Hot damn, I'm in a good mood today. I dipped into Ross last night on a whim and wound up with a $12 pair of Converse. Now, I feel a little sketchy buying Cons since Nike bought the brand, but they've written this pair off already and I needed new sneakers. And wearing new kicks always puts a little spring in my step. It reminds me of going to the Buster Brown store at the mall every year before school started as a little kid, picking out my style, getting my foot measured with that metal sliding thing (do stores still use those?), and having a new pair to show off.

On top of that, you couldn't hope for a prettier North Florida day. I walked out my front door and the sky nearly knocked me flat. Everything's clean and cool, and V89 was playing Velvet Underground on my way into work. Run run run run run...


Dress in Your Best

I'm throwing the New Year's Eve party this year for my group of friends. We've had a lot of keg beer, burgers on the grill, sweatshirts or cut offs get togethers lately, so I'm setting up the NYE shindig as a dress up event. A little sham champagne, some finger foods (as I told my chef friend: I want something with bacon and something with pastry), and everybody's best clothes.

It's that last one that cracks me up. I don't know why, but I never fail to be entertained by what people think of as their "best clothes." I can tell you now that at least one guy will turn up looking like a mafia don, a couple of dudes will have on snazzy hipster suits, one or two of my friends will have on real Fred Perry polos (those things ain't cheap, you know) and clean bluejeans, the gals will be evenly split between heels and no heels (which will show up in who decides to go around back to the bonfire and who doesn't want to get stuck in the lawn), Tommy will show up in a lady's blouse and more intense eye makeup than Cap'n Jack Sparrow, the punk rockers will put on their very best band tshirts, and I, at least, will polish my boots.

You should see what happens when we all get invited to church.


Cabin Fever

I need a new physical activity. Walking around Lake Ella's lost its charm. I've never been one for team sports, really, so municipal soft ball and its kin don't really appeal to me. Somebody suggest things I can do in the evening, outside my house but not way the hell out of town, for very cheap/free that'll get me off my ass for a little while.


'Tis the Season

Parade season, that is!

If there's anything in life better than a mug of beer, a hamburger, and a half dozen marching bands, I don't know what it might be.

I wish Tally's parades were bigger, though. I'd love to see all the incredible floats, costumes, stilt-walkers, and bands that march in the Caribbean and FAMU parades be a bigger part of the large community festivals. Why do you suppose they aren't? Racism? Money? Length of the parade? Lack of interest?


Always Thankful

Now that's how Thanksgiving should go. Rolling Stones songs and bluegrass waltzes on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. Beer and oysters on ice. Laughing until tears squirt out of your eyes and you have to lean against the door frame to keep your knees from giving out. Family and friends and not really being sure where the line between the two could be drawn. Casseroles named for veggies but mostly made up of cheese and canned cream soup. Eating dinner on tables in the yard while the dogs try to beg without being obvious.

Not much else to say, except that I'm a mighty thankful guy.


Man, Those Crazy Chickens

My friend Deb hates the fair. Oh, man, does she hate it. She works down there on S. Monroe, so to her it's just two weeks of nasty traffic and fuss. I'm in the opposite camp - going to the fair is one of those seasonal events I hate to miss.

For the past two or three years, my neighbor Mark and I have gone down there with a very specific goal in mind: to eat as much carnival food as we can stomach. Do you remember the scene, in the animated Charlotte's Web, when Templeton the rat rolls around the fair after it closes, gorging himself? Our trips are sort of like that, except we pay to get in and don't actually eat out of the garbage cans.

It's like some cold weather tour of gluttony. We started with corn dogs near the ferris wheel and worked our way through the crowds. Sausage on a bun with fried onions, a gyro (my favorite of the night) dripping in tzatziki sauce (and, yes, I had to look up how to spell that), a bowl of cheese grits, a slice of pizza, chicken on a stick, lamb on a stick (no gator on a stick this year, sadly) - if you can serve it off a cart, we ate it.

Temptation set against us from each side - throw a dart and win a giant Spongebob, shoot out the star and win a giant panther, Angel The Beautiful Living Woman With The Body Of A Horrible Snake, the world's largest ox, the world's smallest horse - but we maintained focus and kept right on rolling. Now, after we ran into mom and dad and heard about this year's fancy poultry, we did stop over to check those out. A couple of the featured Chinese birds look like someone took all the brightest feathers from a half dozen different species and stitched them all into one crazyquilt fowl. Did we eat any of those exotic visitors? No, but if you ran a stick through one, dipped it in batter, deep fried it, and sold it off trailer, we'd have been first in line.

We did skip the fried snicker bar, though. Mark had one last year and declared it "just too much".


Go Rattlers

On the list of things I'm pretty sure would kill me, I'd say that high steppin up Tennessee Street from Macomb to Monroe in a full uniform with a foot-tall hat strapped to my head, playing a brass horn with occational stops to dance my ass off has got to be in the top 5. But the FAMU Marching 100 sure did it, and they looked flashy and sounded great doing it. And then a dozen or more other marching bands from the area followed them, spaced in with floats, FAMU alumni, beauty queens, and flag squads.

Hell, the Nims band did it, and those poor kids had a broken drum, a set of cymbols with bits gone from them, and four different makes and colors of sousaphone.

You can forget how racially segregated so many events still are until you wind up as one of the few white folks enjoying the FAMU homecoming parade. I wish the local city parades (spring and winter) attracted more of the folks who got involved with this one, either on the road or alog the edge, cheering.


Thursday's Child Has far To Go

Cool weather reminds me of Atlanta. Starting at 21, I hung my hat there for a few years, staying in a series of rented rooms and mill shacks in dirty, druggie, crackhead and punk filled Cabbagetown. And, of course, I fuckin loved it.

I worked in the kind of pizza places where the ability to carry a keg or work with a beer buzz rated as high as being able to throw a pie. We made a decent cash in tips from the jar on the counter - once, two guys put in $50 total because the other cook and I beat them in a chugging contest, standing right there on the line in the open kitchen. But when your restaurant closes at eleven, you've been drinking with your coworkers since nine, and there are four bars within two blocks that are open until four and friendly to pizza guys, well, cash in hand seldom makes it home.

I lasted through a couple of harsh summers - it may be north of here, but all that concrete and steel holds heat like an oven - but nothing I hadn't felt before. But lingering cold and snow that sticks for a couple days? All new to me. Most of the time I lived there, my car didn't work and I couldn't afford to have it fixed, so I got around by MARTA ("it's smarta!") and boot leather. When the temperature drops like this, I remember walking out of the pizza joint after a shift into a freezing drizzle, my spiked-and-patched hoodie zipped tight and a knit cap down over my short mohawk. My glasses would fog from the temperature change. On busy nights, sweat would steam off my shoulders as I hunched them to keep my body warmer. I'd walk down to Gravity Pub for a couple shots to fortify me against the trip home and then head down the street, past liquor stores and cash checking places, toward my own little bed. I saw drug deals and fights and, on a couple occasions, had to duck into a dark corner for a minute when shooting started up nearby.

Sure, I got scared sometimes, little ol' country mouse me. But every fall, my body remembers the city and it's all I can do not to drag my old duffel out of the closet, lace up my boots, and head north to wander the streets again. Maybe this is the year.


Good God, Y'all

Bethel Baptist wants to buy the round Holiday Inn down on Tennessee and turn it into a "faith-based" dorm. I'm not real sure what that means (no co-ed floors? bibles free? no athiests allowed? simply a feeling of fellowship?), but they hope to charge better than $1000 a month for a studio room with a kitchenette and a bathroom - oh, and you share it with a roommate, who's paying the same. Now, that does include utilities, food, wireless, and a pool (hey, I wonder if you can get kicked out for accessing dirty stuff on your laptop there - one time my friend bought a pretty old bible in a second hand shop and there was a hardcore porn dvd was stuck between the pages), but damn - you could buy a house for that.

I mean, it's a cool building, but it strikes me that maybe Jesus is not necessarily your best financial consultant. I could be proved wrong.


Goblin's Gonna Gitchya

I'm pretty sure that for the first 15 years of my life I went as a pirate for Halloween at least 50% of the time. What can I say? The ocean calls me. The other half the time I was Yoda (should that be "Yoda I was"?), Zorro (mom made me a killer black cape that year that popped up again in costume after costume like Jo Marsh's boots), a vampire, and a "karate guy" (which simply involved putting on the gi I wore to karate class twice a week). Oh, and one time I went as a Columbo-like detective in a trench coat and fake mustache.

The time comes when you can't trick or treat anymore. Luckily, not too long after that, you start to get invited to Halloween parties that still involve tricks and treats, in, well, slightly different forms. I dig putting together a costume, and the opportunities for grown men who don't perform on stage to do that pretty much come annually. But I have to admit, it's less about the outfit (which usually comes out of stuff I already own) and more about the backstory. Living out a character for a night is just fun.

One year I was Buck, one of three Catholic school kids. Two friends and I each scored identical knit ties, made fake school crest patches, put on short pants and white tshirts, and slicked down our hair. We also outfitted ourselves with a deck of cards, a bottle of Jack, and a pack of Luckies, hidden in various pockets. Once, for a friend's fall hair-metal-themed birthday party at the Beta Bar, I put together my own anti-metal religious tracts ("Heavy Metal: Satan's Soundtrack"), a cross made of nails, and a hollowed out bible with a flask inside and went as the fallen preacher trying to save the rockers' souls. You get what I'm saying. I'm a writer, not an actor by nature. Diving into that character for a (probably drunken) night pulls stories off the page.

This year I'm helping put together our second annual Halloi!ween show/party/bonfire. The bands confirmed, the venue's set. Now I just have to invent somebody to be.



Thoughts from this weekend, after seeing my mama perform at the Monticello Opera House in the local production of Casablanca and my dad and stepmom perform at the Moon in a local soul review:

- I sort of wish I had a fez. I would wear it when I go out drinking.
- Some of the finest acting in Casablanca was done by Rick's chin cleft. I sort of couldn't stop watching it.
- My folks are damn talented.
- It's still tons of fun seeing nazis slapped, out-witted, or shot.
- If you go to an Opry House production and you have the option, get the dinner beforehand. That's some good grub. I hear the woman who supplies it is an old friend of my bro Billy - she runs a catering service in Monticello, and I keep meaning to ask her name.
- I liked the backlit bottle rack part of the set particularly - simple effect, but it looked really good.
- Now I want to actually rent Casablanca and watch it all the way through.
- The Moon has the best sound in town, but the worst drink prices.
- If you have a large room full of baby boomers and, for some reason, you need to get them all on the dance floor at once, play Mustang Sally. They'll all get right out there and start doing the hip shake dance.
- Middle aged guys in above-the-knee khaki shorts, polo shirts, and slip-on shoes with no socks make me laugh. And I have all the fashion sense of a crosseyed armadillo.
- The fun we make for each other is always better than the fun we hire others to make for us.
- David Schuessler looks like the love child of John Denver and Martina Navratilova.
- I've got some damn talented parents.


Lord, I Love a Parade

Any day that starts with paella for breakfast and women dancing down the street in feathers can't help but be a good day.

I woke up at 9 this morning, which, if you know me, probably shocks the hell out of you. I got my neighbor up, and we strolled on down toward the capital. Just past Call Street, we grabbed an empty stretch of curb and waited for the motorcycle cops to bip their sirens and start the whole thing. The local bagpipers set the pace - say what you will, and I know it's a funny looking instrument, but a good pipe band can give me goosebumps. There's a reason it was carried into battle to pipe the soldiers into the fray.

Behind them were a handful of the usual Tally suspects - beauty queens in open cars, the Rickards cheerleaders clapping and jumping, parrotheads - mixed in with folks dressed in the styles brought here when they were dragged or chased or lured into the US. Stilt walkers in masks, dancing and clowning to a Caribbean beat. Mexican families in clothing that still remembers the Mayans. A whole trailer of steel drums, music bouncing off the brick buildings like chimes. DJs from around the southeast on flatbeds stacked with speakers blasting Carnival beats followed by flocks of women decked with feathers, from small headdresses to giant, towering beasts and jungles on wheels draped over a dancer's shoulders. I have to admit, my neighbor and I followed our favorites all the way down to the judges' table and back around to the Adams Street commons.

And after the parade, food! Thank the Lord that I live somewhere I can eat a smalll mountain of paella with muscles, shrimp, pork and chicken stewed and spiced as yellow as the rice, peas, scallops, and fresh pico de gallo sauce for breakfast on a morning when you can feel fall headed our way. My neighbor grabbed a plate of jerk pork and we sat in the shade and peple watched and sipped lemonade and stuffed ourselves.

Now the question is, where the hell were you? All that music and food and color (and please do not forget the pretty ladies dancin and laughin) and most of Tallahassee skipped it. Y'all shoulda been there.


Dirt Mall

I woke up this morning wanting a pair of green bootlaces, a pack of nag champa, a bandana, and a peach. Okay, so mainly what I wanted was a reason to go to the flea market. Where else can you sip a draft Bud while browsing through 70s country records, hot pants that say "Rebel Girl", and framed posters showing the last supper as portrayed by characters from Scarsface, The Godfather, and The Sopranos?

After the intense heat we suffered through this past month, I've managed to convince myself that fall's pretty much here already. Even with sweat running down my back while I strolled between aisles, following my nose to the incense, soap, and African medallians booth, I found myself saying things like, "Sure is cool out today," and "Looks like we survived another summer." And in a funny way, it's true. A local knows these things. You can feel that little edge when a breeze hits just right - that promise that soon we can pull out jackets and jeans and not die of the heat. That hint that the fair's just around the corner (elephant ear, anybody?). That I'd better start planning my Halloween party.

Between the fine weather, the self-delusion, and the fact that I managed to get everything I needed for under $5, the flea market couldn't have been better. How do you think I'd look in those hot pants?


All Together Now

In 31 years, I've seen every old school Florida attraction and landmark I could. One of four kids and blessed with two sets of parents who love the funny little quirks of history as much as I do, I'm rooted as deeply in the soil of this state as the live oaks in my mom's yard.

With grandparents in Winter Haven, my family prefered the Belles and daredevil skiers of Cypress Gardens to the rat with the big price tag. I've been told that the hoop-skirted women began roaming the gardens there to distract from plants killed in one of those freezes that sometimes grips the state. True Florida ingenuity.

If you want a postcard image of how people have been inspired by our state's natural beauty to make their own visions a reality, Bok Tower, the bells singing in thick Florida air, would be first pick. (Confession time: when my sister and I were sprats and Granny took us to the Tower, there was a sibling scuffle and I kicked? pushed her down on? her knee, leaving her with a limp for the rest of the afternoon - I remember none of the details, but I'll bet my sister does!)

I could probably run the Wakulla Springs boats and do the speech, for as many times as I've been up and down that little chunk of river. ("We call those turtles 'soup-sized'...") The forts at St. Marks and St. Augustine gave details to my daydreams as a pirate-obsessed kid. Ever been up the Citrus Tower? I have, and I've still got a flattened penny embossed with their logo somewhere in a box of trinkets. I never got to go to Circus World, but I sure remember watching out the car window as we passed that massive tent-shaped buildings.

In November, when even the McDonalds would close down, you used to be able to get a cottage on Panama City Beach for mighty little cash. That was back when the pirate still sat on his treasure chest. When the Goofy Golf still scared the bejesus out of me with its concrete monster heads and Sphinx statue. (Seriously, I wouldn't go anywhere near the place - I was kind of a jumpy tot. Too much imagination.) I won't say there weren't already massive, trashy dance clubs and overpriced, overbearing condos crowding the strip - I'm just saying that I remember when it was still the Redneck Riviera, and pretty damn proud of it.

This past weekend, my mama packed up all 4 of us kids, plus my soon-to-be brother-in-law (a truly good guy) and our dad and we all rode down to Weeki Wachee Springs, crown jewel of old Florida. Not our first trip there and, goodness willing, not our last.

I'm not a graceful guy, generally speaking, but in the water I'm not bad. I don't remember learning to swim any more than I remember learning to walk (though I do remember wearing water wingies - don't put them on your ankles, it doesn't work). Watching those mermaids slip through water so clear it tricks the eye is like watching my own dreams. Unanchored to land, no mask, no tricks, just a little air hose and a whole lot of lung capacity. That's so much of what Florida really means to me. A little costuming, a little applied glamour (in the original, spell cast sense of the word), but under it all - people using their own strength and nature's inspiration to create miracles and wonders.

By taking us around the state, telling us the stories and showing us the sights, my family taught my sisters and I many things. To appreciate authenticity and not be fooled by plastic and flash. That our waters and trees make the best backdrop to any performance. That there is magic lingering, kept alive by those who believe, and plywood condos and animatronic cartoon characters aren't worth plowing under a swamp for.

Damn, I love this state.


That Time of Year

This week is like fruit basket turnover, Tally-style. All the students are coming in and all the locals are trying to find a cooler apartment than they already have. I helped a friend move out of her place on the 31st while the new tenant brought their gear in. It seems like everyone in town moved one place to the left.

Old school Tally apartments make me happy. Give me a small space (over a garage? carved out of a larger house? in a brick building down on Franklin and Park?) with hardwood floors, white walls, windows that actually open, and a big bathtub. I'll leave the game room, free internet access, strange roommates, plywood construction, overly chlorinated swimming pools, and gate guards to the college kids who don't know any better.


The Bounty of Our Land

Dad caught a mess of bream, and mama dredged them in cornmeal and fried them with fresh okra in her gleaming, black skillet. He and my kid sisters woke up at six on Sunday and beat the crowd to St. Marks, bringing home (at the expense of bright red sunburns) and shucking sweet scallops, enough for us all to have our fill once mama married them to butter and garlic. Tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers grown right there in their Lloyd yard filled the salad with Florida sunshine. Fresh squash, chopped and molded into croquettes, and grits more cheese than corn filled the plate to overflowing. The whole meal started out with freshly made salsa (mason jars full, lined up on the kitchen counter from canning the day before) and ripe cherries and finished up with sliced fruit poured over angelfood cake and lemon squares from a friend.

All of us on a Sunday night, in and out of the bright kitchen, sisters dancing in the high-ceiling hall, my best friend and his wife telling stories and smoking cigarettes on the back porch while trains boom past, dad half asleep and smiling from all the hunting and gathering, mama slinging pans and doling out hugs and advice and gossip. So many blessings.


This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

I appreciate community festivals.
I'm a sucker for fireworks - anything that goes boom is okay in my book.
I've always got room for a hotdog or a bbq sandwich.
I'm not the country's biggest patriot, but watching folks take the oath and become US citizens does give me a surge of the ol' red, white, and blue feeling.
I'm even a country fan. (Not so much current radio country, but whatever.)

But come on, Tallahassee. For the umpteenth time in a row, the headlining act at this year's big Tallahassee 4th of July bash is a country singer. Who does the booking for this thing? How about some R&B? How about one of those oldies acts that still tours? How about some - god fucking forbid - rock'n'roll? A little local hiphop? Country is not the end all be all of American music in any way, shape, or form.

I know, we say this every year. But seriously, planners, get a clue.


New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

If you follow the local music scene at all, you probably know that The Beta Bar changed hands recently. That's happened quite a few times since Darth Vader's Church played the first show at the old The Cow Haus (because, really, a name change does not a new venue make). Each time, we worry that it'll all go bad. The new owners will sell it out, render it unrecognizable, run it into the ground, and then where will we be? Sweating our asses off in a shed space or knocking over tables at St. Mike's.

But in this case, it looks like same old same old, which is just the way I like it. I hear they hope to get the sound a little better (heck, by the time most bands go on, I'm drunk enough that little details in quality don't bother me much). One major complaint: they took the whorehouse lamps, those historical artifacts from the Cow Haus, off the bar and put in some sort of filmy, fabric, overhead, diffused, candle-store lighting. Dark as a dungeon in there! And heck, if that's the only complaint I wind up having about the new owners, I'd say the Tally music scene is still in good shape.


3/18/85 - 6/27/04

Even with all the beer we drank together, all the music we listened to, all the shows we rocked out at, all the hamburgers we ate, all the playfights in the yard, all the bonfires, all the late night swims, all the parties, all the deep thoughts, all the patches and pins we swapped - it wasn't enough. There should still be more.

Derek, we miss you.


Bad Idea, Buddy

Dailey want to "bring back" Lake Jackson.

Mostly by filling in the sinkhole and any new sinks with dirt and limestone. First off, how well does that actually work? Everything I've read about sinkholes suggests to me that the groundwater will simply eat away at the fill until it, too, is gone. The guy who wants the contract filling in this and other sinks gave an estimate of $100,000 each. I may be wrong, but I would call that the very definition of "throwing money down a well."

Second, draining and refilling are part of the cycle of that lake (and many others in the south). I know our county commissioners don't often seem to know the differences between their asses and a hole in the ground when it comes to the local ecology, but damn. If the Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and water quality specialists all agree that it might be a bad idea, maybe you should actually listen to them.


Everyone's Full of Fight

I don't know if it's the drenching heat, the lack of any recent thunderstorms, not enough loud punk shows, or simply a city-wide case of cabin fever, but anger issues seem to be the fad of the day. Friends that wouldn't harm a soul trying to pick fights with strangers, couples in love sniping at each other, hippie guys in old volvos infected with road rage - hells a'poppin in the capital city these days.

I hope things calm down soon, or it's going to be a long summer.



It happens around my office all year: folks take a week or two off, go somewhere exotic (or at least expensive) and show back up groaning about how they now need a rest from their vacation. Not me, though - I like to take a week off in the summer and just hang out, clean my house, connect with friends I don't usually see, spend too much time drinking beer on week nights, and generally enjoy being a local bum.

Since 2000, I've been waking up around 7 am to get to my 8 to 5 job at least five days out of seven. It still takes less than two days for my body to completely revert to my natural sleeping patterns of staying up until dawn and then snoozing hard until after the hottest part of the day burns itself out. Put me on that schedule and I'm a happy man. One of these days I need to figure out how to apply my meager work history and skills to a night job that'll actually support me.

Until then, well, here I am. I'm awake, and that's about all I can say about it.


31 and Rising

As a little kid, birthdays meant spreading a sheet in the yard and the whole family eating outside. Juicy Juice - a treat! - and good food and one of mom's amazing cakes (chocolate with chocolate icing, my request every year). A few friends sleeping over. Presents to unwrap: books, first and foremost. A toy sword or bow. Maybe something especially cool like a new pocketknife (I still bear a faint, slim scar from where my very first closed on the end of my finger when I was 9).

Since then I've had big city birthdays and small town celebrations. Drunken weekends complete with candles stuck on beer can to be blown out and birthdays when I didn't drink anything stronger than gingerale punch. Theme parties of all flavors, friends dressed like pirates or bible thumpers or trailer trash stereotypes. Cook outs and pizza dinners and pot lucks.

Some folks don't mark their birthdays, preferring to keep quiet and ignore the whole thing. Me? I like gathering my friends and family, throwing a bash as a present to myself and everyone, marking another year still kicking. For my 31st, I put together a punk show. Two local bands, friends of mine, making noise at my favorite bar. A sheet on the lawn or a gig at St. Mike's - it's not so bad getting older.


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.


Great Signs

It's too bad most business signs are just too big to put in some sort of museum. Tallahassee's had some great ones. The old Northwood Mall triangle/arrow. The neon Prince Murat motel sign, which so often seemed to advertise the Prince Rat. The Office Lounge sign, which actually looks modern-retro with its martini glass shape. Both the State Theatre and Florida Theatre signs, classic art deco. The Firestone "shield" sign on North Monroe that was recently replaced with a much less interesting piece (although the old signs are still used in several places on the building).

If you've got pictures of any classics, show 'em off. If I missed your favorites, let me know.


Letters to the Editor

Two excellent letters to the Democrat 4/25 re:WalMart on Gaines.

The author of the first letter ("You can't engineer artistic growth"), Susan Gage, should be familiar to any local interested in art or performance. Between her work at V89 and with the Mickee Faust players, she's been an important part of the local scene for many years.

Paula Zenick, who penned the second letter ("Please, anything but another Wal-Mart") owns Really Knit Stuff in Railroad Square. This shit's not hypothetical to Paula and the other small business owners who make that area worthwhile. Shops like hers are the exact local commerce that the city government seems intent on crushing under chain stores and high-end hotels. You know, I don't buy a lot of yarn, but I'm damn glad someone in town's offering craft folks options. She makes a great point in her letter, too - we can't oppose WalMart on Gaines by financially supporting them on the Parkway.

We've got to stand together against this crap. If we let the city bury every locally produced artistic expression and business, we just as well start filling in the sink holes to replace with concrete pools. Hats off, Susan Gage and Paula Zenick.


Out in Lloyd

No big punk shows this weekend, no keggers, no heavy-drinking house parties. Instead, I've once again been invited to dogsit at a 150-year-old cracker house out on Lloyd's main drag.

When I'm there, sipping a cold one, sitting on a glider on the wide porch in my cut-offs, I wonder how many more generations will be able to enjoy that feeling. How soon before there's a WalMart where the old railroad station now stands? How soon before Lloyd is just another Tallahassee suburb, SouthWood II (or III or IV), generic houses with generic yards and generic children who never see the sun?

But as evening comes on and the heat slowly lifts, all I can hear are train whistles, the burble of the neighbor's turkey and chickens, a far-off dog barking, mockingbirds taunting each other in the pear trees. I can walk through the yard and touch a massive, gnarled live oak that grew there through the days when the home I'm watching was a photo studio, a dental office, a house of ill repute, a temporary Civil War hospital ward, and simply a farm house. That tree may have shaded men who first laid the train tracks that made Lloyd a happening little place in the way back. Heck, it may have been there when the Spanish first made their deadly inroads into the state. And it's not the only giant in the neighborhood.

Spending a weekend in Lloyd heals me. Being around those trees helps me forget about all the live oaks in Tallahassee that have been slaughtered to make room for big box stores and crappy developed neighborhoods. Hearing the wind in the pines reminds me that North Florida should not, naturally, be stocked with palm trees like some Disney park. Feeling the heartwood boards beneath my feet connects me to the other people who fell in love with this area, lived here without air conditioning and ice makers, and still managed to keep from clearcutting the landscape.

We can live with nature, folks. The day the oaks of Lloyd become so much scrap hauled off from construction sites, I'm taking my books and my fishing pole, and I'm haulin' ass for Tate's Hell.


More and More

Seriously, do most little cities Tallahassee's size have this damn many WalMarts?

I don't care if they call it a neighborhood grocery or a supercenter or a happy playtime local people love you funplace. What's the deal?

Selling Gaines

"I don't remember a new building going up down there in forever," said Michael Wright, the assistant city manager for development and transportation services. "Our intent is ... to stimulate development that is market-driven."

I think that really sums up the Gaines Street issue right now. Some unelected staffer (working under Andrew Gillum and Debbie Lightsey, according to the city website) thinks that new buildings will somehow turn into the "18-hour Tallahassee" the city keeps talking about wanting.

I can't help but think that the beauty and life of the Gaines/Railroad area has some basis in reuse of the buildings that are already there. The high ceilings and wood floors of the old RR station that houses The Warehouse; the caboose, home over time to everything from the local Musicians Union to the present day cafe; the old storefronts housing successful tattoo parlors, piercing studios, clothing stores - which of these would be bettered by being replaced with a shiny, new, plywood and drywall building?

Now that the vision of higher-end retail and housing linked to the downtown has been adopted...

Adopted by whom, when? Once again, Tallahassee city government is determind to point that shotgun straight down into the bottom of our shared boat and pull the trigger.

Let me just put it this way: would you rather hang out on Gaines or the Parkway right now?


Red Clay Hills

From my stoop, it sometimes feels like I can see all of Tallahassee. Or at least that all of Tallahassee passes my place during the day. Perched up on my castle wall with a beer, Saturday's a neverending parade. Bike kids on homemade machines, asses up as they coast, dirty patched pants in the breeze. Folks hustling to work, maybe cursing Tallahassee's miserable public transit service, maybe just wishing they could be kicked back in front of their own place with a brew. Businessmen, lawyers, and lobbyists strolling in the evening from whatever backroom deals kept them here back to their hotels. (Unlike the ones on their way to work, the men in suits can always be surprised into a quick hello when hailed from on high.)

A ranbow of cars, flashing back sunlight or lamplight. Spankin new rims and tires on a beat up piece of Detroit steel from the 80s. Jumped up pickups, radios thumping hiphop or country depending on who all the driver's impressing, a splash of mud across the fenders and door. Hippie tribes in old volvos, headed down toward New Leaf or Samrat. Cute girls on scooters, one of the few plus sides to the current gas crisis.

My wood-frame cottage was built in 1930, when Monroe Street was thinner and my yard was wider. Almost 80 years of bachelors taking in the weather and the river of city life. The taps may run and the walls may rot, but the view is worth every penny of the rent.


514 Gaines St./Bytchlys RIP

The smallest venue with the sturdiest stage didn't quite make it, folks. "Bytchlys" at 514 Gaines St., a diy music space run by Vermin from White Trash Messiahs and Alain from Euphoria Tattoos, is having its last two shows this weekend and next. They basically got screwed on zoning and rent, so it goes.

Damn shame, too. The last thing Tallahassee needs to do is actually lose venues. The space may not have been much larger than my living room, but they worked like dogs to build a very solid stage (even if the lead singer had to stand in front of it much of the time). They also had one of the most serious (and seriously over-sized) PA systems in town - hell, a band in that little joint sounded better than anyone ever does at the Beta Bar or Big Daddys.

I guess that's the fate of diy spaces. They come, they go, they leave behind stories, a few pictures, and an example of what can be done when locals put their heads together and make it happen.

Movin' On Up

I didn't go to SAIL. I'm [barely] a Leon grad. But two of my kid sisters did the alternative school thing and thrived. Heck, I've been to SAIL proms, sporting events [you should have seen the co-ed SAIL basketball team attempt to take on Rickards - the SAIL team got slaughtered, but their cheerleaders held their own], uncountable drama productions - more than I ever got into "student life" at the big school on the hill.

Anyway, point being, my mom's had at least one kid in public schools in Leon County for 25 years now, and the last one graduates from SAIL this year. The school's having some sort of get together today for all their current and former students to visit the old digs one last time before the haul off for the new buildings. (Only SAIL would make sure to schedule a school-wide function on 4/20.)

Congrats on the new space, SAIL. You may be the redheaded stepchild of the local school district, but you'll always have my respect.


Big Daddys and the indie music scene

Tallahassee's music scene is a damn sight better than we get credit for. You want blues? We got blues. You want rock? We got rock coming out our ears, from cover bands at Bullwinkles to southern rock and metal going down at 514 Gaines St. or even Floyds (aka, The Worst Music Venue in the Southeast). Whatever your taste, somebody around here's making that kind of noise.

I don't make a whole lot of dough, and 90% of my fun budget goes to live shows, mostly of the oi, punk, hardcore, and ska variety. Okay, and maybe a taste of rockabilly when Unknown Hinson stalks through town. I'm not a picky guy, I'll happily rock out in a shed, someone's living room, a backyard (until the cops show up), a coffee house deck, a public park, or an actual bar and venue. I'll support damn near anyone who throws shows and supports the scene. But the time comes when I can't support a venue any more. And that time is pretty much here for Big Daddy's on the strip.

Here's the schedule for Saturday night:
- Apr 21, 8 PM, Cost To Be Determined
- Apr 21, 11 PM, $free, RAVE!, free glow sticks, bracelets, straws and more. fist pump your ass off !

That's 4 bands - 4 popular local bands - sharing a 3 hour bill. And if you've ever been to any music event in Tallahassee, you know that shit won't start on time. Add this kind of insanity to higher door prices, zero re-entry (even for the 21+ crowd), crappy bathrooms, and an increased reluctance to actually pay the bands.

The time's come for a new indie venue. I nominate St. Michael's Pub on Gaines St, because they're willing, have PA, and will actually let the bands have most of what they take in at the door. Problem there? 21+ only, because it's a bar. Damn it, we need a new space.


TMH babies

My hippie folks had my three sisters at home, midwives directing, female relatives and friends cooking and tending to the rest of us kids. I came first and took longest, so I got to be the only hospital baby. Like most of my closest friends, I popped out at Tallahassee Memorial on Magnolia.

This day and age, it's kind of a funny feeling to know you live like a peasant in your home village, walking distance from your birthplace. On the one hand, have I wandered far enough afield? On the other, I can't explain the feeling of security and comfort I get from such an anchored feeling of place. Not rooted completely - I could pull up and haul off if I had to. I've done it before, Lord knows. But anchored against the storms of life, protected from the big winds.

I'm at the age now where a bunch of my buddies are busy having their own sprats. Twice now, a bunch of the regular gang have packed a cooler and hid out in a dark corner of the new Women's Pavilion parking lot to basically tailgate waiting during a birth. At least three more little 'uns are due to emerge in the next couple months. I just want to help leave those guys with a good place to call home.

Tallahassee needs

Walmarts, developers, lobbyists, trustifarians, asshole venue owners, high school kids in hand-me-down SUVs, palm trees, chain restaurants, meth addicts, ravers, Soular System shows, "Reagan" republicans, shut-up-hippies, FSU football fans, pushy Baptists, power tripping cops, condos, overpriced hipster hangouts.

dive bars, punk bands, taco stands, political hotties, oak trees, city-owned sheep herds, hours daily of public transportation, branch libraries, booths at the flea market, independent music venues, underground publications, good tattoo artists, large parades, cheap housing, respect for already existing buildings, diy sports.

Condos on Park and Franklin

You've gotta be fuckin kidding me. Some [pick one: a)complete idiot, b)far-thinking individual] did some minor renovations on that crappy 60s-style 4plex apartment building behind the roundhouse on Park Ave. and is now trying to sell the units as condos. For something like $189,000 each, if I'm remembering the sign right.

Look, not for nothing, but the 2 bedroom, classic Tally-style apartments - high ceilings, hardwood floors, funky kitchens and all - directly across the road from those "condos" rent for under $400 a month. Not a block up Park, across the tracks, on the same side of the damn road, squat a set of crackhead crash pad apartments that face onto Cadiz Street and rent for even less.

Heck, don't get me wrong - that stretch of Park is easily one of the prettiest little neighborhoods in town. Close to everything, chock full o' interesting folks, lined with beautiful cottages and so on. But anyone who would buy a crapass, flat-roofed, wanna-be condo for a couple hundred thousand must be from out of town. And slightly slow.

Gaines Street WalMart

Give me a fuckin break. Did you know that if you stand where they're putting in a WalMart at Fallschase, on a clear day you can see the one on the Parkway? How damn many WalMarts does this town need?

I've lived in big cities. Tallahassee's growing, and there's nothing that can stop that short of the Gulf rising to the GA border. Do we want to be south Florida, a blight on the landscape, mile after mile of stripmalls and big boxes? Local culture shot and buried under city deals and concrete slabs? Or do we want art, music, communities where folks of lower income can still be proud of their neighborhoods?

FSU doesn't own Tallahassee. Neither does Killearn (hell, it's about time we let them break away anyway). If I hear one more motherfucker say, "downtown needs a grocery store, that's why no one lives there!" I'll be hard pressed not to throw punches. I live downtown. Quit telling me what I fucking need.

Right now I need a god damned beer.