news producer acts as a reporter. He or she makes the contacts, does the research, writes the questions and works in the post-production phase. Bradley's job in the equation is to ask the questions on-air, rewrite some of the narration and questions, and use his charisma to capture the audience.

"The hardest part of the job is coming up with stories," Hamlin said. "That's why I hated being an assignment manager. They say you're only as good as your last story, but I think you're only as good as your next one."

Hamlin said the staff members of 60 Minutes are highly competitive with one another, but also very supportive. That doesn't mean they cover for each other, though.

"There's not much baby-sitting with new people. They didn't become the top show on television by hand-holding. There's a level of quality that's required, and a lot of self-inflicted pressure," Hamlin said. "I don't think anyone denies we all want the show to succeed, and that means being proud of the work other people do. But make no mistake, everyone wants to get the great stories."

Despite the current glut of news-magazine shows on TV, Hamlin said 60 Minutes remains the legend of the genre.

"There's no secret why it's the Number One show on TV. These people are master storytellers," Hamlin said. "The strength of what we do is in the writing and the storytelling, not fancy special effects."

For now, Hamlin and his wife, the former Angela Wiggins of Panama City, are enjoying a few days of relaxation. Hamlin said one of his favorite things to do when in town is, "sitting on the back deck at Schooners drinking a beer. Does it get any better than that? It reminds me why I keep coming back here."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Connecting the Dots

PANAMA CITY — I try to notice when the universe starts speaking. Unfortunately, I seldom understand what it’s trying to say, but I’m learning to live with the mystery.

Regular readers of these columns may recall that I have admitted before how reason and faith are comfortable companions in my brain. This mystifies both my spiritual and atheist friends, which of course amuses me.

Look, I know we live in a random universe, but I continue to believe in signs, seeing meaning behind events that have no obvious connections — what others might call “coincidence.” Maybe it’s just magical thinking, but I can’t help opening myself to any deeper meaning when synchronicity smacks me upside the head.

It happened earlier this week, but all I know for sure in retrospect is that I was where I was supposed to be at that time. Abiding, one might say.

I came to the coffee shop to conduct an interview. The coffee of the day was “approved by The Dude,” according to a drawing of a bearded man wearing sunglasses that had been scrawled on brown paper behind the counter.

(You might recall The Dude in the film “The Big Lebowski” being accosted by the Nihilists, who tell him, “We believe in nothing.” I was thinking, right then, I believe I forgot my sunglasses today, and then recalled The Dude exclaiming, “Careful man, there’s a beverage here,” as I picked up my order.)

A few minutes later, I was talking to young singer/songwriter Kristen Barkuloo about songs that speak to us. She said she wanted her music to remind people of meaningful times in their lives. I mentioned that there are a few songs that do so for me, and one artist in particular.

Seconds later, David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” began playing over the sound system and goosebumps rose on my arms. (Bowie released his latest music video, "Valentine's Day," on Tuesday, the day following this interview.)

Barkuloo talked about a song she was inspired to write after a young friend died in a car wreck, and I thought of my own history with similar tragedy. She talked of getting into theater productions and studying under Bruce Taws, and I further connected that to my son, a songwriter and singer who did theater with Bruce years ago, and whose best friend died in a car wreck.

So now we talked about linkages, connections.

She mentioned that she also wrote fiction, and I encouraged her to visit Writers Gallery, a monthly open mic for writers hosted at Chez Amavida that will reconvene in September after a summer hiatus. I told her it was organized a couple of years ago by local author Nick May, and then I looked to my left and saw Nick opening the café door.

Greetings all around followed, and more talk of strange connections. As The Stranger said, “I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.”

(This is my Undercurrents column for and The News Herald for this week.) 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Flashback Friday: Reviewing the 'Chronos' comic series

(I really miss this comic book. I'm an easy mark for time travel stories, and when they're done right I can't let go of them. I want to revisit them time after time (see what I did there?). I'd love to see Walker Gabriel show up in the current DC "New 52" universe. Anyway, here's my review of the series, Chronos, from the May 13, 1998 edition of The News Herald. This appeared in our "Generation NeXt" section, which often had comic book content.)

Catching up with 'Chronos'

Time is like light, according to Walker Gabriel.

"It's both a wave and a particle," he explains. "It can be diffused and reflected. The suit I'm wearing generates an energy field that bends time around me."

Walker is the not-too-bad bad guy — who just might turn out to be a hero after all — at the center of DC Comics' new monthly series, Chronos, about the rehabilitation of a time-traveling ne'er-do-well.

Writer John Francis Moore and penciller/co-creator Paul Guinan, joined by inker Steve Leialoha, have woven a tapestry of detailed characters, adventure and pseudo-science supported by artwork and pacing that bring disparate times and places to life with astonishing realism.

The first issue of Chronos was a dense mix of new and old DC characters and concepts. The second was less bewildering — Walker's misadventures trapped in 1873 in Smallville, Kansas, where he meets the Clark and Kent families and runs afoul of a Linear Man, one of the guardians of DC continuity, posing as a U.S. marshal.

(Think Back to the Future III meets The Terminator.)

By issue three — and the introduction of a devilish immortal who seems to have met Walker before — the weave of the storyline's tapestry begins to coalesce.

Walker's travels hold the promise of plenty of guest stars from DC history — from the weird West of Jonah Hex to the far future of the Legionnaires. Still, guest stars galore don't matter if there's not a strong character at the core — which, I think, Walker will come to be.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the story is his journey, not his destination. Walker is on a voyage of self-discovery, learning about how his past and future actions have (or, depending on the era, will have) affected people — and discovering the hero within the jaded young scientist.

The first glimmer of this greater man he will (did?) become is seen in issue one, when an older Walker materializes in time to save his younger self from a time-traveling enemy; his first real step toward heroism follows in issue two, when he plans to steal money from the family that gave him a home and a job — but his conscience won't let him.

Monthly from DC Comics
Highly recommended


(Another note: The series lasted only 11 regular issues, plus a "1 million" issue as part of a DC crossover. It ended with Walker erasing himself from history (actually creating an alternative timeline) in order to save his mother's life. It had so much potential. >>Just check out this page, where Walker meets Martha and Jonathan Kent on a dark country road one night just before they see a rocket crashland <<)

>>Also, I recently compared an image from Doctor Who to a cover of Chronos in this blog.<<

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Making the best of it

PANAMA CITY BEACH — For many in the Panama City/Panama City Beach area, torrential rainfall made for a miserable Fourth of July weekend.

As Valerie Garman reported this week, the beaches area received more than a third of its average annual rainfall amount in just two days. It overwhelmed the stormwater drainage systems, backed up into homes and businesses, made roads impassable.

Fireworks and attendant festivals were delayed, vehicles were stranded in standing water or damaged by wash-outs, and folks living in low-lying areas lost furniture, wallboards, carpets and priceless personal possessions.

But as in many disasters, human beings try to find a way to smile. Those fortunate enough not to be faced with a struggle to preserve their lives and property sometimes found some joy or humor in the weather.

You may have seen the videos being shared on Facebook of two folks kayaking along Jenks Avenue, using what appeared to be planks of wood for paddles, or the person wakeboarding in a residential neighborhood, pulled behind a pickup truck.

We made the mistake of trying to go to a shop on Thursday, and were turned back by a police blockade on Front Beach Road that probably saved us from being stranded.

People standing in a rainy line at a Redbox kiosk that afternoon joked about seeing animals gathering two-by-two, as sprinklers buzzed and spat alongside a nearby overfilled retention pond. Someone driving a golf cart draped with plastic walls surveyed the neighborhood.

Even the subjects of a TLC reality series got into the soggy fun, wading up to their knees along Front Beach Road. (That's them in the photo above.)

Last Friday, I saw three boys making running leaps into the shallow ponds that had covered the golf course along Delwood Beach Road, and thought back to rainy days of my own childhood that were spent splashing in shallow branches that had swelled into creeks.

I would have loved to do the same, except that these days rainy weather is more apt to make my joints swell and creak.

(This is my Undercurrents column for The News Herald and for Friday, July 12.) 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Flashback Friday: Speaking with Sarek

(Once upon a time, I had a phone interview with Mark Lenard, the gentleman who played (among many other sci-fi roles) Sarek on the classic Star Trek series and films. He was soft-spoken and self-deprecating, and generous. He sent me three autographed photos (unasked) after the talk. This article appeared on Page 6B of The News Herald on Saturday, Feb. 28, 1995. Lenard died at age 72 on Nov. 22, 1996 of multiple myeloma.)

'Spock's father' energizes Trek-o-Rama
For years, he served the Vulcan race as ambassador to the United Federation of Planets — and served more patriarchal duties as father to Star Trek's beloved Mr. Spock.

Now Ambassador Sarek makes his first official visit to Panama City as Mark Lenard, the actor who first brought Sarek to life more than 25 years ago, headlines today's Trek-O-Rama science fiction convention at the Marina Civic Center.

"Star Trek has been a big part of my life, off and on, ever since," Lenard said in a telephone interview from his New York home. "I can never really get away from it, and I'm always going to conventions and talking about it."

More mundane TV watchers will recognize Lenard's distinctive voice from advertisements for Saab, Maxwell House Coffee, Scope, BP Oil, CNN Crossfire and others. He has appeared in dozens of movies and TV series including The Greatest Story Ever Told, Annie Hall, Gunsmoke, and Planet of the Apes.

Lenard also applied his voice to the reading of Sarek and Federation, two best-selling Trek novels, for recent book-on-tape productions.

"Plus, I teach a class and I'm directing and playing in a film version of an opera — people will be pleased to hear it's a non-singing role," Lenard said. "And I'm writing, so I'm very busy now."

One of his major activities is a touring production of The Boys in Autumn, which guest stars Walter Koenig, another Trek alumnus.

Lenard as Sarek in 'Next Generation'
"We play Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn at middle age. Walter plays Tom and I play Huck," Lenard said. "It has great humor. They're two old curmudgeons, and it's quite moving. We've had good reception and we've been at it long enough to get very good at it."

Lenard said there were no plans to have him appear on the current incarnations of Star Trek, although he played Sarek and other alien characters in the original series, the cartoon spinoff, the movies and Next Generation.

The character of Sarek died in the latter series, in a scene in which he was suffering from a brain disease similar to Alzheimer's, in which his mind focuses on memories and unleashes the pent up emotions of a lifetime.

"I enjoyed it, although there was just the one scene," Lenard said. "But it was a little like King Lear, and I played it that way."

In his very first television work after moving to Hollywood, Lenard was cast as the Romulan commander in the classic Trek episode, Balance of Terror, a space adventure fashioned on a submarine warfare plotline. That work led to his casting as Sarek in the episode Journey to Babel, where his performance turned a one-shot character into a fan favorite.

Lenard as Sarek in 'Journey to Babel'
Lenard has definite feelings on the running "which Trek was best" question.

"I recently saw one of the old shows and it's far superior to the others, much more fun," he said. "It was the one about Apollo, and it had a few wrinkles in it that were not the best. But it was a great character show. That's what they did the best."

Lenard has never been a real fan of science fiction, except when it shifted focus from hardware and special effects to character development and emotion. And he never watched Star Trek until he started being invited to science fiction conventions.

"I started watching the show out of self-preservation, because people were asking me all these questions about it," he said.

But Lenard said he was pleased with his Star Trek affiliation.

"It's part of our culture now, and our language," he said. "It's an honest show. It stands for good things. And the theme, 'Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations' is just as applicable today."

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Living in a better time photo

PANAMA CITY — Banjo mixed with the smell of barbecue in McKenzie Park on Monday, as the people of Bay County gathered to mark a birthday milestone.

The event played out under threatening gray skies, with gusts of wind kicking up the moss and palmetto fronds, and knocking over banners printed in patriotic colors. Deep South Bluegrass played music, and folks from the Historical Society of Bay County led tours of the Sapp and McKenzie houses. Public Eye recorded videos of old timers telling their personal histories, and J.R.’s Rib Shack served burgers (with Sugar Boogers providing cupcakes).

The ghost of 100 Fourth of July gatherings moved through the crowd, as familiar today as it was in 1913. Exactly 100 years prior, the public had gathered in what was then called City Park to hear political speeches and live music, eat barbecue and celebrate the birth of a new county.

As I wandered the park and watched the people in their folding chairs and Hoverounds, I wondered what those folks of olden days would make of our current world if they could have traded places with us for the day.

A lady sitting under a palm tree talked of how the crowd of 100 years ago probably would not have complained about the heat or humidity, since they had yet to be spoiled by air conditioning. But aside from technological marvels, they probably would wonder why things haven’t changed that much.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been gathering clippings of articles from newspapers of the day, including the Panama City Pilot and the Lynn Haven Tribune, to post on The News Herald’s online Centennial page. And it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that the Bay Countians of that time were concerned about much the same things as today’s residents.

They thought their government was ineffective. They looked forward to a brighter future, and beheld much of the past as some kind of Golden Age before the world turned so dark and dangerous.

But there were also elements of their personalities expressed in those news pages that are glaring in this age. To put it mildly, let’s just say that, at their best, they treated women and minorities as second-class citizens.

I looked around an integrated crowd on Monday and realized that we had at least that much on our forefathers. It makes me glad to be living today rather than 1913.

After all, it doesn’t matter how old you get, so long as you’re growing and improving. It’s not the years, after all, but the impact you have during them.


(This is my "Undercurrents" column for The News Herald and this week.)

Centennial Events
A couple more official events are planned this summer to commemorate the Bay County Centennial:

l The Visual Arts Center Centennial Exhibit will open July 12 and run through Sept. 6, showcasing photographs and artifacts from the past 100 years. Contact Bonnie Jones (769-4454 or if you have photographs or items you would like to share for this exhibit. They are also looking for exhibit sponsors. The Visual Arts Center is at 19 E. Fourth St. in Panama City.

l The Bay County Centennial Gala will be 6 to 11 p.m. on Aug. 17 at the Panama Country Club, 100 Country Club Drive, Lynn Haven. Enjoy fine dining and entertainment while celebrating Bay County’s proud past and bright future. (Reception 6 to 7 p.m.; four course dinner 7 to 8:30 p.m.; dancing to the sounds of SolShine 8:30 to 11 p.m.) Details: 248-8277.