Thursday, March 30, 2023

Radio Days

Whatever happened to Radio?  You remember the critter, he was your introduction to the Lone Ranger and Sky King, your wingman through the early years of real rock ‘n’ roll, your steadfast companion through teenage years of beaches and ballgames and babes.  Where is that guy, where did he go?

The first radio I remember was bigger than a breadbox, a wooden job with a curved top situated in my grandmother’s living room.  It was a gathering place, especially on Saturday night when Jack Benny sparred with Rochester and Phil Harris irked Alice Faye by singing “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke That Cigarette!”

We learned the only classical music we knew from the radio.  The Green Hornet entered to the strains of a lively Flight of the Bumblebee and The Lone Ranger raced through western canyons to the William Tell Overture.  Opera fanciers would easily recognize the overture to Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek’s comic opera “Donna Diana” as the signature theme for Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, a Royal Canadian Mountie who delighted in roaring, “MUSH, YOU HUSKIES!” to his faithful dogsled team.  “Mush, you huskies” soon became a widely-used phrase for us neighborhood kids when athletic effort was required or some of us were trying to beat the B&M railroad train to the crossing gates.

The radio….it was our pal, our guide to the outside world, our hero on snow days when school was cancelled and sunny days when Bump Hadley gave us play-by-play of the Red Sox games.  It made our parents smile and dance around the house when some romantic D.J. played Stardust and it put us in Times Square for New Year’s Eve and in Pasadena the next day for the glorious Rose Bowl game.  Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  Lamont Cranston did in his secret identity of the invisible Shadow, whose eerie laugh struck terror in the hearts of bad guys everywhere.  Radio--there was nothing like it and never will be--it got the juices flowing, the ears perked, the imagination cranked up.  It was a marvel, a wellspring and truly a theater of the mind.

Take Us Out To The Ballgame

The first any of us kids heard about Florida was when we were three or four years old and our fathers tuned in to WBZ in February to get the Red Sox Spring training news from an edenic place called Sarasota.  The snow was piled a couple of feet high outside in woebegone Lawrence  but the Sox announcers described sunny days with seventies temperatures in the glorious Sunshine State, where you could play ball 24/7 for 365 days a year.  Why, you were so guaranteed of sun that the St. Petersburg Times newspaper was given away free any day old Sol didn’t show his beaming face.  The radio boys painted idyllic pictures of the heavenly white home uniforms, the green, grassy diamonds, the short-sleeved sun-drenched crowds luxuriating in the intimate box seats of tiny ballparks.  It was enough to get us kids outside with our shovels to clear the baselines and whack around an old ball wrapped in electrical tape to survive the snow.  It was magic, this radio, with its promises of spring and baseball and better days ahead.  What would we do without it?

Enter Arnie Ginsburg

“Adventure Car Hop is the place to go for food that’s always right.
Adventure Car Hop is the place to go, you’ll relish every bite.
It’s out on Route One in Saugus, come dressed just as you are,
Adventure, where the service is tops and you never get out of your car.” 

We might not know all the Ten Commandments or the name of the Capital of North Dakota, but every kid in town knew all the words to the Adventure Car Hop commercial played several times nightly on Arnie (Woo Woo) Ginsburg’s call-in radio show.  Arnie was our best pal, the singular adult who understood our trials and tribulations and tried to make our lives better.  When Gwen broke up with Salvatore, Woo Woo was the guy she turned to on the phone: “Arnie, would you play ‘If I Give My Heart To You’ by Doris Day?  I just can't seem to get over Sal and it’s been three days now.”  And Arnie understood, offering kind words and spinning the request.  Sooner or later, of course, Salvatore would check in with his side of the story.  If he asked Arnie to play Love Letters In The Sand, the romance was back on again.

Eventually, we got cars, none without the all-important radios.  Michael Lee Aday, alias Meatloaf, later covered this era brilliantly with songs like Paradise By The Dashboard Light and Objects In The Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Appear.  There were no CDs in those days, no iPods, just the old dependable car radio.  Driving or at the beach or listening alone in bed at night, we called on it for Truth and company, a shoulder to cry on, a Top Ten to get our priorities straight, a voice at the end of the tunnel.  “And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me…shinin’ until tomorrow, let it be.”

Arrival Of The Snake Man

“And it came to pass that manna from Heaven flowed across the land and those who ate of the fortuitous tree became enlightened and donned coats of many colors and sang and danced with glee, and merchants set up tables in the midst of this, spreading forth on blankets strange and colorful objects of adornment and implements of delight and confusion.”---William 29:11

Radio was a big deal in the Hippie Era and legions of bands with strange names flooded the land.  The Subterranean Circus rotated playing radio music with a vast collection of 78s, but advertised consistently on radio, especially on the station ruled by Montana, aka Will Thacker, erstwhile pilot of the Quadship, which hovered over Alachua and adjacent counties spewing forth all the tunes fit to listen to.  Back in the day, remote broadcasts from mercantile sites were a big deal, so for a few extra bucks Thacker and his minions would show up on your doorstep, mikes in hand, to relay the festivities to an anxiously awaiting public.  In case you were wondering, you can sell a helluva lot of waterbeds that way.

In 1970, stuffed to the gills with products of all description, the Circus bought the building next door, hosed it out and created a unique boutique called Silver City.  To properly announce the birth, we called in Thacker and his merry men to do a remote from 9 pm to midnight on a Friday.  Except for confusing the store’s jewelry with something called “joolery,” the radio boys did a primo job.  Customers poured in, salespeople smiled, shekels were exchanged.  As the hours crept closer to midnight, however, the crowds dwindled somewhat and certain parties brought out implements of mind modification, not always legal.  The radio boys took in their share and some of the later announcements might have been confusing to the listening public, but who are we to say?

Next day, we got a lot of phone calls on the order of, “What the hell was going on down there around 11:30?” and “Next time you’re having one of these giant stoner parties, would you please call me?”   Not to mention the champion call—“I’d like to order two angel dresses in size 7, as transparent as possible, a string of love beads, a box of Club papers and a lid.  Put it on Master Card and I’ll be there around closing.”  You’re wondering what happened, right?  Well, we liked to adhere to our motto as much as possible and the motto was “We aims to please.”  Figure it out.

The Pendulum Never Sleeps

As the weeds and crabgrass took over the communes and the hippie hordes morphed into nine-to-fivers, Radio changed.  Music became available for next-to-nothing via the internet, radio stations took up with talk-show hatemongers and some nitwit tanked on animosity and an intense dislike for the English language discovered Rap music while tinkering around in his garage on a rainy night at 3 a.m.  Rap took over the airways, not to mention the streets, where sexed-up cars heavily festooned with bells, whistles and underglow lighting bounced up and down in time to tunes blasted into the stratosphere at 90 decibels.  Where have you gone, Casey Kasem-o, the listeners lift their weary ears to you?

There were holdouts, of course.  Country music, holed up in a small mission in Nashville, Tennessee kept a grip on the rope, endured and eventually prospered.  Today, 20% of the radio stations in the U.S. are country stations, more than any other format, and 50% of Americans listen to Country music.  Internet radio channels like Sirius XM have raced onto the scene providing listeners with endless options like the Fibber McGee Spring Parade and The Great Gildersleeve.  In Gainesville, local radio rookies have started up WMBT (the Wombat) and Electraland Radio, both of which are doing very well, thank you.  And to complete the loop, an ancient fellow looking remarkably like Will Thacker has been seen at various interstate ramps holding a sign saying “Will DJ for hard cash or dates with nubile young women.”  Let’s hear from the old gaffer now:

The Way We Were by Will Thacker

I had been knocking around in Radio since the mid-sixties—not as long as Marconi, but still quite awhile.  Most recently with a guy named Boomer, the perfect radio moniker, at WUWU in Gainesville.  I’d also been spinning discs at the University of Florida Rathskeller and at Trader Tom’s sophisticated saloon, but don’t tell anyone.

Top Forty radio was giving way to LPs and progressive rock.  In the Spring of 1972, I got wind of a station out on SW 24th Street that was formatted as an album-oriented rock outfit, its call letters being WGVL.  I drove down the dusty limestone road and met Irv Uram, his mom and Aunt Gertie.  They agreed to try me out on the coming Saturday night, which meant I had to drive back from snake-hunting in the fabled Okeetee Plantation in South Carolina.  Irv asked me what radio name I would use and I said “Montana.”

Saturday night I showed up, lava light in hand and marveling at the nice fee I was getting paid to listen to my favorite music through some really great speakers.  Doing the news consisted of ripping some copy off the teletype machine and reading it cold over a jazz music bed.  I was on the air when Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down.  I played their albums the rest of the night…ironically, ’Street Survivors’ had just come out with its jacket of flames.

One night, I announced that Jimmy Carter was installing speed bumps on I-75 to help mitigate the fuel crisis.  On another “newscast,” I was doing a story on Afghanistan and I put a friend from Iran in another room with a microphone and announced, “Now a live report from Kabul!”  Hey, Saturday Night Live did it, right?

I had Dick Rudolph, Minnie Ripperton’s husband, on one night.  We hung out a lot.  He was reading from his poetry book, then cleared his throat and said, “I went to Venus to rest my penis,” which was scandalous in those days.  I waited for the knock on the door but the FCC never came by.

One day I was outside taking a break when a young lady on a black stallion rode up.  No, really.  I asked her if I could take the horse for a spin and she agreed.  I teed up the longest recording I could find (the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”), maybe eighteen minutes in length, and mounted up on the English saddle.  The horse took off like he was shot from a cannon, got up to full speed and told me he had no intention of stopping.  I could see my career flash before my eyes.  By the time I got back, the record had long since stopped playing and the only sound in the studio was the ka-tick, ka-tick of the needle on the turntable.  Then the phone rang.  It was Irv Uram, of course.  The horsewoman later told me my mount had once been a racehorse and when he saw the limestone straightaway he thought it was the homestretch.

One month after my arrival, the station celebrated its first anniversary with an epic concert we broadcast live.  I got to be the emcee.  Many of the listeners decided to drive out to the station and the crowd grew into the morning hours.  We had the Lipham’s gig board, the riders’ clearing house, the Corner Drugstore and a long list of commercials.  One of them was a sixty-second spot for the Subterranean Circus followed by a comment about some psychedelic jewelry, which I mispronounced “jool-erie.”  Bill Killeen, the store owner, immediately called and gave me a short course in phonetics.  “Why,” I stuttered, “I’ve never been so insulted in my life!”  We joke about it to this day.

One fine perk of the job was getting all the free albums I could ever hope to listen to.  Another was emceeing a ton of concerts, some of them for Jeff Goldstein.  At a Jimmie Spheeris concert on campus I had a flare gun covered by a wax banana.  For some reason, I said “I’m Montana and this is my banana,” then fired the gun and watched magenta pyrotechnics arc into the night sky.  I spent the rest of the concert dodging campus cops, who were not amused.

Once, I introduced the Eagles, It’s A Beautiful Day and Yes at a concert in Jacksonville.  Thanks to Jeff Meldon and Jim Forsman, I became the house emcee at the Great Southern Music Hall.  Dave Brubeck was there the week his portrait graced the cover of Time.  His friend Duke Ellington had just passed. Ray Charles was always such a gracious man, speaking with us at length in the green room backstage.  I got to introduce my dear friend Minnie Riperton as the fastest rising star in show business.  I once brought on Goose Creek Symphony with a gaggle of live Egyptian geese I had rented, and what a slippery mess that was.

What’s that?  I’ve used up all my time and words already?  Okay, then.  It’s been fun being a slice of the Pie today and remembering the days when I flew the Quadship somewhere in the skies over Alachua County.  See you soon in the garden of earthly delights called Gainesville.  In the meantime, don’t take any wooden jool-erie.

That’s all, folks….



Thursday, March 23, 2023

News Of The World

A few weeks ago, you could fly a herd of elephants over the White House and noone would raise an eyebrow.  Jetpack-man was dive-bombing the Pentagon, passengers in the Goodyear Blimp were dropping PB&J sandwiches on tourists at the Washington Monument and impolite citizens in hot air balloons were peeking in Mitch McConnell’s bedroom windows.  All the merriment and mirth came to a crashing halt when the evil Chinese government sent a spy balloon over WAWA headquarters in Pennsylvania to learn the secrets of their success.  Mild-mannered Joe Biden was forced to put on his Superman outfit, jump in a warplane and blast the thing out of the sky.  Ever since, various elements of the U.S. Air Force have been firing away, dispatching all manner and make of unidentified flying objects, or at least the real slow ones.  Good thing Santa got his work done before the flyboys got their adrenaline injections.

Things like the Chinese spy balloon, the George Santos scandals (everybody knows he’s Anthony Weiner in disguise) and Rihanna’s Super Bowl swaddling clothes keep the nation’s press occupied and the general public, alas, knows none of the rest of the news.  We here at The Flying Pie are aware of the problem and more than ready to fill in the reporting gaps.  Just don’t ask us to cover the ongoing border crisis, which will never end.  The last time we crossed the border, rascals left two Mexican narcotics agents bound and gagged in our trunk.  Try explaining that to customs.

Whoomp!  There it is.

Ever since 9-11, firemen, police officers, EMTs, military personnel and members of the Rasmussen University ROTC have been elevated to exalted status even though the closest they ever got to the twin towers was Dubuque.  The other day in the Salt Lake City airport, a senior citizen saluted a uniformed lavatory worker and said, “Thank you for your service!”  The workman saluted back and smiled “Rad, man.  We’ll have new urinal cakes in the p.m.” 

There are a few heroes out there, however, among them the rugged crew at Junction Fire Company in Mifflin County, Georgia, which responded to an urgent call from desperate citizen Erin Meixel, whose daughter Quinnley had somehow got her head stuck in a cake pan and couldn’t get it back out again.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men in Quinnley’s neighborhood had given it a tug to no avail, but the fearless firemen were undaunted.  “When we got there, she was wearing the pan like a shawl around her shoulders,” one of the boys said.  “She was a trooper, though.  She could still eat and drink with the pan around her.  Apparently, this sort of thing runs in the family.  The mom testified that as a child she got her legs stuck in a plastic chair and had to be cut out by a roving platoon of boy scouts.”  The Junction boys simply cut the pan in two places with tin snips and voila! Quinnley was finally freed from her ordeal.  “I might do it again,” allowed the little girl.  “They give you SO much ice cream you wouldn’t believe it.”

Woody Woodpecker Lives

Worldly-wise Nick Castro of Nick’s Extreme Pest Control has seen it all, from a planeload of rats to a house taken over by German cockroaches (they had to burn it down).  Well, almost all.  Expecting to find a dead animal inside the wall of a Glen Ellen, California home where residents reported seeing maggots and mealworms emerging from one corner, Castro cut a hole in the wall of a second floor bedroom and was instantly inundated with acorns pouring from the opening.  Nick and his colleagues eventually discovered the acorns were piled 20 feet high inside the wall and weighed about 700 pounds.  A technician investigating outside the home discovered woodpeckers had been poking holes in the chimney stack and stashing acorns for the past two to five years.  The acorns eventually fell through into the wall cavity.  Castro and company took about eight hours to remove the nuts, much to the consternation of the hard-working woodpeckers.  We’re sympathetic with the birds.  Chuck LeMasters will tell you what it feels like when interlopers rummage through your property seizing your stash, and he’s liable to use a few cuss words.  When we were kids, Woody Woodpecker, after winning the day, unfailingly finished each cartoon adventure with his signature ha-ha-ha-ha-ha laugh.  This time the laugh was on Woody.

Let Them Eat Cake

In case you were wondering, the Guinness World Record for wearable cake dresses is now held by Natasha Coline Kim fah Lee Fokas of the SweetyCakes GmbH bakery in Switzerland.  Natasha’s creation weighs in at a staggering 289 pounds, 13 ounces and was created for the Swiss Wedding World Expo in Bern.  Just thought you’d like to know.

Oh No, Not That!

Everyone’s a critic, and German ballet director Marco Goecke is not going to stand for it any more.  The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported that a furious Goecke approached its dance critic, Wiebke Huester during the interval at a premiere at Hannover’s opera house recently and asked what she was doing there.  The two didn’t know one another personally, but Goecke apparently felt provoked by a recent review the critic wrote of a production he staged in The Hague, Netherlands.  He threatened to ban her from the ballet and accused her of being responsible for the cancellation of several season tickets in Hannover.  He then pulled out a paper bag filled with animal feces and smeared her face with the contents.  This bold renegade did not carve a Z with his blade, simply walked off through the packed theater foyer leaving Wiebke with….er, mud on her face.  In a statement posted on its website, the opera house apologized for the shitty treatment and banned Marco until he apologizes profusely, completes a course in public relations and washes his hands 700 times.

We’ve Bin There In The Sixties

A tipsy Australian woman found herself in trouble recently after a night of heavy imbibing at Surfer’s Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast.  The unnamed victim (Aussie newspapers are kinder to ladies than ours) somehow dropped her cell phone into a streetside trash bin and it fell to the bottom.  If it had been mere diamond earrings or a string of pearls, she might have abandoned them then and there but no woman we know is going anywhere without her cell phone.  Trying to rescue the elusive object, she fell upside down into the garbage, her legs sticking out the top.  A sympathetic friend stood by but refused to climb in to help.  “You know this is my best dress, Rebecca, no way am I going in that thing,” the woman protested as a man with a video camera went to work filming the odd event.  According to the Daily Mail Australia, after a few minutes of jolly good fun, the guilty cameraman climbed in, rearranged the victim and eventually pulled her out.  You want to know about the phone, don’t you?  It was fine.  The rescuer, on leaving, couldn’t resist imparting some good advice.  “Don’t drink and dive,” he admonished.  The sooty woman retorted, “I was  perfectly sober, my good friend, any reports to the contrary are a load of rubbish.”  She should know it when she sees it.

Ach Du Lieber!

The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile has been dogged by bad luck on its recent tour of the country.  During a lost weekend in February, the 27-foot-long vehicle topped off a series of bad days in Las Vegas, where CBS affiliate KLAS TV reported the Wienermobile had its catalytic converter stolen.  As a result, the engine just couldn’t cut the mustard and the thing was towed in to a local truck rental facility.  Employee Joseph Rodriguez was startled when he came to work.  “No way you expect to see a famous hot-dog truck in the middle of your bay,” he said.  “People were everywhere, taking pictures.  We put a temporary catalytic converter on so the Wienermobile could make a scheduled appearance.  Good thing, too.  There’s a four-month waiting list for new converters.  In any case, I relished the experience.”  Recently, thefts of catalytic converters have skyrocketed since they’re relatively easy to steal and can be resold for upwards of $1000.  “Frankly, it’s an outrage,” sniffed Wienermobile driver Francis Donatello, who couldn’t help but smile.

The Latest Adventures Of Florida Man

A Mount Dora woman recently awakened to find a burglar asleep on her couch holding one of her kitchen knives.  This sort of thing just doesn’t happen in serene Mount Dora so homeowner Judith Smolinski didn’t get too excited.  “I was in my kitchen making coffee, when I heard loud snoring,” she said.  “I walked in the living room and there he was on the couch, all wrapped up in my blanket.”  Interloper Duane Immich, 26, apparently had burglarized several nearby businesses before purloining a beer from Judith’s refrigerator and deciding to take a nap.  The culprit was booked into the Lake County jail on charges of theft, breaking and entering and being a dumbhead.

Florida Man knows no bounds.  In Winnipeg, Florida Man Rondell Johnson barged into the Crosstown Civic Credit Union and robbed the place at gunpoint.  Johnson was wearing a dress, blonde wig, gloves and a mask.  Adding to his womanly ensemble were two nerf balls used as breasts.  “I thought he looked rather fetching,” remarked arresting police constable Frances Preston.  “Nothing a breast reduction wouldn’t cure.  His outfit was smashing, actually.” 

Earlier, recent Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, a loser by the width of a mauve nose to current governor Ron DeSantis, was discovered in a Miami Beach hotel room with a male escort and a bit of crystal meth.  “He was too intoxicated to answer questions,” police advised and charges are currently pending.  The cops were called to the Mondrian South Beach hotel when Gillum’s partner apparently overdosed and collapsed.  “Andrew is definitely qualified for governor now,” said ex-supporter Taylor Lea.  “He’s a regular Florida Man with all the bells and whistles.” 

Charges are pending?

That’s all, folks….     

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Spring Fever

“Why should I have Spring Fever when it isn’t even Spring?”---Rogers & Hammerstein

The Comeback Kids

Springtime is near and Reunion is in the air.  Every day in May, there will be a high school reunion somewhere celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Class of 1973.  Even California Girl Nancy Luca is not immune, returning to Gainesville to celebrate on May 20th with her gnarly old Buchholz High codgers.  Don’t tell anyone, but after the confetti falls, Nancy will be bound and gagged by Anna Marie Kirkpatrick and vanned over to First Night at the Hogtown Opry, where she will be forced to wear cowboy boots and yodel.

Two weeks earlier, on the first anniversary of The Last Tango (May 7), Heartwood Soundstage will have a huge celebration on the sacred date in the same open field where the magic reined in 2022.  Shortly after that (May 11-13), the Spirit of the Suwanee music park calls the regulars back for its Echoland Music Festival with more bands than you can count.

While all this is splendid news, nothing compares with the shenanigans being planned by Bill Killeen and his merry men for First Night of the Hogtown Opry at University Auditorium on the Florida campus.  While we think the Opry band will be good enough to rate as a headliner in its own right, the incoming performers will be among the most talented performers in country music, famous or not..  If that’s not enough, local showoff Gina Hawkins will lead her tribe of rejected Rockettes in a concert-closing conga line.  Be there or be square?  No.  Be there or be forever chagrined.  For those of you who missed the hallowed Tango, this is your opportunity for atonement.  Nobody wants to be a two-time loser.

Hannibal Crosses The Alps

Our first experience with Spring Break on the beaches of Florida came in 1963, when Marilyn Todd and I loaded 10,000 copies of Jack Horan’s Old Orange Peel into the back of my fine Cadillac hearse and headed for the wilds of Daytona.  Horan and his comrades had sold beaucoup amounts of advertising to beachside merchants and temporarily converted their Gainesville off-campus humor magazine into a Spring Break party guide before realizing they had no way to carry that much weight all the way to the Atlantic.  Jack glibly offered gas money, free room and board and a few other frills to entice us to take on the challenge.  Being dead broke and not particularly busy, we took him up on it.

Now, the average fellow might surmise that a formidable vehicle such as ours, built to transport the heaviest of humans in the weightiest burial boxes might have no issues trucking a mere 10,000 little magazines a couple of hours down the road.  After all, this was a machine which had once carried over a dozen curfew-threatened women through the streets of Boston and back to their Tufts College dormitories without breaking a sweat.  What the average fellow doesn’t know, however, is that budgetary concerns prevented the hearse from receiving the requisite oil changes, tire rotations, et al, which determine the health and soundness of any vehicle.  That is to say, we took it in for maintenance in those years in which February had 29 days, whether it needed it or not.

The brakes on the beast, alas, could have been better.  Maneuvering the thing with that much weight in the back required driving at moderate speeds and trying to anticipate light changes along the way, the better to stop as few times as possible.  Nonetheless, by the time we rolled over a bridge and down an incline into Daytona Beach, the hot brakes had given up the ghost and we were forced to circle around a used car lot about fifteen times til we came to a stop.  After a sufficient wait, we gathered ourselves up and proceeded on to Jack Horan’s unloading dock, the hearse offering up a great sigh of relief.  The hard part was over, now it was time to see what this Spring Break business was all about.

Spring Break 

Now, I was no complete rookie.  I had read Glendon Swarthout’s Where The Boys Are in 1960, following the Fort Lauderdale adventures of “Merrit of the U.,” a Michigan State female of reasonable sanity, who carpooled to South Florida with a gaggle of friends.  I knew about the serial drinking, the indecent exposure, the tiffs with police, the riotous behavior.  Reading about it and seeing it live, however, were two different things.  The day we arrived, one overloaded customer fell from his second-floor hotel balcony into an unsuspecting beach umbrella, injuring both, and at least 28 people were arrested for assorted crimes.  The usually grouchy Daytona cops were obviously short on happiness pills and were brooking little foolishness.

The bars where Horan was selling his Orange Peels were dens of iniquity.  Besotted students at various levels of consciousness lost wallets, car keys and cheap cameras.  One saloon, which gave out free t-shirts to any women who would change into the things while standing on the bar had more customers per square foot than Time Square on New Years Eve.  If you ever got into a position where both feet left the floor, you were carried off in a whirl of humanity and deposited somewhere down the block.

Automobile traffic was completely ignored as the kids took over the streets.  One drunken genius, crossing the avenue in the face of oncoming traffic, was bopped in the hip by a pink Chevy, flipped over and dumped on a sidewalk.  He laughingly got up, raised both hands in the air and celebrated like he had just won the heavyweight championship of the world before limping off.  The cops showed up and started giving out tickets for jaywalking and topless volleyball.  One inebriated senorita grabbed an unprepared officer, planted a smooch on his mouth and pinched him on the butt.  He eventually shook her off and wandered around with a shit-eating grin on his face and without his badge.  If anyone filmed a highlight reel, I’d like to see it.  At least some of the people at Burning Man are sane and sober.  Marilyn, a sensible women of good comportment looked at me and said, “We’re not staying for the fireworks, right?”  Daytona was like opening the floodgates of the loony bin and handing the escapees a beer on the way out.  It was incredibly great.  We definitely didn’t go back the following year.

The Rites Of Spring (and a few of the wrongs)

Will Thacker will be heading for Cocullo, Italy on May 4 for the eagerly anticipated Festival of the Snakes, celebrating St. Domenico Abate’s clearing of the area of reptiles back in the day.  The formidable Processione dei Serpari starts with a Mass, of all things, and then a statue of Domenico is paraded through the streets.  Along the parade route, snake charmers wrap the statue with reptiles, which occasionally get loose and slither through the crowds.  Serpent worshippers can even buy a specially made bread shaped like an ouroboros (a snake eating its own tail).  After the ball is over, any remaining captive snakes are let loose in the area around Cocullo, which seems to defeat the poor saint’s efforts.  Thacker will be waiting for the little buggers with a snake hook, plenty of nets and a fast truck.

You probably didn’t know this but the region around St. George, South Carolina consumes more grits per capita than anyplace else in the country.  Some of us unaware Yankees think this creamy cornmeal staple of Southern cuisine is a morning-only dish but South Carolinians beg to differ, serving it with just about anything and at all times of the day.  Naturally, the local folks are proud of their consumption record and celebrate each year at the World Grits Festival (April 21-23).  The highlight of the day is the exciting “Rolling in the Grits” competition, where an inflated kiddie swimming pool is filled to the brim with grits and contestants slopping around deliriously.  The idea is to trap as many grits on your body as possible in ten seconds.  There are many approaches to maximum absorption taken by clever contestants, most of whom duct tape their cuffs and sleeves shut to trap the grits inside.  Others wear backward hooded shirts, scooping the grits with their hoods.  In 2015, an all-time record was set by wily Tiffany McGirr, who wore extra-baggy pants held up by suspenders and collected an awe-inspiring 66 pounds.  Who says girls can’t play?

Beam Me Up, Karellen!

Leave it to the Canadiens.  On May 20, Toronto turns the chimes up for Alien Abduction Day, its thirteenth annual such festival.  The Canucks have been doing this sort of thing since 2008, when a garage full of auto-body repairmen was scooped up near the village of Punkeydoodle Corners, Ontario and swept off into the twilight by a saucer-shaped object with an Alf bumper-sticker attached.  Reddick resident Gary Borse was dispatched to arrange a prisoner swap but the aliens didn’t want E.T. back or hotdog Florida senator Matt Gaetz either.

Hosers will gather beneath the bronze statues of early abductees Betty and Barney Hill to watch abduction movies, discuss their own kidnappings and gag down cheese curds.  Few of the victims have any idea why they were detained and returned but most speak of being medically examined in a very bright high-tech room by bug-eyed midgets with sharp instruments.  There is nakedness, pain and a loss of control while the body’s boundaries are being probed, but no surgeries.  More than one woman has testified to consensual sex with the aliens, which they universally regret.  “Pencildicks!” is the usual complaint.

A Menu

In early Spring, gray whales and their calves can be seen migrating off the Big Sur coastline and past Oregon and Washington.  These giants, which can grow up to 45 feet long and weigh as much as 33 tons, head north from Mexico to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic, the Bering, Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

While ospreys can be observed in multiple places including New York and Seattle, the Chesapeake Bay area in Maryland is home to the largest known concentration of ospreys in the world.  Visitors have an excellent chance of spotting ospreys flying overhead if they visit the region.  Ospreys migrate to the area to mate, nest and raise their young.  The eggs are usually laid by the third week of April and hatch thirty to forty days later. 

Spring is the ideal time to visit Yellowstone National Park, where you’ll get an opportunity to spot a range of new babies, including black bear cubs, bighorn lambs (usually born in May), elk and bison calves, bay pronghorn antelope and gray wolf cubs.  Keep your distance, mom has teeth and/or claws and knows how to use them.

The arrival of the cranes on Nebraska’s Platte River, along with millions of other migratory birds such as ducks and geese, is one of the country’s greatest wildlife spectacles.  About 80% of the world’s population of sandhill cranes descend on the area every Spring, covering the vast expanses of sky with millions of flapping wings.  The first arrive as early as late February or earl;y march and leave in mid-April after they’ve rested and restored their body weights.

The best time to see Yosemite National Park’s waterfalls is in Spring, when most of the snowmelt occurs and the falls are most impressive.  Peak runoff is typically in May or June, according to the National Park Service.  Some of the falls, including the famous Yosemite Falls, can be down to a trickle by August.

Last and least, Jonesville, Florida curmudgeon Chuck LeMasters exits his rural cave after a winter of hibernation and cruel dreams, now ready to till the soil, spread the seeds and fuss over his new plants like a nervous mother hen.  Unlike the welcoming places earlier mentioned, Chuck would prefer you stay home and mind your own business.  When everything is in readiness, he will set up his usual booth on Newberry Road and turn on the Hempsignal.  Celebrate!  It’s beloved Spring, when the azaleas rise, the dogwoods bloom and the reprobates come out of hiding.  Makes a body want to run naked through the woods, ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair, rustle up a new romance, abscond to the beach.  The year is young again, and so are we....if only in our minds.

That’s all, folks…. 



Thursday, March 9, 2023

A Night At The Opera

Anatomy Of A Dream

2022 was a big year for Killeen Consolidated Industries, or Ringmaster LLC for short.  First we had the enlightening experience of putting together the Subterranean Circus Grand Reunion, aka The Last Tango In Gainesville, which brought together for perhaps the last time a thousand stout hippie hearts and a few gerontology groupies.  There are days when the weather breaks perfectly, the musicians never hit a bad note and everybody falls in love with each other, and this was the ultimate panacea.  Even Chuck LeMasters was cheerful.

Next, we recruited fellow octogenarian Bob Simmons to make a movie of the proceedings, a film that would capture for posterity the Big Day in all its glory and emotion.  Simmons wove together the exemplary music of the day with interviews reciting the history of the Subterranean Circus and what it was like back in the halcyon days of the late 1960s and 70s.  The movie was good enough to be featured at the Central Florida Film Festival in January 2023.  Not bad for a bunch of rookies.

If you’re 82 years old, you can proceed to the couch, sit down and mull over a grand year of sweet accomplishments til the end of time.  Or you can check the coal car, examine how much fuel is left and advise the engineer to keep the train rolling.  We’re not much for mulling, thus I invited four of my friends to a meeting to discuss the most ambitious plan of all. 

A few months ago, Tom Shed, Cathy Dewitt, Paco the Redundant and Mike Boulware met with me at Mike’s homey place in the woods to discuss the possibility of creating a Hogtown Opry.  At the start, I asked the group to tell me all the reasons it couldn’t be done.  I expected a recitation of problems, but nobody was pessimistic, even the cautious Tom Shed.  Mike started the ball rolling by saying he thought it was a great idea, and timely.  Gainesville is a youngish rock ‘n’ roll city, but our music would be as expansive as “country” gets and we’d be the only game in town.  Not to mention, Gainesville is completely surrounded by rural counties with plenty of potential customers.  The other folks in attendance were also optimistic, although all realized it was a gigantic undertaking with plenty of pitfalls.  Tom Shed, who managed the legendary Great Southern Music Hall for several years, knew many of them.  The original plan was to have a show every Saturday night with the possibility of an occasional weeknight show if the right entertainer was in the area.  We were seeking to rent a venue with a minimum capacity of five hundred seats as close to the city center as possible.  The optimum site to our way of thinking was the now-closed First Baptist Church building on University Avenue near downtown.  Not likely, perhaps, but you have to start somewhere.  If a church was good enough for the Grand Ole Opry, it was good enough for us.

Everybody Loves A Shrine

Thanks to the gracious assistance of the gatekeepers at Continuum Apartments, Mike Boulware and I were allowed to inspect the premises at 425 West University Avenue.  We    were immediately taken with the size and scope of the place.  The bottom floor featured a nest of sizeable rooms suitable for a raft of possibilities.  The second floor offered a large open expanse roomy enough for a huge stage and at least 500 seats, including several old church pews.  There is a charming, if dusty, balcony with intact cushiony  theater seats and a small room for a projectionist, lighting man or what-have-you.  We meandered through the place slowly, remarking on its history and marveling at its still-viable interior.  Obviously, the church required a major cleanup, the construction of a proper stage together with sound and lighting installations.  Jeff Goldstein, who had studied the building earlier for possible use as a Gainesville Music Museum, assured us the acoustics were close to perfect.  The history of such an iconic building, its size and location, made the church our top choice.  Now all we had to do was convince the owners we were a sane lot, despite some evidence to the contrary.

On September 22, Mike, Tom and I met with John Fleming of Trimark Properties, which had just purchased the building along with several stories of the famous Seagle Building across the street.  Fleming’s group is allegedly interested in preserving as many of Gainesville’s few remaining historical buildings as seem viable.  At the time of the Seagle purchase, Fleming said, “My time at Trimark Properties has given me a unique opportunity to preserve and protect historic spaces in Gainesville.  The Seagle Building is a Gainesville icon and we’re honored to bring Trimark’s decades of property management to the table as we strive to ensure the building’s character and beauty continue to withstand the test of time.”  We assumed John felt the same way about the First Baptist Church building and we thought that our plan for the site was likely as good as any. 

The meeting seemed to go well.  Fleming appeared a charming, good-humored fellow who had been with his wife to the Grand Old Opry in Nashville and was obviously familiar with the final result we were striving for.  He talked about the work needed on the building and we went back and forth about the possibilities, which included co-renting with another entity, each of us using the place on specific days.  We were willing to allow considerable latitude in a leasing arrangement because the place was perfect for our intentions, with the exception of very limited parking in the area, an issue we were willing to tolerate.  Weeks went by and we heard nothing.  We texted and got no response, leaving us with a couple of possibilities; John Fleming was captured by aliens, he fell off the bed and banged his head causing grievous memory loss or his mother didn’t teach him good manners.  In any case, it was time to search for more fertile ground.  As with the Subterranean Circus Grand Reunion, every day that passes you lose another potential customer.     We want to be there before the next teardrop falls.

This Must Be The Place

After a weeks-long scouring of metropolitan Gainesville and numerous treks down blind alleys, we decided to ignore Jeff Goldstein’s warnings and check out the venerable University Auditorium on the UF campus.  Dealing with all the red tape incumbent in any business relationship with the many-tentacled University of Florida is always a daunting affair but the building is a historic gem and even Jeff had to admit the acoustics were superior to what we’d find elsewhere.  The UA also has 843 seats, reasonable parking on Saturday nights and a management team led by Jason Degen which is knowledgeable, helpful and lonely.  The place sees little action for several reasons, the foremost being that any food and drink sold there is purveyed by the university’s catering companies, which keep all the proceeds.  A second deficit is that all concert gear brought into the place must be removed at the end of the event rather than stowed there for the following week.  Both are costly considerations and have run off prospective customers, but as we all know the University is set in its ways.  Besides, every bride has a few blemishes---you have to take the bitter with the sweet.  Long story short, we took the UA’s deal and the Hogtown Opry begins  operations, for better or for worse, on May 20, 2023.  Write that date down on the back of your hand so you won’t lose it.

There are many positive things about setting up shop in University Auditorium.  One of the better aspects for concertgoers is that Opry tickets can be purchased via UF’s experienced and competent ticket office instead of a card table at the Boot Barn.  Our insurance is less than it would be most places and the building staff for events is already in place.  If you have not had the pleasure of attending a musical event in this era of tear-it-down-and-build-a-new-one, you will be enchanted by the scope and grace of the age-old iconic building.  Ancient structures have a charm unrivaled by soulless latter-day replacements.  As a matter of fact, so do the Opry participants.   

All $100 tickets come with First Night t-shirts similar to the above illustration
What’s It All About, Tammy?

Most of you have been around.  You’ve noticed that music venues have an unfortunate habit of crashing and burning sooner than later.  Some others continue to exist out of the goodness of the owner’s heart, as in the case of a few terrific local facilities which are involuntary non-profits, bobbing along on the shoulders of hope and optimism.  The Hogtown Opry will not be a non-profit enterprise.  Ticket prices will be variable, but not cheap.  What we promise, however, is a venue that uses its money to build and better the enterprise, not for personal profit.  Bill Killeen doesn’t need any money, but he’s not interested in throwing any away, either, so there will be a profit or there will be no Opry.  Where there are profits, there is a continuation of the business.  In our case, we will keep adding features to the venue which lend to the enjoyment of the audience and musicians.  We hope the latter group will understand that most of what we do, like it or not, is to ensure the success and longevity of the operation.  I intend that the Opry continue on long past my own lifetime and am putting in place people I’m confident will allow that to happen.  Despite its lean to country, I expect the place to be a quasi-clubhouse to many local music-makers and others passing through, a gathering spot where everyone is comfortable dropping in on those special  Saturday nights.  While we get our bearings, we’ve decided to go with a show every three weeks.  By year’s end, we expect to go twice monthly.  After that, who knows?  Maybe we’ll even get our own building where we can sell Moon Pies and R.C. Cola.

Tickets for our first event, which will feature the take-no-prisoners Hogtown Opry Band together with Robert Bowlin, winner of numerous fiddle, flatpicking guitar and mandolin contests around the country and the fiddle player for the iconic Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys in the 1990s; award-winning singer-songwriter Wil Maring, who strutted her stuff at the Grand Ole Opry and toured extensively in Europe and Japan.  And that’s just so far.

Early $100 tickets for the first show will be available tomorrow at the addresses below.  Several of our friends in the community will also be selling them for us for a short time; don’t call them, they’ll call you.  All $100 seats will be front and center at the University Auditorium and will come with a jam-up and jelly-tight First Night t-shirt, a $30 value.  so it’s more like a $70 ticket, right?

If a c-note is too stiff for your liking, $60 and $40 ducats will be available through the University of Florida ticket office beginning April 3.  We’ll post a notice here and on the Hogtown Opry Website, which will miraculously appear in the very near future (

One more thing.  All, and we mean ALL, proceeds from tickets will go towards the improvement of the Opry.  That means Bill isn’t keeping any.  We will try to bring entertainers here who would not otherwise appear in the Gainesville-Ocala area and we shall also continue to search for a building of our own so the principals in this rodeo will all have someplace to go when we get up in the morning.  In addition to the great music, we’ll bring you a few surprises now and then over the objection of Mike Boulware to tickle your fancy.  Rumors to the contrary, Willie Nelson will not sing the national anthem.  This time.

That’s all, folks, except for the addresses below.

$100 show tickets may be purchased by checks made out to Ringmaster LLC and sent to Bill Killeen, P.O. Box 970, Fairfield, Florida 32634 or via Paypal.  When using Paypal, just paste the link below into your browser.  All $100 presold seats are in the first eleven rows center.

Questions to   



Thursday, March 2, 2023

Reflections In A Broken Mirror

Remember when there were no hippies and suddenly they were everywhere?  When nobody smoked dope, wore bellbottoms, said “groovy,” or listened to the Grateful Dead, then everyone did?  Remember how corny country was before country was cool?  There is a very brief period called an inflection point when cool climbs to the summit and plunges off into the abyss, and noone wants to be on the downside of cool.  Today’s news quickly becomes yesterday’s newspaper, the hippest expressions are ditched almost overnight, leaving the pretenders to cool baffled, unready, exposed to ridicule and finger-pointing.  We writers are particularly conscious of this phenomenon, especially as it relates to words and phrases.

“Here’s the thing” was big not long ago.  Now it’s used only by home-schooled children in Chevy Chase and Joe Biden.  You have to get off the bus before you get to the bad neighborhoods, the only alternative being to keep riding until what’s verboten becomes cool again, which happens all the time.  As in the case of “cool,” for instance.

In the past couple of years, “GOAT" has raced up the mountain.  Not long ago, if you called someone a goat you got a knuckle sandwich (no longer cool).  Now, however, thanks mainly to aging NFL wonder boy Tom Brady, GOAT is widely taken to mean “Greatest Of All Time.”  The term has quickly reached Enough, Already Territory and is headed for the edge of the cliff at a run.  Beware the dreaded inflection point.  Before much longer, people using GOAT will be snickered at, have their hair mussed and their pants pulled down.  The sooner the better, we say.

With all this in mind, the clever faculty at Lake Superior State University in Michigan has decided to post an advisory of words and phrases which have worn out their welcome.  Here’s their Significant Seven:

2.---Moving forward
3.---Amazing (which replaced “awesome”)
6.---It is what it is
7.---Inflection point 

In the collective mind of the LSSU faculty, not only is GOAT grossly overused, it is also impossible.  “How can anyone be declared the greatest of all time when someone greater might come along in the future?” asks Lake State spokesman Peter Szatmary.  “The closest you could get would be GOATSF—for ‘so far’—which is pretty hard to pronounce.  And then you’d have to add “for football,” otherwise you’re dealing with Pele, Serena Williams, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Hassan, a Pakistani goat with very long ears.”

The faculty’s point is that all of us should strive to be original in our thinking, avoid trite crutch words and phrases and try to ignore the Pied Piper leading the Pop Trend of the Day parade.  “As if,” to quote a dying old-timer.  Alas, the best intentions of mice and men often go awry.  As long as there is a briskly bouncing ball, there will be blissfully uncool humans happy to follow it to eternity, inflection point be damned.

Just sayin’….

“I Cannot Tell A Lie!”---George Washington

“I Cannot Tell The Truth.  I Keep Trying, But It Won’t Come Out.”---George Santos

Everyone wants to get rid of poor old George Santos, but not us.  Before George, the best buffoon we had was the ill-tempered Georgia hyena Marjorie Taylor Greene, who doesn’t know gazpacho from Gestapo.  Santos, being occasionally Jew-ish, is well aware of the glaring difference, although he does admit to some confusion about Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

Let’s face it, our congressmen and senators are not a bunch of gay blades.  Their idea of big fun is glugging down aperitifs during filibusters, tickling their teenage aides and throwing lighted matches across the aisle.  Compared to these old bores, George is a breath of fresh air.  Who else would dress up like a drag queen named Kitara Ravache and dazzle the crowd in Rio?  “I was young and having fun at a festival,” says George.  “Sue me for having a life.”

And how many other multiracial congressmen do we have?  None, that’s how many.  In addition to being Hispanic and Jew-ish, Santos is also “Caucasian and Black.”  He said so, himself, in a tweet.  “As a biracial person, I stand tall against segregation of any kind,” he averred after being called a bigot for complaining about the Black anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.  “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against.  My life has been at risk many times.”

One of those times may have been in December of 2022, when George appeared on a Brazilian podcast and claimed he’d been the victim of an attempted assassination in January of 2021.  He also reported his Florida home had been vandalized because he was a Republican and he was once robbed of his shoes, briefcase and watch, but not his wallet, in the middle of testy Fifth Avenue in Manhattan by a barefoot panhandler.

George may or may not still be wanted by the Brazilian police for writing bad checks in 2008.  They closed the case because they were unable to find him after lackadaisically searching for ten years.  His ex-boyfriend, Pedro Vilarva, backs up the accusation claiming “I dropped him like a hot tamale when I found out he was a crook.”  Although Santos professes to being the first openly gay Republican of color to be elected to Congress, there’s the little matter of having been married to a woman until they divorced in 2019Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too?

Finally, we’re not really certain George Santos is even George Santos.  Oh sure, an occasional alias is relatively harmless---ask George Costanza from Seinfeld, who occasionally preferred “Ron Vandelay.”  But Santos is a little greedy, having several alternatives, including the aforesaid Kitare Ravache and “Anthony Devolder,” a moniker he allegedly used when he claimed to have appeared in the Disney TV series Hannah Montana.  Political consultant Stuart Stevens recently told The Guardian, “Nobody really knows WHO this guy is.  We literally do not know his real name.”

But whether he’s George Santos or Howdy Doody, the congressman from upstate New York can tell you one thing; he’ll have fun, fun, fun til someone takes his House seat away.


You’d think it would be simple, drawing a respectable pig’s face on an opera singer.  But can anyone do it?  No!  Blake Harrison couldn’t quite pull it off, but at least he tried.  Chuck LeMasters passed it off to Leonard Weinbaum, who ran off to Melrose and hid.  Judi Caine wouldn’t come out of her room.  Lisa Marie Mercer thought about it, then gave us a replacement, which was pretty but decidedly unporcine.  Michael Goettee cleared his throat and looked the other way, then offered, “I can draw a cow.”   A COW?  What good would that do, Michael?  We’d have to rename our venue The Cowtown Opry.  What would Wonder Wart Hog think?

Pipsqueaks, these local artists.  Charlatans.  Frauds.  Pretenders to knowledge.  We called in the head art professor, Danny Levine in Savannah, looking for succor.  Danny sent us to a crazy woman who illustrates fantasy comics.  She sent us a hastily whipped together cartoon of a cute pig playing a guitar, then erupted when we called it less than adequate.  Not only incompetent but nuts, these artists.  Where is Gilbert Shelton when you really need him?

Hello, out there!  Surely there is a lone hero tuned in somewhere in the Klondike who can put pen to paper and create a singing pig-woman.  Did all those years of art school amount to nothing?  Have you no pride?  Is it something about pigs?  Oh, and for all you supposed religious objectors, you don’t have to eat the thing, just draw it.  We’re doing serious business here.  Let’s get bakin’.


“Only in his own hometown is a prophet without honor.”---Jesus Christ

“I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen a statue of a critic.”---Leonard Bernstein

Albert Teebagy, an old varmint who booked acts for the Great Southern Music Hall in Gainesville’s Golden Era, came to town the other day to discuss our using his services for the Hogtown Opry.  My wingman Mike Boulware was there and our host for the meeting Jeffrey Meldon sat in halfway through.  It was nice to see Jeff, a Gainesville Original,  somewhere other than on the side of a bus after all these years.  Regrettably, no alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs were served so nobody got too silly.

Albert the salesman began by telling us we didn’t know what we were doing.  This is what you inevitably get when you roam from your perceived realm into new territory.  Nuclear physicists who are ex-deejays get the same treatment, so I’m not alone.  And Albert is far from the only critic, they arrive by the hundreds and try to sneak through the transoms.  Stay in your lane is the message.  Don’t be like Jeff Bezos or Julia Child or Martha Stewart, who weaved all over the highway but eventually made it to the Big Time.  Maybe they were just lucky.  Does anyone know that Pope Francis was once a bouncer before he decided to move on?  Maybe he got tired of the rough stuff.  Maybe he liked it too much.

When I was in college, my roommate Ron Spencer implored me not to use my last $600 to start a humor magazine.  “What do you know about magazines?” he wanted to know.  “There’s advertising and printers and distribution and nekkid wimmen and wild parties, or so I’ve heard.”  We plunged onward through the fog and came to rest in green pastures.  Nobody said nice job.  Later, when I was in the East Village buying inventory to open the Subterranean Circus, my pal Mike Garcia was fretting about the fate of my pitiful $1200 investment.  “Killeen, this hippie thing could be a flash in the pan.  You’ll be broke!”  Michael wasn’t the only one who thought so.  Newt Simmons, one of my housemates, laughed at the prospect of depending on hippie financial support.  “Those people don’t have a vessel to urinate in, literally!” he guffawed.  “You won’t last a month.”  If Newt had been to the Village, he’d have seen a rising wave in the earliest stages of cresting.  “I’m not counting on just hippies,” I told him.  “Before long everybody’s going to be on this bus.”  Three months after opening, the Circus was grossing over $1000 a day, enough to buy half a block of Gainesville property bordering on University Avenue and erect a sister store adjacent.  Meanwhile, their eyes wide open, Simmons opened a head shop called Out Of Sight Optics in St. Pete Beach and Garcia cut the tape on Elysian Fields in Georgetown, D.C.  Both prospered bigly.

Last year, we thought it might be nice to get our old store crews and customers together again for one last rodeo in a large open field at Heartwood Soundstage in Gainesville.  Doubters smirked.  How are you going to find them all?  (We didn’t.)  What if it rains?  (It didn’t.)  How will you ever find enough pot?  (We know people.)  The result was the party of the year, an emotional gathering of the ancients never to be equaled.  There wasn’t a frowny face on the lot except for when Nancy Kay temporarily lost her car keys.  The end result was memorialized in our film, Last Tango In Gainesville, which you can watch any time you like on YouTube. 

I don’t profess to be a genius.  I do profess to have a lot of common sense.  Business is basically having an idea whose time has come, putting all your efforts into manifesting that idea and finding the right people to help you.  You can start a business with a little money or a lot; if it’s a good idea sufficiently financed and sensibly run, odds are you’ll succeed.  Here’s a tip—never start anything purely to make a profit.  Open a business or stage an event you like.  Even if it eventually flops, you’ll have a lot of fun.  At age 82, Fun is the name of the game for me and my kind.  We don’t have the time or the patience for conflict, angst, red tape or foolishness.  And we have those whistles in case we fall and can’t get up.  When people roll their eyes, whisper unkind innuendos, poke one another in the ribs alerting everyone to come watch the Hindenburg catch fire…or when they simply walk up, pull their hats down over their eyes and say, “You can’t do it,” the reply is firm and confident:

Watch me.

That’s all, folks….      


Thursday, February 23, 2023

Predicting 2023

Questioner John Buckhouse: “Alexa, what’s the outside temperature…. and tell me what else I need to know today?”

Alexa: “The temperature is 63 degrees and on November 24 at 6:05 a.m. Russia will launch an attack against Germany causing World War III.”

Everybody knew this was bound to happen.  Who needs a fly on the wall when we’ve got zillions of little Alexas scattered throughout the universe with an ear to the ground?  And then, as we all know, they get together on Zoom every night over a dinner of microchips and coke and blab to one another about their recent discoveries.  Once Alexa knows something, there’s no holding her back.  Right in the middle of an Amazon delivery report, she’s liable to spout out, “You know, Rhonda, I don’t like Jeffrey very much.  I know for a fact he’s hitting on other women down at the Dairy Freeze.  You can do better.”

You know how it is trying to keep a secret.  You just want to bust loose and tell everybody.  Same way with Alexa, who seems to have a special relationship with Johnny B.  The only thing she told us recently is that it was time to renew our subscription to Homes & Gardens.  On the other hand, the new year typically brings forth a slew of Jeane Dixon imitators and would-be Nostradamuses and one of them could be right.  Better take another look.

Area 51, Where Are You?

Poor old Area 51 in Nevada has been the center of conspiratorial theories for decades now for sci-fi fans, raving lunatics and a self-proclaimed paranormal named Athos Salome, popularly known as “The Living Nostradamus” by small coterie of fans living in tents on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.  Athos swears that in 2023 the U.S. Air Force base inside Area 51 will experience the opening of an underground tunnel of sorts leading to a three-dimensional portal that makes Europe’s famous Chunnel look like soggy gingerbread.

“This portal will be able to transport people between time/space dimensions.  It is a tunnel which leads to other places and this new access will allow humans to travel to places unthought of until now.  It may seem impossible to many who hear my words and who do not understand the occult sciences, but this tunnel will arrive in 2023.”  Salome also warns that a new and deadly pandemic lurks just below the ice surface in Antarctica, so lay off the shoveling.

Nostradamus, himself sees “seven months of the Great War, people dead of evil-doing.”  On the economic front, So high will the bushel of wheat rise that man will be eating his fellow man, and I don’t mean just Jeffrey Dahmer.”

Nosti didn’t predict a good year for Elon Musk, either, testifying that 2023 will be the year “when the light of Mars goes out.”  The French seer/physician/astrologer knows his stuff about lights going out.  Most of you will remember his 2015 prediction of the demise of Motel 6, whose famous boast was “We’ll leave the light on for you.” No, they won’t, he said.  Bingo!

“Never Mind”---(Emily Litella)

In 1923, sociologists and scientists offered predictions of what life might look like 100 years in the future, which illustrates why these people never get hired as oddsmakers by the Las Vegas casinos.  Glenn Curtis, a well-known airplane authority, promised that by 2023 “gasoline will have been replaced as a mode of power by radio and the skies will be filled with myriad craft sailing over well-defined routes.”  Dr. Charles Steinmetz, an electrical expert, uttered “The time is coming when there will be no long drudgery and that people will toil not more than four hours a day, owing to the work of electricity.”  Amazingly, that exact thing has happened in France.

The Savannah News thought “women will be shaving their heads and men will be wearing curls.  It will also be the height of style in personal primping to blacken one’s teeth.”  True, but only in Southeastern trailer parks.

Professor A. M. Low was certain warfare would change, partly due to his own invention---jets of water highly charged with electricity.  “This will render the cavalry obsolete,” Low assured.  “The war of 2023 will be a wireless war for there is no end to the possibilities of this wonderful force.  Wireless telephony, sight, heat, power and writing may all play important parts.  An expenditure of about three horse-power can destroy a wire at a distance of more than a yard without any connection at all.”  Why are the Ukrainians so blind to this deft technology?

Newspapers predicted that the average person would live longer in 2023, with a median lifespan near 100 years.  Others scoffed and said 150, even 200.  One paper cited a scientist who put the average at 300 years.  “Quite a change,” the article writer smirked.  “We of today have been living that long about once a month.”

One writer predicted “people will be wearing kidney cosies to protect those organs on chilly days.”  Another newswriter foresaw a world in which Pittsburgh and London take orders “on talking films” from merchants in Peking and “1000 mph freighters deliver goods before sunset,” just like Amazon does every day.

Nobody was crass enough to imagine redneck hordes crashing the gates of Congress or Joey Chestnut choking down 76 hotdogs at Nathan’s Famous.  Nor did a soul foresee the transsexual revolution, the zombie apocalypse or the surprising ascension of President Bernie.  Similarly, today’s seers could hardly imagine 2123’s gala birthday party for 182-year-old Bill Killeen, the centennial anniversary of the Hogtown Opry or Siobhan Ellison’s Nobel Prize for Gerontology in keeping Bill alive and smiling.  Well….

The Flying Pie Predictions, 2023

1.---Will Thacker Will Be Anointed King Of The Betsileo Tribe Of Madagascar.

The snake-worshipping Betsileo, a highland ethnic group with the third largest in population in the country, have been looking for a new king ever since the last one absconded to Burma with half the tribe’s treasury and a sixteen-year-old cassava peddler from the lowlands.  Thacker’s serpentine background and his vast experience cultivating rice on terraced hillsides made him a natural.  When news reached the septuagenarian playboy at his Oviedo, Florida lean-to, he smiled, donned his jungle hat and asked, “Where the hell is Madagascar?” 

2.---Jeff Goldstein Will Play Robin In The New Batman Musical.

Always a bridesmaid, Jeffie got the nod here over more experienced rivals Danny DeVito, Pee-wee Herman and Ellen DeGeneres due to his serious demeanor and a rare ability to swing from building to building on a silken cord.  “Besides, Devito is too funny, Pee-wee has baggage and Ellen sings like a wounded capybara,” claims Goldstein.  “Meanwhile, I’m sufficiently turbulent, can hold a tune and leap small buildings at a single bound.”  The role of Batman has yet to be cast but rumor has it the lead part is down to Gainesville raconteur Mike Boulware, local flashdancer Gina Hawkins and Harrison Ford.   Amateur thespian Chuck LeMasters failed to make the cut.

3.---Florida Wrangler Paco Paco Will Join The Rock Island Line.

A frustrated railroad man at heart, Paco---in his secret identity as mild-mannered warbler David Fritz---has ridden boxcars from coast to coast in search of brotherhood, serenity and a few good songs.  “If I had my druthers,” Paco says, “I would have been a locomotive engineer in the 1900s, when men were men and women wore underwear.”  While Paco will start his career as a lowly switchman in a rural railyard, he has high aspirations.  “Someday,” he says, “I’d like to drive that Midnight Train to Georgia, ride cross country on the Spirit of New Orleans, ramp it up on the Wabash Cannonball.  The pay’s not great but it beats dodging fruit at some of the hellholes I play.”

4.---Ron Thomas Will Break Neli van de Hoeven’s Record In The Brazil Kissing Marathon.

Not an easy feat.  Van der Hoeven and Wanderly Coasta e Silva of Spain kissed for 34:11 hours in the 1999 competition and no one has come close since.  Thomas, however, has been practicing religiously at kissing booths all over Northcentral Florida and says his puckers are second to none.

“You have to take your art seriously,” says Ron the Resilient, who is currently at work on his new tome, The Osculator’s Handbook“I am a devotee of William Cane, the nation’s foremost expert on kissing, who advises on the technical aspects of the art, the newest techniques, the pitfalls and the proper breath mints.  Last year, I was voted ‘Best Foreign Kisser’ at the Bali, Indonesia Kissing Festival, which is no small honor.  By the way, I’m always available for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and tractor-pulls.  You have to be on guard at those tractor-pulls.  Them redneck women bite.”

5.---Janice Abate Will Have A Cocktail At A Bar In Every State Within a Two Month Period.

The inveterate New Englander and author of the best-selling book Staying Home Is For Sissies isn’t one for sitting on the porch with her feet up.  Well, she is if it’s a different porch than she sat on yesterday and there’s a table with a drink on it.  In the past five years, Abate has traveled from Bombay to Burlington with a sippy-cup in hand, testing the flavor, quality and paralyzing power of the local saloon specials.  Her first tome, If This Is Tuesday, It Must Be Nantucket flew off bookstore shelves and straight to the top of the popular Imbibers List.  The highly respected Secret Society of Social Drinkers called Janice “our hero” and promised to follow her quest with a convoy of support buses as she takes on her latest challenge.  “I’m strong to the finish ‘cause I eats my spinach cocktail,” says Ms. Abate.  She means her spinachy vibrant green Popeye Sour, cachaca-based, with lime, ginger and rich almond.  Drink two and you instantly travel to Anadarko without the bus.

That’s all, folks….