News and event photographers are a unique breed. You bear witness, you see the events that others see later.  Well, transmittal and cellphones makes it now time.  You have to be objective and stand clear of the emotion, you have to be above it, you need the instincts of the hunter and the brazenness of a party crasher and good legs, you will be standing and walking and running a lot.  

From the Bible Book of Job where Job demonstrated faith and patience with God while suffering many severe trials.  Political chasing is work, tedious, waiting for the moment, not getting in the way of handlers and press boobies. Pictures tell you a lot.  Especially if the question is not the one there is a prepared answer for or the answer is not a good one. Boom mikes miss little and careful answers are a must.  Thus, the word 'mis-quote and the word mis-spoke" are very commonly used.  In journalism "retraction" is an absolute.  

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The questions usually come while trying to escape to their car and the Kumbaya News Marathon usually surrounds the escapee trying to get to his car.  

Most of the time the protection runs blocking, but some like former Governor and now FL State Representative Charlie Crist was not shy while getting the questions from one of our local town reporters John Sipos whose specialty was a cross between investigative reporting and Tampa Bay public affairs.  And when some of the others ran or didn’t answer, we sent in John of CBS and WFLA.  

Soft or hard John was on point and on topic, persistent, and at times would get in your face. 

Reporter and friend, John did an excellent job of getting the truth out.  He asked the questions I got the flicks.  Almost a lost art with the creative writing and speaking skills of some pseudo media outlets pretending to be news with teleprompter party line accuracy. 

Sadly this August, 2016 John passed away during heart surgery. This is a very stressful business involving access, travel, running and chasing, rewards, compliments and criticisms  corporate BS, competition, good and bad days, uncertainty, competition, success and failures. It does take its toll. 

One year, as you will see, things come your way unannounced or unexpected.   I received a call from John asking what I had planned for the Thanksgiving and I explained nothing concrete since I did not get a panic call from any of the charities I usually volunteered for kitchen duty during holidays that were short handed.  I learned my culinary skills working my way through college feeding hundreds.  I still do on occasion.

Grab your gear, and pick me up he said, we’ll head down to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  I had been there before. I grabbed my camera bag and my Chef’s knife case, just in case.  I was prepared to multi-task Thanksgiving.  Shoot pics or cook either way was OK.

John said,  “Oh, the Governor will probably show up around 10:30”.  I thought he was kidding. We did that a lot to each other. I said, “You didn’t tell me that”.  John and I arrived about ten and there were people all over the property who were awaiting the Thanksgiving meal.  

About 10:28, two black large SUV's turned the corner, parked in front, and after checking the area, the FDLE, the Governor and Mrs. Crist stepped out. In trail, these folks move fast, we went into the facility through the kitchen entrance, trying to get a few shots.

About twelve or fifteen staff were in the kitchen doing what kitchen staff do. They were prepping hundreds of plated meals and well organized.

Within a few minutes the doors were opened and each of the "guests" were warmly welcomed by staff, an army of volunteers and they were seated for their Thanksgiving meal.   One of the directors gave the invocation and then asked Gov. Charley Crist to say a few words.   

The menu consisted of turkey, with stuffing, cranberry, pole beans in a hollandaise sauce, mashed and sweet potatoes, home baked rolls and muffins, and iced tea. Fresh baked pie for desert, a very traditional and hearty meal.

Both the Governor and Mrs. Crist took their turns at serving the meals assisted by the volunteers.  

It gave the Governor the opportunity to get some feedback from these folks who simply asked for jobs that would get them out of their situation.  This may be the season to rejoice, but more important, a time to reflect as how we can help others just surviving or making it... 

The holiday season, begins with Thanksgiving and continues through New Year's Day and folks have to focus.  Especially those who have been displaced by mis-fortune.  Realistically, holidays are stress creators.  Being a widower and alone in this world, I avoid the emptiness and invites because to me giving is more important than receiving.

I understood what “ Holiday depression” can be all about as it involved my own family.  My wife, was always very cautious about the Holidays.  And with good reason, she lost a brother to a fire that was intentionally started at a Christmas party by a recently fired disgruntled employee who set the Christmas tree on fire.  It was a huge log cabin type building with hundreds in attendance, and it burned fast.  Missing a friend, he ran back in to the fire, to rescue the friend, who had made it out on the other side of the building. He was trapped, the only one lost in the fire.  

A year later, her niece died driving to a Christmas party also in Colorado during a freak and sudden snow obstruction, as she ran off the cliff in the high mountains, I think it took three days till someone found the wreck.  After that we spent the Holidays together, only attending what we had to attend and keeping a small profile safe in our home and together.

Real depression can be loneliness, no home, living on the street, not knowing the future, no plans, or chances for change. Organizations like the SVDP may be the most important and  closest link with civility these folks have. And thats because of the special people, the volunteers. There was little I could of added to help. They had all the bases covered. We stayed about three hours and the Governor left for other commitments.  


Two decades ago I remember covering the downtown one day with two noobie shooters, very new photographers.  It was, during a city celebration that pertained to all the ethnicities we had living in our town.  Years later it became a huge celebration.  

Today, It’s called SPIFFS. The St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society brings it on every year with the parades and dances, exhibitions, arts crafts and FOOD.  Great FOOD and that always catches my attention.  

So great it ends in a great eat-off containing live entertainment and every ethnic food available.  It was worth attending just for the food alone.  I liked that idea since I got to eat too, swapping prints for ribs, baklava, and jerk chicken.  Love that jerk flavor and a cold one.  It’s also a great chance for me as I write a food blog and hack away in the kitchen. New ideas.

But, it was otherwise predictable since this event had occurred year after year.   It was very hot for November and doldrums were getting to me. Since it was on the waterfront, I grabbed my two sidekicks, swung over to and near the great water ski exhibition.  All was normal till the pull boat swung too wide and slips thru a flock of Sea Gulls waiting for their turn on the smorgasbord.  Some didn't make it and some were crippled floundering with obvious injuries.

Now I’m no fan of Seagulls, since I live near the water, but animals, injured, any animals in pain, those rescues are another story and I approached the ski-boat driver and asked him nicely if he would take me out there and I would bring in the injured birds, being experienced at recoveries, like many of bird rescues I went on.  

HE TOLD ME WHERE TO GO, Not the right answer, and my two interns  were cranking away, and more important my Radio Shack cassette recorder tape player was going.  Something about three guys with cameras, I also knew I had a story, not a favorable one for him. He knew it too and he had a change of heart,  I handed my gear to the new guys and two of us got in the boat, I grabbed the dead birds, put him/her/them in a box and then the fun began.  Grabbing two wounded sea gulls is work.  But no one told the birds I was there to help them. We got the two survivors in the box after much nipping and biting, of me ... 

We took the birds to the Seabird Sanctuary on the beach and thinking we would just drop them off, I figured I was done.  Nope, the good elder Doctor Ralph Heath Sr., noted Avian veterinary surgeon, (and not to be confused with his son Ralph Heath Jr.)  performed a wing removal and I photographed the whole operation on the first one. 

Unfortunately the other gull was too far gone and died.  Though the gull will be an amputee, it will live at the Sanctuary and procreate and be fed, otherwise having a normal Sea Gull life, minus one wing, and  I named him Jonathan... I think they named him Jonathan # 2132, gulls tend to get in trouble, oh, that was before the book and movie... 

But there is more to this story... lots more.  Culling my websites, I wanted to see where the Sanctuary was today.   The Seabird Sanctuary has come under fire since 1996 for various conditions, included but not limited to mismanagement, fraud, violations of state and federal laws, morale issues and the list goes on... here is a small portion of what we found... I report news, I’m just a messenger.      The Seabird Sanctuary


Then there's the public relations stuff, the endless stories of what's going on about town.  I got that too, from the yearly and sometimes dragged on community parades that showcase the girls junior twirling team; the latest mix-up at the tax collectors office; to the constant barrage of politicians getting in hot water; the clergy misadventures in abuse; and affairs between teachers and students. 

Sooner or later we get a biggie but much of the chasing is routine and certainly will not put you in contention for the next Pulitzer Prize.

In the old days we had scanners conveniently tuned into the police frequencies.   When portable phones came about, we had these ten pound boxes in our cars hooked to a dispatcher.  One phone is a communications network today, the iPhone does it all. And now its competition, the Samsung 7 with its most popular ring tone, the theme from “Chariots of Fire”.

One of the best pastimes for me was taking groups of students who were enrolled in my photo classes on field trips to local places of interest like parks, museums and zoos. 

On of my favorites was Busch Gardens and a certain young lady who took my classes became years later the photo editor for the most prestigious women’s magazine.  I first met her when she was thirteen.  The gal with the million dollar smile on my right was Dolly my wife of thirty-one glorious years till she passed in 2007.


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(The Times Forum) Tampa Florida - These are photos of the private pre-ceremony party which took place before the Change of the CENTCOM Command was changed over. Retiring General Tommy Franks who led the war to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban and Iraq from Saddam Hussein turned over the Regimental Colors to General John Abizaid.   

Tommy Franks then retired after receiving the award from Donald Rumsfeld. 

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was the ranking official at the ceremony spoke of the importance of these two warriors in the battle against terrorism. Who knew at this time there were three years of door to door fighting and 4000 American Troops Killed in Action awaiting us. 

Poor after planning and a lack of good intelligence left us in an unfavorable position in the world, economically, strategically, politically and with ramifications and debt our children will have to absorb.  

In attendance were friends of the General, from left to right Mr. Neal McCoy, Mrs. Franks, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Newton and various local dignitaries.  Country Singer Neal McCoy and Crooner Wayne Newton donate many unselfish hours to the USO and entertaining our troops overseas along with many of the stars that appeared at the Freedom Concert.



September 1, 2003 Hyatt Hotel, Gen. Tommy and Mrs. Franks are bordered by Dolly and Alan Jacobson.

Tampa, Florida-  Guest Speaker  Gen. Tommy Franks (USA Ret.) - A guest appearance and speech by the architect of the "March to Baghdad", the fast assault on the regime of Saddam Hussein and his gang of thugs.

This was followed months later by the "Mission Accomplished " statement by the President which officially started the Grand Ten Year War of Insurgency which continues on today.  

General Franks returned to his home state after retirement serving his country above and beyond the call of duty.  Today he makes frequent appearances on the speaking circuit.  Well the times have changed and he was lucky he got out at the right time.  



Things move quick, 24 or so hours after this shot of Gen. Petraeus and myself was taken he was redirected to Afghanistan. Less than a year later he's back to run the CIA. We both had the steak with Brazilian Chimmichurra dressing.   Many of the Generals who retired in the past five years have served the Central Command (CENTCOM) with the latest field commander being General Petraeus appearing about every five months in front of Congress.

I truly believe he like many great warriors would rather be on the lines in Afghanistan rather than in the Congressional do nothing war zone.  at least in Afghanistan you can shoot back….


St. Petersburg Times Forum 

(The Times Forum - TAMPA -June 11th, 2003)   Photograper: Al Jacobson

An incredible evening, a musical  “Thank You” to our servicemen and their families at the St. Pete Times Forum.  The concert was attended by over 13,000 service members, retires and their families. Among those Country music’s best were:   

•  Charlie Daniels   •  Lee Greenwood   •  Jo Dee Messina   •  Darryl Worley  •  Chris Cagle     
Rebecca Lynn Howard  •  Ashley Gearing  •  And a surprise solo by General Tommy Franks who brought the house down.   But he wasn’t offered any contracts or future events. 


The real stars were in the audience...The concert, which was free to all attendees, drew over 13,000 people, and was attended by Gen. Tommy Franks. Gov. Jeb Bush and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio who served as the Honorary Chairs of the event.

The concerts goal was to recognize all members of the military and was being held in Tampa, because it's the home of the U.S. Central Command, Special Operations Command and MacDill Air Force Base. 

The concert is part of the Department of Defense’s “Operation Tribute to Freedom,” a sustained and widespread program of activities in appreciation of our men and women in uniform and the families that support them.    



13 JUL2003  Al La Carte Pavilion, TAMPA Florida

Sponsored by Pepin Distributing, Outback Steakhouse, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay with Over 40 countries participating.


The food was incredible. Provided by OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE Catering. Pepin Distributing handled the libation and the entertainment was provided by Busch Gardens.  To preserve the fun of the evening and let all attending have a great time, we were told and they limited the amount of photography. 

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The Outback Steakhouse Corporation was honored by the Army for their participation in "Operation OUTBACK",  One, Two and Three.  Over 12,000 meals delivered to our troops in Afghanistan to give our soldiers a taste of home.  Thats General Abizaid on the left.

A truly remarkable, unselfish gift by an outstanding American Corporation.  In addition other companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Pepin Distributors deserve merit for what they do for our troops.  Coalition dinners and other events hosted by these great friends of the Military go unnoticed in the press, it’s not about recognition... it's about giving. 

And the Tampa Bay Community knows how to give. It goes without saying that Tampa Bay loves the Military and that the Military loves Tampa Bay.  Mentioned and toasted at the reception, Tampa Bay truly deserves the recognition it deserves for it's support of the troops, their families and allied personnel.Companies such as The Outback Steakhouse and others have led the way. 

Gen. Abizaid- Paul Avery President Outback            


Governor Jeb Bush Launches Reading Program:

(TAMPA - 14 Sept 2006) Governor Jeb Bush today launched Read Together, Florida, the annual one state-one book reading promotion initiative. This year's program features The Zero Game by Florida-based author Brad Meltzer. Floridians are encouraged to read the book during the month of October which will include community events at libraries, bookstores and Starbucks locations, an online crossword puzzle game, an essay contest for high school students and a grand prize, drawing for a trip to Washington, DC, with the author. 

The promotion is part of the Governor's Family Literacy Initiative, managed by the nonprofit Volunteer Florida Foundation.  "Reading transforms lives. It is the key to opening up the doors of opportunity and achieving success," said Governor Bush. "Since 1999, we have strived to make reading a family value through our family literacy initiative. Read Together, Florida is an expansion of that great idea, and I encourage all families to participate in this year's event by reading The Zero Game.'"  

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This one was a gas. Indoor-outdoor in a difficult venue because when you stuff sixty to eighty people into an area that normally holds twenty things get tight.  

Like an Australian Football Scrum. And that didn't include the bodyguards and three different police departments.   

The not so funny part was with all the protection for the Governor and brother of the President the new library is in a “difficult area”.  A noted bad part of town, and while we were going around the block three times looking for a parking spot, we were approached by some dubious but charming dealers offering us drugs.  

Less than 100 feet from the Governors entourage and a ton of cops all around.  You want some stuff?”  I flashed my Neighborhood Watch
Badge and witnessed the applicants for the next Olympic fastest 100
yard dash in history.  

With ten video guys and reporters in front of us and a tangle of booms, mikes and cable, finally I drove right into the front of the building, left the badge on the visor barely aimed down and the officer for some reason let me park there. I gave him a can of cold soda.

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New MARINE Facility for Tampa 

The vision for the next five years and beyond is to create a non-profit learning center for students of all ages to learn from hands-on environmental activities that motivate them to continue to support the renewal and restoration of our coastal ecosystems for future generations. 

The marine center and educational facility on Tampa Bay will serve as program headquarters and provide opportunities for students to "dig in" and "get dirty" as they apply classroom principles in real life scientific projects that carry out the bay renewal and habitat restoration work of Tampa Bay Watch. 

Tampa Bay Watch has set the goal for our capital campaign at $4.5 million. We have secured our program headquarters location at Cunningham Key near Ft. De Soto Park in St. Petersburg and begun construction on an office facility. This fantastic location will give students and Tampa Bay residents the opportunity to experience the bay first-hand and to encourage them to protect it for future generations. 

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To date we have raised, $1.2 million, but in order achieve our goals we need to raise additional funds to accomplish our mission.  Tampa Bay Watch, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit stewardship program dedicated exclusively to the charitable and scientific purpose of protecting and restoring the marine and wetland environments of the Tampa Bay estuary, the largest open water estuary in the State of Florida.  

By expanding community involvement in hands-on restoration and protection projects around the bay, we strive to counteract the huge loss of wetland habitat over the past 100 years. Tampa Bay Watch trains and organizes citizen volunteers, students, at-risk youth, and civic organizations to participate in environmental projects while heightening community awareness of the fragile nature and importance of the environment. 

I have been privileged to attend many military functions and all the stories you hear about tradition are true, other than the occasional speaker change and those being anointed, tradition wins hands down and followed letter by letter in the script.  The hallmark of success in some cases is continuity and if things work , don’t change it.  The incredible amount of preparation, and organization creates the solemnity and just cause of the occasion. 

Tampa,  Florida  (10 JUNE 06) 1800 Hrs:  The 2008 Army Birthday Ball celebrates 233 years of proud service to the nation. The ARMY BALL was once again at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa, Florida. Tampa is the home of the Central and Special Operations Commands at MacDill Air Force Base. Full dress uniform and black tie was the uniform of the evening.

The 175 streamers attached to the Army Flagstaff denote campaigns fought by the Army throughout our nation's history. Each streamer (2 3/4 inches wide and 4 feet long) is embroidered with the designation of a campaign and the year(s) in which it occurred.  The colors derive from the campaign ribbon authorized for service in that particular war.  The concept of the campaign streamers came to prominence in the Civil War when Army organizations embroidered the names of the battles on their organizational colors.

The evening starts with the presentation of the Colors. It is usually followed by the traditional toasts to the Commander in Chief, the ARMY, the sister Services, Coalition Partners, the Community, the Mission,  Missing and Fallen Comrades, and to the ladies.  Almost 1000 attendees from the Army, other branches, and other coalition services celebrated the event. 

This year 100 very special guests in attendance were from the Regional Medical Facility. They were the wounded, brave men and women of our services who received standing ovations during the evening.  Their fare was provided by generous donations of businesses through the AUSA. 

The saber cake cutting ceremony was followed by the the first pieces presented to the oldest and youngest soldier present at the event.  New color streamers representing the recent armed engagements of the Army were added to the staff.

Entertainment was provided by the 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus with their brilliant renditions of both popular and military based songs.  They had the crowds attention with their Acappella group and solo versions. 

They were excellent.  The evening concluded with the colors leaving the hall, followed by music and dancing.

 237th ARMY BIRTHDAY BALL 2012, - This year will be at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Tampa, the 9th of June.


Marine Corps Birthday Party honors the Corps as it celebrates 229 years of proud service to this nation.  The party was held at the Marriott  Waterside, adjacent to the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida.  Tampa is the home of the Central Command  (CENTCOM) and the Special Operations Command (SOCCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base. 

Over 750 attended this full military dress, black tie affair.  The ranking officers in attendance then included: General Peter Pace, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, next in line and became the Chairman, since retired, General Bryan "Doug" Brown, Head of SOCOM, since retired, Major General John G. Castellaw, Chief of Staff, CENTCOM.

The participants and guests both active and retired were from the Central Command, Special Operations Command, the Marine Raiders Association, the Florida Marine Mustangs, Coalition partners and invited Civilian supporters. 

Left: Guest of Honor General Peter Pace Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Right: Major General John G. Castellaw Chief of Staff, CENTCOM

Though spirits were high, there were many times during the evening that brought reflection upon the honored history of the Corps. This evening was especially important as a reminder of the current situation as Marines deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom face the largest task to date in that theatre...the City of Fallujah.

It goes without saying that Tampa Bay loves the Military, and  deserves the recognition it gets for its support of the troops, their families and allied personnel.  Dinner and dancing followed the ceremony.  

The Cake Cutting is a traditional Marine Ceremony. When and where this tradition began remains unknown.  It also varies slightly depending on the dignitaries present at the ball.  First pieces of cake have been presented to newlyweds, the Secretary of the Navy, governors, and others, but generally speaking, the first pieces of cake go to the oldest and youngest Marines at the ball. 

In Tampa the first piece of cake was offered to the guest of honor, in this case General Peter Pace, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, then the oldest Marine present,  followed by the youngest Marine present. 

Another piece is solemnly presented to a designate setting at an empty table to represent attendance by fallen comrades.

At present, celebrations of the Marine Corps Birthday on 10 November differ at posts and stations throughout the Corps. All commemorations include the reading of Marine Corps Order No. 47, and the Commandant's message to those assembled. 

Most commands sponsor a Birthday Ball of some sort, complete with pageant and cake ceremony as prescribed in the Marine Corps Manual. Like the Corps itself, the Birthday Ball developed from simple origins to become the polished, professional function that all Marines commemorate on 10 November around the world.

The oldest Marine present at the ceremony is Sergeant Dean M. Lesnett, currently residing in Largo Florida. Sgt. Lesnett served during the second world war, was wounded three times and returned to the Marine Corps as a reservist. 

The youngest (and what an honor to be part of this great traditional ceremony) is Lance Corporal Benjamin Scott Pantzis who was was born 27 June 1985 in Sarasota, Florida.  

He entered the Corps: 8 Sep 2003 and is currently assigned 5th Special Security Command Team  (SSCT), 2nd Marine Division.  

Wife's sidenote: The Marine Corps has probably the nicest dress uniforms of any of the branches.  And the ceremonies certainly bring the color and style to bear.  That’s what it's all about, the bearing of the troops from a one striper to the soon to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace.

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