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

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.

IHMC

Those of you living in manicured neighborhoods, especially among the emerald green bio-deserts we call lawns, might not have noticed. But the fall wildflower season is upon us.

Out in the country, unkempt roadsides and fallow fields are bursting with a mad profusion of color.

One of the enduring strengths of Pensacola is that it has a remarkable cultural arts infrastructure for a city its size. From the many art galleries to the museum of art,  the Little Theatre and the Opera, Pensacola showcases high quality shows and performances you might not expect to find, often showcased in the beautifully restored Saenger Theatre.

But the city’s primary cultural arts asset has to be the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, which recently opened its 90th season. That’s a remarkable run in a city featuring a downtown that has been left for dead more than once.

I remember years ago wondering why my parents always seemed to be reading the obituaries in the newspaper. Over time I figured it out. As they aged, they found more and more of their friends and acquaintances there, as well as the well-known names of the movers and shakers who had helped form Pensacola during their working lives.

IHMC

The great scientist E.O. Wilson, who grew up and developed his love for nature in South Alabama and Northwest Florida, has a new book coming out. In it he proposes setting aside half the planet in human-free zones devoted to nature. He believes these natural spaces would give declining wildlife populations room to recover, and halt the ongoing extinction of thousands of species.

I hate it when people say things like, everyone says … but everyone is saying how hot it is this summer. I thought maybe because I’m closing in on the senior discount at the movies, everyone I know is also getting old, and that accounts for it. But even younger people are complaining, so it must really be hot.

Or maybe it’s the humidity. That’s my latest theory. It’s not hotter, it’s just more humid than normal. I’ll get back to you on that if I ever do any actual research on the topic.

Over the years, especially when I was living on Pensacola Beach, I was an advocate of the staycation.  That is, when you live in a place that people spend thousands of dollars to visit, you might as well act like a tourist yourself, but for less money, since you are already here and have a place to stay.

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