Thursday, September 29, 2011

Halloween 2011

Denton True "Cy" Young (1867 - 1955), for whom the best pitchers in Major League Baseball have been honored each year since his death, lost more games than did any other Major League pitcher in history.

Cy Young also won ninety-four more games than any other Major League pitcher ever did. No one else won 511 games or lost 316 games. He pitched every other day, and his 22-year career spanned the divide between baseball's early days and the "modern era" of baseball. Cy Young set the standard for Major League Baseball pitching for more than the last hundred years.

I have lost seventeen costume contests in over 25 years, which is not an insignificant number until considering that I have competed in more than a hundred. I know a guy with whom I unintentionally compete every several years who always wears the same costume and always wins. Rory is of slight build and stature, and dresses up as an ordinary male adult up to his neck and arms, and behind him he attaches a hooded, masked figure with arms around a captured Baby Rory. Rory's legs are the abductor's, and his head wears a baby bonnet and his arms are the baby's arms. He is just so cute, and when he arrives around 11:30 pm, I no longer have time to travel elsewhere, and the crowd goes wild for him. It has been an exercise in character to congratulate Rory each time.

Women who are allowed to bare their breasts on Halloween always win the costume contests. Sloppy Joe's downtown while open in 2001 encouraged it when I was there, and I prefer to avoid the costume contests that support nudity.

There are a couple of annual charity benefit events sponsored by local organizations that, while they invite the public, the organizations' members win the costume contests.

Conversely, I have attended local costume parties that I discovered on the Internet, where I knew absolutely no one, and I have unexpectedly won memorable prizes and enjoyed myself immensely.

It is late September, and I have already won two of the three costume contests in which I have competed this year. I was a big hit at El Jalisco Mexican Restaurant at North Monroe Street, and at Florida State University's Geek Night 6.0. I didn't buy a ticket to the Leon County Humane Society's Fur Ball before it sold out this year, so I will be attending another Halloween party and costume contest that evening that I know I will not win.

In the later years of my costuming career, it really is all about showing off my artwork and having a good time. Winning is fun, too.

Best wishes to all for a safe and happy Halloween!

(Continued in Halloween 2011 -- Conclusion)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Labor Day 2011 in Orlando

I was walking towards Hogwarts Castle in Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure with my family earlier this year commenting that in all my years of traveling to Orlando, I was surprised I had not run into someone I knew. I had seen Bob in the Atlanta airport last year, Maureen at a game room in Lakeland in 1983, and Martin in St. Petersburg after a Grateful Dead concert in 1988, but never anyone in Orlando.

I drove four hours to Orlando Friday before the Labor Day weekend and stopped for gas, and then ran into Matt at the South Semoran Boulevard KFC.

I visited with my old friends Joel and Dave, with whom I lived and worked in the early 1980s, and with many others in the area who I have met through them over the years, three Matts, Mary, Michelle, Dominik and Lori, Mark and Sally, Sean and Marcia, and Melissa. When I was last there around New Year's, Matt and Sally brought their captain's hats and we posed for a photo in front of the Christmas tree.

I was playing cards at Joel's house the afternoon I arrived. It was a bidding game called "Oh Hell" that my grandparents taught me with a kid-friendly name of "Up and Down the River," that I taught to Joel thirty years ago, and he taught it to others over the years, who taught it to others, and I understand we have friends around the world now playing the game. It was a nice warm afternoon, and with a couple of hands to go, I remarked that I was going out to the pool when the game was over.

The game ended and just then Dolittle the Dog began barking because the lawn maintenance people and the pool guy showed up at that time. To add to all the fun, Animal Control came out to take away a scrawny dying cat that had shown up less than a day before.

My friends in Orlando are the biggest Florida State football fans I know. Most of the FSU games I have seen have been in Orlando and we all watched FSU's season opener victory on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, 34-0. I had lunch at Famous Phil's, home of the best cheesesteak sandwich I've had, a large without peppers on a medium bun.

We went to Firken Kegler on Waterford Lakes Highway on Sunday, a giant game room, bowling alley and bar, with only one pinball machine, but it was a good one, a multi-level modern game with up to five balls in play at one time. I did really well on Spiderman, earning 50 million points and a free game on just one ball for twenty minutes. I love playing pinball.

All too quickly the long weekend ended, but I will look forward to going back again next year.

Thanks, guys!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Band Rolling

I was not in the Godby High School band, but this is my band-related story in honor of Godby's late long-term band director for whom Godby's auditorium is named, Jeff Bradford. I last saw Jeff  Bradford at the Association of Godby Graduates' sixth annual Hall of Fame banquet on March 19, 2010, and he passed away a few hours after my father did, one year ago on September 19, 2010.

In Spring 1981, Mike and I acquired a case of 48 industrial strength rolls of toilet paper. Mike and I worked at Mr. G's Pizza and almost always closed together on Friday and Saturday evenings. Arlene and Mike and I were the "G Musketeers," often at Mr. G's together and after work, and we each had put a Mr. G's Pizza license plate on the front of our cars. Mike and I decided to stir up trouble with our box of toilet paper and the occasional fifty pounds of pizza dough that would be disposed of at the end of the business evening. We lived close together, less than a mile apart, and much of the Godby school district was between Mr. G's restaurant and our respective homes.

Mark is a good friend of Mike's and mine. I brought my Watermelon costume to his Halloween party in 1980. Mark's house was directly in front of a street light, which Mark regretted in advance of his Halloween party, because he preferred a darker, spookier party setting. Slightly reminiscent of Christmas Vacation, a mutual friend heard about Mark's wish and drove by late one evening with a .45 caliber pistol and took a few very loud shots at the street light, hitting it at least once. 1980s street lights responded oddly to that kind of damage, and in this case the light remained on for the next few weeks, even during the day, until it burned out. Mark's Halloween party began before it was completely dark outside, so it was actually lighter at Mark's house than usual, thanks to the effort to extinguish the street light for the party.

We left pizza dough on Mark's front doorstep late one evening. The fun thing about all that pizza dough is how much it rises by morning. We couldn't stop laughing when Mark told us that he stepped in it first thing the next day and it took him forever to clean his shoes.  Mark warned us against "doughing" him anymore, and Mike and I respected that.

That wasn't our only memorable visit to Mark's house. One night after work, Mike and I parked about a block away and walked quietly to Mark's house, where Mike and I proceeded to toilet paper his front yard. I began with the strip to the side of the driveway closest to the other yard and quickly ran out of yard to roll. Mike was in the front yard in front of Mark's front door. As I started walking around the side of the house to do the back yard as well, I heard the front door open and Mark yell out, "Hey! Stop!"

Mark ran into the front yard after Mike. Mike ran to his car. I rushed into Mark's back yard and rolled bushes and his picnic table, and then yelled Mark's name. As I heard Mark run into the back yard from one side of the house, I ran around the other side towards the front of his house, intending to flee down the road to my car and leave, but then I noticed that Mark had left his front door open, and realized that he was still looking for me in his back yard.

I ran into Mark's open front door and into his living room and toilet papered at least two sleeping guest family members on the floor and some furniture before quickly darting back outside and then to safety.

Mark was in the band and Mike and I became emboldened to do other band members' houses. We toilet papered more than one band member's house each evening on the next three weekends before we saw the others. On one night, we were fairly certain where one band member lived, but weren't entirely sure in which house Terrie lived, so we toilet papered four houses in a row, confident that we had done hers. Another time, we toilet papered a yard real well and then let a couple of toilet paper strands trail down the street to another band member's house, and the merriment began in earnest as others sought to get even with people they perceived to have toilet papered their own yards.

We noticed three separate carloads of vengeance seekers on our way home one night. We saw them pull up quietly to other band members' houses and toilet paper their yards, and we knew it was because of what we had done, because they didn't normally do it that frequently. It took several weeks for the other band members to discover it was us, which led me to start placing an air-filled ball on the back of the family couch by the window in the living room with the TV on before retiring for the evening to deter toilet papering classmates from visiting my house. They eventually got me on graduation night, because I came home too late to place the "head" against the window. My parents interrupted them so they didn't accomplish much. After that evening, many of us went our separate ways in life, but I still chuckle at the memories.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The first time I ever thought about "my future" was in Irwin Elementary School when we were told to prepare an oral report of what our declared professions would be. At the time, I was oblivious as to what I was going to be and didn't really care. I told my dad about the assignment and he told me I was going to be a king.

The church we attended didn't have priests, and so substituted "kings":

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests {kings} of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Rev. 20:6, KJV 

I didn't volunteer, and was eventually called upon at the end of class. When I stated that I was going to grow up to be a king, I didn't have to explain my career choice because the students and teacher all laughed at me.

I didn't think of it again until King Love died many years later.

King Love was an Egyptian physician named Kamal Youssef who left his former life and family and came to America, and then Tallahassee in 1993 to become a regular often homeless eccentric fixture at our town's busiest intersections. He wore a red cape with "King Love" emblazoned upon it and a Burger King crown that he later upgraded to a "jewel"-encrusted party novelty crown. He preached his message of love with a $29.99 Radio Shack Megahorn and collected cash in an over-sized Coca Cola coin bank while handing out fliers printed at Office Depot with his sundry aphorisms. I know about his association with Office Depot because that is where I met him.

King Love died at 65 years of age twelve years ago tomorrow. Yes, that's 9/9/99. When I read about his death the following day, I was already behind schedule working on a fantastic Halloween costume that would next year become the most prolific contest-winning costume I've ever designed and worn. King Love was such a well known person and if I can be excused for using the term to describe him posthumously, a "fresh" subject. I already owned a $29.99 Radio Shack Megahorn -- and still do. I used it with great success last Halloween.

Constructing King Love's ankh was the most labor-intensive part of my costume and a fun woodworking project in itself. I bought some iron-on inkjet printer transfer paper and printed myself a t-shirt with the American flag, recreated his cape and sign, bought a Santa beard and his same choice of crown from a mail order toy catalog, and added glasses.

Late afternoon on Friday, October 29, I took his one-man act to the corner of Tennessee and Monroe Streets downtown Tallahassee for rush hour traffic, and greeted passing motorists in King Love's memory until 6 pm. Cheers and honks were common.

I should add here that mental illness is no joke. I simply employed my artistic talents to create and wear a successful Halloween costume based upon a current local person and event, which in this case was King Love's life and passing. 

I went to several Halloween parties. It was like being "Norm" on Cheers. Everywhere I went, as soon as I entered the room, a chorus of "KING LOVE!" would resound from just about everyone around. King Love was renowned. People I met would regale me with stories of their personal experiences with him. Men taught me to be a better King Love, correcting my rendition of his signature "WHOOP!" to passing cars. Women who recognized King Love each had their own special story of how King Love had asked them at one time or another to marry him.

It was the right Halloween costume at the right time.

I won four costume contests and I grew up to be a king, just as my dad predicted.

King Love, and my photo and story with Dave the Cat, are published on pages 145 and 146, respectively, in "Tallahassee: A Capital City History."