Monday, February 22, 2010

Buchanan to hold town hall in E. Manatee

EAST MANATEE – U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, announced Monday that he will hold a town hall meeting on jobs, the economy and health care in East Manatee County Saturday.

“We need to create jobs and restore economic growth,” said Buchanan. “We also need to make health care more affordable without raising taxes or expanding government control. I want to listen to the people and get their ideas and suggestions.”

It will be the second in a series of town meetings Buchanan will hold throughout the district this year to give his constituents a chance to express their views on federal issues.

The meeting will be at 11 a.m. at Braden River High School, 6545 S.R. 70 E.

If you plan to attend, call (941) 951-6643 or (941) 747-9081 or go here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tran Duc

There was this guy, see, who was walking down the street, when a stranger with thick glasses approached, shook his hand, and took him to his house, where there was a rooster under a basket in the front room.

Waiting for the punch line?

It seems there might be one there somewhere, except this really happened early in our visit to Vietnam.

Kim was having her hair done, when I went for a walk down a street, a lane really, where I had never gone. Like many streets in the village, these neighbors were poor -- they had no money, and little more than a tin roof over their heads and a concrete floor, if they were lucky, under their feet.

That's where I ran into Tran Duc, a 64-year-old retired school teacher.

It seemed that Duc only wanted to befriend a guy who looked so obviously out-of-place. He introduced me to his son, and his grandchildren, and gave me a can of cold Pepsi.

We exchanged mailing addresses, I took several photos of his family, shook hands and left.

Later, I recounted the story of my new friend with my wife and her family, who knew about the retired teacher.

That was nearly two weeks ago. Today, I returned to Tran Duc's house and surprised him as he was having his morning soup. He seeemed just as happy to see me as the first time. This time Kim was with me and she was able to translate what his limited English and my even more limited Vietnamese failed to convey.

I had been moved that this poor man had shared a can of soda with a stranger that I wanted to do something for him. I brought him copies of the photos of his family.

We wished each other good luck and promised that we would write.

There's only one thing that I still don't know. What the heck was a rooster doing in the front room? Maybe one day I'll ask him.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

God Bless the USA

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the main destinations of Americans who want to visit Vietnam.

But even in a place like Bac Lieu, the influence of American culture can be seen and heard everywhere, in fashion, dance and music.

I've seen several trucks inscribed with "for official use only," the words that were stenciled on every American Jeep during the Vietnam War.

On clothing, you'll see everything from Mickey Mouse, to words like "Airmile from America" to ""US Military.

The other day, the TV was on in the house and one of those Vietnamese dramas was playing. I was frankly astonished when an Vietnamese actor dressed in U.S. Army desert battle dress uniform stepped on stage accompanied to Lee Greewood singing "God Bless the USA." The audience warmly applauded.

I can't begin to interpret what that might mean.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Vietnam, 42 years later

My time in Vietnam started in September 1968 and ended in June 1971. That's a long time, and a long time ago, anyway that you cut it.

During our current return visit, my wife and I are staying in Bac Lieu, way down toward the southern tip of the country where I was a U.S. Army Signal company commander. Bac Lieu was the second largest of the company's six sites.

How much have things changed? Unbelieveably as the country seems to have road and bridge projects underway everywhere, to say nothing of new residential and business construction.

In America we still think of the Vietnam War, but as one travel book puts it, the Vietnamese think of themselves as a nation, not a war.

Someone pointed out to me where the Bac Lieu Army airfield used to sit. Back then it was away from the city. It wasn't much more than a strip of pierced steel planking that clanked when you walked on it. Now that old site is at the very heart of the city. The central post office sits on it.
There is also a Bac Lieu bird sanctuary that 40 years ago was a sanctuary for Viet Cong. A photo is attached showing jungle and brown water today, not so different from what it might have looked during the war. But definitely more peaceful now.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Far East Word

I was trying to remember if the Bradenton Herald had blogs four years ago. If so, there were only one or two.

Now we have blogs for every purpose, and we blog from the office, blog from home, from sporting events, and even Vietnam.

Four years ago, I returned to Vietnam for the the first time with my wife since we left the country together in 1971. I wouldn't have thought about blogging back then, because it seemed only those with a knowlege of alchemy knew how.

Now, I have joined the ranks of the bloggers, and Kim and I are back in Vietnam, just in time for Tet, the Vietnamese version of the lunar new year celebration.

It's not one of those vacations you take to tour the world or relive old wars, although it could be. It's to allow Kim a chance to catch up with the family after not having seen them for four years.

But it is an adventure for me, too, because it is so different than normal daily life. I learn new things, get to know her family a little better, and those old war memories do rise occasionally to the surface.

Yesterday, we visited a Buddhist temple in Tra Kha village, near the city of Bac Lieu, in the extreme south of Vietnam. An ancestor helped start that temple in 1871. I photographed a really cool plaster tiger on the wall that I'll attempt to attach here. Not until later did I learn it's the year of the tiger.

I think that's about enough words, so I would like to wish you Chuc mung nam moi, or happy new year.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Author to talk about sex at Lakewood Ranch

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club members will be treated to a presentation and book signing by Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, who will discuss "How to Put the Sizzle in Your Sex Life!"

The nationally-recognized psychotherapist and co-author earned a masters degree in clinical social work and in her post-graduate studies specialized in marital and family therapy and sexual dysfunction.

The Feb. 18 event is hosted by A Clothes Encounter, 8141 Lakewood Main St., #105, and will benefit SMART, Solve Maternity Home and Meals on Wheels. It starts at 6 p.m.
It is not open to the public.

Attendees will feast on hors d'oeuvres provided by Lakewood Ranch Main Street restaurants, sip wines, and view clothes.

For information, call (941) 907-8077.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A day for the arts at Lakewood Ranch

In February, where else can you see former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, comedienne Joan Rivers, violinist Itzhak Perlman, singer Gladys Knight, comedian Tim Conway and productions of "Hairspray" and "Mamma Mia"? All that and more?

Why, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, of course, in Sarasota.

While Condie or Gladys won't be traveling to Lakewood Ranch for Saturday's Ovation - A Day for the Arts, Van Wezel staff will be present down on Main Street to tell festival goers all about the great performers and personalities on tap this month.

Ovation is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., down near the Main Street fountain. The event will be emceed by the voices of WUSF radio, including Russell Gant, Susan Giles Wantuck, Bob Seymour, and Coleen Cook.

There will also be performances on the Ovation stage throughout the day by Manatee Players, Fuzion Dance Artists, the Sarasota Opera, local high school performance groups and others.

The Van Wezel's Janet Arena said many patrons of the performing arts center are drawn from Lakewood Ranch.

"It's a very up-and-coming area," Arena said, and the Van Wezel wants to get its message and offerings out to that community.

"There are some wonderful shows here," Arena said of the Van Wezel.

For more about Van Wezel offerings, visit:

For more about the Ovation performance schedule, visit: and click on Ovation.