M. SCOTT MORRIS: The Jaybird’s eyes turn to dollar signs


I’d played phone tag for nearly two weeks with Jay Bell, my good friend from “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida,” then we finally connected.

“Morris! Morris!” he said. “You’ve got to write about me in the newspaper.”

“I expected you to say, ‘Hello,’ in that funny, high-pitched voice you usually do,” I said.

“Hello,” he said in the funny, high-pitched voice. “Put me in the paper.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Do you have anything good?”

Jay Bell will hit his 45th birthday at the end of May. That’s halfway to 90. He doesn’t think he’ll live that long, but who knows?

“I didn’t think I’d make 40, either,” he said.

The Jaybird said it’s time to grow up, a desire inspired by a new job with a lending company in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.

It’s a fancy community. I know because Jay has sent pictures of the Bentleys and Rolls Royces that he’s spotted while driving around in his used-to-be-red Toyota with 205,000 miles on it.

“My car’s the only one I’ve seen with duct tape,” he said. “Trust me, I’ve looked.”

In Lakewood Ranch, maintenance people replace the wooden boxes around city trash cans before the paint on the old boxes has a chance to fade. Street sweepers make daily runs through parking lots.

“I don’t know why,” Jay Bell said. “These people are so snooty they wouldn’t think of throwing trash onto the street.”

“Are you sure you want to call them ‘snooty?’ They’re your customers, after all,” I said. “How about classy?”

“Good point. Don’t put ‘snooty’ in the paper,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to Google that 30 years from now when I’m running for mayor.”

The job’s going well, and his bosses have encouraged him to take a 20-hour course and pass a test to get his broker’s license. Then he’ll get back to making loans, like he did a lifetime ago, before the Great Recession. He was on the phone, so I couldn’t see him, but I knew his eyeballs had been replaced with green dollar signs.

“That’s why I need to grow up and take this course,” he said. “I do that. I pass the test, then I’m ready to fly high again. It’ll be time for a new, shiny red Toyota. With no duct tape. That’s what I’m talking about.”

“You could buy my ticket and fly me down to paradise,” I said.

“Hmm? What? Sure, Morris,” he said, “but you’ll have to wait up there in God’s country for a while.”

“Come on, man,” I said. “Money will be pouring down on top of your head. What are you going to do with it?”

“Dollar bills for the strip club,” he said. “The Jaybird’s got some catching up to do.”

“I’m glad you’re growing up,” I said.

“Me, too, Morris,” he said. “Me, too.”

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal