We sat in the main room of 923 Oak – really the only room, aside from the bedroom and bathroom – me on a bar stool at the counter separating the living room from the kitchen, Thomas on the sofa, $w1fT at the other end of the sofa, and Ian in the arm chair. The TV was on low, some show I didn’t recognize.
Thomas was sporting a ball cap, t-shirt, long denim shorts and socks – all varied shades of blue. At 65, he feels “better than he’s ever felt,” (despite chronic hip pain from years of compensating for a bad knee). Feeling this good makes him nervous: “you know when your car starts running real good, and then something happens! Blows up or somethin’.”
I got to know a little bit about Thomas over Bud Light Platinum and Papa John’s.
He’s lived at 923 Oak for about 6 years, shortly after his knee replacement surgery at the VA hospital, but is contemplating moving. “For a lot of reasons ….” He didn’t elaborate.
Thomas grew up in Columbus Grove, Ohio – a town in Northwestern Ohio so small that, according to him, Main Street runs right through the car wash. (That’s only about 35 miles from where Pete grew up, 20 years or so later.)
The youngest of 4 boys, Thomas’s father died when he was 8. One of his most favorite memories of his dad was when the whole family piled into their new ’56 Pontiac Chieftain and drove four hours to a Cleveland Indians ballgame. He wore a “brand-new, scratchy-ass shirt” and saw Al Kaline play from the Detroit Tigers.
After his dad died, his mom remarried a man with two sons and a daughter, and together they had another boy and girl. 11 people in the house, eight of them boys. (Pausing to let that sink in: Eight. Boys. ) “We had mashed potatoes about every meal.”
Thomas has music in his blood. Growing up, he didn’t have aspirations of being a fireman or policeman. “I played music a lot, thought about being a rock star. Played in some bands and so forth. But it was a lot different then.”
Thomas spent 30 years in the floor-covering business. Now he spends his time at home writing songs. I asked him what his favorite song was, and he recounted the following for me:
I used to kiss her lips, but now it’s all over …. She used to lay her head on my shoulder and cry; now she sits on my lap and bawls.
(Cue immediate guffaws, which indicated to me that the spelling of the last word of those original lyrics might be a bit different in Thomas’s book.)
Thomas’s most treasured possession is a guitar that is currently at the pawn shop. (“Needed a little cash flow.”) I had to make sure I heard that correctly: his most treasured possession is at the pawn shop?
“Yeah. That makes you doubly treasure it.”