, 43 tweets, 26 min read Read on Twitter
America’s preeminent television meteorologist, Tom @Skilling, celebrated 41 years at the great @WGN this week. This reminded me of a story. 1/
@Skilling @wgn When I was a staff writer @newcity in the late 90s, I would occasionally call @WGN and leave Tom voicemails asking what the weather was like on a given day in the past to help paint scenes for stories I was working on. 2/
@Skilling @wgn This is the kind of thing writers do. 3/
@Skilling @wgn Tom always phoned back, more than willing to help. The man was both a meteorology legend, but also just a great guy. AMAZING. 4/
@Skilling @wgn In 2004, when I was writing my first book on #RayBradbury, THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES: THE LIFE OF RAY BRADBURY, I phoned @Skilling again. 5/
@Skilling @wgn #RayBradbury told me that in September 1953, after film director John Huston has asked him to write the MOBY DICK screenplay, he read the novel for the first time, crossing the Atlantic aboard the SS United States ocean liner, in the middle of a gale force hurricane! 6/
@Skilling @wgn “There was no better way to read it!” Bradbury told me with ever-present glee. 7/
@Skilling @wgn But, the story sounded almost too perfect. Was it Bradbury adding to his own myth? So, I phoned Tom @Skilling. 8/
@Skilling @wgn I left Tom a voicemail explaining the story, asking if he could find any information on a hurricane in the Atlantic in September 1953. 9/
@Skilling @wgn A few days later, I received an email from Tom with maps, newspaper articles, meteorological charts—even an interview with the Captain of the SS United States during the September ‘53 cross-Atlantic voyage. 10/
@Skilling @wgn Tom @Skilling came through for no other reason than he loves weather and weather-related questions. And he is a genuinely a good, good guy. 11/
@Skilling @wgn The man you see on television each night, giving out a nightly dissertation on meteorology, is the man in real life. 12/
@Skilling @wgn Several years later, I ran into to @Skilling. It was late on a cold winter night, near midnight. 13/
@Skilling @wgn My wife needed our car the next morning to get to work, so I ventured out to fill it up the tank. It was snowing lightly as I pulled up to the pump. 14/
@Skilling @wgn As I said, it was late. I looked like hell, unshaven, dressed in black track pants and a black hoodie pulled over my head for warmth. 15/
@Skilling @wgn As filled the car with gas, I noticed a man stumbling across the station car port in my direction. I could tell he was inebriated and as he drew closer, I could see there was blood all over his face. His right eye was bruised and nearly swollen shut. 16/
@Skilling @wgn “Hey man!” he called, staggering towards me. 17/
@Skilling @wgn “What’s up?” I responded, not really wanting to engage, but he was now standing right next to me. 18/
@Skilling @wgn “I need money, man,” he said. “I got beat up at a bar. Bad. I have no way to get home. Can you help?” 19/
@Skilling @wgn I could smell booze, even over the omnipresent stench of petrol. 20/
@Skilling @wgn Then another car wheeled into the station, pulling up and stopping on the other side of my gas pump. 21/
@Skilling @wgn The door opened and the driver stepped out. The drunk, bloody guy and I both looked at the man getting out of his SUV. It was Tom @Skilling. 22/
@Skilling @wgn The drunk bloody guy couldn’t believe it. “Hey, Tom!” He yelled, excited. This was a serious midnight brush with greatness! I was excited, too. 23/
@Skilling @wgn Drunk guy no longer had any use for me. He stumbled around the gas pump towards Tom and explained his drunken bar brawl predicament. 24/
@Skilling @wgn Tom @Skilling listened with earnest. “Well, gee, I’m awfully sorry for you,” he said, finally. “That’s terrible!” I was still filling my car with gas and was grateful drunk guy had directed his attention away from me. 25/
@Skilling @wgn “Can you help me, Tom?” 26/
@Skilling @wgn “Gee, I’d sure like to help you, but I don’t have cash on me,” Tom responded.
27/
@Skilling @wgn And then I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “If you follow me into the mini-mart, I’ll get some money for you at the ATM,” Tom said. 28/
@Skilling @wgn I was incredulous. It was midnight and @Skilling was withdrawing money to help an inebriated, blood-soaked stranger at a gas pump. #Sainthood 29/
@Skilling @wgn I finished filling up my car. Tom and drunk guy emerged from the service station mini-mart, @Skilling handing cash to the bloody dude. 30/
@Skilling @wgn The man followed Tom back to his car, thanking him for his kindness. I was finished and ready to leave, but I wanted to thank Tom, too, for helping me over the years. For helping me with my biography of #RayBradbury. 31/
@Skilling @wgn I was hesitant to walk over to @Skilling. After all, he had just been approached by a bloody and bruised stranger asking for cash. In my current attire, I didn’t look a whole lot better. 32/
@Skilling @wgn But I knew I could never run into Tom @Skilling again. I just wanted to thank him. 33/
@Skilling @wgn “Mr. Skilling?” I said, walking towards him. The drunk guy was still lingering, pacing around, and turned and looked at me. 34/
@Skilling @wgn I introduced myself to Tom. Shook his hand. He was incredibly kind, the poor guy, approached by two strangers at midnight. 35/
@Skilling @wgn I told Tom how he had helped me over the years, how I was a staff writer @newcity. I then said, “I’m also the biographer of Ray Bradbury...” 36/
@Skilling @wgn The bloody guy, still standing next to us, beamed. “I love Ray Bradbury!” he croaked. 37/
@Skilling @wgn I told Tom how he had helped me with my first Bradbury bio and said my thanks to him. “Wow,” he said, “That’s very nice you.” 38/
@Skilling @wgn We then said goodbye and all of us headed in our own directions, off into the cold, dark winter midnight. 39/
@Skilling @wgn A few days later, I sent Tom @Skilling a copy of THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES with a thank you card for his help over the years, and for talking to me that late night at the gas station. 40/
@Skilling @wgn And a few days after that, I received a voicemail from @Skilling. “Hi Sam,” he said. “I just received your book, and wow! I can’t thank you enough for sending me your book and your kind note.” 41/
@Skilling @wgn And, then, the kicker. “It was so nice to meet you and your friend at the gas station that night. You both were so kind. I really appreciate it.” 42/
@Skilling @wgn Wow. @Skilling. You are the best. #END 43/
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