Archive for July, 2010

Summer Poetry Corner

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2010 by tom

It's hot, so hot

Oh shit, it's hot.

A boiling pot

Is not this hot

An ocelot

Gets burned in spots

Too hot for tots

Too hot for cots;

The sun has spots

Of lesser hot

But still this hot

Is quite a lot.

Because it's hot

Your lawn may rot,

Your pets get hot

And pant a lot.

With sand so hot,

It hurts to trot.

So hot a sot

On Aeroflot

Messed up and bought

A microdot.

He saw a lot

Of battles fought,

'Tween Mrs Lot

And sizzling brats.

A leopard's spots

Are cool but not

Enough to blot

A jot of hot.

It's hot, so hot,

Oh shit, it's hot.


Stay cool friends. 🙂


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Saturday Library Update

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2010 by tom

"When an old person dies, a library burns down."

That's how I remember the line from Robert McCammon's Boy's Life, which was one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read.  (in fact, I just bought it again from Amazon)

The idea, of course, isn't that the decedent's survivors go on an arson rampage against libraries, but that when somebody old–let's call it "experienced"–dies, with them goes a wealth of stories, wisdom, history, recipies, maybe poetry.

Thank God, I'm not writing another eulogy here.  I swear, I've written more rememberences for friends in the last few years than I've wanted to.  I'm glad to do it, to verbalize what they meant to me and celebrate their lives, but I hate that they died.

My friend is going to her first funeral today.  I have no doubt it won't be her last. 

My first funeral was when I was 17 years old.  It was spring break of my senior year in high school, and I was working at the golf course.  I'd just hooked up a cart to its charger, and I was walking back to get the next one, when I saw my dad walking toward me.  Wha? Why was he there, I wondered.  He complimented me on the new tires I'd gotten on my car earlier that day.  Um, thanks.  "Is there someplace private we can talk?"

We went into the club storage room, and he told me that my grandfather had died.  My mother's father.  The award-winning sportswriter, greatest teller of stories, bourbon afficionado.  My idol.  My grandmother came home from work and found him dead on the floor at 67 years old. 

My dad broke down as he told me.  He said we were leaving that night to drive to Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia–my grandmother's house.  We went into the pro shop, and my dad explained to my boss that I had to leave.  He sent me off with his blessings.

I didn't cry.  I went into some sort of uncharacteristically pragmatic mode, where I just took care of business.  I had a ticket in my pocket to see The Pretenders two days later.  Obviously, I wouldn't be using it.  I drove out to the softball park and gave it to my friend, Mike.  (He ended up scalping it and making a tidy profit, bless him)  I got back home, and my mom was crying.  My brother was crying, but trying to hide it. 

Family friends were there in abundance, consoling, making sandwiches for the trip.  Ham sandwiches.  I like ham sandwiches, thank God.  My mom cried and hugged me.  I went into my room to pack.  I put on a George Thorogood blues song called "The Sky is Crying." I packed my copy of Camus' "The Stranger." My mom worked the phone.  Every time she told the story, she cried again.  My dad cried when he explained it.

I never did. 

We used to drive the 600 miles from our house in Sarasota to my grandmother's house in Ft O a few times a year.  It's a straight shot up I-75, and I still remember the little oases of civilization: Bradenton, Apollo Beach, Tampa, Brooksville, Ocala, Gainesville, Lake City, Valdosta, Perry, Tifton, Macon, Atlanta, Dalton, then Ft O. One of the most beautiful rest areas anywhere is on the Macon bypass, I-475.  It verdant and piney and hilly, like the gateway to a different world.

What was different about this trip was that my dad "let" me drive most of the way.  For a family trip? Driving at night? Unprecedented. 

I got us there, though, safe and sound.  It was probably 6:30, the spring sky predawn gray, and I remember thinking my grandmother looked like a wounded animal the way she cried and hugged us.  She looked lost, scared, crushed.  Family and friends brought food–including many more hams (what is it with Southern Protestants and hams?)–and offered condolences.  There were more tears.

I became the errand boy.  Any chance I had to get out of that house, away from the tears and hams and sadness, I took it.  The check-out girls at K-Mart knew me.  When we needed plastic cups, I'd go. Paper plates? I'd go.  Somebody needs to be picked up at the airport? Tom's Taxi–fast, friendly, and efficient.

The visitation was bittersweet.  They did a good job with my grandfather's body.  He was wearing his green blazer, and he looked like he was asleep, having a pleasant dream. The air was sickly sweet, thick with too many clashing flowers, and the room was stuffy and packed.

The funeral procession was a mile long, winding from Ft O to the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  I remember people pulled over and put their hands over their hearts as we passed.  And it was cold and clear, the sky a topaz blue…


And that's just one book in my library.  I don't go around with that memory open.  Talking to my friend last night, it was like pullling a worn book off a shelf, opening it, and seeing the detail anew. 

When my grandfather died, we all knew we'd lost somebody truly special–he'd covered Super Bowls, World Series, Indy 500's, you name it–nobody else had the stories he did.

But every life has books to be opened.  Maybe it's how my grandmother learned how to make dressing from her mother, or how my other grandfather put his brother through dental school. 

My friend was in New York City a few weeks ago, and she updated Twitter frequently.  It was kinda cool being here in Florida, sitting at my desk, living my normal life, and getting a Tweet that she was walking in Central Park, or just coming out of "Wicked," or sharing a picture of the Empire State Building as seen from her hotel window. I got the snapshots, the book's jacket blurb.  A lifetime from now, those memories will be treasured books for her to share with her grandchildren…"Let me tell you about hot. It was the record summer heatwave of 2010, and I walked from the U.N. back to my hotel.  I saw…"

Time has passed, and somehow I've ended up with the storyteller gift, though nothing like my grandfather.  I think, as I acquire and season my own memories, I appreciate hearing how things were different for other people.

I guess I'm using my library card while I still can.  Happy reading, and have a good weekend.  

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Posted in Uncategorized on July 18, 2010 by tom

This article made me think. 

That's a dangerous activity, sometimes, but it wasn't a bad thing. 

The couple described in the article were married 62 years, and they both died June 28th.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about relationships, and I said that I wasn't sure I would ever find one person like that (if nothing else, I'd be like 5000 years old at the end).  I think I've gotten too comfortable living alone.  I'm not sure.

I'm not lonely, though.  There's a distinction.  I just wonder if there comes a point where you're beyond "happily ever after" relationships. 

Nor am I bitter.  I love seeing couples like my parents, who've been married 45 years, or my friends Pat and Heather, who started dating during our Junior Year of High School, and have been together ever since, couples who happily orbit each other for huge majorities of each other's lives.

I had yesterday off–a rare job-free Friday in Tomville–and I spoke one word to another human being: "Thanks," to the cashier at the grocery store.

I spoke other words, of course.  I issued commands to the cats (I may as well have issued commands to the Gulf of Mexico for all the good it did), and I directed a profanity-thick rant at a fellow motorist. Mostly, though, I just lay in bed reading.  I chatted with friends on the Interwebs and via text message, but it was quiet.

Maybe that's it. Van Morrison has a song called "So Quiet in Here," and a cd called "Hymns to the Silence." He's awesome, so maybe there's something to that.

I was thinking this week about how things have changed since I went away to college. 

My friend Amily is going off for her Freshman year of college next month.  She's asked me about what it will be like.  The biggest memory I had was that it was difficult to maintain relationships with my friends and family.  We either had to send letters (which was slow), or call long distance (which could be ridiculously expensive). 

Amily won't have to do either of those things.  She can send e-mails and texts and Facebook updates and make no-charge long distance calls all from her Crackberry. 

While there was something satisfying about sending or receiving a long letter–the tactile presence of the word-imprinted paper, the wear after repeated foldings and rereadings, the dribs and drabs of whiskey or tears or ketchup staining the paper–it was slow: two days at best, or the better part of a week at the worst.  If I had a bad Abyss day, and poured out my soul in a letter, I'd most likely be in a better mood (or ten days into a nutbin vacation) by the time I got any communication in return.

These days, I could (and have) updated my Facebook status that I had insomnia, and within a few hours, I had comments from 10 friends on four continents.

Another oddity, many of these 10 I've never met–I've only known them in an Internet environment–but they are just as real to me as FB people I went to highschool with years ago.  On Facebook, Jenn (who sits behind me) shows up the same as some kid I was in third grade with.  My very first girlfriend and my most recent are equals.

I don't do things with a lot of "real life" people.  I work amongst them, shop beside them, drive behind them. Really, though, other than Carrie and Nicole and Jenn and a few others, I don't do a lot of voluntary interaction with my fellow humans.  Maybe I've turned into Scrooge–secret, self-contained, and solitary as an oyster–or maybe I just live too much in my own head, using the Internet to chat with friends I'd otherwise never have met.  Is it serendipitous that we met?

I don't think so, not entirely. I'd argue it's less-serendipitous that I've met friends through Vox, and more of a happy coincidence that I ended up sitting next to someone at work.  With Vox, I've spent the last almost-three years writing about things that amused, annoyed, or affected me, and if you're in my neighborhood, odds are you either like the way I think or mock me mercilessly.  Either way, somehow, out of the kabillion people on earth, you found my crazy little corner (and I yours). 

And somehow, 63 years ago Patricia Assise found Lou DeMuro, and they lived together as one till death did they part. They managed to meet and fall in love before Facebook, cell phones, unleaded gas, astroturf, satellites, cable tv, microwave ovens (and the popcorn thereof), and drive-thru, 24-hour McDonald's.  It was a world almost unrecognizable to today's.  Was it better? Worse?

Nah.  It was different.  

Same as the difference between when I went to college and now.  Amily probably won't spend 62 years married to the same person, but her life reflects the age in which she lives, same as mine or anyone else's.  The technology is transparent to her–she's never lived in a world without cellphones and Interwebs.  I can't even begin to imagine the differences she'll note when she's my age, or the technology with which she notes them.

R.I.P., Patricia and Lou.  You all had a great life together, and I wish you a pleasant afterlife as well. 

And Amily, don't forget to write. 😉

Happy Weekend.

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A Couple Questions

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2010 by tom

I was reading the Obituaries page in today's Tampa Tribune, and two of them began like, "Robert Paulson, 44, of Tampa, was carried Home in the Arms of God last Saturday.  He is survived by his parents…"

I don't know what happens when we die.  For all I know, Robert Paulson, 44, of Tampa, really was scooped up in God's Arms, and carried off to Heaven. 

One started, "Jane Smith, 83, of Lutz, began a New Life on Wednesday…"

Okay.  That wouldn't be bad, as long as Jane wasn't reincarnated as a dung beetle or Jerry Springer Show guest.

What I did NOT see in today's obituaries was the following: "Frank Johnson, 59, of Sebring, was dragged kicking and screaming to Hell last Friday, by Satan Himself.  He was preceded in eternal damnation by his parents…"

It just seems kind of presumptuous to speculate where the obituee (obiteur? (dead person)) goes after death.  I understand decorum precludes saying "Hank is taking the dirt nap," or "Bridget is assuming room temperature."

If we reincarnate, I like to think that we ultimately get to be somebody like Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslett, and be a rich, talented babe-magnet, bouncing from one lucrative Oscar-nominated role and supermodel to the next.  Then again, maybe it's ironic that they were Jack and Rose in "Titanic." Perhaps being them isn't that easy.  I don't know.

I've written this before, but I like to think that we get The Answers when we die.  We get to Know.  We'd know where the missing socks go, and what it sounds like when doves cry.  We'd know who put the bomp in the bomp-sha-bomp-sha-bomp, and who wrote the Book of Love.  We'd get to ask which Miracle spawned the eponymous Whip, and know each and every one of the Colonel's eleven herbs and spices.  Do blondes have more fun? Is there anyone who doesn't like Sara Lee? Does she, or doesn't she? And for crying out loud, which Darren on "Bewitched" was better? (You'd have to think Dick Sargent would have angered a vengeful God, being both the evolution teacher in "Inherit the Wind" and the husband of a witch)

Moreover, I think we'll be able to make empirical comparisons of unlike objects.  For example, is Jimi Hendrix better than Pete Sampras? Is Vermont maple syrup better than Idaho potatoes or Georgia peaches? Are cats purrs better than Paul Desmond's alto sax tone? Baseball or Rustoleum? Spam & eggs or gravity?

I like the Universe.  I'm not sure if it's all by capital-d Design, or serendipity.  Were peanut butter & jelly Designed for one another? How about Gilbert & Sullivan? Simon & Garfunkel? Macaroni & cheese? A Gibson L-5 and a Fender Twin Reverb? Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young? Baseball, hot dogs, apple pies, and Chevrolet? Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr?

Well, perhaps not that last one. 

Anyway, maybe that will be how my obituary starts off (hopefully no time soon): "Beginning Tuesday evening, Tom KNEW!"

Have a great weekend.

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Tempus Keeps on Fugiting

Posted in Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 by tom

I've been taking Chantix for several weeks now.  One of the most bizarre and frequent side-effects is "abnormal (vivid, unusual, or strange) dreams."

This is a fun side-effect for me.  My dreams, many of which I've bored you with here, are sometimes pretty entertaining.  Occasionally, a medication (NyQuil, ftw!) will kick them up into Cinemascope. 

Chantix is IMAX 3-D.

These things have plots, villains, a huge cast of characters, excellent locations, and action out the wazoo.  Last night, I had one that sort of mixed The Thomas Crowne Affair (sadly, without a naked Renee Russo) and The Bourne Identity. 

What I like best of all is that I'm not some sort of SuperTom.  I'm just plain old uncoordinated Hagridian me.  When we got to the end of this last one, the bad guy had sailed away in a yacht.  The good guy and his kid got into a jet-powered boat, and roared away, sounding like an F-15 on full afterburners.  The jetboat shot away across the harbor, went around a corner, and then there was a massive explosion.  I could see yacht debris raining down from the fireball.  Then, as the credits began rolling, the good guy and his kid appeared, kicking back toward the wharf on purple floats.

CREDITS!! I had CREDITS!! Unfortunately, Wind decided to climb onto my chest before we got to the end–I really wanted to see if I had the Globe and the Bug, showing it was filmed in America using Union labor.  Maybe I'd filmed in Vancouver, like The X-FIles used to do (it definitely wasn't anywhere in Florida).

There was all kinds of detailed action in this dream–driving, going through toll plazas, walking in and out of buildings–but the dream didn't take a couple days to unfold.  In reality, my brain was probably racing at top speed for 15 minutes.  The activity felt like much longer, an eventful, enjoyable day.

Compare to that the slowness of time passing in a hospital waiting room, or when you can't sleep, or in A.P. U.S. History class.

Good Lord, that was the worst.  The clock in our classroom was one of those that was tied to the main clock in the school office.  There was no second hand, and the minute hand made an audible "THUNK" when it advanced, effectively interrupting sleep.  I remember one day, the teacher was lecturing about something just horrifically boring–the Hawley-Smoot Tarriff, or something–and the clock violated the laws of both decency and physics: it clunked backward one minute.

In the second before the minute hand reversed and went forward two minutes, fully half the class said, "NOOO!"

It's funny how the same minutes can change speed as life changes.  When I was a little kid, I remember Christmas morning minutes being interminable, as I watched the clock move toward 7:00, when it was safe to wake up my parents and open presents.  YAY!

Now, my parents end up knocking on my door about 9, begging me to get out of bed, so we can start Christmas.

I'm writing this diatribe at work.  We're reasonably slow tonight, and time is passing slowly.  Last night, it was a firestorm, and the time zoomed past.  Because I enjoy writing (and love each of my dozen readers 😉 ), time moves along quite pleasantly while in this mode.  Once I finish, it will slooooooooow dooooooooooooooooooown. It's the last day of my work-week, too.  Come 0330, I'm off for three days! Hooray! Time will race through a Fourth of July cookout at my parents' house tomorrow, and then before I know it, it will be 5pm Wednesday, and I'll be trudging back to my desk here.

A month or two ago, I wrote a piece on perspective, featuring one of my favorite, non-Little-Odd-Me-photographed images: two of Saturn's moons, with the rings, and the massive Saturnian gasball proper in the background.  Here's another picture I like:


This is two galaxies (NGC 5216 and NGC 5218) connected by a string.  Okay, it's not really a string, but it's a trail of gas, dust, and stars (kinda like the cast of "Grumpy Old Men").  The "string" between these two galaxies is 22,000 light years long.  Imagine going 100 miles an hour nonstop for 77.5 days–no gas stops, bathroom breaks, or quick jaunts through a McDonald's drive-thru.  That's how far light travels in one second.  One year is 31,556,926 seconds.  So multiply 77.5 days times 31.5 million, and that's one light year.  Now multiply that times 22,000…

Now assume the average road-weary little kid asks "Are we there yet?" every 4 minutes…

Makes A.P. U.S. History feel like the car chase in "Bullitt."

Anyway, I hope you have a safe and happy Independence Day, and that your fun moments with family and friends seem long, your travel time short, and that your fireworks don't blow off any fingers.

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