Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Class of 2011

Manny and I went to Godby High School's Senior Awards last night at Godby's Jeff Bradford Auditorium and gave away a total of $2,250 in AGG Legacy Scholarship money to every qualified senior who applied.

The Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) was founded in 2003 as an academic booster club to foster, recognize and reward lifetime community service and academic excellence, and I have already told its story in Association of Godby Graduates -- History and Update. Our purpose is to raise money for scholarships for deserving Godby seniors and we had a very successful fundraising year, thanks to generous donations from alumni and their families, and the hard work of members of the AGG.

I was privileged to have personally met the scholarship recipients at various alumni events throughout the year, at Godby's homecoming football game, at the Godby soup kitchen in wintertime, at the Springtime Tallahassee parade, and at the National Honor Society banquet the AGG hosted last month. It was a pleasure to become acquainted with these leaders of tomorrow. The earnest excitement on their faces Tuesday night was plain for all to see, but most of all they were respectful to us old-timers and grateful.

I will not pretend that today's high school graduates have it any better or worse than I did when I graduated many years ago, but technological advancements in the intervening years have eliminated impediments that would otherwise prevent us from remaining in contact with fellow alumni. I am hopeful that many will join the AGG and continue the work we began not so long ago.

Hats off to the Class of 2011 Godby Cougars, and to all young men and women graduating in the coming days.

The best is yet to come!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Catman's Night at the Museum

May 18th is International Museum Day.

In 2006, Tallahassee author Jan Annino called me and expressed interest in writing about Dave the Cat and me, and I was very happy to share my cat stories.

"Florida's Famous Animals" was published by Globe Pequot on February 12, 2008, and Dave and I are Chapter 2.

The book is $7.00 new at Amazon and qualifies for free shipping on orders that total at least $25. I have given away copies to friends and family and I maintain several for my family's next generations. I will occasionally autograph copies upon request.

Curators at the Museum of Florida History at 500 South Bronough Street in downtown Tallahassee contacted me after the book was published and asked me for photos to include in their "Pets in America" exhibit which ran from June 21 through August 10, 2008.

I attended a special exhibit preview and Leon County Humane Society fundraiser at the museum the evening before the exhibit opened and contributed a new, never-worn 1988 Catman T-Shirt to the auction that originally retailed for $8.50. It sold for $30.

When the exhibit opened to the public the next day, I brought my grandsons Dylan and Gabriel to share in the experience.

Friday, May 13, 2011


In January 1970, my family and I moved from East Point Georgia to a split-level house at 5 Alpine Court in East Brunswick, New Jersey, with my father's red convertible Sunbeam Alpine automobile packed in the moving van. Dad insisted the road and car names were a coincidence.

Dad was a salesman at the time with an office at home, and frequently had heated telephone conversations with a business associate he called Charlie. My brother Mike and I later learned that Charlie was not his real name, but it was being used as part of an expression.

Our living room had a large picture window into which birds would occasionally fly. We later tried to close the drapes when the sun was brightest, but one Sunday afternoon while we were watching TV, we saw a shadow dart quickly across the window and heard a THWUMP that prompted us to run outside. We found a little brown wounded bird and put it in a shoe box, and Mike and I named it Charlie. The bird died shortly afterward and we buried it in the back yard, in the same shoe box. When Mike and I returned from school the next day, "Charlie" was a new blue parakeet in a cage from the nearby aviary. Our sister Matthea was only a few years old and my parents had decided to promote continuity of life rather than having to explain death to her at such a young age.

Three more siblings were born after Matthea, and although Charlie only lived for a few years, we always had a blue parakeet named Charlie, until well after I had grown up and moved out.

In tenth grade, I had Mrs. Briscoe's Chemistry class right after lunch, and I sat in the second desk from the front of the class. Our first day back to school after Christmas vacation, I arrived a little early and turned the desk in front of me around 180 degrees and propped up my feet on the chair. A few minutes later, the class filled and then a student showed up in the doorway, surveyed the room and decided to sit at the desk where I was parking my feet. He did not turn the desk around. I introduced myself and he told me his name was Carlos and he had just switched from an earlier section of the same class. I asked if I could call him Charlie and he said yes. When Mrs. Briscoe arrived, she looked around and said, "Carlos, would you like to join the class?" Charlie reversed his desk and did, and we have been the best of friends ever since.

After Charlie graduated that year, he was drafted by the Argentine Army and he would serve two years. The last night he was in-country, Charlie and John and Keith and I drove around town all night. We were eventually pulled over by Tallahassee Police after Charlie rolled through a Stop sign.  No, Charlie did not have his driver license at the time, but presented his library card and received a warning. Charlie is one of the luckiest people I have ever met.

When Charlie came back to the United States and Tallahassee, I gathered everyone I could and we all met him at the airport. He knew a few of us.

Charlie and I have shared and exchanged several jobs, delivering pizzas and newspapers over the years. He gave me a kerosene space heater when I had no heat, and an electrical light socket with a receptacle to tap into external apartment lighting when I had no power. Charlie gave me my first and only motorcycle ride and taught me to drive a standard transmission vehicle. We have been camping, bowling and pinball buddies, and he was best man at my wedding. We still see each other about once a year when he is in town.

Thank you, Charlie, and happy birthday!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Happy birthday to Dr. Timothy David Moy, Trekker Extraordinaire, born on May 9th. During our three years together at Hammarskjold Junior High School in New Jersey, Tim and I were quite competitive academically, but I recall Tim always seemed to miss one or two questions less on a test than I did. Tim and I used to talk about Star Trek. I like to think our conversations benefited Tim as well, but he knew vastly more about Star Trek at the time. We both moved away at the end of junior high school and lost track of each other for about fifteen years. Then I looked up Tim and found him working at the University of New Mexico as a history professor. We renewed our friendship and occasionally conversed via email whenever something happened with later versions of Star Trek or with original cast members. Tim incorporated Star Trek Original Series episodes into his classroom lessons. Tim died in July 2007 on Kailua Beach Hawaii, trying to save his son from the surf. His son survived. Condolences and best wishes to Tim's family.

Tangentially, my father's high school science teacher was named Valentine Mayfourth. On May 4th, my father and his classmates set a cupcake on his desk with a lit cigarette in it to celebrate.

My first birthday party since early childhood was when Charlie, Francisco, John and Kim held a surprise party for me one day in May when I was 17, and it is still very much appreciated.

When I turned 25, I was living in a house at the dead end of Harold Court, just off Ausley Road, near the old Publix shopping center on Pensacola Street, across the street from what would later become Dave the Cat's veterinarian, Westwood Animal Hospital. Brad's band the Engines, with whom I occasionally played, set up on my front porch and jammed for an hour as the street filled with attendees from neighboring student villages.

My twenty-sixth was my most memorable and exciting birthday celebration, and friends to this day tell me it's the only party that they remember both police and fire departments attending. We advertised it for the Friday evening before my Saturday birthday a couple of weeks earlier with fliers to everyone we knew and their places of employment as a Keg Party for Mitch's Birthday, Cost $1.00, and all Mikes got in free. We knew lots of Mikes. "Bring your old appliances," we stated. For good measure, we took out a free advertisement in a local weekly newspaper for a garage sale to occur on the day of the party at 7:00 pm.

I once knew a prankster who delighted in advertising a garage sale for his unfriendly and vindictive neighbor at 6:00 am one morning and specified, "Early birds welcome" and "Everything must go." I can understand his merriment at watching the people who usually arrive at 6 am do so much earlier, and also ask to go inside, due to "Everything must go."

At that time, I lived in a two-bedroom one bath duplex at 835 White Drive, north of Tennessee Street, Highway 90 in Tallahassee. When I moved in, I found an old refrigerator in the side yard on its back, overgrown by the grass.

People began arriving to the party with their respective toasters, telephones, televisions and various other appliances. I didn't expect or ask for gifts, but one guest named Jack whom I barely knew brought me a new United States Silver Eagle coin that is now quite valuable.

I enlisted several guests' assistance in carrying the refrigerator into the back yard. There, we placed the refrigerator as it had been in the side yard, but opened up the door and threw our old appliances into the refrigerator, and set it all on fire.

"The flames climbed high in-to the night," and many people arrived, including visits from a couple of cars to attend the garage sale, even though the drivers were sure it had just been a misprint. We gave them beer.

Then we heard the sirens. Two police cars and a fire truck arrived and asked who lived there and word got through the throng to me to tell me that my attention was required. Law enforcement and fire officials were not happy. Besides the blazing appliance inferno in the back yard with prominent metallic-colored flames, they did not like the noise, the amount of people and the Tallahassee street signs which festooned most of the living room walls. I had found the signs when I moved in after the hurricanes of 1985.

The senior police officer told me to put the fire out and that they were taking my street signs, and said to me, "Your party is over. How many live here?" I wanted to keep as many of the crowd in attendance as possible, so I said, "Twelve. I have family visiting." He looked at me for a moment and said, "We are going to come back in thirty minutes, and if there is any fire or more than TWELVE people here, you are all going to jail."

We put the fire out with a garden hose. We left a note on the front door and took the party and our guests and the keg a few miles down the road to the parking lot behind Gumby's Pizza across from Poor Paul's Pourhouse and Bullwinkle's Saloon and continued the party there. At 2:00 am closing time, the bar patrons came to my birthday party. Around 4 am, several of us packed up the keg and a guitar and drove to Tom Brown Park to sing and watch the sun come up on my birthday.

 Photo behind Gumby's Pizza by Mike