As a disclaimer, I’ve known Steve Otto for about 30 years. However, I still want to convey what he’s meant to me and countless other people, not only through his column but through an article he once wrote about volunteers who “Walk the Walk.” (Note: This letter was written before his column “Writing about volunteering has been best” (July 7).
Giving money is easy (if you have it) and is always appreciated, but those who give time are irreplaceable. Otto is such a guy. Much of it we’ve read about for years, but I don’t think all of his readers know how much of his own time he has given to veterans, the visually impaired, animals, the homeless and the hungry. Otto has walked the walk with all. He has helped countless people and animals in need without asking for a thing.
In my 18 years of organizing and performing at “Scratch My Back,” raising funds for the Humane Society and the Friends of Hillsborough County Animal Services, Otto has co-emceed the event with “Party Marti” Ryan every year (except for one year when he was ill), and neither has ever asked for a penny. This was on the day before Memorial Day.
The chili cook-off stories could fill a book. I’ve cooked in them, performed at them and co-judged them. I’ve watched him behind the scenes. He cares. I have many stories that may not be suitable for the “Type and Gripe,” but sure would be for an “Otto Roast.”
I hope the Tribune has a plan to reward this man for 45 years of service, writing, serving the community and keeping our multicultural “big, ‘small’ town alive.” A chili roast he doesn’t have to judge with Cuban sandwiches on the side would probably do it, especially if the “Mojo Hand” is present. He’s earned it, as he has walked the walk.
Otto has the gift of making readers think he was writing directly to them as individuals. Lastly, after a very serious surgery, I saw this familiar profile walking in at about 8 on a Sunday night. That visit boosted my spirit immensely. I was out two days later.
The man has “lived the Tampa life,” saved the beer when the Trib’s pirate ship burned in the Gasparilla parade, fought to show that Tampa invented the Cuban (not that other city) and lived to tell us the tales. Thank you isn’t nearly enough. May your passwords be forgotten, your good memories remain clear, your dogs finally have some time with you and the “Frau” be easy with you on the “honey-do” list … at first.
Thanks for the ride. It’s been real, “pardner.”
Scott “Pinetop” Peterson
The writer is co-founder and drummer for Quivering Rhythm Hounds and the organizer of the “Scratch My Back” fundraiser.