Page 1

Dream your cruise...

then cruise your



Best Values On All Cruise Lines


863-326-1000 CruisePlannersCF

Individual And Group Cruise Rates

Worldwide Cruises Exotic Destinations

FST# ST39068 • CST# 2034468-50 HST# TAR-7058 • WA ST# 603-399-504



November | December 2017

Apropos of Nothing | Jamie Beckett Hosting houseguests during a hurricane is a special kind of personal misery. But alas, good deeds never go unpunished.


Crossword Theme: State Capitals. Answer key on page 17.


Lake Mirror Historic Tour | Elizabeth Morrisey The entertaining history of Lakeland’s earliest residents is told once a month while walking around Lake Mirror.


Irma Aftermath | Steve Steiner

Some suffered great damage from the wind and water, while others only had to clean up yard debris or fix a wayward fence.



Photo by Oliver Cruz

Cover: Thom Mesrobian | Donna Kelly

Local actor Thom Mesrobian has gone rogue with Rogue Stage, and non-traditional storytelling is the main objective.



Break Through Your Threshold | Jai Maa

Are you killing your relationship by controlling others or giving in to the control of others? Respect and love are at stake.

Photo provided by Karissa Barber


Photo provided by Steve Steiner


The 863 Magazine

Editor | Publisher Note


torytelling is part of the human experience. We tell stories to others, and to ourselves. Sometimes the same story gets repeated over and over, and some are never repeated again. Stories can be true and they can be false; but the teller has the opportunity to choose which side and details are shared — and why. And storytelling in theatre is no different, with each actor portraying their part as they deem fit, giving the audience their version of the character, and hoping that it is received as they intended it.

This issue’s cover story is about a brand new local theatre company in Polk that has chosen to go rogue with non-traditional storytelling. In fact, they are called Rogue Stage and although small, they are mighty. Local resident Thom Mesrobian has appeared on local stages for years now and as one of the founding members of Rogue Stage, he and his partners are ready to tell new and different stories to

Polk audiences. And we are ready to hear them. Story page 12. The human experience of storytelling with interpersonal struggles and achievements goes back since the dawn of time. Luckily for us, some of it was recorded, including that of the founding people of Lakeland. The Lake Mirror Historic Tour is a chance to be regaled with those early stories, researched and told by city employee Stacy Smith, who wears period clothing and carries a lantern, all while walking around Lake Mirror. That article begins on page 8. In September, Hurricane Irma stories — before, during, and after — were on everyone’s lips. In the immediate aftermath, as communications were slowly being restored, everyone shared their safety status with friends and family far and wide, as well as their individual damage toll. Some were blessed, with only minor damage to fix, or yard debris to clean up, while

others were left scrambling to make major repairs. Read how a few local families prepared for the storm and dealt afterward in regaining some semblance of normalcy. And finally, Jai Maa has some good words about control. Either asserting it over someone else or allowing someone else to control is risking the two-way street of respect. She’s got some tools, no matter which side of the control street one might be on. Until 2018, 863’ers!

Sergio & Andrea Cruz Publisher | Editor



Sergio Cruz |

Cover Designer

Karissa Barber Jamie Beckett Andrea Cruz Oliver Cruz Sergio Cruz Donna Kelly Jai Maa Elizabeth Morrisey Steve Steiner

Deborah Coker

On the cover

Ad Sales

Thom Mesrobian and Sarah French are part of Rogue Stage, Polk County’s newest professional theatre company. They pose for a photo to promote a production called “Moonlight After Midnight.” Photo by Karissa Barber.

Editor Andrea Cruz |

Art Director Alejandro F. Cruz |

Sergio Cruz |

Publisher | Editor photo While on vacation in Mexico in July, Sergio and Andrea visited the church in Veracruz they were married in, and then the hotel they stayed at after the ceremony. At the hotel, they recreated their wedding photo. The difference in the two photos is almost 19 years. They celebrate their anniversary in December. Watch for a different editor / publisher photo in each issue .

The 863 Magazine is a product of Polk Media, Inc., a woman- and minority-owned business. For more info visit us online: or

Visit us online at or!


The 863 Magazine

Apropos of Nothing By Jamie Beckett

They say that the trouble with houseguests and fish are that after three days they begin to smell. That timeframe is sped up during a hurricane.


here is a point in life, fairly early on, when we realize we will soon be actual adults. Adults that can make our own decisions, establish our own rules, and live in our own house where everything works exactly the way we want it to. We can have sleepovers anytime we want, and we can invite anyone we want. Nobody can deny us such a basic right of individual awesomeness. We get to have houseguests at will and nobody can stop us. Yay! Then something weird happens. We actually become adults, we make our own decisions, we establish our own rules, and we move into a house where nothing works exactly the way we want it to. Then we get a visit from houseguests. Ugh. Not again. It all starts out hunky dory, with late night rap sessions, prodigious consumption of fruited beer, the viewing of a favorite movie from years gone by (think Caddyshack, Stripes, Animal House, or maybe the Goonies), and then we slink off to bed in the wee hours of the morning just barely capable of keeping our eyes open for long enough to find our pillow. That was all well and good when we were in high school and could drag through our day half awake and only tangentially aware of what was going on around us. Now, as adults, there is a job to do, a paycheck to earn, and a long line of customers or clients or disgruntled, random riffraff that stand between us and quitting time. Yet, there will be no peace. No rest. No true relaxation. Back at home you have houseg-

uests. Old friends who are on vacation and deeply devoted to the party mode they’re in. Or worse, extended family who are under the mistaken impression you’d love them to stay for several weeks, or months, to keep you company and bring a bit of frivolity to your life. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you want them out, gone, headed back home or on to their next freeloading opportunity with some other old friend or distant cousin. You want them in another town. Better yet, relocated to another time zone. The sooner the better – and then the weather turns. It’s one thing to risk the end of a relationship by pitching a houseguest who has overstayed their welcome out into the wild without securing reservations for them at a luxury resort or an island-bound cruise ship. But when a hurricane is looming, you’re honor bound to let them stay within the confines of your no-longer-private dwelling. You’ve become the hotelier to the unwanted. And you’re doing it at exactly the time the buffet table is most depleted, just as all the standard replenishment services go into lockdown. Oh wait, it gets worse. The power is about to go out. Yes, dear reader. It’s one thing to have a houseguest. It’s another thing entirely to be saddled with a visitor who should have left days ago but continues to linger in your living space. But it’s a special flirtation with Hell that comes when your dawdling boarder shares an evermore claustrophobic

life experience with you as the lights go out, the air-conditioner dies, and the contents of the refrigerator begin to warm up to room temperature – especially when that room temperature is measured in terms of a Central Florida summer afternoon. They say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But not now. Oh, no. There are trees down across half the roads in town, the gas stations are shuttered, there’s a curfew, and just for good measure, there’s another storm brewing in the Atlantic that just might be headed your way in a few days. It is the fear of this very real scenario that has given me the strength to make the most difficult decision of my life. I’m going to become a hermit. Yep. Rather than suffer the horrific indignities of life at the hands of unwelcome houseguests, I’m committing myself to moving into a ramshackle structure so unattractive, so unappealing, so potentially unsound that no reasonable person would dare to spend a night in it without a full extraction team at the ready. It might not be pretty, but at least I won’t have to fight over who gets to rule the remote control, and I’ll be able to go to sleep any darned time I want to. That works for me. Jamie Beckett appears to be an average, everyday guy who just happens to hail from Arizona, Connecticut, New York City, and Central Florida. He wears many hats — pilot, mechanic, writer, politician, musician, stay-at-home dad — often an odd combination of all those things. Frankly, we don’t care. At The 863 Magazine we just keep him around because we think he’s funny. That’s that.

November | December 2017


57. *Capital named for Sir Walter 61. *State with the smallest capital by population 65. 007, e.g. 66. Keats’ poem 68. Metric unit of capacity 69. Set in motion 70. Break a commandment 71. Ann B. Davis on “The Brady Bunch” 72. Sound warning 73. “Ideas worth spreading” online talk 74. Bothersome


ACROSS 1. Hindu sage or a tea brand 6. Plant production 9. Big first for a baby 13. *#2 Down native 14. Mutt 15. Doggy 16. Newbery Medal, e.g. 17. Back then 18. Alternative spelling of although 19. *The Great Lake State capital 21. *Capital named after 4th president 23. Color quality 24. Type of soda pop

25. British news broadcaster 28. MaÓtre d’s list 30. Occupied oneself 35. Pearl Harbor island 37. Popular movie candy 39. Little one 40. Bodily disorders 41. *No witches in this state’s capital 43. Capital on the Dnieper 44. Dipping tobacco brand 46. Love-____ relationship 47. Main Web page 48. Attractive to look at 50. Your majesty 52. Sea to a Spaniard 53. Duds 55. Filling station filler

Crossword solution on page 17.

Theme: State Capitals

1. Unit of money in Iran 2. *Des Moines state 3. Ugly Duckling, eventually 4. Like Siberian winters 5. In on periodic table 6. Slang for heroin 7. Leo mo. 8. Movie trailer, e.g. 9. More than one solo 10. Tater pieces 11. Audio bounce-back 12. Sound unit 15. Exotic furniture wood 20. Must-haves 22. Priestly garb 24. Oldsmobile model 25. *The Gem State capital 26. Uncooperative, like a mule 27. Actress Sevigny 29. Biblical captain 31. Punjabi believer 32. “Kick the bucket,” e.g. 33. a.k.a. dropsy 34. *Founded by William Penn 36. Sky defender 38. Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, acr. 42. Get together, like AOL and Time Warner 45. Lute player 49. Yule treat 51. Same as earflap 54. White-sheeted apparition 56. Upside down frown 57. Poison ivy symptom 58. Type of sax 59. Pinocchio, e.g. 60. Garner wages 61. Offer ware 62. Elevator inventor 63. Adam’s apple spot 64. 3-point shot 67. *Motto heard in Concord: “Live Free or ____”


The 863 Magazine

History of

Lakeland Walking Tour Story by Elizabeth Morrisey Photos by Oliver Cruz

The Lake Mirror Historic Tour is an interesting and entertaining oral telling of the city’s earliest residents, their struggles and victories that have led the City of Lakeland to become what it is today.


n the heart of Lakeland one can find neoclassical architecture, modeled after the Chicago World’s Fair, skirting Lake Mirror in downtown. Residents and visitors interested in learning similar tidbits of Lakeland’s rich history can hear researched facts and passeddown tales while walking the Lake Mirror Historic Tour, which is held on the fourth Tuesday of each month in the evenings.

While the tour is free, reservations are required. Meeting at the top of the loggia of Lake Mirror, history-seekers need only to look for tour guide Stacy Smith, dressed in period clothing and carrying a lantern. Smith, a native Lakelander and city employee, started digging around for historical information more than a dozen years ago.

November | December 2017


big structures as part of the City Beautiful Movement. Other examples of the results of the City Beautiful Movement are Bok Tower, Central Park in New York City, and the Washington Mall in DC. “Lake Mirror is one of the last examples of the City Beautiful Movement,” Smith explains. Charles Leavitt, known at the time as a world premier architect, was hired to design the Civic Center and construction began in 1926. It was completed two years later with 50,000 in attendance, along with Florida’s governor, to celebrate. A $1 million bond was used to construct it. Grand columns and the long promenade can be found along the walk and is based on the Chicago World’s Fair’s Court of Honor. However, there are things missing along the way. The structure was supposed to include an obelisk, ticket booth, as well as an amphitheater, but those ideas were canceled due to the economic crash. The lake is also rumored to have tunnels running underneath that were possibly used during prohibition and/or to help transport money from businesses to the bank. At one point in the tour, everyone sits for a slideshow presented in the loggia, the open architectural feature consisting of arches on the west side of the Lake Mirror Civic Center complex. After the slideshow is over, Smith posits that just maybe the rumors of tunnels below are actually a possibility, by letting a chair drop from about half a foot high to demonstrate a hollow sound that resonates in the room for all to hear.

Above: City employee Stacy Smith, dressed in period clothing and with a lantern, uses an iPad to help tell the stories of Lakeland’s earliest pioneering citizens. Opposite page: Smith begins his once-monthly Lake Mirror Historic Tour at the base of Main Street above Lake Mirror.

“I found all of the things that were interesting to me,” he says. The parks and recreation employee presented the data to the city and they turned it into a tour, which lasts about two hours and is now in its eighth year. As Smith walks around the lake, stopping at specific points, he shows historic pictures on his iPad and regales the crowd with specific dates from the 1800s to now. “I have to get all of the dates in my head,” he says. “I continue to learn more and more.” Lakeland resident Norma Miller brought friends with her to enjoy the tour in late September. “Most everyone here is not native,” she says. “We need to know about our city’s history. It’s such a pretty walk and beautiful area.” The tour’s historical timeline starts primarily with Thomas Jefferson Appleyard Jr., the manager of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1923, Appleyard had the idea to turn Lake Mirror into a Civic Center with

“I believe (the tunnels) exist, but I can’t find access to them,” Smith says. The rumors are that tunnels run under the Polk Theatre, Hotel Terrace, and Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille. But, they can’t be accessed. “Even if they exist, they are sealed up,” says Smith. Unfortunately, the Civic Center began to decline in the 1950s, especially due to a road built around it, and it continued to decline until local donors and Historic Lakeland helped renovated it in the 1980s. Lake Mirror was listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1983. Historic Lakeland and the Hollis, Barnett and Kryger families helped give the Civic Center life again. Jean Bunch, the first president of Historic Lakeland in 1979, says it’s always important to stay in touch with your history. “We lost touch for awhile and in 1979 (Lake Mirror) was at its lowest point,” she says. “Our first mission was to be sure it was restored.” Restorations were completed in 1986, says Bunch. The structures around the lake were fixed and venues for performances were put into place. Now the promenade is used for many local events. A few years ago, the American Planning Association named Lake Mirror one of the top 10 great public spaces in the United States. Continued on page 18


The 863 Magazine

Hurricane Irma Aftermath Story by Steve Steiner

Photos by Steve Steiner and Sergio Cruz


fter more than a decade, 13 years to be exact, Polk County was hit with a hurricane. Were people ready for Hurricane Irma? Had they sufficiently prepared? Did they go to shelters, tough it out alone, or even have hurricane parties? Was this their first hurricane, or were they veterans, having lived through the three hurricanes that struck in rapid succession in 2004? Everyone had their own hurricane story, and they were on the lips of many for about a week after Irma had left. Either barely any damage was incurred directly, or there was a connection to someone else who really had it bad — and the tales were told and told again. In the end, most in Polk County had to deal with no more than a few days of lost electricity and the clean up of yard debris. Here are a few stories from residents that remind us just how lucky many of us all were. For Sherry Warren, who lives outside Bartow, this was not her first “ride on the merrygo-round.” She experienced the hurricanes of 2004, so she knew what to expect. “I was adequately prepared,” says Warren. That included securing items that could not be brought inside, boarding up windows, and having an ample supply of drinking water and sufficient amount of non-perishable food. However, she didn’t get away unscathed.

November | December 2017


Center: Parts of the side of a building in Winter Haven retirement home lay in the parking lot, as well as (top photo) the steeple of First Baptist in Winter Haven, both of which were torn off during Hurricane Irma. Photos by Sergio Cruz. Bottom: Once the water receded, much of the backyard of the property Mona and Rob Beedle own was gone, with grass replaced by mud. In the days immediately following, the childrens’ playset remained inaccessible. Photo provided by Steve Steiner.

Following sage advice she filled her bathtub only to make a discovery. “Unfortunately, it all leaked out,” she says with a laugh. That is because the stopper did not properly function, which she had no idea because she takes showers not baths. “Now I have to call a plumber.” Other than that, there was no damage to her home. She was also fortunate that power didn’t go out until about midnight the day the hurricane hit. It would not be restored for three to four days. In the meantime she and her neighbors busied themselves. The storm’s aftermath left a number of uprooted trees, limbs and branches strewn across the neighborhood. Continued on page 16

Investigationes demonstraverunt lectores legere me lius quod ii legunt saepius. Claritas est etiam processus dynamicus, qui sequitur mutationem consuetudium lectorum.


The 863 Magazine

Thom Mesrobian on Rogue Stage Non-traditional storytelling is the objective at Polk County’s newest professional theatre company.

Thom Mesrobian, left, rehearses with Sarah French for the Rogue Stage production of “Moonlight After Midnight.”

Story by Donna Kelly Photos by Karissa Barber


The 863 Magazine

November | December 2017


“It’s a privilege to tell stories, to see people’s eyes open either to truth in those stories or when beginners fall in love with the craft,” he says.

Since then, he’s worked on all aspects of live performance, including writing four plays, two musicals, and countless sketches.

Although Mesrobian spent seven years as a sales merchandiser and five years in Christian bookstore management, he’s made a living as an actor in Central Florida for 11 years. He’s been on stage at The Holy Land Experience, Sea World, Busch Gardens, and various Disney theme parks. These days he’s a game show host at the Florida Aquarium and a respected actor among Polk County community theaters.

hom Mesrobian practically cut his teeth on the footlights.

The son of the late Robert Mesrobian, a professor of opera who founded the Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera, and Janice Mesrobian, a professional pianist, Mesrobian’s career began at 4 years old when he appeared in his father’s production of “La Boheme” at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Daniel Terry, who worked with him for several years at The Holy Land Experience, says Mesrobian’s serious approach to his craft results in engaging performances onstage. “He is not only great at feeling what he is saying; he is great at getting the audience to feel the same emotions.” Terry says. “He was always able to accomplish his objective, whether he wants them to laugh, cry, be creeped out, you name it.” But Mesrobian’s influence on the theme park extended beyond his performances. “Before he left, Thom had a major role in redesigning the park and creating some of the more entertaining educational experiences,” Terry says. “His fingerprint is still there through his many contributions.” Danny Baynard, a long-time community theater jack-of-all-trades in Polk County, has been collaborating with Mesrobian for 15


years. Among other projects, Baynard was in the cast of the Lake Wales Little Theatre 2004 production of Mesrobian’s original play, “Prairie Dogs.” He describes Mesrobian as talented and detailed – whether he’s writing, acting or directing. “As a director, he knows what he wants out of a piece, but he will also take suggestions and opinions from the actors,” says Baynard. “He doesn’t leave an actor wondering what he wants.” In describing Mesrobian as an actor, Baynard not only praises his considerable

vocal talent, including singing and accurate accents, but the physical and internal elements he builds into each character. “He develops these in great detail and that makes each character tops and alive, and he does it well,” he says. “I admire his tenacity that he’s been able to make a living at it. He stuck with it,” Baynard adds. Going Rogue Mesrobian, 50, joined forces this year with his wife, Tonya Mesrobian, actress Karissa Barber, and Mark Hartfield, Polk State College’s theater program coordinator, to create Rogue Theatre, a professional company – meaning performers will be paid – bringing non-traditional theater experiences to Polk County. “My focus has been in Orlando for the last 11 Continued on page 14


The 863 Magazine Thom Mesrobian, from page 13

years, now I’m focusing on Polk County,” he says. Hartfield, Rogue Theatre’s artistic director, describes Mesrobian as a visionary. “He his very interested in finding a way to bring ‘non-traditional’ theater to a new audience,” Hartfield says. “We have worked on shows together for about a decade and he wanted to start a production company to move some of our ideas forward.” The Mesrobians and Hartfield joined forces with Barber when they discovered she was interested in forming a local professional theater company. “I think it’s long overdue that Lakeland has a professional theater company,” Barber says. “I love being able to bring a high caliber professional theater to Polk County.” Rogue Theatre brings short plays with small casts to funky places such as art galleries, bars, offices, empty buildings. The target audience is 25 to 40 years old. “There are a whole slew of people who don’t go to the theater, but

they need stories so they go to Netflix,” Mesrobian explained. “We want to go to the places where people hang out, where we can do a pop-up show, so we can say, ‘if you like this, you’d like a show at Theatre Winter Haven.’” The company’s first show, “Moonlight After Midnight” by Martin Dockery, was held in October at the Ridge Art Association gallery in Winter Haven. He describes the company’s productions as challenging, new, and evocative. Often they will present original material. While edgy, shows won’t be riddled with obscene language. “We’re not seeking out plays that have objectionable content,” Mesrobian says. “There’s a problem linking edgy with dirty.” The next project will be a rock musical that Mesrobian is writing with Orlando-based composer Ben Shepler. “It tells the true story of a young woman in 18th century France who was a bisexual, sword fighting, opera singing superstar who fought duels dressed as a man and once burned down a convent to rescue her girlfriend from the nuns,” Mesrobian explains.

November | December 2017


Mesrobian expects the company will stage the untitled production within a year. Hartfield says it speaks volumes about Mesrobian’s talent that he’s equally successful as an actor, director, and writer. “As a writer, he is insanely creative and dedicated,” Hartfield says. “If he is working on a project, it seems to appear out of nowhere in a very short span of time.” Watching plays he’s written performed on stage is gratifying. His play, “Callbacks,” based on his experiences working in theme parks, was directed by Baynard, and performed in Tampa and Orlando earlier this year. “To know people ‘get it’ and it means something to them, it’s a pretty great feeling, especially when I get praise from peers,” he says. “Everything I write needs to say something.” It all goes back to storytelling. “Regardless of background, education, income or creed, everyone has a story and it is special and sacred,” he says. For more info visit Thom Mesrobian is one of the actors of Polk County’s newest professional theatre company, Rogue Stage.


The 863 Magazine Hurricane Irma, from page 11

“The whole neighborhood pitched in,” she says. The hurricane was not quite as kind for Mona Beedle, who, with her husband Rob and his mother, live on 2 1/2 acres in a rural section of Auburndale off the old Dixie Highway — they also had four families staying with them because those families live in trailers. Their home, actually their property, sustained damage. The majority of damage sustained was not so much from wind (although it did create a concern as detailed later) as it was from water. Their property backs onto a retention pond that is adjacent to a creek. In addition to that they have a neighbor whose property includes a 14-foot deep pond. The rain from Irma was such that the neighbor’s pond overflowed onto their front yard. The creek overflowed into the retention pond and the retention pond created a river that ran through the backyard. In doing so it

prompted a particular concern. “We have well water and the raging flood water almost knocked over the pump,” she says. Later, with the loss of power, they couldn’t pump any water into their house. Fortunately, although their property flooded, the water didn’t make it into their home, but came close. Prior to the arrival of Irma, they realized they needed more sandbags but there were none to be had, so they scrambled to fill the void. “We had to go to Lowe’s to buy bags of mulch that we placed at the front door.” Beedle says that while their home was adequately stocked, such as bathtubs filled with water — as well as purchasing large trash cans they also filled with water — there were things they didn’t do and now wish they had, including boarding up the windows. “You could see the wind pushing the windows of the sliding glass doors. We were a bit afraid they were going to shatter,” she says. The Beedles lost power around midnight and were without electricity for three to four days. At night they used cell phones for light, as well as lit candles. To occupy herself when she and Rob and their guests were not helping clean up the property or helping neighbors — which took about five days — she spent her time studying her bible and writing a presentation she was scheduled to deliver for an upcoming Christian women’s meeting. They were also resourceful. A one-time long distance truck driver (as is her husband), she went to a nearby truck stop to shower. While they were fortunate that no trees fell onto their home, Hurricane Irma caused them to each lose at least a week’s pay. They also lost approximately $500 worth of food. Betty Piper lives in a gated community

in Winter Haven. She is also someone who (pun intended) weathered the three hurricanes in 2004 and she felt that Irma was more stronger than Hurricane Charlie, and of longer duration. Regardless, she felt for the most part she got off scot free. Her home showed no sign of damage and her friend Howard Marshall’s home was also relatively unscathed. “He lost a few shingles,” Piper says. Nor was she inconvenienced for too long as she was without power only two days. When the power first came on it later went off for half a day, she says. After that it came back on and stayed on. She believed the impact was minimal because of the hurricane’s direction. “Irma seemed to blow by to me because we were on the right side of the eye,” Piper says. However, this was not the case in other parts of the subdivision. “At the end of my street are a number of trees. Quite a few of them got knocked down, as if they were hit by a tornado.” If any building in the subdivision was damaged it was the clubhouse, she says. She believed it lost some windows and there

November | December 2017

appeared to be some damage to the roof. However, there was a possible greater damage, that of flooding. “There was so much water the ponds overflowed and filled the parking lot of the clubhouse. That’s a lot of water,” Piper says. Throughout the county roads were blocked by fallen trees and other debris, power lines down, and homes and buildings and fences damaged. There were vehicles damaged or destroyed by felled trees or massive tree limbs or by flying debris. Intersections, especially on major roads, became four-way stops until power could be restored. In some instances the traffic signals had been ripped from their moorings and lay in the road, splintered into pieces almost


for many to be better prepared for a natural disaster.

unrecognizable. The few gas stations that were able to open had long lines of drivers waiting to put a few dollars of gasoline into their auto tanks; it was not unusual for police officers to coordinate this situation.

To read the personal hurricane story of the author of this article, Steve Steiner, please visit

For the most part people seemed to take the inconveniences in stride. One homeowner, whose pickup truck fell victim to a huge fallen tree saw this as an opportunity to capitalize on his calamity. A sign on the busted windshield offered for $1 the opportunity for people to pose with the truck’s owner alongside the vehicle. He had at least several takers. In the end, whether hurricane veterans or virgins, Hurricane Irma was a wake up call Opposite: The only damage at Steve Steiner’s home following Hurricane Irma was part of his fence that pulled away from a post. Photo by Steve Steiner. This page, left: Fallen tree limbs and uprooted trunks were not an uncommon sight after Irma. Photo by Sergio Cruz. Above: Jon Ecklund (left) holds a dollar bill given him by Virginia Condello, for the privilege of having her photo taken alongside him. The two pose with the tree that crushed his pickup truck. Photo by Steve Steiner.

Crossword on page 7.


The 863 Magazine Lakeland History Tour, from page 9 Tour takers are treated to a slideshow in the loggia of Lake Mirror. At the end of the slideshow, tour guide Stacy Smith demonstrates the possibility of underground tunnels.

In 1946, the walk around Lake Mirror was dedicated to Lakeland’s most famous former resident, Frances Langford, who attended Lakeland High School and won an American Legion Talent Show in the 1920s. She then worked for a Tampa radio show, performed on Broadway, and had a national hit song. Smith says the Frances Langford Promenade is beautiful at night. In addition to facts of early city development, those who led it all — and their rivalries — Smith also points out architectural details that might go unnoticed by the average person. He also expounds upon some more commonly known history such as the lake’s famous resident for many years, Blinky the Alligator. He also throws in a funny story of a pet goat that let itself into the city hall building back in the day and ate several pages of city ordinances, causing the thenmayor to be the laughing stock of Lakeland. Tour hours vary (beginning after dark) and starts at the foot of Main Street adjacent to Kryger To the Lakeland Choral Society on its 50th Anniversary! Park and on top For more info: of the loggia


above Lake Mirror. For more info visit or call 863834-2280. For more information on Blinky the Alligator and the goat that ate the city ordinances visit


The 863 Magazine

Break Through Your Threshold By Jai Maa Taking an honest inventory of one’s self may reveal either the need to control others, or giving in to the control of others.


ave you ever wanted something from someone else so badly that you were willing to do anything to get it? You were willing to give up power, manipulate, and try to control the other person to give you what you wanted? How miserable did you make yourself and the other by being attached? Let’s say the person says “no” to your request, and you feel desperate to get them to see things your way. Perhaps you try to change their perspective by sharing your perspective in many different ways, thinking

they’ll eventually “get it” if you just help them see why you’re right. You feel insecure by the other person’s point of view and need them to change. And they still said, “no.” If you are deeply attached, you now need a more intense strategy to get them to say “yes.” Perhaps you pull back your so-called love and withhold kindness and affection until they cave. Not honoring someone’s “no” means you don’t have respect for this person’s ability to choose for themselves. This is not love. If they still won’t give you what you want, you may begin to push their buttons by saying hurtful things, or bring up past wounds in hopes they will feel bad and doubt themselves. When the verbal or emotional manipulations don’t work, maybe you’ll demean to attacking them physically, whether it be their body or personal property. You feel so desperate to get the other person

to comply with you wishes, you have now degraded yourself to verbal, emotional, and perhaps even physical abuse. Even if you don’t succumb to abusive behavior, simply withholding love and affection because you’re not getting what you want is like a slow venom drip that will inevitably kill the love and trust in your relationship. If you do succeed in getting the other person to bend to your will, they will feel less trusting and resentful toward you. Let’s say you’re on the other end of the spectrum and someone wants something from you. Your answer is “no” but you are attached to how the other person will perceive you. You feel afraid they might be upset and even retaliate because you said “no,” so you’re willing to betray yourself in order to keep the peace. It seems easier just to give them what they want, even though you are giving away your power. You feel weakened, vulnerable, and like a victim when you do not stay true to yourself. Furthermore, you can’t be trusted. Saying “yes” when you don’t want to is dishonest. Giving in to someone who is disrespecting your right to choose freely reveals that you don’t respect yourself either. In order to allow the love to flow in any relationship, you must release attachments to needing anything from anyone else in order to feel secure within yourself. You must also release attachment to how you are perceived when you stand in your integrity. You deserve healthy, thriving relationships, and this is necessary inner work to obtaining and keeping them.

Jai Maa is a touring author and enlightenment facilitator who inspires others to create their visions with no compromise. An interfaith minister and native of Polk County, she travels with her cat companions teaching others how to co-create with God and live their own version of Heaven on Earth. Jai Maa is a regular instructor at THE SELF Center in Winter Haven. For more info visit

The 863 Magazine - November & December 2017  

Local actor Thom Mesrobian has gone rogue with Rogue Stage; Hurricane Irma's aftermath; Lake Mirror Historic Tour: A monthly telling of Lake...