My buddy Chester Mangione and I love nothing better than to stroll and suck in some sea air in the evenings. Fort Lauderdale's beach is the most convenient place to stretch the legs, and it also provides interesting sideshows when we tire of the ocean view. Sometimes a few people actually say hello as we pass by. It occasionally makes this concrete suburban jungle seem like a town.

And where else can a stroller go in this area? The short walk along the river gets old. Perhaps a walk along a crowded four-lane with the exciting prospect of losing one's life when a car veers off course?

The parks are OK; a couple are actually inviting. But they discriminate against Chester. He's not allowed to enter most parks, and now he can't walk along the beach. He's not discriminated against because of color or a handicap; Chester is discriminated against because he walks on all fours. He's a dog.

And Fort Lauderdale doesn't like dogs.

The city has now banned all canines from the sidewalks along A1A (except, of course, for cops' dogs). The city is worried about the image of the groovy, cosmopolitan beach area. I would be too. The monstrosity known as BeachPlace doesn't fit the neighborhood, and more unfriendly and gargantuan high-rises are planned. Forget about seeing some green space or possibly a park where families and their dogs could rest. The city didn't plan and purchase land for that purpose. Developers with money, after all, are a harder fight than dogs and their owners.

The city commission is intent on destroying a user-friendly aspect of the beach for locals for fear of offending a tourist from South America or New Jersey. It seems some gang wannabes parading with pit bulls scared a few people off, and a few dog owners don't bring along the pooper scooper. So Fort Lauderdale city government takes the easy way out by banning all dogs. Hey, they can't vote.

So let's shoot ourselves in the foot and make sure that no one gets the idea that this is an inviting place for vacationing families, a nice town where nice people can walk their dogs. Down in the friendlier Florida Keys, for instance, the parks and beaches are more open to dogs, and the ambiance is much more conducive to tourism.

As for me, I'll continue to walk along the beach with Chester until some cop with not enough crime to fight decides to stop us. My buddy and I will growl. If a ticket is issued, I'll fight it in court and call a well-groomed and I hope well-behaved Chester to the stand ("Your honor, does this little guy look like a nuisance?"). I suggest that everyone who feels his or her pursuit of happiness is denied by this abuse of power do the same. And then vote against those who voted for this ordinance.

That's it -- ban politicians!We find it particularly amusing to hear of airline employees condemning passengers for committing "air rage." With the increase in poor service and performance of the airlines, it's a wonder it doesn't happen on many flights. We think greedy airlines are to blame.

In an effort to prevent this rage from occurring, we recommend that all of you stay off America West airline. According to a recent survey, it has the most complaints per flier, and we don't see this number going down.

When we arrived at the counter in Fort Lauderdale for our morning flight to Phoenix, we could tell the young man in uniform was without a clue on how to handle an apparent meltdown that was forcing cancellations throughout the airline. He told us the cancellation of our flight was due to "crew fatigue." We also heard from another employee who told us the FAA was canceling flights because America West's maintenance logs weren't up to date. We think their computer equipment and training weren't up to date.

We could see the desperation and confusion on one employee's face as his ancient dot matrix printer slowly spit out boarding passes, which he then handed out to get everyone onboard. But the seats had already been assigned, and of course confusion reigned inside the craft, where attendants just put us in any available seat.

Once the plane started taxiing out, we were shocked to hear the captain tell us he was having computer problems and that he was "pulling over" the plane to restart the computer "just like you would at home." Sure enough, he shut down everything and restarted. It apparently worked.

In Phoenix there was more confusion. At the "canceled flight carousel," hundreds of bags were strewn about. We found one bag; the other was lost. We mistakenly gave back the one bag and checked it with America West and hopped on a flight to San Francisco, where that bag was also lost. One bag arrived the next day; the other bag appeared days later.

An America West employee told us to write a letter detailing all this, and we did. We still have rage.

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh