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How to ease a troubled mind: Take a fishing charter in Naples

By Eric Snider

Alone, sleepless, in a hotel room at 2:30 a.m. is not a good place to be. That’s where I found myself on a trip for work not long ago. As a committed eight-hour-a-night guy, wakefulness makes me restless, which causes me concern, which morphs into worry. Sleep quickly becomes out of the question.

That night, due to a lot of stuff, I had what the great blues legends called a troubled mind. I peeked at my cell phone. Three more hours to my 5:30 alarm — way, way before I’m used to.

The hotel room was in Naples, Florida. I was there for a storytelling project, including a video shoot, for the Naples/Marco Island/Everglades convention & visitors bureau. Paradise has been the Agency of Record for Florida’s Paradise Coast for 13 years.

Lying there, I mused that this Naples location project was not such a great idea after all. Wouldn’t I rather be home in St. Pete, sleeping in?

As it turns out — no.

I met my partner at Paradise, videographer Daniel Reyes, in the lobby at 6 a.m. He wasn’t exactly chipper, either. We threw back some coffee. I nibbled a muffin. We dragged ourselves to the car, drove the short distance to the downtown docks. He started to offload the gear while I met Captain Mike Bailey of Ms.B.Haven Fishing & Eco Charters by his boat.

Our story’s working title was “Cook Your Catch.” Naples, which started out in part as a fishing village, has a cool tradition. Anglers can go out on a charter, snag something legal and edible, have it fileted at the dock, then bring it to certain restaurants in town where they’ll prep, cook and serve it — with sides.

We were out to document the process from hook to fork. A Michigan couple, Jordan and Stephanie Roberts, had agreed to be our “talent.” Stephanie had booked the fishing trip as a gift for Jordan on his 30th birthday.

The glow of sunrise washed over the dock, glinting off the boats. Wisps of clouds brush-stroked the crystal blue sky. The air was crisp. We boarded Captain Mike’s 25-foot center-console and cruised the channel toward the Gulf. Stephanie and Jordan were delightful. They wore matching gray Sperry top-siders. The heavy winds of previous days had died down and the waters were calm. The breeze flapped my jacket. I breathed in the fragrant coastal air. Started to feel a little better.

On our way to net some bait fish, Captain Mike stopped the boat. “I’ve got a friend I want you to meet,” he told us. His mate, Robert, grabbed a small piece of raw fish. Mike let out a loud whistle. From the trees glided an American bald eagle. Robert flipped the chum into the water; the bird stopped, hovered, then dove down and snatched it with his talons. Smiles lit up our faces. We offered a little round of applause.

My troubled mind began to fade. After all, I was out on a fishing boat on a gorgeous day, the kind of day that happens all the time in Naples, Florida.

A snow-white egret perched on the bow and hung around for several minutes, on the lookout for a meal. A short while later, Captain Mike idled over to some dolphins, which seemed happy to gather around the stern. He picked up speed and the dolphins fell in behind us, riding the wake. After a few seconds, one gracefully rose and dipped. After another few seconds, one jumped and splashed, then one jumped and rolled, landing on its back. This kept up for quite some time.

You can live in Florida for decades, as I have, and an impromptu dolphin show like this is never less than magical.

My trouble mind was fading away. I was transfixed by the nature before me.

We enjoyed a lovely, half-day fishing excursion, caught some keepers. After a relaxing ride back in, joined again by frolicking dolphins in our wake, we picked up the story at The Dock restaurant. Everyone there, from the owner, Gil, to the serving and kitchen staff, were accommodating. They couldn’t have been nicer. We had a sumptuous meal, and Stephanie and Jordan shared some of their cooked catch.

The ride home to St. Pete was pleasant. To borrow words from the Muddy Waters classic — trouble no more.

Somewhere, Gene Kranz is smiling.

Launching a rocket into space isn’t easy. It takes a dedicated team of scientists and engineers, backed by an organization like ULA, SpaceX or NASA that will do whatever it takes to see it launch and successfully reach orbit.

To quote legendary NASA Flight Director (and vest-wearer) Gene Kranz, “Failure is not an option.”

The same holds true when you’re launching an ad campaign. You need a team of dedicated writers, designers, programmers, PR pros and social media experts — all working tirelessly with the support of a client who believes in your ideas and efforts.

Well, the team at Paradise has just successfully launched one of its most comprehensive campaigns yet — The Vacationauts — for our client We Are Go Florida. And both agency and client couldn’t be more excited about where this mission will take us.

The Vacationauts campaign has one objective: to get visitors to Florida to make space part of their vacation. Whether it’s heading to the Space Coast to watch an actual rocket launch or spending an afternoon at one of Florida’s many space-related attractions, there’s no better place to explore America’s rich space history while glimpsing its exciting future.

The campaign was designed to “recruit” people into The Vacationauts Program, and features print ads, travel posters, online videos, digital ads, social media posts and more. Each element urges people to visit the newly redesigned WeAreGoFL.com website and to download the We Are Go Vacationauts app.

Once registered, they are given a Vacationaut rank and numerous ways to engage with the program via the app. They can take quizzes and personality tests, get information on future launches, and of course, learn more about all the space-related attractions they can visit. The more quizzes they take, the more launches they watch, and the more attractions they check in to, the more points they earn — and the higher they climb through the Vacationaut ranks.

The end result? An exclusive community of like-minded space fans who can stay engaged with We Are Go Florida — before, during, and long after their visit to the destination.

All of us at Paradise couldn’t be more excited about the Vacationauts campaign. It took months for us to plan and execute, and like an actual rocket launch, there were some scrubbed countdowns along the way. But ultimately, the launch went off without a hitch. And as our own vest-wearing Vacation Commander might say:
High fives all around!

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Paradise Chief Creative Officer Dies Gruesome Celluloid Death

By Eric Snider

“Wanna see me die this weekend?”

When that ominous phrase appeared in the subject line in a email from our Chief Creative Officer, Tom Merrick, some Paradise staffers rushed to his office for an intervention, others looked up phone numbers for hotlines, and a few of us mused, “Working here’s not that bad.”

False alarm.

We fully expect Tom to be alive and well come Monday. As it happens, he invited one and all to see him die a gruesome death on screen this Saturday.

Tom’s college roommate Greg Lamberson has become something of an icon of underground horror/gore cinema, producing and directing several films and writing a series of books. His first film, “Slime City,” became a cult classic among 1980s horror movie fans — especially those with a fondness for unalloyed gore and low-budget special effects.

slimecityTom2

On Saturday, Aug. 20 starting at noon, the Tampa Pitcher Show will screen “Slime City’ and its 2010 sequel, “Slime City Massacre,” back to back.

Tom Merrick has a role in both movies. Back in his early filmmaking days, Lamberson tapped his buddy for a part in “Slime City.” “I played the bumbling best friend of the main character,” Tom said. “The main character who squashes my head like a melon.”

For the sequel, Tom plays a different role (obviously) but ends up with the same fate (butchered).

Tom’s appearance in “Slime City” did not propel him to stardom nor stir some irrepressible acting bug. So he moved on — to advertising. He started in a small agency as the assistant to the Creative Director, and spent the next 27 years becoming one himself.

In his early 40s, the lifelong punk-rock and metal fan picked up a guitar, took some lessons from a friend, got better but not great, and formed a band called Crankdaddy with colleagues from his ad agency in Syracuse.

Tom evolved from hammering out three chords to writing punchy three-chord songs. And singing them. Crankdaddy played a few short years’ worth of gigs in and around Syracuse and as far away as New York City. Tom convinced Lamberson to let the band write and record a song that runs over the end credits of “Slime City Massacre.”

After suffering through the brutal upstate New York winter of 2014-’15, Tom tapped out. He and his wife moved to St. Pete. He took over the creative reins at Paradise. Bought a house with a pool five minutes from the office.

Crankdaddy is no longer.

But Tom Merrick will forever live on in gore yore.

Tom will reunite with Greg Lamberson at the Tampa Pitcher Show double feature. Greg, Tom and another actor from “Slime City Massacre” will do an audience Q&A. Fans of cheesy gore shouldn’t miss it.

What: “Slime City” and “Slime City Massacre” Double Feature Event
Where: Tampa Pitcher Show, 14416 N. Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa
When: Saturday, Aug. 20, Noon

Trailer: Slime City (1988)

Trailer: Slime City Massacre (2010)

Be a Better Boomer: Think like a Millennial

By Eric Snider

Would you rather spend $150 on a new pair of shoes or a special dinner with your significant other? A new Cuisinart or a night in a hotel room overlooking the beach?

Don’t worry, there’s no right or wrong answer. (For the record, I still lean toward the fresh kicks.) But reams of consumer research show that more and more people are choosing experiences over stuff.

As an agency that specializes in destination marketing, we at Paradise are reminded of this everyday. In the current “experience economy” people are committing substantial resources to fund future memories.

I’m not going to clobber you with data, but the handiest indicators of this trend are tourism and hospitality metrics. Destinations like St. Pete/Clearwater, Naples/Marco Island/The Everglades, Amelia Island and Daytona Beach — all of them Paradise clients — are experiencing record-setting numbers in metrics like bed tax collections, hotel occupancy, Average Daily Rate, and other signifiers.

People are on the go, looking for new and exciting things to do.

What’s driving this hunger for experiences? The Millennial Generation. (Don’t they drive pretty much everything?) Most have grown up with devices that instantly connect them to the world and allow them to communicate with anyone and everyone. So while Baby Boomers such as myself may have fantasized about three months in Tahiti when we were 25, today’s Millennials are more inclined to go ahead and do it.

Millennials crave adventure. They place a high emphasis on going to out-of-the-way places, on being first to discover a new destination. And let’s not forget FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.

Last December, my Brooklyn-based son Dan came down for his usual visit over the holidays. He only stayed with us a few days because he was headed to Puerto Rico. With whom? No one, just himself. Why Puerto Rico? Because it’s there.

He spent several days wending his way around the country — camping, exploring, accumulating friends and fellow travelers along the way. One night he slept on the ground. But he also arranged the trip so that he spent his last two nights in an upscale hotel.

I can say without hesitation that Dan’s Puerto Rican sojourn was something I never did, and as a young man never considered.

But I might do it yet. (Well, probably not alone and definitely no sleeping on the ground). The point is: the hunger for experience is grabbing hold of older folks as well. Empty-nesters such as me and my wife Bonnie are becoming more intrepid travelers. We’re quicker to pack a bag and go.

We’ve been close friends with a local couple since the early 1990s. Over the years, they’ve built a thriving law practice and a mini-empire of residential real estate. These two have always valued experiences over stuff. They have a big, beautiful home on the water, but now that their three sons are nearly out of the house, they’ve mused about downsizing. Cars? A pickup truck for the real estate business and a Chevrolet Volt. Clothes? Definitely not a thing. Gadgets? Just the basics. They have a boat — one that’s functional and constantly in use, by no means a status symbol tethered to the dock.

They go to six or seven Tampa Bay Bucs road games a year. They’ve traveled to England to see three Southside Johnny shows in pubs, to New York for Van Morrison concerts, on long weekends in North Captiva Island, rented a 35-foot catamaran and island-hopped through the BVI.

They don’t do these things because they are wealthy. They do these things because it’s what is important to them.

They’ve rubbed off on the Sniders. In years past, despite regular invites, we passed up their weekend trips to Bucs games, feeling they were a bit too extravagant. We struggled to justify spending the money. Last year, finally, we went with them to New Orleans for a Bucs-Saints game. Had a blast. The Bucs won. And that was just part of the fun.

We definitely made a memory, and didn’t mind paying for it.

Maybe those Millennials are onto something.

July 13, 2016