10 With Tom

I started a website for my 10 With Tom columns.

Over the years, I had these published in the Huffington Post, my own blog, Medium and other publications. I’ve interviewed, cartoonists and featured cartoons and comics and artists, comic strip creators including Jason Chatfield, Rina Piccolo and Scott Adams, among so many others. . But I’ve also interviewed authors, designers like Betsey Johnson and even Ryan Holt from Naked and Afraid.

I was was planning on doing more interviews for the Huffington Post, but I thought these columns should have a home of their own, rather than be at other websites. They live on forever and are always being seen and read.

Some of these stories have hundreds of thousands of readers, The Stephan Pastis article has over 1 million views! So why not have people read them on my own site, rather than other places? I wouldn’t mind 1 million hits! Huffington Post, Medium, and various newspapers didn’t promote the stories, people found them by doing searches, so why not have readers find the articles on my own site, right?

I now have 10 With Tom here, where you can find some of the past interviews and where I’ll add new ones shortly.

You can subscribe to 10 With Tom, and you’ll only receive 10 With Tom interviews (not this Tomversation blog, that’s a separate subscription), but I’m not sure if all the past stories I added will come up as one big email for your first email that you receive after subscribing. So if that happens, forgive me. You’ll usually just receive one interview after it is published.

It won’t be a daily thing, I’ll publish randomly.

I have to get out more

I drove 30 miles south from home and while down in Homestead (a city south of Miami), I stopped to get gas. My credit card was declined three times at two different gas stations.

Then later in the day, I got a call from Citibank, claiming my card was being used fraudulently. I had to confirm it was me using the card so they would unlock it. They said it was “out of my buying pattern.”

I guess I never really leave my neighborhood and I only buy gas around home, so when they saw the attempts to charge 30 miles away, they freaked out.

I’ve been thinking of taking a road trip. That’s going to be some experience every time I attempt to buy gas along the way.

I remember when I used to go from one end of the county to the next – all in one day, for work – the county is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. And there was a period where I drove 100 miles a day, just to hang out with friends, night and day. Now I usually drive about three miles a day. But the weird thing about this incident is that I was using the card in my own home county, still considered to be part of Miami. I am glad to see they are trying to stay on top of fraud though.

I remember some years ago, I got a call from American Express. They said their was fraud on my card. I asked how they know, they said someone was trying to buy motorcycle parts, and they knew that wasn’t me. About a month later, I got a call from Visa – they said something about fraud, too. Their reasoning was that someone was trying to by Avon, and they knew it wasn’t me. So I fall somewhere in between motorcycle parts and Avon!

I have protected the cards all these years – I use those protective sleeves and so far, so good. I had seen some people, try to skim my card, but luckily they didn’t get through the protective shield around the cards.

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The Christmas card

This year has not been kind to our family. We lost three family members – my mother, my aunt and a cousin. My father lost a wife, a sister and a first cousin (none from covid).

When my aunt passed this past Spring, I asked my cousins for something personal of hers. I wanted something with her energy attached – a coffee mug, an earring, etc. They gave me this little painting she made. It was in her dining room for many years – this little snowman image.

I took it home in July, after I spent time in New York and it sits on a table in my living room.

I would look at it daily. I thought, “It looks like a Christmas card – the snowman, the snow and birdhouse evoke Christmas. And it’s the size of a Christmas card.” And from there, I got the idea of making an actual card out of it. So in late July, that is what I did.

I held onto the card all summer and fall until this week when I mailed it. I didn’t tell anyone about the card, I wanted it to be a surprise. I only had 20 made and I sent it to my immediate family and my cousins and uncle. It went over well, everyone was touched and surprised at the image when they opened the envelope.

Let’s hope for a happier and healthier 2022.

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It’s like I’m from another planet

I bought a new car the other day. I hadn’t had a new car in 16 years! What happened was, I always had cars for a few years, maybe five years the most. At one point I started leasing cars, so I had to turn them in every three years and I would then get a new car. But 16 years ago, I decided to buy a car and keep it until I ran it into the ground. And that finally happened – it is almost run into the ground.

My current car has electrical problems and with the pandemic and all, they can’t get the part or parts they need to repair it. So I panicked and I went and purchased a new car. I did try to rent a car for a week or more but again, due to the pandemic, there are no cars available to rent!

So anyway, I went to the dealership and bought a car. They said they usually have 200 cars on the lot, but now they only had 11 – pandemic again! I had to get a pre-owned car because the wait time for new cars is one year. Seriously.

I got in the car to test drive it and was lost. I couldn’t find the shift, “How do I put it in drive?” I asked. “How do I turn it off?”

It’s been so long with my current, “ancient” car that I was not up on all the new gadgets and blue tooth, etc. The new car almost looks like a cock pit. The staff at the dealership was laughing. What made them laugh more was that I didn’t take the car with me. I said I could come back the next day to pick it up. I didn’t want to wait around for it to be detailed. They couldn’t believe I would buy a car and not drive it out that day.

But that’s me. I like my old stuff. I don’t want a new tv or cell phone or computer or car, unless I am forced to get it. I am a creature of habit, as one guy at the dealership put it. Do I fear change? Maybe. I have friends who are out the first day that a new iphone is available or a new tv. But not me.

Of course I’ve been in many cars that are new and modern, but I guess I’m not paying attention to the dashboard, I’m looking out the window as others drive.

My cousin had called to say hello the other day and we were talking about my new car. He was telling me things like how the key fob works and how the Bluetooth works and things like that. It made me feel like I was a 15 year old kid learning to drive for the first time. Truth be told, my 16 year old car has a key fob and it took about 12 years for me to realize that the locks were not broken on the car, it was the key fob that made them appear to always be unlocked. I just thought I was living on the edge by not having the car locked, when I finally realized it was the fob in my pocket allowing the car to be unlocked.

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Getting back to normal

I ordered these

I finally decided to get back into shape. For most of my life, I would say since high school, I’ve worked out with weights at the gym and at home, but mostly at the gym. But since the start of the pandemic, I have not been back to the gym and that’s been bothering me.

It closed and never reopened and I can’t find another gym that I like. So I’ve been putting it off.

I tried the workout bands, and those are great, but still, I can see the loss of muscle and weight gain.

My slap in the face, the turning point, happened when I needed to fit into a suit last week. The pants did not fit! I’ve been a 31 inch waist since high school, but I needed a larger size – 33-34, and that didn’t sit well with me. So I decided to get weights and workout at home.

I had put that off because I live in a condo and I wasn’t keen on having the weights drop on the floor, but I think I can manage not to do that. Also, I like going to the gym, I like the whole routine from getting up early in the morning, the socializing and the actual workout. But since my rude awaking last week, I realized I need to workout now.

I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and looked around, but they didn’t have the sets I wanted, the things I had seen online. I did pick up the weights in the store and try them out and boy, did that feel good, but another rude awakening was that I could only lift half the usual weight!

Luckily muscle has memory and I plan on getting back into shape real fast.

I ended up purchasing adjustable dumb bells online. They have these sets where with the turn of a button, it changes the weights and you just life the bar up which will then consist of the weight you want to lift, so there’s no screwing on different plates to adjust the weights. I’m really looking forward to this.

I was concerned about the delivery driver having to life all that weight, but I guess since they sell it, they must be used to delivering it. So today, my new weight set arrives and I can maybe start to get back to normal!

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They get me!

Bored Panda featured me a couple of weeks ago. I had forgotten that they contacted me about an interview a few weeks back, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this.

The feature came out great and I love what Hidrėlėy, the author, wrote about me, he really gets me:

“This artist creates old-school, one-panel comics. They are filled with absurd humor and unexpected twists, weird characters, and situations that not many of us run into.

“The style that this artist uses is very reminiscent of newspaper comics and there’s something very nostalgic about them. The comics are very simple, but at the same time have quite a lot of detail and expression. The artist enjoys puns and wordplay. He sometimes even includes a little dark humor in his comics.”

Bored Panda has 116 million readers a month and 15 million Facebook followers. Not a bad place to be promoted!

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Saved by an angel?

An angel over a car accident

I’ve been waiting to hear from my Mom, you know, some sort of signal, but nothing yet. When my brother passed we all heard from him the first week, then he disappeared. I had a friend jak, who passed away and for two years, I would feel his presence in the passenger seat of my car. Never in the house, but always in the car. His songs would play on the radio and I just had a sense that he was there next to me as I drove around.

But I think my mom saved me from a bad accident yesterday.

I had a friend visiting for a couple of weeks and yesterday he was headed home. We were out and about all morning and my car was fine, but at 1:30 pm, we jumped in the car so I could take him to the airport and it wouldn’t start. I kept trying and nothing. It wound not turn over. So he ended up taking Uber to the airport.

About an hour later, I was arranging to have the car towed to the service station in the morning and I ran out to get the license number. While I was there, I tried starting the car again and it turned over perfectly! I turned it off, turned it on again and same thing, it started perfectly. I drove it to the service station to have it looked at and Ubered home.

I thought that that was quite strange. Then I thought, what if Mom was protecting my friend and me from a bad accident as we drove to the airport? What if she made the car not work and then it started normally just a short time later?

I have been saved in traffic situations in the past by people from the other side. I just know it. I’ve almost been in accidents where I knew they were going to happen and nothing happened. Not too long after my brother passed, I was almost in an accident. The truck was coming right at me, I steeled myself for a side door impact and nothing happened. It was as if by magic, the oncoming, speeding truck missed me. It was as if it just drove through me and ended up on the other side of my car.

An angel over a truck

A few years back a friend was telling me about a dream he had where his mother, who had passed, told him she had protected me in an accident. As he described the details, I remembered the incident from about 10 years earlier. He had every single detail right – the color of the car, the type of car, the location, and even that the guy was on a cell phone, which caused him to drive through the red light. A brick phone at that!

At the time I couldn’t explain how my car squeezed into the size of an inch between two cars. Literally, the car had to squeeze that small for me to have survived that accident. I could never wrap my head around it, but I knew at the time it was some sort of divine intervention and when my friend explained it all 10 years later, regarding his late mother’s intervention, it made sense.

I’ve had quite a few incidents like that. Am I a bad driver or is it others? I believe it’s others, but either way, I was saved from terrible accidents by divine intervention and I wonder if that was the case yesterday where my car would not start when needed and then when not needed an hour later, it started without any hesitation.

UPDATE ON THE CAR: The service station called me this morning. There is not a thing wrong with the car. It starts up perfectly. It starts right up. THANKS MOM!

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My Mom, Madeline Falco

My mother passed away October 20. Madeline Falco.

It was and wasn’t unexpected. She had been ill for awhile and each time she went into the hospital we were told that was it, the end, so we sort of mourned throughout the year. Each time we were told that, I expected the worst and I went through the grieving process. Now that it actually happened, I am not in too bad of a shape, since it was building up to this point.

I’m probably at the funeral as you read this.

I didn’t post the memorial info anywhere and didn’t tell any of my friends until this post now. I figured those who needed to know didn’t need to see it posted on social media and I just couldn’t do it – I didn’t have it in me to post it and make it real.

She was 88, and lived a wonderful life. She did it all, and was into everything. One of her grandchildren wrote this about her: “Grammy, I will never forget your unending love for all of us, your laugh, your sarcasm, your meatballs, and your encouragement to blast the music and dance around the house. You were one of a kind.”

Another wrote: “I’ll never forget playing records and dancing around the kitchen with you, watching endless musicals during our sleepovers, sneaking to the kitchen for ice cream or frozen watermelon in the middle of the night, seeing you at every show and every performance I ever did, and cooking with you and the massive amounts of garlic you used. 😂 You were an extraordinary grandmother and I’ll always be so grateful for our time together. I hope they play lots of Frank Sinatra for you in heaven. Rest In Peace. I love you forever, Grammy.”

Truth be told, “Sweet Child ‘o Mine” was her favorite song, or one of her favorites. I would always request it when one of my cousins, a musician, was performing. I suspect everyone thought it was my favorite song, but I would always request it thinking of Mom, who was alive and well all those times.

Mom not only loved to dance around, she loved to cook, she was a gourmet cook a gourmet baker, an artist – she painted wonderfully, she also loved any type of music, including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen and so much more.. She loved it all. I remember her at Bruce Springsteen’s concert at the Orange Bowl one year. She used to call him “Bruce,” just “Bruce”. One name. She used to call “Murder She Wrote,” ‘Jessica,’ She would say, “Jessica’s on.” Or “Archie’s on, for “All in the Family.”

One time we had Merv Griffin on tv, and someone was talking about music not being any good anymore. I think it was the mid ’70s, and he was saying all the good music was from the past. Mom said, “Not true, what about ‘The Spy Who Loved Me?” And I laughed because the title of the song is funny, but she was always up on the latest music.

She traveled – she loved to travel and she loved astronomy. So many times we would get in the car in the middle of the night to drive to a secluded spot, away from city lights, to look for whatever was in the sky that night – a shooting star, Jupiter, a full moon, whatever. I bought her a big telescope once, because she loved it all so much.

She loved Britcoms and would always call me to tell me something funny was on. We loved Archie Bunker, we would quote his nonsense to each other. When I was a kid she would sometimes cut my hair and she would ask me how I wanted it, I would say, in Archie’s voice – “Without blood, ma, without blood. And when you get to an ear, for god sake, stop!”

We would go on adventures, like one time we went searching around Brooklyn for the Moonstruck house in Brooklyn Heights and we would do so many things like that.

She worked out at a gym well into her 80s. She would laugh and say, “I was working out at the gym today and there working out next to me was my grandson!” because one of her grandchildren happened to be working out at the same gym.

She worked when we were growing up and she did that along with all her other activities, but I don’t ever remember her not being there. She fit it all in and always had dinner on the table. She never neglected us. Ever. She was at every school event, every sporting event, gymnastics event, etc. She was involved at both – for her kids and her grandkids.

When she was younger, she drove fast. We used to say she rounded the corners on two wheels.

I heard so many nice things at the wake, that I didn’t know. Our former next door neighbor, for so many years, Brian, my youngest brother Joey’s friend, was telling me about a time when Brian’s brand new car was in an accident about 50 miles from home. He and Joey were out for the night. He was scared to call his father, so my mother ended up driving the 50 miles to bring them home. She never mentioned the accident to Brian’s father. But the father found out and started to shun Brian.

My mother found out and went over and really let the father have it, saying things like, “How dare you treat your son like that ….” She was feisty. Love that. She was the first one to Brian’s mother’s side, when she found out his mother had cancer. Brian remembered all this and told me it all at the wake. But we were next door neighbors or so many years, our fathers worked together, so our mothers were each second mothers to us.

My aunt passed six months ago, another second (third?) mother to me. Two wonderful women dancing with the angels today. My father lost a sister and a wife this year. But he is doing quite well, all things considered.

I sent a big thing of flowers to the funeral home and it says, “Thank you, Mom – Love Tommy.” It sounds like a weird message to have on flowers, but I am thanking her for being my mother.

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The slow mail deliveries

This cartoon published Friday, hit a nerve with many people. The postal service is getting worse and worse. We get our mail late – days late and late in the day – some days our mail carrier arrives at 6 pm. One day our carrier had a special delivery at 10 am, she handed me the 10 am package and then I asked where is the rest of the mail? She said, “I’ll deliver it later in the day.” I said, “But you are here now!”

Years ago, the mail arrived late at our office, so I got a PO Box and rather than wait till closing time to get our mail for the day, I would be able to pick it up early in the morning – it was always at the PO Box early and I could grab it on my way into the office.

Last summer I ordered a book from a lady in California. It literally took a month to reach me in Miami. She mailed it June 3 and it arrived July 3. After all that time I never ended up liking the book – it was a graphic novel on cartooning, but I found it boring.

I had a very nice Etsy business going months before the presidential election. I was selling lots of political things – hats, t-shirts, etc. it was turning into quite a large business. We would ship the items in three days and the post office took a month or more to deliver! People were getting so upset and I was concerned about them not receiving the merchandise in time, before the election, so I stopped selling the stuff months before election day – losing thousands of dollars in the process! I returned so much money, too because of constant complaints.

I used a print-on-demand company that shipped the stuff via UPS, but then after a day or two it ended up at the USPS and there they sat for weeks or a month before they were delivered!

One time, a few years back, it took two months for my condo maintenance check to reach our accountant. And it only goes a few blocks away. I think they thought I was lying about paying it, but when it finally showed up they saw I had mailed it months before.

I hear that the guy running the post office wants it to go commercial; rather than have the government run it, have a private company run it. I’m not sure how that would work because he would lose his job if that happened, right? So maybe that’s not true. Who knows. But in this day and age, you would assume the US mail could arrive fast and on time.

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