Thanks, but I’ve moved on

Me with my friend Michelle, celebrating the Grapevine, about 10 years ago.

This week, a year ago, I ended the Coconut Grove Grapevine, which was the daily news of our little village. The last post was exactly a year ago today.

I published it for 15 years and in that time covered everything that went on in town. I covered events, village council meetings, I fought with politicians, I did it all. After 15 long years, I ended it. I gave fair warning – a few months in advance. It was time.

But people are still mourning it. It’s almost like a tv show that ended, where people want more. You know – like Friends – people keep asking, “When is the reunion?”

I bring this all up because it’s hard to believe that people still want to send me stories to publish or want me to get involved in causes. Close friends. Just this week alone, four people asked me to publish things! I’m shocked. I quit my job guys, I retired from it, and you still want me to go back to the daily grind.

One friend called and wanted me to get involved with something at City Hall, I can’t remember what, but I was shocked that he asked. The other day I got a call out of the blue from my lawyer – a friend – who is concerned with tree issues in the village – he was reading old stories in the Grapevine and wanted me to get involved in saving the trees again, by covering the destruction around the town, caused by real estate developers, who would rather pay the fines than follow the law. You know, do it, then ask for forgiveness later.

Speaking of trees, one of my best friends called the other night – he too was concerned about a single tree in front of his former house, and he wanted me to do a story on it, to try and stop it from being taken down!

I was at a community event this weekend, sort of a mini arts festival. One of the organizers, a good friend of mine, asked me if she should send me photos that she took, you know, to help promote the event! I would post them on the social media pages, which I sometimes still dabble in, just to keep them alive.

I told her no, that I didn’t want to go there and start that again, besides, I deleted all the emails associated with the Grapevine and I certainly didn’t want her to text me the pics and I don’t want to be pressured or obligated, like I was for 15 long years.

I am proud that people still miss the publication. But it’s all about Tomversation now! Read this blog instead!! You can subscribe here: Click here. 

Today is ‘Tom Falco Day’

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Last year – February 14, 2020, was declared “Tom Falco Day” in the City of Miami. It’s hard to believe it has only been a year. While this past year seemed to fly by, in some instances it felt like 10 years in one! It is hard to believe this was only 12 months ago.

Last Feb. 14, I received a proclamation that says this date is mine! It may be Valentine’s Day to you, but to me it’s this. It may be just that one day last year, but I am claiming it in perpetuity so every February 14 is Tom Falco Day! That’s me at left with one of our City Commissioners, Ken Russell.

For 15 years I published the news and was an activist in our little village and I decided to end the publication that month. And it was so great of Ken and the local government, including the BID, to do this for me. So many of my friends and townspeople came out, such memories. It was bittersweet. It was so nice to see so many faces.

It was sort of a surprise, so I didn’t invite family or anyone. I was just told to show up Friday afternoon at 4 pm. I knew something was up, but not what, I knew enough to throw a jacket in the back of my car, just in case.

Not publishing the news every day is a lot off my shoulders, it was a big responsibility. Ending that responsibility felt like it was the last day of school. Forever! I remember that feeling.

I’m still around, I see the same people every day, but I’m part of the community now, I blend in, I’m not in everyone’s business. I like it this way.

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day Tom Falco Day!

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It’s all about communication

When I look at today’s comic, it reminds me of a few years back, maybe 15 years ago. I have an online business that can be operated anywhere. But 15 years ago, even though it is the same business, which can be operated anywhere, I still felt tied to the office/home.

I had a neighbor, an attorney, who spent her time between New Hampshire and Miami and she told me, “It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you pick up the phone!”

And I always remembered that and it made my life so much easier. She said, “You can be lying on the beach, and I don’t think the client cares, as long as you answer the phone!”

Ironically, I’ve never been a phone person and I avoid answering the phone, I prefer email, which has suited my business very well. But I do answer the emails quickly, especially since I have my phone on me 24/7, but even back then, before iphones, I answered emails quickly.

It’s all about communication. Even from the beach.

The NY Daily News is homeless

kamelotThe New York Daily News is homeless. They no longer have physical offices!

This seems to be the case in NYC with many businesses. Since the pandemic struck and people have been working remotely, offices have been empty and in many places, they may never return. In the tech world, Twitter, Google and so many other companies have allowed workers to work from home indefinitely.

By the way, this is today’s front page. Is this a new hashtag – #kamelot? Love it!

The NY Daily News has its original building on 42nd and 3rd. I visited it recently. Only they are no longer in their flagship building (the one used as The Daily Planet in Superman), they moved downtown – way downtown to 4 New York Plaza, which is right next to the Staten Island Ferry building. That’s where I met with editors to talk about my comics. And they didn’t own the whole building, they just rented space on one or two floors. How the mighty have fallen.

I guess in reality, the reporters are out and about all day and probably filing their stories electronically, but to think there is no physical place is sad. Even in old westerns you see the old newspaper office, where you can walk right up to the place and walk in.

The new normal. A sign of the times. And when I think of all those old wonderful New York newspaper buildings – The World, The Sun, The Herald. A thing of the past.

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The New York Herald

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Park Row from left: The World, The Sun (the small building), the Tribune and The Times

I love when people persevere

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My friend Josh

My friend Josh, a tv producer, is now the Key Lime Pie King around here. So from behind the camera to in front of it – he was featured on GMA yesterday. I remember one day he told me he wanted to get a cart to sell his pies around town. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but a week later he sent me a picture of his pink and green monster – he already had the cart and was selling pies from it around town.

Josh is a tv producer (you probably know so many of his shows) – who loves making and selling the best key lime pies! The grass is always greener, how many would rather be a tv producer (and cameraman), he filmed this whole thing himself since GMA was unable to send a crew out!

What I love about this story is the success of it. So many people are out of work due to the pandemic and this is the time to realize our dreams. It’s a time of change. And rather than sit around and mope, Josh started doing something he loves – baking!

Whenever I see one of these success stories on tv, I literally get up and touch the person on the tv. Seriously! If it’s a mom who started a million dollar business from her kitchen table, or a guy who saved the family farm or whatever, I am very interested in that. I thrive on that. I touch them so I can get a piece of them – a piece of their energy. I do that for people who also have come back from a bad illness or accident, too. And to know someone like Josh, who I would touch through the tv, is even better – especially since I can touch him in person!

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Josh (right) and me selling pies last Sunday.

Newspapers – a cultural reckoning

spideyThe Daily Cartoonist talks about the demise of local newspapers and asks Who’s Killing Your Local Newspaper? They say, “In the face of layoffs, the coronavirus, and private equity firms like Alden Capital trying to strip it for parts, the news industry is on the verge of collapse.”

Oddly enough, today’s comic is newspaper related as you can see.

Recently I signed a petition to save the Miami Herald from equity firms taking over the newspaper. That is who is owning the newspapers these days – they are also buying up my little village – everything that was once mom and pop, including the newspapers are now owned by corporations or retirement funds.

For the past few years I wondered why newspapers don’t turn themselves into a commodity, something people want – and what I mean is when a newspaper has a story or feature, say destined for Sunday’s paper – a big feature – they post it online on Tuesday. Why? What would be the point of me buying the Sunday paper then? I will read a story online Tuesday that later appears in the Thursday or Friday print edition. It’s old news by then. The stories are written and posted at that moment rather than wait for it to be printed. That’s great if the newspapers weren’t trying to save their print editions.

I can’t tell you how many times my father says to me, “Did you see such and such in the paper today?” And I’ll say, “Yes, but I read it three days ago online.”  If the newspapers published the stories and features in the printed paper first, and then after that, posted them online, it might work out better than the way they do it now. I’m not talking about news, I know they want to publish news as soon as possible, but features and stories – print them first, then place them online.

To be honest, I only get daily delivery of our local paper so I can support them. Most days I don’t even open it. I’ve read it all before it even arrives on my doorstep.

There was a time when I read so many newspapers in a day and now I read even more because I read papers from out of state and there lies the rub (I love saying that) – circulation is up due to online publication, but newspapers need to find a way to make money online – and not through a pay wall. There has to be a way for them to make money through ads. People can read newspapers from all over the world, so the audience is there.

When I published the daily news online here in town, I sold ads – I made money – it was not my main goal and I saw it more as a community service so I didn’t push for ads – but if I wanted to, I probably could have supported myself. Why can’t the daily newspapers do that? I see ads every five seconds on social media – why not the online newspapers?

Kids making and selling comics

comicsNext time I am in Brooklyn, I’d like to check out this comic book store called “Loot.” I saw a segment about it on the Today Show recently.

It’s not just a comic book store, but it’s a place where kids can sit around and create their own comics and the store will sell them! The kids keep 90% of the proceeds from the sale which is “loot” for them in the shop. It looks as if the place opened last summer.

There are over 3000 comics, mostly personal comics of owner Joe Einhorn, that can be bought or borrowed, like a library.

There are tables where kids can sit around and create. There are workshops, too where kids can learn the craft and where they are teamed up to create comic books.

The store has white walls and looks a lot like a gallery.

I would love to go and buy some of the kids’ work, I think it’s such a great way to encourage them to continue with their art. I’ll take you along when I get there.

The Travel Examiner

My sister-in-law mentioned something from years ago – a travel newspaper I used to publish called The Travel Examiner. I did it for two years. I can’t believe that she remembered it and remembered the name, it was so long ago.

I was thinking of my old boss Ron Miller just last week. He got me started in the newspaper and comics business. He was an insistent man. I remember I got a call early one summer morning, I think I was off from college, he wanted to meet me, he asked me to come into the newspaper that day. I had sent him my comics and was all excited that I would get my comics published in his newspaper – actually newspapers – he owned a slew of them.

I went in and it turned out he wanted me to design ads in the production department. He sat me down and gave me a small ad to create, it was probably the size of a business card. I had never done this before and it took me quite awhile. He said to me, “It’s costing me more to pay you than the ad is worth!” And I told him I wasn’t there for that!  But I ended up getting the job and that put me on my start.

headlinesI remember years ago he told us about the newspaper pages come out as one piece, something called pagination. We stood there in wonderment at what he was saying. Back then we used razor blades and big large Compugraphic and Varityper typesetting machines. There was even just one machine that made headlines. That’s the machine that did headlines in the photo. We did everything separately and pasted it all together, using a waxer, or waxing machine. Where the photos went is where we placed red boxes and the camera-man and stripper would strip in the photos separately. So we could not imagine a page coming out as one whole piece when he explained that to us.

I published many comics in the newspapers, I learned the printing and newspaper business from Ron and it gave me a good life all these years as I started my own business and printed many publications and other things for people over the years, including school newspapers and such.

I was thinking about The Travel Examiner and remembering that after two years I had to shut it down because Ron and others at the newspaper plant gave me a hard time. I felt it was jealousy at the time – you know, that they didn’t want competition, but now I am remembering what happened – for two years – once a month, they printed the paper for me, which was actually a sort of travel magazine on newsprint –  and I never once paid for that! I had like 20,000 or 25,000 issues a month printed for free. He never billed me, and me being a stupid kid, never expected to be billed. I guess I thought it was a perk of the job, you know, working at the newspaper plant. But I don’t think he ever explained what happened and he just stopped printing. I ended up sending the stuff to the Naples Star on the west coast of Florida for a bit, but that got old and I ended the newspaper.

I remember one time Ron called me over to his house.  I went over and he took me out back. He was so proud, out in his backyard, surrounding the pool, sitting against the hedges was THE MIAMI NEWS – the actual blue 10 foot high letters! It must have been 1990 because if I remember right, The Miami News stopped publishing at the end of 1989. So there they were – the actual letters from the building! He loved newspapers that much, and so did I.

Ron is gone now, but I still know his kids who are my age, they still run the newspapers today.

I have all the issues of The Travel Examiner somewhere, I think in my spare room and also I think there are issues at my parents’ house.

Sheltering-in-place is creating new businesses

hotdogsIn this covid time, so many people are changing their lives. I have two friends who are sort of in the food business. I don’t know how far it will go, but there are many people who started food businesses in their kitchens.

One friend is selling hot dogs from a stand in front of his house, you know, like the ones you see in NYC. I stopped by and the whole neighborhood was out. He is doing an incredible business, especially at his prices. I only wanted a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut but I ended up with everything, two hot dogs for $16.00! I gave him a $20 and told him to keep the tip.

Another good friend of mine is selling pies and coffee! The coffee is ground in bags from some South American country, but the pies he is making in his kitchen from scratch. I took a couple of photos of him making the pies, but he is shy, which is the total opposite of his regular job – he is a cameraman and a producer of reality tv! I won’t mention the shows, but if I did, you would know them. So he prefers to be behind the camera, rather than out front.

He is selling the pies to restaurants and to people on the street. Those he sells in front of his house, like my hot dog friend. He has an idea now to go around on a bike and sell slices of pie! There is another guy in town that for years has sold hot dogs and hamburgers from his bike – so this is the idea with the pie.

Another friend started a bagel business, but they are gourmet bagels that sell from $9 to $15 each! And he sells coffee and other things. He sells 900 to 1000 bagels a day and sells out daily! Do the math! He has a regular storefront, presently he sells through a window since restaurants can only do take-out.

These are all village people by the way, they are from my village where I live. And they are my friends. There’s something in the water here I think.

Merch

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I’ve been playing around and adding and enhancing things.

Circulation is going up for my Tomversation comic; I have almost 3000 followers/fans on Facebook in just a week or so – maybe more as you read this and almost 1000 at both Instagram and TomFalco.com. I’m confidant that both will be at 1000 or over by Friday. If there is no reader overlap, which I guess there is some, that is 5000 subscribers in a little over a week! If it keeps up, that is 20,000 per month – if it keeps up. I love she shares on Facebook, I think that is what puts it over the edge, friends sharing with friends. Instagram needs to add that feature, you know, an easy share button. Universe – please add a share button to Instagram posts. Thank you.

I added a page to my Etsy site that sells things – I call it “Merch” on the ads and links I have on this blog and Instagram. I’ll add and subtract things like t-shirts, mugs, etc. There are just a few things now but I’ll design more art and items and add them.

The link is here.

And Instagram has this cool thing called “Highlights.” They are little circles above the posts where you can have things like previous stories which link to ads and other things. I added them to Tomversation.toons and my personal site Tomversation.

I found out one cool thing while setting this up – did you know that if you go into “archive” on Instagram, all the “stories” you previously posted are there? Stories are the short 10 second videos that last 24 hours. I was saving the ones I liked along with my iphone photos, but you don’t have to, they are right there on Instagram! If you click the little hamburger thing in the right corner it will open and you’ll see “archive” right there as the second item down.

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