Dog Days

There's some thing you just never expect to come up. A woman just walked into my office and asked me, "Do the names Cheena and Miss Jewel mean anything to you?"

See, way back in the way back, when my mom and dad lived hippie-farmer style out in the pine woods of Lloyd, we had a pair of pit bulls. A small one named Miss Jewel and a bigger one named Cheena. Photos from that time show little naked me or my even littler naked sister (okay, there may have been a cloth diaper or a tshirt involved - the under five set just don't need to wear much during a hot, Florida summer), hanging out on a blanket on the grass in the shadow of a pair of muscled, smiling dogs.

Those two thought we were their pups and would have died to protect us from the dangers of country life: snakes, critters, any car that pulled into the driveway and needed chasing, snacks that should be tested for poison. Family legend has it that when mama was 9 months pregnant with my kid sis, not-quite-two-year-old me decided to walk up to the mailbox and check it myself. They found me, bareassed, happily strolling down the dirt road far past the mailbox, Cheena and Miss Jewel flanking me and keeping me safe. (Mama damn near had a heart attack, and I'm still amazed she ever let any of us out of her sight again after that, by the way. And I'm sure she'll chime in here if I've scrambled the facts any.)

Back around to the woman who asked me about them - turns out, she's the ex of a friend of my family. And sure enough, when my folks got divorced and mom moved into town, she and her hubby gave those pups a home at their spread. Cheena either wandered off or got swiped, and I hope to god nobody used that good dog for fighting. Miss Jewel lived to a ripe old age, as she deserved.

I loved those dogs. I'm mighty glad to live in a town where, out of the blue, 25 years after the fact, someone can pop up and tell you what happened to old friends you never thought you'd hear about again.


Too Damn Dry

I dreamed about rain last night. I dreamed I woke up and heard it falling. I went out onto my front stoop, spread my arms, and just let it soak me.


Don't Build On Sand

Some Atlanta-based developer bought a chunk of land on Dog Island. He's turning it over to an Indiana University so students can figure out how to develop it as a sort of class project.

Look, I've been to Dog Island. I love the place. It's beautiful, it's quiet, and it's isolated. No bridge from the mainland means no big crowds of drunken college kids whooping it up along the beaches. The one thing Dog Island is NOT is stable. Chunks of it wash out to sea all year long. Build your house on the water and eventually the Gulf's going to eat it right up, just a gulp and it's gone.

I don't know what they're teaching in universities these days, but wouldn't "don't build on land that's not going to be there in 10 years" part of the lesson?


Words From Lloyd

My Mama's got a blog. She's a hell of a writer.

Over 60 Stores!

That right there is the old Northwood Mall sign. Miss Trashahassee, another local blogger who knows what was and what is, scanned it in for me from a 1976 Godby yearbook. That mall played a major part in my life until it finally just ran out of steam and became state offices.

My sister took ballet there every week, and my dad and I would hit the book store and the Orange Julius while she learned how to keep her leotard from riding up (or whatever it is young girls learn in dance class). Crystal Connection, that sweet-smelling hippie haven, got its start as a kiosk at Northwood. There used to be an old man who would sit in the back of the Lucy Ho's on the first floor and eat box after box of rice candy. He would give the prizes (little plastic toys back then, not just strange stickers) to all us kids. And, of course, the public library had a "temporary" stay in the basement there for 13 years. I come from a family of readers, so we probably went down there at least once a week.

Thanks for the picture, MT! I owe ya one.



On weekend nights when I've got beer but no money and buddies at the house but no plans, I realize how lucky I am to live in Tallahassee. Because that's the time we flip on the radio, dial in 89.7 (The Voice of Florida State), and start playing Take Over the Station.

The vast majority of FM radio stations in this bright and beautiful land are corporate owned and corporate programmed. The DJs have nothing to do with what songs you hear. Heck, the music is basically just a top 40 draw to get you to listen to the commercials. You call 101.5 on Friday night and request the Dead Kennedys' cover of "Viva Las Vegas" and then let me know how that goes.

Call V89, on the other hand, and you'll talk to the person in there picking out cds and - sometimes - actually spinning records. Request all you want - if they have it, if it's not full of fun words like FUCK, and if it's not completely out of line for any theme show they might be running, well, you get to make everyone listening to the station enjoy your selections with you. And if that's not enough control, you can always go down to one of the twice-yearly Cattle Calls and volunteer. Student or resident, local or out-of-towner, they take all types. And then you can be the one playing Brazilian ska or delta blues and telling the world they'll hear it, "only on the Voice - V89."


Ain't Gonna Rain No More, No More

My birthday's coming up, and the only present I want is a couple days of steady rain. These desert conditions are driving me out of my god damned mind. Born and raised right here, I don't think my body even knows what to do with the lack of humidity in the air - I feel like I'm mummifying on my feet.

I crave a big North Florida storm. Nothing like standing in my doorway, watching leaves and pine straw blow in the street, clouds pushing and bumping across the sky forming landmasses and grey-bottomed airships. First the breeze picks up, blowing away some of the sticky heat, cooling sweat, making it worth venturing out of the a/c. Then, from my lookout point, I can see rain falling as it crawls toward me from miles away. Thunder growls, lightening flickers in the suddenly dark afternoon. Next thing I know, the water's all around me, coming down in bucketloads, near-solid sheets of rain. And when it finally blows out or roars away, everything feels clean and new. The air even tastes better.

Man, do we need it.


I Got Out and Saw

This weekend was Get Out and See Tallahassee, as I mentioned before. My neighbor and I planned to go see the Mission, but the smoke scared us some and we decided to see what we could find indoors. We wound up at the Mary Brogan museum. Seeing Kleman Plaza packed with families and kids and wandering young couples brought my spirits up, even with the heat and the dry smell of burning forest all around us.

We walked around the science exhibits, watched kids pull levers and turn cranks and generally have a damn good time. For some reason, I got a real kick out of the device that throws a tennis ball up a story or two before when a rope is pulled, catching it in a funnel net and reloading for the next go.

After we'd had our fill of hands-on fare, we headed upstairs to check out the art. Unless you've got your head firmly planted under a rock, you know that Mary Brogan's currently running AfroProvocations. With a focus on race in current society, the exhibit includes a couple riffs on the Confederate battle flag that have been the source of some controversy lately, including a series of flags made to the St. Andrew's cross and stars pattern in different styles (drag flag, wedding flag, leather flag). Honestly, I didn't find those particular pieces particularly shocking or offensive. Maybe because I've seen it done so many times - I've seen tshirts bearing gay pride Dixie flags, flags done in Afro-centric colors, you name it. I guess what I'm saying is that it all just felt too obvious.

O.L. Samuel's carved wooden figures of beasts and monsters and odd people, on the other hand, left me feeling uneasy but interested. I'll be remembering his name for any future displays of his work.

And that's the whole point of a real art gallery, isn't it? Not to present ideas and images that every single person will like, but to capture a wide enough spectrum that anyone can take find something worth remembering and thinking about.

I hope Get Out and See Tallahassee becomes a yearly event. And I hope that next year we're not fighting through clouds of smoke to enjoy it.


state on fire, rolling down the road

You'd never think that a place as waterlogged as Florida could burn so well, would you? When the Gov calls a named subtropical storm a good thing, God help us.

Watch out, y'all. Don't throw cigarette butts out windows, don't have bonfires, don't burn your trash right now. But more than that. These fires are doing a lot of damage, and we won't know the extent of it until we get a good drenching or we get the blaze under control. So, if you are in the state but not threatened right now, start thinking about how you'll help those who come through it alive but lose their homes, livelihoods, worldly possessions. Contact friends and relatives in the threatened parts of the state and make sure they have somewhere to stay and the things they need while evacuated from their own places.

Fire's scary shit, y'all. Let's do what we can to help everyone pull through this. And it probably wouldn't hurt to pray for rain.


Mastadons and Murats

Get Out and See Tallahassee

On May 12, a number of Tally museums and attractions will be open to the public with no fee. Maybe I'm just a dork, but I love to head out to the Junior Museum (okay, okay, the Tallahassee Museum) on a Saturday to check out all the animals panting in the shade, maybe catch a glimpse of a white squirrel or ten.

The Museum of Florida History (RA Gray Building) is another of my favorites. I was just a little 'un when they first started displaying the recreated mastodon skeleton (did you know that it's named Herman, after one of the scientists who recovered him, Dr. Herman Gunter?). My mom took me down to check it out. While she was looking at some pottery fragments, I turned a corner and came face to tusk with Herman. My mom says I let out the most primal scream of terror she's ever heard. She scooped me up and calmed me down, but I was scared of the beastie until I was nearly 10. Well worth seeing, if you haven't already.

I know not everybody's as stoked about local history and culture as I am, but take yourself or a visitor or some kids out on 5/12 and see what's in our backyards.

A Night on Gaines

Tonight I plan to take full advantage of the nightlife down on Gaines Street. I might grab some dinner from the Soul Vegetarian cart next to the new CD Warehouse on RR and Gaines. I'm an omnivore, generally, and a rare steak makes me a happy man. But when vegan food tastes like Soul Veg's mac and "cheese", I sure don't mind going meat-free for a night.

At some point, I'm sure I'll wind up with my elbows on the bar at St. Mike's, downing a pint or two of cold, draft Pabst. You can learn more about the kind of folks that keep that area of town lively by wandering the crowd in that room on a Friday night than you can from any number of public forums. Local business owners meet and greet at the wide bar. Roller derby gals and newspaper employees crowd into booths. Punks and anti-racist skins switch off on the pool table. Artists, both the tattoo and the fine art varieties, pull up on scooters and take over the foosball table.

I'll end up at the Beta Bar (ie, Cow Haus III) for a cd release show. A handful of local bands playing their hearts out for anyone who can afford a $5 cover charge. My bad knee keeps me out of mosh pits these days, but there's really no feeling like being shoulder to shoulder with your nearest and dearest, singing along.