Monday, September 1, 2014

From '08: Worked to death


This was the 23rd blog post I’d ever written. It’s from way back in July ’08, before even I started using pictures to illustrate. I say that like it’s a really heirloom piece of writing but, geez, I’d been writing for 25 years prior to that so it’s not really that big a deal.

I’m struck by how at the end I sort of foreshadowed what would happen with the crayon book. 

Happy Labor Day! Don’t be like this guy! Ever!



The Japanese labor bureau reported Tuesday that one of Toyota’s top engineers worked himself to death under deadline pressure to come up with a productive hybrid model for the manufacturer’s Camry line.

The 45-year-old man -- his name’s being withheld -- was reported to be working up to 114 hours of overtime a month in the six months prior to his death.

With the exception that we’re both 45, it’s impossible for me to imagine two people more opposite than the deceased and I.

He held a prestigious position for one of the world’s most recognizable brands. My most consuming duty for the past month has been getting this journalistic equivalent of a lemonade stand up and running.

He had a steady job with a weekly paycheck that, I’m sure, included a comma in the number box. In my entire adult life, I’ve only had three steady jobs and one of them was at Pizza Hut.

His job offered him and his family health benefits, stability and the opportunity to justifiably seek a raise when sales increased. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve jumped out of my chair and shouted, “You got a deal!” when someone told me the job paid nothing, but would get me a free round of golf at a nice club.

He devoted his entire life to working so Toyota could report a bigger and faster profit. I’ve devoted my entire life to avoiding people like him.

He’s dead. I’m not.

I often wonder what would happen to a guy like him if he had him live my work life for just one week. I spend hour after hour in my little apartment above the tavern listening to music, improving my juggling skills, shooting paper wads at an elevated waste basket and trying to dream up something that’ll land me a working assignment.

How would that sit with someone like him? Would all the idleness unnerve him? Would he feel lost without a driving boss telling him what to do? Would the banging on the floor from the boys in the bar pestering him to come down and join them for a drink drive him crazy?

I wonder if guys like him think, while they’re grinding well past midnight on some minutia, that somewhere out there there are guys like me who’ve stitched together carefree lives without the hassle of having to endure endless toiling in the corporate ant farm.

Sure, there are times when it’s scary not knowing if or when you’ll get another paycheck, but there are so many people getting by with so much less than I. I’m sure many of those unfortunates would gladly swap with some harried executive if it meant a decent salary.

Not me. Not anymore. It would be impossible for me to survive in any corporate world where I’d have to work more than 40 hours a week.

That’s not surprising. Exposure to an idle life is addicting. What is surprising is that more executives don’t step off the treadmill to join guys like me in life’s sandbox.

Certainly they could afford to do it. They could teach. They could volunteer to help the elderly or the poor. They could open ice cream stands. They could learn how to fix bicycles and donate them to needy children. There are thousands of fulfilling and productive ways to make a stress-free living in a world that aches for a helping hand.

Yet they persist in endlessly toiling through joyless lives centered around achieving ever elusive goals that wind up rusted or broke.

Honestly, I wish I could help them. Maybe I could start a foundation that would educate busy white collar men and women into realizing how short and tenuous this fine life is. It would be worth it if I could save the life of one overworked executive from expiring in senseless pursuit of deepening some corporate coffers.

But that sounds like an awful lot of work for a guy like me.

And, besides, the boys have started pounding on the floor. Must mean it’s time for Happy Hour.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

RRS: True room service ... sex with the maid

Some Sundays I select a re-run candidate because the stats pages show other readers have been flocking to it, a case of the cart leading the horse (and let’s not extend that analogy to horse manure).

Sometimes there’s an anniversary link; sometimes a related news story.

Today, it’s all about public service. It’s for anyone who’s ever wondered how to score sex with the maid.


A recent Newsweek survey convinces me I’m missing out on a lot of casual sex. And, yeah, it bums me out.

It’s one thing to let countless professional opportunities slip away, but losing out on sex with strangers, now that hurts.

Conducted in the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape charge, the survey found 8 percent of married men have cheated on their wives while traveling on business.

That’s not surprising. Many men (and women) are mired in loveless marriages and hunger for affection. And many men (and sadly for those many men, way fewer women) will screw anything that moves.

Or, apparently, comes into the room to change the towels.

Three percent of the cheating men say they’ve made a pass at a maid. Of those, 55 percent said they got shut down cold.

But of the randy three percent, 27 percent said the staffer accepted and, hallelujah, they got more than little mint on the pillow.

The numbers, as they always do, make my head nod like a chicken in the rain. If I’m not mistaken, (55 + 27) 82 percent of the 3 percent either got shut down or got laid.

What transpired among the remaining 18 percent?

Did they hold hands? Share poetry? Watch some HBO? Did the maid convince the guy to help her scrub the toilet?

It doesn’t say.

As a travel writer it’s been my privilege to have stayed in some of America’s finest hotels. It’s never once crossed my mind I could have a romp with the cleaning lady. Maybe that mindset is my problem.

I’ve never been one of those guys that gives off the “I want sex!” vibe.

No, the vibe I’m usually giving off when I’m alone in a posh hotel room with a maid is, “I forgot my toothbrush! Please bring me another one!”

The story included an anecdote about a housekeeper who recalled the time when a guest requested she bring him a blanket. She entered a room of an enterprising gent and found him lying buck naked atop the bed.

“He asked me to touch his genital area and offered me money for it. I said, ‘No, my job doesn’t go that far.’ He spent a couple of minutes trying to get me to come closer and tuck him in . . . I eventually dropped the blanket and ran.”

I have to admit, I read that and thought, “You know, I’ll bet that works maybe once every 100 times.”

But that once would be wonderful.

Who knows? Maybe someday if there’s nothing on TV I just might give it a try.

But I doubt it. I’m not like those 3 percenters who spend most of their waking hours panting about sex.

Sure, I pant about sex, too, but I’m always thinking about Consequences, a word I’m capitalizing for deliberate reasons.

“Not a day goes by when a man doesn’t have to choose
“‘tween what he wants and what he’s afraid to lose.”

“Consequences” is 1990 song by the great bluesman Robert Cray.

That’s what the 92 percent of traveling men think about when we’re not cheating on our spouses.

If a housekeeper came into my room and gave me a little leer, I might think, “Hmm, she must she see how hot I look in this posh robe (I find wearing those fancy robes irresistible). Maybe I could score a little action here.”

That’s when I’d start thinking about consequences.

What if she’s using me to get back at her boyfriend Carlos, the bartender who’s good with a knife?

What if she finds my lovemaking so legendary she feels compelled to stalk me at my home? What if my wife, also good with a knife, finds out?

Or what if she winds up disappointed? Not in my lovemaking talents, certainly, but maybe she thinks by being in this fancy hotel I’m some powerful financial executive like the now disgraced Strauss-Kahn.

What if she finds out I’m more about bloggin’ than bankin’?

There are so many painful and humiliating ways this could wind up ruining my life and the lives of the ones I love.

On the other hand, maybe after this she might want to check out my blog. Maybe she’ll like it.

It’s a consequence I’ll have to consider.


What I won’t go through to grow the readership.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Stop buying Rolling Rock! It's made in Jersey!

He was a nice earnest young man, very polite and friendly. Exactly the kind of person no one should want to murder.

But that was my instinct for reasons that will be clear to anyone who cares about things like truth and tradition.

He was drinking a Rolling Rock. Bragging about it.

We were making idle chatter at the Pour House, an outstanding Irish pub in Carnegie, birthplace of Pittsburgh Pirate great Honus Wagner, when he asked where I lived.

I told him Latrobe.

“Man, I’ve always wanted to go there and tour the brewery,” he said. “Rolling Rock’s the best. One day I want to come see where it’s made.”

“Then you’d better plug Newark into your GPS,” I said, “because that’s where they’ve been making it since 2006.”

I really shouldn’t have been mad at him. How was he to know?

Ever since 2006 when Anheuser-Busch bought the Rolling Rock brand, the beer producers have been successfully hoodwinking beer drinkers into thinking the beer was still made in the “glass-lined tanks of ol’ Latrobe,” a phrase that still appears on the charming green bottles.

It infuriates me.

See, I’ve loved Rolling Rock longer than I’ve loved my family. It’s been there for me since I started drinking beer back in, I think, the 5th grade.

And unlike those in my family, Rolling Rock’s never done anything to break my heart.

Of course, my family’s never done anything to give me a skull-pounding hangover so I guess it’s a wash in regards to which entity’s been more debilitating.

But I had a real fondness for Rolling Rock all my drinking life. I drank in college because we loved the taste and because the little 7-oz. pony bottles — we called ‘em grenades — were the perfect size to heave empty at the trains that ran right through the Ohio University campus in Athens.

It’s the beer they drank in the little western Pennsylvania neighborhood bars where they filmed “The Deer Hunter.”

I drank it with apostolic pride when I lived in Nashville. Heck, we all did. I have pictures of my going away party where the tables were littered with empty horses.

The horse was the 12 ouncer; the ponies were 7. It all tied into the equine theme painted in white on the green bottles. When they came out with a dark beer in about 1996, my buddy started calling it “horse manure.”

Everything about it was charming. It was small town. It had great mystique. It had that “33” on the label.

Some theorized that was the year a horse named Rolling Rock won the Kentucky Derby (false); others said it was because 1933 was the year Prohibition was repealed (true, but merely coincidental).

The real reason was because when the beer was first being bottled the owners put the iconic little “from the glass-lined tanks of ol’ Latrobe” phrase on the backs of the mock-up. The saying was 33 words long (true) and they put that at the bottom — “33” — so the printer would know how much per-word to charge.

I remember telling that story in college at parties and then watching the trivia spread. I could tell it was spreading, too, because you could see all the lips moving as disbelievers began counting the words.

It was college, but none of the Bobcats had yet learned how to count in their heads without moving their lips.

Then in 1989, fate could no longer be denied and I moved to Latrobe.

Arnold Palmer! Fred Rogers! The first professional football game! Birthplace of the banana split!

And Rolling Rock!

I’d found me a home. I was one of two bureau reporters right in Latrobe, just down the street from Latrobe Brewing. It was right there. You could see it. You could smell it.

I remember one time back when I was still doing local reporting and was responsible for getting the daily hospital admittance reports at Latrobe Hospital.

And you wonder why I left to do “Town Saved By Giant Ball of Twine!” stories for National Enquirer?

I remember one fall morning walking out of the hospital with my lists and being greeted by this young family that was from out of town and unfamiliar with the local aroma. It smelled like cooking cereal.

“Yuck! What is that smell?” they asked.

As we were standing outside the hospital, I was tempted to say something like, “Oh, this is when they burn the amputated limbs and other medical wastes!” Instead, I told the truth.

“That’s the brewery where they make Rolling Rock.”

I’ll never forget the beatific transformation of their faces. The smell went from noxious to marvelous.
“Oh! You don’t say!”

The brewery seized on the small town charm of its brand and sponsored The Rolling Rock Town Fair at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds in the early 2000s. Performers included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Outkast, Nickelback, Stone Temple Pilots and a bunch of other bands that held zero appeal for me.

But I went because it was all just so cool. It was a true town fair. They had games, rides, cow-milking contests, the works. People came from all over the country and it was very special.

Then in 2006 it all went to hell.

Budweiser bought the brand and moved it out to Newark. It was the last time I ever paid for a Budweiser product.

The brewery went idle and 70 of my buddies were out of work from jobs they’d expected would sustain them, as it had their fathers, through to retirement.

Some in Latrobe turned to prayer.

Me, I turned to Yuengling, a fine Pennsylvania beer brewed in Pottsville.

A series of owners came and went. Iron City, another iconic western Pennsylvania brand, was mismanaged out of business in Pittsburgh. They began making that in Latrobe.

And through it all the New Jersey producers of Rolling Rock kept up the charade that the beer was made in the town they’d turned their back on.

Check out the Rolling Rock website: It’s still designed to mislead visitors into believing it’s made right here.

Drives me nuts.

And I can’t keep up with what is made here. The brewery is booming.

Besides Iron City, they also brew Stoney’s and trendy Southampton brands Double White, IPA, Atbier, Pumpkin, and Imperial Porter.

They also brew Duquesne, another heirloom Pittsburgh brand that’s become my go-to draft of choice.

They’re doing great, as is Four Seasons Brewery, a craft beer that began operating in Latrobe last fall and is going gangbusters.

But I miss the days when the beer world made perfect sense, when Latrobe made Rolling Rock, when Pittsburgh made Iron City and Newark made embarrassing mistakes involving sensible city governance.

The utter absurdity of it all was hammered home last month when we were in the Outer Banks on vacation. Val made a beer run and called from the store to see what I wanted.

“They have Heineken, LaBatts, Red Stripe, Corona . . .”

“Oh, get the Red Stripe. I haven’t had that since our cruise.”

Hooray beer!

Remember those Red Stripe ads? You had this ya-mon Rastafarian extolling the joys of the Jamaican-brewed beer by shouting, "Hooray beer!" It reminds me of our Caribbean cruise and seemed perfect for vacation, a little island beer on our little island getaway.

It wasn’t till she brought it home and I studied the label that I realized just how out of tilt the beer world’s become.

My Jamaican beer is brewed now brewed in, ya mon, Latrobe.

It’s true.

There are still days when I’d like to get my hands on a Rolling Rock pony bottle.

It’s just that now I want to heave it at the train before any one else gets a chance to buy it and help perpetuate a fraud.







Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Arnold Palmer (& you?) starring in my next video promo!

As far as casting concerns go, I’ve already secured what to me is the Brangelina of cheesy YouTube promotions. 

That’d be Arnold Palmer and Doc Giffin (Palmer’s assistant for the past 45 or so years). Both men on Monday filmed their 20 second parts to appear in my new production.

Now, with those two in the can, I believe others will be more eager to participate.

See, I’ve been brainstorming up an idea for another video I can send to prospective event planners who might consider having me come in to speak to their groups. I thought it would be wise to this time have other people saying nice things about me and “Use All The Crayons!

Thus, after my last speech before 100 teachers at the South Side Area School District, I asked a staffer to approach attendees and with my camera pointed at them ask, “So, in 20 seconds or less, what did you think of Chris?”

Happily, he got about a dozen people who said things like, “Oh, he was very funny!” “He has a great uplifting message!” and “He was wonderful!”

And, inevitably, he got about the same number of people who said, “Get that camera out of my face right now!” before he was chastened into giving up.
It dawned on me I could probably get about 100 people to say nice things about me and the book, but that would be boring to each and every viewer. Everyone but me, really, and I’d watch it over and over so many times the numbers might fool people into thinking the video’d gone viral.

So I thought it’d be fun to ask the guys in the bar to answer the same question, but with, “He’s cheap.” “He has a bad haircut.” “He borrows tools and never returns them.” And my family saying I’m a great big meanie who always cracks myself up every time he farts at the dinner table. 

And, yes, I did consider making a video of me repeatedly farting at the dinner table and cracking up as my next promotion.

Then I thought it’d be cool to have Palmer, who graciously provided the cover endorsement — the only non-golf lifestyle book for which he’s ever done this — saying, “Who’s Chris Rodell? I said WHAT about his book?” and “Who let you in here?”

And that’s exactly what he did. I’ll cut that up into three distinct clips and scatter them throughout the video — as soon as I master video clip scattering.

Doc played ball, too. He agreed to read, “I’ve golfed with Chris Rodell. He can’t drive. He can’t chip. And he can’t putt. But if CBS ever needs a replacement for ‘Survivor’ host Jeff Probst then Chris Rodell’s the man!”

In my mind, I see it all coming together brilliantly.

Of course, 20 years ago I thought that same thing about my career and you can see how well that’s working out.

I’ll continue to glean authentic comments from my presentations, but hope to spice things up with more fun cameos.

And I invite you to participate. Just film a little selfie (or have someone else film) saying something either flattering or absurd in about me or the book.

If you really loved the book, just say just that. If you bought it for a friend who’s sick because you thought it would cheer them up, say that in 10 seconds and I’ll include.

I want to get clips of people who bought multiple copies — from 5 to 250 — to testify.

And I want to continue to get jiffy little clips of people saying:

“He has great posture!”

“I like it when he sings!”

“I hear he spends hours staring at his ant farm!”

Silly stuff like that. But keep it short, please. And family-friendly. Send video contributions to storyteller@chrisrodell.com
Of course, don’t feel like you have to do anything. Just showing up here to read is plenty.

And I wouldn’t want anyone to say in 20 seconds or less, “Geez, that guy is really pushy.”


Related . . .





Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Re-build Napa & boost America: Guzzle wine!


Ground-breaking news is causing me to renege on my promise to today write about having Arnold Palmer cameo in my next YouTube promotion.

And, yes, every single earthquake is in some ways what you have to call “ground-breaking.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared Napa Valley, the world-famous wine-growing region, in a state of emergency.

Know what that means?

President Obama has legitimate grounds to fly Air Force One out west to spend five or six days offering federal support to 1 percenters who today are mopping up wine that sells for as much as $75 a glass.

That’s what I’d do.

I’d meet with stricken vintners, sample product and confirm over and over again that Napa wines remain perfectly safe to guzzle. And I’d invite a huge bi-partisan congressional delegation to join me.

It could come out of the FEMA budget!

It’s my contention many of our grinding national problems — too much intolerance, too much incivility — are a direct result of too much sobriety. A nice wine buzz will not only lighten the American mood, it will also bolster a $5.5 billion industry staggered by a natural disaster.

I love Napa. Val and I spent a big, happy part of our ’96 honeymoon right there among the grapes.

We took a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards, toured the wineries, and enjoyed some of the most splendid times any newlyweds could conceive.

Because I was at the time a budding travel writer, one who happened to be honeymooning, many romantic PR agents showered Val and I with lavish perks. We stayed in the finest hotels, dined at the best restaurants and enjoyed some privileges common to only the wealthy and well connected.

So I was in way over my head a few times.

The most notable of these occurred in the dining room of what was then, and is still, considered one of the world’s finest restaurants. It’s The French Laundry in Yountville.

And I’m not making a joke there. It really is called The French Laundry because it is housed in a building that used to serve as an old French steam laundry, and not because the bill for eating there ($$$$$) involves a trip to the proverbial cleaners.

Our hosts (two young gourmands) were very enthused about taking us there for a luxurious wine country lunch.

Understand, Val and I on our own would never have gone there on our own. Heck, we never would have known to go there.

But it was the greatest meal we’ve ever had. It lasted four hours over something like 15 courses with wine! Wine! Wine!

It was magnificent. About halfway through, we heard jazz music and looked outside and there was this joyful little street parade tooling along down below our balcony. It was like this perfect magical afternoon. We were laughing and drinking and eating with our new friends like the good times would never end.

But end they did.

Right after the bill came.

Looking back on it, what happened next was among the most brave things I’ve ever done.

They handed the bill to the woman PR host. Why not? She’d done all the ordering. The waiter assumed she was paying.

So did we!

We later calculated the bill, without tip, was probably close to $1,600.

What did I do?

I sat there like a cigar-store Indian. I was perfectly immobile. I didn’t inquire or ask  if I could contribute and I certainly didn’t reach for my wallet.

I knew instinctively it was a bill I could not pay, not even our fractional share. A decent tip would have cost me $400.

And I was right to do nothing. They said they wanted to take us to lunch and didn’t ask about our means. This, too, was a business expense for her, one that would likely required a lot of explaining to her boss.

Too bad. She learned a valuable lesson: understand next time you take a freelance writer to lunch, you’d either better budget accordingly or request a table near an exit that makes “dine ’n’ dash” a face-saving alternative.

Looking back, my cheapness in that instant may have ensured the longevity to our young marriage. Had I offered to pay, Val would have been furious and our marriage would have started off in a financial and emotional hole. Instead, she came away with a great memory and an appreciation for her new husband’s resourcefulness.

So it all worked out fine in the end.

At least for me and Val!

My second great faux pas went undetected, but the act remains a scar on my sophistication, one that still cracks me up whenever I find myself feeling pretentious.

We were invited on an exclusive tour of Opus One Winery, the heady brainchild of wine barons Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi, who together produced what at the time was the most desirable and expensive wine in America, one that today sells in restaurants for as much as $1,000 a bottle.

Our guide was the perfect host. He was funny, informed and conspiratorial whenever he confided obscure wine facts to Val and I like we were fellow connoisseurs, refined in our tastes, impeccable in our manner.

So we did the tour of the grapes, saw how the best wines were made, bottled and stored until finally and in breathless anticipation he stood before the door to the tasting room.

He flattered our sensibilities by stressing how few of their guests ever got to enjoy what we were about to experience.

Then with a flourish he opened the door. There amidst the multitude of seeping barrels under a gleaming spotlight was a table, and on that table were five wine glasses . . . and a bottle of Opus One Cabernet Sauvignon 1990.

It was like we were gazing upon the baby Jesus.

As he poured till half the bottle was gone, he told us about the clever nuances within each sip, the oaky textures, the piquant aftertaste.

“What you’re about to savor is the result of years of wine-making genius . . . Enjoy!”

I sipped.

Yup, it was wine all right!

I took another sip. I can’t say I was expecting some kind of instant wine erection that would reflexively cause me to drag my new bride back behind the barrels for a honeymoon quickie, but to me it still was just wine.

I remember feeling a little let down, a little uncouth, like someone who’d never appreciated the finer things in life.

I was still feeling this way as he opened the door and led everyone upstairs to the lobby for soulful goodbyes.

I lingered until I was sure I was alone, just me and the half-full bottle of Opus One Cabernet Sauvignon 1990.

The I grabbed the bottle and just chugged it down to the very last drop.

I have to say, I thought it tasted better in about five big gulps than it did in one dainty little sip.

So let’s use this Napa earthquake to all help them rebuild by spending a little time with a loved one — or maybe someone with whom you differ politically — and a good bottle of California wine.

And drink it all up.

Together with more wine we can all make America whine less.


Related . . .







Monday, August 25, 2014

A Three Stooges tweet extravaganza!

I hate starting the week without posting something fresh. But today’s the first day of school and then I have a 10 a.m. interview with Arnold Palmer, thus today’s a bit of a jumble. So here’s a compilation of some of my best Stooge tweets from the past six months.

I realize this appeals to only a razor-thin margin of my razor-thin readership, but I hate it when anyone thinks I’ve taken a day off. Say what you want about The Stooges, but there was never a film of them just sitting around loafing. They were always doing plumbing, farming, running a deli, chasing mummies, etc. The Stooges lead very active lives.

Tomorrow, a full report on my Arnold Palmer interview, which is secondary to my main selfish purpose for being there. He’s already agreed to cameo in my next YouTube promotion so the big news is today I get to “direct” the great Arnold Palmer.

He’s about to learn when it comes to self-promotion I’m a tyrannical perfectionist, not what anyone would expect from someone who doubles as a Stooge scholar.



• The only time it’s proper to say someone’s been “jarred” awake is when Moe does it to Curly and it involves an actual jar.

• Airing anti-depressant drug ads during a Three Stooges marathon seems like a gross misapplication of marketing funds.

• Anyone care to guess the identity of the favorite Stooge the girl Billy Idol sings about in "Rebel Yell?" That's right. It's “Moe! Moe! Moe!”

• Watching Three Stooges short featuring the boys playing with a monkey. If Homer Simpson cameos it will be a comic collision of historic proportions.

• Tomorrow is Father's Day, the one day of the year when my daughters don't instinctively treat me like Moe treats Curly.

• If they’d have lived during Roman times, Augustus Caesar would have referred to Moe, Larry and Curly in Latin as “Tribus Stooges”

• I’m becoming convinced the greatest faith isn't the belief in God. The greatest faith is when Curly yells, "Hey, Moe! Hey, Larry! Help! Help!" and believes the situation will actually improve.

• A mohawk is a colorful hairdo. A Moe Hawk is an irrationally angry bird that inflicts slapstick violence on a Curley Hawk or Larry Hawk.

• “It’s a mystery why anyone would opt for Oreos over Double Stuffed Oreos. It'd be like choosing to watch a skit featuring The Two Stooges.”

• Through 220 shot films over three decades, #TheThreeStooges never once did a fart joke. Know what that means? They were a class act.

• In the near future, brain transplants will be elective surgery. What kind of new brain would you like? More appreciative of art? More scientifically inclined? Me, I'd like one that doesn't become immobilized when it becomes aware there's a Three Stooges marathon on

• If we've learned anything from watching today's "Three Stooges," it is to never say, "Here! Take mine!" whenever Moe asks for a hammer.

• I wonder if in the Three Stooges scripts when it called for Curly to laugh it actually spelled it out, "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.” Heck, I’m not certain The Stooges even had scripts.

• Another great thing about watching The Stooges: takes mere seconds to say what happened anytime someone walks in & asks, “So, what’ve I missed?”

• Tennessee friend of mine said he saw a vanity plate that read, “NYUK X3.” Said it took him a few seconds to get it. Me, too.

• It’s an historical irony that if one or the other ever needed a stunt double, Hitler and Moe Howard would have had to call one another.

• Through all his enraged violence against Larry, Curly and Shemp, Moe Howard never once went for the groin shot. Know what that means to me? Moe was at heart a gentleman.

• Here’s how much my wife respects my intellect: she just asked me who was the last Stooge to die (It was Joe DeRita, but purists say it was Moe in ‘75).

• I may not be the world's best father but I never said, “I have a good idea! Let’s let The Stooges babysit the kids!”



Related . . .



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Re-Run Sunday: An alphabetically-ordered world

First day of school is tomorrow, as good a time as any to re-post my story about why the world would be better and more just if it were organized on alphabetically lines. Just like old home room!


I was hashing out the first week of school recently with a high school English teacher friend of mine. He said the year’s off to a great start.

The kids seem interested, well-behaved, etc.

Who’s in your home room, I asked.

“A good bunch. They’re engaged, respectful --”

That’s not what I’m talking about. What letter kids do you have?

“I have the As. I always get the As. My room is the first one in the hall and that’s where they put all the As.”

See, that bugs Rs like me. While the As could just coast right into their room, I had to walk much farther down the hall.

The extra distance naturally gave me less study time, fewer opportunities to catch up on homework and left me starting each day sweaty and fatigued from the extra exertions.

I blame the As for conversely adding to the reasons why I’ve never gotten very far since high school.

So I’ve never liked As, much less earned any.

I asked my friend if any of the Gs, Ms, Ts or other students called his room the A-hole.

He said no, but I think he’s going to defensively recall our conversation the next time some unruly kid glares at him and mouths, “A-hole!”

I wish more of the world went by alphabetical order. It would ensure we’d meet a better cross section of people.

For instance, I drink in a bar with some Bs, some Ss, some Ms, a pair of Ps, some Ks, a U or two and surnames covering just about every letter in the alphabet except perhaps Q and Z.

And the owner doesn’t discriminate. It’s not like if a neighborhood Quatrini or Zelmore walked in and the owner, a fair-minded C, would say, “We don’t serve your kind in here.”

But while our last names may be varied, we are alike in nearly every other regard. We’re all white, middle-aged, paunchy and have bad haircuts.

There ought to be bars that are ordered just like our old homerooms. It would be a boon to diversity.

That way I’d drink with a Spanish Rodriguez, a Jewish Rabinovitz, an Irish Rafferty, an African-American Robinson and maybe a Korean Rhee.

It would bring me into friendly contact with a whole rainbow of humanity, at least those whose last names begin with R and enjoy getting all pie-eyed every night from 5 to 7 p.m.

The start of school and homeroom order always has me thinking of Theodore Zyzak.

He for more than 40 years was the last name in the 1,853-page Pittsburgh phone book. He may have been the last name in all America. You have to figure if they started calling roll of everyone in America it would take until at least 2019 until he’d get to raise his hand and say, “Here!”

He always fascinated me because I knew in high school some mean boys -- I swear it wasn’t me -- who’d crank call him and ask was it was like to always be last.

Years later, I asked him that very same question in a professional setting for a Pittsburgh Magazine story I did about him and what it was like being first in last.

“Ah, it was awful,” he said. “I never got to enjoy those idle moments after they call your name. No, they’d call my name and it would be, ‘Okay, open your books to page . . .”

The worst, he said, were the inoculations. He’d have to sit there through escalating anxieties as kids were alphabetically summoned and would howl in pain or faint dead away.

He said the only time he ever got called first was when some sergeant felt creative and reversed the alphabet and ordered Zyzak into hazardous duty in Okinawa and later in Korea.

A proud Pole, he said he never considered changing his name to something like “Byzak” or taking the coward’s dodge and having his phone number unlisted.

It’s been years since we talked. I wonder how he’s doing.

For all I know, this noble elderly gent may have recently passed on and is awaiting heavenly summons.

I just hope this time the poor guy doesn’t have to wait an eternity to hear them call his name.


Related . . .