The Great Ernie’s Car Removal

It was just sitting there in my brother’s backyard, rotting, decaying — no longer so much a vehicle as a potting bench. It was like some rusted and forgotten object of war, discarded in a jungle somewhere. Once a clunker, now an overgrown heap.

If I’m not mistaken, it was a 1964 Volvo, with its rounded pug-nose and long hatchback.

I say “was” because it had long left this earth. Leaves covered up the sides and hood, rust had threatened to detach the body from the frame and a tire was not only flat, but off the rim.

When Ernie, our buddy, and a former roommate of my brother’s, packed up to leave for New Zealand, he parked the Volvo in my brother’s backyard. None of us, including Ernie, thought he would stay so long. But he’s since been named prime minister, and looks to be there until the New Zealanders come to their senses and ask him to go explore another country.

That said, my brother Scott decided to take action. Part of that was due to his girlfriend, Holly, who told him that few gardens she admired ever had Volvos in the middle of them.

Scott can be a lot of things, but dumb is not one of them. Besides, he was starting to feel the same way. Too long he had tried to tell people the partially buried car was an Indian burial mound.

But it’s no easy task moving a petrified Volvo that had sunk roots deep into the ground.

I had proposed a number of ways to get rid of it, for instance, borrowing the jaws of life from the fire department.

I could just picture us down there talking it over with the chief. “But we’ll bring it back in five minutes!”

Our buddy George got in on it, too, and didn’t like my idea. Even less did he care for my suggestion of taking a blowtorch to the car, cutting it into pieces and leaving out for the garbage pickup.

George stared at me, almost angry. “The whole backyard is covered in sawdust, woodchips, leaves and who-knows-what-else-your-brother-poured-out-there. Gasoline isn’t as flammable as that backyard. It’s a Hindenburg!”

He had a point.

But how to get it out? First we had to move our two ‘65 Mustangs, neither running so well. And then came the main attraction. George went to start it with the magical device — a screwdriver inserted into the ignition, which dangled like a dashboard ornament.

When he didn’t see even the faintest light on the dash, he poked his head under the hood, his eyes darting around.

“A-ha,” he said, and emerged with a dangling battery cable swinging free. “Could be that’s the problem.” With little fanfare and a quick poke, he jammed the wire into a hole, and Eureka! There was light. That’s how it went with Ernie.

With the screwdriver back in the hanging ignition, and despite the fact that after sitting for almost two years (George was convinced the gasoline had long since turned to varnish), it puttered once and then purred to life.

“Well, I’ll be,” I said.

Not that it was easygoing now. The clutch had departed the earth, and it sounded like an asthmatic wood chipper trying to get it into gear. Luckily George had once driven a car for months without a clutch, and knew how to start it already in gear. It’s the see-where-it-takes-you method, and it took him straight into a wood pile.

Suddenly, with the car alive, all talk has turned from having it hauled off to the scrap heap to now to getting it road worthy again.

My brother wants to turn it into a rally car. George thinks it’s the perfect weekend mobile. I myself think it made a better planter, but who am I to say? Ernie, if you’re reading this, send the title soon. The boys want to take your baby out to play. And Holly, I don’t think you’re rid of a Volvo yet.

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Losing a Good Batch of Knuckleheads

And so the end is near. I can see it, just over there on the horizon — the end of the semester.

When you work at a college, years are no longer years. They’re semesters. And semesters fly by like someone’s yanking them away with string.

They start out slow, gain speed and roar out of sight before you can say, “What the heck’s a semester?”

And when they end, they take a whole new crop of kids with them, headed for the real world to claim jobs, make families and wonder for the rest of their lives how they could have run up $20,000 in pizza debt.

This semester I’m losing a bunch of them. My kids. I’ve been with Flagler College almost two years now, and my office runs the student newspaper. So I’ve got a chance to get to know a bunch of them, and it’s getting me a little misty thinking about them going away.

What will I do with my time? Work?

All day they pop into my office, dropping their bodies in a chair like you dump clean laundry on the bed. Sometimes they sigh or stare. Rarely do they have anything important to say, and usually I’m in the middle of some panic attack or crisis involving mass quantities of money I shouldn’t have spent. I speak fast like my calf is brushing up against an exposed electrical wire.

“What’sup?how’sitgoing?Youdoingalright.Goodgoodgood.Nowwhattheheckdoyouwantanditbetterbeimportantbecauseifitisn’tI’mcallingsecurity … again.”

They don’t have anything important to say because they’re college kids and the world is a giant pool of inexpensive time that can be spent at their leisure.

They touch things on my desk and ask about various items.

“What’s this?” they say.

“That’s a paperclip.”

“What’s this?”

“That’s the court order requiring you to leave my desk alone.”

I get important sounding phone calls, cover the speaker and say things like, “I really need to take this.”

“No problem,” is the answer. “Got all the time in the world.”

Of course they do. That’s how I was when I was in school. There was something truly wonderful about hanging out in someone’s office, knowing that they couldn’t get any work done, and making them answer ridiculous question after ridiculous question, like: “So what’s it like being that old?” or “Is it true that as you age and hair grows in your ears you can hear it rustle?”

Now they ask things like that of me.

I like to think I have wisdom to impart. The other night during the student newspaper layout, I helped a girl burn a music CD.

“Aren’t you embarrassed?” I asked her. “You’re the youth of America with all your technological savvy. Yet you need help from Dinosaur Sam.”

Sometimes I have really wonderful things to tell them, and say it, and they appear to listen, and I think to myself, this is fantastic, we really made a connection, and I might have just changed a young person’s life, to which they respond, “Did you know you actually have two parts in your hair today” or “that sideburn is longer than the other.”

I’m going to miss this bunch. How I’ve come up with the perfect nicknames for them: Heffery instead of Jeffery, The Hippie Twins, Moody Lou, Buzzhead, Mrs. Drama Queen, Ugh!, Guy whose name I don’t know and Eddie. There are others.

I’ll miss how they don’t ever do anything I say, and laugh when I get mad. The more mad I get, the more they laugh, and eventually I go home and have a good cry.

How they think I must be really important because I have a water cooler in my office.

“So you buy that with your expense account?” they ask.

“No, it fell off a truck I was riding behind.”

They’re a good bunch, and I’m gonna’ miss them all. Soon I’ll begin training new ones, and answering new questions about paperclips and why my hair parts like it does. But will it ever be the same again? I hope so.

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Selling Everything But the Kitchen Sink on eBay

Is nothing sacred anymore? Apparently not. Now, I’m not naïve. I understand the world is run by money, marketing and the consumption of Cheese Doodles. But I want it to be about something more meaningful.

Not people selling the rights to their names on eBay. eBay, that part circus, part flea market where people sell everything from Aunt Nelly’s gnome collection to body parts.

Now the new fad seems to be people auctioning off names, as Matthew Jean Rouse is doing.

Matthew Jean, a 31-year-old father of two, doesn’t like his middle name. According to The Associated Press, he wants to let someone in the general public give him a new one, and he’s asking big bucks for it. As of press time, someone who doesn’t understand the value of money has bid $2,175.

“If he wants to walk around with ‘Fool’ as his middle name, that’s his problem,” Rouse’s wife told AP. “If someone changes his name to ‘Poophead,’ he may decide it’s a little more important than he thought.”

I hope someone does name him “Poophead.” I hope someone names him “chicken legs” or “stinky behind.” I hope someone names him “slap me.”

There comes a point where you go too far, and Matthew Lugnut Rouse has reached it.

Terry Iligan, a 33-year-old mother of five from Knoxville (a place that I would now recommend not drinking the water), sold her entire name on eBay for $15,199. You can officially call her “GoldenPalace.com,” after the online casino. GoldenPalace.com, you may recall — if you have the amount of spare time that I obviously have — is the same company that bought a temporary tattoo on a pregnant woman’s belly for $8,800, a grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary on it for $28,000, and a guy running for governor of Ohio for $900.

If a grilled cheese sandwich sells for 28 grand, and a potential governor can’t even sell for a thousand, what does that say about Ohio?

I digress and mix-up my point, which is: How can you change your name to Goldenpalace.com! What will your kids say? How will it sound when they call you in at the doctor’s office? Does that make “.com” your last name?

As the good former journalist that I am, I did some research and found quite a few people on eBay trying to sell their names, many with varying degrees of success.

Poor Joshua Graves, who has never had a middle name, just wanted someone to pick one for him … at a starting bid of $750. Alas, no one had put in a single bid. Joshua, you’re middle name is “Goofledanger.”

Another guy was offering the rights to rename his dog’s middle name. The dog’s current name is “Buddy Lee Sutherland.” Two bids so far, and the high bid is $1.25. The shipping costs, and I don’t understand this, are $1. Good luck Buddy Lee. I hope they don’t pick “Duddy” or “Got Snipped.”

I never found Mr. Rouse’s auction, so maybe he’s already sold to the highest bidder. Maybe his wife got it and he’s now “Matthew Clean the Dang Garage or You’re Living Out There Rouse.”

But what is this world coming to? Is nothing sacred anymore? Shoot, once upon a time, people went out and got tattoos of skulls and crossbones, sleazy women and sayings like, “I just beat up your kid brother.”

Now they sell those rights to companies who want to tattoo their brand on them.

People are taking on names like Taco Palace and Honey’s House of Chicken. It’s a strange world out there and it seems like everything that can be sold is up for sale. It’s a sad, sad time in America, and I’m ashamed.

This column brought to you by Eddie’s Shrimp Shack and Tackle Store.

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Pesticide Mania in My Yard

If I am the cause, I apologize. If it is me who has ruined the environment, poisoned the drinking supply, caused a tear in the ozone layer like a run in stockings, and dried up the schools of tuna who used to swim the oceans free, then to future generations I say I’m sorry.

I’m a bad man who doesn’t follow directions.

It’s spring, so I’m out fighting bugs, fungus, grubs, clover, root rot, jumping circus beetles, a clan of armed, horse-riding Turks and strange crop circles in my grass that read: “Land the mother ship here!”

Actually, it’s mainly just clover, and I’ve waged war on it with some clover killer I wrangled up down at the hardware store.

Not that I know what I’m doing, and certainly the packaging is no help. Look, there’s only so much of these directions and warnings you can read on a bottle of pesticide or weed killer before you throw up your hands and shout, “Mama mia, that’s a lot of meatballs!”

I look for big warnings — warnings I can relate to: “Has been known to cause cancer in laboratory rats AS WELL AS extra limbs growing from their rumps, talking like Michael Jackson and giving money to the IRS.”

Oh, man. Better wear gloves!

Not that I pay attention much. I mix these things into such strange concoctions using highly questionable containers and sprayers that just the week before held other high-threat toxins. And I wonder why blue puffs of smoke like laughing dragons race off into the atmosphere.

I never get the mix right. You need physics and algebra, and I failed third grade math. It tells you, “For 500 square feet of yard at a 10 percent grade with a train arriving from Hyannis at 3:22 p.m., take the square root of 14 and multiply it by 3 oz. Then add 1 gallon of water and shake well.”

Well, I don’t have a gallon sprayer. I have some sprayer that only holds 32 ounces. So figure that mix out, Mr. Smartypants.

I consult the New York Public Library Desk Reference for measurement conversions and find that I must first turn ounces into pints, then into kegs. Then it tells me to multiply by 6, add a teaspoon of sugar, convert it into Chinese ounces and voila! The answer is 3.

The answer is 3? Three what? I don’t know what the heck I’ve figured out. Miffed, I just start pouring into the container. No idea how much, no concern for what my actions may bring. I pour until the fumes start to tickle my nose and I get woozy.

I add water, shake vigorously and attack my yard.

By this point, the substance has eaten through the plastic and is running down my legs. Ooops! The hair is instantly evaporated, and that can’t be a good thing.

Recently, I’ve started using a sprayer that attaches to my garden hose. I’ve met with considerable difficulties from the Yard Gods who laugh at me. For starters, I always seem to spring a leak that sprays highly toxic poison over my, how should I say?, private region. And then I spray the yard only to realize I’ve painted myself into a corner. Coming to this realization is quite demoralizing, and with the yard sizzling from the toxins I’ve sprayed on it, I plop down and wait for it to dry.

“Don’t worry, honey,” I call out to my wife. “It says in three weeks the grass will be walkable again. Until then, I’ll just gnaw on this piece of tree bark.”

She is wearing a gas mask and has poison control on the line.

I will say this: My clover is dying and my grass does appear to be alive. The yard’s looking up. I’ll take some comfort in that, as well as my measurement skills. But if you’ll excuse me, I need to go trim the fingernails on that extra limb that appears to be growing from my backside.

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Caught Up In the Digital Revolution

It struck me in the car, on the way to get a pizza, just how far technology has come, and how much a part of our lives these days it is.

I was listening to a CD, one I had just bought online. I had purchased it with the click of a finger, and downloaded it to my computer where I burned it to a disc and minutes later had it spinning on my automobile CD player.

Was it always like this? So quick? So convenient? So easy to spend money that you never held in your hand? So impersonal? So digital?

Am I a part of the technology revolution or what? (Forget that I still get lost on a fairly regular basis, or that I have a receipt sitting on my dresser that I can’t for the life of me figure out what it’s for.)

What a technologically amazing world we live in. I wake up early Saturday to watch English soccer on my digital cable. I have high speed access that allows me to spend even more time in front of the computer at home than I already do at work. (Wait a minute, benefit where?) And I carry computer files home on a little portable memory device no larger than a peapod, but capable of storing more information than the computers of yesteryear which were large as houses.

But there are always downsides. Why is it the more advanced we become, the harder it is to tape something on television? Take my digital cable for example. Once upon a time all I had to do was program my VCR, pop a tape in and cross my fingers that I had punched in the correct date.

Now I must consult a checklist that begins with a warning — “Failure to follow these instructions could result in death by static electrocution, or worse, taping C-SPAN instead of ‘Survivor.’”

I feel like an airline pilot preparing for takeoff. “Rotary flaps set?” How would I know? I just want to see “The Amazing Race”!

I have to switch the switcher, make sure the digital cable is on the right channel, program the VCR in some precise order so it doesn’t get an attitude and eat my tape, sacrifice a chicken, read and re-read the instruction manual, check the atmospheric pressure and then cross my fingers that I punched in the correct date.

I go to replay the tape after all this and find that while the TV volume was up, the digital cable volume was all the way down. Now I’m watching my show trying to read lips.

Thank you technology.

I’ve got an Internet connection that sometimes gives an error message that is longer than Idaho, and mixes in with code I can’t understand two messages that I can — “up the creek” and “consult God.”

Thank you technology.

On the one hand, I love this plethora of modern technology that surrounds me. (I’m making use of it right now, and if it weren’t for E-mail, this column would get to my editor even later than it already is.)

But on the other hand, I’m plagued by it, constantly caught in a giant shoulder-spasm of a panic attack while trying to figure out error messages or blinking red lights that have no meaning. I’m suffering from digitization.

While I feed on it, I also sometimes wonder if we’re not better off without it. Maybe we should go back to reading books, drawing pictures, sending mail, listening to tunes on record players and ruling technology, instead of it ruling us.

Or, I could just order another CD online and drown my misery in some downloaded digitized tunes. Back to the computer.

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Who will win the worst road trip championship?

So it’s a competition, eh? My parents, divorced since the invention of rocks, can’t stand to let the other one win. Competitive parents. And not competitive in anything that matters.

What’s the game? Who can have the worst road trip to St. Augustine.

In the left corner, weighing in at two sacks of flour, my mother, who won the heavyweight champion of the world title a couple months back when she got speeding tickets both to and from Tampa. It cost her a whopping $380 to J.Q. Law, and landed her in Internet traffic school.

In the right corner, weighing slightly more, my father, who took a stab at dethroning her this past weekend, and landed a couple of good upper cuts that might just put him over the top.

Ding, ding, ding.

My father, whose favorite driving move is to back into those yellow pipe bumpers that gas stations use to keep people from running over fuel pumps, came from Tampa late Friday night. He decided to take the route through the Ocala National Forest because, like my mother, there is too little that can go wrong when you get on an interstate, set the cruise control and kick back for the ride.

It was this haunted forest that became his undoing. Not long into it he heard a sound coming from the passenger seat where one of his two dogs was sitting. It was a sound you could identify through jet engines and a heavy metal concert — someone was throwing up. Now, it’s not a big dog, quite small in fact, but those are the ones who do the most “damage.” And damage she did. My dad pulled over and screamed for clean-up on aisle 6.

To spare you, we’ll move the story along. At some point he was back in the truck, back on the road and pointed toward Palatka. But not long after he was hit with another of those unmistakable noises — flat tire.

Now, there are flat tires, and then there are flat tires at 10 p.m. in the middle of a desolate national forest, in the capitol of nowhere, on a stretch of highway where gangs of bears are known to take your credit cards and order peanut M&Ms.

Changing a tire anywhere is terrifying. I always fear I will kick over the jack by accident causing the car to tip over and pin me by my pinky toe. But on the side of a dark road in the middle of the night is the making of a bad slasher film.

Yet, tough as it must have been, at this point in the story I’m thinking he’s a lightweight.

“Wait!” he says. “There’s more. So I got to your brother’s house. We have a beer while I tell him about the expedition, and after awhile I decide to go out to the car to get my bag, only … IT’S NOT THERE! I left it on the side of the road in the middle of the forest.”

So in the middle of the night, with my brother in tow, he goes out looking for his bag, which had to be found because it had his favorite cargo pants. They raced an hour and a half back like a cruise missile, eyes all-the-while trained on the side of the road until somehow, they found it. The trip ended at 3:30 a.m.

Judges?

“No way,” said my brother Scott over lunch at Ann O’Malley’s. “His is more cost effective. All he wasted was gas, time and a few burned-out brain cells. Plus, he found the bag. Mom racked up hundreds of dollars in speeding tickets, points on her insurance and a dump truck full of brain cells. Only an alien abduction could top that.”

I couldn’t tell if my dad was relieved or disappointed when the scores came in. Will he hang up his gloves, or try to knock out the champ next time?

Only time will tell if a rematch awaits.

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Mother and her bridges

There’s something about the way she says my name.

“Bri-annnnn,” and the “n” trails off into infinity like a chain saw, or a motorcycle racing into the distance.

It was my mother, of course. It was time for her to make her 13 phone calls to me in the span of 11 minutes. There must be equipment at the phone company that burns out on a regular basis because of her quick-on-the-button redials. I’m also sure there is a man whose sole job is to figure out why it’s happening.

“We’ve tracked it to a short woman in Tampa who always remembers something she forgot to ask her sons, and calls back 1,500 times. We also suspect she caused a blackout in China.”

I was waiting for the calls, expecting the calls like you expect high tide or bills. I knew they were coming because I knew she was coming. Up to visit for the weekend, the weekend between my brother’s and my birthday. (I’ll be 32 by the time you read this.)

As we get closer to one of her voyages, it begins with messages at home, a fleet of them, and then calls to work.

The closer we get, the more frantic. The more pressing. The more critical to the fate of the universe.

So the phone rang one night.

“Bri-annnnn,” she said. “Your brother won’t speak to me anymore so I’m calling you. He’s threatening to change his number and not list it.”

No “hello.” No “how are you?” No “how’s the weather?” This is how she begins conversations. And no waiting for a response. She goes right into, “Is the bridge in the Ocala National Forest on State Road whatever taller than the Palatka bridge?”

Sometimes it’s like trivia night with my mom. Like she’s calling from some sweepstakes offering me $1 million if I can just answer a some random, off-the-wall question.

I like to throw her off. “Who is this?” I said.

“Brian!” she said, and this time my name came like a thunderclap or a slammed screen door. “This is serious. This bridge looks like it’s as big as Orlando on the map. I need to know.”

I saw where this was going … downhill on a big bridge fast. My mother doesn’t drive interstates anymore, and prefers the backroads through towns with names sounding like things you made up as a kid: Upanockee,

But she doesn’t like bridges. She’s afraid of heights, and thinks if the incline is too steep, it affects her high blood pressure, or her low pressure, or whichever a quick change in altitude messes with (which is probably neither.)

She was about to take an extraordinary chance, switch her route and possibly face a bridge so tall it brushed the beard of God, all because the cops on her other route now knew her on a first name basis.

“So is it taller?” she asked.

“Of course it’s not,” I said.

But there’s no convincing my mother. She wants to know steepness, incline and pitch, which I thought were all the same thing. Is it longer? Does it curve? Do birds fly into it? Does it have bandits.

“No!” I told her. But she was not satisfied.

“Fine. I’ll go to AAA tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll have the heights of all the bridges.”

Fine.

And she did. She came that route, and was not happy about it.

“I am so mad at you boys, and I’m canceling AAA,” she said over lunch, and that wasn’t anything new to hear. “That bridge went straight up like an elevator. I thought I was going to fly off. It was all I could do to keep the car on the road. The altitude was terrible for my high blood pressure.”

“Or was it your low blood pressure?” I asked with a smile.

What’s a good son to do?

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Belated Valentine’s Day Wishes

A week-old letter to my wife on the pinkest holiday of them all.

Dear Sweet Pea,

Happy Valentine’s Day. I know you are a big observer of this holiday, and you’re shackled to a man who likens it to being pitched off a cliff into a field of sandspurs, or worse, having his toenails clipped by a badger.

But, learning to recognize fights I can’t win after 7 years of marriage, I give in and send you Valentine’s Day wishes. All the best. God’s speed. May the wind be at your back and the sun never set. All the typical loving and romantic things Valentine’s cards usually wish.

This isn’t to say I understand the holiday. Oh, to the contrary. I still find it horribly irresponsible, and that’s saying a lot coming from a guy like me. But how, as a society, can we possibly condone giving a bow and arrow to a little baby named Cupid? My brother and I each had a bow and arrow when we were kids, and family members quickly realized how foolish a decision that was when their car tires went flat and we almost pierced a neighbor’s ear by accident one day.

And even worse, we actually allow this little baby archer to run around and shoot people? Uh, hello! Maybe rob from the rich and give to the poor, but don’t be shooting people.

Alas, I won’t discount a holiday because its symbols are a bit violent.

But a little explanation: My dislike of Valentine’s Day probably stems from my days spent at the all-boys Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa. Do you know what it’s like to be a fourth grader required to give out Valentine’s to your schoolhood chums? And Valentine’s cards that read something like: “John, on this day I want to express my dearest love for you. Your secret admirer, Brian.”

Ouch!

But, that aside, I do want to take a moment to impress upon you your importance in my life … for who else is going to make me take out the garbage. Ha ha! A joke. Just kidding.

You see, and you’ve probably noticed this, a guy like me is not so easy to live with. (In fact, a guy like me is lucky to even have a woman who speaks to him.) Sure, it would be easier to get a herd of elephants to do laundry than me. And sure, you can still see the outside world through holes in the walls of our house that I haven’t patched. But the reason I don’t do these things is so I will have more time to devote to loving you. It’s true!

Yes, I know I don’t come off as a romantic guy. But that’s the irony. Deep down, I’m Mr. Romance. I just don’t show it. Deep down, I shower you with kisses, buy you roses until federal law makes me stop and worship the ground you walk on, even if it’s a cow pasture. Granted, that’s only in my imagination and I would never do these things in real life, but doesn’t it feel good just knowing that I want to? You must be swooning right now, so sit down for a moment.

And I guess I don’t show it because society frowns upon it. I blame football. Football and beer commercials. If not for that, I’d be a different man. I’d be the kind of romantic guy every girl dreams about. I would probably grow my hair long, start riding horses without a shirt on and say things like, “Mi Amor, would you like more mashed potatoes with your pork chops?”

Oh, if I only I was that man. (Sigh)

Anyway, just thought I would take the time to express my undying love here on this very special holiday that I can’t appreciate, or stand. May it truly be wonderful, but if I see that little kid with the bow and arrow, I’m calling the cops.

Love,

Brian

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Super Bowl Mania Strikes

Super hype. Super hoopla. Super shindigs. Super headaches.
Whoo! Thank goodness it’s over.

The Super Bowl blows in and out like a hurricane, folks, and the good thing is there are no tree branches left to pick up.

Has it already come and gone? All these years of preparation, and it’s over like that? Little left to show for it but stale beer cups and pins that didn’t sell.

For me it was not successful. My attempts to rent a room at the last minute to some needy celebrity pretty much went down in flames. Amenities! It all comes down to amenities. And when all you have to offer these people are overdone poached eggs, a bowl of Special K, slightly worn slippers, whatever beer’s in the fridge and the promise that you will be woken up in the morning by a dog sitting on your face, it’s a tough sell. Real tough. And my asking price — $100,000 or a part in their next movie — was a little steep.

Alas, my room went vacant.

There weren’t many celebrities that I could tell. No shortage of sightings. Everybody had a sighting. Vin Diesel spotted at the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A; Brad Pitt shopping for art; Celine Dion staying at a B&B downtown and breaking glass with her singing.

A few you may not have heard:

• Hugh Heffner and a couple of the Playboy Bunnies enjoyed a bag of pork rinds at a Jiffy Mart before heading for the airport.

• Donald Trump was seen firing a homeless man who he didn’t think did an effective enough job begging for a quarter.

• Charlton Heston coming to see the Castillo de San Marcos because he couldn’t believe there was anything older than he was.

I think it’s best that I don’t see or meet celebrities. I wouldn’t know what to say, yet something about me always feels I must say something. And it’s usually ridiculous because I can’t help myself.

If I met Donald Trump I would probably ask him whether he has someone warm up his deodorant in the morning before putting it on.

“If I were rich as you, Mr. Trump, no more frozen shocks to the arm pits,” I would say with a shiver.

My wife would clutch her head like she had an ice cream headache.

If I met Brad Pitt I’m worried I would — like a pig-tailed fifth grade girl — tell him I thought he looked really “hot” in “Troy.” Why would you say that? But my brain, it just can’t be contained.

Lucky for me, I don’t get the chance to meet a lot of celebrities so I minimize the depth of my embarrassment.

I did see an extreme number of limos, and in fact on some of St. Augustine’s tightest streets, they’re still trying to pry a couple loose.

It appears they will stretch anything into a limo these days. Stretch Ford Expeditions and even the .20-mile-to-the-gallon stretch Hummer. But you never see any originality. Where’s the stretch Pinto? Has there ever been a convertible limo? What about the stretch VW bus?

Plenty of stretch yachts, my eyes did see. Boats worth more than most buildings in town. Oh, there was money around. Champagne flowed until the gutters were full. Furs, Ferraris and food that would make you wonder, “Do I eat it, frame it or beat it with a mallet?”

And all the while poor Jacksonville got skewered by the national media because the city’s idea of an expensive night out is a can of Cheese Whiz and a six pack of Miller Lite.

Be glad we live in cosmopolitan St. Augustine. Things will get back to normal here, just as soon as they get those stuck limos out.

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