Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A day for mourning: RIP Dow Carnahan


Days like today make it impossible to maintain our pledge to always stand for silly over somber.

What choice do we have?

Our friend Dow Carnahan, 56, has died.

An announcer for 30 years with WCNS, the hometown AM radio station, all the obituaries are calling him “The Voice of Latrobe,” which he was. He broadcast the Latrobe Wildcats high school football and basketball games and did the same duties for St. Vincent College. He also announced racetrack competition at the area speedways.

He did the news, too, and in 2013 and 2014 won the peer-awarded “Outstanding Local Radio Newscast” by the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters.

What I most respected about him was how little this kind, gentle man felt the need to speak.

Dow was a great talker.

He was an even better listener.

The distinction is key because we live in an age when people are celebrated for relentless volubility. It’s true in our politics, our celebrity and even in our small town bar rooms.

Loud, opinionated people — even the obviously ill-informed — dominate the room.

Dow, a big lanky dude, could have been that guy. He could have been a huge blowhard. Nobody would have minded at all. But that was never his way.

That was a big part of his appeal.

Back when The Pond was still The Pond and Dave Carfang was behind the bar and it was three-deep with happy guzzlers on Friday nights, Dow would often quietly saunter in after broadcasting a game down at Memorial Stadium.

You felt privileged if he came up and stood beside you for a drink. He’d share insider stuff on all the Pittsburgh teams and the big shot broadcasters who’d befriended him.

Everyone who knew Dow liked Dow.

You can say that about a lot of people, but mostly for logistical reasons. Most people don’t know many other people.

Dow knew everyone in Latrobe and everyone in Latrobe liked Dow.

Again, this is a rare feat in a small town where youth sports are so dominant. This is the kind of town where sports editors for the local paper have been punched in the nose for not being sufficiently boosterish.

Dow covered controversies, but he was never controversial. Not once.

A friend of mine messaged me Saturday morning that Dow died in a movie theater Friday evening. Me and the rest of the local irreverents have been eager ever since to know which movie killed him off.

He was alone (his long-time girlfriend had died in August) and when the movie ended, staffers thought he’d fallen asleep and tried to rouse him.

They failed.

To me, it’s a Hall of Fame death and an aspirational way to go.

I’m proud to say I’d been a guest on his popular Saturday morning talk show. You can check out the 30-minute interview at the WCNS Dow Carnahan link on my crayons page.

He said he’d taken “Use All The Crayons!” on a Mexican vacation so magnificently relaxing he spilled a pink drink on the pages. He showed it to me.

The tipsy desecration made me happy.

He said he loved the book and was going to apply the tips, one of which makes me feel slightly uneasy in the wake of his situational death:

“153:   See a movie solo. It feels very liberating.”

It’s odd how some population decreases have a way of making some small towns feel bigger, less personal.

With Dow’s death, our communal identity is diminished. We’re no longer who we were.

His quiet passing, so much like his life, seems imbued with unspoken grace and dignity.

Just like Dow.

I’m already missing him so much.

So today, please, share a moment of silence for the passing of a beloved man gone too soon. 

We’ll all miss that rare gentleman who could be as eloquent in all he said as as in all he left unsaid.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Monkeying 'round with bananas (from '12)

Hearing from lots of new readers these days. I’m very pleased. So to stoke that fresh interest I’ll be dropping some of my favorites from my more than 1,600 posts dating back to, yikes, 2008. I hope it’ll give readers a chance to enjoy some of the heirloom ones without having to browse through obvious stinkers. If you look forward to the blog, I hope you’ll share it with friends or have them send me Facebook friend request. And I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read and flatter me with your compliments. Means the world to me.


I mentioned to a friend a while back that I felt self-conscious eating a banana in public, like I was afraid someone would snap a picture and invite cruel captions.

“I don’t know what you’re doing with your banana,” he said, “but you need to just bite it.”

Since last year, I’ve probably spent more time thinking about how to eat a banana than most people. That was when our 4th grader came home and said, “Look, here’s how Mr. Walker says monkeys eat bananas.”

She took a perfectly good banana, turned it upside down and squeezed the scab until it was nothing but peel and pudding.

Then she handed me the mess.

I don’t know how she expected me to react to her little demonstration. Perhaps she was hoping to engage me in some discussion of evolutionary quirks.

Instead I said, “What the hell are they teaching in school these days? Get your ass in your room and don’t come out until Mommy and me are good and drunk!”

I eat probably a banana a day. I love ‘em.

Here’s a fact: The flabby aerodynamics of a banana peel make it impossible to heave one more than 20 feet from a second story window across a tavern’s gravel parking lot.

That’s what I do with all mine. They degrade so quickly no one’s ever said, geez, how come there’s always a hazardous number of banana peels in The Pond parking lot?

I guess we can blame the Stooges for the mistaken belief that stepping on a banana peel can knock the legs out from under dimwits.

It happened all the time with the Stooges and it happened with the old battle ax played by Ethel Merman in the near-perfect 1963 screwball comedy, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

But I’ve never seen it happen in real life. Seeing it happen to someone like Trump’s way up there on my bucket list.

I don’t know whether or not monkeys eat bananas upside down or not, but I know adding monkey to anything improves everything.

I was thinking about this as I was listening to a string of great monkey rock songs -- and wouldn’t that category improve the Grammys?

There’s “Monkey Man,” by The Stones, one of their finest; “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel; “Punish the Monkey” by Mark Knopfler; and the cheeky “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by the Traveling Wilburys.

Delbert McClinton has “Monkey Around.” Chorus: “You made a man into a monkey, now that monkey’s gonna monkey around!”

I saw Bruce Springsteen monkeyin’ around with a backup singer the very night I heard him sing his great monkey song, the obscure “Part-Man, Part-Monkey.”

It was 1988, the “Tunnel of Love” tour. I remember seeing him actually making out on stage in between songs with a bandmate -- and it wasn’t Little Steven.

I know what you’re thinking: Shocking! A rock ‘n’ roll singer kissing a girl who wasn’t his wife!

Yes, my prudish friend, I remember thinking the exact same thing. At the time he was married to the luscious Julianne Philips, an ‘80s vixen who had more hair than the floor of an unswept beauty salon.

The on-stage woman with whom he was making out? Patti Scialfa, Springsteen’s wife since 1990.

“Part-Man, Part-Monkey” references the Scopes Monkey Trial and comes down squarely on the side of the chimps. And who can forget “Inherit The Wind,” the Spencer Tracy movie about the historic trial? Outstanding.

Val and I just watched another great monkey movie, 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco. We loved it, as did 83 percent of America’s critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

In it, the Franco character has a super-intelligent chimp for a chum. It turns out as well for him as it did for that crazy Long Island lady who owned Travis the pet chimp who attacked her friend, mauling her so badly she needed a face transplant.

It’s a horrific story and I always feel shame for chuckling when recalling the tabloid headlines: “Furious George!”

So there you have it, a comprehensive story about bananas and monkeys.

Or as Troy McClure said on “The Simpsons” when he performed the musical version of “Planet of the Apes,” it has everything from “chimpan-A to chimpanzee!”

And now it’s time for me to peel and eat my banana. But first I’m closing the drapes.


I think we’ve all had enough monkey business for one day.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tweets of the Month!


Follow my tweets at 8days2Amish! Or don’t. I’ll make sure all the good stuff ends up here on the blog sooner or later. Have a great weekend!


• Until all insects respect my 5-foot cone of privacy, summer's always going to be a bit overrated to me.

• What’s it say about my musical appreciations that George Harrison was my favorite Beatle, but only fourth favorite Wilbury?

• Daughter, 9, thinks Coachella Music Festival is a music festival run by a coach named Ella.

• ”Latest technology" is our greatest misnomer. All technology is dated the instant it is released. Grocery store milk has longer shelflife.

• What are the odds a man called Prince would die on the Queen's birthday?

• Used to tell well-mannered folks they must have been raised by good parents. Now I realize many turn out good by disregarding awful ones.

• I miss good music and simpler times but I'm most nostalgic for the day when I didn't know your politics and you didn't know mine.

• I’m convinced we could end world hunger if for just one summer USA agreed to cease all competitive eating contests.

• I’d like to see Bruno Mars and Venus Williams get together and have a kid who could be described as earthy.

• Men are from Mars, women from Venus, but Venus Williams is from Lynwood, California.

• Just learned Karl Rove was born on Dec. 25. I believe it's the only thing he and Jesus have in common. 

• Many people say they want to be writers when what they mean is they want to be either John Grisham or J.K. Rowling.

• How massive is my ego? When daughter, 15, is in car texting to friends I believe she is writing, "My Daddy is the greatest!”

• A good warm bath is about as close to returning to the womb as we can get without inconveniencing Mom.

• I hope next week Roger Goodell greets one top draftee so exuberantly he has to fine himself for an excessive celebration.

• The wave of vast emptiness I felt realizing that Mick is 72 and will one day die eased somewhat with realization Keith never will.

• I absolutely can't stand this about myself but sometimes I find myself sitting here thinking, man, I wonder how Kate Gosselin's doing?

• It’s fun imagining how great historical figures would have looked had they worn big militant afros. Try it with Jesus, Lincoln, Dick Cheney.

• How come only people entitled to blither seem to be idiots? Heard plenty of blithering newscasters. Been known to enjoy good blither myself.

• Most perplexing aspect of my existence is how I can go from being so popular at the bar to being unpopular at home w/out getting the bends.

• Mood rings are great, but interpersonal relations will dramatically improve when we have mood noses.

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

• I wish Bishop Desmond Tutu had a son named Bishop Desmond Tutu so Bishop Desmond Tutu could be called Bishop Desmond TuTu II.

• Realized I was wrong to wonder which historical likeness Trump will bump from Rushmore when he's prez. He’ll bump and replace all. Mt. Trumpmore will be more Trump! 

• Facebook is like what happens in junior high school classes when the teacher leaves the room to sneak a smoke.

• It’s often said of snowflakes no two are ever alike, but what about popcorn? Needs further study. Too bad I eat most of my popcorn in dark.

• Which is the greater cultural irony: Roger Daltry still singing, "Hope I die 'fore I get old," or Madonna still singing, "Like a Virgin?”

• There’s so much noise I hope to one day evolve ear lids. Like eye lids, I could just shut them in the presence of something unpleasant.

• I have to imagine the swear box in Hell is always full, but what sorts of public improvement projects get the proceeds?

• I like it when restaurants use sandwich boards to promote sandwiches.

• It feels contradictory even to me but I truly hate people who truly hate. 

• I wonder if anyone in the Lewis & Clark expedition ever complained about things like being lactose intolerant.

• We live in a time when many people aren't truly happy unless they're truly angry.

• Toy mermaids must have doll fins.

• Walls are so ugly. I'd like to see Trump announce he'll install a border-long invisible fence and persuade Mexicans to wear shock collars. And Mexico’ll pay for the collars!

• I’m good friends with about 20 true morons and it absolutely infuriates me their votes count just as much as mine.

• The only way curmudgeonly old dogs could be more lovable is if they succumbed to male pattern baldness

• It’s taken 15 years but www.ChrisRodell.com is finally becoming more like Chris Rodell. What could go wrong? 

• We should distribute phone numbers in order of importance. It’d be fun to watch Trump argue that he, not God, should be #1.

• Often the things we most want are the things that’ll kill us the quickest if we were given unrestricted access to them.

• Daughter, 9, collapses in disbelieving hysterics when I tell her there's a man whose name's pronounced Dick ButtKiss and no one makes fun.

• Told daughter, 9, Rodell is actually spelled with three Ls. "The second one's silent, but the third one is silent AND invisible.

• Put the word "Horny" in front of any two-word news subject and it becomes the name of a great punk band. Re: "Horny Amish Housewives”

• Given news of protestors/reporters being assaulted, I propose the candidate change his name from Donald Trump to Donald Thump.


Related …






Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Harris Wofford: Pennsylvania's 1st gay senator


I was surprised to learn on election day I’d voted for Pennsylvania’s first gay U.S. Senator.

In 1991!

Yes, one of my favorite senators, Harris Wofford, 90, is marrying Matthew Charlton, 40.

Talk about switching parties.

Even for a romantic like me, it’s all a bit confusing.

See, back in 1991 Harris Wofford had been happily married for 43 years to his wife Clare (she died in ’96) and they together had three children.

Some would mistakenly surmise, I guess, that means Wofford was in the closet.

If he was then the closet was in a different house in another state because Wofford was a life-long happy hetero.

It was an interesting time for me. I was doing general assignment features for the local paper that often brought me into frequent face time with Pennsylvania’s senators.

They were at the time Arlen Specter and John Heinz III, both moderate Republicans.

In this divisive era, many people are quick to label me a raging liberal — and I’m fine with that. But it wasn’t always so and the reasons have to do with Harris Wofford and my political coming of age.

See, one of the politicians I most admire was Heinz, a classic Pennsylvania Republican.

He was fiscally conservative and socially moderate. To give youngsters some idea of his political pedigree he was married to Teresa Heinz who is now married to Secretary of State John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.

And Heinz was brilliant.

That was my conclusion after an impromptu interview/bull session outside a ’91 memorial service for local Gulf War victims.

I found Heinz and an aide just hanging out behind the church. I approached and asked if he had time to answer some questions.

He did.

About 30 minutes, as it turned out.

I was very professional and concise at the beginning. I asked relevant policy questions about global hot spots and federal budgetary matters. Having exhausted the issues, I felt him out about insider politics and in no time we’d begun to banter.

We talked baseball, music, history, books, the arts and the best places to get a great local pizza.

It was wonderful. He was so warm and engaging. I remember thinking, wow, this man will one day be president.

Had I enjoyed the true gift of prophesy, I would have said, “Senator, for God’s sake, don’t get on any helicopters in the next month!”

Because just three weeks later, Heinz was dead, killed in an aviation accident over Philadelphia. He was 52. With him died, I believe, a political civility that’s never been recovered as the GOP began its historic rightward lurch.

Given there wasn’t enough time to hold primaries, Gov. Robert Casey appointed Wofford, who won the general election handily, mostly on the strength of his remarkable history and evident dignity.

He’d helped found the Peace Corp and was pals with Martin Luther King. A Civil Rights icon, he’d been rumored to be on Bill Clinton’s VP shortlist in ’92.

I was proud to have such a man represent me and the Keystone State.

So I was pissed in ’94 when this man who cared so much about equal rights for all was driven from office by a man who seemed to care exclusively about the rights of straight whites like himself.

He was Rick Santorum, maybe my least favorite politician in my lifetime.

Because Santorum was the tip of the spear in the culture wars that have dominated and divided us lo these 25 years.

He was opposed to teaching about sex in schools, opposed to pre-marital sex, wanted to ban pornography, found homosexuality icky and thought any sexual dabbling outside the marriage would lead to perdition.

I remember marveling how such a man so opposed to sex could have had any intimate role in the conception of eight children.

So, of course, when President Clinton got busted screwing an intern Santorum immediately mounted his white horse — and please get that bestial image out of your head.

He was adamant. He wanted Clinton impeached. He joined with self-righteous GOP stalwarts Newt Gingrich (three marriages), Bob Livingston (multiple affairs), Henry Hyde (adulterous homewrecker), and Dennis Hastert (this very day being sentenced for molesting young boys) in — hallelujah — protecting the sanctimony of marriage.

The Clinton impeachment trials turned me from a moderate into a knee-jerk liberal  whose knee jerks most liberally when it’s near a conservative’s crotch.

I thought of Santorum, run out of office in 2006, when I read Wofford’s announcement about finding love at the age of 90 with a man 50 years his junior.

I’m sure he’s appalled.

Wofford said the unlikely love caught him completely by surprise.

Only twice in his long life, he said, has he felt such a passionate pull. The first time was when he met his wife; the second was Matthew.

“At age 90, I’m lucky,” he said, “to be in an era where the Supreme Court has strengthened what President Obama calls ‘the dignity of marriage’ by recognizing that matrimony is not based on anyone’s sexual nature, choices or dreams. It is based on love.”
Good for him.

Me, I feel lucky to be in an era where voters are becoming less concerned about who’s screwing who as long as our politicians stop screwing us.


Related . . .









Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It's Boston Corbett Day! Named for USA's greatest eunuch


You won’t see it anywhere in the news today. There will be no stirring memorials. Congress won’t pause to honor the actions of the man who should be by unanimous consent be acclaimed as  America’s greatest eunuch.

All hail, Boston Corbett, the man who killed the man who killed President Lincoln! It happened 151 years ago this very morning.

Really, can you even name a single other great American eunuch?

I can’t.

I guess we’re all stumped.

And so are the eunuchs, but in a much more literal way.

A eunuch is a man who undergoes deliberate removal of his testicles for any number of offbeat cultural reasons. Throughout history, eunuchs have served royals as courtiers, harem servants and trusted guardians of virginal princesses

Some have even willingly become eunuchs so they could serenade a discerning king with a treble voice of unmatched loveliness.

It sounds extreme, but I’m surprised no one’s tried it yet on American Idol. I guess in these days of instant fame, making a real sacrifice for the sake of art is no longer fashionable.

Of course, Corbett makes each of those motivations seem like pikers by comparison.

Born Thomas P. Corbett in London in 1832, he eventually moved to Boston, where he picked up a nickname with slightly more dash than if he’d have moved to say, Passadumkeag, Maine.

In 1858, at the age of 26, is when things got interesting. Fired with the religious passions, he grew his hair long in an attempt to imitate Jesus.

Then he did Jesus one better. Two better, to be precise.

The history books say he was so consumed with lust for Boston prostitutes he resorted to dire remedies. So one night he took a pair of rusty scissors, dropped his trousers and -- snip! snip! -- cut off his troublesome testicles.

That’s taking safe sex practices to a whole other realm.

The he sat down and had a nice dinner and attended a Methodist prayer meeting before finally staggering off for medical attention.

Amazing. For literary purposes it would be great fun to discover that the entree was meatballs, but the menu is lost to history.

The man is testament to the fact that it doesn’t take real balls to be a real man.

In April 1861, he enlisted as a private in the New York Militia, was honorably discharged after his three-month commitment, then re-enlisted to fight again. He was taken prisoner in 1863 and was captive for five months in the notorious Andersonville prison before being freed in a common prisoner exchange. He would later testify for the prosecution in the death penalty trial of doomed prison commandant Capt. Henry Wirz.

After again re-enlisting, it was Corbett on this day in 1865 at the Garrett tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia, who against orders shot the bullet that struck John Wilkes Booth in the back of neck, about one inch from where the dastardly Booth slew Lincoln on April 14.

“Providence directed me,” he said when asked why he’d disobeyed orders.

Then, like today, you can get away with a lot if you can convince believers that God whispered in your ear, “Pssst, hey, buddy . . .”

Corbett’s post-war life became increasingly erratic, perhaps, because of exposure to mercury when he worked as a hatter in New York and Boston. Because of his fame, he was appointed doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives, where he pulled a pistol on some men who he’d caught yawning about the morning prayer.

He was sent to an insane asylum, escaped and lived for a while in a hole that www.allaboutbikes.com today lists as the No. 1 scenic attraction in Kansas.

It may be a big state, but I’ll drive hundreds of miles out of the way if I can avoid a state where the most scenic site is Corbett’s hole.

He is believed to have died along with more than 400 others in the Great Hinkley Fire that consumed hundreds of acres of Minnesota forest where he’d built a cabin and was living when the fire spread on September 1, 1894.

His story is the reason I never fail to engage airplane seat mates about their lives.

I’m sure he shared many stagecoach rides with men and women too engaged in their 19th century iPad equivalents to hear the stories of this fascinating eunuch who killed the man who killed the president.

So, to honor America’s greatest eunuch, I suggest we all cut the work day short.

Please don’t feel the drastic need to cut off anything more significant.

And just to be safe, stay clear of the prostitutes in Boston. 


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