Thursday, January 7, 2021

Laughter on a day of screams


(584 words)


On a day when so many chose to scream, I spent the morning with a woman who couldn’t quit laughing.


She laughed when I said hello. She laughed when I told her what I wanted her to do to me. And she laughed when I thanked her for the job she did with her hands.


As you can probably guess, I wouldn’t be sharing this story if I’d feel compelled to declare she laughed when I took my pants off.


Kylie wasn’t my hooker.


She was my hair stylist.


I say that like my hair has the capacity to still be styled.


Those lustrous days are behind me, as is my bald spot. I used to be able to count ion really great hair. My hair used to have my back. Now I have back hair


Now, it’s thinned on the front, top and back. Its betrayal is near complete.


Talk about sedition.


I was in a good mood as I walked into the chain salon, something that always seems to snip what remains of my masculinity along with my stray hairs. I was raised to believe real men get their hair cuts from real men, preferably real Italian men, big boisterous storytellers who when they leaned in smelled like they’d been marinated in garlic Old Spice.


But out of convenience and in shame I roll the dice and go to one of the chain salons.


I said I was in a good mood and that’s true.


News was breaking that Georgia had made U.S. Senators out of a black preacher and a Jewish investigative news reporter.  I don’t know what these Dixie voters can do to surprise me next. 

Maybe elect Tinky-Winky from the old Teletubby kiddie show.


So I had a little spring in my step.


This was in contrast to four years ago when I was in a foul mood.


My side had lost.


I was downtrodden. Forlorn. Bereft. I vowed to take action. That meant get out the vote. Not just me. I’m talking getting my mother and father to vote, too, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds because Mom and Dad have been dead for years.


I wonder if Kylie would have laughed at that stupid joke. I suspect so. I imagine things like AM radio farm futures reports funny.


I wasn’t even being funny. I was just there for a fast haircut and some light banter.


What I got was about 10-minutes with a human laugh track. It was pure joy.


People pay hundreds of dollars to top comedians in the hopes they’ll say things  to make them laugh. I contend there’s an untapped fortune to be made by people who can appear soulfully sincere laughing at the things we say.


Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re funny?


The cut cost $14. I gave her a $20 and told her to keep the change. She was noticeably surprised. She must not get many $6 tips.


It was worth it. Being around someone that sunny made me very happy.


It fortified me for later in the day when I saw all those self-styled constitutional scholars tearing apart a place so sacred to democracy.


So much anger and destruction resulting in nothing.


I confess now that I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to divine a comical conclusion to this folly and failed.


So a story that at heart is about giggles ends up being no laughing matter.

And that’s a cryin’ shame. 



Thursday, December 31, 2020

Tweets of the Year! ... No, really!


 I don’t know which of the two endeavors is more psychotic — haphazardly compiling a year’s worth of tweets or feeling compelled to read them. In fairness, I know of no one who admits to reading them. Maybe I should give away “I Survived 8days2Amish Best Tweets List.” It would be cool if I did and paparazzi snagged a shot of Melania wearing one on the beach …


Happy New Year! 





• You can play a mean bluegrass banjo or country fiddle here on earth & it won't matter one bit. Once you get to heaven, everyone's in a soul band.


• It’s a brazen betrayal of the sturdy container's very existence but most recycling bins cannot be recycled.


• I once imagined my life would include an era of depravity where I reveled in the dark cravings of the sordid flesh. Alas, the time for such wanton behavior has passed. Today, my idea of depravity is eating ice cream before lunch in a room where my wife and kids can see me.


• Many devote their lives to the pursuit of riches and power. I'm on a quest to rid my life of envy. I fear I'll always be envious of the envy-free.


Just once, I'd like to be in the clinic and hear the tech declare, "I'm here to draw blood!" have her don a beret, produce an easel, scribble furiously and hand me a paper with every spot covered in crimson red.


• I sometimes wonder if heaven is like "Fantasy Island" and God is like Mr. Roark. Then I wonder if the mere thought is sufficiently blasphemous to prevent my soul from ever finding out.


• When you order at the drive-thru do you make eye contact with the speaker like this disembodied voice will give you better service? Me? I flirt.


• Astronomers calculate Earth is 92,960,000 miles from the sun. I stepped outside today and I swear it feels more like 92,960,002.



• I was deeply flattered the other day when my daughter, 19, asked me for some life advice but am self-aware enough to realize that if I was anyone else and saw her asking me for advice, I'd think, "What could she possibly hope to learn from that jackass?”


• As a student of history, it's my understanding that man has waged war over injustice, territory, greed, vengeance, pride, and even reasons as petty as national vanity. As a student of breakfast, I'm surprised man has never waged a war over bacon. I'd enlist.


• Quid pro quo is one thing for another. More alarming in a legal sense is eight things for another or the rare squid pro quo.


• I used to make prognostications but I was so wrong so often I predict it'll never happen again.


• I wonder where the strangers who appear in our dreams go when we're awake and if they sleep in that place and have dreams that include people like us.


• Those who say they've lost everything and have no where to go but up often ignore the depth of a grave.


• Every four years I'm forced to overcome the confusion over whether Dixville Notch is an electorally significant New Hampshire village and not some anatomically precise porno jargon.


• I don't understand the need for the redundant spelling of tsetse fly. Is there a tse fly or a tsetsetse fly from which it needs distinguishing? Really, I don't tse the point.


• Most people confuse being opinionated with being correct. Just because you say something in a loud voice absent doubt doesn't mean you're right. Of course, that's just my opinion.


• ”Titanic" concluding now on AMC. I like the subtle irony of a movie where a painter gets framed and a woman whose name sounds like "ROWS" is hauled into a lifeboat and given an oar.


• Be honest: How much 'living' do you do in your living room? In fact, it should be called the "watching room" or, worse, the "ignoring-your-loved-ones room.”


• I wonder if any of the forward-thinkers at PETA have game-planned a pro-active position paper anticipating Jurassic scenarios where the organization defends the dinosaur's absolute right to roam free in the cities and the countrysides.


• If Jeremiah was, indeed, a bullfrog, who drove him to the liquor store to get his mighty fine wine? So much of the story remains untold.


• It infuriates me when I realize I'm 57 and my idea of a really great day is one that involves me finding a quarter. 


• The word quarantine refers to a period of time spent in isolation to determine healthfulness. It has been in use since the 15th century. The word Qur'antine refers to a period of isolation spent converting to Islam. It's been in use for about a minute.


• It’s heartening to see so many people being kind, encouraging and working toward shared goals. The pity is it always takes the world coming apart to bring people together.


• If they gave the death sentence for killing time could you live forever? 


• Podiatrists with empty appointment calendars are light on their feet.


• I guess I can understand the rationale, but it's still jarring. Wikipedia lists Charles Manson's occupation as "singer-songwriter" and he is thus in their eyes professional peers with Taylor Swift.


• I’m amazed to learn germs can jump nearly 6 feet. This would be remarkable if germs had legs. But they do not. How do they do it? Six feet! It would be like me broad jumping from here and landing in Denver. ESPN ought to organize germ olympics. I'd watch.


• Irony of living in these uncertain times is how so much uncertainty could produce so many who are absolutely certain they're never wrong


• Reading newspapers on-line is to reading actual newspapers what phone sex is to lovemaking. Gone is the soul, the serendipity and chance to get your hands good and dirty during the touchy endeavor.


• People are critical of hoarders and those trying to make an indecent profit off their stash, but to me it makes perfect sense. The biggest assholes are always going to need the most toilet paper.


• How many of you would take a pill that would prevent coronavirus but had one side effect: It would completely & emphatically change your opinion on Trump. That is, if you love him, you'd now viscerally & vocally detest him. And vice versa. I'll bet most of you couldn't do it.


• How unsettling will it be to your faith if Jesus returns Sunday, but he's wearing one of those HAZ-MAT suits?


• I think we're fast approaching a day where safe sex is all safe and no sex.


• I always chuckle at the inaccuracy when I hear people say the world can be cruel. Sillies, the Earth is inanimate and does not have emotions so Earth is never cruel. Earth is indifferent. Now Earthlings …


• And while we're at it, how come we're Earthlings instead of Earthians, ala Martians. I know of no equivalent. No Pittsburgherlings. No Frenchlings. Earthling sounds like the name for a captivity-bred panda


• I’m going to install a trampoline in the bathroom so when I announce I'm going to jump in the shower I can really -- oh, just forget it!


• Some projections maintain coronavirus self-quarantine could last another interminable 18 month. Months, days & endless hour after endless hour ... still not enough time to make me ever want to sit through "The Irishman" again.


• Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. How come something collectively referred to as "The Seven Deadly Sins" simultaneously check all the boxes for one really lively party.


• I refuse to be swept up in cynicism. I believe our best days remain ahead of us. The arts will flourish. Poverty and injustice will be vanquished & humans will enjoy an era were reason prevails. There will still be conflict, but in the future our wars will be fought with farts.


• I try and see the reason behind decisions I don't understand and believe even in divisive issues people with whom I disagree are acting in good faith. But when I hear someone - anyone - prefers regular Oreos over Double Stuf, I'm like, "What are you? Some kind of #%&*! idiot?”


• I’m buoyed by the fact that given our access to social media, prop pets/babies and our innate creativity then if we're destined to slide into another depression future historians will dub this The Cheerful Depression.


• Wonder if guys in heaven talk about earth bodies the way they talk about old cars: "It was bald, had a great big ass, tiny li’l pecker but, man, the thing got great mileage.”


• We live in a time when being right or being wrong matters less than always having someone to blame when it all goes to hell.


• Conservative whites who become livid when wished Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas think blacks over-reacting about unarmed blacks getting murdered by conservative whites.


• I remain baffled that the tasteless phrase "wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers" persists. I've never encountered a gent so refined as to ask any cracker-eating female to leave his bed once she got in. In fact, if there were two willing women and one had crackers and the other did not, and he had to pick one or the other, guaranteed, most men would invite the one with the crackers to get in. Lesson: if you're a woman prone to promiscuity always, just in case, keep a sleeve of crackers handy.


• I awoke from a dream it was the night before when I'd awoken from a dream it was the night before. Now I'm confused about what day it is, if I'm asleep or awake or if I exist at all. I'd ask fellow quarantinies to pinch me but fear inviting violence could escalate …


• There’s something so unnerving about being engaged in a life-and-death struggle against an enemy our soldiers can't confuse or infuriate with a well-timed moon.                                                                                                                                                        


• People strum guitars. A guitar is an inSTRUMent. Which word came first?


• Leonardo da Vinci said, “The  human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” Given the scope of his admirations it’s surprising his most famous work is Mona Lisa and not Mona Lisa’s feet.



• I’m a law-and-order guy who believes not until all the laws are equitably applied to all the people can true order ever be enforced or expected. 


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


• I’d like to hear a canine translation of what dogs say to other dogs when they discuss how humans package food. "So she left this box of Pop Tarts on the table. I jump right up there, but the Pop Tarts are wrapped in foil that's inside pressed cardboard. I was so pissed. I mean, what do you do if you need a Pop Tart, like, right away?”

.

• Daughter, 14, expressed an interest in becoming a songwriter. I approved saying writing songs -- good songs --will bestow ways to cope with all life's problems. Then I disapproved because writing songs -- good songs -- has a way of bestowing all life's problems.


• Foot Facts — The average person takes between 8,000- and 10,000 steps a day. That adds up to 115,000 miles in a lifetime — four  times the circumference of the globe. Question: if for one day we all together walked toward the rising sun, could we reverse time?


• Many are saying they're avoiding social media. Too divisive. Not me. I check it every 10 minutes to see how many more of my jackass friends used the 10-week quarantine to become constitutional scholars.


• Do you remember when your biggest concern was that some minimum wage grocery store clerk would benignly wish you Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Ah, the good ol' days …


• In heaven, all the cakes are angel food. Heck, when you get right down to it, in heaven even things like Cheetos are angel food.


• Proper mimes can be safe, but never sound.


Q: If they fought a battle between all the FB friends you genuinely like and all the ones you secretly don't, who'd win?


A: No one. It’s a trick question. You should genuinely like ALL your friends!



• Happy #bobbybonilladay. It was Bonilla, a Pirate in '91, who inspired one of the all-time great perspective quotes from Bucco manager Jim Leyland. Bonilla said $24 million offer wasn't enough and he had to "take care" of his family. Leyland said, "Hell, for $24 million he can take care of Guam.”


• Our greatest frustrations stem from when we demand perfection from those incapable of providing it.


• Because we're all under some pressure to balance the language and be more even handed, I intend to spend the day thinking of whom I can accurately describe as a "daughter of a bitch." Then I'm going to start working on a book I'll call "Famous Sons of Famous Bitches!" 


• I almost made the mistake of responding to a friend's sweet compliment by declaring she's " too kind." Too kind? In a weary world where many people are mean from their toes to their teeth, no one can ever be "too kind." From today on, I bask in any surplus kindness. Bring it!


• America being torn apart over removal of Confederate statues. What's next? Will Germans commence removal of all their Hitler park statues? 


• When I see the family wreckage that often results from excessive money and the resulting greed, by God, I'm proud to be poor. That feeling persists right up to the moment the Xfinity bill arrives. 


• There must be a baker's equivalent to "piece of cake" that is not "piece of cake." Because if a baker says something is going to be a piece of cake and shows up with a pie instead he could be accused of loafing -- and don't get me started on bakers who loaf.


• Congratulations Facebook, now entering your 17th year of letting the most reckless among us to ascribe the worst of our political enemies to people we once considered our best of friends.


• You saying, "Now, I'm not a racist, but ..." and then saying something incredibly racist is like me saying, "Now, I'm not lazy, but ..." and immediately laying down to take nap.


• I encourage everyone to wear masks because they'll reduce the spread of germs that make people sick. Next, we'll encourage many of you to wear muzzles because they'll reduce the spread of your obnoxious opinions that make people sick.


• At one time and to even the leading scholars of the era, even The Dark Ages were considered "Modern Times." 


• I’m at first gratified that today in America we are taking meaningful steps to end racial inequality, but then become incredulous when I realize it's 2020 and America today is 244 years old.


• In 1996, Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, two icons worth a combined $190 million, came together to make an album called "Unchained." That they didn't call it "Petty Cash" is to me a bitter disappointment


• So, the Invisible Man eats a visible hoagie. At what point in the digestive process does the hoagie disappear?


• ”... and on the seventh day, He rested." See, God may have created Heaven and Earth, but in His infinity wisdom He knew better than to create a lawn that would need mowing every Sunday.


• The world will be better off if we get away from TVs that have 1,000 channels with 20 that broadcast news 24/7 and get back to TVs that have 20 channels with one that seems to broadcast Gilligan 24/7.


• I do not like eating outside. I do not like heat. I do not like noise. I do not like sharing my meal with things that sting. History lesson: Outside is the reason man invented inside.


• It’s rare to find an ice cube that's actually cubic. In fact, most ice is rhombus shaped. It's ironic, but saying ice rhombus wouldn't sound cool even though it's all ice ... Had to get that off my chest.


• I know it's unrefined for someone who aspires to sophistication of manners, but I sometimes wolf down my meals. My daughters are far daintier. It's more like they poodle theirs down. "Poodle Down!" would be a great name for some don't ask/don't tell military rom-com.


• It’s entirely possible to kick a squirrel right in the nuts and hurt only his feelings. Hers, too.


• This election is convincing me the first time many Americans will believe in science is when it is applied to the lift-off that takes them safely away from this planet which through their neglect and indifference has become an uninhabitable cinder.


• The new Rt. 30 Sheetz near Latrobe is being constructed so quickly I wonder if the bread'll have enough time to get properly stale.


• When even the mundane are deemed worthy of demonization Hell itself becomes pedestrian.


• Perspective: as godawful as 2020 has been, guaranteed, in 2041 our travails will be one paragraph in school history books that'll be boring future students. That is assuming 2020 doesn't take a really dark turn that'll mean 2041 never happens.


• Because it would suggest modernization and would require the change of just a handful of letters, I suggest we change the name of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the Walter O'Reilly Army Medical Center.


• I would think one of the most difficult things in nature would be being a praying mantis and trying to explain to your parents that you've lost your faith.


• I admit to feelings of wistfulness over not having sired a son. These feelings pass when I realize a son would by now be asking me, "Daddy, would you help me secure my man bun?" And to my everlasting shame I'd feel obliged to assist.


• Sure this all sucks, but #LookingontheBrightSide, it's sure to yield great movies and books for the survivors to years from now enjoy. Remember: without the global cataclysm of WWII, we never would have had "Saving Private Ryan.”


• Jeff Bezos is worth $178.8 billion. You and I are, well, worth less. But there'll be hell to pay if I ever catch anyone saying we're worthless.


• Fancy shaving ads about ease of accessing those "hard-to-reach" places crack me up. Hard to reach? I'm shaving my face, not the gnarled butt of some Mongolian yak 20,000 feet up the Himalayas.


• The people who make so-called Mega Stuft Oreos suffer from a serious lack of imagination.


• If Spring is when Mother Nature puts on her make-up, then Fall is when she starts climbing into her coffin.


• Told daughter, 14, Eagles "Hotel California" was originally going to be called "Hotel Pennsylvania" but The Golden State came up with tax breaks to secure naming rights. Her scornful reaction made me nostalgic for the days when daughters would fall for any line of crap.


• I’d like to know the first words of souls arriving in Hell when their last words on Earth were, "Goodbye cruel world!”


• Speculators envision a day when toilet paper is traded like coffee, milk or other commodities. They are mistaken. Toilet paper cannot become a commodity. Toilet paper is a commode-ity.


• If I labored in the janitorial services and spent a lot of time scrubbing toilets I'd spend a lot of that time wondering whose bright idea it was to make every toilet gleaming white. Isn't there maybe a better color, one that matches fixture functionality. Like maybe say, oh, I don’t know ,,, brown?






Tuesday, December 29, 2020

December Tweets of (most of) the Month

 



• This (above) is what happens when I get paralyzed by fashion and can't decide which shoes go with which pants and which socks go with which shoes and ...


• Remember: Just cause this year's been one of the worst ever can't stop this Christmas from being one of the best ever. Of course, it may require a lot more liquor than usual …


• How can conspiracy minded-people attribute the most dastardly, diabolical and cunning motives and acts to the very same people they deride on Facebook as being utterly inept at doing things like plowing roads?


• Enlightened man wrestled with existential question: "To be or not to be?" Pandemic man's question is more elemental: "Pick-up or delivery?" That is the question …


• Some Covid vaccine must be preserved at minus-90 degree Fahrenheit. I stepped outside this morning and thought, "Yep, we're just about there …"


• What if one of the unforeseen vax side effects turns out to be that recipients become more empathetic, tolerant & appreciative of their fellow man? How many would refuse on grounds they prefer being miserable bastards?


• Vax manufacturers preparing an estimated 240 million doses with essential health care workers first up getting the first 1.4 million.  My question: What's the job description of the least essential worker in USA? Drunken blogger? #LastPicked


• The assumption may be based on a flawed premise, but I have to believe if Moses had had to deal with fan selfie demands today we'd only be concerned with The Five Commandments.


• Given the geometric considerations of the circular dwellings, I marvel at how Eskimos during tough times ever make ends meet. How is it possible to cut corners when you live in an igloo?


• If I were God there'd be no war, no injustice -- and every snowflake would be an identical smiley face! Who am I kidding? If I were God, there'd be no snow!


• Because I'm convinced humanity is in a downward spiral of accelerating madness, I predict in 18 months startled doctors will reveal that 40 percent of males who've taken the Pfizer vaccine have inexplicably become pregnant.


• Anytime anyone asks you for an idea for the perfect stocking stuffer, suggest feet.


• Hooray for editors! If it weren't for them, Santa could easily become Satan.


• I’d like to see a show with an appreciation for literal wording ends the season with a cliffhanger where a character named Cliff ascends the gallows and gets placed in a noose.


• How can conspiracy devotees attribute the most dastardly, diabolical and cunning motives and acts to the very same people they mock on Facebook as being utterly inept at doing things like plowing snow-covered roads?


• In striving to be all inclusive and non-confrontational during the War on Christmas I will henceforth wish people a Happy ALLidays. I want people of ALL beliefs to enjoy ALL holidays. Soo ... Happy ALLidays!



Friday, December 25, 2020

RIP Zack & the tears we shed for the ones we love

 

(715 words)


Zack Starrett, 33, died having never seen “Cool Hand Luke.” I blame myself for the shortcoming.


It was a night a couple years ago. We were talking music, movies, etc. when I told him my all-time favorite movie is “Cool Hand Luke,” the 1967 Paul Newman movie about a laid back convict in a Dixie prison who refuses to bend to the tyrannical authority determined to break his indomitable spirit.


Spoiler alert! They can’t so they kill the sassy bastard.


Zack told me he’d never seen it.


I seized his arm and said, “What are you doing the rest of the night?” By the urgency in my voice, he could surmise what I had in mind.  I wanted him to toss the 20 remaining customers, grab a 12-pack and come back with me to watch “Cool Hand Luke.”


Like four straight times.


Sure, he’d lose his job and I’d get in big Dutch with the missus, but I thought it was essential that Zack see “Cool Hand Luke.”


I think it’s because I didn’t want my friend to change.


I wanted him to, like Luke, smirk at hardship, defy conventional thinking and mock the mindsets that say march on the days you’d really rather float.


And now he’s gone. He died early Thursday morning, a victim of a cascading spiral of ever-worsening Covid-related maladies.


Friends are trying to console me by telling me he’s “gone to a better place.”


Better place?


I contend there’s no better place than pre-Covid Flapper’s on a Friday when Zack was on one side of the bar and everyone of us who was on the other side couldn’t imagine being any where else.


There’s a happy babble of conversation — laughter, encouragement, flirtations, complaints, defeats and victories — the whole stew of humanity condensed into one warm tavern.


It was such reliable fun I was sure it wouldn’t last.


I remember warning Zack and some friends to not take it for granted.


“Good times can overnight go away,” I said, pointing out that the owner could sell, the old building could tumble over into the parking lot “or, gadzooks, Zack, could pursue career stability.”


I never dreamed his departure would be so morbidly final.


And as much I liked and admired the 33-year-old Zack, I was looking forward to spending time with Zack at 40. Or 50.


I was looking forward to seeing where his ambitions had taken him, how he dealt with the challenges of fatherhood and if he ever planned on giving up chasing full lunar eclipses all over the globe (I hoped not).


Nothing in my planning folly had him exiting our lives so soon and without a proper goodbye.


Yeah, 2020, you just keep on giving.


Or is it taking?


I often wonder about how old we’ll be in heaven. Do we assume the age we are when we die? Do children who die in tragic circumstances remain children or are they allowed to grow up, to enjoy the illicit thrill of sneaking that first beer and then make out in the back seat with the pretty neighbor girl who all of a sudden has become interesting for reasons he can’t explain. 


Will Zack still be Zack next time we see him?


I hope so because that Zack was close to perfect. He was charismatic without ever appearing over-bearing; just without being judgmental; and ready fun in any circumstance.


That’s the trade-off: Die young and unblemished and your golden memory will be revered for eternity.


His death reminds me how almost every tear we shed stems from selfishness. We cry not for the fate of others, but for how the fate of others affects our own.


We fall and skin our knee. It hurts. We cry.


Our hearts get broken. Our lives and routines are plunged into tumult. We cry.


A parent or spouse dies. Emotional and financial support is disrupted. We cry.


Shortly after learning that Zack had died, my daughters busted me in the kitchen sobbing like I imagine my Mom did when Dad told her they’d just shot Kennedy.


They thought I was weeping because Zack had died.


Someday I’ll explain the reason I wept was because we’ve been denied the opportunity to watch Zack live.




Related …


We Heart Zack! A love story about a man and his bartender


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

We Heart Zack! A love story about a man and his bartender

It was about two years ago the bartender startled me by telling me out loud and in front of potential teasers, “I love you.” And it wasn’t said with even a hint of sarcasm like when I leave a quarter tip on a $25 tab.

Hey! You try properly positioning the decimal point on your tip calculator after four Wild Turkeys.


The bartender has long, dark hair, smokey eyes, bold tattoos and a great figure. The bartender is 33.


The bartender is named Zack.


So get those gooey romantic motivations out of your head right now.


He said it like he knew I’d be touched by the earnest declaration and that was all the motive he needed.


I tell you, the kid has a big heart.


Flummoxed by the flattery, I gathered myself up and said, “And I’ll see you tomorrow night!”


I’m of a generation that is still awkward about proclaiming our love for other men.


But I was touched because I like Zack and am aware he considers me a bit of a role model, albeit one who unwisely spends far too much time and money in Flappers, the cozy second floor tavern conveniently located precisely 27 steps below my Tin Lizzy office.


It’s an interesting time in my life. I have enough accumulated wisdom to be engaging and am still (for reasons even I cannot fathom) hopeful enough about the future to not be maudlin about the past. 


It helps, too, that he thinks I’m funny and puts thought into my less-obvious jokes, many of which I test drive with Zack before posting. It’s how I knew my ancient Egyptian reference worked.


“Did you know, Zack, that most mummies are daddies?”


He did not react. He just kept mixing another tropical rum-based drink he calls a “Zack-quari.”


Then he snorted. That kick-started a chuckle that led to genuine laughter. It wasn’t quite a belly-laugh, but it was thoracic in origin.


Brightening his day had brightened mine. It’s essential in life to have at least one person you see near daily who gets all your jokes. 


Not only does he get my jokes I entrust him to deliver the punchlines.


Sometimes I’ll play straight man and ask in a voice loud enough to be overheard throughout the bar, “Say, Zack, do you happen to have a robust, full-bodied wine that hails from the sunny slopes of Australia?”


With no pause, just full confidence, Zack will say, “You bet Shiraz we do!”


You don’t have to be a wine snob to get that one.


I don’t want to mislead anyone to think I believe he loves me exclusively. Far from it. He loves and adores his parents, his brother Josh, his girlfriend Michelle, and scores of friends and most of his customers.


Hell, I’ve even heard him say nice things about ol’ Buck.


And doing that takes a really, really big heart.


(Just kidding! Everyone loves Buck.)


What I’m trying to convey here is that Zack is a funny, loving, optimistic, cheerful, caring guy. He’s absolutely wonderful. Like I said, big-hearted.


Incredibly, his big heart is what doctors worry might kill him.


He overcame a nasty bout with Covid that left him susceptible to double pneumonia. It was November 14 he drove himself to Latrobe hospital where doctors were so alarmed they ordered him Life Flighted to UPMC-Presby in Pittsburgh.


He’s been in-and-out of Cardiac ICU ever since.


The reason? He has an enlarged heart. The valves are malfunctioning. He needs open heart surgery to install a heart pump, likely a bridge procedure until my friend can get a new heart.


And I am devastated. 


We live in a world awash in utterly heartless bastards thriving in malicious pursuits. They think only of themselves. Do they care more about money than humanity?


You bet Shiraz.


I ghoulishly scan the obits for those with hearts I feel are worthy of my friend.


You’d think with nearly 300,000 U.S. Covid deaths there’d be a bumper crop of useful organs on the shelf, but current research about the viability of transplanting organs from infected donors is inconclusive.


You could say it’s very disheartening. 


That’s the kind of joke I used to look forward to sharing with Zack. 


I miss my friend.


And at a time when pandemic reigns and millions of good-hearted Americans are fighting infection, I’m saving the majority of my prayers for the big dude with the bad heart.


Because, Zack, I love you, too.


We all do.