Carl Wernicke

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.

His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home on Pensacola Beach and watching sports, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.

Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.

IHMC

  Count me among those who are underwhelmed by the design of the winning bid for the new Pensacola Bay Bridge.

I also was hoping for a distinctive, signature design that would showcase Pensacola in an unforgettable way. Architecture, at its best, marks a community with a style that enhances local pride and sends a message to visitors.

IHMC

  According to the Pensacola News Journal, record-setting crowds attended all three performances of this past weekend’s Blue Angels show, the first Pensacola performance following the death of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, the Blues solo pilot who died in a crash in Smyrna, Tennessee, in June.

IHMC

  Years ago I was at a snacks counter in a local mall to get some cashews. They were priced by the quarter pound, but I only wanted a taste. Seeing the electronic digital scale on the counter, I asked the clerk for a tenth of a pound.

The 20-something clerk looked blankly at me, then said, I don’t know what that is. Swallowing my shock, I pointed to the scale, said set it to point one, and enter the price per pound. She did, I got my nuts, and wandered off worrying about the fate of the Republic.

I’m starting to worry again.

IHMC

  

  So far as I can tell, younger generations that grew up with the Internet seem to accept ubiquitous marketing as part of life. Tell them that the real point of all those free apps on their phone is about tracking their habits and selling the information to marketers, and they look at you with an expression that says, OK, and …?

It’s just how their world is put together.

IHMC

Over more than 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Pensacola News Journal, I watched certain  community issues that never seemed to go away. Everyone agreed on the problem, but no one could agree on a solution.

So we debated the problem, over and over.

One such evergreen issue is traffic on Pensacola Beach. Actually, it’s two problems. Traffic, and parking.

I see no real solution for parking. This area is growing, and tourism is growing. What isn’t growing is the size of the beach. There simply isn’t room.

IHMC

We were on the back deck of our house on Pensacola Beach last week when the Blue Angels brought Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss home for his last sunset pass over Santa Rosa Island, Perdido Key and downtown Pensacola.

It was a striking scene, a lone F/A-18 in the vivid colors of the Blue Angels, tight on the wing of Fat Albert, the C-130 support aircraft that is itself an iconic symbol of the team.

IHMC

 

Over many years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I developed a pretty good eye for evaluating what was or was not reasonable. To mix metaphors here, you could say I got good at giving things the sniff test.

This proved really valuable during the years when I edited letters to the editor at the Pensacola News Journal. I quickly learned that facts mean different things to different people. Or, as Mark Twain put it, “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”

IHMC

On Jan. 14, 1989, I was awakened at my Pensacola Beach home by a call from my city editor at the Pensacola News Journal. The Bay Bridge had been rammed by a tug boat, an event forever to be known as the day the ship hit the span.

Fortunately for the News Journal, I was on the other side of the bridge from the PNJ, and he wanted me to take a look from there.

So I drove into Gulf Breeze and found that, yep, the bridge was definitely closed.

IHMC

Having lived almost all of my life in Northwest Florida, I can’t really speak to how it is to live in other places. But the variety of lifescapes offered by this area must be hard to beat.

That is underscored by our recent move from rural Garcon Point to urbanized Pensacola Beach. The culture shock could hardly be overstated.

IHMC

After almost 15 years of living in the wilds of Garcon Point, my wife and I decided it was time to move. We still feel young, but there was no denying that the work required to maintain 12 acres of fast-growing forest was becoming too much.

And after having watched both my mother and my wife’s mother struggle to visit our home because of the steep stairs, we accepted that we, too, would face similar challenges as we aged.

So, like many other babyboomers, we decided to it was time to downsize.

IHMC

One thing about being retired is that it lets you step back and evaluate the work world with an unbiased view. Or, without skin in the game, maybe it’s an unreal view.

Anyway, one advantage I see in retirement is being able to step off the fast lane that technology has put working people on. Right now it’s a young person’s game, and will remain so until technology is so advanced that even old folks can quickly and easily learn to use it.

Back when I was writing a regular newspaper column, one of the real challenges was simply to come up with something to write about week after week. Many a would-be columnist started out strong, only to realize that perseverance counted as much as inspiration. It might rank only behind the need to develop a skin thick enough to protect you from your critics.

A recent report by the Studer Institute in the News Journal, and a subsequent viewpoint by former News Journal executive editor Randy Hammer, again spotlighted the serious poverty issue that persists in Escambia County.

WUWF

The recent renewed discussion over use of monies coming from the BP oil spill settlement for environmental improvements raised some good points.  One of the points of discussion is over whether we should pursue specific, if perhaps isolated, projects with these monies, or change the focus to be more goal-oriented. That makes sense to me if the main goal is on improving water quality. When all is said and done, that is the underpinning of the Northwest Florida economy.

I talked recently about wondering, as a younger man, about my parents’ regular habit of reading the obituary page in the newspaper. As I came to learn, that was where they found more and more of their friends, as well as the well-known names from the business, political and society circles that shaped the Pensacola of their generation.

But in reading the page recently, it reminded me that no matter whether you know the names or not, the obits, as we called them in the newspaper business, provide a unique reflection of ourselves.

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