A Floydian Prayer by Tom Ryan: Yeah, though I walk through the Valley of tie-dye and tofu I shall fear no evil for though I am in Floyd, I am not of Floyd. Thy art is with me, Thy grants & Thy tax subsidies comfort me. Mine is the kingdom & glory of slackers & Hatcher Burgers. I will two-step & high lonesome in green pastures. I will seek the stills next to spring waters & getteth me a table at Oddfellas without reservations. Shirley, or one of my ex-wives will haunt me all the days of my life & I will dwell in the Hotel Floyd forever.
If you search the name Tom Ryan on my blog, at least 17 posts will come up. That’s because Tom, who died unexpectedly this morning, was a notable and quotable original, who worked hard and played hard and did a lot for the Floyd community.
In an early 2007 post, in which I introduce Tom (pictured above in blue) as a Floyd character, I describe him as “Floyd’s version of Will Rogers meets Robin Williams, who rarely bites his tongue and is more often known for getting it stuck in his own cheek.”
A more serious post, which was actually a reprint of a story I wrote for The Floyd Press about Tom’s 2010 opening of The Republic of Floyd Emporium, reads: What is the Republic of Floyd? Not a country or a new political party. It has been more a state of mind, the brainchild of Tom Ryan, a writer of satire, weekend bartender, music event promoter, art agent, and a businessman who approaches business as an artistic pursuit. “If you can’t draw, you pick another canvas,” said the entrepreneur, who, with the opening of his new Locust Street retail store, is about to make The Republic of Floyd a downtown destination.
Some of the 17 “Tom Ryan” posts on my blog are related to Tom’s involvement in the annual Mardi Gras Costume Ball, a benefit for Blue Mountain School, which Tom promoted and was the first crowned King of. Others were related to the monthly Spoken Word Open Mic that I and writer friends hosted monthly at the late Café del Sol for seven years. That’s because I was frequently introduced before going on stage as “Soul Crusher Colleen,” a tagline that Tom coined in one of his satirical writings that appeared in his online publication, the Floyd Enquirer. He referred to my poet friend Mara Robbins as “Mara Drama O’Rama” and café owner Sally Walker as “The Countess of Coffee.” He never explained why he called me Soul Crusher, but I’ve always thought (and took every opportunity to tease him about it) that it was because the book I wrote about losing two of my brothers a month apart made him cry.
One blog post, in which Tom and the Spoken Word collide, is titled The Baroness of Birthday, The Countess of Coffee and Justin the Jousting MC, and reads: Contrary to Tom Ryan’s Floyd Enquirer report of a full contact mud wrestling poetry slam for the title of High Priestess of Poetry, there was no mud, or even mud pies, at May’s Spoken Word night at the Cafe Del Sol. There wasn’t even any chocolate cake, which might have been expected considering it was my birthday.
Tom was always on the lookout for good material to spoof, and you never knew when you might appear on the front page of one of his town crier Enquirers. In one of my blog posts, titled The Café Porch Scrabble Game in which I Played the Word Blog and Rosemary Complimented Doug on His New Haircut, I wrote: The high protein peanut gallery at the table next to ours included Tom Ryan, a local satirist who authors the Floyd Enquirer, and Doug Thompson, political commentator and founder of Capital Hill Blue and Blue Ridge Muse. Both are red meat writers who, from time to time, stir up controversy. Tom had his notebook spread out on the table, so I took mine out too, just to level the playing field, in the event that something other than Scrabble was going to be played.
Another post with an excerpt from the Enquirer speaks to Tom’s unabashed bawdiness: Tom Ryan, who spoofs Floyd on an irregular basis, says he recently got a call from Hollywood. According to Ryan, Tom Hanks wants to play him in a movie about “the pathos and bathos inherent in (his) multiple marriages and their seemingly inevitable failures.” Due out this fall, the name of the movie is “Saving Ryan’s Privates.”
Always topical, Tom wrote about Floydfest, the year when the feds made an overkill appearance on the Parkway, which I excerpted: It was nice to see that Kris & Erika were able to negotiate a “non-presence” of the Federal Interdiction Anti-Fun Force at this year’s festival (Floyd Fest). I was a little taken aback, however, to learn of the myriad compromises they made in reaching that accord. Changing the festival theme from “A Family Affair” to “A Family Values Affair” was bad enough but allowing Pat Robertson to M.C. and letting Dick Cheney sit in with Donna The Buffalo to perform “Ubber Deutschland” are bound to have a chilling effect on the festivals ambiance.
Tom, a fellow Irish-American, was so funny that I once asked him to come to the spoken word and do stand-up comedy, but he told me only if we built a bar for him to hide behind. “Believe it or not I’m a little shy in front of an audience, unless it’s in a court room,” he joked. “You wouldn’t be Irish if you weren’t shy,” I answered, to which my husband Joe added, “That’s why the Irish take a little drink. It gives them the nerve to get up on the stage and do what they were made to do.”
Here’s an excerpt from a blog about Tom, posted on November 2007: I call Floyd’s own Tom Ryan a satirist, but he refers to himself as a porch monkey. He’s been up to more Tom Foolery with the November issue of the Floyd Enquirer. Tom is a bartender at Floyd’s Pine Tavern. One of his latest Enquirer headlines reads “The Buddhism of Bartending: How May I Serve You?” He invites readers to the Tavern to hear the “live broadcast” and suggests they subscribe to The Floyd Enquirer because he has eyebrows better than Garrison Keillor.
That issue of the Enquirer also included Tom’s infamous review of Floyd bloggers, using the Cute Puppy Rating System. He rated me as someone who hugs the puppy, kisses it on the nose and is sad if I have to discipline it by shaking my finger. Blogger Fred First: He hugs the puppy too, scratches it behind the ear and frames it in a Norman Rockwell painting. David St. Lawrence: He hugs the puppy but only after teaching it to sit in an authoritarian voice. Doug Thompson: He strangles the puppy and then eats its liver.
The truth is, Doug is more of a puppy lover than I am. And so wasn’t Tom. He was a wise guy with a wit and a self-depreciating softy. He hugged all the puppies. And you know if he spoofed you that he also loved you. Kerry … Joey…Sally… Doug…Barb … Tom … Scott and others. You know who you are.