When Good Men Do Nothing


(This post is really only of interest to those who are living in Highlands County, Florida.)

I often hear friends say how much they miss their school days. And if they could go back in time to relive those classic memories, they’d do it in a heartbeat.

Hell to the No. NOT. ME.

I don’t talk about this often, but school was a bloody nightmare for me. Not academically, I didn’t have much difficulty in that regard. But alas, school is about much more than what happens in the classrooms, it’s also about what happens in BETWEEN the classrooms. I didn’t hate school because it was difficult for me. I didn’t hate it because of my sometimes debilitating social anxiety, though that was certainly a huge problem for me.

Nope. I hated school because of bullies.

I was always small for my age. I wore glasses from 18 months old. I had buck teeth. And as a result, my parents got me braces, which I wore for years. I had that orthodontic headgear thing. Which I had to wear IN SCHOOL. I had terrible asthma back then and often had to sit on the sidelines in gym class. I was physically weak. A wimp. I had it all. I was, in short, a bully’s wet dream.

I was bullied most every single day from first grade all the way on up through junior high. And yes, in high school, too, though that fell off quite a bit after I moved to New Mexico in the middle of 10th grade.

I don’t mean I was merely picked on (but yeah, that happened all the time, too). I was BULLIED. Knocked down at the bus stop. Pushed down stairs. Tripped in hallways while carrying truckloads of books, just so they could point and laugh at me while I awkwardly scrambled to gather my belongings off the floor. Shoved into lockers. Smacked upside the head. Punched in the gut. Given wedgies, atomic and otherwise. Beat up.

Not occasionally.

Every day.


I told my mom about getting bullied at the bus stop once. This was before my folks got divorced, so I had to be 7 or younger. Anyhow, Mom did the right thing. Technically. I begged her not to, but she went down the street to the bully’s house and confronted his parents. All the while I waited at home in terror, knowing this was only going to make things worse. And I was right. Snitches get stitches, and I got mine the next morning at the bus stop. Not literally, figuratively. But things with that bully got about 10x worse after that. Which is why from then on out, I lived with my daily nightmares in silence. Speaking up only made things harder for me.

I cannot count the number of times I would awake at 5 in the morning on a school day, staring up at the ceiling in bed while I silently cried. All the while dreading the fresh hell that awaited me that day. And I cannot count how many times I faked a stomach ache so I could stay home. It was that bad. Naturally, if I stayed home for a few days, my anxiety grew worse each day, knowing I was delaying the inevitable and would still have to return to school eventually. Had homeschooling been a thing back then, I would have begged my parents to let me do it. BEGGED.

I’m a lover, not a fighter. Hell, even to this day, I haven’t been in a single fistfight, save for my brother. So I never – not even once – physically defended myself. Screw the Karate Kid’s Crane Method. My fighting style back then is probably best described as the Armadillo Technique. I curled up into a ball while the punches flew, just trying to minimize the pain and damage.

So no, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back in time to relive the years of hell I went through.

I’m an adult(ish) now. I don’t have to deal with bullies on a daily basis. And though I am extremely non-confrontational, and I would do almost anything to avoid making waves, more often than not, I am going to call a bully out when I see one nowadays.

Having been through enough therapy to choke a herd of elephants, I, of course, have tried many times to empathize with the bully. You’ve heard this before, I’m sure. “I’m sure his home life is absolutely awful. He’s probably getting abused at home and that’s why he’s taking it out on others at school.” I’m done trying to see things from their side, though. I gave up on it long ago. The WHY is inconsequential. The end result is the same no matter what. Bullies hurt people. That’s the only thing that counts. No matter how you’re treated at home, don’t be a dick. Period.

Bullies are assholes who thrive on making other people miserable so they can feel better about themselves. They get off on it, and love to exert control over people, keeping them under their thumb. It’s a power thing.

And Dimitris Panos is such a person.

Dimitri is the owner of Dimitri’s Family Restaurant here in Sebring, Florida, which I love. Their breakfasts, in particular. He is the owner of my favorite bar in town, Dimitri’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar and Grill. And the brand new Dimitri’s Pizza Kitchen. All three are located in the same place and they are quite popular. And in and of themselves, they are good. But this is about much more than how good those places are.

I’ve been going to 5 O’Clock Somewhere for years, singing karaoke there even before the amazing remodel, when it was still known as the Back Alley. I love all the bartenders there and the entertainers, too. I consider them friends. I know tons of the regulars, also friends.

But Thursday night was my last hurrah at 5 O’Clock Somewhere and I will not be going back. I won’t be eating at Dimitri’s restaurant, and I won’t be getting any of the pizzas from there, either.

Dimitri has screwed over too many of my friends and I’m done rewarding his bullshit by continuing to put my money into his pockets. I hate bullies and I’m not about to continue supporting one.

A few years back, some friends of mine opened a fantastic restaurant and bar in town. I always support my friends, so naturally, I began frequenting the place on non-karaoke nights. And when our mutual friends, who host karaoke shows and already had two weekly gigs at Dimitri’s, were offered to play a new gig at the new place, they gave Dimitri the courtesy of letting him know. They wanted him to know that it was in no way competing with the Back Alley because it was on a night that Dimitri didn’t have karaoke. He immediately got pissed and cut their two shows a week at the Back Alley to one, just so they weren’t making any additional money.

There’s no need for this kind of crap. Cutthroat competition is more a thing that higher populated areas deal with, not our little rural cow town. There is plenty of room in this county for more than one (or even a handful) of bars to be successful. But in Dimitri’s mind, he has to be the only game in town. And he will do whatever he can to make that a reality. He attempts to squash all the other players in town.

He has banned a friend’s band from ever playing at 5 O’Clock Somewhere again. Why? Because they had the audacity to take a gig at a bar that doesn’t have Dimitri’s name on it. They weren’t under an exclusive contract with Dimitri. They weren’t on retainer. This is America, and they are free to take any gig they want, no matter where it is. They played at 5 O’Clock Somewhere on a regular basis. And they, too, gave Dimitri the courtesy of letting him know they were taking a gig on an evening when Dimitri didn’t have live music, and he fired them, anyway. Because he is an asshole.

I have seen Dimitri yell at and berate his employees. Not just in front of me, but other customers. More than once. That’s the sort of thing you just don’t do in front of customers, have it out with your staff. I mean, you shouldn’t berate anyone PERIOD, even behind closed doors, but you know what I’m saying.

And Tuesday was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Phil has been hosting two karaoke shows a week at 5 O’Clock Somewhere for a few years now, Tuesdays and Fridays. So when another karaoke hosting friend announced on Facebook Tuesday that HE was hosting that night, I chimed in and asked if Phil was on vacation. Phil replied that no, Dimitri had canceled his Tuesday shows and got a replacement because…here comes the shocker…Phil took a Wednesday karaoke gig at a different bar. Never mind that Dimitri doesn’t want karaoke on Wednesdays. He knocked Phil down to one show a week (sound familiar?) effective immediately. Because he’s a jerk. So I stayed home Tuesday and swore I’d never go back on a Tuesday night.

But the more I thought about it, the more pissed I got and the less and less I could justify going back to the bar at all. So I made the judgment call and decided to make Thursday my final night at 5 O’Clock Somewhere. It was glorious. Some of my favorite bartenders were there. My best friends went with me. Lots of my friends and favorite singers were there. I sang my ass off, new stuff and classics, too. I performed “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” one last time there, and dedicated it to Dimitri. I even got in a couple of duets I haven’t sung since I lived in Dallas…”Leather and Lace” and “Love Shack.” I loved it.

But I’m not going back. It saddens me and pisses me off to have to say that. I am not going back to my favorite bar in town. And it’s because it is run by a petty bully who treats my friends like shit.

So now, my Highlands County friends, I am urging you to take a stand, as well. I never do this, but here it goes.

The only way Dimitri Panos is going to change, if he ever changes at all, is if he is hit where it hurts him most. His wallet.

Most of you agree that while Dimitri runs great establishments, he is a dick when it comes to dealing with people. So why contribute to his wealth? Why show him support of any kind when he is routinely berating his staff and your friends?




Take a stand with me. Spend your money where people are treated with kindness and respect, foreign concepts to Dimitri.

Make the right call and stop frequenting Dimitri’s businesses. Yes, even though you like them.

If not, that’s your call. If you want to hang out with me, though, I’ll be singing at Sunset Grille on Saturday evenings from 9 to close with J & B Karaoke. And I’ll be at the Yogi Bar on Wednesday nights from 8 to midnight with Phil. And anywhere else where Dimitri’s name isn’t hanging on the shingle.

You want decent pizza? Go to Original Vincent’s or Market 27. You want a great bar with friendly staff and good drink deals and good food? Go to Sunset Grille or the Blue Lagoon. Carlie Lynne’s is a fantastic little bar with incredible people and awesome drink prices, too. They also have a weekly pool tournament on Wednesdays.

There are MANY options for food, drink, and entertainment in Highlands County that don’t include giving Dimitris Panos any of your money.

People come first.

Principles matter.

Bullies can kiss my ass.




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