the road less traveled by and kindred spirits swimming against the herd currents

two roads diverged


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Nelle Fish House

my daughter Nelle in an offshore fishing boat off of Islamorada a “few” years ago, her 2-years-younger sister Alice below, same boat, same day

Alice 1

This below, started by Nelle, who lives in Mississippi, came into my Facebook account yesterday, and dreams last night told me to expand on what I had commented into the conversation yesterday.

May 27 ·

SPICE is marketed as a safe, synthetic, and legal alternative to marijuana (all lies) – and it has infested our state. Also known as K2, incense, and fake weed. Mississippi has had 1,204 *reported* cases of spice overdoses in the last TWO MONTHS – and at least 17 deaths. This is a bad, bad drug folks. Talk to your kids.…/mississippi-leads-…/27979311/

Mississippi is leading the nation in reported spice overdoses, almost three to one.To date, Mississippi has had 1,253 reported cased of spice overdoses in 2015.
  • 16 people like this.
  • Fred Smith and friends
    Like · Reply · 1 · 
  • Nelle Cohen And friends!
    Like · Reply · 
  • Sloan Bashinsky I have seen homeless people in Key West on spice. Very bad news, nothing like marijuana effect; I repeat, nothing like marijuana effect. Locally, it’s a combination of potpourri and bug spray.
    Like · Reply ·
  • Mary Leach Here in T-town SEVERAL kids have come in through the E.D. and ended up on a ventilator.
    Like · Reply · 
  • Sloan Bashinsky When I have seen spice used, it was rolled into a cigarette, like tobacco or marijuana. Mixed with booze produces more bizarre results. Easy to get, just go into a Pier 1 for potpourri, into a grocery store for bug spray, is how I understood it.
    Like · Reply · 
  • James Moore Bad stuff.
    Like · Reply ·


  • Sloan Bashinsky I think they also may like to drink Red Bull with it.
    Like · Reply · 
  • Sloan Bashinsky Perhaps I should add, these homeless people are really down and out, each for his/her own reason, for now, perhaps forever, has given up. Life for them is hell. Some of them are mentally ill, on top of being addicts. They are deeply wounded in their souls. They are trying to feel better, or escape, even more, when they add spice into their chemical cuisine. It’s a lot sadder to see, than it is to read about. And, in my experience, there is nothing anyone can do to help them, as long as they are thinking in that way, other than making food and basic clothing and medical care available, if they will accept it. Religion does not save them, most of them are already saved, in the Christian sense. It’s something I know very well, I once lived among them, but never fit in. Some of them thought I was doing it to write a book about it, that I had money. I didn’t. I was broke. I knew it was a spiritual assignment. It learned me a great deal about homeless people, and the people who try to help them, and the Key West society and how it related to homeless people, mostly not well, but there were bright exceptions. Once, in a church soup kitchen line one Sunday afternoon in a local park, one of the church members told us waiting in line to eat, if we accepted Jesus as our savior, we would not be homeless. I pretty much yelled, “What’s wrong with being homeless? Jesus was homeless!” I did that sort of thing a good bit back then. Still do, but not just in the homeless venue. Kids today, who are using spice and other chemicals, are a lot like the homeless people I see down her using spice. Hurting inside, trying to feel better, escape. It’s a very difficult thing to address, in my experience, In fact, it remains my view that more than not using, more than will power, are needed. Supernatural help is needed, to really get into what ails addicts. Bill and Bob seemed to have realized that. Looks to me that’s what the Twelve Steps are about, especially the first three steps. My version of the first 3 steps. I’m crazy. There is nothing I can do about it. If God doesn’t help me, I’m a gonner.
    Like · Reply · May 28
  • Sloan Bashinsky Also, for this city, Key West, the economic engine nobody will admit to, is booze. Without booze, this city would be bankrupt. There are more bars here, per capita, than any city perhaps in the universe. And more churches per capita, too. Some have wondered if there is a correlation? I know there is a correlation. Lots of addicts have horrible issues with religion rooted in their childhood. In a twisted way, it’s amusing that the city leaders, and most citizens, want drunk homeless people in jail, but encourage drinking otherwise. Some good friends of mine down here, husband and wife, who are well liked in many segments of this city, have many friends, told me several times that almost everyone they know uses drugs. They meant illegal drugs, on top of booze, including prescribed narcotics. Booze is a narcotic, but it’s hard to get anyone who uses it to admit it. Spice is cheap, easy to get, under the legal radar, so far. It is used in mainstream down here, I am hearing. I hate to think what school kids have available to them, including spice.
    Like · Reply · May 28

Amiga Christine Russell continued our email conversation reported in yesterday’s further adventures in the Key West and Florida Keys criminal justice system, dead coral reef and MRSA infested ocean petting zoos post at

Christine Russell 2

Sloan, I could not agree any more with about everything you say. From lobster mini season Miami day trippers or pillage the seas and take the bounty from the fisherman), the over fishing, the political problems, the money greed, and the booze driven Keys. It would all make me sick and depressed if I did not have other destinations on my plate and higher, positive goals for my life. The problems are bigger than all of us, and the governments of the world are working against us – or not working at all – look at D.C. – what an embarrassment to America and her history.

I watched a 60 Minutes segment on the transportation infrastructure in the US last night – frightening and seemingly unresolvable. Countless (thousands) dangerous bridges and crumbling road structures – too many and far more money required than this country has to fix that problem. I would not want to be here to see that all play out. And that is just ONE of many many problems in the US. That story is told from a state and federal level. As I talked with Brian last evening after hearing that reality, we talked not just about our disappointment in the Federal government, but that a small community such as key west with 25,000 residents should be able to do a better job shouldn’t they. And how’s that been workin’ ?????

Though most of the countries problems may be rooted in the same evil ways, back to the reef and the environment. It seems we have 2 choices – ignore the problem as everyone pretty much seems to be doing, another way to say this is to deny a problem even exists. The other choice is to create and implement a plan to manage and fix the problem over time, but first the problem has to be acknowledged. I know there are some good people and groups working to these ends, but I don’t know – to what extent are they coordinating their efforts?, And are we educating citizens, young people, tourists as to the problems, and solutions? Is the government acting in the best interest of its citizens and the environment, OR their friends, the lobbyists and businesses donating to their campaigns – are they counting votes, or doing their jobs? And TOURISM must be MANAGED! As Cuba seems to understand more so than others.

CHANGE is desperately needed. The keys need to be marketed for the environment and NOT as party central (bars open 21 hours a day – really is that necessary? or good!). Instead of jet ski tours, more ecological educational activities. Instead of the cheapest of the cheap cruise lines, pursue some sailing cruise lines like the Windstar. Key West is probably not sophisticated enough a destination for them, but that’s a way to partner with Cuba so tourists do not bypass key west one day soon. There is so much that SHOULD have been done over the years, but those responsible failed to act. So now the reef, the environment and citizens are reaping the benefits of inaction. Back even before the channel widening discussion some of us had talked about the need to MANAGE TOURISM – responsible tourism, but key west never met a cruisie, day tripper, tour bus, or tourist they didn’t fall madly in love with. TOO MANY PEOPLE and TOO MUCH DEVELOPMENT. The easiest path is the one of least resistance. Ignoring the problem is the lazy, easy ‘solution’. Change can be painful and difficult in the short term, but sticking one’s head in the sand will cause suffocation and death. How is it that Cuba understands environmental responsibility, environmental economics (the value of preserving your resources!) better than a first world tourist destination like key west? I think I recall Commissioner Johnston in the past bringing up the topic of quality tourism and when would key west stop settling for the bottom feeders (my words, but as I recall her sentiments) Yeah Teri! When is key west going to have that discussion?!!! It’s time. Before the reef is completely dead and so is the key west economy.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow woods”…. Which road will key west take? The easy do nothing path, or the tougher road – the challenge to change what right now seems to be the inevitable destruction of the reef and the environment. “And that has made all the difference”
Both would be difficult paths. One has an ugly, sad end.

On to brighter, more positive projects today :-)

I replied:

Hi, Christine –

Careful, lest you get a reputation for agreeing with me, the town lunatic :-).

Wonder what kind of transportation infrastructure, for starts, and much more, could have been had for what G.W. Bush and Barack Obama spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan and other wars?, which I don’t see paying dividends other than more dead, maimed and PTSD US troops, torn up American families, and lots more in the other side’s troops and their families and civilians. War must make somebodies a lot of money, for it to be so popular. I am finding, however, Iran’s tiff with Isis interesting, which is the true Islam standard bearer? What would they do, if they had a 1st Amendment and separation of church and state? Oh, do we have that in America, really? Religion seems to drive so much in American, including the wars. I thought Mark Twain nailed it about as good as it could be nailed in his “The War Prayer”.

Well, now. Key West. Although Robert Frost, who wrote that poem you used a couple of lines out of, was for a long time the city’s Poet Laureate, it don’t seem that poem, which might be the most well known of Frost’s poems, and his “mantra”, or “creed”, I can’t say Key West grokked what Frost meant when the penned that poem, for the one less traveled by has never appealed to the herd, ever, as far as I know, and I don’t suppose it ever will appeal to the herd, although one can only hope maybe something will happen and the herd will get dragged down that less traveled road, or get shoved down it, or the other fork will simply vanish, leaving the less traveled by the only road left to go down. That’s about how it went for me, after a while: only one road was left to walk down, and it was a doozie, which might say why the road less traveled by don’t appeal to the herd.

I talked with Ron Miller on Key Largo today. He is county commissioner Sylvia Murphy’s appointee on the county planning board. Back a ways, Ron was so upset about the widening and redoing of the 18-Mile Stretch part of US 1, which connects Key Largo to the mainland, that he chained and padlocked himself to Jewfish Creek Bridge, and threw the key into the water, in protest, and, boy, did that not make a US District Judge happy! But it did demonstrate Ron’s sentiments about further developing the Keys were pretty dang strongly opposed. Was so glad he got appointed to Planning Board, which receives development applications before they reach the county commissioners.

Well, I called Ron to tell him about the discussion going on down here about water clarity and how that might have caused reef die off. Ron said he’d heard the water started becoming less clear up there around Key Largo as development exploded. I said, that had to be after the new US 1 and the new bridges and the new and bigger waterline from the mainland were installed, because before that no one could build and tap onto the old waterline, which was maxed out. I looked it up using Google, and the new road, bridges and waterline were built in 1982-1983, or started then. That sort of coincides with the reef up there starting to die.

Ron said there finally was a moratorium on dredging up there, which was causing a lot of cloudy water. I am not able to locate yet the dredging moratorium date. Ron said he knows a fellow up there who knows all of that, and he will try to get hold of the fellow, who travels a good bit, and see if he will call me and educate me about ocean clarity and turbidity up there. Ron did not seem to think cruise ships had much to do with the water becoming less clear up there, so I told him the cruise ships are known to dump their tanks outside the reef, heading down to Key West or into the Caribbean.

I told Ron about a fellow named Jerry Eagan, who bought up a bunch of land on the bay side of Lower Matecumbe Key, just down US 1 from my father’s home on the Atlantic side, at Mile Marker 76. Jerry had the land subdivided and cut into lots, and he had canals dredged, but there was no new construction because the old waterline was still the only way water came into the Keys. Jerry had a big billboard visible from US 1, saying, “Yankee don’t go home for land’s sake!” I imagine he sold some lots, and after the new waterline was installed, he sold out that subdivision. I imagine a good bit of that went on back then. I imagine there were Jerry Eagans throughout the Keys back then.

So here we are. Overbuilt, thanks to the bigger waterline, for without it, the Keys would still be pretty much like they were when my father bought that house from the original owner in 1963. It was called “The Fish House” when he bought it, because the two Birmingham men who owned it loved to fish the flats. So my father kept its name. He paid, sit down and get the smelling salts out, for 2 ocean front lots running from the Atlantic to US 1, and a 4 Br, 4 bath main home, and a 3Br, 2 bath caretaker’s cottage, with a canal and a davit, $60,000.

That pretty well says what went wrong in the Keys, don’t it? And with what went wrong, went the reef. And lots of fish species were depleted. Christine, there were conchs all over the flat in front of The Fish House. I waded for bonefish every morning with a spinning rod and a few live shrimp in my shorts pocket. The seafood restaurants all served conch and green turtle, fresh caught. The Green Turtle Cannery made the best conch chowder ever, and great flipper (green turtle) chowder, too. The Green Turtle Inn was drop dead popular. I knew the owner, Roxie, and her girl Friday, Rose, who ended up marring my father’s next door neighbor to the west, who, as I recall, had invented something for the medical profession, which had made him a bundle. Doc Jones, he was called, and Batman, because of his being prone to drive his Cadillac a bit wild on US 1, with some spirits in him.

How Doc Jones and Pearl became an item, he used to go to the Green Turtle in the evenings for drinks, and Rose ran the bar and the restaurant. He was secretly in love with her, but never told her. Then, she had a heart attack and was rushed from the Turtle to Mariner’s Hospital, to which Doc Jones rushed in his Cadillac up US 1 to her beside and professed his love for her and said he wanted her to be his wife. I spent many evenings drowning live shrimp on their pier, talking with them, waiting for a bonefish to pick up the shrimp and make that sizzling first run, which cannot be described until it happens to someone the first time, and the second time, and the third time …

I once told my father he only had one thing I wanted, and it was The Fish House. He sold it in 2001, after a few years of being too infirm to come down to the Keys anymore. I gladly would have lived in the caretaker’s house, been the house’s flats guide, taken care of the yard, back when I was able to do that sort of thing, and rent out the big house. My father let his family, friends, employees and important business customers use the big house. The fee was $10 a head for the caretakers cleaning up after visitors left. I stayed in that house a lot of times with my father and mother, and with wives and friends and their wives, and with my daughters. I never gave much thought to development, water clarity, water pollution. Or any thought. I was too busy enjoying The Fish House and fishing. And eating at the great restaurants. I used to have quite a few friends up there, still have a couple.

Bye and bye, though, a road divided in some woods, and I went down the one less traveled by, and my passion for flats fishing dissolved. A lot of things dissolved. My father could not wrap his mind around it. We were estranged for many years when he died in 2005. Even as for many years he came to me in dreams, giving advice, sometimes scolding me when I was headed in a wrong direction. The kind of father any son would want, I had him in my dreams. And still do, at times. I think from where he is now, things look different from when he was on this world. Actually, I know that’s how it is, but I can’t prove it. I can’t prove a lot of things I know are so, but the angels proved those things to me in ways I knew had to be true.

So, here I am, 72 years old, in love with a younger woman in the county jail. This morning, Judge Ptomey on Plantation Key put Kari into the JIP program in the detention center on Stock Island. A program for inmates to turn around, redirect, and be eased back into society. When Kari met me, she met a road less traveled by unlike the several roads less traveled by she had taken. How this will go for us together is unknown. But she said she was happy to be put into the JIP program, instead of into prison, which was possibility.

Kari said her public defender lawyer gave her hell this morning in the jail on Plantation Key, before the court hearing. He was really angry about what all I have written about him. He told Kari, by talking to me about him, and me publishing it, she had broken the lawyer-client confidentially. I laughed, said that is to protect the client from the lawyer, not the lawyer from the client. When I told Naja and Arnaud Girard about that today, they cracked up. When I told Kari’s mother about it tonight, I called her to let her know about Kari getting into JIP, she cracked up. Is it possible a lawyer could actually think lawyer-client confidentiality is to protect the lawyer? Naja said today, in Bahama Village, they call the Public Defender, the Public Pretender. When I told that to Kari tonight, she said that’s what the Public Defender is called everywhere in the Keys.

Maybe more later, but the above is a heap :-)


P.S. Ron Miller said today that his area was the first on Key Largo to get central sewer, and after that water clarity started improving where he lives. He said the other day he saw a parrot fish in his canal for the first time, ever. Parrot fish hang out around coral, eat stuff off of it. On the nation island of Dominica, in June 1995, for two weeks, every afternoon I bought parrot fish off a young Dominica fisherman for dinner. Delicious. No problem eating them. The parasite that gets into barracuda and parrot fish in some places, was not in those parrot fish. Cruise ships were calling on Dominica by then. I had not seen them there, when I was there the year before. Or maybe I didn’t want to see them. I got a bad sinking feeling when I saw a cruise ship in the Roseau harbor.

Christine wrote:

Sloan –

I am so glad to hear Kari will be put in the JIP program.  I know that is what she wanted and is probably her best chance to change her life direction.  I know she has the alcohol problem to overcome – and that will be a battle the rest of her life, but there are those who overcome that demon and lead productive happy lives.  I hope she is one of them and I certainly wish her well, not just for her and your sake – but she can be a wonderful example that one homeless alcoholic can change and become a productive member of society – so please tell her many of us are cheering her on.  Of course there will then be the question of what comes after the JIP program.  I think you and I agree Key West is not a good place for her for many many reasons. I would love to see her and you get out of here.  I would also like to see her get into a program working with animals and specifically horses.  I keep reading up on animal therapy and would like to one day incorporate that into a Spay Panama program. But one thing at a time – first, success with JIP.

Ron Miller has been a friend for a lot of years.  He is one of the GOOD guys and one of the most knowledgeable people on land use regulations around.  We talked a few weeks ago.  “Paths less traveled,’ how many would chain themselves to a bridge for what they believe in?  I gained a lot of respect for Ron when he did that, just as Harry Powell is one of ma mentors :-)  Who wants to follow that old crowded, warn out path anyway?  We are at a point in the world where we need more people traveling the less traveled roads.  We need them to come up with some alternatives to habits of today’s world – like Elon Musk.  It is no surprise to me that the infrastrucure of the US is failing – and failing fast.  We have been spending too much on defense and the military. Many throughout the keys have noticed the increase of military jets flying this year – makes you wonder what they are gearing up for.  Old roads crumbling – looks like we will be needing paths less traveled.  Maybe this will be the fall of Rome, all societies go through a life cycle.  I love that our future homes of Panama and Uruguay do not have war machines and support a too expensive military with massive citizens tax dollars – maybe that is one of the reasons these other countries can afford socialized medicine, or at least medical coverage for a pittance of what US citizens pay.  Anyway you should watch the 60 Minutes segment on our transportation infrastructure last Sunday “Falling Apart” from 5/17 – EVERYONE should see this so they know what is coming and what their government is NOT doing!  You would also enjoy another segment from that show “A Monumental Project” a new museum of black art and history in D.C.  Sound boring?  Anything but!  Shown is how the curators selected the items that will be in the museum including a railroad car that had to be lifted by a crane into the building and the museum will be built around.  And the story of the young couple who called in the tail number of a biplane they restored – you have to see how that story ends!  This will become one of the great museums of D.C.  Watch those 2 segments at and click on 60 Minutes.

As for our little spec on the map in the US, I know you, I and many others are very unhappy with what the Keys have become.  The over-development is sickening.  I realize land owners have rights, but there has to be an end at some point – we have killed the environment here, and it is slowly killing those who live here.  Someone mentioned to me recently the high number of cases of MS – do you know anything about that?  And if we think it is bad now – seems every week I read of several more developments that are being planned.  Stock Island will change dramatically when the 2 mega marinas projects with hotels, and massive restaurants in the planning are built.  And when the ferries to Cuba come online and US 1 becomes more of a parking lot than throughway, and Stock Island, and Key West become totally overwhelmed by tourists and day-trippers – I don’t want to be here – do you?  There are already the new ugly overpriced condo going in on Simonton – well 2 ugly overpriced developments – the one with overpriced modulars where the catholic church trailor park had provided affordable housing, and at the other end of Simonton where Strunks lumber used to be.
I guess paradise moved out a long time ago.

I replied:

Hi, Christine, will share yours with Kari, thanks for your caring and best wishes.

Spent a little while with Arnaud and Naja Girard this morning, after hearing Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority CEO Kirk Zeulch, who also happens to be lawyer and practiced law in the Keys, and was FKAA’s lawyer, on US 1 Radio with Ezra Marcus. Ezra asked Kirk about the devil we know, septic tanks and cess pits, and the devil we don’t know, in the Cudjoe Regional Sewer District, and Kirk had said he had a letter from Florida Department of Environmental Protection to lawyers on the other side of the lawsuit filed to stop Monroe County, FKAA and DEP from using shallow injection wells, instead of a deep injection well. Cudjoe Regional was built to deal with the devil we know, septic tanks and cess pits. The devil we don’t know, which Ezra and Kirk did not explain on the air, is what will perc back to the surface if shallow injection wells are used right next to the county’s old land fill (toxic waste dump), which respected scientists recently proved in a perc test will be penetrated and activated by the shallow injection wells.

I wanted to strangle Ezra for not making that point to Kirk, and I wanted to strangle Kirk for not mentioning the toxic waste dump, and I wanted to strangle DEP for not mentioning the toxic waste dump in its letter to the lawyers, saying DEP was going ahead with approving the use of shallow injection wells, until the deep injection well could be built and operational in, hmmm, maybe a little over year. Naja came on the air next, and she didn’t go after Rick or Ezra; she told me later that it went right over her head, because she was focused on what she would get to say in the 3 minutes they give her each Thursday morning to promote the next day’s Friday Key West the Newspaper edition, www.thebluepaper. com. I groaned, said, what a beautiful chance to tell all those US 1 Radio listeners what DEP, Kirk and Ezra had not touched at all: the devil we do know, the toxic waste dump next to the shallow injection wells.

I told Naja and Arnaud that, years ago, I learned DEP is a Republican agency, and its mission is to protect corporations and not the environment. I said the Governor appoints the head of DEP, and anytime DEP, or Florida Department of Legal Enforcement (DFLE) show up, parents should gather up their children and hide them in the basement. Naja went online and found something on that, reproduced down below. But first, they told me they talked with David Paul Horan, who went to Cuba to dive in its Gardens of the Queens. Very different from what you sent to me yesterday. Horan said he and his diving group were taken to a part of the Gardens of the Queens where the coral was dead, oil was in the water – that’s where the tourists are herded; another part of the Gardens of the Queens is protected and remains beautiful. Cuba is letting oil companies foul its ocean. Arnaud said, so, Cuba needs to keep tourist away from its still pretty waters, and do something about oil companies, and keep cruise ships away. Nothing is what it appears to be, ever.

Tampa Bay Times

A year ago, when Gov. Rick Scott announced he was suing the state of Georgia for taking too much water and leaving Apalachicola and its oysters high and dry, one of the people standing by him was Jon Steverson, executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
On Thursday, Scott had another job for Steverson, 39, of Tallahassee. The governor appointed the fourth-generation Florida native as the new secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.
“Jon has dedicated his career to serving Floridians through the protection of our state’s water and natural resources and he is committed to our goal of protecting Florida’s natural treasures,” Scott said in a news release.
Steverson’s background stands in sharp contrast to that of his predecessor, Jacksonville shipyard executive Herschel Vinyard Jr. In 2011, Scott tapped Vinyard, a onetime law partner of powerful ex-Sen. John Thrasher, to lead the DEP in spite of a lack of experience with an environmental regulatory agency.
Under Vinyard the DEP was repeatedly embroiled in controversies, from the suspension of its top wetlands expert after she refused to approve a permit to a failed effort to sell off surplus park land. Longtime employees, including Everglades scientists, were laid off or fired, while top jobs went to people who had been consultants for developers and polluters. Meanwhile the emphasis in regulation shifted from prosecuting violations to helping industry avoid fines.
Steverson has prior experience with environmental regulation, and more. He has been a Tallahassee lobbyist, representing the Florida League of Cities, which means he is familiar with the give-and-take of the legislative process.
He was hired as environmental policy coordinator for the governor’s office , and then went into private practice, where he represented clients “in the areas of water policy, growth and environmental planning, as well as agriculture, transportation and economic development,” according to his official biography.
Then Vinyard hired him to be a DEP special counsel, where among other duties he spelled out for the state’s five water management districts just how to slash their budgets to the bone. His job at DEP was to oversee “a restructuring of the agency and its budget.”
Two years ago, he became the new executive director of the Panhandle’s water district, where he made $165,000. His new job may bring a pay cut — Vinyard earned $140,000.
Environmental groups had a mixed reaction to his selection.
“I think his deep experience will provide him with a much better handle on how to approach policy and how to work with people,” said Eric Draper of Audubon Florida. “He’s real conservative, but you can work with him. You can work through your problems with him.”
However, that depth of experience “can work both ways,” pointed out Jerry Phillips, a former DEP lawyer who now heads up the Florida chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “It can also show you where to cut to accommodate what the governor wants.”
Steverson could not be reached for comment.
His appointment comes at a critical time for the agency. Last month, voters approved Amendment 1 by an overwhelming margin. The measure requires the state to make a $20 billion investment to protect water and land over the next 20 years, but how it’s implemented is up to the Legislature.
Steverson is Scott’s second new agency hire in two days, following Wednesday’s appointment of Julie Jones to head the state prison system.
The water district board has already replaced Steverson with his assistant executive director, Brett Cyphers.
Herald/Times Staff writer Steve Bousquet and Tampa Bay Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
Craig Pittman can be reached at Follow @craigtimes.


Meanwhile …

Mark Twain on lightning

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fulttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!

Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest,
Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord and God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think. “God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, and the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon your neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain on your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse on some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard the words ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

My V.P. running mate Kari Dangler, and me, at the formation of our “union” outside the Burger King on North Roosevelt Blvd., Key Waaaay West of Weird – waaaay west.

Kari and Sloan

Kari, who has had a long love affair with vodka, says she is a great, great descendant of Mark Twain, and of Jesse James.

Mud Dawg's guardian angel

Ciaosky –

Sloan angel

These posters are starting to appear on power poles, homeless shelters, public urinals, shooting ranges and van trash hideouts on the West Coast.

— with Sloan Bashinsky.

Tim Ousley's photo.
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