Sunday, October 21, 2012

      Just Me, the Naked People, and the Band

     He was waiting for me at the front gate wearing only sneakers, a major tan, and a smile.
     He was expecting me. I had called a day earlier asking to visit. It's amazing - and fairly awful - what a columnist will do when deadline looms and ideas tarry.
     In desperation I had called the head naked person at a nearby nudist colony. He graciously invited me to drop by, clothing optional. I parked my car and walked with him down a path through a wooded area to a central recreation pavilion. People played volleyball (what is it with nudists and volleyball anyway?) Or they strolled around, or just sat and chatted and listened to the music.
     I had expected full nudal frontity, as Archie Bunker called it. But I had not expected a Mariachi Band.
     They wore traditional Mexican strolling band uniforms with big round hats. They played and sang traditional Mexican strolling band songs, trying not to stare and constantly upping the noise level as they attempted to appear nonchalant, as though they could cover their audience with a cacophony of Aie, yie, yie, yies.
     I wondered if they were expecting tips, since I couldn't see any change on anybody or even any pockets to keep it in.
     I wore shorts, sneakers and a sleeveless blouse. It was the best I could do to fit in with the crowd. I carried my usual big purse and clutched it over the front of me as if to cover the parts expected to be unclothed in this neck of the woods.
     It was my first visit to a nudist hangout (OK that was tacky) but I had seen photos. It would seem that the people anxious to bare all would have beautiful bodies to show off. Nonononono...... Many of them were average and some were really big tan blobs of fat.
     Why? I wanted to ask. Why would you let people see that unless they were medical personnel brandishing bottles of calamine lotion and you had recently stumbled into a bed of poison oak?
     They always swear they aren't exhibitionists and it's really all about the personal freedom that nakedness allows.  Nudity is the great leveler, they explained. You don't have to worry that someone will think your suit is not Adolfo if you aren't wearing one. I couldn't quite believe them. With no disguise, that old "mine's bigger" thing comes sharply into play.
     I do know that the head naked person was a fine specimen of a male, though of course I didn't look.
     There was nothing naughty going on. It was like any social occasion out in the woods with a Mariachi Band, a reporter and thirty or forty naked people. Just a typical Saturday afternoon.
     At last the Mariarchis trooped up the path to the front gate and I followed close behind. It wasn't that I didn't want to be the only one wearing knickers in the place, but I had a deadline as you recall.
     I had not informed my editors of my plan and they were surprised and a little wary of the ensuing column. They accused me of lying about my clothing optional choice. They questioned the  placement of such a column in a family-oriented newspaper. Just ask the head naked person about my attire, I shot back. And I had adhered to the core of good journalism, after all.
     I just wrote the naked truth, and the band played on.

Sunday, October 14, 2012



      I saw Mike Trimble Wednesday and learned a new story about his colorful past as a newspaper and magazine reporter. It involved a motorcycle on the third floor of a newspaper building. It was so wonderful I knew I had to share it.
     Now if you don't know Trimble, you have missed out. He's a lifelong journalist who spent his last several years as the opinion page writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle. He won many editorial awards, including a national prize that netted him a trip to Washington DC to be honored for his opinion writing.
     That ended a few months ago when he was fired for having the audacity to disagree with the publisher on facts he was editorializing on. Bad Trimble. He was shown the door, denied unemployment and is now volunteering for CASA.
     But I digress.
     The topic was being fired. My daughter just went through that and Trimble was telling her he was one of the few people who could say "I know how you feel," and be correct. But he said he knew there were times in his career when he should have been fired and wasn't.
     Most of them, in his early years, involved alcohol, he said. Back then, reporters actually kept flasks in their desk drawers and it was not uncommon to have drinks with dinner and then go back to the office and pound out another story. Those days are over. You can get fired for that.
     Trimble had a new motorcycle, he remembered. He was quite proud of it and decided to show it to the newsdesk. Yes, they were on the third floor, but there was an elevator. So Trimble and the motorcycle went up in the elevator. Then he revved it loudly and rode it down through the newsroom. The desk editors broke into applause. He took his bows and rode triumphantly down the elevator with his bike.
     The next morning he awoke with a hangover and saw the feat in a new light. the light of what the managing editor might say or do if he found out. Maybe nobody would tell him, Trimble thought.
     But as soon as he hit the newsroom, sans motorcycle this time, he found the note on his desk. "See me," it read, and was signed by the editor. Trimble knew he was in deep caca.
     He rushed to the editor's office. "I know I did wrong riding my motorcycle through the office," he began. "I was wrong, wrong, but I promise that if you won't fire me, I'll never do it again."
     The editor looked up at him and thought a moment.
     "Well, I hadn't heard that," he said. "I wanted you in here because it is time for your evaluation for a raise. Of course, knowing what I now know, I can't give you a raise. But I appreciate your honesty. See me in three months and we'll talk about it again."
     Trimble wasn't sure whether to be upset that he ran his mouth or grateful that he didn't get fired for running his motorcycle through the newsroom. Which ever he decided, it makes a wonderful cautionary tale all these years later.
      Good journalists are different. They're quirky. They don't just think out of the box, they live out there, exposed to the elements and the dangers of pissing off the wrong people. It's not a safe life, or one that offers even decent pay. But there are a few of us who have done it anyway, and not to brag, but we have made the world a better place, and we have stories like this with which to amuse our friends.

Friday, October 5, 2012

                                          Aloyishous the Vicious  Fishious

Now it can be told, Reedy said.
"Now that you're retiring, I have a confession to make," he announced, loving the fact that he was suddenly the center of attention at my little newsroom goodbye party. "I killed your fish. Well, no, I actually saved its life."
Immediately a vision of Reedy giving a beta fish mouth-to-mouth CPR swam through my mind. It was a fun vision - Reedy kissing a fish. I smiled.
Tom Reedy is a friend of mine, but he's one of those friends you wonder about. He's like a bad child. He will do anything for attention, even dance a little sidestep walking down a hallway to the accompaniment of his own questionable whistling. People hate that, but I can't convince him of it.
He once worked with me at the DRC but now he's the public information officer at the Denton County Sheriff's Office.
"You remember that fish," he said. "You named it something stupid. You always name and assign personalities to things. And you used to talk to it all day."
It's true. I name everything. My car is named Moira. My daughter Christi and I named the possum that visits our back yard Punxsutawney Phil.
"Yes, his name was Aloyishous the Vicious Fishious," I said. "Aly for short. He was a great fish. He used to hang around and watch me all day. We had some great conversations."
Reedy was working on a Saturday along with city editor Matt Zabel. Reedy decided my fish's water was dirty and he elected to change it.
"I carried the vase into the break room. I was going to just tip it and let the water stream out and then fill it back without actually moving the fish," he explained.
I thought I knew where this was heading. The drain trap in the sink in the break room is missing.
"So I tipped it a little, and next thing I knew the fish went over the side and down the drain," he said. "I ran back into the newsroom and yelled at Zabel not to let anyone run water down that sink. And then I drove home and got some tools."
Reedy was back in a flash with everything he'd need from a pipe wrench to a plumber's grin. He unhooked the elbow pipe from under the sink and there was Aloyishous, swimming calmly in the bottom of the elbow.
"He was a little worse for wear," Reedy said. "His fins were a little ruffled. But other than that, he was fine. I saved him! I put him back in the vase and you never knew."
Actually, I did know, I told him, watching his face fall as expectant giggles rounded the room.
"Aloyishous told me on Monday," I jibbed. "And by the way, he said you're a lousy kisser."