Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads on the LockedOnMLB Podcast



I had the pleasure of talking with my longtime friend Sully on his podcast on the LockedOn network. Comedian, TV producer and creator of the Sully Baseball Podcast Paul Francis "Sully" Sullivan is the host of LockedOnMLB, a podcast that covers all of Major League Baseball. 

Of course, we talked about Curveball at the Crossroads, then we discussed the Tampa Bay Rays, both on the field and off the field statuses.

I highly recommend Sully's podcast. He has a passion for the game and such a wide array of interests - check out how our conversation veered to Star Wars - and amazing knowledge of baseball. 

Here is the link: Locked On MLB - Daily Podcast On Major League Baseball

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads on the Spike on the Mic Show

Spike on the Mic is a longtime radio show in Tampa and Spike has been around the radio scene for years. A few weeks ago, I ran into Spike at a local sports bar and we talked about me being on his show. After weeks of scheduling, I made my first appearance.

Spike on the Mic is a fun show that covers weird and unusual headlines and has humorous banter between a bevy of hosts. I felt right at home talking with them. In the final minutes, I told them about my book, which most of the hosts were excited to hear about.


Thanks again to Spike for having me on and I hope to be on again soon!


Here is the link to the Spike on the Mic Show featuring Curveball at the Crossroads.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads is now available at Mojo Books and Records


I am very happy to announce that Curveball at the Crossroads is now available at Mojo Books and Music in Tampa, Florida. You can find the book in the local authors section and every copy available at Mojo Books and Records is signed by the author (me).

Mojo Books and Records is a perfect first place to sell Curveball at the Crossroads as it is also a used music store. Given the blues music inspirations in Curveball at the Crossroads, that's perfect.

Mojo Books and Music is located at 2540 E Fowler Ave, University Center Shopping Plaza, Tampa, FL 33612-6271.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Funniest Book About The Man Ever

Almost two years ago, I self-published a little joke book that detailed everything The Man did to make lives miserable.

The book didn't do great sales - I blame The Man - but I have been able to share it with a few celebrities to include comic Cristela Alonzo and rapper extraordinaire RA The Rugged Man.

The Man Makes You Work is still available on Amazon for the low price of $7.50 paperback or kindle for $4.95 or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

That's a great deal for a fun, fantastic read.


  

Saturday, May 22, 2021

My Grandfather and My Favorite Nirvana Song


I recently posted my thoughts about my Grandfather, who passed away last week. While I will always have pictures and memories to remember him, there is also a song by Nirvana that brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.

The first time I heard "Sliver", it was on MTV in the mid-1990s. I was familiar with Nirvana's bigger hits such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Come As You Are", etc, but I had never heard this raw, punk-like Nirvana song. I wasn't even sure what album it was on (1994's Incesticide, I would find out. Although it was a single released during Nirvana's earlier days with SubPop Records.)

Sliver stayed in my memory for a long time as in those pre-internet days, trying to find a song you heard once was fairly difficult. Today, I would have searched YouTube for 10 minutes and found it. It wasn't until I found a bootleg copy of "The Best of Nirvana" at a vendor table in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998 that I finally owned the song I heard years earlier.

First, the video, then I will discuss why this song means so much to me.


When I was little, my parents and I lived approximately 10 minutes from my mother's parents. We went there regularly. It was there that I watched Star Wars on VHS for the first time - and every time I visited. While the adults talked and prepared dinner, I was in the living room watching Star Wars or cartoons. Every time.

And when my parents had to go somewhere and couldn't bring me, as the song says, they dropped me off at Grandpa Joe's. The rest of the lyrics also reflect different times at my Grandparents.


[Verse 1]

When Mom and Dad went to a show

They dropped me off at grandpa Joe's

I kicked and screamed

Said, "Please, don't go!"

Although I liked going to my Grandparents' house, I am sure I did this a few times.


[Verse 2]

Had to eat my dinner there

Mashed potatoes and stuff like that

I couldn't chew my meat too good

I ate dinner at my Grandparents' house many times. As a growing kid with a fast metabolism, my Grandmother used to say I had a hollow leg. One of my Grandmother's best dinners was meatloaf and mashed potatoes and stuff like that.


[Verse 3]

She said, "Why don't you stop your crying?

Go outside and ride your bike"

That's what I did

I killed my toe!

I don't remember riding my bike around my Grandparents' house when I was little, but when I was 10, we visited my Grandparents' new house in Florida. I went outside to ride a bike and instead of killing my toe, I flipped off the bike, banged my head, and had a concussion. Not quite the same, but close.


[Verse 4]

Well, after dinner I had ice cream

I fell asleep and watched TV

I woke up in my mothers arms!

I guarantee this happened. As I mentioned, I watched Star Wars every time I was there. And like most kids, I had a huge ice cream habit.

I am not sure if Kurt Cobain really had a Grandpa Joe. I am also not sure if his childhood was spent eating dinner at his Grandparents house, having ice cream for dessert, and falling asleep to Star Wars. Maybe this is just a catchy pop tune that popped into Cobain's brain as he was fiddling with his guitar. Maybe he just dug the rhythm of the lyrics and an Uncle Ralph or Uncle Fred wouldn't rhyme with "show".

But I had a Grandpa Joe and whenever Sliver plays, I will remember those days. 

Every line ends in rhyme. 


[Chorus]

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

I wanna be alone!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Remembering Grandpa, a grandparent and a friend


When we are born, we inherit family roles. You are a son or a daughter. Your parents become Mom or Dad. Aunts become Aunts. Uncles become Uncles. Brothers become brothers and sisters become sisters. Grandparents become grandparents.

That's how it usually is. But I was lucky. I had a Grandfather who became a friend.

Had. That's tough to write. To be honest, I have dreaded writing this for years. Although I had penned a tribute to a teacher and fellow student in college, the first time I wrote about a family member passing away was when I wrote about my Grandmother, my Grandfather's wife of over 60 years.

Both of my Grandmothers passed away when I was working in Afghanistan in 2012. I wrote about what both of them meant to me. I wrote because I missed funerals and it was a way to say good-bye. Now as I get older, and more people close to me pass away, I write as a way to process.

Since my Grandmother passed away nearly nine years ago, my Grandfather and I became much closer, making this essay that much more difficult. But it not that this is tough to write. Far from it. It is that trying to capture the memories, his personality, and what he meant to me in less than a million words is a challenge.

And in what order do you put a lifetime of memories?

For sake of not repeating earlier essays, I will pass over times spent with both grandparents - the times they visited me when I was in the Army stationed in Texas (pictured above), the times I visited them on my way to see parents during my college years. While I hold those memories near and dear, this essay is only about my time spent with my Grandfather.

The best place to start is in October 2012, when I was home on a vacation from Afghanistan. My Grandmother had only been gone six months, and I took time from seeing friends, a girl I was dating, and my parents, to swing by Ocala, Florida to see my Grandfather. It was the first time I hung out with him without my Grandmother. It is here when spending time with him became unique, as it was just us.

We went to Outback that day, or "the Outhouse" as he like to called it. He asked how I was doing. I told him stories of Afghanistan, how I was working in an international environment, and how I learned to say greetings in Polish, the language of his immigrant parents.

He seemed in good spirits, although it was obvious he was lonely.

I returned from Afghanistan in 2013, nearly year after my Grandmother passed away. I didn't have a job nor a place to live yet, so I asked if I could spend a month at his house, as it was close to Tampa where I was planning to move again. He agreed.

We spent quality time together during that month. We went out to eat a lot. We talked. I watched him talk on the phone with his children, his brother, and any other relative who called. My favorite thing was catching him purposefully giving people wrong information. For example, he would tell each one of his children - my mother, aunts, and uncle - a different date for an upcoming doctor's appointment. Then they would each run in different directions. Pulling people's leg gave him joy. He was mischievous like that.

I think he also told people wrong information because he was tired of them asking the same questions repeatedly. "When is your next doctor's appointment?", "What medicine are you taking?", "What did the doctor say?". I think he liked me because I never asked those questions. We talked about anything else. And I made a point to never ask about his doctors or his health. Enough people asked those questions. My conversations with him, whether in his house or in his care facilities always started with "How you doing?".

As the years progressed, his ability to manage his home diminished, and he was moved into a home closer to my parents. This actually made it easier for me to see him, as I had moved back to Tampa. Every time I visited my parents on the east coast of Florida, I would see my Grandfather for a bit. Sometimes if I was in town for an extended amount of time, I would spend a day with him. He always asked about my jobs and my classes and I asked him how the food was where he was living. Of course, it was always horrible and he always wanted to leave. But we had fun, even if he did make fun of me for dozing off in his guest chair on occasion.

"You came to visit, and all you are doing is sleeping? You could have done that at home."

Sometimes I would check him out of his facility and take him to lunch. One afternoon we picked up food and went to the local river and people watched. He made me laugh with sarcastic comments about almost everyone who passed by. After eating at the river, we drove the ocean and walked to the boardwalk. That's where I took a picture of him with the ocean in the background. I like this picture.

Although there are many of other pics of he and I, I wish I taken a selfie of us at the beach. I think it also would have turned out good.

On a side note, I like how the picture above compares with the below picture from a Long Island beach in October 1949. In '49, he was 23, World War 2 was over, he was recently married, and the world was in front of him. In the above picture, he has seen so much and the world is behind him.


A few years after we went to the beach, my Grandfather settled in his final home, a 24-7 care facility. The logistics of getting him out were too great, so I continued to visit him there every other month or so. In 2018, I took another international job, this time for nine months in the Middle East. When I returned, I brought him a small wooden camel. It stood alongside his family portraits and his other few personal belongings.

As the years went on, and his memory continued to fade, our talks got more and more abstract. He couldn't carry on conversations for more than five minutes without intermingling the real world with something he saw on television. Family members were suddenly living on ranches with Indian invaders, but it was ok because they had their old car and they were going move to North Carolina and remember that guy who had the store on 42nd street, he was a good guy. But the other guy on 52nd, he would rip you off. And there was a two-story building on the base when he got off the ship and if he didn't pack his clothes and get out of his room soon, the lieutenant was gonna look for him.

Sometimes it was challenging to keep up with the conversation, but that didn't diminish the fact I still enjoyed visiting. And I was proud of the fact that even to his last days, when he remembered maybe only ten names, I was still one he knew and recognized.

Like many other relationships in 2020, COVID-19 made seeing my Grandfather difficult. I didn't see him for most of the year. But I did get to see him in December 2020. He was inside his facility, eating and enjoying himself, and my mother and I were outside the window, talking to him through a six-inch opening. I couldn't give him a hug, but I could see him and talk to him. Merry Christmas 2020.

A few months later, his health took a severe turn for the worse. I was scheduled to go on yet another long trip, this time to Hawaii and Korea for over two months. But after seeing my Grandfather, I asked my boss if I could be taken off the first leg of the trip. I wasn't going to miss saying good-bye to my last grandparent. Not after missing both of my grandmothers. And definitely not this grandparent.

But a miraculous thing happened over the next few weeks after I saw him - my Grandfather regained his strength and returned to his 95-year old norm. With him doing better, I took my chances and went to Korea for a month. While there, I bought him a small piggy bank signifying the year of the ox. When I came back to the states, my mother gave it to him. She said he enjoyed it.

He passed away last weekend, a few months after my return. I like to think he waited for me to get back. When I stopped by his room on the night he died to see how my mother was doing with the final arrangements, the ox bank was on the same shelf as the wooden camel, alongside my Grandfather's other treasured mementos.

Not many people can say that their Grandfather was their friend. But mine was. Joe Walicki was a great man and I very much enjoyed his company. I like to think he would say the same about me. He will be missed dearly.

Here is his obituary, which I had a hand in writing. His funeral is Monday, where he will be buried alongside my Grandmother at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. I will be sure to still visit.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Remembering Shock G


"And though we're usually on the serious tip, check it out: 

Tonight we're gonna flip and trip and let it all hang out tonight

We're gonna say what we like"

Back in the late 80's and early '90s, "on the serious tip" was a semi-common phrase in hip-hop culture. A quick google search of the term reveals a few songs with the term and quotes from De La Soul and The Fresh Prince.

Possibly the most famous use of the term, and the one people are most likely to hear regularly - at least on old school hip-hop channels - is in Shock G's verse on the Digital Underground classic "Doowhutcha Like". So it is absolutely fitting that I write this tribute here, on this blog, which has been named after the old school hip-hop phrase since 2006.

Shock G has been gone for nearly a week and this is still tough to write. It is not often that a music legend, a big part of a genre's history, is a part of your life. But Shock G was a part of my life. Admittedly, I didn't know him all too well, but good friends of mine considered him a good friend.

I have been lucky enough to become friends with people who have been part of Tampa's hip-hop scene for over 30 years. They were there when there was only one radio station, WMNF 88.5, that played hip-hop. And they were there when the earliest DJs and MCs were putting on shows.

Shock G was one of those MCs.

Through hustle and probably a bit of luck, Shock G made it happen in Oakland. He became an international superstar. He rocked stages. He made appearances. He created other legends. His contribution to hip-hop is undeniable.

But around my friends, he was just Shock G, another member of the Tampa hip-hop community. A dude to goof around with, to kick it like they used to back in the day.


My favorite part of this video, besides the fact that I am in it, is that he calls Nick Major, "Fred". 

I first met Shock G at a club called Blue Martini in Tampa in late 2011. My friend Nick Major was living with me and had known Shock G for decades. But if I remember right, he hadn't seen Shock in several years. But he got word that Shock was performing at the nightclub and so we had to be there.

I don't remember why I brought my huge afro wig into the Blue Martini. I also don't know why I had funny nose glasses with me. But they proved to be a key part of one of the coolest pictures I have ever taken. I like to think I could have fit in on stage with Digital Underground back in the day. We didn't talk too long with Shock G that night, but Nick was able to get his number and stay in touch.

Thanks to Nick and Paradox 2WX aka Spike La Rock aka Dox, I was able to interview Shock G a few weeks after we met him at Blue Martini. Shock was super cool and eager to tell his story. 


There is so much history in this interview. But the video itself has its own history. After we did this interview, I left for Afghanistan for 14 months. My friend Bill McArdle of TampaBayNightLife.tv saved it on a hard drive and stashed it among his other recordings. 

Years passed. Occasionally I would ask Bill if he still had the interview, and he would say yes, and that was that.

In 2019, I finally asked for a copy of the video. After Bill found it, we copied it to my personal drives.

So was it actually "lost"? Depends on who you ask. Bill knew he had it. I sure didn't know exactly where it was.

After we filmed the interview, Nick, Paradox, Shock G, his friend Chadoun, and I went out to eat. Of course with Shock G it is fitting we went to Burger King. No one got busy in the restrooms, but we did learn that Shock G was a big fan of the veggie burgers. After chilling in Burger King for a while, we all went our separate ways.

A few years after our interview, I saw Shock G in a Chilis in Tampa. He was getting take-out for him and a friend. I reminded him who I was and we talked for several minutes. He mentioned he visited Tampa to get away from California and pressures of the showbiz world. Although he was successful, he seemed to enjoy home more.

In late 2015, I saw Shock G again when he returned to Tampa to perform at the 3rd Annual Kenny K tribute concert at Crowbar in Ybor City. Kenny was Shock G's friend and the man who got Shock G back into hip-hop in the late 80s/early 90s. They, along with Doc P and others, were the founding members of Digital Underground.


This was one of the most touching performances I have ever seen in hip-hop. Shock G often gets emotional for his late friend. He does his classics, but also several freestyles where he rhymes about Kenny.

After the show, I got to hang out with Shock G in the green room at Crowbar. When I congratulated him on the show, he remembered me as "Nick's friend" and told me we need to do another interview sometime. While I stood to the side, Shock G chatted with Dynasty, a Tampa MC who was blowing up at the time. Dynasty has since moved on, but it was a great moment in Tampa hip-hop past and present.


Although my friends saw him several times after, that was the last time I saw Shock G. They have pictures with him during his other Tampa visits, to include birthday parties and hanging out at hip-hop clubs. Shock G was always around.

As time has gone on and I have been able to interview more people for the Kenny K Documentary project, there was always talk of re-interviewing Shock G. We even discussed getting Shock G more involved in some way - perhaps he could host the documentary.

Unfortunately, that will never happen.

As I got to know him a bit, Shock G was an inspiration to me. An artist who was adaptable to different trends, used props when he wanted, created characters, and as I said on WMNF's recent tribute show, was "creativity personified". Although he went through a lot of tragedy, Shock stayed creative. It was his way of connecting with the world.

Shock G's death is personal. He was a good dude to me and to many of my friends. We had to share him with the world, but he will always be our friend.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads at the Oxford Exchange Book Fair

BIG NEWS: I will be at the Oxford Exchange Annual Book Fair on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in downtown Tampa from 6pm to 9pm. I will have my debut novel Curveball at the Crossroads as well as other books I have been a part of over the years.

The Oxford Exchange is an amazing location and a fantastic place to check out my work as well as the work of many other local authors.

It will be a great time. I am super excited.

More information on the book fair can be found here:


https://oxfordexchange.com/pages/oe-book-fair  

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads featured in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay



It is always exciting to have your work showcased in different forums. It also very cool to have local media mention your creative work.

Curveball at the Crossroads was featured in Creative Loafing, Tampa's alt-weekly newspaper. Check out the article about the book and read the short excerpt!

Friday, March 5, 2021

Not So Serious Movie Review: Top Dog (1994)



Tonight's cinematic misadventure was Top Dog (1994) starring Chuck Norris and a dog. Chuck Norris, the baddest man on the planet, teamed up with dog to fight a group of right-wing, white power terrorists trying to destroy San Diego. Why Chuck Norris needed a dog's help in saving the day is beyond me, but a dog has to get paid somehow.

Chuck Norris is the man. He doesn't need help. But when an old cop is killed, his K9 becomes the partner of a cop who doesn't play by the rules. Fact number 1: if you looked up "not playing by the rules" in the dictionary, you would find a picture of Chuck Norris. Fact number 2: if you looked up Chuck Norris in the dictionary, a roundhouse kick jumps off the page and hits you in the face.

There are people who say white power terrorists are too strong of a bad guy for this buddy cop comedy that sometimes seemed like a kid's movie. But to them I say, no bad guy is too strong for Chuck Norris. Add in the world's smartest crime fighting pooch, and this was a walk in the park for the good guys.

Grade: 4 roundhouse stars out of 5.