Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tired of politicians? Get on your soap box!

            We have been inundated with national politics for months — heck, it will be more than a year by the time the election rolls around. If you're tired of listening to the same faces telling you what they will do to save the country, why not do it yourself?
            And Augusta, Georgia, has just the place.
            In the heart of the city there's a soap box with your name on it. Actually, the name is Ivory Soap, but it's there for your pleasure. In olden days, people would turn over a soap box to use as a podium for public speaking, which is where the expression, "getting on your soapbox" comes from. To put it in a sentence: "She's on her soapbox again about whether y'all is a real word or not."
            To give you an idea, that's me on my Augusta soapbox, letting the word know that yes, indeed, y'all is a word!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Amelia Island wants you to take a 'PokeBreak'

            You would be living on a remote island if you missed the Pokemon Go craze with all those people running around staring at their phones as if in a trance. To tap into that mass frenzy over the Pokemon Go gaming app, Amelia Island — not a remote island but a beautiful destination isle in Florida — will host a “PokeBreak” weekend. Over the weekend of Aug. 5-7 there will be a variety of events, activities, packages and attractions along miles of Amelia Island’s beaches, trails and waterways.
            “We’ve seen plenty of visitors exploring the island in pursuit of Pokemon, but we want to make sure they don’t miss all the real-world experiences you can only have on Amelia,” said Gil Langley, managing director of the AITDC, in a recent press release. “The PokeBreak weekend will be a great chance to stop fretting over drained batteries and crashed servers and try to catch some lasting summer memories before the kids head back to school.”
            If you’ve never been to Amelia Island, you’re in for a blow-away treat. The barrier island off the coast of Florida near Jacksonville offers gorgeous pristine beaches where visitors can discover fossil shark teeth and shells, wetlands full of wildlife you can access by kayak or canoe and lush live oil tree canopies. There’s also a quaint downtown that offers boutique shopping, ghost tours and local entertainment.
            Travelers can start their PokeBreak weekend on Friday, Aug. 5, with Sounds on Centre, an outdoor evening performance in downtown Fernandina Beach; a Ghost Tour of Amelia Island, leading guests in the footsteps of the island’s haunted past; or a performance at the Amelia Musical Playhouse. Other weekend events include the Shrimping Eco Tour with Amelia River Cruises, an interactive exploration of the St. Marys River Basin that includes using locally made shrimp nets to catch, display and identify local sea life in an onboard aquarium before releasing them.

Packages and offers include:
•       The Amelia Island Williams House is offering a 15 percent discount on a two-night stay over the Aug. 5-7 Weekend for travelers mentioning PokeBreak when making a reservation.
•       The Fairbanks House PokeBreak for Two package includes daily gourmet breakfasts, evening beverages and hors d’oeuvres, complimentary use of bikes, pool and beach equipment as well as a choice of a private downtown carriage tour or two tickets aboard Amelia River Cruises with the code PokeBreak when booking two or more nights the weekend of Aug. 5-7.
•       Located in downtown Fernandina Beach and offering fun accessories for women and home, Bijoux Amelia is offering a 25 percent discount on all purchases when customers mention PokeBreak Aug. 5-7.
•       The Book Loft will be offering a 10 percent discount on young adult books during the weekend and on Saturday, Aug. 6, there will be a release of a new book by local author, Nancy Blanton, complete with Irish music and food at 3 p.m.
•       Located in the historic district, Timoti’s Seafood Shak is offering customers a free fountain beverage with the purchase of a Tuna Poke Bowl as park of the promotion.
•       The popular children’s store, Villa Villekula, is offering a 20 percent discount on the purchase of any item with the mention of PokeBreak for customers and visitors can relive a classic school recess with sidewalk neighborhood fun from 2–5 pm outside at 5 South 2nd Street with jump rope, double-dutch, hopscotch and sidewalk chalk.
•       The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is offering 10 percent off Nature Center Tours (Includes: kayak, paddleboarding, naturalist segway, and Birds of Amelia tours). To reserve, call 904-321-5082 and mention PokeBreak; pricing varies per tour.
            To plan your PokeBreak weekend getaway, visit

Cheré Dastugue Coen is currently on Level 11 of Pokemon Go but working hard to advance. She is also the author of several Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire and “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Peabody is just ducky!

Most Southerners know about the Peabody Ducks, a group of feathered friends who live on top of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and who travel down to the lobby daily for a grand march to the lobby fountain, where they enjoy themselves all day in the fountain’s water. Around 5 p.m., among similar pomp and ceremony, they march back to the elevator and up to their homes.
What you might not know is that these North American mallards have quite a palace up there on the roof. Called the Royal Duck Palace, the $200,000 structure is constructed of marble and glass and includes a duck fountain, grassy area and a small replica of the hotel where the ducks nest.
Visitors to the Peabody can enjoy the lobby show, where a “Duckmaster” announces the ducks’ arrival and later departure or head up to the rooftop and view the ducks in their hotel habitat. Naturally, if you want to see the ducks in-house, you need to visit after the 5 p.m. departure from the lobby. And while you’re on the Peabody rooftop, check out the great views of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River.
Watching rooftop ducks.
The story goes that hotel manager Frank Schutt and his friend Chip Barwick arrived back from an Arkansas hunting trip and enjoyed some whiskey in the hotel lobby. As a prank, they placed live duck decoys in the lobby fountain. Amazingly enough — well, maybe not for the South — the ducks became a hit.
The Peabody tradition of bringing ducks back and forth from the lobby began in 1940 when former circus animal trainer Bellman Edward Pembroke offered to teach the ducks the now-famous Peabody Duck March. And yes, it’s a real march. Pembroke served as the Peabody Duckmaster for 50 years, retiring in 1991.
            The Peabody even has a Duck Day Family Package which includes one night's deluxe accommodations, being an honorary Duckmaster, receiving the official brass-head Duckmaster Cane, a Peabody Duckmaster Celebriduck collectible rubber duck toy, a reserved table at the scheduled Duck March and Peabody Duck Cookies from The Peabody Deli & Desserts.

Royal Duck Palace
Memphis view

Friday, July 1, 2016

Shark-Con: Come on in, the water's fine

They have –cons for everything these days. Comic-Con International is the country’s longest continuously run comics and popular arts convention, happening July 21-24 in San Diego. Bouchercon world mystery convention will be Sept. 15-18 in New Orleans, bringing together top mystery writers.
 Now, there’s Shark Con. Can you hear the John Williams music playing?
Shark-Con “…brings those who love the ocean together for a weekend of education and the fun of a Comic-Con,” according to the event’s website.
And then it terrorizes you.
The fun happens July 9-10, 2016, at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa with activities for children from nonprofit partners Sharks4Kids, Tampa Bay Watch and Shark Angels, lectures and more than 100 vendor booths. Dr. Ellen Prager will host Shark Trivia, visitors can dig for shark teeth and SharkSUP will teach stand-up paddleboard techniques (don’t fall in?).
It's all a nice ending to Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” happening now.
If you’d rather let your imagination run wild, Steve Alten has published a new MEG novel (short for Carcharodon Megalodon) that centers around a 70-foot, 50-ton prehistoric version of our modern-day Great White shark. This according to the author’s press release:
“A Megalodon’s jaws were so large they could devour an elephant in two bites, aided by over 100, 7-inch razor-sharp serrated teeth that the sharks used to feed on whales. And if that doesn’t scare you, consider this — Carcharodon Megalodon may still be out there.”
I’ll definitely read that before heading to the beach.
Alten and his novel, “MEG: Nightstalkers,” the first and latest book in the series, and a mass market paperback re-release of the novel that started it all, “MEG,” will make an appearance at Shark-Con. The NY Times and International best-selling author of 16 novels, including the “MEG” series and the No. 1 international best-selling “Domain” series about the Mayan doomsday calendar, suffers from Parkinson so his appearance is a rare treat.
            Want to see a book trailer for Alten’s latest. Click here.