Archive for March, 2013

Lent in Casablanca: Two Years Later

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2013 by tom

It’s late on a Lenten Monday night, and I’m watching “Casablanca” for what must be at least the 100th time. Two years ago during Lent, I watched it 46 consecutive nights, and I’m sure I’ve seen it at least 54 other times over the decades. I can’t think of any other movie I have seen this many times–and know so well–that I can still watch just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

There are a few things that are wrong in “Casablanca” (the film, not the world). In the marketplace just a few minutes in, there are two foibles. First, one of the men forlornly watching the plane come in for a landing had just been loaded onto the paddy wagon 20 seconds before as one of “the usual suspects.” Second, young newlywed refugee Annina looks wistfully up at the plane, as she tells her husband, “Tomorrow maybe we’ll be on the plane.”

That plane was a Nazi personnel transport carrying Major Strasser  (the Swastikas are a dead giveaway), so Annina had better hope and pray she and hubby are NOT on that plane tomorrow.

Speaking of Major Strasser, there’s a scene where his assistant refers to him as “Herr Major” (pronounced herr my-YOR). It always bothered me, because the German equivalent of Major, back in the day, was “Sturmbannführer.” (Thank you, “Inglourious Basterds” for that scrap of complete irrelevance)  HOWEVER, Major Strasser is a Luftwaffe officer, and the Luftwaffe used the term “Major,” unlike the SS or Gestapo. So once again, “Casablanca” proves itself historically accurate. (“Basterds” was right, too: their “Sturmbannführers” were Gestapo and SS. (Schnapps for everyone))

Also, “Casablanca” was #1 on the AFI’s “100 Years…100 Passions” list for Rick & Ilsa’s undying love, but the best chemistry in the film is between Bogie and Claude Rains. Not even close.

“Casablanca” is a movie I put on when I want to think. It’s a Zen thing, almost.

My Monday could have been better. It wasn’t empirically BAD, I suppose–I didn’t lose blood, fracture bones, or become incarcerated–but there were way too many things nagging at me. I had brunch with Nicole, and the random thought popped into my brain that in a parallel universe, she and I hooked-up–our temperaments are compatible, and my insanity gets off on her insanity. In a parallel universe, my brain didn’t explode a year ago. In a parallel universe, I could actually write what I’m feeling tonight, without having to fight like hell to form halfway-coherent sentences. It’s like I’m writing through a dozen thick, wet pairs of mittens, and ten or twelve lithium tablets.

The flip-side, of course, is that there’s also a parallel universe where I didn’t make it to “that special resort,” and one where I got to the hospital a day too late five years ago, and the Fournier’s won. God knows how many parallel universes had me looking the other way when a car slammed on its brakes in front of me, and I smashed into an overpass piling, or when chasing a handful of Vicodin with several beers and a pint of Jim Beam pushed the needle a smidge too far. I wonder if any of those outcomes would really bother me.

That sounds worse than I meant it to. I’ve never had a death wish or suicidal ideation, but I’ve also never been afraid of dying either. Especially after I was thisfuckingclose with the Fournier’s.

That’s where my brain is tonight, a giant glowing ball of “what if”s.

I try not to play that game. It’s essentially a waste of time, right? “What if I’d…” The point is, I didn’t. I made the choices I made, and the shit that’s happened to me really and truly happened to me. Neither pondering nor rumination–nor watching “Casablanca” for the hundredth time–will change anything.

In “Casablanca,” the same things always happen to the same people. No matter what I wrote two years ago, Annie the Soapmaker doesn’t really rule there, nor does Lisbeth Salander play chess with Rick, or make sweet Sapphic love to Hermione Granger. (These things should be in “Casablanca,” of course, but they just aren’t) Sadly, Testarossa Ferrari never really existed outside this blog, and was only even visualized by the six or so people who read it. (Sorry, but I really liked ‘Rossa being Signor Ferrari’s elder daughter, and Annie the Soapmaker’s BFF)

This is a Ferrari Testarossa, in case you missed the joke:

The one in my story was just as sexy.

The one in my story was just as sexy.

A nice character, but her name was a cheap pun. Now I feel bad for her, although she couldn’t have been named after a much sexier machine than this one (and “F40 Ferrari” just doesn’t sound very feminine)

I’ll make it through another day. Today is over. I’ve taken my night meds, and I’ll be asleep soon enough. My weekend was a freakin’ blink, and now I have to be at work in 12.5 hours. Another week in the salt mines.

There are going to be days like this. There are going to be days where I think every rope I’ve used to pull myself out of this past year is unraveling, where I’m not feeling the joie de vivre. This is okay. I need to keep telling myself that: it’s only one day, and it will be okay. Just hang on till bedtime.

And as Jackson Browne sang, “And when the morning light comes streaming in, I’ll get up and do it again. Amen.”




A Few Tacos Short of a #4 Combo at Estella’s

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2013 by tom

Years ago, I was the Production Director of a radio station here in the Tampa Bay Market. We were popular, but by no means #1 or anything. One afternoon, a man came into our office. He was talking to our receptionist, and she buzzed me and asked me to come help her.

“Tom? This is (we’ll call him Frank). Frank is here about the background messages that go out on the station.” Bless her, she said this with a straight face, not breaking out in fear. I played along.

“Oh, dammit. The engineers were supposed to have that fixed. I’m sorry. Is it just during the commercials? Or during music?”

Frank spoke as earnestly as anyone I’ve ever heard. “It’s worse during the commercials. I hear the commercials fine. But the messages in the background? Telling me what to do? Those are what bother me, but they’re behind the songs too, but only some of them.”

“I see. Again, my apologies. I know we had an issue with our transmitter, and they were supposed to have those things stopped.”

By this time our Ops Manager, who had been sitting in the lobby before his show, said, “Frank. I’m Dennis, the Operations Manager. Let’s go back to my office, and I’ll get some more details from you.”

Frank went quietly. Without being asked, the receptionist called the police, who came and gently offered Frank a ride home.

Frank was soft-spoken, polite, and almost apologetic the whole time he was in our offices. He just wanted us to turn off the background messages on our station.

There were none, of course.

What the fuck did I do to deserve this??

What the fuck did I do to deserve this??

I just watched a documentary on Netflix called “I Think We’re Alone Now.” If you recall, the teenaged sensation, Tiffany, had a hit with that song back in 1987, or thereabouts. My station in 1987 didn’t play that, but we did play her song “Could’ve Been.” To be honest, I thought “Could’ve Been” was a decent little country ballad, and that Tiffany sang pretty damn well for a 16 year-old in the pre-Auto-Tune days, and before that horrible Mariah Carey swooping up and down for no reason thing started. Tiffany had a nice powerful voice, maybe a little nasal, but not at all a bad singer. I liked playing her record. My life won’t end if I never hear it again.

So the documentary “I Think We’re Alone Now” follows two men whose opinion of Tiffany is a bit more…shit, I’m trying to think of the right word. How about, “Fucking-insane”?

Neither man is dangerous in his obsession over Tiffany. Indeed, they’re just waiting for the chance to marry her. The first one, Jeff, is 50 years old, has Asperger’s, and has been following Tiffany–literally and figuratively–since 1987. People with Asperger’s are not usually violent. They’re not always good with socializing, but they aren’t psychotic or anything. They can also be extremely well organized. Indeed, Jeff has boxes of scrapbooks and Tiffany-related newspaper clippings. He has copies of Tiffany-instigated restraining orders, too, from when he was hanging around her house. Those have been lifted now, because he only hassles her at public appearances. We see Jeff show up to see Tiffany at some trade show of women who do naked stuff (Tiffany posed nude in Playboy). He goes up to her like an old friend. Bless her heart, she let him awkward-hug her, and air-kissed him, then got away as quickly as she could. He brought things for her to sign, and she was patient, as her handlers encouraged him to move on.

In Jeff’s eyes, he and Tiffany are besties. He tells people this–that he is Tiffany’s best friend, and that he talks to her often. He attends a community church regularly, and talked about how Jesus was truly working through Tiffany, and that she was spreading God’s message.

(Fair disclosure: Tiffany DID say, “God bless you all” once at the end of the first concert, and twice at the second. She never seemed to be “spreading” any message, however: just “God bless”ing the crowd, which a lot of artists do)

Kelly has a different background. Kelly is a 31 year-old Intersex, living as a woman. Eventually, he will have breast implants and have his boy parts removed. (She, and her. Sorry) The reason I accidentally alluded to Kelly as “he” and “him” above is that Kelly appears to be very masculine, unlike most Intersex people I’ve seen and known.

Anyway, Kelly was run over on his bicycle several years ago, and was in a coma for eight days. While he was in the coma, he saw himself marrying Tiffany. However–fade-in creepy music–he had never heard of Tiffany before. While he was recovering post-coma, his sister brought him a Walkman, and–HOLY CRAP–there was Tiffany! The girl he married while in the coma!

Both of these folks talk about their close bond with Tiffany guilelessly. They aren’t lying or spouting insanities. They honestly believe in their relationships with Tiffany.

To her credit, Tiffany seems to be nice to everyone. After a big club show, she sits and signs autographs for anyone who wants one. She even suffers the occasional lunatic who’s convinced they’re practically married. She’s been dealing with it most of her life, I guess, and she appears to be a genuinely nice person.

No, I don’t want to marry her or follow her around. In the documentary, she treated everybody really kindly. I’m not going anywhere near her. (Fucking restraining order!!!)

I jest.

This documentary was absolutely fascinating–it’s only an hour long, and streaming on Netflix. Give it a watch. The sincerity of these obsessive people is mind-boggling. Jeff, the Asperger’s guy, is intelligent as hell. He’s read a ton of books, and speaks regularly about the fascists taking over our country. He’s also always smiling, whether discussing fascists or Tiffany. Kelly is an emotional wreck. She was going to see Tiffany in Denver, but couldn’t get into the show. She bought a pint each of Jägermeister and vodka, and went home to numb her grief.

People that sincere and that convinced that their delusion is true…these people fascinate me, as well as scaring me. These two guys are harmless, but if their chemicals were mixed a little differently, things could be different.

As for Frank, our visitor at the radio station, the police drove him “home.” They dropped him off where he asked. He could have walked into a cheap apartment building, or into the woods where lots of homeless folks stay.

The officers came back to our station afterwards, to see if we wanted to press charges. We didn’t, of course–he was never threatening or obnoxious. One of the officers told us that our messages were bad, but the NBC affiliate, Channel 8, was the worst. Whether it was “ER” or “Law & Order,” or even local programming, Channel 8’s transmitter has the messages pumping loud.

One night, Frank was watching the 11 o’clock news, and the female news anchor stopped reading, looked directly at Frank, and said, “I can see your ding-dong.” He’s placed calls to Channel 8, needless to say. Who wants that??

Me? I just don’t watch TV news.

It gets in the way of watching my 19 hour-long Tiffany video collection.

Happy St Patty’s Day

Ten Little-Known Facts About Pope Francis I

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2013 by tom

Congratulations to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has been named the new Pope Francis I. Here are a few factoids the networks may have missed:

10) Secret shame: An insurmountable addiction to Tastykakes Butterscotch Krimpets and Pabst Blue Ribbon as bedtime snack.

9) Was original choice to replace Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds. However, it interfered with his studies, so the band reluctantly hired Jeff Beck instead.

8) For Chemistry Master’s thesis, used reversed-phase chromatography to isolate the eleven herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken.

7) Observes vow of chastity, but thinks Salma Hayek is “one totes spicy mamacita.”

6) Voting was tied on last ballot: Francis won in a shootout, with a slap-shot through the five hole.

5) Favorite books: “Summa Theologica,” by St Thomas Aquinas, “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” by Sir Isaac Newton, and “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins

4) Born in Italy, but spent most of his life in Argentina, even playing striker on the 2011 Argentinean World Cup team.

3) Named himself “Francis 1,” not after St Francis of Assisi, as commonly thought, but after Francis Albert Sinatra (“Pope Frank” didn’t sound sufficiently dignified)

2) Going 13-18 with a 4.97 ERA in 1967, is the only man ever to belong to both the College of Cardinals and the St Louis Cardinals.

1) Papal superpower he’s most looking forward to? Death ray vision.


(Good luck, Francis. You have one hell of a job ahead of you.)

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