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You Betcha!

Earlier this month, nearly 60 people, including two veteran Jacksonville police officers, were arrested after a two-year investigation by the FDLE into a $300-million-dollar gambling scheme. I, for one, am shocked, not just at the operation itself or even its alleged participants but even more so, the number of people who are actually upset that the “Internet cafes” were shut down! Though I’ve never actually been inside one, I can’t imagine the allure of sitting in an old Quincy’s Steakhouse with blacked-out windows (that I highly doubt still smells like steak, baked potatoes and big, fat yeast rolls) when there are plenty of other legal ways to parlay a dollar into a million.

Florida Lottery: With 13,000 retail locations around the state, becoming a multimillionaire (or $2-aire in my case) is as close as your favorite supermarket, gas station or convenience store. The good news: You can become richer than your wildest dreams for only a dollar. Plus, you can scratch off your tickets in the privacy of your own home: You don’t even have to wear pants. The bad news: “Florida law mandates that the Florida Lottery provide the winner's name, city of residence, game won, date won and amount won to any third party who requests the information.”

Greyhound Racing: The best bet Orange Park offers live greyhound racing (that’s dogs, not buses) Monday and Wednesday–Saturday evenings, matinees Wednesday and Saturday–Sunday. The good news: It only takes a buck to play, and pools can get up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. And admission is free to the lower level. The bad news: Your friends who are PETA members will never set foot in the place.

Simulcast Betting: Both locations of Best Bet—Jacksonville and Orange Park—allow bettors to waste wager on thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing and jai alai from round the country. The good/bad news: See “Greyhound Racing” above. …   More


Wrap It Up

Christmas is next week; so is Kwanzaa. As a rule, I avoid participating in major holidays (I’m counting the days until National Grilled Cheese Day, though). But that doesn’t mean I don’t imagine the presents I would give. Here, then, are some gifts I would hand out to some well-known locals and businesses. I mean, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Mayor Alvin Brown: I can’t decide which he needs more, a thesaurus or a sense of humor


Mrs. Mayor Alvin Brown: what does one get an invisible woman?


Fred Durst: a trip in a time machine back to 1999 when anyone actually cared about Limp Bizkit


Blood Alliance: as much A-negative blood as they need so they can stop stalking me 


Capt. Sorensen of Firehouse Subs: a restraining order against me 


Public Defender Matt Shirk: a good divorce attorney, preferably one who has never worked at Whisky River and doesn't like to take showers


Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert: a one-way ticket ... anywhere, really


Grandpa’s Cough Medicine: a night off (seriously, do these guys play every event in town or what?)


Times-Union restaurant writer Gary T. Mills: a year of home pest control service because having to write about roaches is bad enough


Riverside Publix: a parking lot that does not promote grocery shopping rage

PGA player Jim Furyk: a mulligan for his closest-to-the-pin loss to Jaxson de Ville at a recent  Jags halftime event (though, as a high-ranking member of #TeamFuryk, I like to think Jimmy did it on purpose just so everyone at the game could get a free order of Papa John's cheesesticks)


Action News sports anchor Dan Hicken: a ladder to come down from his pedestal

Musician J. Dash: a major recording contract, Grammy Award and official fan club that I can be president of

U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown: a hat, duh

And finally to downstairs neighbors: heavy-duty earplugs (unfortunately, Bose Noise Cancelling …   More


The Search for Self

“Google,” the verb, wasn’t added to “Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary” until 2007, but Internet users have been “Googling” for years, looking for dirt on friends, enemies, crushes, exes, bosses, even the creepy guy next door. But how many of us actually Google ourselves? As a Googling addict, I learn things about myself every time I do a search.

Of course, I already know that I live in Jacksonville. I’m a freelance writer and have a blog. And I graduated from Sandalwood High School in 19-mumble, mumble with Virginia Mills and Kevin Porter (yes, the Kevin Porter). There are links to my Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in accounts, evidence of my domination of Jacksonville's 2012 Dancing With the Stars (not really) and oodles of celebrity stalker alerts.

There are also a variety of things I didn't know about myself (or had conveniently forgotten) like, I clearly did not wow attendees with my presentation on "Creative Freelance Writing" at the UNF Writers Conference since I have not been invited back since 2009. I came in 139th place in the 2012 St. Patrick's Day 5K. And I'm ignorant, intolerant and hateful, and my writing is juvenile and insipid. On the bright side, thinks I should "join in a tournament of the greatest blogs on the Internet" and finds some of my articles "so well written [they] look like poetry."

Then there are those details that are just plain wrong starting with the fact that I'm male. I live in a former gay bar. And, at first glance, I'm dead.

If you want to know more about how to, ahem, Google yourself, check out these websites: 

Google: Manage your online reputation 

Chronicle of Higher Education: How to Google Yourself Effectively and What to Do About it How to Un-Google Yourself 



Look What He Can Do!

During his 10-year stint on "MADtv" (the longest in the show’s history, for the record), Michael McDonald played colorful characters ranging from Stuart, an incorrigible little boy with a bowl cut and heavily-rouged cheeks, to the self-explanatory Depressed Persian Tow Truck Driver. These days McDonald is gaining recognition for his talent behind the camera, as well. In addition to writing, directing and producing “Cougar Town” for several seasons, he’s directed episodes of “2 Broke Girls” and ABC’s new sitcoms “Family Tools” and “How To Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life.” Later this year, he will co-star in “The Heat” with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. And now, he’s touring the country doing stand-up comedy, or as he refers to it, his “summer job.”


Kerry Speckman: With your success as an actor, director, producer and writer, what would possess you to try your hand at stand-up?

Michael McDonald: You have total creative freedom. You can say any word or talk about any subject. There’s no network or studio or producer telling you what you can do or say. The only people who matter are the audience. If you make them laugh, then you did it. If a joke doesn’t work, you can change it right away. The immediacy and creativity — it’s really intoxicating.


K.S.: You’ve been doing stand-up for less than five years. Is treading into uncharted territory something new for you?

M.M.: [Before getting into acting,] I worked as a loan officer at bank. I majored in business and had no interest in show business. Then, I went to a Groundlings [improv/sketch] show and thought, “Oh, I’d much rather be doing this.” After that, I worked as a waiter and, on several occasions, had to wait on people who I had turned down for loans. It’s not like I yelled at them and said, “Ha ha! …   More


'Jazz' Fest Weekend Begins

So you're Alvin Brown, mayor of a city that's continually recognized for producing one of the best jazz festivals in the country. And your list of past headliners reads like a who's who of the genre: Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, Diane Schuur, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Rosemary Clooney, Chuck Mangione, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall.

Of course, you want to take the Jacksonville Jazz Festival to the next level, but your loyal constituents tell you it's simply not possible and beg you not to try. Except that you are Alvin "Next Level" Brown: Do they just expect you to throw up your jazz hands and give up or, in the alternative, throw in the tight-weave, cotton cloth towel that one might use to clean a trumpet and say "I quit"? 

Of course not! If you're the Alvin Brown we know, you're going to find a way to take the Jazz Festival to another level, maybe not a higher level, but certainly a different level.

Hence, the debut of the JFF "Off Jazz" Concert. The event, which kicks off Jazz Festival weekend, features performances by multiple Grammy Award-nominated R&B and soul artist Brian McKnight and R&B singer Avant. (Seriously, why would Mayor Brown kick off a jazz event with something as predictable as jazz music?)

And if that doesn't take the the Jazz Fest to a whole other level, why not bring in a contemporary swing band like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy to headline Saturday night's show? (Really? How much jazz can a person stand listening to in a weekend? People should be thanking Mayor Brown for the break.)

All kidding aside, this game of musical chairs isn't something that Brown dreamed up himself. Festival organizers have been sneaking decidedly non-jazz acts, like Patti LaBelle, Ledisi, the Neville Brothers, Patti Austin and Roberta Flack, into the line-up for years. The only difference is Brown is the first one to actually refer to a performance as being …   More


Props to the WOP

Nothing personal, Miley Cyrus, but I really don't pay much attention to anything you do. I, unlike, your 11.5 million Twitter followers, couldn't give a flip about your boyfriend/fiance/ex or your new haircut. (I do confess that "Party in the U.S.A." was guilty pleasure for about a minute.)

But something happened 48 hours ago that has made me a fan for life, Miley: You posted a video of yourself dancing to "WOP" on your Facebook page.

"WOP," for those of you who don't know, is a hip-hop song written, performed and produced by J. Dash. J. Dash, for those of you who don't know, is a Stereofame recording artist/musical genius ("future Grammy winner," as I like to refer to him) who lives in Jacksonville — and was foolish enough to give me his phone number a long time ago.

The video, shot in black and white on a friend's iPhone, shows Cyrus, face obscured (until the final reveal), wearing a unicorn onesie wopping, twerking and moving her booty in ways I didn't know the kid had in her. Since posting it on her Facebook page March 20, the video has been shared more than 20,000 times and viewed almost 150,000 times on YouTube. It's been featured everywhere from to the Today Show to the Daily Mail. Ryan Seacrest wrote about it on his blog. LeBron James and Pharrell tweeted about it.

And I, for one, couldn't be happier about it … even if it means J. never takes another call from me again.   More


NFL Stars Put on Their Poker Faces for Charity

Pro football player Leon Washington has come a long way from growing up on the rough streets of Jacksonville's Eastside to playing in the NFL, where he's been named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams (two times and three times, respectively) and shares the NFL record for most kickoff return touchdowns (eight, tied with Josh Cribbs). 

Now, Washington, who plays for the New England Patriots as a running back/return specialist, is hoping to do the same for other kids in his hometown with the creation of the Leon Washington Foundation, a grassroots organization designed to enlighten, inspire and educate Jacksonville youth and their parents, since, as Washington says, "It all starts at home."

"I had a pretty rough childhood … five brothers and sisters … on welfare. It was hard trying to get by," he recalls. Washington's salvation came in the form of Coach Mike, a police officer who recognized his raw talent playing football in the neighborhood and took him to a Pop Warner game — and Marc Simon, a friend he met at age 10, who gave him a glimpse into a better life, the kind where people live on golf courses and have swimming pools in their backyards. Having someone believe in him and being introduced to a life that he could aspire to are experiences that Washington wants to share with local kids.

Washington hosts "Poker Face" Casino Night, the official launch party for the Leon Washington Foundation 7-11 p.m. June 28 at WJCT. General admission tickets are $25; VIP tickets are $75 and include complimentary drinks, player meet and greet, and guaranteed play on gaming tables with celebrities.

Confirmed celebrities include Tony Carter, corner back, Denver Broncos; Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals, Darrelle Revis, corner back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Michael Robinson, full back, Seattle Seahawks; and Leon Washington, running back, New England Patriots. 

Washington …   More


Follow the Leader … or Not

The Players Championship officially begins May 9, but with nearly 150 players in the field, it’s tough to choose who to follow. While I have every intention of following my boyfriend Adam Scott, it is possible that he might not play (or, more likely, I'm not allowed within 300 yards of him).

That said, I consulted a true expert on the subject, Marc Fagan, founder and president of Edwin Watts Golf Academy, for his advice on who to follow — which he claims should have nothing to do with their looks.

If you want to follow the most likely to win …

Fagan says the Pete Dye-designed course really benefits players with good short games, especially putting. That said, he expects Ian Poulter, Billy Horschel, Luke Donald and Tiger Woods to fare well. (Note: Fagan may think looks are irrelevant, but I would like to point out both Horschel and Donald are on my cutest players list too.)

If you want to be amazed …

Seeing Bubba Watson crush the ball in person is even more incredible than on TV, Fagan says. And, of course, practically everything Woods does is amazing.

If you want personal interaction …

Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Angel Cabrera are friendly with the gallery, and Phil Mickelson is especially chatty with fans.

If you want to learn something …

According to Fagan, Woods, Scott and Justin Rose have the best swings on the tour. That said, avert your eyes whenever Jim Furyk tees off.

If you want to support the dark horse …

Fagan says, “Watch out for Boo Weekley.”

If you’re not afraid of being trampled …

Woods or Watson.




Hot Enough for Ya?

It’s August, but I don’t need a calendar to know this.

I can tell simply by the number of complaints I hear—every single day—about the humidity. Oh, and the fact that I, too, live in Jacksonville and know what it’s like to leak sweat out of every pore of my body within five seconds of walking outside.

We all know that there are downsides to humidity: increased allergens, potential for dehydration and difficulties for individuals with asthma, not to mention the dreaded hair frizz, boob sweat and make-up sliding off one’s face. But guess what? There are actual benefits (health and otherwise) that come with humidity too:

1. Reduced susceptibility to colds and respiratory illness 

2. Fewer flare-ups of eczema or other skin conditions because of body moisture 

3. Protection for hardwood floors, carpet and woodworking

4. Healthier joints and muscles

5. Less static electricity 

6. Reduced bacteria and germs indoors

7. Increased efficiency for runners

If those aren't enough reasons for you to quit your whining about the humidity, you can always move to Alaska or Iceland and to contend with up to 23 hours of daylight in the summer months.

Or you could head down under to enjoy a friendly mouse plague. 

Oh, and one more thing, August isn't even the hottest month of the year in Jacksonville. July is.   More


First Coast Connect: Around Town Events

In case you missed my ramblings on First Coast Connect this morning (or you’re still busy counting your pennies to buy the new Jags jersey), here’s what’s coming up this week — and beyond — Around Town:

April 25

Jaguars Draft Day Party

EverBank Field, 6 p.m.

April 25

Guts & Glory: An Evening With Anthony Bourdain

Times-Union Center, 7:30 PM

April 25-27

Rob Schneider

Comedy Zone

April 26–28

Citywide Pet Adoption Event

Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care & Protective Services

May 4

Tea and Sympathy

Theatre Jacksonville

April 27

Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championship

EverBank Field, noon-5 p.m. 

April 27

River City Challenge 

Friendship Fountain, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. 

April 27-28

RAP Spring Tour of Homes

Riverside/Avondale Historic District

April 27-28

Welcome to Rockville

Metropolitan Park, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.