Friday, September 4, 2015

How to kill your mother (with love)

Val heard an aspiring dog groomer had moved into the neighborhood and was looking for what I guess you’d call canine guinea pigs, a hybrid species that sounds like something straight out of the Island of Dr. Moreau.
Should, she asked the girls, they take Snickers?
The pros and cons were weighed: We’d be helping a neighbor. It would be free. She has new ideas. But what if she's hapless. She might have the nervous shakes. She might stab poor Snickers in the throat.
A not disinterested observer, their cons were my pros.
Was the experiment worth while? They couldn’t make up their minds.
I had an idea.
Let’s first take Nana!
She’s docile, is always complaining she needs a haircut and would be pleased if the woman tossed her a little Scooby snack after the blow dry.
We’ve begun taking steps to move my 82-year-old mother from her South Hills condo to a place near us.
It’s difficult for me to write about Mom without delving into black humor.
She has dementia.
I suspect it’s contagious because dealing with her makes me crazy.
My young, sweet second cousin’s been living with her for about three years. She’s a godsend. But she’s ready to move on with her life.
It’s an impetus for something I should have probably done five years ago. She can still cook and take care of herself, but she needs more immediate attention.
So I’m meeting with real estate agents and considering housing options.
People ask me what kind of place I want for her.
“Someplace near a steep cliff,” I say.
I told friends I’m thinking of having her move in with my old friend Joe (featured in yesterday’s post).
Isn’t he the one, they ask, who last fall nearly killed Snickers?
“Indeed, he is,” I say. “Indeed, he is.”
Where did I get this gallow’s humor?
From her!
Remember, she was responsible for caring for my 97-year-old grandfather in that very condo about eight years ago.
Unlike his daughter, his mind was razor sharp right up to the end. He was licensed to drive up until he was 93.
I say that while acknowledging everyone in DuBois where he lived knew to be off the roads and locked safe in their basements from 7 to 8:30 each morning.
I remember clearly sitting in that living room with the two of them and him complaining bitterly about his impatience to die. Outliving all his friends and burdening his daughter made him furious.
His eyes took a steely cast and he said, “If it wasn’t such a shame on the family, I’d …” and he made a slashing motion over his wrist with his finger.
Without missing a beat, my dear mother deadpanned, “I wouldn’t be ashamed.”
Six months later he locked himself in the bathroom, climbed into the tub and made a slashing motion over his wrist with something sharper than his finger.
To his eternal mortification, he survived.
I’ll never forget later that horrific day, him in the bed, me and Mom trying to unwind with some of her favorite sushi I'd picked up on the way home from the hospital.
The beaten old man looked up and asked what we were eating. I told him it was sushi.
“Sushi? Let me try a piece of that.”
Now, I didn’t know what to expect. Would he say, “Wow! I’m so glad to be alive. This sushi is terrific!” Maybe. But it seemed like an electric moment.
Mom and I stared on as he chewed.
“Well,” I asked, “what do you think?”
He wiped his lips with his bandaged wrist, looked me dead in the eye and said, “I wouldn’t hit a dog in the ass with that.”
He died of natural causes in hospice care a year later.
If my Mom’s natural term is as long as her father’s I’ll be 67 when this chapter concludes.
So, please, don’t judge me too harshly if I seem jaundiced about the sanctimony of senior life.
My greatest fear is the pressing hardships of dealing with the end of her life will blot out all the absolute joy I’ve gleaned from being raised and loved by a woman so fun and rare.
I guess, in keeping with her sweet inspiration, the best I can do is strive to be patient, to preserve essential humor and to persevere with the soulful understanding that at the end there will be sushi.

Related . . .

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Recalling my 1st grade "I-hate-school" tantrums

I don’t think my elderly friend was expecting the kind of mass reaction he got when he made a tender confession about the tears he shed years ago when he was sent off to school.
Monday was the first day back for our area kids and me and the local inebriates were sitting in the bar reminiscing.
It had been a sad, difficult adjustment for old Joe.
“Oh, I cried like a baby,” he admitted. “I’d had such a happy childhood and just loved being home and playing all day, just me and my Mommy. Then they told me I had to go to school. Broke my little heart. I must have cried the whole first week.”
He may have expected us to sympathetically pat him on the back and say, “There, there,” but that’s not what happened.
Instead just about everyone in the bar burst out laughing and began viciously mocking this 78-year-old Air Force veteran.
“Oh, Mumsy! Please don’t make me go! I want to stay home and play dress up!” was one typical jibe.
It was all very cruel and profane.
He’s my friend and I realize, yes, I should have defended him. I should have said his was a perfectly common reaction and that the guys should lay off.
But every once in a while it’s good fun to just pick up the pitchfork and join the mob.
Mine might be the last generation that finds bullying a socially acceptably means of achieving WASPy conformity so I just let him have it.
I called him a baby, said his resistance to primary education sure explained a lot and mercilessly ridiculed him until he shuffled off to a corner table where he spent the next hour stirring his tequila and tonic and softly weeping.
The other men were mean.
Me, I was worse.
Because I was mean and hypocritical.
Seconds before the avalanche of taunting fell on my defenseless friend, I was struck by a recollection I’d long suppressed.
I had a week-long tantrum when they sent me to school.
Joe made it sound like his was a good cry followed by grudging acceptance.
Me, I thrashed, screamed, railed, threatened, lashed out and made the school nurse seek the kind of mental patient restraints that would have even back then brought ACLU scrutiny.
The most apt analogy I can share was I acted like Damien did in “The Omen” when Ambassador and Mrs. Robert Thorn tried to drive the son of Satan to church.
I remember how distraught poor, sweet Miss Thatcher appeared at her first grade failings to calm my tantrums.
It’s a real pity, too, because even though she’d yet to teach me a lick of basic math I could tell even then she was a 10.
I’d forgotten all about that.
I’d say the tantrums lasted about a week and that would in a way be accurate. I eventually stopped resisting and fell in line with my fellow morons.
In fact, my resistence lasted 12 years.
I never, even when I was a squirt, was comfortable with the idea of compulsory education.
Understand, I came to thrill in the idea of education. I truly love the recollection of the times when like lightning I was struck with an understanding of what had previously been incomprehensible.
It moves me still.
I guess it was the compulsory part that got to me.
I hated being told what to do.
Still do.
That might be one of the top reasons I’ve been so lavishly unemployable for lo these 23 years.
I wonder how much taxpayer dough is wasted trying to educate incorrigibles like me and Joe.
Maybe we’re going about it all wrong.
Maybe we should let children decide when they’re ready for structured teaching; take the compulsory out of compulsory education.
That way we could learn when the essential hunger is there. At 52, it’s a hunger I now feel every day.
Maybe I should go back to school now. I’m not talking about college.
I’m talking back to first grade!
I’ll bet Miss Thatcher’s still pretty hot.
At least for a woman who’s probably now about 75 years old.

Related . . .

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I want an overnight solution to climate change & and I want it right now!

My great fear is the aliens will land, approach the first yahoo they see, say “Take me to your leader!” and they’ll be marched straight to Trump.
The historic meeting could be calamitous for both species
But let’s, as we should always strive to do, look at the sunny side of things.
Let’s say the random earthling host is apolitical. Let’s say he or she is like the growing number of adults who don’t obsess over daily news. Let’s say this pivotal person’s leader is someone millions look to for cultural wisdoms.
Let’s say their leader is Ryan Seacrest!
I envision a scenario that we could all describe as, well, cool.
The alien leader will say:
“Oh, wise and noble earthling with the fashionably trimmed chin stubble, our planet is experiencing sudden climate change. We’re freezing our butts off. We’re sick of shoveling snow and our golf games have gone to what you call hell.
“Our sensors, however, detect you earthlings have ingeniously managed to in a relatively few years raise the average temperature of your planet to a nicely toasty level.
“We’re soliciting your aid. We want you to teach us these proven techniques so we can raise the temperature of our planet so it’s always warm and humid. It’s either that or we have no choice but to all move to Tampa. Will you consider extending us your proven expertise?
“We will pay you in glaciers.”
I’d trust even Seacrest to handle those planet-saving negotiation.
I’ve looked and found no antonym for doomsday, a word that connotes the apocalyptic end for one and all.
There ought to be a word for a day when everyone on the planet has a simultaneous fantastic day, a day when Jews and Muslims high-five, when the Koch brothers and Hilary hug, a day when Tom Brady out of reflexive human joy squeezes Roger Goodell so hard his balls deflate.
And Goodell roars at the irony.
Today, President Obama is in Alaska to highlight the perils of global warming. Of course, he couldn’t do even this without controversy. He by lordly fiat changed the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali.
I don’t know who this Denali guy is, but I’ll bet he’s one of Obama’s Muslim buddies from Kenya.
Either way, today’s shaping up to be a pretty depressing day for those of us who care about the environment.
We’ll be inundated with North Pole visuals of marooned walrus, receding glaciers and raging forest fires in places where there used to be only snow.
And we’ll view these images fully aware that at any moment one of them could be photobombed by one of the Palins.
So you can see why I woke up with the word doomsday on my mind.
I’m one of of those guys who is too impatient for incremental solutions to monumental problems. 
I’ve heard experts say we can combat climate change with steadfast care that will chip away at centuries of corrosiveness.
Well, lah-de-dah.
Who the hell has time for that?
I want someone to announce they’ve found earth’s thermostat and — voila! — they bumped it back down to room temperature.
I want somebody to say they’ve discovered a giant stoppered drain in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and all we need to do to combat rising sea levels is to pull the plug and leave it out for about a month or so.
Ocean-front property will be back on the beach where it belongs.
I’ve written a bunch this summer about my resistance to change. Moving my office from above one bar to one that’s above three bars was very traumatic.
Oh, how did I ever cope with such upheaval?
Go ahead. Take a wild guess.
So, obviously, the idea of dramatic climate change is unsettling.
I hope one day we can celebrate a climate change solution that is the opposite of doomsday, a day when we’re told the sunny side of things won’t be so scorching.
It’ll be a day when the rising seas crest and even those of us who are skeptical of his dubious talents can celebrate with a guy named Ryan Seacrest.

Related . . .

Monday, August 31, 2015

Trump dominates August tweets. Of course, he does!

I wonder if having wifi in the Tin Lizzy is boosting my 8days2Amish Twitter output. I thought August was a very fruitful month. Perhaps it’s because I can now post them the instant they pop into my head — I rarely post with smartphone. 

Of course, it’s dominated by Trump.

First day of school today. Yay! To celebrate, I may spend the whole day strolling around the house in my underwear.

Just hope I remember to put the outdoor duds back on when I head out to the afternoon bus stop.

• What did cavemen call houseflies?

• I’m not up to speed on bovine anatomy, but I have to think a rump roast would come from a bum steer.

• I predict this is the week Trump declares he will rename Gulf of Mexico the Gulf of Make America Great Again.

• Doggedness is an admirable quality. Dogged people never quit. I fear I’ve always acted with cattedness.

• I’m still hoping to see reporter ask Trump to name historical women he most admires & hear him say, "Miss Norway, Miss Spain, Miss Brazil…"

• When I promised I'd no longer write about politics, I had no idea Donald Trump was going to be the leading GOP candidate. #Trump2016

• Coaching 9-year-old to say anytime she sees grade school kid picking nose, "There's a farmer in the booger barn!”

• Smart phones are great, sure, but until smart phones have coin return slots where you can find surprise quarters they won't measure up.

• Thinking of spending the day trying to discern which came first: The word "computer" or the word “glitch."

• I’ll bet there are many days each week Dick Cheney wakes up and is stunned to realize he is no longer President of the United States.

• Is the reason the Koch Bros. aren't running for GOP nom. because they can't agree who should be Veep?

• I can only conclude anyone who says puns are the lowest form of humor has never seen an Adam Sandler flick.

• I’m convinced the first thing to go is the inability to resist saying, "The first thing to go . . .”

• Time doesn't fly. It drives a Maserati, drunk, down the Autobahn with a brick strapped to the accelerator.

• Those who obsess over audacious bucket lists go beyond the pail. 

• Forlorn should be spelled fourlorn so we could gauge our level of lorness: Ex. "I was feeling sixlorn so I had a cookie and it made me threelorn.”

• Remember, having a great relationship with the Lord doesn’t mean you can treat the rest of us like crap.

• Silent letters drive me pcrazy!

• Pope asks us to embrace divorced Catholics. Aren't embraces what started all the trouble in the first place?

• How to punish Keith Richards for saying "Sgt. Pepper" sucks? Only one option: He must marry Yoko.

• Grammarians understand it's possible for a stationery store to be based in a mobile home.

• Stones classic #ExileOnMainStreet turns 43 this year. Time to change iconic song title to "Shake Your Replaced Hips.

• I’m going to stand in dimly lit room, extend video cam & spin ‘til I’m dizzy. Then I’ll post & boast I spent 2 mins in eye of a tornado.

• If you're livin' in New Orleans and yer nickname ain't "Fats" then you just ain't livin' right.

• I’ve discovered new way to make junk science even more suspect: depending on the nacho and the setting, 5-second rule is now the 1-min rule

• Thought of way to ensure real face time with Trump: Tell his people sketches of how he'll look on Rushmore ready and he needs to choose most flattering perspective.

• We will eliminate hunger when the world operates on the same humble principle as, "Need a penny? Take a penny/ Have a penny? Leave a penny”

• Many dads accused of being helicopter parents, always hovering. Me, I'm more of a sidecar parent, just along for the ride.

• I think I'm like most writers in that I encourage ones who are less accomplished than I and disdain those who are more.

• Getting out of bed makes me feel like WWI soldier being ordered to vault from trench into No Man’s Land certain to face heroic annihilation.

• I wonder if Hell has Congeniality contests and how long it'll be before Bill Cosby is eligible.

• Can you imagine how pharmaceutical stocks would have risen if the doctors had been prescribing Ritalin when the #3Stooges were lads?

• I’m in a crusade to get national OBGYN organizations to start calling postpartum depression by a fun new name: "Stork Raving Mad!”

• My mind's been wandering so long I'm surprised it's not appeared on someone's milk carton.

• How come the words work and fork don't rhyme, but beer and mirror do?

• Given surplus of one and deficit of the other, I imagine when Jesus comes back he'll turn California wine into water.

• Being unwittingly charged merely for seeking tech answers is a fee-ASK-o.

• I’m still mystified why more transgender people don't congregate in a Wisconsin town named Sheboygan.

• Every time I see a picture of Gloria Allred in the news I think her name should be Gloria Allmakeup.

• I’m like most dads in that I'm not without my faults. I make mistakes. I screw up. I'm a flawther.

• We live in an age where people display more affection for devices that play music than for the music devices play.

• Your typical pessimist suffers from pre-traumatic stress disorder.

• At some point this week, I hope to come up with a theory about why a gun isn't called a bang.

• What’s going to happen to America when Trump announces he'll pay bail for anyone who's passionate about helping him deport illegals? 

• I know the lie diminishes me, but I can't help running into rooms and saying, "Did you hear? Dick Cheney's gonna be on #DWTS!”

• The quest has ended in disappointment since the dawn of man, but every decent herb factory has at least one thyme machine.

• I wonder how much the bucket lists of people who own bucket factories differ from the rest of ours.

• Fashion experts who work to ensure ample bosoms fit snugly in frilly brassieres are rack-contours.

• If I ever get another pet I'm gonna name him Peeve so I can say, "Here comes my pet Peeve.”

• I understand if I pray for riches, I'll get nothing and if I pray for wisdom, I'll need nothing. I can't help. Still praying for riches

• If laughter is truly best medicine then how come the pharmaceutical conglomerates haven't found a way to gouge us for watching “#Seinfeld?"

• Getting more and more difficult to convince wife I'm obsessively following Ashley Madison news because I'm passionate about internet security.

• Because of the lasting damage the candidate is doing to the GOP brand, I must conclude Bill Clinton knows nothing about politics after he advised Trump running for president was a good idea.

• We hear lots about Jesus as the Son of God. I wonder about Uncle Jesus. Wouldn't it have been cool to say Jesus was your Uncle?

• Something tells me he admires Trump's moxie, but thinks the needs the guidance of an old Washington hand. Yes, he thinks America is ready for Trump/Cheney

 • It had a handsome leading man, an earnest sidekick and international intrigue, but there was something about Ohio Five-O that never caught on. Oh, and Ohio Five-O had scenic corn locales.

Related . . .

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Re-run Sunday: What's the F. in F. Murray Abraham?

There’s rarely any rhyme or reason why I pick which one out of nearly 1,500 posts for Sunday re-run promotion. Like today's from April '14.

I didn’t see a show starring F. Murray Abraham. I didn’t read about it. F. Murray Abraham. I don’t know if today is the birthdate or other anniversary of F. Murray Abraham.

F. Murray Abraham just popped in my head and I thought it’d illuminate your Sunday if I could explain what the F. in F. Murray Abraham means. Hint: it ain’t Francis.

Thanks to all of you who continue to share and flatter me about the blog. I’m very happy with your reaction and vow to work hard to keep the blog fun and lively.

Just not tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting @8days2amish Tweets of the Month.

Enjoy your Sunday and Go Bucs!

We’re immersed in so many complicated TV shows right now I sometimes have trouble keeping all the dense plots straight.

It happens with “Walking Dead,” “Justified,” and “Dexter,” and it happened again last night with “Homeland.”

We were catching up on the second season and I found myself trying to remember if Brody’s good or evil, if Carrie’s on or off her meds, and just how long I was going to have to wait before Brody’s luscious wife Jessica decides it’s time time to take off all her clothes and make me momentarily forget all my other troubles.

Then something happened that completely derailed my train of thought and sent my mind off on a good long graze.

What happened?

F. Murray Abraham appeared on screen.

So I stopped thinking about the other plot details and began wondering what the F. stands for.

Fred? Franklin? Forrest? Felix? Floyd?

As soon as the show concluded I looked it right up.

Turns out it stands for  . . . nothing!

It’s just F.

It’s true. I read where he was born Murray Abraham and just thought the name was too ordinary to make an impression so he “framed it” with the enigmatic F.

That’s not all I learned. Turns out Murray Abraham was born in 1939 right here in Pittsburgh. He's outstanding at his craft and won the Oscar for best actor in 1985 for his role in “Amadeus.”

You can now bank on it that one day I’ll forget our anniversary, my children’s birthdays and the five times in five hours I’ve been reminded to bring milk home, but I’ll never, ever forget that the F. in F. Murray Abraham is meaningless and that the dude was born in Pittsburgh, the F. City of F. Champions. 

I suppose I dwell on initials more than most folks because I have no middle name.

I’m simply Christopher Rodell.

So if I have a monogrammed sweater it looks like I’m an ardent fan of the Colorado Rockies when, in fact, I’m wholly indifferent to the Denver-based ball club.

Our parents decided against giving us middle names because they both loathed theirs. Mom was born Rachel Mae; Dad, Paul Russell Rodell.

I’ve always felt it was very unfair of them. If that’s really how they felt, then all they had to do was name me something besides Christopher Russell or Christopher Mae Rodell.

And, you know, Christopher’s not the easiest male name to lug through life, either. Many juvenile friends still call me with Chrissy because it rhymes with Sissy and they hope it’ll make me feel less like a real man. I’m not going to say the cruel taunting makes me actually feel less like a real man, but it does sometimes make me burst into tears, which is fine because I keep reminding myself it’s okay these days for a real man to cry.

But I am chagrined at not having a middle name.

Cody or Clint would be cool because then I could be C.C.R. — and I love Creedence. And Christopher Arthur Rodell would have some automotive zip.

And I don’t even need the whole name. Consider Harry S Truman.

Careful readers will notice what looks like a typo in his name. In fact, his middle “name” is merely an initial.

His middle name is S.

Or, actually, his middle name is S

Harry S Truman has a middle initial but no middle name. Turns out it was not uncommon for people of Scotch-Irish descent to bestow single letters for the middle names. It’s in character with a people renown for thrift.

To me, his name always sounds like a nickname given to him by old Army buddies with whom he used to shower: “Here comes that hairy ass Truman.”

With S Truman and F. Murray as my inspirations, I’m now wondering if it’s not too late to give myself a dandier handle.

I’m thinking Chris T Rodell. Internet search engines would inevitably recognize it as ChrisT Rodell.

I believe it would lead multitudes of new eager readers seeking bloggers with messianic credentials.

And that’s as good a place as any to conclude a post that began wondering just what the F.

Related . . .

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ranting to strangers about misnaming things

We were amidst a tedium so pervasive the only things with even a remote chance of vanquishing it were either a joint or a bottle of Jack Daniels.
But those sensible solutions would have caused more trouble than they were worth.
Even I understand no matter how boring the situation, you can’t just whip out a joint in a public school amidst a bunch of impressionable middle schoolers.
School starts Monday and me and about 10 other parents and about as many children were in the hallway outside the high school tech office waiting for student laptops to be passcode adjusted for the coming year.
I was bored out of my mind. I can’t stand any fidget instigating environment.
Remember, I’m the guy who when our 9 year old texted me she was bored at grandpa’s immediately texted back the solution: “Set something or someone on fire.”
My escalating boredom was making Josie, 14, nervous.
She knows I consider it my life’s mission to banish boredom wherever I find it, so we were at that moment a combustible twosome.
I needed something — anything — that would let allow me the opportunity to start a conversation.
I turned my head and, boom, there it was right in front of my nose.
It was an improperly named painting!
Improperly naming anything is a real pet peeve of mine.
In this case it was an otherwise lovely rear perspective of a young lad in a blue ball cap with his arm around a golden retriever.
This isn’t student art. Local philanthropists have for years collected and donated beautiful works of art to hang in the halls throughout the school.
But I was stunned when my eyes drifted to the ID plaque. This heartwarming painting was called “A Dark Secret.”
It was as if the artist wanted me to turn the painting over to see if the other side was a picture of a young Jerry Sandusky.
“Geez, will you look at this,” I said. “The artist ruined this fine painting by calling it ‘A Dark Secret.’ It’s disgraceful. Who in their right mind would take something so sweet and tarnish it with sinister overtones?”
I said this in my anchorman voice, not to be confused with my anchor baby voice which I use anytime I want to get a rise out of the Trump supporters.
I was offering a topic for general discussion. I was engaging fellow parents in the hopes we could talk about something communal — like talk radio without the radio.
Of course, no one dared speak up or even make eye contact. I’d broken the unspoken covenant about everyone doing their best to never speak to one another..
The only obvious reaction that anyone had even heard me speak came from Josie. She looked like she was trying to become Randall from the “Monsters Inc.” movies. Randall’s the chameleon with the ability to achieve pure invisibility by disappearing into any background.
I wasn’t about to let being ignored hamper me.
I now had a topic and I was going to run with it.
“Given our civic bent toward corporate sponsorship,” I intoned, “I guess we should be grateful the painting isn’t called, ‘A Boy and a Dog named Geico.’”
No reaction.
I said I don’t know how the artist could paint a picture of a boy and his dog and not call it something like, “A Boy and His Dog.”
It was disappointing, too, because the dog was a ringer for our Golden Retriever, the big dunce Casey. Casey’d been with us from 1992-’07.
Casey had no dark secrets. He was very open about his single-minded devotion to mooching food and shoving his nose deep in your crotch. He was utterly without guile.
What dark secret, I asked, could this dog have held?
None of the parents wanted to confront it.
I told them we had a dog named Snickers and how I hate Snickers because having Snickers in the house is like having a squirrel that barks. I posted a picture of him on Facebook and a friend said Snickers put a smile on her face.
I said, yes, he’ll put a smile on your face and urine on your shoe.
And I kept talking.
I wonder if the dark secret among the other parents was that they were secretly glad they had a guy like me around because they, too, had been bored and they enjoyed my soliloquy about dogs and misnamed paintings.
Alas, we’ll never know.
The computer codings were eventually bestowed and we were allowed to depart.
I bid the still, silent throng adieu and allowed my red-faced daughter to hustle me out the door.
The boredom had been banished. A tedious time had been rendered less so — for me, at least — by unwitting exposure to a pet peeve.
And I vow I’m going to name my next pet Peeve, so I can honestly say, “Here comes my pet Peeve.”
Maybe that’ll get a rise out of them.

Related . . .