I confirmed tonight that the Bienville Club in downtown Mobile is preparing to close and take with it, a piece of contemporary Mobile history.
Since it opened in 1967, it was THE site for power lunches, featuring downtown business leaders. On the rare occasions I went there (always as the guest of a member), there were never any checks presented, just a receipt that the member signed. The late TV General Manager C.P. Persons had a favorite lunch of boiled, peeled shrimp, and the waiter knew that. It was a good choice.
The view was, and is, spectacular. Diners could look south down the Mobile River, north for miles and east to the USS Alabama and beyond. It was the closest you could get to heaven in Mobile, until the new RSA Tower was completed.
Another HiQ academic season is over with Davidson High School victorious. Click here to see the championship match, thanks to the Mobile County Public School system.
I told the audience who attended the championship at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza that I enjoy being in the company of those who strive to excel, and all the students who compete in HiQ certainly qualify.
I also appreciated the fact that Mobile County’s superintendent, Martha Peek took the time at the end of her day to come to the match, and so did the principals of all 3 schools who competed, Baker, Davidson and McGill-Toolen Catholic.
This was my 25th year asking the questions and over that time, I’ve noticed a distinction between those schools that succeed in HiQ and those who don’t.
All the schools who do well generally fill the auditorium or gym where we have the matches. Some even invite middle school students to try to recruit prospects. Those schools that traditionally do poorly usually only invite a few students to attend or even in some cases, do not allow any students to witness the matches. It’s hard for the students and for me to get pumped up about a competition that takes place in an empty auditorium. (For the record, I have never had a problem with crowd control. One focused stare toward noisy students is usually all it takes!)
A major reason for the competition is to recognize gifted students as role models.
Here’s my question. What does it say to students when you fill the auditorium for football signing day, but show no support for academic achievement?
To me, the answer is a sad one.
Some things stick with you.
- I learned President Kennedy had been shot when I was leaving class in elementary school.
- I found out Pope John Paul I died while I was living in an apartment on Dauphin Street.
- The news of Pope John Paul II’s death reached me as I got off an airplane in Madrid.
I will always remember I heard about Pope Benedict’s resignation the first thing on a Monday morning.
Granted, this Pope is 85 years old, having been elected Pope at an age that most people are enjoying their retirement. Lately, when approaching the altar at St. Peter’s Basilica, he used a moving platform rather than walk the 100 yards down the center aisle. Late last year, people who spent time with the pontiff said they found him weak and too tired to engage with what they were saying.
But his predecessor, John Paul II, suffered from trembling hands and slurred speech, an inability to walk or hold his head up, and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease for years and still held the job until he died at the age of 84.
Perhaps this Pope realized he didn’t want his pontificate to end like that. Perhaps there is some underlying personal, medical reason for which we may never know.
Maybe the last two Popes represent different faces of humility. Pope John Paul II, despite displaying symptoms that would have given a lesser person reason to withdraw from public life, purposely used his appearance to show respect for life until the moment of natural death. Pope Benedict, knowing he could have occupied the position for life, in humility chose to renounce the papal throne, to open the way for someone else. As he put it:
… in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
Thanks to a Twitter friend, I read a new version of what happened during the successful rescue of 5 year old Ethan in Midland City this week. The story highlighted the work the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, known as HRT. They train to go into, what appear to be impossible situations, and rescue the innocent while, in FBI terms, stopping the threat.
I had my own experience with the Team during a visit to Quantico, Virginia with FBI sniper Charlie Spaht. I was in the Washington area with Charlie to do some stories about FBI training. While Charlie was visiting his favorite gunsmith at Quantico, he asked me to wait for him outside the HRT headquarters, which was just a short walk from where we were.
I strolled there, enjoying the view when, out of nowhere, a voice boomed out, “LEAVE THIS AREA”.
I addressed what sounded like the Voice of God telling Him I had clearance and was asked to meet another agent there, when I heard:
“LEAVE THIS AREA”.
I told Charlie about this later and he just laughed and said, “They mean business”.
It’s clear from what happened in Midland City, they know their business, too.
On my way back home from downtown Mobile this afternoon, I decided to take a closer look at some of the damage caused by the Christmas EF-2 tornado. I put my iPhone5 into a suction-mount on the windshield, and took a very short drive on South Carlen to Dauphin to North Carlen to Old Shell and back to Dauphin. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive look at all the damage caused, just a taste of it.
I’m still amazed by the power of nature. Some homes were fine while others look like they were destroyed by dynamite. Click on the link to watch the video…
Whenever I saw a tall, thin guy today I thought I had spotted one of my college roommates, Paul. I met him on the first day of freshman orientation when all of us were enjoying, if not independence, then our first taste of living away from home. I was immediately impressed by his integrity, outgoing nature and sense of humor.
He became one of the brothers I never had.
Paul was one of my groomsmen and we always stayed in contact through the years. Later, he and his wife Laurie traveled to Mobile for the wedding of one of our daughters. We have been friends for decades.
It was no surprise then that he was on my mind, since I had just attended his funeral.
During the Christmas tornado in Mobile, I was already on my way to New Hampshire to attend Paul’s wake and funeral Mass which was celebrated by another of our college roommates, Father Bill.
Celebration is the proper term and it was especially appropriate in Paul’s case,. While his widow, daughters, son, Paul’s father and the rest of us grieved our loss, there was also plenty to celebrate. Paul had been married for 34 years. He had seven brothers and sisters. He loved the outdoors, having been an avid cyclist and cross country skier. Just months before his diagnosis, he participated in the world’s largest two-day rowing event called the Head of the Charles’ Regatta with a group of men appropriately named, The Good Guys. Oars occupied a place of honor at his wake.
After Paul learned he had cancer, he was expected to live 3 months; he lived for 11 months. The extra time gave him the chance to enjoy the love of his family and friends and especially his granddaughter, Molly.
The homily during his funeral Mass highlighted hope, a belief that buoyed Paul, his family and friends during the ups and downs of his illness.
Father Bill’s meditation read in part,
Optimism is the feeling that everything will work out for the best. Hope is something more. Hope is the desire that everything will work out for the best and the expectation that it will. Hope requires a plan; hope requires a story that explains why we should be optimistic. Hope is much more than a feeling. Hope is a virtue.
Paul Junior delivered a wonderful tribute to his father, who worked in manufacturing and had a lifelong habit of sending postcards. He concluded with what he expected his father would be writing now.
Quite the Christmas celebration here. Lots of lights. Visited with my mother and Aunt Alice today, lots of family still to see.
Beautiful day here. The roads are smooth for riding, there is fresh snow on the skiing trails, and the river is always calm.
Meeting with the EPA today regarding the gilding process for halos. Fun!
Study. Be good. Drive safe. Behave yourselves. Do good for other people. Balance work, life, family, and fun. I miss you.
While we are opening our gifts Tuesday morning, an area of low pressure will be developing over east Texas, and creating the second system. This low will feed on warm air (60 for a low and 70s for highs Christmas day!) and track eastward across the Gulf Coast. As the system feeds on the warm, moist air the ingredients will come together for a severe weather event. The Storm Prediction Center has areas west of I-65 under a substantial threat for severe weather.
The first storms could start bubbling up near or just after breakfast in the western half of our viewing area. These pre-frontal supercells are often the most dangerous (like the one that spawned Thursday’s tornado in Mobile). These supercells will have the opportunity to form throughout the day while we are in the warm sector of the system.
By the evening hours the front itself will be approaching. The front itself will bring a squall line through. Squall lines are unlikely to have tornadoes, but damaging straight-lines winds will be possible.
Once that line passes and the cold air moves in the threat will end, but from start to end this system could put our area under threat for 12+ hours.
The timing could possibly change, but the threat is there and we will have to vigilant as we watch this system develop. Of course, here at Fox10 we will be tracking all this and keeping you informed in the days ahead.