August 31, 2004



Why do I carry my camera everywhere? Because you never know when you'll be gnawing on a ribeye at Chili's one night and look out the window next to you to see this plate on the front of a urine-colored Mustang convertible:


You've gotta have some kind of heroic pride in your ass size to drive that thing around town, much less park it in front of a restaurant that serves nachos by the shovel.

Love the dolphins, by the way. I won't ever be able, from this time on, to think of Flipper without thinking about "junk in the trunk."

Posted by Jeff at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)



Alan over at the always impeccable and highly readable Hudsonian passes along the above photo taken during a rain delay at a recent Clearwater Thresher's game. (Click here for a larger version of that photo.)

Funny. They still had more people in the stands than the Devil Rays.

Which reminds me that you might not want to schedule any midnight picnics Saturday night in central Florida. Hurricane Frances might bring a little too much wind for your blanket.

You know what they say about August: It comes in like a lamb and goes out like two catastrophic Category 4 hurricanes.

Funny thing (or not, but definitely one of the two): we were supposed to go away for Labor Day weekend to a condo. In Orlando.

Say goodbye to the deposit on that sucker.

It won't be any better to be at home that day in Valrico, either. Since Category 2-force winds are expected to extend 70 miles out from the eye. Which, of course, puts it on my back porch.

Guess I'll be blogging the hurricane this weekend too...

Posted by Jeff at 07:30 AM | Comments (0)



Jesus H. Christ, for a moment there, I thought you were Condi Rice.


"Does this make me look fat?"

Beer and babies.
Ties and guitars.
Bloodlines and blood pressure.
Fishing and fans.
Baseball and Girlie Man
Cue cards and statues.

Posted by Jeff at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)


What's wrong with this picture?

It was shot at the gym in my neighborhood at 5:30 a.m.

Every treadmill was taken. Every step machine? Taken. Of the 10 bikes available, only one was open. I hopped on it like a madman who had just found a bag of money.

I know I condemn myself through association because I had to be there at that time to take this shot, but c'mon people. Give it a rest.

Posted by Jeff at 06:54 AM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2004


McSweeney's has a great list today: E-mail Addresses It Would Be Really Annoying to Give Out Over the Phone:

Other lists can be found here. My favorite is Whitney Houston Song Titles With "Love" Replaced by "Drug(s)."

Posted by Jeff at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)



Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet, won at Bristol Motorspeedway yesterday for the second year in a row. Pretty good, considering he was nearly burned to death about a month ago and has been in excrutiating pain ever since.

The funny thing is that although he's No. 3 in the NASCAR Nextel standings, writers are saying that he's been in a slump. Hell, he's even saying so.

Autmotive near-immolation has a way of distracting you from your task, I'm guessing.

Anyway, Earnhardt Jr. will be featured in the season premiere of the weeknight edition of 60 Minutes. He's the first NASCAR driver to be profiled on the legendary news magazine show in 18 years. (Seven-time NASCAR champ Richard Petty was featured in 1988.)

Yeah, he's in a slump alright.

An aside: I found some photos from last spring, when a Dale Earnhardt Jr. cruise took place. Click here to see some of the photos.

I can't imagine another sport where you could fill a cruise ship with fans - and the athlete would actually show up and meet with them.

Posted by Jeff at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)



It's always sad when celebrities die young.

EAST QUOGUE, New York (AP) - Laura Branigan, a Grammy-nominated pop singer best known for her 1982 platinum hit "Gloria," has died. She was 47.

Branigan died in her sleep at her home, her manager, John Bowers, said Saturday. He would not disclose the cause, although her official Web site listed it as a brain aneurysm.

"Gloria," a signature song from her debut album "Branigan," stayed atop the pop charts for 36 weeks and earned her a Grammy nomination for best pop vocalist female, the first of four nominations in her career. She also made television appearances, including guest spots on "CHIPs," and in films "Mugsy's Girls" and "Backstage."

Branigan released seven albums after her debut "Branigan," including "Solitaire,""Self Control," and "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," which was co-written with Michael Bolton. Her songs also appeared on soundtracks for the films "Flashdance" and "Ghostbusters."."

And it's always sad when celebrities die young and the only career highlights the AP can find include writing crap ballads and acting on bad TV shows.

Apparently she was a big supporter of Project Angel Food, which provides meals and nutritional counseling to men, women and children disabled by HIV/AIDS.

But they don't write about that. They associate her with a no-talent assclown like Michael Bolton and her five minutes with Officer Poncherello.

I'll be glad to be dead, so I don't have to read my obituary.

Posted by Jeff at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2004


Anyone know a good use for a blown out monitor?

Prolly not.

Anyway, that factor - and one hellacious professional week - has kept me from posting regularly. And for that I am truly filled with regret.

But now that the weekend is here and I have a hole in my pocket where $329 used to be (Thanks, Costco computer section!), Side Salad is back on the air.

Let the games begin. Again.

Posted by Jeff at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2004


Now, where were we before the hurricane interrupted...?

Ah yes. Visually showcasing the insane way we elect a president.

We now return you to our show, already in progress:


It was clear that Karl Rove made a serious mistake when he hired Bob Hope's old cue card boy.


John Kerry attempted to teach these children about freedom and equality. What they learned instead was that his head was bigger than the Statue of Liberty.

Beer and babies.
Ties and guitars.
Bloodlines and blood pressure.
Fishing and fans.
Baseball and Girlie Man

Posted by Jeff at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2004


It's been a while since the The Sombrero Project (and its subsequent parts (Dos, Tres and Quatro and Cinco), have had a significant update.
Well, we took that bad boy out for a trip to our favorite Tampa Mexican eatery, El Taconazo on Hillsborough Avenue.
Then we brought it back to the office and shot a buttload of pics, targeting staffers who had yet to wear the crown.
The results? Extraordinary.
First things first: chicken burritos all around. Gotta take care of bidness, after all.
It had been 6 weeks since we'd done the 'Nazo. Rommie was anxious. He attempted to calm himself in anticipation of the meal by casing the joint's fine dry goods and wares. Ultimately, he was unable to decide if he really needed a miniature boxing glove on a keychain colored red, green and white like the Mexican flag.
The meal finally came and 'Nazo neophytes Baird and Randy dug in to enjoy the delicious burrito treasure. They were not disappointed.
It was after the meal that it was time to initiate the new 'Nazo disciples with the Crowning Of The Sombrero.
Satisfied by the fine vittles, Randy appears in the above photo to be wistful for the warm sun and cold beer found on the beaches of Cozumel.
Some men are born to wear the 'brero.
Baird appears to be one of those men.
We attempted to spread the mirth by sharing it with other amigos in the dining room. This proved futile. Because when you're a guy, no matter how old you are, you're never to old to throw the bunny ears in back of your buddy's head.
We also shared the hat with a food server. The blue bandana proved to be a lovely accessory to the sombrero.
Back at work, finding willing targets was like shooting sombrero pics in an elevator.
With one pinch of the brim, Heidi experiences the true happiness that the sombrero provides, a mood elevator equalled only through the use of illegal pharmaceuticals.
Here, Sarah proves that the sombrero is a hat fit for The King.
When Mike wears a sombrero, he means business.
How can you tell?
By the sign over his shoulder, of course.

Posted by Jeff at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)



When you've had a hurricane roll within 40 miles of your town, the last thing you want to see is a sky like this.

Or this.

Or this.

Posted by Jeff at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2004


A couple days ago, I posted a note from my buddy Drew about his efforts to help with the cleanup of Hurricane Charley.

Day 2 of his work found him in Arcadia, back at the retirement mobile home village and also at a migrant farm worker neighborhood.

He writes:

My adopted grandparents at Desoto Village are trying to pull from the rubble.
A lot of their cars are still blocked in from all the damage...
Just because they are old, don’t think they can’t shoot!!!
It was another long day. Helped a lot of migrant workers today as well as my friends at Desoto Park...
Not sure the condition of the migrant homes before the storm was much better, but...
...the pig seems happy.

Posted by Jeff at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)


Know what you call a bear that guzzles 36 beers and then passes out at a campground?


You call him,"Senator."

Posted by Jeff at 11:08 PM | Comments (1)


I look over from my desk at work the other day to see Rommie sitting in front of his alleged computer, shaking with hysterical laughter.

I ask him, "What is it?"

It's an e-mail, he says. "I'll send it to you.''

And so he does. And at first, I don't see what's so funny, since this is the top:


Oh, I think. Something Olympics related.

Then I scroll down to see this:


A spammer has sent a penis pill solicitation, but he or she has also provided something useful - an updated medal count from Athens.

"Gotta love the soccer player's face,'' Rommie says.

And then I begin to laugh hysterically, too.

Posted by Jeff at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)



I'm torn. Really I am.

I've been invited to a gathering of Tampa Bay bloggers. It's at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18th at Splitsville bowling lanes in the Channelside district.

But it already has the faint whiff of flash mob.

The first indication: the time had to be changed because some of the bloggers are under age.


It's too bad, really. I've been reading some of the associated blogs for a while now and I really like their content. It'd be nice to meet them for once and have a drink.

But we'd have to order Grape Nehi.

Posted by Jeff at 10:42 PM | Comments (1)


Boy, the stuff you have to deal with at Costco.

We were all doing our Sunday bulk shopping (8 gallon jug of pork rinds???), when we turned the corner with the cart.

"Mom,'' Brian asks in a very loud voice. "Didn't you say that you need Tampax?"

Grace blushes. "Uh, no, I didn't."

Two or three beats later...

"Dad, what's Tampax?"

"Just personal stuff for women, Brian."

"But what does it do?"

"Personal stuff."

Grace walks away as fast as she can, blushing. Brian stays behind to read the box, trying to figure it out on his own.

She and I get about 20 steps away before realizing Brian's all alone, still examining the pallet of Tampons like he's studying for the Bar exam.

"That's a Kodak moment," I say to her.

"Go back and take a photo," she says.

So I do.

And the photo I shot is in the column at right.

Posted by Jeff at 05:40 PM | Comments (4)

August 20, 2004


My buddy Drew, who helped in the Hurricane Andrew cleanup, is spending today helping with the Hurricane Charley cleanup. He's taking two of his boys to Arcadia to help out. It's his third day he and a co-worker have taken off work so they can help. He sent this note Thursday with a couple photos:


Day 1 was a smoker. Pat and I take pride in our fitness level, but we were reduced to sniveling ladies after a day full of cutting, dragging, pulling and lifting. Despite our exhaustion, we left after day one knowing we are making a difference… small, but still a difference.

The two pictures (Photo No. 1, Photo No. 2) I sent are from Desoto Village, a retirement village outside of Arcadia. Seeing people who remind me of my grandparents and parents trying to carry 40 pound bags of ice over twisted metal and wood was too much to take. We did our best in clearing a pathway around what’s left of their homes.

Too many stories to tell… all sad, happy, bad and good news. We are working through the local American Legion who has set up their own Operations Center. Picture a State Run EOC and remove all the Red Tape, and that’s the American Legion. They are making things happen and we went to several homes of elderly people who were trapped in or out of their homes to cut our way in so they could start to get their lives back in order. All “Salt of the Earth” people.

American Legion handed me a Home Depot Card for $2,000 this evening and asked me to get what I think the people could use from our local Home Depot. The closest one to them was an hour away and too difficult for them to get to. They just handed it over to me and said, “Make it Happen.” I take pride in the fact that they trusted me that quickly, and I find myself humbled by their faith.

Pat and I head out again early tomorrow morning with a truck full of supplies. I am pulling Curtis and DJ from School on Friday to bring them down and give them a lesson in being a neighbor.

Any ideas you have on soliciting help from our local area, I am all ears.

Talk Soon,


Posted by Jeff at 07:21 AM | Comments (1)


Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, has written a post-mortem on Hurricane Charley for National Geographic.

Earlier in the week, Willie wrote an e-mail that scared the pants off me, saying that more Charley-like storms were likely this year:

The experts say the waters in the Caribbean and Gulf are warmer than usual and so that gives hurricanes plenty of fuel to get cranked up, and there's minimal wind shear aloft to tear them apart once they start developing. Also, Phil Klotzbach, a research meteorologist at Colorado State who works with the famous Dr. Gray, says storms already are forming east of the Leeward Islands, and when they start forming there this early in the year, it's usually an indication that things are going to be busy.

Steve Lyons at the Weather Channel told me that Charley could have revved up to a Category 5 if it hadn't run into Punta Gorda first. So, as bad as it was, it could've been a lot worse. I guess if it had stayed in the water for even the three hours or so it would've taken for it to get to Tampa Bay, it could've easily been pushing C5. Yikes. I had a hunch it was going to get really bad when I saw that the eye was only eight miles in diameter. The really, really bad ones often have tiny eyes. The Labor Day hurricane had an eye that was only 10 miles across, and Andrew's was only 12 miles wide, I think.

Posted by Jeff at 06:50 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2004



Went to the preseason game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Had a blast, but I wish I could say it was remarkable beyond the 20-6 score.

Still, there were many sights to be seen:


Hard to beat a fat guy in a dunk tank berating throwers for a little pre-game fun.


It's always a good idea to get to the stadium early. These folks are taking the escalator because, you know, that 2-degree incline on the ramp is hard on the knees when you're drunk.


A little pre-game music for the fans as they stream in through Gate B. One problem: The lead singer's jersey isn't on the team at the moment.


Might want to have that tooth looked at, pal.


Ahhhhh. Yes. It's football season again.


Let's have a big hand for Mike Alstott, everyone.


Alstott prepares for the first handoff of the game, as quarterback Brad Johnson lines up under center.


Getting ready for action at midfield.


Time to walk the stadium with Rev. Joe. First stop, the pirate ship.

We also joined the crazies who hang out on the party deck at the ship.


There was a beautiful sunset that night.


Souvenirs were selling less than briskly.

Big Nasty, meet The Big Reverend.


Just what you need on a hot, humid Florida evening: a $6 spicy Italian sausage. You can wash it down with a $3.50 bottle of water, by the way.

Bet you I know what they're talking about.


The Reverend adds to his flock of friends.


Coincidentally, it's been 28 seasons since he's kissed a girl.


Beer's to you guys.

For more photos, check out my 2004 season gallery.

Posted by Jeff at 07:27 AM | Comments (1)


I've found a new motto that pretty much explains my existence:

Posted by Jeff at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)


The Rev. Joe Kendall took a trip out west to visit some friends last week and to rape his lungs while cycling through the most extreme high-altitude air he could find.

Always a fan of the longball, Rev. Joe attended a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field. And always a fan of mascots, he documented these unique specimens at the game:


It's always a rare treat to see a summit between two mascots. Here, Joe captures a meeting of the minds between the inarticulately named Pirate Parrot from Pittsburgh and The Moose from Seattle.


Mr. Met from the New York Mets was on hand. Apparently it's so bad at Shea Stadium that he has to go to other ballparks for relief.


Although not technically a mascot, Randy "The Hairy 5th Inning Beverage Refiller" Kerswerski is still a fan favorite.

Easy on the Dew there, big fella. You'll be jittery all week.


How can you tell that this is the self-acclaimed "Mr. Earthman?" Why, that handy cellphone carrying case dangling from his chest, of course.

Isn't that the gopher from "Caddyshack" on his head?


Untangled by his commitment to solving world peace with Pirate Parrot, The Moose was later free to exhibit his breed's true talent in the wild: stomping small blond children to death.

Posted by Jeff at 07:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2004


Our long national nightmare is nearly over. After a delay of a couple days due to Hurricane Charley, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off their 2004-05 campaign tonight with their first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. (Hence the football banner at the top of the page.)

I predict much ugliness. The Bengals are a good team. The Bucs are a team still finding themselves.

But no matter. All is well again in Buc Land. Keyshawn is gone. Sapp is gone. Doug Williams is back. The Rich McKay saga has been resolved. Strife is at a minimum. Training camp holdouts like Keenan McCardell are being invited to take a seat until they decide to honor their contracts. My inflatable Buc man is strapped to the front of my house again.

And Gruden is back to being Gruden again.

We went to training camp a couple weeks ago. Stayed in (pre-Hurricane-Charley) Orlando and took in a couple days to see some scrimmages and get some autographs. Even went as far as to hang outside the team hotel in Celebration to meet some of the players. All total, we got about a dozen autographs. Not bad, considering the crowds.


Every one of the players, including second-year quarterback Chris Simms, was unfailingly polite.

It was a weird scene, this crush of fans. One woman reached out to wipe Simms' brow after practice with a t-shirt, like he was a Christ figure or something. Relax, babe, there will be no Shroud of Tampa.


He was also very nice to my Mom while signing this visor for her. Which makes me immediately a fan.


This is defensive end Dewayne White. He spent a lot of time signing for fans, even though most of them didn't know who he was. I was impressed that he didn't even take time to undress in the hot sun before signing.


My son was thrilled to get his autograph. Can't you tell?

Anyway, we're all ecstatic that football has returned. The Lightning Stanley Cup win was tremendous (even saw a Lightning shirt at Bucs training camp for the first time), but football is.. well, football. Hard to beat it in this town.

Unless you're a fan of Keyshawn or Sapp.


These jerseys just happened to be on sale Sunday when I went to buy my wife a Simeon Rice jersey at Sports Authority. That price is a markdown from about $65, by the way.


These shirts for the King of the Bunny Hop also were plentiful.

Posted by Jeff at 08:25 AM | Comments (1)


...your moment of Zen.

Posted by Jeff at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)



So while all hell was breaking loose on Friday, famous chef Julia Child went to the great food prep counter in the sky at age 91. She was a lovely old bird who made cooking accessible to the masses.

Her passing, of course, calls for a little 5-7-5:

Julia Child had
Her death sadly obscured by
Hurricane Charley

God took Julia Child for
Burning her meatloaf.

If Julia Child
Had been a dish, she'd be a
Delicious soufflet.

Is it me or did
Anyone notice her neck
Looked like turkey skin?

First Rick James, Fay Wray.
Then Julia goes bye-bye.
Tough week for celebs.

Fay Wray
Rick James
Posted by Jeff at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2004



"All the detail in the world for a Secret Service agent to get and I have to guard Abner Doubleday.''


"That 'girlie-man' shit was pretty funny, Arnold.''

Beer and babies.
Ties and guitars.
Bloodlines and blood pressure.
Fishing and fans.

Posted by Jeff at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)


Just unloaded my photos from Friday from my digital camera today. What can I say, I've been busy.


The first sign the storm was near was this gas station on Bloomingdale in Brandon. The shrink-wrapped pumps - so that the nozzles wouldn't fly around like hydra - was a tad chilling.

That criss-cross tape pattern on the window would have been helpful in finding the glass after it shattered, if not a real protection from debris.


I drove to work on Friday morning at about 9:30 a.m. and shot this photo westbound on the LeeRoy Selmon Crosstown Expressway. Now, I've seen downtown Tampa empty plenty of times, but never on a Friday morning that wasn't a holiday.

It was like a scene from "Omega Man" with Charlton Heston, where he's the only guy driving through town after a nuclear war. Only I wasn't wearing Ray Ban Aviators and a pumpkin turtleneck under a brown leisure suit.

But you get the general idea.


I got to work only to find that the Trib had been turned into Fortress Charley, with a patchwork of plywood the only thing between safety and an accountant's worst nightmare.

Note that only the business offices were boarded shut. We journalist types got plenty of wide views from our allegedly hurricane-resistant picture windows.


We may have been about to be blown to smithereens, but we weren't going down without our discount pallets of water, our Sour Cream and Chive Lay's Potato Chips and our loaves of Bunny brand bread.


Refrigeration of a buffet is never a concern where I work. Why?

Because cold cuts never last long in a newsroom. Hell, no foodstuff does.


I took this, thinking I was shooting a "before" shot, as in, "before Tampa was turned into Venice." Alas, there was not to be a deployment of any emergency gondolas. Woulda been cool, though.


I started shooting ridiculous stuff. I thought I noticed the water level on the Hillsborough River was rising. I was right. But not because of any storm surge.

It was just high tide.

I am such a dork.


There may have been shortages of gas and water and ice, but there was not shortage of crap floating down the Hillsborough River. I imagined this huge hunk of Styrofoam was something Tom Hanks would have clung to in "Castaway." I waited a few minutes to see if Wilson would float by.


I brought my travel case of cigars with me to work, thinking they would be a nice token to hand out after the storm had passed.

When the all-clear signal came and Charley did a little juke to the east, I declared victory and lit up my Cohiba shorty. A Churchill-length stogie just seemed inappropriate for some reason.

Posted by Jeff at 11:19 AM | Comments (1)


My buddy Drew sends me this photo, apparently taken in Punta Gorda:


And who says we didn't learn anything from Hurricane Andrew?

Posted by Jeff at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2004



See that radar? Bloomingdale is where I live. The rain right now is coming down in buckets.


The sad thing: It's the hardest it's rained all week. And a hurricane whipped past us yesterday.

It's now clear that everything that was predicted to happen to Tampa and St. Petersburg has now happened in Charlotte County. The destruction there is total. Places like Punta Gorda and Arcadia and further north in Lake Wales have taken their place in hurricane history along next to Florida City and Homestead and the Outer Banks.

The television footage from there is frightning. At least 90 percent of the mobile homes were damaged or obliterated. Even hurricane-code structures are damaged. The post office in Fort Myers had its roof peeled open. There isn't a tree or bush that was untouched. Everyone walks around thankful to still be walking around, but there is a glaze in their eyes that says they can't absorb the things that their eyes are showing them.

And yet here we sit in Tampa/Bloomingdale. We have more bottled water than God. Our pantries are full of food and storm supplies. We have enough batteries to open up an outlet store. Our homes are undamaged. Our children are dry and safe and warm, except when they're out playing in the rain, like my son is right now.

We did the same stuff that people further south did. And look what happened to them.


That graphic of my hits counter shows how much people who weren't in Florida were wanting to know about the storm. I get a nice amount of traffic for a site that goofs off a lot. But yesterday's traffic spiked seven-fold. Side Salad was among a handful of blogs that wrote during the hurricane. I didn't really even provide all that much information. But hundreds of people kept checking in at the site to see what the latest was.

People like a friend from Maryland who called this morning to check on us. That's one of the nice things that happened out of all of this - friends e-mailing to make sure we were okay, checking to see we were battening things down, sending well wishes that we would be safe. If there's a positive byproduct out of something so horrific, surely it's that. Every note I got touched my heart. We are blessed by the company of such wonderful friends.

But it's difficult to sit here and look at that devastation and do nothing. There will be a point when it will be time to help the people who were hurt the most. It's why people in the Carolinas and Georgia come to the aid of Floridians after the canes blow through - and why we do the same for them.

I'll always remember the convoys of electrical trucks and water trucks and food trucks that headed south on I-95 and I-75 after Hurricane Andrew. I remember the friends who filled pickup trucks with bottled water, drove three hours south to Dade County and handed them to the first people they saw. It was a hint of the things I would see on TV and read about after 9/11; people helping people.

I wish it would continue, but I know better. The days will normalize as the cleanup continues on, but nerves will fray. Opportunists will come in search of money, trying to capitalize on other people's misfortune. Contractors will prey on the weak and anxious, promising to fix roofs and walls and lives and then delivering nothing but debt and misery. I saw it happen after Hurricane Andrew. Unfortunately, that's the cycle of the storm.

And although it might not seem like it right now for those living there, much of life in Charlotte and Polk and Lee counties will return. But there will always be a scar from Charley. And there should be.

Andrew showed us that everything bad that could happen will happen. Charley showed that as much as you think technology can show you about a storm, it is still a storm and it will do whatever it wants and there isn't anything you can do about it.

And we should look at those scars and remember. Because there's plenty of time left in hurricane season. And we all still live in Florida.

Posted by Jeff at 01:03 PM | Comments (6)

August 13, 2004



Well, we're finally getting rain in downtown. Not wrath-of-God, build-the-Ark, kiss Spider-man upside-down kind of rain. Just a straight drizzle. No doubt, more is on the way. God knows it's the most significant event of the day so far.

The poor bastards in Sanibel, Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor, however, are getting bitchslapped as if this was Hurricane Rick James and Charlotte County was one of his backup singers. The bloodshot eye of the radar screen shows indications of bad stuff. I've spent a lot of time there in and around Englewood, Cabbage Key and Pine Island. There is no high ground. It doesn't exist. And, probably, a lot of what I knew of the area won't exist now.

It sounds histrionic to say so, but that's the reality of a storm like this. Lots of sound and fury, signfying all kinds of bad.

Posted by Jeff at 04:48 PM | Comments (1)


Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, sends along this pre-storm e-mail to my friend Alan and myself:

I assume, as newspaper guys facing the biggest story in years about to land in your front yard, you've got the modern equivalent of a blindfold and a cigarette and are waiting for the damn thing to do its worst and get it over with. According to what I've seen, it looks like you guys could get a pretty good whack, a good bit worse than what we got here in Plymouth from Isabel last summer.

Hurriicanes are the price we have to pay every so often for the privilege of breathing salty air and being able to get the rest of the world off our backs by watching pelicans and whitecaps whenever we want to.

They're saying this thing could be a Cat 3 when it reaches Tampa Bay. I hope everybody stays safe, please send me updates as long as you can, and we'll see you on the other side.


Posted by Jeff at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)



After you wake up to a horrific peal of wind chimes that are tossing in the wind because a hurricane is on its way, you don't really feel like sleeping. So I called it 3 hours and got dressed.

Which of course woke the dog. Which then woke the wife. Which then woke my mother. And so on.

During all this, I decided to make one last dash for gas in both cars and for some moolah at the ATM. Surprisingly, both were still in plentiful supply at 6 a.m.

Everyone was stone-faced when I pulled up to the Hess pump. I only heard a couple words exchanged between a couple drivers. Those words: Water and Generator.

There seemed to be plenty of gas at the station I went to. The only pumps with bags over the handles - the international petroleum sign for "We're Out Of Gas" - was on the premium pump, of all things.

Last night while driving home, there were lines at every station I passed that still had gas. And half of the ones I passed were closed already.

Charley hasn't turned everyone into raging assholes yet, but you can feel the tension. I went on my way home to take a stab at getting bags of ice and found several men hovering around the freezer at the downtown Tampa Publix. A stock boy was dragging a pallet of bags covered with Celophane and joked that, "You can have some if you help me unwrap it all."

Since you can never have enough goodwill, I pointed him to prop the door over and slung him about 20 bags, like wild west firefighters handing off pails of water. When we were done, I had 8 bags, his gratitude and his wishes for me to "stay safe."

I went around the house taking photos of each room of the house and of the exterior to document our belongings and the pre-storm state of our house in case of damage. There's something freaky about doing that, but there's no way around it. Everything I own is now stored online in a photo database. That's a startling thought.

My father has a 42-foot boat behind his first-floor condo in Treasure Island. He's trying to move it to a bigger slip that would allow him to lay a little more mooring line out. That way he won't have to babysit the boat and he can bolt over the bay to my house in Valrico. If he can't get situated before the winds rise, he's stuck with the prospect of watching his boat get smashed against the pilings and of seeing his condo fill with storm surge water. After winds reach 40 mph, they'll close the bridges and he won't be able to get to my house.

This is why the experts always urge you to have a hurricane plan. You shouldn't be buying gas on the day of landfall. You shouldn't be searching for cash or water or canned goods at 5 a.m. You shouldn't be figuring out where the boat should be.

As smart as you think you are and as prepared as you think things are, they never seem to be quite finished enough.

There is no wind at the moment. The humidity is hanging like a wet shirt outside. The trees aren't moving. Neither are the people, at this point.

What things will be like in 12 hours is anyone's guess.

Posted by Jeff at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)



The eye of the storm may be dancing around the western leg of Cuba, but his toes are starting to stray into my neck of the woods.

The first feeder band just passed through about 20 minutes ago, waking my wife and I up from a dead sleep. How?

A set of wind chimes I was going to bring in at sunrise started banging around like mad. The plant hanger I had them hanging from started whacking the house and vibrating back and forth like the stop sign in "Close Encounters."

We expected early signs of it. But not this early.

Posted by Jeff at 05:29 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2004



Well, if it's summer in Florida, it must be time for a double hurricane.

Tropical Storm Bonnie is on her way to dance over the panhandle of Florida, while we sit here in Tampa and wait for Charley to dance on our heads. The predicted track will take it almost directly over my house.

I'm not too worried; I've been through this plenty before. I couldn't be further from water if I tried, so storm surge isn't an issue. But still, you have to respect Big Momma and what she could do to your home.

One year when I lived in Stuart on Florida's east coast, we lost power for a week. Let me just say that you have no idea what it is like to hate Florida until you're stuck in a place where it's 100 percent humidity and 90 degrees at night and the 90 mph breeze you just had a few days ago no longer exists on even a whisper level. We were miserable.

Everyone is taking the storm seriously. I just got a note from my neighbor Drew about it. Drew and I joke about the time that another neighbor, Rich, asked Drew what he should do to prepare for a terrorist attack. Duct tape and celophane? What?

"Do you have food and water?" Drew asked.

"Oh yeah, yeah, tons of it,'' Rich said.


"Do you have a gun?" Drew asked.

"Why do you ask?" Rich said.

"Because I have a gun,'' Drew said.

An awkward silence ensued until Rich realized Drew's point.

So Drew e-mails me this note today:

Subject: Hurricane Party


Hope all is well and your preparation for the impending rain is going ok. Let me know if you need any help. I expect the a little wind and a lot of rain, but no major problems in the magnitude of "Hurricane Andrew". That said, I still plan for the worst!

Think the biggest problem we all might have will be an extended "Power Loss" and problems associated with that (Water, Heat, etc). Just to let you know, We have a generator capable of powering one Refrigerator and various other items as needed (TV, DVD, VCR, Lights, Microwave, etc). During darkness, this is always useful for the kids so they don't freak out...funny how a movie can prevent that!

You and your family are always welcome at our home if you feel the desire to weather out the storm in the neighborhood. Besides, always nice to have an additional person to pull security (Goes back to the "we don't stockpile food, but do stockpile guns" theory). Mike and Autumn don't have their kids this weekend and I will extend them a similar invitation. Worst case it that the Refrigerator will keep the beer cold and we will have a party.

Let me know if you need anything...


And my reply:


As long as Rich prepares and we have enough ammo to reload, you and I will be fine.

That's all to say that I'll be blogging the storm, as long as electricity allows.

You have been warned.

Posted by Jeff at 07:10 AM | Comments (4)



Must be a slow day in Gotham if Spiderman is reviewing a box of 96 Crayola crayons. Still, it's pretty funny. And frightening someone would have this much time on their hands.

My favorite was Spidey's review of the white crayon.

AUGH! Get it away -- get it away! I hate the "White!" White crayons are positively useless! They're only good with black construction paper! Who colors on black construction paper more than once every fifteen years out of sheer pity for the fully unused pile of it collecting inches in the back of a closet? As far as I'm concerned, Crayola's only produced 95 colors. White doesn't count!

Posted by Jeff at 06:31 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2004



"Jenna, what's that whistling sound?"
"Dad's ears, Barb."


"Thanks a lot, asshat. Now sit down."

Beer and babies.
Ties and guitars.
Bloodlines and blood pressure.

Posted by Jeff at 07:38 AM | Comments (1)



This product is all kinds of wrong-wr-wr-wr-wrong.

Posted by Jeff at 07:19 AM | Comments (0)



At a former place of employment, I used to keep photos of celebrities who died that year on the outside wall of my cubicle. I called it my Gallery of Mortality. One week in 1998, Linda McCartney, Pol Pot and Wendy O. Williams died within about 10 days of each other. Frank Sinatra, John Derek and Phil Hartman died within two weeks of each other, too. It was morbid as hell, but I was fascinated by the confluence of such odd rivers of fame.

I guess that's why I was so enthused about being part of the Reaper's Delight celebrity dead pool at work. Death of famous people sort of reduces them to our level. You may be rich. You may be a celebrity. But the same thing that happens to us happens to you, pal. And just your luck, you'll die the same week as Carrot Top.

So when Rick James and Fay Wray die in the same week, it inspires some kooky thoughts, not to mention a little bit of celebrity death haiku:

Rick James and Fay Wray.
Two celebs who died this week;
Super-freakay, yow!

Fay Wray, screaming queen.
Had a monkey on her back
In a major way.

Empire State Building
Should honor King Kong's mistress
By throwing her off.

Posted by Jeff at 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2004



Hey John, why the long face?


"Mr. President, your blood pressure is 140 over Cheney, uh, I mean 80."

Beer and babies.
Ties and guitars.

Posted by Jeff at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)



Some things you don't appreciate until they're gone. Rick James is sort of like that. Rick always seemed like the kind of guy you'd want to spend about an hour with in Vegas - but only an hour. Any more than that would be deadly. He was the crazy uncle you prayed would show up at the family reunion and then, when he did show, you'd pray for him to leave. Now that he's pouring pink champagne in heaven, the world feels like a lesser place.

I took the above picture at a bar in College Park, Md., about two months ago. I have no idea who the two are, but it's clear the guy is macking on the girl and using the shirt as a sexual crowbar for the evening. I don't know whether he succeeded, (her body language would indicate otherwise), but maybe it doesn't matter. That a guy who looks like Chris Moltisanti could aim his less than considerable charms at a girl who looks like Ashleigh Banfield and think he has a chance - because, hey, he has the Super Freak is on his shirt - well, I think that says volumes about where we are as a society. Both good and bad, of course.

All of this to say that Rick's passing on Friday inspired some friends and I to pen some super-freaky haiku. This is the best I could come up with.

Temptations sing!

At the pearly gates,
St. Peter tells Rick James he's
"Super freak-ay, yow."

In heaven, Rick James learns
Angelic bitches like to
Party all the time.

In Rick James' heaven
There's incense, wine and candles.
Such a freaky scene!

You can read more Rick James haiku over at the neutered and improved Daily Dave.

Posted by Jeff at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)



Oh. My. God.
Cigarette anyone?

Posted by Jeff at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2004



George couldn't figure out why people were laughing at his tie and calling him President Dilbert.


And now, a little "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."

Beer and babies.

Posted by Jeff at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)



Gregg draws and paints portraits of female celebrities and then tries to give them his work. Katherine, a graphic artist at my work, passed along his Web page.

Gregg is kinda scary.

The portraits are okay, I guess. It's the notations that creeped me out.

"Tori Amos - Met her, she was very polite. She didn't like the painting I gave her."

"Shawn Colvin - Handed her two painting in person. She was lukewarm about them."

"Sheryl Crow - Ignored one painting, apparently rejected another."

For a real set of the creeps, read his account of Fiona Apple's reaction.

Let me once again say how proud I am to be a man.

Posted by Jeff at 08:32 AM | Comments (2)



I know it's early, but if you're wondering what to get me for Christmas, you can start here.

Posted by Jeff at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)



My Uncle Pete, (yes, the one who was in the paper posing with a potato he grew that was shaped like a moose), sent another e-mail from his summer homestead in Alaska. This time, it's a batch of photos that show everything from the relatively dormant volcanos he can see from his home to the 10-inch clams he's caught this year. He knows how much I miss living there, so these are like snapshots from home for me.

I've said it a million times: if you can't take a beautiful photo in Alaska, you really don't deserve to hold a camera. And Uncle Pete has snapped some beauties.

The one above is of Mount Redoubt, the volcano that spewed on Ash Wednesday in the early 1990s.

"As you know,'' he writes, "this is the time for hundreds and hundreds of miles of Alaska highways painted with beautiful Fireweed."

His other photos include:

Mount Illiamna in all its glory.

The Russian church in Ninilchik with Mount Illiamna in the background.

Razor clams found at low tide in - where else? - Clam Gulch along Cook Inlet.

Another view of the Russian church, Cook Inlet and Mount Illiamna.

Mount Redoubt looking down the street in front of his house, Aug 5th, 10:55 p.m.

For photos of the tiny fishing village of Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, click below:









Homer 013.jpg









Posted by Jeff at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2004


To paraphrase Bono of U2, there's been a lot of talk about this year's presidential election. Perhaps too much talk.

In keeping with Side Salad's tradition of disturbing photo calendars - and with only 90 or so days left until election day, we hereby present the start of another daily montage. This time, we'll be illustrating the absolutely idiotic way we elect a president, from a photographic viewpoint.

In the interest of balance and fairness, we'll show one photo that takes a shot at each campaign. And we'll alternate which campaign is shown first and which is shown last.

With that caveat, here is the first edition of Ridiculous Campaign Photos of The Day:


Unfortunately for John Kerry, nobody likes a glass of beer with a big head.


Despite this photo's evidence to the contrary, the Bush campaign denied that the President attempted to snort the baby.

Posted by Jeff at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)


How would Van Gogh have painted Austin Powers?


For Photoshopped versions of how classic painters would have depicted modern celebs, click here.

Posted by Jeff at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)



Had a great week off, but it's time to get back to work. (Okay, I know it's a grueling two-day week.)

More posts to come...

Posted by Jeff at 09:10 PM | Comments (2)