The Tell Tale Tape Recorder

black and white cassette tape
Photo by Pixabay on

It’s the summer of 1984. I’m in between the seventh and eighth grades in middle school. I’m too young to be working, so I’m spending a summer day at my home in southwest Largo, listening to some music on a Friday morning.

Compact disc players were a relatively new thing, so if you had one, you had to be in some money. My old man tended the get the new “gadgets” as they came along relatively first – provided he could get a good deal. This was back in the era where those good deals were in the Sunday St. Petersburg Times, so he’d frequently ask me to accompany him.

One this one particular summer Friday morning, I was listening to a cassette he had recorded off of his vinyl collection. He had a cassette deck that you had to press inward to activate the buttons, like fast forward, play, and so on. This one morning, fate wasn’t too kind to me – I pressed the fast forward inward, and it jammed itself.

Panic, needless to say, set in. I’m a 12-year-old kid, and I began to wonder at that moment if I would live to see the age of 13 in a few months.

Some kids admit all they know in a situation like that. Me, I hadn’t developed that sense of courage yet, so I hid the sunken fast-forward button with a cassette tape box as if that was going to cover things up forever and ever. At some point during the night, my parents must have figured out what I did wrong – because instead of confronting me about it, they had a little fun with me.

They waited until the next day to bust me, milking it like the time on The Tonight Show when Don Rickles had busted Johnny Carson’s cigarette box. With an aunt and uncle visiting to revel in my misery and subsequent breakdown, I confessed to the foul deed and was sent to my room in shame.

It was quickly fixed, I was quickly admonished (which wouldn’t have happened had the fast-forward collapsed inward on THEM) for my Watergate-like cover-up, and life went on.

That Plagiarism Thing

Melania Trump, wife to the Donald..

I was seeing my mother off on her way to Europe early yesterday morning, and saw my Tweet Deck abuzz over Melania Trump’s plagiarizing of Michelle Obama.

For the record, this is most certainly not the first time a politician (or, in Melania’s case, a speaker at a political convention) in recent memory has done this. Vice President Joe Biden got caught mimicking a speech in 1987, which ruined his Presidential aspirations for a couple of decades. Rand Paul has done it. Hell, President Obama got caught lifting part of Deval Patrick’s speech in 2008.

In the latter part of my senior year of high school at Largo High, I had to do a term paper in English class. (I chose college athletics as a theme, because even back then I saw how corrupt the NCAA could be.) My English teacher (who was no slouch, she wrote articles for the St. Petersburg Times on occasion) sat us down before we began our work and told us all about plagiarism. What it was, why it was bad, and how she was going to be on the lookout for it from all of us. If caught, the consequences would be severe, maybe even the difference in terms of whether or not we graduated on time or not.

It’s a big time fumble for the Trump camp, yes. But the Democrats can’t cry foul too hardly. As bad as it is, I merely think it’s a bump in a much bigger road of deciding who are new President will be.

Evel Knievel’s Answering Machine


Ten years ago, I worked for what was known then as the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) as a person-to-person sales representative. It was a nice way of saying that you’re a telemarketer. I didn’t mind the job and working there, because the product was well known, not a product likely to be introduced to you based on what the person on the other end of the phone was saying.

One Friday afternoon in the spring, I wound up calling one Robert Knievel. He was better known as Evel Knievel, a daredevil who jumped over various things with (mainly) his motorcycle back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was probably better known for the stunts that failed, like the rocket he tried to soar over the Snake River Canyon.

I didn’t immediately put two and two together that this was Evel I was about to speak to, but I didn’t get the chance. I did get Evel’s answering machine, later made famous by the Bubba The Love Sponge radio show. Profanity masked, it went like this:

“This is Evel Knievel and if I ever see you, you motherf****r, I’ll rip your f***ing head off! Stop calling me on the phone, you motherf****r!”

Well Evel, how else was I going to call you? With tin cans and wires?

Needless to say, I was a bit shocked hearing that, let alone what would possess anybody, even a celebrity, to have such a profane message for a greeting. He would pass away in Clearwater the following year of 2007, having suffered from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis.

I always admired him as a kid, though. I could only imagine that all those jumps that went bad took a significant toll on his body and mind, and I know from personal experience that if you’re in pain, it sometimes makes you crazy.

The Transgendered Are People Too


I remember back in 2007 hearing about the transgender issue for the first time. The city manager of Largo Florida, Steve Stanton, wanted to become Susan Stanton by way of having a sex change. When I read about it in what was then the St. Petersburg Times, I thought somebody had slipped a copy of The Onion on my doorstep disguised as the Times.

At the time, the bulk of Largo City Council was conservative if not of an older generation, and considered Stanton’s sex change something akin to sacrilege. Upon hearing of Stanton’s wishes to become a woman, the he who was about to become a she was promptly fired by the city commission who declared the sex change to be a breach of trust. My opinion at the time was that Stanton should have been allowed to stay on as the city manager, and that changing genders in of itself was not a firing offense.

Nowadays, there are new issues revolving around transgender-ism. The biggest question being: if a transgendered person wants to use the bathroom, where does he or she go? Target, and American chain of department stores similar to Walmart, declared that transgendered persons could use the bathroom of their choice. That led to a series of protests targeting the department chain who beg to differ on the issue.

If it were up to me, the ruling I would make would be to use the bathroom appropriate for whatever sex organs the individual had. But, that simplifies a very complicated issue. Last week, President Obama made a similar ruling to Target’s, and stated that transgendered persons could use the bathroom of their choice.

That complicates matters even further. Can kids fully grasp the various issues regarding the transgendered? Do they have the mental capacity to understand the issue fully, and do so without hazing or harassing, for example, a boy who wishes to use the girls room?

True, when we as individuals live at home, many of us have bathrooms that are used by both genders. But, when we go out, the bathrooms are broken down by gender so that strangers of opposite genders don’t get the perverted ideas that aren’t supposed to happen in a family setting. Forcing an inter-gender environment in schools? That’s something that could be abused if not closely watched.

There are no real ways to solve this problem neatly and cleanly. I just hope that while the issue is being further deliberated, arguments are allowed to proceed without things getting violent. No one should be harassed over the gender a person identifies with. It’s just, as Lady Gaga once said, the way they were born.