Monday, May 4, 2015

Dashing my radio dreams

As of this morning, I’ll no longer listen to the radio station I’m still hoping will give me a job.

I’m still eager to launch my proposed “Use All The Crayons TRAVEL!” radio show on 1480-WCNS AM here in Latrobe.

It was in mid-March that I pitched the Latrobe station’s new owners about a lively half-hour radio show based on my new travel website. The timing seemed perfect.

My tech buddies had just put the still-evolving site together, the station’s new owners were promising exciting new changes and a Latrobe author had just published a book declaring me a bona fide Latrobe legend.

It looked like the stars were aligning to make a Latrobe legend even more legendary.

And for once, I’m not referring to Arnold Palmer.

The station was very enthused. We talked format, potential guests and whether it’d be a good idea to expand the show to an hour. It was all very promising.

But first I needed to secure advertising.

I, of course, thought it’d be a cinch. Really, I have a lot of friends in prominent businesses in town. Many of them, however were tied up in supporting already existing programming. Duplication made no sense.

Others said they saw no value advertising on a weak AM station that gets relatively few listeners.

“But that’s changing,” I countered. “The new owners are now streaming and archiving every show on-line. And they’re promising to do even more.”

That much was true.

It’s just that the "more" is turning out to be something I consider destructive to good community programming.

Yes, it’s talk radio.

Not just any talk radio.

It’s Tea Party talk radio with Jim Quinn Mondays through Fridays from 6 to 9 a.m.!

It's a non-partisan matter. I’d stop listening if they were bringing in Michael Moore to read aloud filthy limericks, in which I'd revel.

CNS, don’t you understand I love you just the way you are, and that’s in part because in the still misty mornings I get to hear Billy Joel sing soothing songs like “Just The Way You Are.” I listen to it every morning from about 6 to 8. It gives me the local and national news and fills my head with innocuous pop ditties from  “America’s Best Music” syndicated format.

Now, I hope what I’m about to write doesn’t demolish the years of cool cred I’ve built by talking about my impeccable tastes in music.

But I’ve found the soothing mix from the likes of Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, Frank Sinatra and others puts my mind in a good soft place from which to write this blog. And I enjoy hearing my friend Dow Carnahan read the local sports and news.

It’s great background audio for when I’m reading the paper and trying to brainstorm a daily topic upon which to expound.

And if “Feelings,” the 1975 Grammy Song of the Year by Morris Albert comes on, well, my iPod with its 7,897 rockin’ antidotes is right there to expunge any saccharine overdose. Heck, I might even be moved to write about how musically bereft 1975 must have been for “Feelings” — “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Feelings!” — to have in ’75 been song of the year.

All I can figure is The Stones must have been in some Swiss clinic getting their blood swapped for something less toxic.

Talk radio is something I’d never listen to in any situation in which I’m striving to be creative.

And Quinn is among the worst. He’s a former Pittsburgh morning zoo giggler who in 1990 upset news director Liz Randolph by repeatedly joking on air that she was promiscuous.

Randolph sued for sexual harassment and a jury awarded her $694,000. The event led to Quinn’s dismissal and down a self-righteous path toward vitriolic right wing radio.

If I chose to listen to Quinn, guaranteed, three of every four posts would be my opinions refuting his.

It’d be intolerable and boring.

Just like Quinn!

So my dreams of having my own weekly radio show on the local station seem to have, for now, been dashed.

It would have been cool and I’m not going to say it doesn’t hurt.

It does.

After all, I do have feelings.

It’s just that after today, I’ll no longer have “Feelings.”

Related . . . 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

RRS: "I may never cut my grass again"

Will you be cutting your grass today? I won’t. I have at least two weeks before it's even a consideration. Yes, it’s time for my annual contest with my buddy Paul to see who can be the last lawn mowing hold-out. This is from last May 16, two weeks before I cut my grass for the first time. In fact, at the end of last year, I'd cut the grass just nine times. 

 Think growing grass in Colorado is controversial? You ought to stop by my house where the people aren’t high, but the grass is.

Because of my annual involvement in a silly contest I’ve yet to cut my grass. It looks like the backdrop from one of those safari nature shows. A hundred-head herd of bison could graze there and never go hungry.

Every year me and my buddy Paul see who can go longest without first cutting the lawn. There’s no wager, no stakes, just pride of a job, well, not done.

It’s partly because I’m philosophically opposed to ever mowing the lawn.


I’m patriotic. Can you imagine how much fuel America could save if we all agreed to cut the lawn just once a month? Arab sheiks would overnight become our baristas.

And just think of the boon it would mean to leisure life, which is the priority element of my entire existence.

Paul used to really gloat about it. It’d be this time of year and he’d asked if I’d cut my grass.

“About half a dozen times,” I’d say.

“I’ve yet to cut mine even once. So if it takes you about an hour to cut your grass, then I’m up six hours of bar time on you.”

It gnawed on me. But that was seven years ago when we lived in a traditional neighborhood where the lawns abut one another. Mine happened to abut with an ass who was anal about his grass.

So if he’d cut his grass to about an inch, the demarcation line between his neatly trimmed lawn and my shaggy one looked to passing motorists as dramatic as one of those night time satellite pictures over the Korean peninsula where the South is bright and illuminated and the North appears desolate.

This contrast, too, could be seen from outer space.

But I was less of a free thinker back then. I’d bend to prevailing conformities. So he’d cut his grass and in the next day or so I’d feel compelled to cut mine to match.

I finally figured out a creative solution to that vexing neighbor conflict.

I packed up the whole family, all our stuff, and we moved to a house up in the woods with no adjacent properties. Cars roar past at 50 mph, too quick to tsk tsk my casual landscaping. The only people who’d ever see it were the garbagemen who didn’t give a crap and the kids’ school bus driver and the only opinion of hers I care about is whether she thinks it’s wise to get gooned up before she drives my kids to and from school, so we were cool.

Between Paul and I, it was game on.

He is a formidable foe. I think he beat me three years in a row. I didn’t taste victory until the fourth year when our new garage door fell victim to failed mechanics. Improperly installed, it wouldn’t open and needed parts shipped in.

And if the door didn’t open, it was impossible for me to for three weeks in May get the mower out. It was as if my trusty John Deere tractor was a twin-bladed ship in a bottle.

It went on so long one of the neighbors said he thought we’d moved.

We’ve traded the title been back and forth the last few years. We really should have some kind of trophy, maybe of a guy passed out in a hammock, or maybe the loser should present the winner with a bouquet of weeds.

This year the pressure’s been torqued up on me. Josie, 13, confronted me with her uneasiness about the height of the grass. She’d been playing catch out front with the dog and couldn’t find him for an hour.

“You really need to cut it, Dad,” she said. “It’s getting embarrassing.”

“You’re embarrassed by grass?” I asked before roaring with laughter. “You just wait, hon! In a couple of years you’re going to be nostalgic for the days when the only thing about me that embarrassed you was my idea of lawn care! I’d advise you to go have a heart-to-heart talk with your mother about the fatherly sorts of embarrassments your future holds. ‘Ooh, Daddy, the grass is too high!’ Ha! Good one!”

I felt emboldened.

That’s why I was devastated Tuesday when Paul told me news that meant this year the contest would be mired in controversy.

“My neighbor got so disgusted by the look of my lawn he came over and cut it himself. I was inside hiding behind the curtains watching him the whole time. I had to stop myself from running out and showing him where he’d missed a spot.”

Yes! I’d won!

“Now, hold on,” he said. “I didn’t cut my grass. My neighbor did. My lawn mower hasn’t left the garage since October. My grass is cut, but I didn’t cut it and neither did my lawn mower. And I didn’t pay to have it done. I haven’t even thanked the guy.”

It was cunningly brilliant. He has his neighbor trained like a tractor-riding chimp. He now has zero incentive to ever cut his grass again. He think’s he’s won.

He’s wrong.

Josie’s already expressed her mortal embarrassment and she has a more vested interest in household appearances than some anal neighbor.

And the kid won’t be licensed to drive a John Deere tractor until 2017.

Related . . .

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April tweets of the month!

Every time I think I’m losing my Twitter mojo, I have a month like this that makes me think, well, not bad. April had a lot of strong lines. 

And I’ve introduced a new @8days2Amish feature. It’s the “Near Daily 3.” It’s a way to blast out three, four or five old posts on one topic. Seems to be helping drive both blog and twitter numbers up.

Thanks for checking in!

• Cursory research reveals none of Pavlov's dogs was named Fido, Snickers or Champ, Rex, etc. 

• Live well & even the most humble home is bound to become a memory mansion. 

• No amount of government regulations or assistance will ever help a wheelchair-bound funny man become a true stand-up comic.

• I just once would like to see a cliffhanger show end with a villain named Cliff ascending the steps to the gallows.

• For promotional reasons, I'm again proposing Poland change its name to GOland! 

• Someone ought to name their kid Serious. He'd say wild things and when people asked, "Are you Serious?" he could say, "Yes, how do you do?"

• I wonder if in the Three Stooges scripts when it called for Curly to laugh it actually spelled it out, "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.” 

• Some succeed by digging deep into earth for precious metals. Me, I hope to succeed by having dug many tiny holes & sprinkling seeds.

• Took me 50 years to discover my superpower. What is it? When people are talking to me, I LISTEN. Try it sometime.

• I advise people to not fixate on diet. A waist is a terrible thing to mind. 

• I wonder what seems more remote to the Beach Boys: When they were last on the beach or when they last were boys.

• New prisons are the only structures that require occupants break in before they can break out.

• I haven't gazed closely enough, but I wonder if among the heavens there's a star named Ringo.

• I’m eager to one day hear someone with a Cockney accent say the line to donate at the Red Cross was “Bloody long.”

• Global warming means the phrase "tip of the iceberg" will soon lose its punchy validity. Icebergs will soon be just tips.

• News that gray whale migrates record 14,000 miles convinces me some enterprising real estate agent could convince it it’s time to relocate.

• Aaron Hernandez found guilty of murder. He's a throwback Patriot from back before all they deflated were game balls.

• A gym beam requires steady footwork. A Jim Beam isn't nearly as fussy.

• I’m always at a loss for words whenever I take the dog out and he looks up at me like I’m supposed to congratulate him when he craps.

• My daughter, 8, thinks Coachella Music Festival is a music festival run by a coach named Ella.

• I wonder if other owls roll their eyes whenever they hear a "wise" guy owl describe something as a "real hoot.”

• I have to believe Britt McHenry spent part of everyday of her life praying she'd be famous. This week her prayers were answered.

• Quick! Anyone know if there are any symbols for cymbals?

• Most of prez candidates said to be "testing the waters" are too beholden to special interests to actually ever test the waters.

• Tebow back from the NFL dead. Can anyone help me with an apt analogy?

• How much money one earns is among the most inefficient ways to keep score in life. It's a pity it's so damn easy for all the scorekeepers.

• The key to true happiness is to not care what people think. Please RT if you agree. Please! I'll be so sad if you don’t …

• Because it would challenge sedentary thinkers, I think Nome should be spelled Gnome and Alaska should be spelled Galaska.

• Live each day as if it's your last. By that I mean, daily re-write your will to screw relatives who've recently been most mean to you.

• I wish it was a seafaring tradition that anyone who is called "Skipper" actually moved from place to place by skipping.

• This is bound to sound naive, but could global warming be solved by everyone simultaneously leaving fridge doors open for 15 mins a day?

• The advent of ubiquitous smart phones has meant the death of the rhetorical question.

• Something about hearing the words “FLASH FLOOD WARNING” always sends me down to the river pantless in trench coat.

• Spring is when Mother Nature puts on her makeup!

• I’m appalled to see Baltimore cops beating Baltimore protesters/vice versa. Only thing that gets me through is knowing deep down they’re all are Raven fans.

• Powerful thunderstorms through nudist colony could lead to flesh flooding.

• Experts say nude tourists are surprisingly affluent for people for whom description "deep pockets" does not apply.

• I wonder if in the annals of mob history a man named Stone was ever asked to kill two men named Byrd.

• Jesus walked on water. I wonder if when He returns He’ll this time opt for a spiffy new Sea Doo.

• Because I can never remember which is which, I propose we rename Vermont “6” and New Hampshire “9”

Related . . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Foul balls & Baltimore riots

Not many of you may know it, but I’ve caught three foul balls at Pittsburgh Pirate baseball games between 1991 and 1999.

I don’t know why I don’t write about some aspect of the feat at least once a week because writing about it always makes me feel good, superior even. I know many life-long fans who’ve never snagged even one.

Poor saps.

They’re the only object described as “foul” everyone wants.

Done with flair and in challenging circumstances, catching one is a thrill you’ll never forget.

It was like that particularly with the one I caught May 20, 1991. I recall being deathly hungover. I’d been to a buddy’s wedding the night before. I was holding in my right hand what I back then referred to as “therapy beer.”

Phillie Randy Reading sent a Bob Smiley heater screaming toward the upper deck facade right behind me and my buddies. Our necks snapped in case there was a rare rebound.

There was.

And it was coming straight for my nose.

The eyes of 32,000 fans followed the ball’s hazardous path. Balls hit that hard have been known to knock unwitting fans unconscious. I’m sure that’s what many fans feared was about to happen to me.

Their fears were unfounded.

I snagged the ball cleanly and instantly raised my arms the way boxers do after an early-round knock-out.

And I began to bask in the cheers.

The whole crowed roared. It was a great accomplishment, the kind they routinely show today on the highlight shows, made even more remarkable because I was suffering from a hangover that would have killed a horse.

There were big leaguers on the field who grinned in appreciation.

It was a great moment.

Given that the Bucs would soon embark on what was destined to become a two-decade slide of historic incompetence, I’m surprised no one offered me a contract on the spot.

I write about it today because I’m wondering about something unprecedented happening today at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. That’s where they’ll be playing the first MLB game without any fans.

And they better mean that.

If I see highlights and there are bunch of well-connected fat white guys yukking it up behind home plate, hell, I’ll set fire to a CVS.

But let’s say they have a game with no fans.

What’ll happen to all the foul balls?

Numbers vary widely, but I’ve read an average of 40 balls are fouled into the stands every MLB game.

Will they just roll around in the stands? Without fans, there ought not to be any vendors there, so they’re not in the picture.

I’ve told the story about my most heroic catch, but the one I caught August 26, 1999, was under conditions similar to what we’ll today see in Baltimore.

There were just a few hundred people at old Three Rivers Stadium that day. The ball was sliced into the section nearby and I sort of just hustled over to get it. I remember the ball had rolled up against someone’s discarded nacho plate.

I took a few of them, too!

There’s bound to be some great journalism coming from today’s eeriness, descriptions of a game without cheers, without heckling, without the joyful babble of voices that makes attending baseball games such a happy memory for me.

There’s just something about sitting in the sun and bantering about baseball that makes all the world’s troubles seem to drift away. 

Really, what they ought to do is let just two fans in — an angry black kid and a white guy with racist leanings.

Gee, do you think we’d be able to find anybody in Baltimore today that would fit those profiles?

They should make them sit together right behind the plate and see who gets more foul balls.

I’ll bet the two would wind up buddies and there’d be some great stories about their chases.

I’m not saying it would lead to any substantial changes in the attitudes that seem to be drowning a city I’ve always enjoyed.

But it’d be nice to read at least one cheerful story out of Baltimore, a place that today is being roiled by so much foul behavior.

Related 8days2Amish tweet of the week (just because I think it’s funny): “I’m appalled by the sight of Baltimore cops beating Baltimore protesters and vice versa. The only thing that gets me through my despair is the realization that deep down they’re all Ravens fans.”

Related . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What's the big idea? Read this

I propose we today begin reversing the effects of global warming by everyone going straight to the nearest refrigerator and leaving the doors open for just 15 minutes.

I defy any scientist to refute the logic behind this idea.

I came up with this yesterday morning, posted it on social media and, of course, took the rest of the day off.

It wasn’t even 10 a.m. and I’d already achieved something that would save humanity and will doubtless one day earn me a Nobel Prize — and those babies come with $1.2 million in award dough.

The cool thing is that I come up with a really big idea like that at least once a week.

So, assured as I am of eventual riches, I rarely work most days, convinced as ever that my ship will soon come in and I’ll never again be troubled by the need to work. That means my daily life will differ little from what it’s like now except I’ll be able to afford to golf, go to baseball games and sit in the bar and daydream all day like I do now. 

The refrigerator thingie is inspired by the simple kind of genius I once read in a scholarly journal that foresaw a way to end air pollution. Experts said we could instantly purify the air around the globe by popping the tires of all the cars built in or before the 1950s.

I read this scholarly conclusion in the “Weekly World News,” unrelated sample headline: “Baby Born with Wooden Leg!”
I’ve been in the big idea business ever since.

I see a problem and I solve it.

It was that way when I read Olympic TV ratings were down. I enjoy the Olympics and how it brings people together.

Problem: We lack a spectacle grand enough to bring people together?

Solution: Let’s arrange a trans-Atlantic tug-of-war!

In fact, there used to be an international tug-of-war between America and Canada. It happened every year over the 1.3 mile-wide Detroit River between Motown and Windsor, Ontario.

I for years pitched in vain the story to various magazines because I thought it would be fun and might snag a nice buck. But the real reason I sought an assignment was because I was eager to satisfy my curiosity about what they did with the rope the other 364 days of the year.

I mean, you can’t just stow a coiled 1.5 mile long rope in some firehall garage.

I became so consumed with the idea I proposed the U.S. challenge Europe to a tug of war. Shipping would have to be halted for a week or so, but wouldn’t that be fun? 

We’d need some international referees to keep the crafty French from just tying their end to the Eiffel Tower and sipping coffee while we pulled with all our might.

Of course, most of my big ideas are meant to help humanity.

It was this way when I realized the bee population was dramatically declining while the bedbug population was skyrocketing.

We need bees to pollinate our plants and no one needs bedbugs. I said we need to find a way to turn bedbugs into bees.

I think the only thing holding this one back is a potentially nightmarish glitch.


Then there’s the The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating junk monstrosity that’s twice the size of Texas. Less imaginative observers note its oceanic existence and are appalled.

I see the same eyesore and sense lucrative opportunity.

I say we colonize it!

Our 1 percenters are always eager for new experiences on ocean front property. The good thing about colonizing giant trash islands is they can be towed to different locations based on playboy boredom.

It’d be like a luxury cruise ship only instead of creating mountains of trash, it’d actually be one.

As an old newspaper guy, it saddens me that readership is declining. Even worse is knowing so many people go to bed hungry every night.

What to do?

Edible newspapers!

Gun violence is a vexing issue. Pro-gun people think they should be allowed to carry loaded guns anywhere they want. Anti-gun people say too many innocents are getting shot.

Solution: Everyone can carry a loaded gun anywhere they want. Schools, churches, sporting events — anywhere. But they only get one bullet.

Use or lose your bullet and in addition to any existing laws, you need to appear before a judge and explain what happened to their bullet before they get another bullet.

My friends call this the Barney Fife Amendment. 

I got millions of ‘em.

Because political divisions ensue even after mandate elections, I contend victors should be allowed to jail the vanquished — both candidates and supporters — until the term expires.

The post office is losing money while people are complaining that commercial flights are too uncomfortable and expensive.

Solution: Have the USPS ship humans!

I could go on all day. These things just come to me.

When will even one of these turn into a practical solutions leading to actual income for me?

Ironically, I have no idea.

Related . . .