Trump and Bush, Pot and Kettle – 2

So why does Jeb Bush reek of hypocrisy when he accuses Mr. Trump of using eminent domain for his own benefit? Here it is. But first, I need to set another scene for you and I’ll do it by telling you something you probably already know. Two of the largest industries in Florida are tourism and citrus. Today we’re going to talk about the citrus industry and the very special way they have of pissing people off—thanks to Jeb. I’ll leave my opinion on tourists for a future post.

Okay, setting the scene down and dirty without a lot of poetic waxing. Big citrus was a big donor to Jeb Bush and his gubernatorial career. Yet during his first term he didn’t do too badly when it came to giving in to the special interest groups interested in him. It was one of the reasons I voted for him twice. However, with nothing to lose after being reelected, Jeb used his second term to pay back those he owed and he owed Big Citrus, big time.

Big Citrus had a big problem in Florida and it had to do with competition. Florida has the perfect agricultural environment for growing citrus trees, in particular, juicing citrus trees. Florida citrus isn’t the best for eating but it’s great for juicing. That’s why Florida has so many huge and lush citrus groves; each and every one of them full of juice. And all those groves are owned by Big Citrus. At first glance, competition doesn’t seem like much of a problem right? Well it is, or maybe I should say, it was.

Part of the problem Big Citrus had was that the same soil conditions and environment that made their groves so productive, also made privately owned trees in backyards across the state, very productive. Personally, I had an orange tree, a grapefruit tree, and a key lime tree. All three were mature and fruit producing. By the way, the fruit was absolutely the best juicing fruit ever . . . period . . . bar none.

I always had fresh squeezed orange and/or grapefruit juice whenever I wanted. The fruit juicer was a fixture on my kitchen counter. Two grapefruit cut in half made a full glass of juice, three oranges cut in half did the same. It was the best juice ever and I had more of it than my family could drink.

Now, for the conflict of interest:

If you’re in the business of selling OJ to the masses, there is only so much money that you can ask for a glass of juice. Let’s keep the math simple and say that the most you can sell a glass of OJ for is $1.00. After that, the demand starts to decrease and it doesn’t matter if you sell that juice in Illinois or Oklahoma, you still only get a dollar. From that dollar you have to deduct all your costs of which shipping and storage is a big part. Add in everything else that it takes to get a glass of OJ to Chicago or Tulsa and you have a lot less profit than if you sold that same glass of OJ in say, Fort Lauderdale or Orlando.

As for me and a lot of people like me, Big Citrus never sold us anything because we had plenty of our own. Yet pound for pound, or more accurately fluid once for fluid once, Floridians represented the most lucrative citrus market of all. Shipping and storage cost were all but nothing. However, private tree owners like me weren’t buying juice. If anything, we were selling it or worse yet, giving it away. Big Citrus had a big problem but what could they possibly do? Step in Jeb and his government authorized tree stealing company, Asplundh.

The Asplundh tree removal service arrived at my door three separate times. The first time I answered the door wearing my sidearm. The crew leader and his cohorts didn’t look overly impressed with the gesture, probably because it wasn’t the first time it happened. But they got the message and turned back, got into their trucks, and drove away. Here’s an interesting fun fact. Have you ever seen an Asplundh truck? They’re orange! The irony was cruel. In all honesty, it didn’t go quite as smoothly as the Reader’s Digest version might imply, but at the end of the day, I made sure that my poor trees would live to see another sunrise.

A week or so later I received a letter explaining how illegal it was to hinder a government contractor in the process of executing its contractual duties. About a week after that they arrived again. This time I answered the door with my sidearm drawn, but pointing down. I didn’t have to say a word. The orange trucks left. Two days later, the orange trucks were back but this time there was another vehicle leading the way, a BSO (Broward Sheriff’s Office) cruiser. They stopped in front of my house and the Sheriff got out; the tree thieves stayed in their orange trucks.

At the time I was living in Broward County hence the BSO officer walking up to my front door. I knew he was there, I knew the tree thieves were there, but I waited until he knocked and announced himself before I answered the door. I used the time to decide whether or not to arm myself. I wisely decided not to. The officer and I had a long discussion and to his credit, he was very polite, sympathetic, and maybe even empathetic, but the law is the law, and Jeb Bush’s debt to Big Citrus was going to be paid off in part, with my trees.

By now you’re probably wondering how Jeb Bush was able to justify coming into my backyard and stealing $15,000.00 worth of citrus trees. Furthermore, he did it with the BSO’s blessing. Hell, I couldn’t even call the police to report a robbery; the police were already assisting in the crime. There had to be a perfectly logical reason for this travesty of justice, something for the greater good, something justifiable, something other than . . . politics.

Well, there was. It’s called Citrus Canker. Big Citrus and therefore, Jeb Bush, said that in order to protect the commercial groves from canker, they had to eradicate the infected trees in the surrounding area. So they drew circles on a map and said any trees that were infected within those circles had to be removed. Why circles and not squares or triangles? Beats-the-shit-out-of-me. Following their logic, any shape would have worked.

After drawing their circles and settling on a pattern, it was time to send out the inspectors. Sure enough, all the trees growing within these circles were found to be sick and had to be destroyed. Also birds, bugs, and other tree dwelling species could pick up the canker and spread it, so just to be safe they had to draw more circles. Then, just to be sure they didn’t miss anything; they drew more circles around those. It was like giant sunflowers were springing up all over the map of Florida and these horrific flowers had only one purpose, to devour every privately owned citrus tree they could find.

If even just one sick tree was found in a circle, all the trees in that circle had to be removed. And then they would draw more circles around that to continue the process. I guess things weren’t going fast enough for Big Citrus so they started drawing circles in areas where no canker was found. Regardless of whether a tree was sick or not, if it was within two circles of a sick tree, it was removed. How big was a circle? It was as big as it had to be in order to contain an infected tree. The circles got bigger and more numerous by the day. I’ll bet that there was an official state certified Office of Circle Drawing in charge of the process, because Jeb was determined to pay back his debt as soon as possible. Technically, that’s an honorable personality trait to have, except when through eminent domain, you steal other people’s property to do it.

It took a few years but eventually, the privately owned trees were gone. My trees were not sick, nor were they lucky. In the end, there was nothing I could do to save them. A circle was drawn and they had to go. It was a sad day. I never tasted fruit juice like that again, and I probably never will. But that isn’t even the worst part. The worst part was the slap in the face Jeb gave me after he stole my trees. My payment for $15,000.00 worth of fruit trees was a Wal-Mart gift card for $100.00 which came with a stipulation; it could not be used to buy another citrus tree.

The story goes on and there is more to tell. Like the fact that most of the people who could afford to defend their trees in court were successful. In fact, if you did sue, the state would usually back off, but you had to have the money to go forward with a real legal challenge. Why did the state back down? Because a lot of these challenges were bring hidden truths to light like the fact that the source of the canker was the groves and not the surrounding privately owned trees. And the fact that canker does absolutely nothing to harm the tree or the fruit, it’s simply cosmetic and the juice is fine. I ask you, when if ever, have you taken a look at the orange that went into your Tropicana? If you did, I’ll bet it still has some black spots on it. That’s the citrus canker.

The bottom line for us average Joes and Josephines was simple. We got a big FU from Brother Jeb, and $100.00 Wal-Mart gift card for taking it with a smile. Oh, and in case you were wondering, that wasn’t one gift card per tree, it was one card per property containing trees. Add to that a life-long tariff of having to pay retail premiums for over processed Shit Orange Juice and you have a pretty good reason not to vote for Jeb.

Just between me and you, sometimes I wish I never owned those trees; you can’t miss what you never knew. So take it from someone who really knows, and still remembers, store bought OJ or grapefruit juice really is shit. You might as well save your money and drink Tang. I do.

Go get’em Trump . . . and FU-Jeb!

 

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After the Book Fair, 3-28-15

So this past weekend was my first book fair, but before I tell you how it went, let me tell you how I thought it had a real possibility of going. When it comes to work or business, I worry about the things that can go bad and let the things that go good, care for themselves. It’s a habit. For me it’s a way of making sure that everything goes as well as it should, but also, it lends itself to a sense of negativity that can be perceived by those around me as a downer. Truth be told, it isn’t a downer, it’s paranoia, and my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t sell a single book.

Now for the update. The morning drive to the venue couldn’t be better, weather-wise. It’s Florida, in March, need I say more? But for me none of that mattered, the car could breakdown, there could be a traffic accident, there could be an overzealous highway patrolman, or a simple flat tire. Any one, or combination of all, could and probably would, cause my first public appearance as a published author, to be ruined.

The forty-five minute journey took over an hour due to the fact that on a Saturday morning, when traffic should be light, it wasn’t. Good thing I thought about that and left a few minutes early. Unfortunately, each and every traffic signal along the way had a fully functional L. Davyd Pollack approach detector, which timed the switch from green to red in a perfectly choreographed display of delay. Fortunately, I worried about that too and my early departure time accounted for it. The entire trip was long and excruciating, and made even longer by the longest train on record that reached the railroad crossing just in time to light the flashing stop signals, and drop the barricade bars right in front of me. I did not account for that but alas; we arrived right on time, maybe five minutes later than planned but as they say, good enough for government work.

Then it was time for us to set up the display table and it all went very smoothly, which should have been a hint of impending doom. With a place for everything and everything in its place, the display table looked great, inviting, but not intimidating. When I looked at it from the front, I thought to myself, this is a table I would buy a book from. I was relieved—but my relief was fleeting. When I originally registered for the book fair, I specifically inquired about access to electric. Part of my presentation was to have my Kindle ready and waiting to show off my website/blog, and how easy it is to buy my books online. I was assured that there would be access to power and to my great surprise, there was. Only one problem, the access was twenty feet away and the extension cord that I brought just in case access to electric wasn’t as accessible as advertized, was only fifteen feet long. And the downward spiral begins.

However, defeat was not to be snatched from victory so easily. Thanks to the help of fellow author, R. L. Austin and his six-foot multiple-plug extension cord, my power problem evaporated. Thank you R. L.

There I was, front and center sitting behind my first book fair display ever, ready to take the ultimate insult, the biggest slap in the face an author can experience. That being, not selling even one copy of the marvelous book I poured my heart and soul into for the past ten years. The fair opened at 10:00 a.m. and at first nothing, but what do you know, a few minutes later a customer approached. I was nervous, real nervous and my presentation was a little stilted, and then, the customer nodded and moved on. It was okay though, first time jitters and all. Being in sales (one of my real life jobs), I knew there would be more chances to screw up and moments later, there were.

Shortly after, another potential fan walked up and heard a more polished version of my spiel, then pulled out his wallet and bought. I don’t know for sure, and of course, I can’t prove it, but I think there’s an excellent chance that I made the first sale of the book fair. My greatest fear evaporated just as easily as my power problem. A few minutes after that, I think I may have made the second sale of the book fair. And guess what. I sold the second book to that poor gentleman who had to endure my stumbling and stilted first pitch. He walked around to all the tables and after giving everyone a once over, came back to me. All I can say is WOW.

At this time, it should be pointed out that I’ve said us and we, not just me. This isn’t a mistake. My girlfriend Miranda, along with her son and daughter, joined me for this momentous opportunity to fail. The kids are still too young to stay home alone. Though I was fully aware that witnesses to my potential failure could only serve to make the experience worse, it was a good thing they were there. First and foremost, I wouldn’t be alone should I totally embarrass myself, and second, they were a great help. Her son took it upon himself to make sure that the sales force had all the promotional supplies they needed, and her daughter (the aforementioned sales force), used those supplies to the best of her ability. Thanks again guys.

In sales, there’s a saying and it goes something like this. He/she can sell ice to an Eskimo. Having been in sales, I knew many people who claimed they could. I never actually met anyone who had a snowball’s chance in H—Florida of doing so. That is, until yesterday. After watching Miranda’s daughter work, all I have to say is Eskimos, beware . . . and don’t forget to hide your wallets. By the way, it won’t do you any good. You’re going to buy the ice, but if you make it too easy, the poor child gets bored.

Suffice it to say that halfway through the fair, when many of my co-authors had already packed it in for the day, L. Davyd Pollack and his dedicated sales force (headed by mom Miranda, an excellent networker), were still closing deals and moving books. All in all, it was an outstanding success for me as a new author/publisher.

Now, to put things in perspective, I didn’t sell out. At the end of the day, I still had a box of books about two thirds of the way full, which I gladly had to load back into the car. Why gladly? Because, when I arrived that morning to set up the display table, I brought in two boxes, both full.

Thanks to everyone, especially all my new fans. I couldn’t have done it without you.

PNTP on Florida Book News

Last week I received an email from a friend, a writer friend named Holly Fox Vellekoop. She (like me) has a number of interesting titles and a website where you can go to find out more. But this isn’t about that, it’s about something else. Help. We authors have to stick together in our battle to break through and it was Holly who suggested that I contact Lou Belcher.

Lou Belcher runs a website called Florida Book News, dedicated to getting the word out about the latest work coming from the creative minds here in the Sunshine State. She invited me to submit “Positives & Negatives, Tricycles & Pancakes,” and viola . . . now it’s posted.

So when it’s time to take a break from all the festivities of this holiday season, take a moment to check out www.floridabooknews.com and some of the other featured authors.

Thank you Lou and Holly.

Happy New Year to all.

Davyd

The Here and Now, writing time

When I was a kid, I started working in construction as a laborer. It was hot and it was hard work, but I used to make twice as much money as my friends who had more traditional after-school jobs, so I kept at it. Still, I looked forward to the day when I could get up in the morning, head out to an air-conditioned office, and spend the day working in comfort.

Boy-oh-boy, how life has changed. Now, I sometimes go days without seeing the sun or taking a walk outside, mostly because I lose track of time. First, I start my day by writing, and then it’s lunchtime; after lunch I go back to finish one last thing, and then it’s dinner. The next day is the same, and so on. I know it sounds strange to lose big chunks of time like that, but if you write regularly, you probably know what I’m talking about.

The first time it happened to me, it was winter in Florida, which more closely resembles a cool summer anywhere else. We really only have two seasons, rainy hot summer, and not so rainy-not so hot summer. It was one of those Florida winter days that I woke up before the sun, got ready for work, and headed out the door for an early start. Yes, I used to get into the office early so I could get some writing done before the workday began. I almost never got to work early to get actual work done.

About forty-five minutes after settling in behind the keyboard, I felt some pretty strong hunger pangs, strong enough that it brought me out of my writing world. Back then, I was a one-man show and there weren’t many distractions; it was easy to get lost in the words. Phones, problems, customer complaints, all vanish unless they had a part to play in my writing world. It was a glorious way to start the day and the beginning of a habit I still enjoy today.

As for the hunger pangs, while not being a part of my writing world, somehow they got my attention. My grumbling gut was not to be denied. So I hit the save button and decided to go to Burger King for some breakfast. This was years ago when BK Lounge was better than McDonald’s (I think they both blow today). It was still dark and I figured that if I hurried, I might have enough time left to do some more writing before having to suffer another tedious workday.

To save time I went to the drive through. I was planning to order my usual, two sausage and cheese sandwiches (no egg, I hate eggs) and a large cup of coffee, then bring it back to the office. But the menu board wasn’t working so I had to drive up to the first window to place my order. The teenage girl slid the pass-through window open and asked me for my order and when I gave it to her . . . she just looked at me like I was from another planet. At first, I didn’t think much of it because, well, she was a teenager working a full shift at BK lounge. If she were one of the sharper tools in the shed, she’d be on her way to school, or at least waiting for a bus to take her there. After all, it was a school day. I figured she couldn’t cut it in high school and recognized her limitations early enough to start forging a career in cashiering, so I cut her some slack and repeated my order. She just kept staring at me like I was morphing into my true alien form right before her unimpressed and very condescending teenage eyes.

The next thing I knew, there was a twenty-something pimple faced guy standing next to her. His badge said, Assistant Manager Dave. Dave looked at me (Davyd), straight in the eye and said with as sincere a voice as a condescending twenty-something-assistant-manager could muster, “Sir, we aren’t serving breakfast anymore, it’s dinnertime.”

A moment or two later, both burger professionals realized that I was in the process of realizing what time of day it was, and when they did, they couldn’t help themselves, they started to laugh. I could hear two or three others behind the fry cooker laughing too. And yes, there were customers inside waiting to place orders and shaking their heads, wondering about the moron at the drive through. I could see them in the convex mirror behind the cash registers. I couldn’t see clear enough to tell if they were laughing but I think it’s safe to assume here.

Anyway, I finally boarded the here-and-now train with everyone else, ordered two whopper meals, and then pretended as if nothing happened. Why two meals? Simple. One to eat on the way back to my office and one to eat while I worked. I was starving and apparently, I hadn’t eaten anything all day—also, I still had a lot of writing to do.

True story. Has this, or something like it, ever happen to you?

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