Archive for the ‘Simply Tim Columns’ Category

(original story circa 2002)

Each week Mom used to pack me up in the front seat of an old Packard and drive through the Indiana countryside to a spot not far away, where a train track cut through miles and miles of cornfields. I stood patiently counting crows that congregated on twin vanishing strips of telephone wires, narrowing towards each corn tipped horizon. After a while the tracks began to vibrate softly, loosening tiny grains of sand that danced where they touched the magic steel rails. With each passing second my little boy’s brain filled with the thrill of an as-yet unseen locomotive, soon to be overwhelmed by the slow, steady rumble of an approaching train.

Train time!” shouted Mom.

Where the tracks curved out of view, hidden by corn stalks and refracted sunlight, a wondrous engine appeared. A single headlamp — brighter than the sun — flashed momentarily; then, a piercing shriek from a  whistle that scattered crows in all directions. Just to be sure, Mom held my hand in hers, and together we felt the rush and massive displacement as the engine pounded past; a wave from the friendly engineer, another screech from the whistle just for me. The wheels growled with a steel-on-steel voice so deep and regular and resonating it made my insides ache. The pavement all around shook and shook and shook. Unimaginably huge cars thundered past — each one with a different sound — and in-between each tonal shift, stroboscopic shadows flickered rhythmically where sunlight was interrupted.

Boom, boom, boom, boom. . .

All too soon the caboose rattled past, cartoon-like, chasing the diminishing train back into the cornfields. The dancing grains of sand and sound subsided along with my pounding heartbeat.

(present day)

Tim says: this is one of my all-time favorite Simply Tims, ever.

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copyright© 2015 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot

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One of my favorite songs is Against the Wind, by Bob Seger. The song was released in 1980 at a time in my life when I was young and foolish and free and impressionable and just beginning to travel down a path that eventually delivered me to where I am now. Hell, yes. Against the Wind was kick-ass back then. The song was so popular and so much air time was given to it that it captured a Grammy Award that same year and embedded itself into the hearts and minds and consciousness of millions of people. Me included.

Changing our points of view is what good art, literature, music and poetry is all about: a glimpse, a sound, a special light or shadow, a hint, the glimmer of something forgotten or sensed for the first time, a recollection or fleeting scent; when it happens we may not even be aware that something amazing has melded with our souls. Bob Seger songs are good at doing that. “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” is a line from Against the Wind that has stuck with me through the years. Although the words refer to an obvious love affair gone wrong, as I grew older and less foolish and less impressionable, the lyric’s interpretation took on various and more ominous undertones.

Mom passed away in April of this year. She was 95 years old. She once mentioned to me during one of our daily early morning coffee break telephone chats that she had been puzzling over how the things that we learn to do better as we grow older would have helped us so much more if we had known about them when we were young enough to appreciate them better. Wish I didn’t know now what I should have known then.

I can live with that. Mom, I will miss you.

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copyright© 2015 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot

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I am about to become a hypocrite, so let me get that out of the way right up front. I’m a hypocrite because many years ago, when I was a PM Magazine story producer for WBRZ TV in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I produced a “Hot Chile Pepper Eating Contest” feature story sponsored by WBRZ. The contest took place in a steamy Cajun bayou bar on a Friday night. A hot steamy night. The story was so entertaining it was included on PM Magazine’s national reel. I enjoyed writing the script and editing the story, and although the contestants were some of the craziest people I had ever met, I enjoyed being at the event and even thought it somewhat socially redeeming.

How does that make me a hypocrite?

I recently watched several minutes of the 2015 Nathan’s Famous 2015 Hot Dog Eating Contest before switching channels. Unlike my Hot Chile Pepper Eating Contest, I found the hot dog eating contest a disgusting display of gluttony and uncomplimentary commentary indicative of why the American lifestyle is often perceived as it is by many global communities. What I saw was… embarrassing.

The 2015 Nathan’s Famous 2015 Hot Dog Eating Contest winner consumed an incredible sixty-two hot dogs and buns in ten minutes. Consuming a hot dog was a two-step process. To speed things up a bit, the contestants were allowed to “dip” each hot dog bun in water for several seconds to make them mushy and *easier to shove down the contestant’s throats. The bun-mush mixture was then swallowed separately from the hot dogs themselves, which were crammed into the mouth 2 at a time in a kind of plunger motion.

I suspect my hypocritical perspective change from the perceived humor of teary-eyed contestants plopping hot peppers into one’s mouths compared to the repugnant ingurgitating of beloved all-American hot dogs is as much a matter of being 30-something then vs 60-something now.

“I can eat fifty eggs.”

*I wonder how many eggs Paul Newman’s character could have eaten in the movie, Cool Hand Luke had he been allowed to eat them scrambled instead of hard boiled?

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copyright© 2015 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot

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I recall a visit from my friend, Rich more than a decade ago. It was a particularly beautiful afternoon and we relaxed in the side porch shade, leaning against the railing and gazing into the heavily wooded yard. Rich was talking about Virginia wines and I was staring at a dying pine tree that needed to be cut down. At that very moment the tree tilted over and crashed to the ground with a very loud ka-thump!

“What was that?” asked Rich, searching the shadowy forest.

“Something very strange,” I said. “A tree I was staring at toppled over right when I was looking at it.” I pointed to the tree. “What are the odds of that happening?”

Rich studied the fallen tree in a prolonged silence. “Must have been rotten,” he finally offered.

“Yeah, must have been,” I agreed.

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copyright© 2015 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot

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“Fancy Feast Broths” (screenie from outstanding *commercial. See bottom of post)

I’m not a cat person, but you already know that: cats are too finicky and… just plain persnickety. The Purina Fancy Feast TV advertisement screenie above — although one heck of an ad — has persnickety written all over it. Even so, whatever is in that bowl, I want some!

What the hell am I’m looking at here to the left anyhow — a delicate Shrimp & Shredded Crabmeat Bisque? A yummy Seafood Veggie Gumbo? Holy smoley. This can’t possibly be cat food. Add a bed of Jasmine rice, a sprig of rosemary, a sliver or two of red onion, maybe a dash of oregano…

Man, oh man.

Although I might consider paying decent bucks in a restaurant for something that looks this tasty, I admit I’m having a difficult time envisioning a cat dipping its whiskers into this exquisite presentation and slurping it up with that prissy, backward-lapping sandpaper tongue-thingy all cat family species share. And afterwards, of course, licking its claw-tipped paws until they are perfectly just so.

This Fancy Feast meal to the right looks like some kind of Creme de la Chicken dish. Or maybe Creme du Chunk Tuna, with shards of carrots and complimentary-color green bits of what — mint, parsley, collard greens, catnip? I know, lets float some shaved parmesan or flaked Asiago cheese, a dash of Cayenne pepper and a dollop of sour cream. Or perhaps just some Baby Swiss, lightly seared, awash in sexy candlelight.

Yum doesn’t get any better that this.

Time for some very serious questions for those of you who are cat people:

  1. Does this stuff really come out of the can looking this delicious?
  2. Have you ever been, you know, uh — tempted to taste test it?
  3. Do cats like carrots?

Yep, I’m not a cat person, but I certainly wouldn’t mind being one at a Fancy Feast Broths dinner table. Hats off to the folks at Purina for making me hungry.

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* Fancy Feast television commercial

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It’s no secret that pet food has been considered as an alternate and much cheaper food source for humans during impoverished times. Apparently, “human grade” pet food is now a reality; the human consumption of non-human grade pet food, often called “free grade”, remains an ongoing debate. Many pet food manufacturers now offer organic product lines for persnickety pet owners.

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Every so often I like to step away from the monitor, shove the keyboard tray back underneath the desk top, shut down the computer and printer, grab a three-hole notebook, find a trusty Parker ball-point black ink pen, and write for an extended period of time without auto-correcting spell checkers, grammatical underlines, back spaces, copy and paste functions, or any other active electronic or digital devices whatsoever.

Like right now.

This is when I rediscover just how far civilization has come; and how far my penmanship skills have degenerated since those days when I had a perpetual pencil callous on what I called my “writing finger”. As I browse my incomprehensible scrawling and try to decipher the squiggles and scratches contained in the sentences that immediately precede this one, I notice half-printed, half cursive characters — some slanting left, some right, sometimes above the line, sometimes below —  and cross-outs that look creatively impressive but do nothing more than cover up misspelled words or attempts at correcting misspelled words.

I suspect that handwritten lexicon is fast becoming a forgotten discipline of the past, and will soon disappear in the same manner as postal letters to friends, math without a calculator, multiplication tables, beer can openers, high-beam low-beam foot switches, crank-open side window wing-vents on automobiles, telephone cords, rabbit ears, glass quarts of milk with cream on top, dodo birds, or telling time on real clocks that have hands that go round and round and round.

Glancing down at my scribbled rough draft of this post, I just noticed I still have a writing finger callous after all. It’s on the inside knuckle of my right pinky, caused by the constant abuse of a hyperactive mouse.

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