Halloween 1996

photo of classic car
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What’s the point in having a blog if you can’t tell stories – especially stories that are true?

Twenty-two years ago, I was living in Marietta, Georgia. I don’t remember what I was doing that Halloween night of 1996, but I was driving home about 9pm at night. It was one of those north to south roads that allotted a higher speed limit than you’d normally see, although with the curves in the roadway – I often wondered if such a speed limit was truly a good idea.

There were still kids out trick or treating – again, don’t ask me why they were out so late. It was one of those nights where fate seemed to be cruel everywhere you turned, as you’ll find out as you read along. For some reason, the kids attempted to cross the roadway at a point near one of these curves.

I see the kids – I slow down immediately, but even in doing so I can tell this is going to be a close call as to whether or not my car strikes one of these kids. They had not allocated themselves enough space to cross the road. To make matters worse, one of the kids tries to double back to the side she originally came from – a hesitation that seemed to increase the odds she was going to get struck by my car.

I slow down with all of my might, but I still tapped the girl who double-backed – but I had slowed down the car to where it merely patted her on the knee. The other group of girls were not happy with me and started throwing things at my car. Thus, I had a decision to make and fast – either to stay and risk damaging the car (sustaining no damage hitting the girl, somehow) or to stay and risk it.

It’s dark out, and I can’t detect what these girls are throwing – so I fled the scene. I’m well aware that you’re supposed to stay at the scene of an accident and all that, but my safety may have been at risk if I had stayed. If the cops had found me, I would have told them everything I knew and then some. The knock on my door or the visit to my car never comes, and for reasons unrelated to that Halloween night – I move back to Florida by Thanksgiving.

Needless to say, I don’t go out much on Halloweens anymore. I can do all I can to stay safe, but there’s only so much in life one can control. Some things are always going to be outside your boat.

Would You Buy A Used Car From Me?

photography of red car on road
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I thought I’d regale you, my audience, with another one from the “jobs I could have had” file.

When I lived in Marietta, Georgia in 1996, I responded to an ad looking for people to sell used cars. So, on a cool day in the spring – I want to say it was either March or April, I filled in an application.

Something was amiss because an hour goes by before I hear from anybody. A gentleman comes up to greet me, but he’s not in a happy mood. “The owner won’t be seeing you unless you dress professionally,” I’m told.

Well, there was only one problem with this: there was no mention of a professional dress requirement in the ad. I’ve always been a person that goes by mentioned rules – in other words, if a rule is mentioned, you go by it. Otherwise, it generally does not exist. On top of which, I wasn’t looking like a bum either. I had slacks on, a collared shirt, no tie.

When I mentioned what I had felt was a breach of rules etiquette – the response I got was the dress code was “common sense” thus there was no need to mention it.

I began to lose my temper just a touch.

I said, “So what you’re saying it’s common sense to play games with potential employees and make them submit to rules they have no conclusive proof might exist?”

The guy walked away from me after I said that. And with that, I never stepped on that car lot again, nor had the desire to be a car salesman ever again.

Pauly’s Sense Of Snow

Whenever we here in Florida get colder weather, I make an effort to not use the words “cold” that much. The people in the North really know about colder weather, we here in Florida get a reminder about it every now and then. Plus, I lived in Marietta in 1996, and in Charlotte in 1999 and 2000, and trust me, they’re much better at handling cold weather then we’ll ever be.

My first encounter with snow is an open question. I went up to New York when I was a very young child (roughly 1975, when I was either three or four) and I seem to remember there being snow on the ground when I went up there. The famous snow Tampa got in late January of 1977 is also a bit fuzzy in my mind.

When I moved up to Marietta in ’96, it was a bit of a culture shock for sure having lived in Florida my entire life up to that point. One day I’m driving around town listening to 750 WSB radio when they mentioned one day in early March the low one Friday night was going to be 12 degrees. That got my attention.

Then on what was either the first day of spring (or close to it), we got a couple inches of snow just after sunset. I lived next to a general 7/11 type of store where I lived, so I bundled up and walked the few minutes to the store to get a feel for the white stuff. Looking back, it was foolish of me to do, because humans (and, not to mention cars) can go slipping and sliding in the stuff. At one point on the walk back home, I slip and fall for a moment, fortunately unscathed.

A few moments later, I hear a BOOM that I’m familiar with in warmer weather. Yep, a clap of thunder while it was snowing. Almost four years later in Charlotte, I’d hear it again during yet another snowstorm. I thought it was beautiful, and I remember being in awe of the moment.

Sometimes in life, you’re just meant to be where you are, and for me, that moment of “thundersnow” was one of those moments. A good memory.

Waiting For Hermine, Or Maybe Ian


I’ll probably be keeping an eye on what’s now the 9th Tropical Depression of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season most of the next few days. The weather people in this area have been keeping an eye on this disturbance for a while now, and I mentioned it on this blog last Thursday. It finally became “TD 9” on Sunday afternoon, and is expected to hit around Cedar Key Thursday, which is well to my north, as a tropical storm.

Should the storm get to tropical storm status, it would be named Hermine, unless the tropical depression east of North Carolina becomes one first. In that event, our storm would be Ian.

I’ve lived in Tampa Bay most of my life, except for a year in Charlotte and nine months in Marietta, Georgia. We’ve had many close calls over the years (Elena in 1985 and Charley in 2004 being the more legendary near misses). If a hurricane hits the state, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville don’t usually see it, but southeast and northern Florida do.

When we’re in a storm’s “cone of uncertainty” I’m usually reading the blog of Dr. Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground and the scores of comments people make when there’s a tropical threat out there. I also keep an eye on the Spaghetti Models website, which are those wiggly lines you see that represent where all of the computer models think these storms will go.

Early in the day, not much had changed from what was the original thinking: a sloppy tropical storm that would give the Tampa Bay area about six inches worth of rain around Thursday. As the day progressed, the models moved ever so slightly north, but still a tropical storm all the way.

We should be fine, but it has my attention just in case things change.

Technical Difficulties At Taco Bell


My love of Taco Bell goes back to 1984, when I was introduced to the restaurant (that had just opened up in southwest Largo) by my Dad, who brought home some Nachos BellGrande for us to snack on. It was the night of my last day of school for the calendar year, December 21st, 1984. Dad wanted to watch the BYU-Michigan Holiday Bowl that would likely give the Cougars the national college football title if they won. (Brigham Young did win the bowl game, and the title was theirs a couple of weeks later. Yes, this is how I remember things, cross-referencing them televised to sporting events.)

There was also a Taco Bell at the time by Largo High School, at the corner of Missouri Avenue and West Bay Drive, which is now a CVS Pharmacy. This was more a less my social hangout back then if hanging around school was an option. If I went to a football game in the fall or a soccer game in the winter, I’d stop in at “The Bell” and get a bite to eat beforehand, or bring it to the stadium with me, which made me look like a glutton to everybody. And yes, my food of choice was usually a Nachos Bellgrande, with plenty of napkins.

I hadn’t eaten at a Taco Bell since my trip to Orlando in April of 2014 at the Florida Mall, which connects to the Florida Hotel I was staying at. There had been allegations in recent years that the beef the fast food chain uses is actually horse meat, and that soured me on them for a while.

A couple of days ago, I thought I’d pay the Taco Bell in Pinellas Park a visit, as they’re about a 15 minute drive from where I live. Before leaving, I checked their online menu to see if anything had changed, and a lot had. According to the site, you can now order what you want online, then go to the store and get it, kind of like Papa John’s except you travel to their store, they don’t travel to you. As a bonus, they had an offer where if you buy $10 or more, they’d knock $2 off the price.

I was suspicious that a fast food chain could do this, so I brought my patience with me when I bellied up to the drive-thru. Sure enough, when I explained I had ordered online, I can hear the hesitation in their voices right away. The online order had never reached them.

I asked, handing my printout over to them: “Well, can I give you the order to make? I have cash on me.”

They agreed, with the general manager, a redhead I’d guess to be in her mid-20’s, explaining to me that next time I should just come in to place the order, and not do so online. I could appreciate her position, and we were both nice about it all, but…HUH?

Back when I lived in Marietta, Georgia in 1996, they had a Taco Bell off of Cobb Parkway where you pushed buttons on a computer monitor to get the food you want, kind of a higher-tech automat. At my local Taco Bell 19 years and change later, they can’t even accept an online order?

Is technology making progress go forward, or is it making it go backward?

Excitable Boy

Most of you have seen this by now, but I thought I’d post it on here anyways.

When I lived in Marietta, Georgia one mid-week night in March of 1996, it snowed in the early evening and saw a good clip of snow for the first time in my life.  I went down to the local convenience store on Franklin Road near Delk Road just as an excuse to walk in a good snow.

Walking back the short distance home, I saw a flash of lightning in the air and shortly thereafter heard a clap of thunder.  No, I didn’t jump up and down and yell like Jim Cantore did.  Might have said “wow” to myself or something to that effect.  Wasn’t a big deal to me.

As for Cantore saying he’d rather see and hear a thunder snowstorm as opposed to winning Powerball, I totally disagree.  I’d much have the millions.

Christmas Time

1474413_10151787099537466_274003589_nI usually get philosophical over the holidays. I don’t know why, but I usually find the holiday season a good time to take inventory of what’s going on in the world and in my life.

As 2013 winds down, I am beginning to see that the more “better” society tries to make things, in some ways it gets worse. We have new technologies coming to us every day on cell phones, but the new gizmos don’t necessarily enhance our lives. They are more of a distraction than anything else.

I am not signing up for Obamacare until the last day of enrollment on March 31, 2014, provided that their website actually works. If my government wants to fine me, send me the bill, and I’ll do my level best to pay it.

Society is becoming way too divided. The whole “Duck Dynasty” flap proves that. Whatever happened to live and let live? Why is it that if someone defends heterosexuality, they are at risk of losing their place in society? And note how fans of the show got Cracker Barrel restaurants to change their stance. When I lived in Marietta, Georgia in 1996, there was a Cracker Barrel not too far from where I lived. Loved it.

Sooner or later, we have to get to two simple concepts:

Peace on earth.

Good will towards men.  (And women too.)

Merry Christmas!