Friday, September 30, 2011

Every day I'm hustlin'

I have a new job but until the checks are rolling in regularly and I dig myself out of the hole I'm in as a result of being out of work for a while, I'm hustling for money anywhere I can find it. By hustling, I mean working hard and keeping my eyes open for opportunities that may present themselves in a non-traditional fashion. I'm not talking about anything illegal, certainly not ripping anyone off. People often confuse hustlers for con-men but that's not a valid association. Hustling is something you do for yourself, not to someone else.
In an attempt to make ends meet and get some cash coming in, I went out and got a Public Vehicle Driver's License and have been driving a taxi cab. It's a business made for hustlers in that you can make money if you know how to hustle and are williing to do it. I do and I am. Also, I'll admit  there was a certain bohemian appeal to being a writer/cab driver. Sort of like Harry Chapin or even better, George Carlin.
"What?!? Why are we just now hearing about this?", you may be asking. Well, I've had drunks and strippers and various oddballs in my cab so far, but I was waiting for something really blog-worthy to happen. 
The other night, something really happened. 
One of the key components to being a successful cab driver (I've learned some of these lessons very quickly; that's how hustlers hustle, baby) is repeat customers. They call you directly and not the cab company, giving you direct access to the fare instead of having to compete for it with some other jamokes trying to outhustle you. As a result, I've given my phone number out to a lot of people and it has paid off, as a lot of those people have called me back. One of those people, we'll call her Lisa since that's her name, calls me very late at night and wants me to take her to people's houses and wait out in front. I don't know what goes on inside but I have my suspicions. She tried to tell me once but I cut her off, telling her if I don't know about it now, I don't have to lie about it later. As long as she keeps it to herself, limits my involvement to 100% legal activity and isn't hurting anyone else, I'll keep my mouth shut. Is that bad? Maybe a little morally ambiguous? Probably. Kind of feels that way and I don't particularly like it, but I'm trying to dig myself out of a financial hole here. Desperate times and all that...
Any way, the other night she called and I took her to one of her places, a house in a not-great neighborhood. This time, she wanted me to pull up with the lights off and kill the engine the second we pulled in the driveway. Now, in spite of my commitment to ignorance, I'm not totally stupid. And without trying to porray myself as a character in a Scorsese film, I have enough street-smarts to recognize and respond appropriately to the alarm bells in my head when a sketchy situation presents itself. I told her the only way I was doing that was if I parked on the street. I was absolutely not going to box myself in somebody's driveway with the engine killed. She didn't like it and got all fidgety (she's always kind of fidgety anyway) but wasn't going to change my mind. She got out, I turned the car off (with the keys in hand but not in the ignition...leaving the key in can drain the battery over time; it usually takes a while but I wasn't willing to take that chance) and sat there with my window open as she went inside the house. Almost immediately I heard the "FAP-FAP-FAP-FAP" of footsteps on pavement, in a dead sprint heading right for me. Before I could do anything at all, a guy blasted past and into the backyard of the house I was parked in front of. Immediately following him, I heard the racing motor and squealing tires of a car in hot pursuit. At that exact moment I had no idea who was in the car but it turned out to be cops. One got out and chased the guy while the driver kept going to the end of gthe block in an attempt (I guess) to seal off exits in case they lost him. That was followed by more police officers, with flak jackets and drawn guns descending on the house. Also, there was suddenly a helicopter overhead. It was like something out of a movie. I sat there the whole time, being cool, a fortunate by-product of being frozen. I was glad it was cops on the scene, running around with their guns drawn, although not completely at ease as guns drawn is the standard precurosr to bullets flying (I don't care for flying bullets because of the way they often stop flying) and also, I don't need the hassle of being questioned about my involvement, even though I have no involvement. If asked, I'd have cheerfully and honestly answered every question they had but did not want to end up doing so 'downtown'. Thankfully, they ignored me. Lisa, understandably, didn't come out of the house for a long time. When she did, she made a beeline to the cab and we got out of there as discretely fast as possible. She didn't say a word the whole way back to her apartment which was good because I wasn't in the mood to talk. She paid the fare, got out and went inside.
I haven't seen her since, although she did call me four times last night between 3 and 4 AM, calls I didn't answer. I also haven't driven the cab since, as now I'm a little freaked out. Being killed in a drug shootout is a part of that, although, honestly, what are the odds (albeit, whatever they are, they get a little better every time I take someone like that to a place like that)? At least I can still maintain at least a small modicum of control in situations like that. A bigger part is that I don't know what my culpability is in situations where illegal activity is taking place. If I get pulled over and my passenger is carrying drugs, what happens to me? That's something I can't control and I'll be damned if I'm going to jail, even if I get right out, for something stupid that somebody else does without my knowledge.
Bottom line is I don't know when or if I'll drive again (it won't be until after I get crystal clear answers to my questions from a police officer, I'll tell you that much) so I'm left looking for another angle to hustle.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What are you trying to tell me?

A lot of people try to get my attention by leaving things on my door. Pizza or Chinese food take-out menus, coupons for carpet cleaning and sometimes, MESSAGES OF DIRE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE!
For example, I came home the other day and this glossy little flyer was wedged between my door and frame:
Oh no! What should I do! I'd better...well, I don't know what to do exactly. It looks serious and like something that requires my full and immediate attention, but this part throws me:

Of course it's serious; jaunty angle aside,
just look at the size of that exclamation point!
I don't know what that means. The fact that it's described as vicious certainly lets me know that there's an imminent threat attached to it, but I don't know what a cicle is. Some possibilities:
  • It's C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange) - Described on their web site as "We are a Los Angeles based not-for-profit helping riders of all ages and skill levels use bicycles for everyday transportation. We believe that bicycling can improve our health, build community, save us money, and protect our environment …all while being fun!". I don't find that the least bit threatening. In fact, that's the opposite of threatening. It certainly isn't vicious. That can't be it.
  • It's a font that looks like this:
  • Also non-threatening. If kidnappers used this font in a ransom note, their victims wouldn't pay the ransom but they might send over some cookies and juice boxes.
  • It's short for Icicle, shortened either in hip-hop fashion (like how "neighborhood" becomes "hood") or by somebody in a hurry who just doesn't have time to say or print a third syllable. Now, icicles can be very heavy and sharp which would qualify as at least dangerous if not actually threatening (unless used as a weapon, otherwise they're just kind of...pretty). But this is Florida, where it's 90 in October. If someone were to wield one as a weapon, all you'd have to do is keep your distance for about 10 minutes, long enough for nature to render him disarmed and soaking wet.
So, sorry. Unless International Conference Speaker Pastor Paul Stephens explains what's going on here, or at least hires a proof reader, I'm going to sit this one out.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Coffee talk

I learned the practice of hanging out in diners at a young age. My parents used to let me tag along on their visits to the local Big Boy, where they knew all of the staff and many of the patrons. Rather than being bored by sitting around and listening to adults talk, I embraced it. That's probably where I first developed not only my appreciation for coffee but also what I like to believe are finely-honed people-observing skills. Not just people watching...anybody can do that...but serious observation. It is indeed a skill. That, plus the added benefits of being allowed to loiter for about $2 plus the opportunity to participate in the rapidly disappearing art of conversation with actual flesh-and-blood human beings and you have a pretty nice form of entertainment.
Last night, I found myself at Pop n Son's, one of Tampa's oldest established 24-hour diners, a true greasy spoon in the classic sense. My date and I wound up there because we were looking for a place to loiter and talk. We've both lived in the Tampa Bay area for some time and we were comparing notes about how the place had changed over the years. Restaurants, nightclubs, stores and stuff that have come and gone. As we were talking, a man in the booth behind me turned and said, "I wasn't eavesdropping but I heard you mention...". Under diner/coffee shop standards of etiquette, this was a perfectly acceptable way to invite himself into the conversation so he could share with us his own unique memories of days and places gone by. Not wanting to violate those standards of etiquette ourselves, we gladly welcomed him. Truth is, I was thrilled that an unintentional eavesdropper wanted to join our conversation. I love my usual coffee hangout, the oft-mentioned Tre Amici @ The Bunker, but there's something very old-fashioned and a good way...about finding yourself out late, sitting in an all-night diner, with a waitress named Barb or Dorothy endlessly refilling your coffee cup while you listen to a stranger teach you some local history lessons and I was enjoying the experience.
He was telling us about growing up in West Tampa (the neighborhood I live in); "All the kids I grew up with were either Italian or Cuban. We got along great, just kids who spent all day long playing baseball until it got dark out. And then, our mothers had to come get us to make us go inside. Not like kids these days."
I'm not as old as he is but I have similar memories. I too was a kid who much preferred playing outside to being cooped up inside a house. Yes, those were truly good old days and it's a shame that kids today don't know what they're missing.
"I like Tampa, always have. So many different people from so many different places. Everybody gets along really well with one another."
Yes, I like Tampa too. I've often said that Tampa is just a small town with lots of people!
"Even our blacks don't really act up that much. Not like in St. Pete."
Yeah, and....uh, what?
"Oh, yes. They have their hands full over there. They're out of control. At least most of 'em in Tampa seem to be civilized."
My date and I exchanged uncomfortable looks. The kindly old stranger who had joined us our leisurely stroll down memory lane turned out to be a bitter old racist with an ax to grind.
"I don't really care for the Arabs (pronounced AY-rabs) that are showing up now. Don't trust 'em."
My date, attempting to be polite without endorsing his view offered, "a lot of Indian people live here now."
"Same thing. Ay-rab, Indian. What's the difference? They move in and take all the jobs and decent people who were born here are left panhandling on street corners."
Not wanting to provoke a confrontation, I resisted the urge to point out that many of the people he was lumping into one mislabeled group, apparently anybody with brown skin that he couldn't identify as "a black", were simply following the classic immigrant blueprint of coming to America, investing their life savings in a business, working at it with the help of their families and trying to make something of themselves, a story very similar to those that many of us like to tell about our own ancestors. Instead, I didn't really say anything at all and the conversation just sort of...died. After a few minutes of silence, we went back to talking about our stuff in our booth, consciously or not, steering the conversation into us-specific areas that would make it difficult for an eavesdropper, unintentional or not, to invite himself into. He took the hint and didn't say anything else to us. We paid our bill, nodded to him and left shortly after that, probably an hour or so sooner than we would have otherwise.
Oh well. At least the coffee was good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

There's something to be said for consistency

Another Loafies, another loss.
Or another way to put it is I didn't win a Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Best of the Bay award for Best Blogger.
Or yet another way to put it is I was named a that's pretty cool.

I didn't even place in the Twitter category so
let's pretend I didn't care about that one
 The award went to Olga "Localista" Bof for her work on St. Pete's iLovetheBurg. I didn't go to the awards ceremony this year because I had something else to do I'm too cool for that. But here is my brief, bullet-pointed summary of the whole thing...

  • Best Local TV Weatherperson - Steve Jerve
  • Best Underrated Local Pop Star (that's a thing?) - Jeremy Gloff
  • Best Home Furninshings - Ikea Tampa
  • Everybody who voted for me - Seriously, I'm flattered beyond words. Thank you so much for your support. It really is a tremendous honor to have people appreciate you and what you do and I'm truly, truly grateful for it. I'll make it up to you somehow. You too, Peter Scorsch.
  • God - For the end of awards season already, finally. I'm officially declaring an extended break from gratuitous pluggery on this blog

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let me feed your hockey hunger

If you've ever said, "All the stuff about toilets is awesome, but I want to read even more from Clark Brooks; In particular, I want to know what he has to say about the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning", first of all, to whom on earth are you saying this? Secondly, you're in luck! My insights on all things related to the Tampa Bay Lightning can be found at
I am so happy to be a part of the Raw Charge family and not just because they rescued me when I was cast adrift from the rudderless ship (at the time) that was SB Nation Tampa Bay (I don't really know anything about boating or being lost at sea so I apologize if that last statement was unnecessarily redundant or otherwise stupid). I'm also proud to be part of it because it's an extremely well run, top-notch organization from managing editors John Fontana and Cassie McClellan down to my fellow staff writers Matt Amos, Tina Robinson, Dani Toth, Adam Vingan and Nolan Whyte.
And since hockey season starts in a couple of weeks, now is a good time to go back and read some of my old stuff. If you drill down far enough, you might even find some of my greatest hits collection from the SB Nation Tampa Bay days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yet another thing I don't understand

Sometimes, I question whether I'm from this planet or not. So many things that are accepted as standard practices just seem wrong or really, really stupid to me. And it's not that I think I'm smarter than other people and that I have everything figured out while everyone else is clueless. If anything it's probably the opposite and the fact that these things confuse me causes me to wonder what the hell is wrong with me. One example would be the bathroom habits I mentioned recently. Another has to do with motorcycle helmets. First, here's comedian Jerry Seinfeld's take on motorcycle helmets and laws requiring they be worn:
"There are many things you can point to as proof that the human is not smart. But my personal favorite would have to be that we needed to invent the helmet. What was happening, apparently, was that we were involved in a lot of activities that were cracking our heads. We chose not to avoid doing those activities but, instead, to come up with some sort of device to help us enjoy our head-cracking lifestyles. And even that didn't work because not enough people were wearing them so we had to come up with the helmet law. Which is even stupider, the idea behind the helmet law being to preserve a brain whose judgment is so poor, it does not even try to avoid the cracking of the head it's in."
Now, this isn't about the debate over wearing motorcycle helmets. here in Florida, the law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets was repealed 10 years ago. I don't ride motorcycles so I own neither a cycle nor a helmet. I understand that many motorcyclists have their own personal reasons for wearing or not wearing them and I believe that those reasons are as valid as anyone's personal preferences to do or not do anything else are. I get that some motorcyclists love their freedom and being as close to naked as they can get. I also get that some feel the need to bundle up in as much protective body armor as humanly possible. Again, the rightness or wrongness of it extends as far as the individual's personal preferences. There's a certain romantic appeal for bad-ass biker renegades in dying the way they lived; clad in little more than leather chaps and a bandanna. By the same token, one's natural instinct for self-preservation makes the idea of walking away from a fireball of twisted metal and burning rubber and not having to do much more than buff the scratches out of your custom-painted helmet very appealing. I understand the reasoning behind both of those stances.
Here's what I don't understand...

I see people all the time wearing almost no clothes...but still bothering to strap a helmet on. Why? This makes as much sense to me as a medieval knight going into battle wearing a helmet and a Speedo, which is to say, none. But again, it's entirely possible that this is a shortcoming on my part and that someone reading this right now is thinking, "a series of painful and expensive skin graft procedures after my body is hurled across asphalt at 60 mph like I'm on a water slide made out of cheese graters is something I could miss out on if I were to be killed instantly by not wearing a motorcycle helmet, you dumbass."
Yeah, seriously. What was I thinking?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A name to be playered

While keeping tabs on my beloved Tampa Bay Rays taking three of four games in their series this weekend against the hated Boston Red Sox, causing their ever-dwindling lead in the American League wildcard race to shrink to a mere two games (A BRIEF ASIDE: Our trainer for the old minor league Tampa Tarpons had a unique way of describing what happens to baseball players who don't respond well to pressure. He would make a circle with his thumb and forefinger, like the "OK" sign, and then made a noise that sounded like "Beee-yooooo-WIP!" as he drew his fingers together, closing the hole. This was supposed to represent a certain part of the player's anatomy, an orifice, clenching so tightly that it can't perform its normal function of allowing things to pass through it, resulting in a severely negative impact on the player's overall well-being and psyche. That's what I think of as I watch the Red Sox and their annual payroll of $160 million on the verge of being overtaken by the Rays, spending about a quarter of that, and it fills my heart with joy), I was reminded once again of how baseball is unique among sports for producing players with colorful names. You don't really find that elsewhere. And not just nicknames, like Yogi or Dizzy or Babe or Mookie. For instance, the Red Sox have an infielder named Marco Scutaro. What on earth could someone named Marco Scutaro be if not a baseball player? I feel like the nurse on duty at the hospital when he was born made a call to a hotline at the home office of Major League Baseball as soon as the birth certificate was filled out and he was put into some kind of secret fast-track program for kids destined to become major leaguers. There's no way any person of influence in his life as he was growing up could have steered him towards another career.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the fate of my client is in your hands. The Prosecution has failed in every way to prove their case, and for that reason alone, you must find him innocent. That's because the charges against him are completely groundless. He is, quite simply, an innocent man. Or my name isn't Marco Scutaro...which it is."

"I'm deeply sorry for your loss, Mrs. Johnson. I assure you that we will see to all of your needs and handle the arrangements with the utmost care. I know your heart is heavy and filled with grief in this time of mourning, but leave everything up to me, Marco Scutaro, funeral director." 
"Okay Mr. Johnson, we're going to prep you for surgery now. Don't worry about a thing; Dr. Marco Scutaro will be performing the procedure."

"Flight six-niner-five, you're cleared for landing. I know you're low on fuel, heading into a fog bank and missing half a wing but don't worry about a thing. The National Transportation Safety Board didn't name me, Marco Scutaro, air traffic controller of the year for nothing, you know."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fun & Games resume tomorrow!

Sorry, no silliness today. I sorta overextended myself this weekend and didn't leave myself time (or energy) to come up with new content today. Check out my schedule over the last couple of days...
  • Thursday 8:00AM-4:00PM: Mandatory training class for work at the St. Pete Times Forum
  • Thursday 5:00PM-Friday 5:00AM: My night job, which I'll share details about soon and which I'm doing to try to catch up on income I missed while out of work.
  • Friday 5:30AM-7:30AM: Sleep
  • Friday 9:00AM-12:00PM: Visited a site south of town for a possible new opportunity/project
  • Friday 7:00PM-10:00PM: Business meeting with my "agent" (I added quotes because she's not really my agent in that I don't pay her)
  • Friday 11:00PM-Saturday 7:00AM: Sleep (Eight hours!!)
  • Saturday 9:00AM-12:00PM: Ticket on-sale for a concert and the upcoming Lightning season at the Forum
  • Saturday 12:30PM-2:30PM: Coverage of Lightning training camp in Brandon for (I got there late and missed opening remarks from Coach Boucher, damn it)
  • Saturday 4:00PM-Sunday 4:00AM: Night job, complete with an exhaustion-induced hallucination of someone breaking into my car at the end of the night. It sure looked real at the time.
  • Sunday 4:30AM-7:30AM: Sleep
  • Sunday 9:00AM-2:30PM:  Coverage of Lightning training camp in Brandon for (I was on time, on target, damn it)
  • Sunday 4:30PM-9:30PM: Ticket sales for an Incubus concert at the Amphitheatre
If you're counting, that's 13 hours of sleep since Thursday night. Okay, maybe that's not the life of a third-world field laborer but I'm still pretty much fried. And after being admonished with the rhetorical question of "Are you trying to kill yourself?" which I heard as "You should go kill yourself", which led to a short-but-fairly-intense squabble between me and someone who cares about me more than I probably deserve but doesn't (in my opinion) fully understand the need to push through dire straits, I decided it would be a good idea to scrap any attempt to post new fart jokes here until Tuesday (I'm writing this at about 11PM on Sunday night and setting it to publish early Monday morning.)
 So, up and at 'em tomorrow then, eh? You betcha!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Strange behavior in the men's room

Typically, I try to stay away from gender-based toilet talk. You know, the whole "men-leave-the-toilet-seat-up/why-can't-women-just-put-it-down-themselves?" genre and all the offshoots (no diarrhea pun intended). Not because the subject matter is potentially offensive but because it's been done...and done. And done.
However, I witnessed something the other day, something I've seen before, and now I have a question about it. For the sake of some expository background, this is a joke that a drill sergeant told our company in basic training...

A soldier and a sailor were in the men's room at a local bar. The soldier finished first and started to walk out. The sailor commented, "In the Navy, we practice good hygiene by washing our hands when we finish going to the bathroom." The soldier stopped and replied, "That's funny; in the Army we practice good hygiene by not peeing on our hands."
Now, whenever possible I do not use urinals. I don't like them. I mentioned this once before. I think they're unsanitary. largely due to a certain splashback factor. When you pee into a urinal, you're basically peeing into a porcelain receptacle which is flat and largely open, not unlike the tiled wall it's hanging from. Also, as shown in the photo, dividers between urinals into which other men may be peeing at the same time, are optional. As a result, I will wait several minutes if necessary, right up to the point that the situation becomes an emergency, for a good old fashioned toilet which is almost always cloistered in it's own four-walled cubicle. This provides me privacy, but more importantly significantly reduces the risk of getting anybody's urine on my hands. I still wash my hands afterward, though. It just seems like the right thing to do. I've observed over the years that many men don't. Many, many men. I don't know why and I try not to judge. I figure they're in a hurry or they forget or they just don't think it's necessary. Unless it's a restaurant or a grocery store and it's an employee, I generally don't worry about it. That's their thing and that's fine. I can remember their faces and always figure out a way to avoid shaking their hands or otherwise touching them if the situation arises.
What I'm writing about today is that some men will take care of their business and then step to a sink and run the faucet for a few seconds...but not wash their hands.
This befuddles me.
Why the charade?
These are adults I'm talking about. Presumably their parents aren't nearby to yell at them. Are they that worried about what other men who are in there, but not watching them, will think? It's a men's room and millions of blog posts, stand-up comedy routines and Vince Vaughn-style movies tell us there's a Code of Conduct that dictates that conversation is discouraged. Nobody is going to say anything. If somebody doesn't wash their hands, they don't have to. But if they're going to run the faucet anyway, why not stick their hands under there? They're not saving time anymore. Why would they not just wash their hands, since they're taking every step in the process except washing them?
Now I find myself judging them. Now it's disgusting. Because now it's not a matter of forgetting to do it or being in a hurry, now it's a deceit.
Look, peeing on somebody's hands, even if they're your own, or mine, is one thing. But don't lie to me about it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We won?!?

"I don't care 2 win awards" -- Prince
"Yeah, me neith...wait, what did u say?" -- Me

My pal John Fontana, editor-in-chief at Raw sent me this text message a few minutes ago: "You won!" He was referring to CBS Tampa's Most Valuable Blogger Awards, the results of which I wasn't expecting until tomorrow. After determining that he wasn't screwing with me (hey, you never know) I immediately...had no idea what to do or say. I still don't. I've never won a popularity contest before and find myself completely unequipped to deal with it. Sure, I hoped to win something and campaigned for it but never thought anything positive would actually come of it. It's funnier when people lose, isn't it? But the results are out and this blog won both the People's Choice and Editor's Choice awards in the Dining and Entertainment category.
I think the only thing I can, and should, do is to express my sincere appreciation to each and every one of you who voted. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I also appreciate those readers who didn't vote...only a little bit less than those who did. So in that case; thank you, thank you!
Also, thank you for voting for my friends and fellow winners (there's a statement I've never typed before) Catherine Durkin-Robinson ("Out in Left Field") and Dawn Morgan ("Tampa Do Gooder") who swept their respective categories too, and deservedly so.
And once again, thank you for reading The Trickle, now officially an award-winning blog!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I hate typos

Unlike most spelling and grammar errors, typos are true mistakes and not the result of being sloppy or just not giving a rat's ass, both of which seem to be acceptable under increasingly lax standards. Typos happen anyway, often when we are trying to hurry. I have accepted the fact that I will never be able to spell the word "occasional" correctly without looking it up (I can never remember how many c's and how many s's there are supposed to be) and I do so every single time I have to use it. It's a matter of caring enough to get little details right. But that doesn't mean my stupid fingers won't screw it up when I go to type it. I'm sure Mavis Beacon would say that the terrible posture I exhibit when I type doesn't help. It's so obviously awful, with me being either too close or too far away, all slumped over or leaning back, that I'm sure Mavis Staples would make the same observation. Regardless of the circumstances, I hate it whenever certain parts of my body just decide to go off-book and operate independently of each other.
Two typos that I frequently make aggravate me to the point of anger...
  • "Thankls" (instead of "Thanks") - I hate it because of how it sounds when spoken aloud (rhymes with "ankles"). I recently learned of the existence of a middle-aged woman who works with someone I know. She replaces or adds the suffix of "ies" to words all the time. "Lunch" is "lunchies". When she says she's changing her shoes, she says, "I'm going to put on my sneakies". "Keys" are "Keysies". As much as she obviously deserves a severe beating, lots of people do that or something similar. For them, "yes" not only gets changed to "yep" but "yeppers". I do not in any way want to be associated with these people, but "thankls" sounds exactly like the kind of thing they would say. "Hey, I appreciate you picking me up when my car ran out of gas; please accept my sincere thankls!" sounds anything but sincere.
  • "Yopu" (instead of "You") - This one I hate it because of the way it looks if it makes it into a message unchecked: "I'm looking forward to seeing yopu soon!" If taken literally, one might think I'm excited about going to an anime convention to view an unusually specific form of pornography, that involves furry costumes and the creative-yet-specific use of marshmallows.
One of my worst nightmares would be using them both at the same time: "I'm so glad I could be here with yopu for Thanklsgiving. Please pass those marshmallows, grandma."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oh Yoko!

So I'm guessing at this point, as I type this in mid-to-late 2011, people aren't still angry at Yoko Ono. At least I hope not. Personally, I think she's great and I love her. Even if she did break up the Beatles, which I don't believe is remotely true, the Rolling Stones plus most of the solo output of the former Beatles themselves are reasons enough to not be all that upset about that, right? After all, eight really solid years from a band is really more than you can reasonably expect, especially in light of what we get these days.
As someone who became a Beatles fan well after they'd broken up and learned their history through books and listening to their music, I never resented Yoko. I always saw Yoko as John Lennon's soulmate, and that the two were perfectly matched and deeply in love. Since I identified heavily with John and he was my favorite, how could I resent her for that?
No, if anything, I came to think of Yoko as kind of an eccentric-but-lovable aunt. Not crazy or otherwise unhinged in any way; she's obviously very intelligent. But she's an artist and clearly she's on her own wavelength, as delightfully evidenced by some of her output on Twitter:
"Listen to your breathing. Listen to your child breathing. Listen to your friend breathing. Keep listening."

"Write all the things you want to do. Ask others to do them and move on. Keep dancing."

"Make a promise to a tree. Ask it to be passed on to other trees."
"Fly in your dream. See how you can fly forever. Try to remember the feeling when you are awake."

"Walk in the footsteps of the person in front of you. on the pavement. in the mud. on ice. in the snow. in fire. on water."

"Each time we don't say what we want to say we're dying. Make a list of how many times you died this week."
If she were my aunt and this was the kind of thing she wrote in birthday cards, I would probably be really confused yet very, very happy for reasons I wouldn't understand.
I wish I was artistic like Yoko and could offer similar insights. I try but they don't come out the same:
"Listen to a cow mooing. Now imagine that it's a cat. Now ask the cat to be quiet. Because that's too much noise for a cat to make."
"Spread your dreams on a piece of toast like jelly. Eat the toast. If it doesn't taste good, you need better dreams."

"Look at clouds. See the one that looks like a rabbit. In 15 minutes it will look different. Because it's very windy today."
"Pretend you're a pie. Ask your friends to eat the pie (you). Try not to laugh."
"Ask a duck to dance with you. When it runs away, don't be sad; that's just how ducks dance."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Some thoughts on where we've been and where we're going from a non-baseball playing American

"What I hope for in the next 10 years is a War against Fear. Then I can go back to being a so-so Muslim, and a typical American, though I really ought to learn to play baseball." -- Aasif Mandvi

Mr. Mandvi is a comedian and actor, best known for his work on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show". To read the entire column he wrote for, click here.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Last day to vote, if you're into that kind of thing

And I'm hoping you are!
Today is the last day to cast votes in CBS Tampa's Most Valuable Blogger Awards contest. This blog is nominated under the category of Dining/Entertainment and I would sincerely appreciate your vote. I'm also hoping you vote for my freinds, and worthwhile nominees regardless of their poor choice in friends, Dawn Morgan's "Tampa Do Gooder" in the category of Local Affairs and Catherine Durkin Robinson's "Out in Left Field" under Lifestyle.
I'm probably getting way ahead of myself here, but having never won an award, I wonder what will happen if I do. I already know how to lose; winning is uncharted territory. Of course, I'll need to be humble and gracious but surely some kind of celebratory demonstration is allowed. Do I give strangers in the street a high-five? Do I have to thank anybody besides those of you who vote for me? Can I call up some of my old teachers at 4am and thell them to suck it? Should I commission an oil painting of myself and the award? This is lot to think about and I'm not sure I took everything into consideration before I asked you all to vote. Maybe I should just declare that I don't want to win. That way I won't be disappointed when if I lose. I'll also look really cool with my newly established artistic credibility ("awards are so gauche"). Plus, if I do win, I don't have to thank anybody!
Yeah, I think that may be the way to go.
Oh, but by all means, please go ahead and vote anyway.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Louis CK nails it

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Leave the dude alone and he'll figure it out." -- Louis CK, the man responsible for the equally brilliant "everything's amazing and nobody's happy".

This, in the form of a five minute stand-up comedy routine on David Letterman's show, sums up EXACTLY how I feel about society sometimes. Thank you, Louis CK, for being the modern philosopher that we need but don't necessarily deserve.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Words may fail us, but Lee Roy Selmon never did

Lee Roy Selmon came to Tampa Bay in 1976 because he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In many ways, he was just like most of us who come to Tampa Bay in that he was hired to do a job. He did that job beyond most reasonable expectations, becoming the first, and to date, only, Buccaneer in the pro football hall of fame. Unlike too many of us, he truly adopted the area as his home and when his playing days were over, committed himself to making life better for everyone who lives here. 
I worked at the University of South Florida when he was the Athletic Director and my experiences interacting with him were the same as so many others; he was always approachable, always patient, always friendly. So much so, that you could almost feel bad for imposing, except for the fact that he never gave the impression that you were, and that he seemed to genuinely enjoy the interaction. It's among what I consider my proudest moments that I made him laugh a couple of times.  
As memorial tributes start rolling in, some words pop up over and over.

Class. Integrity. Grace. Humility. Character. Dignity. Kindness.
Of course, nobody's perfect, but unlike most of us, Lee Roy Selmon consistently demonstrated those traits throughout his life and as a result, his presence made Tampa Bay a better place. It seems woefully inadequate that now, in his sudden absence, the only words most of us can say are "Thank You".

Happy Labor Day means I'm happy to be laboring

Still my favorite souvenir
As of last week, I'm back to work in the exciting world of sports and entertainment (although in spite of how the headline reads, I'm off today; coming up with headlines is hard), taking a position in the ticket office at the St. Pete Times Forum, home of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. That's where I worked before I left the industry (although it's not exactly my old job) so I guess this is a double comeback and I'm really happy about it. Although, I'm not in love, that's perfectly okay. Following the theme of last Friday's post about Dirk Hayhurst's philosophy about loving the game of baseball, I think I've finally learned the lesson that love isn't always the answer when it pertains to what you do for a living. It's possible to enjoy what you do and take satisfaction in it without loving it. Investing love in a job is not likely to yield the kind of return you might think you deserve and sets you up to be disappointed and bitter. It's taken this long to learn that lesson because for a long time, I had jobs that I truly loved and that often loved me back.

The Sun Dome is the arena on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida and that's where I started in the industry. It remains to this day the best job I've ever had. While the organization that managed the building at that time was professional, it was run very much like a family. The facility itself was old and the university didn't give us much of an operating budget so there were some serious challenges to be dealt with on a regular basis. No suites or posh amenities, our concession stands were small and outdated, old, broken seating sections, etc. Upper management took genuine interest in the staff as individuals and encouraged us to take opportunities to develop professionally while maintaining concern for us as human beings. The culture of the company was that we were expected to work hard and make do with less but that our efforts for doing so were sincerely appreciated and they let us know it. As a result, I learned ticketing, got to do marketing and promotions, went to school and earned a certificate in public relations, was involved heavily in event planning and arena operations and gathered a great collection of memories. I got to meet and speak with lifetime crush Sheila E (protocol dictates that staff didn't bother performers; protocol be damned when it comes to lifetime crushes). As part of marketing, promotions and public relations, I used to pick random names from the lists of those who bought tickets to our shows and welcome them on our scoreboards, something for which most arenas charge. People would see their names up there and ask why, which gave us the opportunity to reply that we were just happy that they were there. This usually confused them but also made them happy, which is probably my favorite combination of feelings. I loved going out on the arena floor behind the barrier in front of the stage before a concert started, and snapping pictures of fans with their cameras from the perspective of the stage. One time, a group of kids came down from Orlando for a heavy metal show with enough money for tickets, transportation and nothing else. They were camped out at our doors in the hot sun all day long. I visited them several times during the day, bringing them water, taking them inside for bathroom runs and then had pizza delivered for dinner. Later, they presented me with a thank you note they had written on the back of a flyer that I had framed and put on my wall. This kind of thing was not only tolerated but encouraged. More importantly, I had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the finest all-around people I've ever met, some of whom remain very close friends.
As a company, we generated sufficient revenue to finish in the black every year and we liked working with each other (occasional squabbles that popped up from time to time that would happen in any company...or family, for that matter...notwithstanding) so we considered ourselves successful and we, all of us, loved it. I left when the athletic administration (under the "leadership" of athletic director Doug Woolard) began asserting control and drove out the people who had established that culture, causing me to not love it. Everybody who stayed then has left since, many of them in a mass-firing a couple of months that USF has come up with some money and the building is finally being renovated after years of neglect. So much for love.

"This is just symbolism; I actually ripped the
guts out of the Sun Dome years ago."
From there, I went to the St. Pete Times Forum. It was a much more corporate environment but I still enjoyed it. The Lightning are my favorite team in any sport so that was a thrill in itself. I even got to be in the full staff photo taken with the team. 

There I am!
Plus, the people there from top to bottom were great and we still managed to have a lot of fun. I left there shortly after the team and lease to the building was sold to a group that would eventually turn out to be the worst sports owners in the history of Tampa Bay, which is saying something. I'd like to say that I knew that would be the case and that's why I left but that wouldn't be true. The truth is that the hours were crazy, there was a lot of stress and I was getting burned out. One night, I had an epiphany. My friends had scheduled a night out and had rented a limo for the occasion. I had to work a concert that night (I don't remember who; events were beginning to blur together at that point) but they invited me to join them when I finished and had sent the driver to wait for me. As soon as I got the concert promoter to sign some paperwork, including the receipt for $25,000 in cash I needed to give him, I was free. All I had to do was wait for him to come out of the bathroom. As 20 minutes passed, I thought about how the enjoyment of my personal life was being held up by having to wait for someone to finish his either overly intense or overly leisurely bowel movement so I could hand him several thousand dollars and it occurred to me that I was not loving the business and it was definitely not loving me.
That was the exact moment I decided I needed to leave. My experiences and memories were so great that I didn't want to taint them by becoming jaded and miserable, so I left (on very good terms) to try something else.
I could write something about where I've worked since but it's best if I just say that I'm thrilled to be back at the Forum. Especially since the owners who were in control when i left the first time are out of the picture now. And while things didn't work out like I wanted after I left, I still think the decision to leave was sound when I made it and I don't regret it. Just like I think the decision to go back, with a fresh perspective, is sound now.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Isn't "like" good enough sometimes?

My favorite baseball player right now...well, is not currently a baseball player. Pitcher Dirk Hayhurst was released by the Tampa Bay Rays organization Monday (August 30th). he had been a member of the Rays top minor league affiliate, the Durham Bulls. It didn't hurt that he was a member of my favorite team but a bigger reason why he's my favorite is because he's published a book which I really enjoyed, "The Bullpen Gospels", about his life and his career in the game of baseball. It's drawn favorable comparisons to the legendary "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton. That's because ALL baseball books written as first person narratives are required to be compared to "Ball Four" as it is (justifiably) the gold standard of that genre. And also because "The Bullpen Gospels" is very, very good and is about much more than the game of baseball, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out. Where Hayhurst differs from Bouton is that in "Ball Four", Bouton sums up not only his book but his entire life with the final line 
"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
Hayhurst doesn't feel that way. At all. Here's Hayhurst's philosophy (in the form of advice to youngsters) from a recent post on his blog at
“This is a great job, and I have a lot of fun doing it. But it’s not sum total of my being. If you want to do it, you’ll have to work really hard and make a lot of sacrifices. Maybe, when you’re older, you’ll get a chance to play it, too. If not, that’s OK, because you live for the love of life, and this is just another fun experience to try as you make your way.”
This is liable to anger or at least disappoint a lot of sports fans who want their athletes to chew bubble gum and say "gee whiz, I'd play the game fer nuthin' if they'd let me!" because they would like to believe that's what they'd say if they were in that position. But if they really thought about it, they'd realize that they're probably not being honest with themselves. Life's way too complicated. Things like following sports allow us to forget that fact for short periods of time but it never stops being true. What's funny about the people who will take issue with Hayhurst's view is that they're probably the same people who get disappointed when athletes don't sign autographs or otherwise act like they're above engaging with fans like "real" people. How much more "real" can you get than pulling back the curtain and admitting that playing a game for a living isn't all...well, playing games? No offense to the Ernie Banks-types, who get a charge out of stepping on a baseball field every time they do so and who undoubtedly exist, but there's nothing wrong with taking a slightly less enthusiastic and ultimately more pragmatic approach to it. Seems to me one could irreparably harm a youngster's attitude towards whatever vocation they find themselves in eventually, even if that vocation is in sports, to paint sports as something more than it is. After all, if someone is raised to believe that a career as a professional athlete is the end-all, be-all, everything else is, by definition, beneath that. How is that person supposed to grow up and take pride and satisfaction in doing something else? On the other hand, if that child is in that tiny percentile that does make it as a professional athlete and they're less than enthralled with the experience for whatever reason, what the hell are they supposed to think?
I for one appreciate Hayhurst's honesty. Knowing that there are ballplayers who see what they do simply as a pretty good way to pay the light bill doesn't hamper my ability to enjoy watching them play. If anything, it adds a dimension to what takes place on the field while simultaneously removing a layer of separation between us (fans) and them (players). Also, I'm someone who has found himself in jobs I've loved and jobs I've hated. What they both shared is that neither deserved the emotion I was investing in them. They sure didn't love me as much as I loved them. The hate ones, maybe...
So I appreciate Hayhurst's honesty as well as the reminder to keep things in proper perspective. And that's REALLY why he's my favorite player. Even if he's not technically a player right now.