Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Random observations on 'Annie,' book orders, Uber deaths & who we should kill first if we're serious about killing drug dealers

• President Trump’s vow to mete out the death penalty to drug dealers has me thinking of applying to medical school. I sense we’ll soon be in critical need of fresh doctors.

Because this opioid crisis wasn’t instigated by shady dealers in urban allies.

No, this crisis was spearheaded by esteemed doctors and pharmaceutical executives who correctly sensed enormous profit in anesthetizing people who suffered from depression, sleeplessness, lethargy and other side effects of being human.

• I thoroughly enjoyed watching our daughter Josie and her Greater Latrobe High School cast mates perform “Annie” this weekend. I’m grateful to all the performing arts teachers who put in so many long hours helping bestow discipline and poise in our children. It’s acting, yeah, but the skills and confidence these kids earn will help them succeed in many professions. Bravo!

• I feel default terrible about the woman who was run over by driverless Uber and reserve the right to feel less so if it's revealed she was distracted walking when struck.

As a friend of mine pointed out, this robo-car had a designated safety driver on board. It’ll be another sad irony if it is revealed that as the car struck the doomed pedestrian, the safety driver was updating his/her Facebook status to, “I'm riding shotgun in a driverless car!”

• Frontrunner for @8Days2Amish tweet of the month: “The pious nudist will always feel conflicted about becoming a man of the cloth.” 

• Thrilled by all the friends who’ve pre-ordered “Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King.” This book is already doing so well I’m thinking of including the name “Arnold Palmer” in the title of each subsequent book. 

If this book succeeds the way I hope it will, my career is set. I just have to move in next door to another beloved American icon and spend the next 25 years ingratiating myself. 

• One quibble about “Annie” performance: The starring dog got way too much attention. Apparently the dog, “Sandy,” is a big deal and has performed the role on Broadway. La-de-dah. It’s one of those canines that behaves as if all the real dog has been trained right out of it. It acts like a dog would act if it were controlled by Uber.

Bad example. 

It’s maybe the one time I’d have rather had my stupid dog Snickers instead of a well-behaved dog. Oh, what fun it would have been to see these bright students improvising around the noisy mayhem of Snickers loose on stage.

The only thing more entertaining would be a monkey on roller skates, but that goes without saying. Put a monkey on roller skates in the mix and I’m even subscribing to the ballet.

• I wonder if the Uber car honked the horn before it ran over the woman. Think of all the things self-driving cars won’t need when they ditch human drivers. You won’t need mirrors, headlights, seat belts, fancy dashboards or even steering wheels. The car of the future will be like a rolling living room where we all sit around talking about how cool it used to be when cars were cars.

• I’m grateful to all who’ve shown interest in the “Homespun” book. Special thanks to friends Bob and Diane in Lake Wales, Florida, for ordering 12 books; 6 “Homespun” and 6 a combo of “Crayons” and “Last Baby Boomer.” I’m particularly pleased whenever anyone buys or says something nice about “Boomer.” It gets precisely the kind of reaction writers dream of when they’re working on their first novel. It hasn’t earned a wide readership, but I’m convinced it one day will. It’s my most proud professional achievement. 

• From what I hear from heartless friends, one of the more controversial parts of Trump’s opioid plan is the part that involves saving lives of dying addicts. I know many people who are adamant that we should let overdosing addicts expire rather than bless them with a nasal dose of life-saving Narcan.

One friend said they should get three strikes. “And they should tattoo a big ’N’ on their forehead so the EMTs know when they’ve had their share.”

What if it’s his son? What if it’s me? I don’t care if I wind up with a face full of “Ns” I want you to keep squirting that juice up my nose until I get my life straight or the Pirates endure another two consecutive decades of losing records, whichever comes first.

I advise these people to grow a heart, gain some compassion, to cool it.

I’d say take a chill pill, but I worry chill pills might be gateway drugs to addictions they’re ill-prepared to handle.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

WWJD? Egg McMuffins for Latrobe's homeless!

I was succumbing to a morning need for fuel when my conscience was confronted with a WWJD moment.

These happen to me all the time, mostly in places where the risen Christ wouldn’t be caught dead, places like the drive-thru lane at the Route 30 McDonald’s.

Now, I know better than that. I know McDonald’s is unhealthy, its entire corporate premise is environmentally belligerent, and it owes its colossal origins to Ray Kroc, one of America’s most despicable scoundrels. (I highly recommend the ’17 Michael Keaton flick “The Founder”).


He’d breakfast at The Youngstown Grille! 

Locally-owned, friendly, affordable, generous portions and it’s all delicious. 

Jesus hasn’t been there (yet!) but Arnold Palmer used to go there all the time for French toast. So if you can’t get a Yelp! review from The King of Kings getting a posthumous one from The King will have to do.

But on some days I just want fast fuel and that means fast food. I get a Sausage Biscuit w/ cheese and a small Coke for $2.32. How they do it for so little is a wonder. I donate the 68-cent change to Ronald McDonald House because it’s what I believe Jesus would do.

So I pull in and that’s when I see Latrobe’s homeless man. I’m sure there are many more and having even one is a defeat for a community I’m proud to call home. But this gent is our most visible one.

He pushes a Giant Eagle grocery cart that contains what I assume are all his earthly belongings. He looks maybe 50, but who knows? Elements of this harsh winter may have pre-maturely aged him.

I don’t know what Jesus would do, but here’s what I did:

In addition to my usual order I had them throw in an Egg McMuffin that set me back another $2.79 for a total of $5.11 (the Golden Arches charity scored another 11 cents so I was feeling pretty good about my pious altruisms). 

So I clear the second window and see the guy is on the move. He’s pushing his cart toward Rt. 30.

I roll down my passenger side window and shout, “Hey, man, I have something for you!”

He turns to look then coldly ignores me. His rudeness has me wondering if he’s a former literary agent. That’s a common literary agent’s reaction to my offers. He continues pushing the cart toward the highway crossing.

And the chase is on!

I’m stuck at the red light watching him hump it up the hill on the driveway between Sharkey’s and the Walgreens. I pass him and pull into Walgreens parking lot. I park the car and get out with that steaming 410-calorie gut buster in my hand.

He sees me again and keeps on going. It’s like I’m dealing with a skittish cat.

“Hey, I thought you might like an Egg McMuffin,” I say. “It’s still hot. Should hit the spot.”

Nothing. He keeps on going.

Me, I surrender. I did what I thought was my best and I could not break through. He was unwilling to accept my charity. I get back in my car and drive away and as I do, I give him one last look. What I see surprises.

He’s beaming at me. Honest, he’s grinning like I would if he’d just handed me a McDonald’s sack stuffed with $100 bills.

It’s very odd. I spend most of the morning confused by the entire episode.

What would Jesus do?

I like to think He’d persuade the man to get in his 2007 Saturn Vue with 197,000 miles on it and drive him home where He’d nurture him to soulful health.

I’m tempted to do that very thing. If it works out, it would be the best thing I’d do in my entire life.

But Jesus never had to ask Himself WWVD?

I do.

What would Val or any spouse do if I showed up with a disheveled stranger? She barely tolerates the hours I spend with drinking buddies who have somewhere to go when the bartender yells last call.

So I ended up tossing the Egg McMuffin in the trash and left Latrobe’s most visible homeless man to fend for himself, and me wondering if my good intentions will make a positive difference in my Judgement Day fate.

I hate to see the sandwich go to waste, but I’m one of those guys who worries about saving his figure while still saving his soul.

Related …

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tweets of the Month

Every time I think the Tweet well has gone dry, a burst of fresh creativity — at least by my sketchy standards — prevails. See, I try to post only the best, ones I think would be worthy of inclusion some future “Crayons!” volume. It’s just one of the ways I’m unpresidential. And I’m fine with that. So’s he, I’m sure.

Looking forward to Spring!

• Reports that many in America have come to accept mass shootings as the "new norm" have me wistfully missing the old Norm.

• We live in corrosive, often cruel times, but I'm grateful we don't live when the phrase, "There's more than one way to skin a cat," become part of the vernacular. I don't know of even one way to efficiently skin a cat.

• Given our rising levels of incivility coupled with our ever-decreasing intellects, the only thing we'll all agree on is sooner or later we're all with stupid.

• It was Robert Louis Stevenson who said, "There is no duty we so underrate as our duty to be happy." Clearly, RLS never spent a weekend in Athens, Ohio. 

• Every perfect parent understands the need to impart some daily imperfection lest their children grow up without someone to blame for their inevitable adult flaws.

• Next week at this time I'll again commence for the next 12 days my quadrennial use of terms like sow cow and Triple Lutz.

• In honor of preposterous NFL Super Bowl custom, my phone number in Roman numerals is DCCXXIV CMLXI MMDLVIII. Call me!

• Martial Law is when a nation's military imposes its will on citizens. Marsha Law is when the oldest daughter on Brady Bunch imposes hers.

• The next great fortune to be made will fall to the man or woman who can divine a way to convert all these fidget spinners into actual energy.

• How ironic is it that New Hampshire felons must make license plates that read LIVE FREE OR DIE while imprisoned?

• I wonder if in New England right now sports talk hosts are patiently explaining to irate callers why the Patriots should not consider benching Brady and firing Belichick.

• The electrifying success of the Space X rocket ship is all the more amazing when you realize the ship is made entirely of discarded popsicle sticks.

• Super Bowl will be more interesting when fans from losing city are compelled to go to work for fans of the winners.

• Most people who think they have the world on a string realize too late what they're really holding is a lit fuse.

• I wish the world could do peace and justice as well as we do ceremony and spectacle. #Olympics2018

• I wonder if clever HVAC men ever entertain themselves at conduit installations by asking, "Tubey or not tubey?”

• As parents, the fruit of our loins inevitably become the apples of our eyes even when they drive us bananas.

• Side effects involving 4-hour erections should more accurately be called front effects. 

• I was born unaware, but immediately began paying attention and soon caring about the world and its people which means I've spent my entire life bewildered & devoutly wishing I'd just been born satisfied being stupid.

• I wonder if Biblical partisans complained about the blatant nepotism when God chose His only Son to be Savior.

• In America's tedious gun violence debate, the only thing that changes are the names on the tombstones.

• The future of mankind will be brighter when its history is graced by more kind men. And women!

• Any man who says he's his own worst critic is either delusional or unmarried. 

• Your life will be more fun if you don't judge new friends on their virtues, but instead on their potential as compatible cellmates.

• Anytime you hear of anyone dying suddenly, it ought to reinforce the need to ALWAYS be living suddenly.

• Honesty without tact is like brain surgery without anesthesia. The procedure might work, but the complications can kill.

• I dreamt a charismatic bald man put his arm around me and whispered in my ear, "Come with me. You belong with us. Stop fighting your nature." I thought he was trying to change my sexual orientation. Then I woke up and realized I was dreaming about Curly and the Three Stooges.

• Daughter, 11, asked what I'd be doing today. Me: "Sitting all alone in a small still room screaming for attention." That's writing.

• I’m eager to find a website that archives audios of all mankind's greatest speeches, but said in the voice of Elmer Fudd. Yes, I have a dweam!

• If get to heaven before you, I promise to spend all my time stringing tacky party lights so heaven will feel more festive.

• It infuriates me when I realize I'm 55 and my idea of a really great day is one that involves me finding a quarter.

• Who’ll be the next player to enter the MLB Hall of Fame as a Pittsburgh Pirate and has he or she been born yet?

• My "Use All The Crayons!" talk last week at Greensburg Country Club was a raging success. Sold 28 books to 70 lovely ladies. Left with a bag full of money feeling like I'd robbed a bank. Please get in touch if you want me to speak to your group.

• The only thing that could make curling more oddly compelling is if were contested on a deep lake atop thin ice.

• Navajo Tribe tradition meant no child could be given a name until he or she enjoyed their first authentic burst of spontaneous laughter. Just dealt with a 50-something grocery clerk who, I swear if she were Navajo would be wearing a blank name tag.

• Grammarians rejoice! Due to unusual confluence of current events and Olympic punishments, this is the first time Russians can meddle, but not medal.

• If a diplomatic rooster tries to avert a cock fight is it fair to call him chicken? 

• Avid spankers are the only people on earth whose ambition involves repeatedly hitting bottom.

• The best prosthetic salesmen and women are blessed with disarming personalities.

• Like the pessimist, the optimist is dead wrong about 50 percent of the time. The difference? The optimist is cheerful 100 percent of the time.

• Trump boldly contends he'd walk unarmed and without fear into gunfire. His porn star girlfriend says he's too afraid of sharks to put his toes in the ocean.

Related …

Friday, February 16, 2018

In '89 I was auctioned off as one of area's most eligible bachelors

It was during our annual family viewing of “Groundhog Day” that I shared a recollection I’d for unfathomable reasons long concealed. It was during the giddy scene near the end where Bill Murray’s “Phil Connors” character shows just how rewarding life can be when we devote our days to pure altruism.

He saves a man from choking. He bestows newlyweds with Wrestlemania tickets. He delights an audience with his musical virtuosity. He becomes universally beloved.

And the Punxsy women find him irresistible.

He is the star of the local bachelor auction. The women go wild for him. A bidding war erupts.

I don’t know why I never brought it up before, but as the bids kept going higher and higher, I piped up, “Boy, does that bring back some memories.”

The 17 year old snagged the bait: “Wait, you were in a bachelor auction?”

Indeed, I was. For about 90 minutes back in 1989, the tuxedoed me was considered one of the most eligible men in all Westmoreland County.

The particulars of how it all came about are fuzzy as is, well, any sober recollection of 1989. I know the other eligibles included doctors, lawyers, philanthropists and other regional muckety-mucks.

That in hindsight makes me proud because it meant I was chosen purely for looks and personality. Because what young debutante even then thought spending time with a young guy who covered local municipal authority meetings was a good way to secure a solid future?

The girls grilled me with questions. They wanted to know all about it. Were there a lot of bids? How much did I go for? Who won the bid — and there was some stinging remarks about what “winning” me meant.

It was some charity event held in the ballroom of the old Greensburg Sheraton. About 200 women were there to bid. As part of my package, I’d promised the high bidder I’d spring for a fine dinner on Pittsburgh’s scenic Mt. Washington followed by a dance party cruise on the Gateway Clipper. 

The bidding started at $25. I remember strolling around the stage and smiling and pointing at each bidder, which did nothing to excite the crowd.

I was prepared for this eventuality. So I strolled to center stage and reached my hands down below the waist of my tux pants. You may think I did something salacious. I did not.

I didn’t pull my pants down.

I pulled them up.

I was wearing a pair of lush red socks that went way up the legs.

And the women went wild!

Who knew I could excite more women by pulling my pants up than I ever could by stripping them off?

“Do I hear $50? $75? $100? $150?”

In the end, I went for $225, a bit more than a buck-a-pound or about what was then the going price for ground sirloin down at the Giant Eagle.

The winning bidder was a pretty summer intern, a striking red head, who worked with me at the Trib. I was later told several of the women who worked at the paper had contributed to her winning bid, which was very sweet of them.

Interestingly, this was before I met the woman who’d become my wife began working there and we commenced a primal hook-up that’s endured nearly three decades. 

I tell you, when it came to collegial canoodling that newspaper back then was thick with sin.

It was left to Val, of course, to ask the pregnant question that hung over the whole story.

“Well,” she said, “did you get lucky?”

“No, I did not,” I truthfully said.

But I like to think the intern did.

Related …

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hip questions on Tom Petty death report

News that the great Tom Petty died from an accidental overdose closes the book for many who are satisfied that this answers all the relevant questions. Petty, 66, was self-medicating to alleviate chronic pain resulting from a broken hip.

So that’s that, right?

Wrong. I’m restless over what to me is the key unresolved question.

How did Tom Petty break a hip? I can’t find it anywhere.

What happened? Did he fall off a ladder? Slip on a spill in Aisle 6? For heaven’s sake, was Tom Petty out shoveling snow?

Each of those scenarios nearly befell me in recent years, scrapes that led me to after sticking the landing think, “Whew, that was close. I could have broken a hip. Oh, well. Better me than Tom Petty.”

At the time of his October 2 death, it was reported Petty was worth $95 million. He could have afforded a squad of guys whose round-the-clock job description was KEEP TOM PETTY FROM BREAKING A HIP!

He was such a national treasure he should have been encased in bubble wrap and moved in armored cars on a continuous loop from home to stage to studio. Keeping him safe should have been codified in any national health care plan

I wonder if we’ll ever learn how it happened.

My Thanksgiving dinner prayer included all the graceful staples about lost loved ones, culinary blessings and that the Almighty would lend a holy hand on climate change since it was looking like we’d do nothing at all, but the conclusion was more personal.

“ … and please tell Tom Petty how much we miss him.”


I really do miss him. I’m normally immune to grieving over the deaths of men and women I’ve never met. I think it was different for so many of us with Petty. It felt like losing a brilliant friend. Someone we counted on for most of our lives was gone.

And it was all because of a broken hip. Such a shame.

I always thought Petty had plenty hip to spare.

Related …