Keep your mouth shut!

I laughed when I saw this on Facebook. It reminded me of something that happened to me a few years back, maybe 10 years ago.

I was at a meeting, covering the news for our village like I did. And at the beginning of the meeting, this guy, Joel, stands up from the dais and yells out to me in the back row, “Tom, you can stay if you keep your mouth shut and don’t say anything!”

I was dumbfounded because I never spoke at meetings, even at important City Hall meetings, I would just take notes for the news story I was writing. I didn’t speak because I didn’t want to be part of the story. I quoted everyone else, I didn’t want to quote myself.

I said, “Joel, when have I ever said one word at any meetings?” He just sat down and proceeded with the meeting. Our village was like the Gilmore Girls, you know, everyone showed up for meetings, the whole town would be there in one scene.

I don’t hold grudges, even though that was a stupid and rude thing to do and we are still friendly to this day, but I hadn’t thought of that in years until I saw this quote on Facebook.

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Unheralded

So I unsubscribed to the paper again – the Miami Herald. I did it for a couple of reasons – they keep raising the price and I don’t like the delivery person.

I’ve supported newspapers my whole life, I often wished I lived in the days when newspapers ruled the media, but then I’d probably be old or dead by now, so maybe not.

I went to pick up a copy the other day at a store and the daily newspaper was $3.00 plus tax. $3.00 for the daily paper, what’s the Sunday paper cost?

The newspapers are struggling to survive. What if they gave each issue away for free, like most weekly papers do, and they can maybe raise the ad rates to compensate for the extra readers that would bring them?

I remember when I was a newspaper delivery boy so many moons ago – the daily newspaper was 5 cents and the Sunday, I don’t remember, but probably 35 cents. I remember one time the price went up a nickel a week for subscribers and one guy complained that he didn’t know and was upset about the extra nickel.

Anyway, I don’t really read the daily paper these days. I only subscribed to support them and I think the only thing I read was the tv listings. The Sunday paper used to take half a day to read, now it takes 10 minutes.

I read the comics and news online and therein lies the rub with the news and featured stories – they are all put online way before the paper is printed. And I don’t go to their website to read these stories – they are all over social media, they just come up in my feeds. I think it should be the other way around. I think they should print the stories first and then put them online, so if people want fresh news, they have to get the daily newspaper, rather than the other way around.

So many times my father would say to me, “Did you see such and such article in the paper today?” And I would say, “I read that a few days ago online.”

So basically, people are buying the daily newspaper to read days old news.

Now, this boy had it hard.

As for the delivery girl, she is obnoxious and incompetent. When I complained one time she sent me a long letter saying I was lucky she was delivering the paper at all and I should be thankful. Then she went on to complain about how hard her job is.

I remember being 12 years old and delivering the papers in all sorts of weather, by foot or on my bike and dragging them on a sled when it snowed. This 35 year old woman delivering my paper by car has it hard I guess. So I was glad to unsubscribe to lighten her load a bit – one less paper to lug in her back seat.

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News from around the country

There are places I want to be. I don’t mean to visit, I mean to live. So I watch their tv news. My Roku tv allows me to do this – live, as it’s happening.

For years I followed the newspapers and tv news channels of places all over the US on Facebook. And now I watch the tv news. I watch Albuquerque, New Mexico; Connecticut and Charlotte, North Carolina. I don’t even know how to spell Albuquerque or Connecticut, I had to use the spellcheck, but I love these areas.

I started loving Albuquerque, thanks to Breaking Bad. I thought I wanted to be in Phoenix, AZ all these years, but I realized I like the climate in New Mexico better. It’s actually cooler. When it’s 108 degrees in Arizona, it’s 89 in New Mexico, when the low is 70 in Arizona, it’s 40 in New Mexico. I guess it has to do with the elevation.

When I was a kid, I used to imagine that I lived in a trailer in the desert. Not sure why, was that were I lived in a previous life? And then I saw Breaking Bad and there it all was – the desert – the trailer!

According to their news, Albuquerque and Connecticut are boring. There’s nothing happening in either place. New Mexico has a lot of wildfires and for the first half of the news the other night all they talked about was wildfires. And both New Mexico and Connecticut don’t have major league teams, so they talk about high school and college sports when the sports report comes on. But that is all charming in a way.

I love the southern shore of Connecticut and would love to live their except for their rough winters. I like that you can take a ferry from New London, CT to Long Island, NY and be in The Hamptons quite quickly. Not so much that I want to be out of Connecticut so quickly, but I spend time in The Hamptons with my cousins and this would make it easy to get there and even better, to the North Fork of Long Island, which I love, too. And also, with Connecticut, it’s easier to get to Upstate New York where I like to visit, especially in the fall.

North Carolina – well, there’s a big lake I like, where I would like to live in a big green forested area. I love Asheville, but it gets too cold in the winter, and it’s too far from the airport. So a nice lake in the suburbs of Charlotte is what I like.

An interesting thing with Connecticut news is that I watch the NBC channel, but there is no number attached to it. I think the whole state gets it on channel 30 from New Britain, CT. But they just call it NBC Connecticut. I watch NBC4 – KOB in Albuquerque and ABC9, WSOC in Charlotte, NC. And I watch WNBC, NBC4 from New York City, but usually only if there is a major New York story that I want to see like the Frank James subway shooter. BTW, Frank James was Jesse James’ brother’s name, wasn’t it?

I also dream of living in Tuscany, Italy, can I get their live tv news? I guess I’ll have to learn to speak Italian first to appreciate it.

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Avoiding phone calls

There’s a new thing where people are keeping their phone ring tones off permanently. They would rather get texts than talk to people on the phone.

I have a weird thing where I don’t answer my business phone line, I do answer my private line. My business line has a message that says text or email me and it seems to work. Although I remember years ago my accountant was doing my taxes and he said that my business was down a lot in the last quarter. He asked me why. I told him it could be because I removed the phone number from my website. And his response was, “Well, you better put it back on there.”

I don’t like speaking to strangers. I cringe at the thought. I have lost many large orders due to that, but that’s they way it is. I’ll go broke before I speak to a stranger, I guess.

I like texts. But there are a couple of texts I have the ringer off for. There is my building text – my condo – where we’re all one long string. That can be very annoying when everyone has to chime in on a text. Like someone will ask, “Did someone see my Amazon delivery?” and rather than just ignore it if you know nothing about it, everyone has to respond, “Not me,” Not me,” Not me,” Not me.” And it goes on. So I leave the ringer off for that. But it is odd when you look down at your phone and see “45 text messages” came in. Then you look and see it’s that nonsense.

Not long ago someone asked via text, “Who called the cops on the car that had the alarm going off?” I didn’t answer, so they assumed it was me. But for the record, I have never in my life called the cops on a neighbor, or on anyone for that matter.

With my family, the texts aren’t that bad, But one friend who we have all known since we are kids is on one of our family texts and when it is someone’s birthday (including Paul McCartney or any of the Beatles), he will send about 20 texts in a row, so fast, I don’t know how he does it. All saying “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary” or something, with pictures and texts and so many things. For about 10 seconds, the beeping goes on and on with texts coming in from him – so those texts are silenced, too.

But anyway, I remember when we all thought cell phones were so cool, and now we find them annoying. There’s an interesting article from a couple of years ago called, “The hidden stress of cell phones,” and it explains a lot.

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It’s all going the way of the payphone

I was thinking that I need to get new photos for press stories and things like that. In the past, the publications would send out a staff photographer or someone to take the pictures. I don’t ever remember sending in my own photos. Even news channels would send out a reporter or someone with a camera and they would film you somewhere. Now it’s all zoomed in. In the past a tv station would call me up about a local issue and ask if they could send a reporter or guy with a camera over – and more times than not, they wanted me in the center of town to do the interview. This is when I published the daily news and was considered some sort of know-it-all. I wan’t, but the media thought that.

So many old ways may be gone now that the pandemic has set new rules. And even before the pandemic things were disappearing. I think kids these days only know what a phone booth is thanks to old Superman tv shows and movies.

Newspapers and magazines don’t send out photographers for a quick photo anymore due to the pandemic, but – I think in the future we’ll just send in photos like we’re doing now, which saves them time and money. And of course printed newspapers and books are going the way of online and kindle. So many offices won’t return to normal. Why pay thousands of dollars in rent for an office when people can easily work from home? Like this cartoon shows, maybe only zoom calls will be the office norms from now on.

I was reading that shared touch screens may disappear – you know, like ATM’s and things like that. People will maybe use their smart phones to navigate through things like that. Many people order food online or on their phones and then pick up the stuff, I do that. I do it with Starbucks and Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain and Sweet Green and for many years, I would order food myself at the location, on a touch screen at Panera, which of course, may just end up being my cell phone since touch screens may be a thing of the past.

Recently when I went to the zoo with my friend, I purchased the tickets online. It was more about being sure we got the tickets since they are controlling the visitor count these days.

And handshakes, will they ever come back? I never was a big hand shaker or a hugger and maybe we won’t do that in the future. Maybe we’ll bow like they do in Japan. It seems more respectful to bow, doesn’t it?

I have not physically paid a parking meter for years. I pay for parking, but I use a phone to pay for it. And maybe there will be no parking meters in the future, since the phone knows when the meter is up and no one has to drive by to check on that.

Some years ago, a friend who worked at a bank, told me that bank tellers would be a thing of the past – and so they are. I take a picture of a check and send it to the bank that way, without ever stepping inside the bank. I transfer money, pay bills (and don’t use checks either, I do that online) and things like that.

That reminds me of when I was in high school, I worked at a newspaper and at that time we had to typeset and put everything together separately – the headlines, the main galleys/type, the photos, it was a jigsaw puzzle. Our boss told us of the future, where there would be something called “pagination” where the whole page would come out as one piece, we could not fathom that, we listened in awe.

My brother Chris used to be in the computer business, when home PC’s were all sort of new. I asked him one time if it was possible to have different fonts put in the system, so that when I was doing my graphics and newspaper business, I could use different fonts for ads, text, headlines, etc. He said it might be possible, but it would take some super programming to do! Ancient history now.

I walked into one bank that is a coffee shop, I was there yesterday, in fact. The first time I walked in a year or so ago, I asked where the bank was and someone pointed to one or two teller machines in the back of the coffee shop. So now banks are coffee shops, where you of course, can order your coffee on your phone.

I joke at my local Starbucks that the app is great – “I don’t have to talk to any of you this way! I just order and go!”

At Whole Foods in some locations now, you swipe your hand and you pay that way. I use Apple Pay and swipe that and I also use their QR code on my phone for discounts. Even the NYC subway now uses a QR code rather than a card to get on the subway. The card of course, replaced tokens.

At one hotel I stayed at, I used my cell phone to unlock my room door. The room key, became a key card which now became an app. I have ordered and bought plane tickets for years online or on my phone and at the airport I check in myself and don’t even use a paper boarding pass – it’s a QR code on my phone. The first time I converse with someone during this whole process is to say hello to the attendant at the gate as they check my boarding pass on my phone.

Real estate is selling online these days in a hot market. People buy from digital showings and don’t even show up at the properties. And cars! My next car will be bought online. And I’ll have it delivered to the house and have my old car picked up. Sort of like you buy mattresses now!

We order rides, we order food, we order groceries online and even read books (and comics) on our phones now. It’s all in our pocket – including zoom calls – you don’t even need a computer to zoom.

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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.

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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 impossible to unsubscribe

I ended my little foray into subscribing to out of town newspapers. Why? Because it’s almost impossible to unsubscribe. So I am hesitant to start subscribing to more of them.

I had wanted to get e-newspapers for various newspapers around the country, just to get some idea of what’s going on. You know, subscribe for a few for a few months and then move on to other papers. it’s a trip around the world, or at least, the country. But it’s a chore to cancel the subscriptions.

You call up, tell them you want to unsubscribe and they ask you why. With the New York Daily News I told them, “Because I am in Miami.” And then they go on, “But you should keep it because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” And this happened with the Asheville Citizen-Times and so many others.

With the Asheville Citizen-Times, the woman went on and on and said she could get me the paper at lower cost. And I kept telling her, but I live in Miami. I had only subscribed because I had planned to go to North Carolina this summer, but never did end up going.

She told me her plans of going to Philadelphia changed because of the virus so she understands and then she went on, “But I can get your a lower rate for the Citizen-Times for only ….” Salespeople. Gotta hate them.

When I unsubscribed to the Miami Herald, I received phone calls daily asking me why. One reason was that we had an inept delivery person and when the newspaper didn’t arrive, I didn’t even miss it. What was the point of paying for the newspaper if I never read it?

I am back to subscribing to the printed Herald – they wore me down. I’m expecting calls from the Citizen-Times, NY Daily News and others now.