Part 1: Lois' Early Years STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBERT NEFF

May 9, 2016 — Pelican Beakon, the Pelican Newspaper, interviewed Lois, #PelicanYoga's founder for a four-part series titled Interview with the Pelican.

This is a four-part Interview series that follows Lois' life. Part One is Lois' early years. Part Two is how Lois founded #PelicanYoga and turned Maximo Seafood Shack into #PelicanYoga World Headquarters. Part Three is how the #PelicanYoga World Headquarters was closed by out-of-state corporate uppity greedy investors. Lois finally opens up on how this nearly destroyed her. Then the new 26,000+ petition supporters gave her such encouragement. Part Four is Shackless In StPete.

Lois' Early Years

Lois is a white pelican who decided to stop being a snowbird and went against her family and elder's wishes to call the economically depressed Southside St. Petersburg her home. Lois' family had been migrating to St. Petersburg every winter from the Great Lakes. This migration had spanned every generation. This is the oldest story passed down from generation to generation.

The Pelican Beakon met up with Lois on the White Pelican. The local boaters had just honored her by naming a boat for her species. Lois gets choked up when you mention this.

Pelican Beakon: How did you find the Maximo Seafood Shack?

I had been surfing a social networking food app, Migrating Advisor. I was tired of beach seafood that was not fresh or served with too many condiments. Then I read the top review that said, Best grouper in Tampa Bay and ALL of Florida.

I turned to fly down Maximo Channel and check out the Maximo Seafood Shack.

The signs are easy to spot from the air.

Then follow the signs!

I'm everybody else!

Smoked fish? I'm in heaven!

Migrating Advisor had filleted that review!
I became a regular at the Maximo Seafood Shack. So much so, I always had the best seat at the Chef's Table!

Pelican Beakon: Next question focuses on integration.

I was the first white pelican to move into an all brown pelican community. There were other issues. My wingspan was wider than other brown pelicans. I was bigger than everyone else. Since white pelicans are one of North America's largest birds, my parents thought this would be a difficult integration.

But the warm welcome from the pelicans and other birds left a lasting impression. At Maximo Seafood Shack, all sizes and shapes naturally integrate. Must be the fresh seafood!

Pelican Beakon: When did you decide to stay and what was everyone's reaction?

As a teenager, the white pelicans were getting ready to migrate back to the Great Lakes. I shocked my parents and friends when I announced, "I'm staying." Word quickly spread across the Great Lakes. No white pelican has stayed the summer!

My parents were worried that I would not be accepted. My parents laid out the challenges. First on mom and pop's list was, You're not from here.
White pelicans dine differently than brown pelicans
Brown pelicans dive for fish.
White pelicans dine together. We flap wings and corral the fish, then scoop them up with our beaks.
Florida sun and UV pose serious health risks for white pelicans. Summers are brutal. That is why we return to the midwest's Great Lakes in Minnesota for summer!
White pelicans are group-oriented.
Brown pelicans are not group-oriented.
We fly high, together and travel long distances to dine. Brown pelicans live for fast food.
But my parents saved the most rattling truth for last. Fresh water was now a luxury I might pay for with my life. They are filled with alligators and invasive pythons.
Meanwhile, the flock was debating my decision. The elder said, This was breaking new sand.
I pondered all this. The silver lining was that I would see them in six months.
Then my grandmother stood up in the elder meeting. The beaks fell silent. As the flock matriarch, she stated, "We have known this moment would come. Let's embrace the child's decision and support her."

Pelican Beakon: How were you accepted, especially where you first lived?

My newly adopted community on the barrier islands' bird preserves had not immediately welcomed me. They were used to snowbirds going back. They openly worried this may start a trend. They feared the disappearing nesting space would become too overcrowded. The fisheries would be crowded and tough to get a table. The mangroves could only support the weight of so many birds. I was larger which meant less birds and less nests on the mangroves. These were not the things a teenager wanted to hear. I certainly was not prepared to address these issues!

Lois said, "As I look back, being different and facing discrimination was how I became a community advocate."

Pelican Beakon: Let's focus on your arrival at the Maximo Seafood Shack.

Lois said, The community vibe she found at Maximo Seafood Shack helped her cope with being estranged and on her own.

Plus, Maximo Seafood Shack was animal friendly. This was truly a place for all two and four-legged creatures.

I found Maximo Seafood Shack to be a place where all the rookeries could meet and develop lasting friendships. Birds of all species were welcomed. I helped with the social media and encouraged free beak-of-mouth advertising. Some say, obtaining the #1 spot on Migrating Advisor made the Maximo Seafood Shack the most popular place in Southside St. Pete. But I disagree. I attribute that rating to the fresh seafood prepared Old Florida style, and the community vibe. This was all Margaret's doing!

Margaret's vision created an Old Florida Shack were new Florida would find old Florida and coexist. No matter how you were dressed, you could show up, step back in time and appreciate Old Florida's community feel.

Margaret was a Fishmonger. She cut what you ate that day! How many woman fishmongers do you know? Plus she's a veteran!

I still recall that bonding moment with Margaret.

Margaret invited me along to pick up fresh fish at the fisheries.

This was my first visit. I was so overcome seeing so many fresh fish that I fainted!

The boat captains all knew Margaret and slipped me a "Go bag" filled with black tuna.

Margaret and I shared many sunsets at the Shack.

Margaret's dear friend, Mike Metz, passed the Seafood Shack's torch to her. Margaret would share "Mike Metz" stories. This is what the Chicago Investors didn't understand nor care to hear. It's all about the money.

Sam Smith wrote this song because he ran across a musician who was only in it for the money!

One boater said, "The Chicago Investors don't know water!"

Ouch, that is the worst insults a boater could say about anyone.

Closeup of Mike Metz next to the "Save the Shack" t-shirts.

The original Seafood Shack signs were behind the murals.

Margaret gave me free room and board at the shack.

I believed in what Margaret was doing so much one of the waitresses labeled me the "Maximo Seafood Shack Ambassador."

Later I started the Bird Unity Yoga Movement! But I am getting ahead of myself.

Pelican Beakon: What was the "Shack Life" like?

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Maximo Seafood Shack was a most welcome place to put the day-to-day struggles behind you.

Pelican Beakon: Two causes were the foundation for your early life as an advocate. Can you share more with us?

I circle back to two early causes that seem to elevate my status within both the human and bird community. This is what put me on the path to be a trusted community organizer who advocated for transparency in decisions that impact the community.

The first issue was "Bird Poop!" For years, this had been causing friction between the boaters and birds, especially the pelicans!

Bird poop could be seen on boats up and down Maximo Channel.

No sailboat was safe!

I surveyed the boaters. No bird had ever approached them before on this issue!

The survey results clearly stated that "Bird poop" was the #1 reason for conflict between humans and birds. Now I had documented proof!

I also found the bird poop inspectors would see the bird poop but not report it. Sometimes they didn't see it, even when I was next to them!

This was an uphill battle but I was able to convince the birds to stop pooping on the boats!

There was another good thing to come out of this for the community. The research also showed that no bird had pooped on the guests at the Maximo Seafood Shack.

Pelican Beakon: For Lois' efforts, the sailboat owners presented a French Kiss blanket for her nest.

Pelican Beakon: What was the second cause?

The second cause was to stop the catfish from accosting the pelicans in the water.

The birds at the rookeries, who did not paddle or visit Maximo Channel simply did not understand what those here have been facing. If you visited Maximo Seafood Shack on a Sunday afternoon, you were very likely to be accosted.

Since this happened directly below you, you were the only one who could see the catfish.

But the rookeries believed the catfish over those who swam in the waters. The catfish said I was the only complainer.

"Not true," we said. I was sticking up for everyone who had given up or who didn't want to get involved.

Pelican Beakon: Unfortunately, the other bird rookeries were vilifying Lois and made her the scape goat. She also found out who her friends were. Some trusted friends did not stand by her. They left her on the pylon to dry.

Pelican Beakon: Lois took this video. It's a pelican's reaction to being accosted by an unseen catfish. The video went viral and the calls for help could now be plainly heard on the audio!

The rookeries didn’t venture to the channel on Sundays when the catfish were partying the most.

I requested the community call logs and found an interesting pattern. The calls dropped to zero during the winter. Then my research discovered the the catfish were actually "Channel catfish!" During the Winter the channel cats hibernated in the mud. Then resurface when Spring arrives.

I had stood up for the pelicans and suffered for it.

I remember speaking to a revered elder who said, The ones who expose the truth are the ones who suffer the most. The weight rests on your shoulders. They are stronger than you know. Trust your own strength.

Renewed. I continued diving to expose the real truth while some watched and didn't help.

I researched the complaints over the last four years. There were just under a hundred complaints with only one reported as a water violation. My friends were dumbfounded!

The one violation had recently occurred when the catfish were caught stinging two pelican police officers in front of me.

The Pelican Beakon was reporting on the story, but I said the reporting was softball. All the Pelican Beakon did was write "He said, She said" articles.

I complained to the Pelican Beakon. I said they were being selective and only truly investigating stories that brought in advertising revenue. The editors didn't publish any of my posts and declined to use my research.

I also accused PelicanTV of not covering stories that were important to Southside St. Pete.

Yet PelicanTV had no problem devoting resources to cover grouper addicts.

PelicanTV would interrupt programming to cover crime drama about the infamous Snowy Egret called "Yellow shoes."

If there was anything happening at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, PelicanTV would be right there to cover it!

I also complained the Pelican Beakon was accepting the catfish explanation and not diving below the surface to uncover the truth. This is the story the catfish didn't want the rookeries to know. They swarmed to coverup the issue.

After the water violation was recorded, the catfish had had enough. They served me a legal notice that I was being sued for harassment, defamation and false reporting. I had no choice but to incur a great expense and travel a dangerous route to find Mother Nature.

Mother Nature was the only hope. She would only help those who were able to seek her help. But only if you were true and correct.

This was my only chance to vindicate myself and silence the irate catfish and rookery leaders.

Mother Nature ruled in the pelican's favor. This was a landmark case for pelican rights. The news took off!

The catfish were not happy with Mother Nature's decision.

But everyone knows, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature"

Pelican Beakon: Were your parents ever worried?

Yes! At first, I sent them postcards with Skyway Stamps every day. Then my grandmother discovered online, social media and email. Now, I post throughout the day and night. She is always swiping and sharing my posts on the hot network Pelibook and Pwipper. She keeps mom and dad, and the flock up to date. They are living this through me and watching my feathers.

Now my granny has become a worldwide social media star with the senior crowd. They call themselves the #CondoSeniors because the rookery is near a condo where older human seniors live and socialize.

My granny has developed into quite the social media rock star. She applied for and was accepted into NASA Social! Now that she just attended her first #NASASocial, she wears the lanyard everywhere she goes.

She flew a GoPro to the top of the VAB. That's the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's so big inside, it has its own clouds!

NASA Social even took them to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex!

Granny said the highlight was seeing Atlantis, the last space shuttle to launch into space, suspended at 43.21 degrees.

Especially since she was at Atlantis' final flight of the Shuttle Program. The STS-135 mission launched on 8 July 2011. She was there on a seniors field trip in 2011 for the whole week.

When I asked Granny about her trips, she always responds with the location. For the trip to the Space Coast she said, "What goes on at KSC, stays at KSC!"

Pelican Beakon: Any closing comments today?

Kids today need to know that their actions can make a difference. Sometimes the moment finds you. This is when you know its time.

About the Four Part Interview

Pelican Beakon will be releasing an article a week.

Part Two is how Lois founded #PelicanYoga and turned Maximo Seafood Shack into the #PelicanYoga World Headquarters.

#PelicanYoga World Headquarters was located at Maximo Seafood Shack, an old Florida neighborhood hub for both humans and pelicans.
Part Three is how the #PelicanYoga World Headquarters was closed by out-of-state corporate uppity greedy investors.
Part Four is Shackless in StPete.

What can't be said in Part Three and Four, is in the Dirty Secret IV File. The secrets are protected by Old Florida boaters. This is the kind of exposure that keep investors up at night.

There is still hope... Maybe the Pelican Beakon articles will find an investor who appreciates the neighborhood and Old Florida. Until then...

"A hug is worth a thousand pecks!" This has been a public service message from #PelicanYoga's Bird Unity Yoga Movement — Using yoga to break barriers.

Created By
Robert Neff
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Copyright ©2016 Robert Neff. All Rights Reserved.

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