10 Simple Ways To Improve Life in 2011

My Mom always told me that being happy was hard work. Her reasoning was that if being happy was easy, everyone would be feeling it.

In some ways, she’s right. It takes personal motivation to improve our lots in life, and if we keep doing the same things over and over, it’s no wonder that half the nation feels BLAH most of the time.

Well, here we are, facing the clean slate of a new, bright and shiny year. This is *our chance to try new things, and possibly make strides towards feeling a little more upbeat about ourselves.

(*side note, but did anyone else have a Goonies flashback there? When they’re stuck in the well and one of the kids starts shouting about “down here, this is OUR time!” No? No one else had a Goonies moment?)

Ok then, moving on, here’s a list of simple things to help  2011 turn out to be a great year.

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The History of the New Year’s Resolution

Out of nowhere today, I was hit with the realization that this time last year I was in the middle of having a bonafide meltdown, partially freaked out over just giving birth to our first baby and partially zombiefied from the lack of sleep (see aforementioned newborn).  Adding to the hormonal mayhem, my Mom had just been admitted into Hospice and within the next 10 days, would pass away.

Needless to say, I was emotionally confused over entering 2010 and looking back, I think the one resolution I made, was to just put my head down, and keep moving towards a better tomorrow.

Now that  2010  is getting hit with the door on it’s numerical butt, I’m overjoyed with the possibilities of 2011. My renewed sense of enthusiasm is heightened with the knowledge that last year is about to become a fading light and finally, FINALLY, I can see what the whole New Year’s Eve Resolution *hubaloo is all about.

It’s about leaving the old behind and turning to face a new day with the world giving you a chance to leave the old, the ugly and the out-dated, behind.

Yet, being someone who’s obsessed with traditions, history and “where it all began” concepts, I’ve begun to wonder about the story behind the New Year’s traditions that we now just accept as normal.

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Last Minute Shopping Ideas

Amazingly, I’m not the type of person who waits till the last minute to get things done. Unless, of course, you count the cleaning frenzy I pull off, seconds before the husband is off work, which I (obviously) don’t count as procrastination. You say Tomato, I say TO-MAH-TOE.

Shopping, specifically, Holiday shopping, is a little harder to pull off and for whatever reason, there’s never enough time to get it all done. Or at least, completed with that feeling of having found everyone the “right” gift.

In an effort to break through the gift-idea doldrums, here’s some last minute shopping ideas.

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7 New Year's Alternatives to Pier Park

At PCBdaily.com, we realize that the Panama City Beach community is one riddled with diversity.  And keeping that in mind, we wanted to offer options to those out there who want to celebrate New Year’s Eve – but may not be feeling the crowds at Pier Park.

Let’s raise those noise makers to variety and tip our party hats to these alternative New Year’s Options!

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Southwest May Push Competing Fares Lower at Existing Airport

I want to start this out with stating that this is complete rumor-mill at this point; but we’ll have dialogue below that assumes this is true.  With that said, I received an email citing an unnamed source had informed him that in order to maintain and build market share, Delta/Northwest will begin lowering fares in November to build a better market base before Southwest begins service in May.  Also, there is a good possibility that when the new airport opens, Delta/Northwest may bring in larger aircraft to serve our marketplace.

Hit the read more link to get the scoop.

Continue reading “Southwest May Push Competing Fares Lower at Existing Airport”

Opinion: Why all the 30A Love?

Recently a trip to 30A by the TooCreative team, meant to experience the magnetism of a increasingly popular area just west of Panama City Beach, caused grumbles among a few of our readers. Questions as to why a hyper-local media outlet would suddenly focus on a totally different city filled comment and email boxes. Well, just so you know, there was an underlying purpose behind the trip that walking the cobblestone streets only seemed to underscore: the future of Panama City Beach is on 30A.

It should be said that Panama City Beach’s future is much, much, larger than 30A and to be frank, I’ve always seen Panama City Beach becoming a smaller-less-hedonistic version of Miami. At the same time, however, I recognize how badly PCB is in need of an identity change. With the new airport scheduled to be operational in less than a year, there is not enough time to truly make the change needed to not only win over the new market but to change the unflattering perceptions of PCB in current markets. The solution then, is 30A.

Many readers took our trip to 30A as betrayal; us PCBdaily guys going over to talk about the enemy. You’d be shocked at how many people criticized us saying we were turning our heads towards Destin. My initial reaction was that perhaps they don’t realize how close Panama City Beach is to 30A—much closer than Destin, they don’t realize Bay County ends mere yards from the luxurious strip, they don’t understand that when that new airport comes online Panama City Beach’s inevitable expansion will go westward right into, you guessed it, 30A. So why all the canoodling, you ask? Well, it’s all about perception.

If you’ve never been to New York City, New York, you may not realize the actual size of the city. It’s big, but not as big as you may think. Southerners are notorious for assuming that when someone from “Up North” says, I’m from New York, they automatically are from New York City. That’s not the case. But the perception still lingers. Same case for 30A. When people talk about Rosemary Beach, Grayton Beach and great restaurants like Calizas or the Red Bar, others assume they are talking about Destin. Imagine if those same people associated those places with Panama City Beach. All of a sudden, the Redneck Riviera takes on a more artistic and cultural identity. Imagine if Panama City Beach a held few of its events in Rosemary Beach or encouraged Seaside to hold part of its festivals at Pier Park. Imagine if the magic that makes up Panama City Beach blended with the magic of Seaside. The benefit would be immense.

This idea, mind you, didn’t come out of thin air and surely I am not the first person to think of it. I once worked for a company called Paradise Found Vacation Rentals, who coincidentally rented units in the Villages of South Walton. I saw firsthand the guests who stayed spent more time in Panama City Beach than 30A. Currently, Oaseas Resorts rents units within the Village of South Walton.

The big question on everyone’s mind is, when that new clientele from Chicago and New York fly into the new airport will they be more inclined to turn left off 79 or right? Many of these people have never heard of Panama City Beach and if they have they know the city as the party-capitol-of-the-south. I’ve lived in St. Louis, been to Chicago, Cincinnati and spent time in New York. What Panama City Beach is growing and developing into is a better, more multifaceted landing pad for this new clientele; a clientele who likes jazz and blues, good wine, attractions, shopping, beach lifestyle and well staffed, nicely appointed accommodations. Panama City Beach will be that place, and it almost is now, but not quite. What you have on 30A is a ready-made transition for that clientele. I’m not suggesting Panama City Beach guests go out and stay or spend all their money on 30A, only that they see 30A as an extension of Panama City Beach’s versatility, giving Panama City Beach a richer, enhanced perception.

This all begins with co-operatives. As it stands, Panama City Beach allows the Destin area to assume 30A as its own. With new ad/creative and PR agencies representing Panama City Beach, co-operatives with businesses, accommodations and events in that area will be easier than ever. And, truth be told, if you don’t think 30A businesses have PCB envy already, you’re wrong. During our trip to 30A, we found that lots of business would be more willing to work with Panama City Beach than you might imagine. In fact, only one comment, out of dozens, said “only if Panama City Beach cleans up its image,” the others were excited about the prospect. There simply needs to be a greater participation and Panama City Beach imprint in that area. We could exchange databases, co-op for events, work together on city programs such as beach clean-up and recycling and so much more. In the end, Panama City Beach will absorb some of 30A’s magic and 30A will ride the wave of Panama City Beach’s expansion. It’s a virtual win-win, if not an inevitability.

I guess this piece is a call to action. Panama City Beach needs to extend a hand to 30A. This isn’t “betrayal” thinking as much as it is “futuristic” thinking. We only have one shot to make a great impression on New York, Chicago, Detroit and cities we never dreamed would have direct flights into our little town. Now is the time to set aside our differences and show these new vacationers everything we have to offer. So, CVB, TDC, JB Inc, Fahlgren, Lou Hammond and all you local business owners we encourage you to take a ride and re-discover 30A; I’m positive you’ll find yourself thinking what I’m thinking.

Why we Still Need the News Herald

The News Herald is and has been for a long time the locals medium for obtaining the “news”.  Chances are, if you read pcbdaily.com, you are familiar with the “local rag,” and many of you probably read it on a daily basis.  I know I do.

It’s funny, if you ask most of our readers what our main competition is, you don’t hear the likes of TripSmarter.com, pcbeach.com, or any of the other numerous blogs and web sites about our area; people will tell you that the News Herald is our biggest competition.  I don’t see it that way, and I never have.

You see, I read the News Herald each day because they do a job that I (I as in pcbdaily) can’t do, nor do I want to do.  Furthermore, I don’t think you would want me to do that job here either.  You never see crime stats, crime reports, car crashes, who died or pictures of Obama photoshopped up like The Joker with “why so serious” marked across his forehead on pcbdaily.  We focus on a specific niche that is targeted, and frankly commands a smaller audience.  But, we have a sophisticated reader.  You read that right, if you read pcbdaily.com with regularity, you are probably educated, somewhat financially stable (if not well-off), and there is a good chance you own a small or medium business.

While we talk about what is happening specific to real estate, growth and tourism in Panama City Beach, the News Herald covers the more generic side of the news world.  They cater to a much larger audience that craves that information.  Only some care about what we talk about here at pcbdaily.  We talk about real estate, growth and tourism because that is what drives the Panama City Beach area and that is what people that are vested in this area care about.

“You guys do a great job, and you’ve become a great value to the community,” said a gentleman I had lunch with today.  I hear that all the time, and it is kind words like that that keep me going.  I often say that makes it all worth while.  I love that people use this as a resource.  I hear from people frequently that they spend numerous hours each week reading through content and I’ve found a fairly healthy shelf life on old content as well. Keep scouring those archives.

Recently the News Herald’s parent company, Freedom Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court so that they could keep operating regardless of their immense debt load (a whopping $770 million).  Running 33 dailies, 70 weeklies, various other publications and 8 television stations, has a huge overhead cost and with media ad sales down across the country, they aren’t generating revenue like they used to.

That’s the thing I always said was great about pcbdaily, being all online.  We have virtually no overhead.  Hosting costs, employee costs and equipment costs are about it, and it’s great.  When times are tough, I can just find some freelance work to make ends meet, but everything else keeps moving.  Of course, many of you know that I started pcbdaily and ran it for a long time while working a full time job somewhere else.

So many people complain about the News Herald.  But, them, along with many media companies, battle political inclinations that motivate them to lean one way or another.  I suppose I’ve been influenced in the like from time to time.  But, the News Herald is mostly a good read.  I read it daily, and personally, enjoy the ink on my fingers.

I’m thankful for our loyal readers who read us daily, and I always hope that we are meeting up to your expectations.  Please use the comments section below to tell us your suggestions for what you want to hear about.

Labor Day Weekend: Last of the Summer Wine?

Recession considered, Panama City Beach has seen quite a summer. While the rest of the country has spent the summer struggling to turn water into wine, Panama City Beach, again, was blessed to drink from the ever-replinishing bottle that southern summers seem to always produce. Labor Day Weekend represents the end of summer for most businesses and the last hoorah before the season begins its decline. Just the same, tourists are gearing up to head to the beach for one last summer outing. The TDC and CVB are working hard to encourage Labor Day vacationers, more now than ever, to return to Panama City Beach for the fall. The question remains: is this really the end of the season?

For the most part, Panama City Beach businesses have remained in the black ink. In fact, year to date bed tax numbers from January through June 2008 are currently up 1.6 percent, or $4,158,268 to $4,091,591.

The TDC efforts have enjoyed considerable success, but it isn’t yet clear if that success will translate to the fall/winter season. This time last year, Panama City Beach was not as focused and organized as it is today; nor was it thinking as opportunistically as it is by way of the new airport’s buzz. Nonetheless, Panama City Beach is on the cusp. In fact, Panama City Beach, to date, has never had access to the type of database it has currently, never had targeted running advertisements in place, and has never been more ready to turn the fall season up a notch moving ever closer to the “mythical” year-round destination. Panama City Beach has a critical opportunity to turn a new leaf and it starts this weekend.

With several fall events lined up ranging from Thunder Beach, Taste of the Beach and the signature Seafood Wine and Music Festival, as well as an “Endless Summer” theme ripe for businesses to possess, everything is in place.

My opinion on the matter is that business, yes you businesses and business owners who’ve done well in the recession season, don’t fall victim to the past. Don’t stop advertising, don’t stop communicating with your clientele–don’t allow the summer wine to stop flowing. It isn’t up to the TDC or the CVB or anyone else. The plan is in place, the opportunity is available and people, believe or not, are traveling to places like Panama City Beach. Keep the wine flowing by staying up to date on the events and using them as a spring board to draw business your way. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for next fall when the airport is in place and Labor Day doesn’t have the stigma it has now. I can assure you, if you do what you do every season and withdraw your staff, stop advertising and close your doors you’ll be missing out on an opportunity you’ll be complaining about next year.

You’ve had a great summer. You can have a great fall/winter too.

It’s up to you.

Is Pier Park Killing Thomas Drive?

The answer to the aforementioned question is no, Pier Park is not killing Thomas drive, at least not in a definitive way like maybe how Rock-n-Roll killed Disco. But if you take a drive down Thomas drive and absorb the lack of traffic and innumerable “for lease” signs dressing business windows, you’ll know instantly that, although Pier Park isn’t killing the area, its influence is eye-opening.

It should be noted that the overall effect is difficult to quantify because Thomas Drive is a street, not a destination like Pier Park, so the draw is somewhat unrelated. Thomas Drive also has two identities sundered just past Grand Lagoon Bridge at the perpendicular intersection where Thomas goes East/West. At that point, a business driven, Navy Base inspired four-lane highway transforms into a quiet, scenic gulf front strip; two completely different socioeconomic streets. Pier Park’s continuing popularity has affected them differently.

Since Pier Park’s unveiling, North Thomas Drive, running from bridge to bridge, has seen a surge in development. Restaurants like Hooter’s, Sake House II and, locally acclaimed, Donut Island have been opened and flourished off Navy Base business. After speaking briefly with Debbie Johnson, one of the Donut Island’s owners, she said with confidence, “We’re doing great and growing.” Further down, staple restaurants like Captain Anderson’s and Treasure Ship have done well and so has the general area, evidenced by the opening of a small business like Sweet Racks and the groundbreaking of a franchise like Jasmine Thai restaurant. North Thomas has seen developments all over the place since Pier Park opened.

The other Thomas Drive has seen exactly the opposite; no new developments and lots, LOTS, of businesses closing down. The question remains, is Pier Park the culprit?

Kat Meeks, owner of Liza’s Kitchen, one of the businesses on that picturesque strip of Thomas Drive that has been able to thrive, quite well in fact, despite Pier Park’s success, had an interesting take on the matter. “I don’t think Pier Park is killing Thomas Drive as much as it’s just changing it. Yes, more people are staying on the west end, but that’s okay. Thomas Drive, I think, is just becoming the local’s end of the beach.”

Her take was that Pier Park’s greatest effect on Thomas Drive is accelerating its natural evolution, one that will weed out businesses that don’t fit the mold. “Panama City Beach has its own subculture, y’know?” She said. “While locals go to Pier Park as the one-stop-shop, here on Thomas Drive you have condo owners, families and locals that support businesses. Locals need some place to go too and Thomas Drive is becoming that place. It’s the local’s place and is locally driven.”

And a local haven may very well be Thomas Drive’s inevitable progressive destination. When locals, repeat tourists, eco-tourists and snowbirds want to get away from the generic areas, there is but one place for them to land and that’s Thomas Drive. One possible key to making this work is for businesses to embrace that role; to fashion themselves to cater to the locals, some tourists and flourish during the off-season. The question is how to do that.

“We’ve been able to do more creative things and think outside the box.” Kat Meeks answered when asked how other businesses can compete. “You can’t just wait for people to come to your door. We have a lot of locals in this area that are looking for some place to go. We do everything we can to make sure they know we’re here.”

Strangely, what may affect Thomas Drive more than Pier Park could be the Grand Lagoon Bridge construction. “I’m nervous about it.” Kat said. “It has two sides. Once it’d done its going to be great, but the construction phase will be tough.”

It remains to be seen how quickly Thomas Drive will get over the Pier Park effect. One thing is for sure, it will be up to the locals and businesses to reaquaint themselves if Thomas Drive is ever to return to it’s beloved status.

How I Re-Discovered America

rockwell

I refuse to allow the Visual Arts Center to be shut down for the following reason:

As I strolled through Panama City Visual Arts Center’s “In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America” exhibit, a heard a woman behind me sigh and say, “Those were the days.” The woman’s voice expressed enough nostalgic longing that I just had to turn around and see for myself what she saw that made those days differ so much from these. The piece was a simple one; Three Boys Fishing, depicting three carefree and shirtless boys hanging over a log to fish. I looked at it, myself never once hanging over a log to fish in my entire life, and somehow I understood what she meant: those really were the days.

I was not born in the fifties or the sixties or even the seventies, but I am fortunate to have a clear image of those venerable decades in my mind. When I imagine those days, I see a time quiet with simplicity, a time when everyone knew each other, when boxcar races were town-wide events and a rookie baseball card was considered gold. All this may sound a bit “aw-shucks”-ish, and may, very well not even be true, but for me, I’ve always likened it as the era of simple happiness. Touring the exhibit, what I saw was the true representation of an era I could only imagine, the very same images that made a woman who gazed into a painting, pine for a time gone.

The Visual Arts Center’s “In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America” exhibit displays a collection of Rockwell’s works. Rockwell, a twentieth century illustrator who found acclaim for his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers, created a multitude of drawings, paintings, photographs, and studies that echo his life’s progression as well as his intimate fascination with the fabric of American lives. Although, throughout his career he was not considered a “gallery” artist, his works have, in time, become invaluable pieces of American history.

rockwell_speechIn Rockwell paintings and illustrations, I found, that these are not images, but stories—literal snapshots of the American tale. With amazing detail and composition, portrayals of ordinary, everyday life take on the character of the time. You see lots of images of people playing baseball, kids fishing with fathers, mothers leaning over stove tops, golfers, police officers in diners, teachers, pets, politicians and all sorts of people just doing things, caring for things or making things. It’s all quite ordinary, but within that familiarity exists a powerful quality of Americana, a sort of celebration of ordinary America. Illustrations like Freedom of Speech (above left) and The Problem We All Live With really encompass those ideals. My personal all time favorite NR painting has always been the Saturday Evening Post cover called, After The Prom. The piece depicts two teens at a diner just after what looks like their first prom. The image is tender and simple, but always drew my attention beyond the giddy smiles and lighthearted portrayal. I’d never been able to understand why I was so drawn to that particular painting until I walked the Visual Art Center’s exhibit.

afterpromYou see, at first glance, none of Norman Rockwell’s works seem relevant to my generation; the generation of instant gratification, of Twitter, iPhone and full conversations in shorthand. And then I took a second look at After the Prom. The Prom is the American tradition, among so many seemingly faded traditions portrayed in NR’s works, whose magic time had not stifled. The same gleeful smirk widening the face of the boy character and the charmed expression in the girl character will still been seen at the next Prom night on just about every teen in every American city. The more I studied the other paintings and illustrations, the more I realized that these works, on the surface, appeared old-fashioned, but resonate still the parallel of the American story, perhaps more so now during our current social and economic woes. For that very reason, before I left the Visual Arts Center, I left as big a donation as my menial pockets could muster.

I don’t believe it a coincidence that the Visual Arts Center decided to showcase Norman Rockwell on what may very well be one of its last shows. Rockwell painted and spoke honorably about the ordinary places and things that we have a tendency to neglect when we tire of them. In my generation everything must sparkle or vibrate or play an insanely loud “Lady GaGa” ringtone to get my attention. We are so often barraged by prismatic commercials and flashy myspace pages, that we can’t see the wonders of the ordinary.

If the Visual Art Center shuts down, I believe, we’ll be losing exactly the thing Norman Rockwell tried to capture, the simple glimpses of ordinary America. I encourage every person who reads this to drive to downtown Panama City and park your car. Spend the afternoon strolling through some of the antique stores, maybe grab a hot dog and a coke from Tom’s, and then head over to the Visual Arts Center to see the exhibit. You don’t have to give a big donation, only step inside to see Rockwell’s American works and understand that the best way to truly understand those days is to celebrate these. Support the Visual Arts Center if for nothing else, its ability to keep us linked to the ordinary.

Rockwell said himself, “The commonplaces of America are to me the richest subjects in art. Boys batting flies on vacant lots; little girls playing jacks on the front steps; old men plodding home at twilight, umbrellas in hand — all of these things arouse feeling in me. Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative.”

“In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America” will run from June 12th – August 9th. Ticket prices are $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors and military and $5.00 for kids.

For more information go to http://www.vac.org.cn or call 850.769.4451